A group of peoples in the far east of the known world, the Acaya had long been only a rumor to much of the world. Contact with Leun and the Opulensi brought them into the consciousness of the world -- a group of competing city-states, with a strong notion of individual freedom and republican government. To this day, they have remained rather divided, though recently Gadia and Iolha have risen above their neighboring cities to found great states.
The Acayan cities are found exclusively on the eastern edge of the eastern continent, far from the center of the known world. Bounded to the south by the Acayan Sea, to the northeast by the straits of Parthe, and to the west by the mountains that they call the Corocya, the Acayans dwell mostly on a gently rising coastal flatland, once the home of thick forests cut by pleasant rivers and streams. In the south, the forest gives way to grass and scrubland, while the extreme southern edge in Gadia is nearly subtropical; the north grades quickly to forests of mixed deciduous and coniferous trees.
The Corocya long made a significant barrier to migrations, for though they are not particularly tall, they are quite rugged and difficult, with snow falling early and late in the year.
The most significant river, the River Centa, was renowned in ancient times for overflowing its banks (one particularly large flood has lived on in Gadian legend through the centuries), but the last major flood happened in the 4th century SR. Its banks currently wash the largest Acayan city, Gade.
The founding of the Acayan city-states has usually been dated as roughly contemporaneous with the fall of the Empire of the Sesh and the simultaneous Bronze Age Collapse that dominated early western history, and with the rise of the Amure Empire in the far west.
Prior to this, most of the traditional tales and inscriptions indicate that the Acayans lived in a number of divided tribes, none of their settlements any larger than the village level. Agriculture was practiced for some time, primarily centered around wheat in the low country and barley nearer the Corocya, but it did not support large populations for several centuries.
All this changed with the founding of the cities, an event that has been mythologized so much that it is hard to pick out the truth from the tales. Most sources agree that seven cities were founded initially, namely Cayan, Arana, Didea, Loya, Deba, Tanat, and Bacu. These cities each constructed great walls, enormous assembly halls, and laid the traditional framework for government down, but the reasons behind all of this remain cloaked in the mists of time. Were they responding to external threats? Did they distrust barbarians from the north or west, or perhaps did they distrust one another?
Without any hard evidence, it is nearly impossible to tell exactly what happened until the entrance of the Acaya into the consciousness of the western world.
Ties with the West Edit
By the time that the first Leunan explorers arrived on the southern shores of the Acayan Sea, the Acayans were already an old culture. New cities had been founded in both north and south, including the two that would become the most important in Acayan history -- Iolha and Gade. The old cities, meanwhile, had struggled in a byzantine world of political and military underhandedness, none managing to gain supremacy, and none truly submitting to another for more than a decade at a time.
The arrival of westerners into their cities did not seem to change all that much about the Acayans at first. The Leunans offered trade gifts from the far west -- spices, in particular, gaining the eye of the rich and poor alike. The Acayans were only too happy to sell high-quality cotton and textiles, a specialty of the southern Acayan states. And so a low-tonnage trade network sprang up, but the exchange was mostly limited to this, even after a royal marriage between the king of Leun and the king of the Acayan city of Ischya.
Soon, of course, western developments started to impact the Acayans. The rivalry between Leun and the Opulensi Empire led to either state competing for influence in the Acayan city states. The Leunans naturally had a considerable head start, both in that they arrived much earlier, and in that they were much closer; the famed explorer Kreutas charted the coasts of Acaya in the 3rd century, and for a time they had a near-monopoly on Acayan cotton. Soon after Kreutas, though, the Opulensi forced their way through the straits at Leun in a fierce naval war, and started to trade with the Acayans as well.
Problems had only begun, however. Leun used its royal ties to Ischya to attempt to leverage greater control over the city during a succession crisis, but they ran into opposition from Gadia, the small kingdom that had risen from the city-state of Gade. Gadia earned the friendship of the Opulensi, and captured Ischya, nearly driving the Leunans out of the Acayan Sea altogether, but they were unable to push them out of the more northern Acayan states.
Rise of Iolha Edit
The arrival of the Kitaluk in the Acayan region provided another trade partner, but the Acayan states barely diversified. They instead fell into further infighting, a state encouraged by the Leunans, who attempted to align the Acayans against both Gadia and the rising power of Iolha while the Opulensi were distracted by western affairs.
This strategy worked to some extent, and Leun was able to make significant inroads, most significantly in the city of Arana, which became a Leunan enclave among the city-states. The gradual imperial decline of the Opulensi only accelerated these trends, and with the War of the Three Gods and the War of the Empty Throne taking much of the western world's attention, Leun soon waged a series of campaigns that drove Gadia to its knees, and had Iolha reeling as well.
But the revival of the Opulensi under the Republic of the Daharai would reverse this course. The natural alliance between the western republic and Iolha was reformed, and together they constrained Leunan foreign policy, allowing Iolha to resume its expansion -- in short order, the city state had the entirety of the Acayan cities under its rule. This would lead to the formation of the Acajuren Republic and the eventual unification of the Acayans as a people under one state.
The Acaya draw much attention from scholars, for they are one of the few civilizations in the known world that evolved apparently independently both from the cultural tradition of the Had and the Sesh and the Dulama.
The most well-known attribute of the Acaya is their disdain of the idea that certain men are superior or inferior to others. Unlike much of the known world, which draws strict lines between classes, the Acaya tend to blur those lines quite a lot, believing that individuals should make their own way in the world. There is only a minimal tradition of inherited property, with much of a man's wealth frequently going to the city, rather than his sons. Likewise, they look down on the idea of men bowing or capering before another. Kingship, where it exists, is typically by acclamation. Whereas the crown is often inherited, there is nearly as much a tradition of deposition as there is in faraway Faron.
Indeed, many Acayan city-states (including Iolha) are instead ruled by an assembly, composed either of representatives of the population, or the entire population (states with the latter, of course, usually run out of space in the assembly halls, leading to the former).
Acayan architecture traditionally made use primarily of wood, with long, high halls and hearthfires in the middle of a home. In recent centuries, monumental architecture was imported almost wholesale from the west; modern Acaya cities frequently have enormous stone assembly halls, and thick walls ringing the center. Tile and stucco homes have also come into fashion, taking after Opulensi ideals.
The traditional cuisine of the Acaya has been almost entirely supplanted over the centuries, instead taking after the Opulensi and Leunan style of curries from the south, though they still make much more extensive use of fruits as both garnishes and main dishes.
Old Acayan faiths seemed to be something of a blend of polytheism and animism. A full pantheon of gods was worshiped, each having dominion over some part of the world -- war, love, the earth, the sea, and so on. However, none of the gods had total rule over their own dominion; instead, malevolent spirits attempted to stymie their rule and destroy gods and man alike. Many of these malevolent spirits became almost as powerful as the gods themselves, and various strains of Acayan polytheism held that there were no real differences between the two other than how they felt about humanity. A third brand of deities -- what we might term benevolent or apathetic spirits -- had almost the same function as the rest of them, other than the fact that they did battle against both but did not bother to aid man in any way.
In recent times, of course, the old polytheisms have been buffeted by the religions of the west, which have been growing in popularity. Indagahor skyrocketed in popularity, particularly in Gadia, where it became the country's primary religion, feeding off of strong ties to the Opulensi. Influence from the Savirai and Leun introduced Aitahism, mostly in the middle Acayan cities. Only the northerners of Iolha have really remained true to their traditional practices.