The creation of the current state of Solamnia is one that has become the topic of many discussions with the recent creation of the Rise of Solamnia trilogy. To many people it seems that the state that is called Solamnia is not the Solamnia of the past and for the most part that is true. The state that is now created is a nation that finds it roots to the Cataclysm and its development has been slow to come.
Prior to the Cataclysm the nation of Solamnia was a series of independent nations or kingdoms that were tied together through their allegiance to the Knights of Solamnia. This loyalty was strong and created bonds within the nations to make it feel that they acted in one direction. Governing the individual nations were noble knights who exercised their authority over hereditary lands. These lands are worked by peasants in the system of feudalism.
Feudalism is a system in which the lord grants the peasants rights to work the land in exchange for their services. These services may be in the form of crops, crafts, or military service. The lord will then grant the peasants protection from outside forces through the use of the military. This system is an informal contract in which outside forces may influence or even change.
In Solamnia the contract between the lord and his people prior to the Cataclysm was a traditional form of feudalism as described above. This form was unchanging for centuries as lords governed and peasants labored. The lords were a part of the organization known as the Knights of Solamnia and through this organization they were required to perform certain duties to maintain their status. At times these lords and their knights would be required to join the main organization group to help defend, debate the laws, or other various duties that the Knights of Solamnia would assign their individual lords.
The Knights of Solamnia would have been funded by these lords to provide the services that they offered. Individual knights would tithe so much of their earnings to the knighthood in exchange for lodging and protection. Lords would pay taxes to the knighthood in exchange for titles, land, and the use of the knighthood. This system would allow the knighthood to form its own organizational structure that would often be confused as the real government of Solamnia.
The real government of Solamnia was the independent nations. These nations were not united politically but were tied to each other through their loyalty to the knighthood. The leaders of these nations chose to follow the same set of laws, to allow uniformity across the nation, but they still controlled the power to change these laws. This power would be limited through the Oath and the Measure but they still could regulate that power.
Prior to the Cataclysm many knights had fallen away from the original ideas of the Oath and the Measure and were often times exercising their own powers. This would begin the roots of the downfall of feudalism in Solamnia as the peasants would be forced to follow new laws as seen fit by their individual lords. These lords would begin to abuse their powers and rights, with no regard for the well beings of their subjects.
The peasants would quietly grumble for decades over their treatment and abuse at the hands of their lords. While the lords publicly would look and support the rules and regulations of the knighthood, they would privately misuse their power. During this time the feelings of the people would begin to grow as they look for a way to escape from the drudgery of feudalism.
The event that would allow the people to rise up against the oppression of feudalism would be the Cataclysm. During the years that followed this terrible event, peasants found that they suffered more and more as the trade routes that had provided many lords in Solamnia wealth were now destroyed. These lords sought to keep their nations powerful and increased taxes on the already overburdened peasants.
The knighthood at this time was also suffering as it was spending more money then it was bringing in because of conflicts with refugees. These refugees, some of whom had turned to banditry, were seeking new lands to build a nation. The nations of Solamnia already suffering from the loss of trade, felt that they could not take in any more refugees. These nations decided that the knighthood would be used to force the refugees to travel elsewhere.
During these times, lords were forced to raise taxes again and demand military service from their peasants. The peasants who were barely surviving after the Cataclysm found the new demands of their lords to be intolerable. These peasants would slowly band together and rise up to overthrow their lords.
The lords were unprepared to face a peasant rebellion as many had contributed troops and money to the knighthood to help control the threat of refugees and other forces following the Cataclysm. Many of the rebellions would be brief and brutal, with often times the rightful ruler of the realm fleeing or being murdered. The peasants would then often set up their own forms of government or suffer under warlords.
These new nations would force the knights into exile and the knighthood would become firmly established on Sancrist. The knights that remained in Solamnia would be for the most part attempting to restore or trying to retain their hereditary lands. Many of the knights would renounce their knighthood as they witness senseless acts by other knights.
The structure of feudalism would change following the Cataclysm. No longer would peasants be content to work the land in exchange for protection. Instead the peasants would demand the right to own land and sell their own goods and crops. Reluctantly many lords would give in to retain their authority over their nation.
The knights would overthrow many of the rebellions that seized the land either through force or compromise. Both of these solutions though came at high costs as the knighthood had to pay knights and their retinues to fight the peasants and many of the peasants who compromised were given property rights. These rights would lessen the income of the knighthood which was spending tons of money trying to keep the nations of Solamnia united.
This process would be repeated several times over the course of the centuries leading up to the War of the Lance. It would also leave the knighthood nearly broke as many lords were unable to tithe the money that was needed to continue to support operations to maintain the peace of the realm. The knighthood during this time lost much of its support and influence over the lands.
During the War of the Lance, the Dragonarmies discovered that Solamnia was ripe for the picking. With many of the nations involved in internal conflicts and the knighthood for the most part having left Solamnia, the Dragonarmies believed that the Solamnics would not be able to muster much of a defense. As the Blue Dragonarmy traveled into Solamnia, it encountered little resistance.
The Knights of Solamnia would attempt to rally their forces in the defense of their old nations. These knights understood that they did not have the coffers to hire additional forces and that the bulk of the defenders would be made up of heavily armored knights. Without the resources to provide much protection in an open field fight, the knights were forced to withdraw into key strategic strongholds.
These strongholds would prove to be a battleground for the knighthood and nearly destroyed it. Several knights believed that the knights should face their enemies not behind stone walls but on the backs of charging horse. Other knights believed that safety and survival lied behind stone walls of the strongholds and that an open attack against a faster moving army was suicidal.
One example of this discussion took place in the High Clerist Tower as Derek Crownguard argued with Sturm Brightblade about the uselessness of hiding. Claiming that it went against the Oath and the Measure, Crownguard rode out to fight the enemy. His forces quickly were routed during the battle, while the forces of Brightblade would manage to defeat the Blue Dragonarmy.
The peasants during this time of conflict would experience the hardships of war. Many of them would be affected either directly or indirectly by the war as events caused the war to change. These peasants weathered through the disasters during the war in which there was little relief from. Many of them would be happy at the end of the war to give the lords temporary control over the markets. This action would cause a financial boom as many of the lords were able to trade with foreign markets because of stabilized roads and shipping lanes.
This would change the status of feudalism again in Solamnia as many of the lords were able to reestablish themselves as rulers of the various nations that comprised Solamnia. The people gave the knights the power back to them temporarily while everything was being reestablished. This period would take many years as many of the villages and towns suffered following the War of the Lance.
Prior to the Chaos War the knighthood experiences a renaissance of both its political influence and ideas. Adopting the ideas set forth by Sturm Brightblade’s death, the knighthood’s ranks are swollen with young ideal thinking men and women. These people will come from a variety of different life styles and ideas. The knighthood will be unified under experienced leadership that will help guide the nations of Solamnia from the island of Sancrist.
This renaissance would bring about much material wealth for the knights as they would be able to use the system of feudalism to increase their coffers. These coffers would be little used following the War of the Lance and the wealth of the nation creates changes between the relationship of peasant and lord. The peasants begin to ask for a return of land ownership, while the knights argue that such an idea is implausible since farming required a large number of people.
Following the Chaos War, the lands of the Solamnics are lost to the Dark Knights, who become more interested in reaping money off of the land. They govern the land loosely, allowing for the peasants to own the land. The Dark Knights are unable to establish feudalism themselves instead they provide foreign markets for the peasants. The peasants gain much in material wealth at this time and gain a sense of independence from their former lords.
Many of the cities at this time experience a growth of a middle class; prior to this most cities are centers of trade. In the years prior to and after the Chaos War, these cities develop a middle class that is created because of technology improvements in farming. The creation of the harness allows horses to be used in farm labor and reduces the amount of people needed to work one piece of land.
This new middle class is comprised of merchants, scholars, and artists who begin to flock to cities. The cities’ populations grow quickly even in the years following the Chaos War, as many former peasants move to the city seeking work. The Dark Knights are unchallenged as many people feel that the nation is more prosperous under them.
The Knights of Solamnia attempt to reestablish themselves in the area through the use of the Clandestine Circles. These circles learn shocking details that even if the knights did try a rebellion the rebellion they would be unsupported by the growing middle class and the peasant population. The knights are also forced to deal with their own internal struggle to survive as a group.
Throughout the world of Ansalon, the knights discover that their authority has fallen greatly after the Chaos War. With the death of Lord Gunthar the knights were able to maintain the leadership of the organization with Lord Liam Erling. This leadership, while firm on Sancrist, was becoming a loose collection of advisory positions working with local governments.
At the time of the War of Souls the Knights of Solamnia were not a political power anywhere beyond the island of Sancrist. Their attempts to infiltrate and overthrow the Dark Knights in Solamnia were largely unsuccessful. Many of the members of the knighthood were living in Northern Ergoth, most of them having been born there.
During the War of Souls, the knighthood lost its last few key strategic areas in Solamnia to the Dark Knights. These areas would be reclaimed in the years following the war as the Dark Knights would be forced to withdraw out of Solamnia. In much of Solamnia, the Dark Knights had become symbolized as part of the Dragon Overlords and with Mina. People not wanting to be associated with those evils rose up and welcomed the knights who liberated the fallen parts of Solamnia.
This feeling of liberation was short-lived as the people of Solamnia had changed since the Chaos War. With a larger middle class and decreased demand in farming, the knights found themselves at a crossroads. The people in many parts of Solamnia had rejected the idea of feudalism and would rebel if they were forced to return to that structure. Instead, the knights allowed the three ranks of knights to take control of key areas and try to organize a new government.
The government that was organized during this part was also helped finance by the coffers of the knights that they had hidden during the Chaos War because of the quick attack by the Dark Knights. These coffers at first would be under the direction of Lord Lankford Lorimar, who preached that the knighthood could not divide itself. Lord Lorimar created the Compact of Freedom in which he hoped to guarantee the rights of the people of Solamnia and create a government which would work for the people.
Lord Lorimar was also struggling to keep the knighthood together as the heads of each order in Solamnia was fighting for control of the land. As Lorimar neared his goal, tragedy fell and he and his daughter were assassinated to prevent Solamnia from being under the rule of one man. The heads of the other orders declared themselves dukes and set themselves to governing certain cities in Solamnia.
The death of Lorimar was also a blow to the peasants and middle class of Solamnia as many of their rights and freedoms were stripped by the knights. A few cities stood up to the knights and refused to be governed or protected by them. The city of Garnet, which proclaimed itself a free city, would become the first victim to the new threat, Ankhar’s Horde.
Palanthas, Caergoth, Solanthus, and Thelgaard become the major trading centers in Solamnia and they fell under the control of the Dukes who follow the lead of the Lord Regent of Palanthas. The Lord Regent, Bakkard du Chagne, had helped the knights overthrow the Dark Knights and was a leading merchant in the city. He viewed Solamnia as a ripe land to increase trade and wanted Palanthas to become its shining jewel. The dukes, also driven by material wealth, fight for political control over the rest of Solamnia.
The Knights of Solamnia living in Solamnia refuse to listen to the orders of the Grand Circle in Sancrist. They began to act independently from the order and carry out their own agendas. These knights abuse their power and strip many of the peasants of their land in an attempt to recreate feudalism. For the most part this system is unsuccessful and weakens the economy of Solamnia.
Prior to the creation of the Solmanic Empire, the nation of Solamnia was in dire need of a true leader. The Dukes and the Lord Regent had driven the economy to its breaking point as they destroyed many of the rights that the people had been given under the reign of the Dark Knights. Also they began to quarrel with each other as they began to seek to outdo the other cities in Solamnia. The people at this time were ready for a change as the knights that controlled their land after the War of Souls were worse then any group in the history of Solamnia.
Many knights refused to enter the rigid structure that the Dukes had created in the knighthood. Believing that honor was still important the right to attain ranks was equally important, these knights joined forces with the Legion of Steel. These knights still consider themselves Solmanic and use the Legion as a way to promote their ideas. Many of the younger knights have confused the Legion with the Clandestine Circles of old.
When Jaymes Markham led the armies to victory over the forces of Ankhar, the people of the land loved him. They loved him not for the man but for the fact that he destroyed the forces, Ankhar and the Dukes, which had stolen their lives. The people of Solamnia would support Markham because he guaranteed the basic free rights that Lorimar had outlined in his compact.
Solamnia currently has become an empire that is ruled by an emperor. Markham has changed the feudal system that still operates in the land. Lords rule over there lands but these lands are owned by the emperor. The emperor uses his army to enforce his edicts and demands. The current Solamnia still draws support from the Knights of Solamnia but in a new fashion.
The knights living in Solamnia are a separate group from the Knights of Solamnia found elsewhere in Ansalon. These knights refuse to answer to the Grand Circle on Sancrist and do not acknowledge that power of Lord Tasgall as their leader. The knights living in Solamnia have continued to follow the system that the Dukes set up. They do not attempt to enter other ranks and instead are proud of who they are.
Following the war with Ankhar and the removal of the Dukes from power, we see a new Solamnia. A Solamnia that no longer seeks the approval of the Knights of Solamnia and instead will forge itself into an empire. The knighthood, while still in the empire, is not the driving force of unity it once was. With the change of feudalism, the knights have been forced to take a back seat in the affairs of Solamnia.
This change has produced a unified Solamnic state that is both financially and politically stable. This stability has allowed the citizens of the empire to increase their standard of living. The nation has changed from a being a loose collection of realms based on a common cause to a strongly unified force that is led by a strong man.