steppe peoples

A Brief History of the Pechenegs

The Pechenegs were a Turkic, possibly Oghuz, ethno-political group originating from the Central Asian steppe in what is today Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan, between the end of the 2nd and the beginning of the 3rd centuries AH. Uyughur historian and linguist Mahmud al-Kashgari wrote that their name has its origins in one of the Oghuz languages, in his Diwan Lughut al-Turk, a treatise on the Turkic languages from the Syr Darya River to Uighurstan. He also asserts that the Pechenegs were one of many Oghuz groups, but it is impossible, at this time, to say for certain.

Sometime in the second half of the 3rd century AH (9th century CE), the Pechenegs were pushed from their traditional homelands by a group of Oghuz Turks, Kimaks and Cumans, though the confederation was unable to finish off their Pecheneg rivals due to infighting, quickly compounded by external conflicts with other groups in the east, towards Kyrgyzstan and Mongolia.

The Pechenegs spent possibly a decade, or more, as a people fully on the move, forced to maintain westward migration along the corridor of steppe connecting the Syr Darya and the Volga rivers by the expanding power of other Oghuz Turkic and Cuman groups. By the end of the 3rd century AH, they had found relative safety near the Don and Volga rivers, between the older and more established Turkic Bulgar groups in the north, and the waning Khazar clans in the south.

The Khazar clans, however, were still strong enough to put pressure on the newly arrived Pechenegs, and sometime between the end of the 3rd and the beginning of the 4th centuries AH, they had again moved further west, in the process driving the then-fractured and relatively weak Magyars toward the Carpathian mountains and beyond, where they would eventually found the Kingdom of Hungary. After nearly half a century on the move, the Pechenegs finally settled down to a semi-nomadic life, taking advantage of the situation in the hard-pressed Byzantine Empire to strike a protective deal with the Emperors in Constantinople. In exchange for peace, the Pechenegs would ensure that Slavs, Magyars, Khazars and other Turkic groups would be a diminished threat on the Empire’s eastern borders.

This agreement brought them into conflict with the emerging Slavic powers around Kiev very quickly. For the first half of the 4th century AH, the Pechenegs raided and harassed burgeoning Slavic settlements, earning a lasting enmity with the powerful Kievan princes. During the same period, the relationship with the Khazar clans continued to be in flux, with the two groups vying for supremacy, often in short, sometimes even seasonal, rises and falls from positions of power over one another. Finally, Islam may have established a presence, possibly as a small cult or henotheistic practice, distinct in a larger skein of traditional Turkic religion and shamanism, although again, it is impossible to be sure. At least one Russian source lists the Pechenegs as connected to the Biblical Ishmael, sent by God to punish the Slavs, but the significance of this statement, and its relationship to any real-world reality for the Pechenegs, is unknown.

In 357 AH (968 CE), tensions with the Kievan Rus finally boiled over into the last full-scale war between the Slavs and the Turkic group, and the Pechenegs besieged Kiev. Though the war initially went well for the Pechenegs, they were eventually defeated by Vladimir I “the Great” of Kiev’s Rurik dynasty, and from then on, never recovered dominance over the Rus again. In 427 AH (1036 CE), the Pechenegs were dealt another serious blow, this time by another Rurik prince, Yaroslav I. At this point, the Byzantines had forsaken the alliance, as the Pechenegs were no longer a useful tool for the Emperors, and in response, the Turkic tribe turned its attention to the Bulgarian and Roman borders, harassing and burning settlements, conducting intermittent, small-scale wars, and attempting to create a decisive advantage that would allow them to end what was becoming more than a century of conflict with the Khazars.

When Alexios I Komenons, the strongest Byzantine/Roman Emperor in centuries, took the throne in Constantinople in 473 AH (1081 CE), he marched an army of Cuman mercenaries and Greek troops into what is today Turkey’s European regions, where the majority of the Pecheneg military might had been moved during an expedition into Christian territory, and at the Battle of Levounion, routed up to 80,000 (though the number was probably much lower) Pecheneg troops, driving them back toward the Black Sea, while others fled into the Pontic steppe, toward Seljuq territory. Now divided and drastically weakened, in 487 AH (1095 CE), hostile Cuman forces finished off what remained of the scattered people. The last mention of them comes from the mid 6th century AH (12th century CE), as one Turkic group living among many others, somewhere along the coast of the Black Sea, no longer of any particular consequence in either Christian or Islamic sources. After that, all mentions of the group are solely confined to history.

LF RP CONNECTIONS & (maybe) AN FC

Hi! I’m pretty new on the Balmung scene, (read as I just name changed, level and story boosted, and fantasia’d an alt character I had on Balmung into a new character,) but I’d love to find some connections with the release of Stormblood and The Steppe!

This is Ochigin Iriq, but he’s really a Moks at heart. Not a boy given up by the Borlaaq tribe, but rather born into the Iriq tribe, he spent much of his youth upon the Steppe. His parents are also Moks, and I’d love some connections with regards to that. Some other Moks who he’s met and exchanged messages with, maybe?

Other connections I’m looking for for Ochigin include things like friends from the Steppe and Eorzea, people he’s done ‘odd jobs’ for over the years, (think things like general repairs and generic adventurer’s work. His IC ‘class’ is an axe-wielding one, though he doesn’t have the Warrior features like the Inner Beast or anything like that,) would be nice, and just friends in general would be kickass! Enemies and darker stuff are also welcomed, as is shippy stuff, though I prefer to chat for a while before promising a romance.

I’d also like blogs to follow even if you’re not interested in RP with Ochigin! Please just drop a like on this post and I will follow you :)

More under the read more because this got really long!

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Qurcaqi Uragshi - Profile

General Information:

Full Name: Legally Qurcaqi Uragshi, however it is always given as Qurcaqi of the Uragshi.

Race: Auri - Xaela

Age: Twenty one

Nickname/Alias: Qurcy, Caqi

Signature: A haphazard scribbling that is mostly just a large Q and some waggles. It counts.

Biography:

Family: Within Eorzea Qurcaqi’s only blood family is her twin, Dayuuqi (PC played by @dayuuqi) who she had traveled side by side with from Othard all the way to Eorzea via ship over five cycles prior. Her mother and father remain behind in the steppe but they’ve had next to no fortune in reaching them despite repeated attempts. She has long since given up hope on reaching them, though this is kept from her other half, as she believes it would crush her.

Birthplace: She and her twin sister were born in the tribe’s southern camp during the springtime.

Upbringing:  Qurcaqi was raised in the same manner as nearly all steppe peoples. A life of hunting, herding, raiding, and travel that forged her into a capable and self sufficient woman. Though one with a view that is wholly alien to most Eorzeans.


Appearance:

Style: Qurcaqi’s style is built firmly around her pride in her physique and form, unless she is wearing heavy equipment fit for serious battle she will shamelessly show off her figure and opulently tended scales. As such the general style of what she wears can very heavily, from Doman yukatas worn with her neckline exposed, lighter limsan fare built to weather humidity (such as in the picture), or heavier ishgardian gambesons over mail shirts. Colours range widely as well, though two of her absolute favorites are dark reds and metallic green.

Scent: While not worn for it’s scent, she starts every morning not in the field brushing her scales with a soft bristle brush daubed with clove scented oil. The act is more to make sure her scales stay healthy and do not dry out, though she is fond of having the scent cling to her as well.

Build:  Though both Dayuuqi and Qurcaqi are quite impressively built amongst your average Auri women, Caqi stands out between the two. Her figure is lean, sinewy, and covered in scars and burns that attest to her many cycles of conflict.

Notable Marks: Two notable things stand out about Qurcaqi above all else. One being her hetereochromia a trait she shares with her sister, though her eyes are set in the opposite, her right being emerald green and left being a deep gold. The other is that she always wears a gold ring with an emerald set in it on her left hand, her betrothal ring.

Personality:

Major Traits:  Loyal, Cynical, Passionate, Determined

Sociability: Qurcaqi’s outward personality is one that has served her well since the twins arrival in Eorzea. She is cool, sarcastic, and brutally honest to those she has first met. While she is far from unwilling to keep secrets or watch her tongue, she believes that remaining open and frank with potential companions is an important first step, though this often leads to the chieftess making a sour first impression with those more accustomed to niceties. However it is easy to tell where you stand with her. If you show her respect, she will gladly return it. If you insult her, she will see to it that you realize your folly. If you flirt, she may even return the favor. If she falls silent, it’s best to begin quietly praying to your deity of choosing because she is displeased with you.

Habits: Qurcaqi is proactive and energetic, often to the point of seeming flighty and unmoored. She starts her days early, completes her morning ritual of tending her scales and washing herself, and then takes to her tasks with a will. It’s not uncommon for her drive to lead her to burn out, and it’s not until Sarnai and Olivia’s arrival in her life that she has found the time to relax and de-stress. Most often by spending time with her loved ones, enjoying a few cups of airag, and talking to kinfolk she has met through her travels.

Love and Sex

Orientation:  Bisexual (even interest in both masculine and feminine)

Lovers:  Two, Olivia of the Uragshi @ascalonffxiv , and Sarnai of the Uragshi (PC but does not have Tumblr)

Relationship Status:  In a relationship, semi-open.

Marital Interest:  Engaged and to be married later this year!

Turn-Ons: Long hair, strength (physical, magical, or of spirit), honesty, and willingness to let her lead. Enjoys pursuit and pursuing, compliments to her figure and doubly so her scales, and skills in battle. Self sufficiency is something that she values heavily.

Turn Offs: Dishonest and dishonorable conduct, being treated like a pet or lesser person. Most Miqo’te men.

((A polite shout out to @home-halone for inspiring me to fill one out! :D ))

The Butterfly Effect

Okay strap yourselves in, ladies and gentlemen. I have a crazy AU for you:

Let us imagine, for the sake of argument, that the Roman Empire successfully resisted the external forces (invading barbarians) which were the proximate cause of its collapse. This would have consequences outside of the Roman Empire just as much as within it.

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Hadrian’s Wall

Aerial view of the Wall at Cawfields, looking east, showing Cawfields milecastle. The line of the Vallum – the earthwork to the south of the Wall – can be seen in the background

Permanent conquest of Britain began in AD 43. By about AD 100 the northernmost army units in Britain lay along the Tyne–Solway isthmus. The forts here were linked by a road, now known as the Stanegate, between Corbridge and Carlisle.

Hadrian came to Britain in AD 122 and, according to a biography written 200 years later, ‘put many things to right and was the first to build a wall 80 miles long from sea to sea to separate the barbarians from the Romans’.

The building of Hadrian’s Wall probably began that year, and took at least six years to complete. The original plan was for a wall of stone or turf, with a guarded gate every mile and two observation towers in between, and fronted by a wide, deep ditch. Before work was completed, 14 forts were added, followed by an earthwork known as the Vallum to the south.

Its military effectiveness has been questioned by many scholars over the years owing to its length and the positioning of the fortifications along the route. Regarding this, Professors Scarre and Fagan write,

Archaeologists and historians have long debated whether Hadrian’s Wall was an effective military barrier…Whatever its military effectiveness, however, it was clearly a powerful symbol of Roman military might. The biographer of Hadrian remarks that the emperor built the wall to separate the Romans from the barbarians. In the same way, the Chinese emperors built the Great Wall to separate China from the barbarous steppe peoples to the north. In both cases, in addition to any military function, the physical barriers served in the eyes of their builders to reinforce the conceptual divide between civilized and noncivilized. They were part of the ideology of empire. (Ancient Civilizations, 313)

Martin vs Erikson: a few observations

I am a great fan of Steven Erikson. The Malazan cycle is the best ever written bar none. I like Martin too, just not as much as Erikson.

With that said, it may seem that the two authors have a lot in common: they write fantasy that goes against many of the genre clichés, they are prone to kill characters nonchalantly, they have lots of blood, war, sex (not so much Erikson in truth) and gritty scenes. They may seem very related as writers. I believe they are only superficially so.

While they have many traits in common, Martin wrote a world that is basically our world with magic, dragons and weird stuff happening. It’s very plain to see that the 7 Kingdoms are medieval Europe and Essos is Asia (the near east, precisely, plus the russian steppes). This is a lot in the tradition of the early fantasy writers who used our past to create their fantasy worlds. Tolkien, LeGuin, Vance all did this, more or less. Erikson’s world is wholly different from ours; it is inspired by it (the Malazans being the Romans, the Seven Cities continent being the Arab world etc.) but it has only elements of it, there’s not a clear connection between any of the continents of the Malazan world and ours. Same as per the people inhabiting it, in Westeros the North is England, Dorne is like Spain or Byzantium, King’s Landing is Rome and so on. Not the same can be said about Erikson’s serie: you have steppes and black people right in the middle of Quon Tali along with redheaded, “scottish” folks. Nomadic people are in every continent, slavery is not (in stark contrast with Martin) and people intermix freely even between humanoids (again, compare this with Martin’s world where everybody weds in his/her own country but for the royals, exactly as in the middle-ages). Erikson and Martin have very different concepts of what a good fantasy book should be like even if their objectives may coincide. Namely, not following the fantasy clichés and writing a story that could be real. Both have succeeded, but in very different ways.

SPOILERS ALERT!

Another similitude between the two authors is their way of killing characters. Lots of. In every book. Malazan fans claim that Erikson’s deaths are more and sadder than Martin’s. The former is true, the latter is too but up to a point. That point is the Red Wedding. Before that I’d say that every death in Westeros was as sad, if not more, than in the Malazan world. Before that scene some important characters died but overall the structure of the story remained fixed: there were the Starks, the Lannisters and Daenerys far away on Essos. Simple. This reflected our own past when there were 2 kingdoms fighting each other with allies of both helping them to win the war. With the Red Wedding that structure was dropped, now there’s nobody to openly oppose the Lannisters. This made the story more unpredictable but also slightly pointless. Martin seems to have taken a turn after the Red Wedding towards killing off characters just for the fun of it. While the Stark’s deaths were indeed sad, I’d say even sadder than most of Malazan’s deaths, after that no death generates the same amount of sadness because the readers have got that Martin is doing it just for the show. Don’t get me wrong, I believe Martin knows where he’s going to and will write a worthy finale (if he’ll ever reach it…). It’s just that no deaths now feels important, everything precipitated since the Starks were put out of the fray and now I feel like he could kill Tyrion or Jon Snow without me shedding any tear (and I love both characters). It’s like he’s playing with his readers now, just to have fun, and this is very detrimental to the story and its quality. Sometimes I feel cheated.

Compare this to Erikson: he kills less important characters than Martin. Whiskeyjack, yes, Trull, yes, Coltaine. Many are thought dead but in truth aren’t, like Kalam and Brys. He never kills off a whole faction as Martin does with the Starks. He does kills in higher numbers, extreme massacres that wipe out entire nations. But he does just to prove his main point, that the world sucks and honest people die by the score while dishonest ones keep living. He instead prefers to highlights the lives of single soldiers and normal folk, making you love them, grow attached to them, and then wiping them out of the story. I bet a lot of you cried at Bottle’s sacrifice for the sake of his comrades, or even at T'Amber, despite being not of the talkative kind. That’s where Erikson surpasses Martin, greatly. In Martin you cry only when somebody who was supposed to be good dies because there’s somebody else who is supposed to be bad. Even if neither are plainly stated it’s extremely obvious that he wants you to hate the Lannisters and love the Starks so whoever dies while opposing the bad guys makes you, obviously, sadder than Joffrey’s death. But are we crying because we loved the character or because of the meaning he/she had in the story? Did any of you cry because Oberyn Martell died or because his death meant Tyrion’s too? The latter I’d say, in both questions.

It’s exactly the same reason why I remember all the deaths in Malazan books while I have already forgot most of GoT’s. In Martin there’s a meaning beneath the story, you feel there’s something good in the world that fights against the evil forces and every death that accomplishes more evil than good is more sorrowful than the others. Nobody cried at Tywin’s death but a lot are angry at the death of a pretty vicious and selfish character as Oberyn was. Exactly because the Martell were opposing the bad ones while Tywin was among them. In the Malazan world there’s not a clear distinction between the good and the evil and it’s not even hinted that there’s a definite thing that can be considered good or bad. People act according to their desires, ambitions and dreams. Whether any of those are good or bad is left to the reader to decide. Like in our own real world. That’s why when Erikson kills some character you feel bad for him or her, because of what kind of person they are in the book and not because that means the evil forces are going to prevail. Because there aren’t evil forces in the first place. And most deaths in Erikson are even unimportant to the development of the story, precisely like 99% of the people who have died in our own world are: uninfluential outside of the small circle of those who knew the deceased. Whiskeyjack dies but the malazans occupy Coral nonetheless. Coltaine dies when the seven cities folks have already been saved; he could have left his warriors protecting the refugees and save himself but as he was an honourable man he fought until the last man and was crucified. Trull Sengar’s death is of little importance for the rest of the story. Yet most of the readers cried at each of these deaths (and if you didn’t, what kind of person are you? :) ). Exactly because they loved the character, regardless of its importance in the big picture.

This is why Erikson is a better writer than Martin. One is all for the show, the other is for the meaning.

And besides, Martin hasn’t yet mastered the art of making characters die in the most stupid ways. Really stupid I mean. Like Trull. Try to kill Tyrion by making him stumble upon a blade and see the internet erupts in rage :)

I don’t think cultural appropriation is real.

Or, at the very least, no one culture is more guilty of it than another. Cultures have developed through a means of multiple cultural exchanges. Historically this happened through trade or war - especially if one nation was conquered by another. The Romans “appropriated” Greek culture and much of what we attribute to Roman society was taken from Greek culture (Ex. Greek architecture, Greek deities, Greek literature, etc.) The Steppe peoples who invaded China “appropriated” Chinese culture. Today, in the age of transoceanic air travel, we aren’t limited to contact with the people living near us. So what do we have? Cultural exchange all over the world. People in Japan wearing eyelid tape. People in Southeast Asia bleaching their skin. Religious conversions. Yoga. Opium. Tea. Casinos. Wine. Vodka. Sake. 

With people moving all around the world, you can’t prevent cultural exchange. And why would we try?