Wednesday, 23 November 2016

Grandiose Titles

The less that is known about the universe, the greater the claims that are made about it. Let us compare the titles of three men who respectively rule:

parts of the Earth's surface;
the Solar System;
an interstellar empire.

"King Kashtiliash - Great King of Babylon, King of the Four Quarters of the Earth, King of the Universe, viceregent of the great god Marduk, overlord of Assyria by right of conquest and of Elam by treaty of vassalage, and ally of the Republic of Nantucket..."
-SM Stirling, On The Oceans Of Eternity (New York, 2000), Chapter Six, p. 101.

" - Willem, Prince of Orange, Duke of Nassau, Grand Duke of Luxembourg, Knight Commander of the Holy Roman Empire, Admiral General of the Imperial Forces, Adviser to the Martian Nests, Protector of the Poor, and, by the Grace of God, King of the Lowlands and Emperor of the Planets and the Spaces Between."
-Robert Heinlein, Double Star (New York, 1957), Chapter 8, p. 91.

Here is another reference to the Roman Empire or rather to its "Holy" successor. Willem is a Knight Commander of a defunct Empire but also a current Emperor. We are not told his surname.

"His Imperial Majesty, High Emperor Georgios Manuel Krishna Murasaki, of the Wang dynasty the fourth, Supreme Guardian of the Pax, Grand Director of the Stellar Council, Commander-in-chief, Final Arbiter..."
-Poul Anderson, Young Flandry (Riverdale, NY, 2010), p. 5.

A High Emperor must outrank mere Emperors? Georgios' middle names are those of the Founder and of an Indian deity but there is no reference to any god or to divine favor among his titles. Also, someone who is all too aware that he rules only one part of one spiral arm of a single galaxy makes no claim to rule the Universe. Georgios speaks Anglic but do his titles include the Latin word, "Pax"?

Later, the same titles are repeated for Hans Friedrich Molitor except that he is of his dynasty the first - and much history revolves around that single fact.

Kashtiliash represents Marduk on Earth.
Willem advises Martian nests.
Hans appoints a Duke of Mars.


Sean M. Brooks said...

Kaor, Paul!

In fairness to the ancient kings of Babylon their grandiose claim to be "King of the Four Quarters of the Earth, King of the Universe," did make sense if "universe" meant the known, CIVILIZED world. To be King of the Land of the Two Rivers must have seemed a very big deal compared to the wild peoples outside Mesopotamia.

I agree with your comments about the more modest titles of the Terran Emperors. Also, I would stress that these titles were FUNCTIONAL, describing the powers and responsibilities of the Emperors.

High Emperor: I was reminded of how Ireland once had "high kings," kings who claimed a largely nominal over lordship over the other Irish kings. And the kings of Gondor in Tolkien's Middle Earth mythos were also called high kings, with very distinctly IMPERIAL overtones. So, compared to past Emperors on Earth, the Terran Emperors ruled such vastly larger domains that it was apt to call them "High Emperors."

Supreme Guardian of the Pax: this is self explanatory and meant it was the Emperor's responsibility to keep and defend the peace withing and outside the Empire.

Grand Director of the Stellar Council: I interpreted this to mean the Emperor, like US Presidents before him, was his own Prime Minister and head of gov't (as well as head of state). The Stellar Council probably consisted of both the Policy Board and cabinet ministers who were not also members of the Board.

Commander-in-Chief: the title meant Emperor Georgios was the final and ultimate commander of the armed forces of the Empire.

Final Arbiter: I interpreted this to mean the Emperor was the final court of appeals for cases reaching him thru the lower courts (both human and non human). Naturally, of course, the Emperor would, if he has any sense, base his decisions on the advice of his legal experts.

Hmmm, Georgios Manuel Krishna Murasaki makes for interesting thought. The first and second names came from a Western and Christian tradition, while the third name evokes India. And Murasaki is a Japanese name, indicating Georgios had ancestors from Japan.


David Birr said...

Paul and Sean:
David Drake wrote an outline which Eric Flint turned into a series about time travelers changing and manipulating events at the time of the great Byzantine general Belisarius. One passage mentions how the Negusa Nagast, ruling the African realm of Axum, has a list of titles specifying every territory he rules ... and ONLY those he rules. It's confirmed that if Axum loses rule over a land, that area is removed from the Negusa Nagast's titles unless and until Axum reconquers it.

His younger son has a SINGLE title, stating that he's a member of the Dakuen regiment. At the moment, that is, to Axumite minds, the MOST important thing about the prince — that he's a soldier. As are his father and elder brother, each assigned to a different regiment. In the Negusa Nagast's long list of titles, the name of his regiment comes third ... before ANY of the territories he rules, before the name of Axum itself.

Sean M. Brooks said...


Yes, I have heard of the Drake/Flint series featuring an alternate world Belisarius (I think you mean AN OBLIQUE APPROACH?). It's been one of the books in the back of my mind that I want to read.

I've even vaguely heard of Axum! If my memory is correct, it was one of the states forming the core of Ethiopia. I rather like the hard headed approach taken by the Axumites to the titles used by their king!

I HAVE read David Drake/S.M. Stirling's THE GENERAL series, set on the planet Bellevue more than a thousand years from now. The Civil Government of the Holy Federation, ruled by emperors called "Governors" was an SF analog of the Eastern Roman Empire. The series features a general, Raj Whitehall, secretly advised by an ancient, self aware "battle computer" surviving from the time of the interstellar Terran Federation.