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    Real Strategy Requires Cunning

Uriah

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Regere Imperio Populus: The Roman Empire Brings the Gift of Peace to the Universe


After many years of writing HOI3 AARs, it feels like time to avoid being typecast. Or, to be more honest, I need a break and we all know a change is as good as a rest. So Stellaris (and Utopia) seemed like a good alternative.

First, a trigger warning. (Are they obligatory on Paradox sites yet?)

Those who have followed my two HOI3 AARs know what to expect, but I should first warn people what not to expect.

Optimised play.

I can't do it. Not from an intellectual perspective, I am far too arrogant to believe some Swedish programmer can defeat me! But I find once I have worked out the best possible way to play a game I lose all interest in it. It is no fun playing a completely predictable (or even statistically predictable) game, and even less fun writing about it. I am more a "play by ear" player who uses a sort of role-play decision-making style and it shows.

Plus, in the interests of full disclosure, I only have about 25 hours of playing Stellaris, and this is my first go at Utopia. So it might all end in complete failure due to a mistake on day one. (I hope not - that is a sign of very bad game design and Paradox has always preferred to give you time to dig your grave a bit deeper). But the point is, don't read this to find out how to do things the best possible way. You could read it to find out things to avoid, as you see the disasters I self manufacture. Or you could read it to laugh at my struggles to escape predicaments. Just don't blame me if you copy anything I do.

Speed

Not in my DNA. I am what you might call a detail person, (yes, the "a" word has been used in the past) and as you can see from this intro, I don't mind using a lot of words to explain what I mean. Expect details, concentration on some tiny events that catch my interest, pure indulgence that takes up more time than you might think warranted.

If you need an example, look at either of my two HOI3 AARs. The second one was actually taking longer to play WW2 than real life.

The conquest of the universe might take some time to describe. (Bearing in mind Pdx might release an update before I finish.). Best hope I get wiped out before if you have other plans for the future.

What this AAR will be (or might be - who really knows?)

You know some things. It will be long, it will be verbose, it will be detailed and it will be drag on until you fear you will die before it ends. What else could you want? Who cares?

I have always wanted to do a sort of fantasy where the Roman Empire of the West survived and years later reunited with the Byzantine Empire. Sounds like a perfect CK2 or EU IV game, but I am not very good with those games, and for some unfathomable reason I never really got hooked on either. (Could the two reasons be related? And if so, did one cause the other? Or vice versa? There is a PhD in there somewhere).

Romans in space seemed a solution. (I really did not pinch the idea from the Hautevilles in Space, the latest descendant of that ancient lineage to hit the AAR lists).

A race of Decadent, Wasteful, Conformist, Resilient and Quick-learning individuals led by a government that is Authoritarian, Militaristic and Spiritual, backed by a Warrior Culture and an Aristocratic Elite. Sounded like what I would imagine a mix of Romans and Byzantines would be.

Decision made, time for lift off. (Already in space mode you see).

If you prefer your AARs to be a short and sweet, this is not for you.

Otherwise, in the words of some long dead advertising guru, watch this space.



Prologue: http://forum.paradoxplaza.com/forum...-peace-to-the-universe.1010704/#post-22644615

The Early Years

Year 2200: The First Year of the Imperium Universalis Romanorum: http://forum.paradoxplaza.com/forum...-peace-to-the-universe.1010704/#post-22652829
Years 2201-2: Tiny Steps: http://forum.paradoxplaza.com/forum...-peace-to-the-universe.1010704/#post-22659624
Years 2203-6: The First Colony and the First Crisis: http://forum.paradoxplaza.com/forum...-to-the-universe.1010704/page-2#post-22674289
Year 2207: The Battle of Sirius: http://forum.paradoxplaza.com/forum...-to-the-universe.1010704/page-2#post-22682184
Years 2207 - 10: Return to Expansion: http://forum.paradoxplaza.com/forum...-to-the-universe.1010704/page-2#post-22692027
Years 2211-2216: Hemmed In: https://forum.paradoxplaza.com/foru...-to-the-universe.1010704/page-2#post-22698428
Years 2217 - 2220: Teething Problems: https://forum.paradoxplaza.com/foru...-to-the-universe.1010704/page-3#post-22711578
Years 2221 - 2225: The Feonus Honey Trap: http://forum.paradoxplaza.com/forum...-to-the-universe.1010704/page-3#post-22722975
Years 2226 - 2228: Back to Feonus: http://forum.paradoxplaza.com/forum...-to-the-universe.1010704/page-3#post-22733167
Years 2229 - 2233: Speak Softly and Carry a Big Stick: http://forum.paradoxplaza.com/forum...-to-the-universe.1010704/page-4#post-22741462
Years 2234 - 2237: Nowhere to Go: http://forum.paradoxplaza.com/forum...-to-the-universe.1010704/page-4#post-22757361
Years 2238 - 2240: Res Gerenda "Illecabra": https://forum.paradoxplaza.com/foru...-to-the-universe.1010704/page-5#post-22776780
Years 2241 - 2246: The End of an Era: https://forum.paradoxplaza.com/foru...-to-the-universe.1010704/page-5#post-22791508
Years 2247 - 2248: The Calm Before the Storm: https://forum.paradoxplaza.com/foru...-to-the-universe.1010704/page-5#post-22797884


Rome Challenges the First Divine Queptilium Tribunal

Year 49: Cry Havoc! and Let Loose the Dogs of War: https://forum.paradoxplaza.com/foru...-to-the-universe.1010704/page-6#post-22808060
Year 50: The Battle of Aztan: https://forum.paradoxplaza.com/foru...-to-the-universe.1010704/page-7#post-22820999
Years 51 - 53: Cruel But Fair: https://forum.paradoxplaza.com/foru...-to-the-universe.1010704/page-7#post-22838863
Years 54 - 56: The Princeps Has Her First Success: https://forum.paradoxplaza.com/foru...-to-the-universe.1010704/page-7#post-22858228

Princeps Julieta Makes Her Mark

Years 57 - 60: Years of Rebuilding and Repair: https://forum.paradoxplaza.com/foru...-to-the-universe.1010704/page-8#post-22877786
Years 61 - 65: Carpe Diem: https://forum.paradoxplaza.com/foru...-to-the-universe.1010704/page-8#post-22890411
Years 66 - 68: Terra Marique: https://forum.paradoxplaza.com/foru...-to-the-universe.1010704/page-9#post-22903776
Years 69 - 73: Increasing the Pressure: https://forum.paradoxplaza.com/foru...-to-the-universe.1010704/page-9#post-22930433
Years 74 - 77: A Pause Between Courses: https://forum.paradoxplaza.com/foru...to-the-universe.1010704/page-10#post-22962459
Years 78 - 81: "Once More Into the Breach": https://forum.paradoxplaza.com/foru...to-the-universe.1010704/page-10#post-22998370
Years 82-83: "A Friend in Need ...": https://forum.paradoxplaza.com/foru...to-the-universe.1010704/page-11#post-23023906
Years 84 - 85: " .. is a Friend Indeed": https://forum.paradoxplaza.com/foru...to-the-universe.1010704/page-11#post-23078880
Years 85 - 86: Another Step Towards Our Goal: https://forum.paradoxplaza.com/foru...to-the-universe.1010704/page-11#post-23122165
 
Last edited:

mrlifeless

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This will be long, but epic.
 

Uriah

"The Verbose"
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Prologue: the Princeps addresses the Senate and People of Rome




Augustus makes his way along a corridor in the orbital station, heading to his destiny as the man who will send Rome into space. Behind him an anonymous slave keeps working, the profundity of the moment lost on her.​


"Excudent alii spirantia mollius aera,
credo equidem, vivos ducent de marmore voltus,
orabunt causas melius, caelique meatus
describent radio, et surgentia sidera dicent:
tu regere imperio populus, Romane, momento;
hae tibi erunt artes; pacisque imponere morem,
parcere subiectix, et debellare superbos"


Princeps Augustus Novus paused after he quoted the words. Partly to allow the translators to do their work for those senators from the half of the world that still spoke Greek as a result of their Byzantine heritage, partly for everyone not an expert on the Latin of the Golden Age to deconstruct, but mainly for effect. Behind him, the words were projected, in more friendly Vulgar Latin, on the huge curved fortiglass window that looked out onto space.

"Others might hammer the breathing bronze into forms more fair
And doubtless can create from marble faces that seem alive
They can plead more skilfully in court, point out with a wand
The circling heavens and predict the rising of the constellations.
You, Roman, remember this, your skill is to rule nations by force
To impose peace, to spare those foes who surrender
And to utterly destroy those prideful men who do not."

"Those words, written more than 2,000 years by the great Roman poet Vergil, are as appropriate now as they were then. He was writing at a similar time, when Rome had come together after generations of civil war, led by the man whose name and title I adopted. At that time Romans needed to be reminded of their destiny, and Vergil's lines towards the end of Book VI of the "Aeneid" told them plainly what that destiny was: to rule."

Having got the attention of his audience, he continued with his speech, sticking very closely to the prepared version. As I had written it for him over the past weeks, I did not need to concentrate and could allow my mind to wander.

The window curved around 270 degrees, so as well as seeing Terra far below, I could see the end results of years of effort: the space-going ships of the Imperium. Closest was the exploration ship "Columba I", bristling with detectors and arrays. Packed inside were the most advanced scientific instruments we could devise, teams of our brightest (and bravest) scientists, led by the archaeologist Marcus Krotov.

Next was "Artifex I", its huge blocky mass not attractive to look at, but functional and efficient for its role as a construction ship, capable of building in the void of space whatever we find necessary.



Artifex I: only a mother could love her​

Finally, looping in and out of the larger craft, the three corvettes of Classis I showed the watching billions that Rome was, as always, prepared for any challenge, and ready to fight for its destiny.



Classis I: the three "Custodes" class corvettes​

My eyes drifted from the space ships that either hung silently or flashed past with a roar like Jupiter unleashing a lightning bolt. (The producers of the Imperial broadcast had insisted that sound be introduced into the viewing chamber, claiming it would make the whole event more awe-inspiring for the masses).

Terra looked so small, but it still filled my heart. That orb contained the entire human race, its men and women, their history, their memories and their hopes. Whether slave, plebeian, equites or senator, all had worked for decades to get to this point. All had directed their energy into sending Rome into space, now that Terra was united at last.

It still seemed hard to believe, even after several generations of peace and reconstruction. The two empires that had fought for domination over a thousand years had finally agreed to merge and reconstitute the original Rome. It had cost humanity greatly, with countless deaths even though the use of nuclear weapons had been restricted. But who would have thought it possible at all?

The original split was doubtless inevitable, the empire simply too large to manage with the communications available 2,000 years ago. Even so, both Empires had come close to extinction. Rome and the western empire may have succumbed to the Gothic invaders, had it not been for the success of the surprise attack (a polite Roman never mentions treachery) on Alaric's camp near Ravenna that saw the Goth leader killed and saved Rome from what might have been its third and final sacking. Rome might have been saved, but it was badly hurt and it took centuries to recover. Only when its explorers discovered the New World did it gain the capital and boost to science that it needed to grow back to exceed even its original power.



Alaric celebrates after the capture of Athens: had it not been for his untimely death in Sarus's sneak attack it is almost certain the empire in the west would have collapsed.​


Byzantium had survived the Goths, despite the defeat at Adrianople but had faced its own moment of destiny hundreds of years later at the battle of Manzikert, a battle that turned back the Seljuk invasion. Had a lucky accident not killed the incompetent Emperor Romanos IV (a polite Byzantine never mentions assassination) Joseph Tarchaneiotes may not have been able to assume control of the army and the battle may have been lost. As it was, with steady generalship and the careful use of combined arms, victory was achieved. The defeat of the Turks allowed Byzantium to regain its core provinces and start its gradual expansion east, an expansion that only ended with the absorption of China and Japan into the empire and the colonisation of Australia.



Byzantine heavy cavalry finally get to grips with the Seljuk horse archers, and the battle of Manzikert is over​


Over the centuries, an uneasy peace had been maintained along the border of the two related empires. The Uxorine Wars had been fought in both, and both had bowed to the inevitability of granting women equal rights. (My stomach still roils when I read of the cruelty and fanaticism of those most deadly of all civil wars, husband against wife, sister against brother, even mother against son.) The great slave reforms that ensured that slaves must be treated humanely and have an opportunity for freedom had been fought for in both empires, and the struggle had been just as long and painful in each. (My own case is an example: my father's family laboured in an Australian nickel mine, my mother's on a maize plantation in North America.)

Then the perhaps inevitable clash: a hundred years of vicious and energy sapping warfare before the Treaty of Bucharest, the border city that had been the scene of some of the bloodiest fighting, signalled an end to hostilities and the start of plans for reunification. Imperator Gnaius Negotiator and Basileus Constantinus Soter CXII both showed wisdom and tolerance as a millenia of insults and outrages were put aside and the fate of humanity given priority.

One would have thought that after coming so close to the precipice that peace would have been welcomed by all. That would have been foolish: nobody in government had any doubt that the old factions would survive and seek more opportunities for mischief. We did, however, gain a couple of generations of stability, enough to repair much of the damage to Terra and build a new integrated society.



A stylised report on Terran population and production, suitable for a time pressed princeps​


With the assumption of power of the latest emperor, however, it was clear to many that to keep relying on goodwill alone would inevitably lead to another civil war. This one would be worse, with the increase in lethality of our weapons and lack of any way of telling who was friend and who was foe. The new ruler put aside his name and title, announcing that he was to emulate the first Augustus and be known simply as the first citizen. Politically meaningless, symbolically immensely powerful. He was already known widely for his faith in Venus as goddess of fertility and for his keen interest in exploration. Now however he turned his mind to keeping the empire together. The populus did not want war, every person knew only too well that another civil war like the last could throw the whole planet back into the barbarism before Romulus and Remus founded the city of Rome. Nor did the Senate, nor the aristocrats and the businessmen of the equites. But what could link them all together, to prevent the factions splitting them?

To Augustus Novus there was an obvious answer: the boundless reaches of space. From the beginning of his reign he had one aim. All Romans must believe that it was their destiny, their responsibility, to bring the benefit of Roman rule to the universe. By bending every mind on the planet to this end, there would be no room for the squabbles of the factions to gain traction.

That was the plan, and like all human plans, it did not work perfectly. The factions remain, but underground for the foreseeable future. Even so, eight billion people had worked as one, slaves and free, to send Rome to the stars. With the eager Cassius Fujita in charge of the world economy, the five space ships in front of me were designed, constructed and successfully commissioned, as well as the mighty space station on which I stood. Or, in this case, sat. This event, this first ever meeting of the Senate in space, was the culmination of the Princep's efforts, and this speech was his moment to stamp his vision on the future.

I have been with him nearly all the way. He had plucked me from obscurity, a script writer for televisor dramas watched by idle slaves and their even more idle masters, and made me his praepositus ab epistulis, reinstituting the office made famous by Emperor Claudius I when he appointed Narcissus to the role. (I prefer to think of myself as Tiro to his Cicero, but I keep that private. No need to annoy someone who has ultimate power and is not afraid to use it).

As his secretary I had committed his thoughts to writing and as he drew to close, I knew his thoughts and my words had been convincing. Already senators were rising to their feet, gracefully managing their traditional togas as they raised their right arms in salute. Behind them rows of equites, many in the uniforms of the ancient legions or tagmata, also started to get to their feet. Only a few plebs had made it to official invite lists, other than the tribunes and some wealthy individuals who could not be overlooked but they too looked enthused and some were already shouting "Princeps!" or "Augustus!"

Objectively, however, perhaps the largest group present was the slaves. Though most slaves still work on farms or in the mines, there were plenty carrying refreshments, cleaning up or simply loitering waiting for an order from their master or mistress nearby. It was those whom I watched closely. Half the world was in slavery, and if a rebellion were to begin all Augustus' work would be in vain. With growing delight I realised that those standing idly were nodding at each other, that some were smiling. Those working sneaked the occasional glance at the podium, and in their eyes I saw enthusiasm and confidence.

With a single gesture of his hand, Augustus brought calm to the assembled thousands. He turned and pointed at the shape of "Columba I" as its chemical thrusters burst into life, our eyes only saved by the auto-dimming glass. (I made a mental note to congratulate the stage managers on the impeccable timing).



Columba roars into life and heads off from Terra on its first mission: to explore the Solar system​

"Today we start to rule the universe! The Columba will first survey the planets that surround the divine Sol, then it will move to boundary of Sol's domain to engage its warp drive and take us into space, to the system we know as Alpha Centauri. The auguries are positive, the appropriate sacrifices to the gods have been made. Go with the authority of the Senate and the People of Rome!"

That was it. Thousands of voices chanting "SPQR! SPQR!" drowned out the simulated engine roar as Columba slowly rotated and then rapidly dwindled as it left the clutches of Terran gravity.

Time for me to leave and take a shuttle back to the surface to work on my report for the Princeps. He might stay for the celebrations and to be congratulated by every man and woman with any political aspirations, but at heart he is a farmer. At dawn tomorrow he would be up and he would want to discuss his performance in detail. Grateful though I am to those who slave to serve us, I have no wish to join their ranks.
 
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stnylan

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But of course Romans in Space!
 

Uriah

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The First Year of the Imperium Universalium Romanorum


As the secretary of the Princeps I am always on call. I sometimes wonder if my working hours might be less were I a slave: at least then the law would protect me from overwork. That is idle speculation - I serve as praepositus ab epistulis at the pleasure of the Princeps. Should I incur his displeasure ....

That point helped get me ready for a dawn start on 2 Januarius 2200, the day after Columba I set off on her maiden voyage. (For those of my readers unfamiliar with the form of dates used in Imperial correspondence, that year equates to 2753 ab urbe conditae. For a variety of reasons the old starting point had to be abandoned, mainly because of uncertainty about the accuracy of the date that Rome was founded. The origins of the official start date are lost in time, though the Christian sect claims it to be an important date in their religion).

Augustus was as fresh and energetic as always. The man seems to need only a few hours sleep which is unfortunate for those of us who work close to him.

Because space exploration was one of his passions, I had expected him to want to concentrate on the Columba and her mission to survey the Solar System, but he waved away a suggestion that we review the data downloads that were streaming in. "It will be months" he stated with finality "before we get anything useful from the survey, and there is nothing we can do to prepare for whatever needs to done. The "Artifex I" will be kept ready to leave at my command: that is all that is required. Let us move on".



The mission path for "Columba I"​

His other interest, preaching the fertility precepts of a cult of Venus to which he is devoted, did occupy his mind for a while. In fact, I was the beneficiary of a lecture on the future of the human race, and what he intended to do to assist its spread across the universe. Procreation rather than military power, was to be his weapon. "Habitable worlds, that is what we want. Columba can get a little experience surveying the planets, but it is the next stage that excites me. I want to find new planets, new Terras. We can send our farmers, good Roman farmers, into space to till alien soils, to build new cities under alien stars. It will be like the founding of Rome all over again."

Then he took me into his confidence. (He often does - as he said once, he knows I am curious and as long as that weakness is matched by the strength of my loyalty, he is willing to indulge it).

"We are not, as one might expect from our glorious history and our predestined role as rulers of the universe, at the centre of our area of space. The truth is that we are on the very boundaries of our galaxy. To one side of us, there is, according to our astronomers, just one star. To the other, a long spiralling arm shows us the way to the galactic core."



An outpost on the edge of the galaxy​


Over the next few days the Senate would debate which way Columba would go in its first interstellar mission. To investigate the sole star to our rear? Or to head along the spiral arm where the stars are more numerous? Augustus made his feelings clear. His priority was to find a world suitable for colonisation, and the odds of that were greater if we advanced. He had some support in the Senate for that view, boosted by a large number of senators with unofficial business interests. (The ban on senators having commercial income might be long gone, but politically it was best that they be kept discreet).

The opposition was quite strong however, believing it best to secure our rear, to make sure that no threat could suddenly materialise while we were focussed the other way. He was quite dismissive of this view, though he acknowledged that the more militaristic senators, a sizeable proportion of the Senate, were sincere in their desire to protect the State from danger.

He saw it as a matter of priorities. It would take perhaps a year for Columba to travel to another system and explore it, on top of the more than six months to survey our own system. Should we send her to our rear, it would extend the time likely to find a habitable planet. He was confident that he would get his way, but simply overriding the Senate was not a long term strategy. Senators could have long memories.

When I asked about the opinion of the people, he laughed. "I promise land, whole planets of land. And expansion of the Empire. I think the people will be with me. Have no fear of a tribune creating problems".

Then it was down to more prosaic matters. A proclamation was to go out to every city and town in Terra. An heir had been nominated: the Princep's eldest son Vladimir. Heres Vladimir was very different from his father, but I could see why Augustus would choose him as his successor. He was already noted for his zeal for reform, dedicated to make the world a better place. Add to that his interest in space, particularly the role of spaceports, and he was the obvious pick.



Heres Vladimir: stability and hope for the future​

Then I was dismissed. Outside the Princep's office were a large number of senators, mainly those with interests in the budget, and an even larger number of plebeians, all of them representing scientific disciplines. It did not take much to see what would occupy the Princeps for the rest of the day: to what areas of research would the intellectual and material resources of the Empire be targeted? That promised to be a fiery debate: already many of those waiting were glaring at each other. No place for a humble scriptor I thought as I hurried away.

Those arguments were not settled in a day. I was not called by the Princeps for a week or so, allowing me to catch up on the more mundane tasks that were my responsibility, but I saw him occasionally in the corridors of the palace and he was always walking fast, surrounded by a mass of purple striped senators gesticulating and shouting. For a change, security was close. I had no idea of what might be the result.

Until some days later, when again I was summonsed. For someone who had been the centre of heated arguments Augustus looked relaxed, as though he had been on vacation at his villa at Bondi Beach in Australia. When I commented on his appearance, he laughed and waved his hand. "They must have their say, but my mind was made up from the start. There is a reason why I sit on this seat and not on the senate benches. But to business. I need you to draft a proclamation to the people, a formal letter to the Senate, polite notes to the tribunes ... you know, the standard bundle of documents. They will detail the following".

"The following" was quite a collection of decisions, ones that would have a profound impact on our scientific research for years to come. Three organisations were to be set up, one each for Physical, Social and Engineering research. Each would be headed by a single scientist, selected not by class but by expertise. Each would concentrate on one project at a time, and that project would be selected according to the desire of the Princeps and the need of the Empire. (At this point I must have raised my eyebrows, as Augustus laughed and explained "Yes, a tautology, but one must bow to the senate sometimes").



More hope for the future: our scientific leaders​

Physics would be headed by Crassus Salazar, an expert in particle research. His focus would be on Quantum Theory, that being seen to be more important for the moment than either Orbital Energy Collection or Databank Uplinks. Terencius Wang, an acknowledged all-round genius, had been given the Princep's favourite: Social research. That group would concentrate on Biodoversity studies, leaving Eco-stimulation and Orbital Hydroponics for now. Last, but definitely not least the Engineering Group would investigate Nanomechanics in preference to Ion Thrusters and Nanocomposite Materials. Helena Grant with her industry background was in charge.

"Hard decisions" I murmured as I closed my tabella electronica.

"Indeed" Augustus replied, "Particularly the last. But there was one factor that determined the successful projects. Can you spot it?"

I thought a while before nodding. "They all will lead to the development of some laboratory that will enhance our future research".

"Correct. I was not aware that as well as being curious you were also able to make deductions based on what facts you find. Anything else?"

A little nervously I asked "The heads of two of the divisions: they do not seem to be the optimal choices for those positions. While Cives Wang is a good all round leader, the other two are a little, well, specialised."

"Again a good point. But I do not yet feel that I have enough influence as yet to pick and choose appointees to such positions. There is much to do, and I don't want to find out in the future that my options when facing a critical decision are limited because of my earlier desire for perfection. You are a thinkeraren't you."

I was not all that happy that the conversation had ended in that manner: the Princeps did not seem to be too happy that his secretary might be able to work things out for himself. I bowed lower than normal as I left his presence, but maybe the damage was already done.

I kept a very low profile for the next few weeks. There was plenty to keep me occupied. Every citizen of Rome is still entitled to appeal to the leader whenever her or she is in a dispute and the four billion citizens use that privilege with great freedom. (The extension of rights to slaves did not go that far thank the gods!). Of course very few reached the Princeps himself, but it was one of my responsibilities to ensure all appeals were answered. There is a huge staff to assist but administration is time consuming and the penalty for an error in judgment is extreme.

So I had nothing to do with the space missions for some time. Communication with Columba I was constant, but as far as I am aware nothing of great interest was discovered in its survey of Sol itself nor of Mercury. Suddenly rumours, never absent from the palace, doubled and tripled: some important news had arrived. Pallas II, a previously undistinguished asteroid, one of the millions in the asteroid belt, was at the centre of the rumours, but that seemed to be the only constant factor. It was made of gold, it was hollow, it had an atmosphere. Take your pick. They were all as likely to me, so I waited for my office diary to summon me to meet Augustus.



Pallas II: what has Columba I found?​

It did not take long and pausing only to dress appropriately (the Princeps, always a traditionalist, has started to insist on togas and other ancient dress styles in his presence), I jumped on an ambulator to the centre of the palace.

From the hearty welcome I received it was obvious that the Princeps had completely forgotten the uneasy end to our last conversation. Or it would have been obvious had I not been a veteran of palace politics. Augustus had not survived to get this far by forgetting anything about anyone. I had no doubt that conversation was filed away in his memory, to be consulted whenever his mind turned to me or my duties.

"Princeps". I bowed low and waited to be addressed.

"No need to stand on formality, old friend. I need your services, and I need them quickly. You have heard all the rumours about Pallas II no doubt?"

I started to babble something about paying no heed to baseless palace whisperings but he simply laughed.

"Of course you have. Well the truth is perhaps not as glamorous as some of the stories flying around. My hairdresser assured me the thing is one big diamond. Fortune had not been so kind. It is, however, a huge rock with millions of tonnes of metals not often found in such quantities on Terra. Many of those metals are in high demand because of the space program, so this is fortuitous. According to Investigator Krestov, it is a mineral treasure house. A coincidence you must admit, that it was named after a freed slave who, having been made secretary of the treasury by Claudius I, became the richest man in Rome?

But I digress. As has been the case since the foundation of Rome, the state has first option on such mines, and I (under advice from the Senate of course) have decided that we will construct the first space mining station, Fodina Metallarum I, to extract those metals. This is an opportunity to put the space program back in the public eye. I want a speech to announce that Artifex I will be setting sail (Augustus had also decided to use old fashioned terms for space travel) for Pallas II within four hours, with construction to commence as soon as it is in orbit."

Inwardly I quailed. A speech for such a momentous occasion, and to be ready in a few hours? I suppose I should have been feeling grateful: the commander of the Artifex I must be on the verge of a breakdown getting ready to leave in less than a day. But what could I do?

I bowed. "Of course, Princeps. Do you have any particular issues to be covered? And how long do you intend to speak?"

"A short speech - no more than a few minutes. Start with thanks to the gods, of course, and make sure you specifically thank Vulcan. Praise to Investigator Krestov, the normal stuff. Make it up, you know the drill. Just one thing I want included. A few sentences to emphasise that while the State will own the mine and its products, there will be lucrative operational and transport contracts going out for auction. We cannot do everything, and I want the patricians and equites to have investments riding on the space program. The plebeians are happy enough with the emotion and the knowledge that we are fulfilling our destiny, but those with money need more. They need to feel that our expansion will make them richer, and I need their money to build freighters and buy slaves. I call it a "win-win" situation."

I smiled, though I could have told him the phrase had been popular 200 years ago. No need to show off a Classical education.



Already some of the more prescient business leaders are thinking of the rewards of the space freight industry: plans are being drawn up to construct privately owned ships​

Then I was ushered out, several priests waiting in the ante-room, no doubt to discuss how to ensure the auguries caused no problems. I noticed a couple of bewildered looking men at the rear: priests of Vulcan on a rare visit to the palace. They had better be skilful with their axework. Sacrificing a bull is a difficult task and there would be several billion watching them tonight. Even a slight blemish in the procedure would be seen as a sign of the god's displeasure, so a firm hand and a powerful shoulder would be essential. And a washable tunic.

You all saw the telecast, the Princeps speaking with confidence and sincerity, ending with an exhortation for all citizens of Rome to join in the prosperity to come. The smiling blood spattered faces of the priests of Vulcan, relief showing as the smooth death of the bull showed the approval of the god of mining and metalwork. The "Ooohs" and "Aaahs!" of the huge crowds watching the outside videoscreens as the thrusters of Artifex I threw out near blinding light, the almost imperceptible movement as the massive vessel swung on its axis until it pointed at Pallas II and slowly dwindled in size until it vanished into the starfields.



Sacrificing a bull to the gods is a tradition going back millenia and we continue to do it the old way: by axe​

Then back to the mundane again. But not for long. After nothing to report for so long, Investigator Krestov had plenty to write home about. From the orbit of mighty Uranus he spoke directly to the Princeps. Colossal volumes of gas suitable for energy production had been detected, well within our technology to exploit. Artifex I has another task on its list of "Things to do".

I happened to be present on another matter when next message came, a few weeks later. Columba I had been surveying Mars for some days, and the data had been interesting, interesting enough for Augustus to "request" a call. The Princeps waved his comm-wall into operation, motioning me to stay.

Krestov's face took up much of the wall but we could see behind him a hive of activity as his researchers went about their tasks. He forgot to bow, or maybe he did not have the room, but Augustus, if he noticed, said nothing.

"Congratulations, Investigator. Your mission is going well. In fact, over the past few days I have been examining the data streams and I wonder what conclusions you have drawn."

The close up of his face revealed that Krestov was no politician. The cheerful smile faded to be replaced by a sort of wary caution. The Princep's desire for a habitable planet for colonisation was not a secret, and nobody likes to dash the hopes of someone who has the power to order your execution.

"Yes, initially we were overjoyed, but I am afraid that the past few hours have confirmed what we have come to believe. Mars may have been habitable in the distant past. In fact, I personally believe that it may be habitable in the future, if we can develop the technology to alter the surface of a planet in critical ways. But for now, I am sorry to report that the planet is not suitable for a colony."

"Thank you, Investigator, for your frankness. To achieve success so soon in our exploration of the universe would be fortunate indeed. But before I allow you to return to your work, perhaps could you please explain some of the data that has confused me a little."

It was not a request.



Data collection on Mars: ending in disappointment​

The conversation here went off into technical detail far beyond my ability to understand. I had been aware of the Princep's keen interest in farming and fecundity, but from what I could gather of the conversation he could hold his own with one of the great scientific minds of our age. Another hidden talent. What other skills did he have to reveal?

Investigator Krestov survived that grilling and completed his work on Mars. He located more mineral resources on Juno III, and deposits rich enough to match Pallas II on Titan, the largest of Saturn's moons. In between those reports, the Artifex I completed Pallas II Fodina Metallarum, and the first civilian freighters were ready to load the processed ore for delivery back to Terra. The construction ship did not need to return for resupply, able to obtain many of the raw materials it needs as it travels. It set out for Uranus.

It was almost a year since that memorable speech on Terra Spaceport that the first signs of intelligent life other than our own were detected. We had of course been forewarned by the media that such signs could be expected: the last thing anyone wanted was a mass panic attack. Nevertheless, when the official broadcasts of anomalies found on Venus hit the streets of our major cities, authorities had to be firm to control some fanatics who preached doom and the end of civilisation.

The Princeps himself had to make an official broadcast, something he detests. He does not mind speaking in public: it is talking to a hovering drone camera he finds disconcerting. Still, he did it, and calm was restored.



The surface of Venus: the complex mix of volcanic gases in the atmosphere has preserved ancient vapour trails​


After all, the facts were clear. It was true that evidence of faster than light ships had been found in the atmosphere of Venus, but those trails of vapour were ancient. Nobody could say for sure how ancient, it is not an area in which we have a lot of expertise. One thing all the analysts agreed upon, however. The atmospheric trails were old, very old.

The populace might have been satisfied with that, but not the Senate. They demanded a briefing by the Princeps, and Augustus deemed it wise to agree. He took me as a sort of confidential scribe, as no tabellae or phones would be allowed. The briefing began quietly, but it was soon clear what the issue was: how old was "old"? Not that old, the Princeps admitted. Maybe a thousand years. Maybe less.

"So we are being watched?" a senator shouted from the back of the room.

Augustus paused. "Perhaps. All we can say for sure is that we were being watched."

Uproar followed. Some called for all space ships to be recalled and scrapped, that we pretend nothing had happened. Some demanded that our entire economy be directed into building warships that should orbit Terra permanently. Some seemed to want us to send ships out to every celestial body and blast it to bits.

It was time for a sop, something to appease the militarists, placate the spiritualists and show the authoritarians that someone was in charge.

The Princeps sat patiently until a few senators noticed that he was drumming his fingers on the marble of his chair. Within a minute the room was silent, even the most insensitive of senators being aware that an annoyed Princeps is something to be avoided at all costs.

"We must of course prepare for the possibility that a threat exists to Terra. Construction of a fourth corvette will begin immediately. That should provide the security for Terra that you seek. Columba and Artifex will not, however, be recalled. We need to expand, and we need resources and knowledge in order to expand. They are the means to obtain both."

He left without a further word, with me trailing behind. I am not sure he was aware of my presence as he muttered "I will regret spending those resources on a ship to counter a non-existent threat".

It did not seem to be an opportune moment to wish him a happy New Year for 2201.
 
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Uriah

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stnylan

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Well quite a busy year for our little scribe. And yes, appearing to be too intelligent can be detrimental to personal safety.
 

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Years 2201 and 2202

While work began on the new corvette, Augustus recovered his equanimity. In fact, he appeared to have convinced himself that building an extra space ship might have been a good thing after all. Artifex I completed the Uranus Fodina Aeris and our energy production soared. The construction vessel moved to the orbit of Juno III and more minerals were discovered, this time on Jupiter's moon Io. Marcus Krutov was promoted on the basis of his consistent efforts to expand our knowledge. He assured the Princeps and the Senate that this would spur him to greater efforts.



Uranus Fodina Aeris: exploiting the lucrative gas resources of the planet​

There was an unfortunate reminder of the corvette issue during a session of the economics committee. As the titular head, the Princeps may attend, but often doesn't. This time, unfortunately for everyone, he was present, as was I, in my role as official representative of the palace bureaucracy. Most of the business was rubberstamping, until we reached the matter of the next mission for Artifex I. The facility at Juno III was nearly ready to begin operation, and the commander needed to plan his next voyage. One would have thought the decision was straightforward: Titan had some of the richest deposits found so far and was not too far away. Yet some of those linked into the meeting seemed to be having comm troubles, and others seemed distracted.

A veteran of a thousand committee meetings, the Princeps was alert. Picking an individual who was actually in the same room as we were, he demanded to know what the problem was.

The woman did her best, venturing the possibility that there might be a delay before Artifex I could begin work. Her excellent display of the subjunctive case, worthy of Cicero himself, could not save her. The Princeps homed in on the critical word.

"Delay?"

"It seems, Princeps, that reserves of some metals necessary are too low to allow construction to begin immediately. There have been many demands on our supplies recently and ..."

She faltered and stopped as the Princeps rose to his feet.

"Scriptor!" (He meant me but I did not inform him of my correct title. He appeared a little agitated).

"Take this down. The production of minerals and energy is to be the highest priority. Any other use of reserves will need my specific authority. Failure to comply with this directive will be taken to be deliberate sabotage of the State, with all attendant penalties."

"Is that clear?" His eyes swept the room, taking in both those present and the holograms of the others. A wave of vigorous nodding was the only response.

"In that case I will leave you to continue. I trust I will not have any such surprises in the future. In fact, I expect regular updates on income, expenditure, reserve levels and other data important to the efficient functioning of the Empire."







The Princeps' orders must be implemented: summaries of production and other statistics are now prepared in an easily understandable format​

The rest of the meeting was fairly subdued. Someone had calculated that at present production rates that it would be mensis September before enough material was available for work to begin Titan. We would need to keep the Princeps focussed elsewhere until then.

There were other matters to occupy him. Information gathered by Columba I from Europa (Jupiter) and Triton (Neptune) led inevitably to the conclusion that specialised research bases needed to be built to study these moons more closely. The promise of breakthroughs in engineering and sociology was too much to ignore. (No-one raised the obvious: such bases would compete for time and materials with mining projects).



Geysers burst from the surface of Triton, with Neptune in the background. Scientists are eager to study them more closely.​

That was less important than the major event, the departure of Columba I from our Solar system. The Princeps had overruled all opposition and she would head for Alpha Centauri, but the reality was that the target was irrelevant. The act itself was the important thing, not the result. Mankind was leaving home.

If there is one character trait required for the leader of an Empire that is spreading into the galaxy, it is patience. Even with the wonder of the Celerior Quam Lux drive, it takes a long time to get anything done. A ship cannot just leap into hyper-space (the Byzantines insist some scientific terms must be based on Greek) immediately. It must use conventional ion drives to get far from the gravity well of a sun and its large planets and then spend days calibrating and gearing up the equipment. Only then can the ship leap across space to its destination, where it must spend days winding down before it can then re-ignite its ion drives to do whatever is required.

Fortunately our Princeps is at heart a farmer and understands that some things cannot, indeed should not, be hurried. As we waited for news from Columba I he busied himself with his other duties. Luckily there were no other hold ups with our construction program. The Fodina Metallarum orbiting Titan was completed on schedule and on budget and Artifex I moved on to Io.

The waiting was worthwhile. Investigator Krutov reported a safe arrival and news programs had a field day with scenes of scientists on the spaceport punching the air and flumes of smoke spiralling from temples over the globe as thanks were given to every conceivable god. As weeks passed the news got even better. To the relief of everyone, one of the first planets surveyed turned out to be habitable. Not as large as Terra, and not as suitable for humans, but beyond doubt ready for colonisation. The media went insane, and I heard that a shortage of sacrificial animals caused problems near some temple precincts, particularly those of Mercury, the patron of communications. (Am I being cynical if I note that he is also the patron of trade? I hear that private shipbuilding facilities are booked for years ahead as businessmen prepare for interstellar commerce).



Throughout history Mercury has been the patron of commerce: here he hands a bag of gold to a thankful businessman while slaves unload cargo.​

There was a little less excitement at the discovery of another planet that could, at a stretch, attract a colony. Not at the moment though. Criteria for grading planets have been established (that was a committee I was glad to have avoided - rumours are that physical violence erupted at some meetings, feelings were so high) and on those criteria this planet only rated 20% suitable. The recommendation of all our scientific experts is that 40% should be the cut-off point and the economics advisers agree.

Otherwise the Alpha Centauri system was of little interest. One planet had some mineral resources worth exploiting, and another had some scientific interest, but that was all. The Columba I was despatched on its next mission, to Sirius, the Dog Star.



Plotting a course using Celerior Quam Lux (CQL) warp drive requires reliable charts such as this one from Mappa Galactica (2200)​

If the media had been excited before, it went into a frenzy now. Every myth and fairy tale about the star was dragged out and wild-eyed fanatics were on every broadcast, prophesying grim outcomes from the destruction of the Columba to the end of civilisation. They reminded us of that the Greeks had named the star "the Scorcher", and the more erudite quoted Homer in the original ancient Greek. (Thankfully a koine translation was available for those of us who slept through Early Greek Dialects).

"τὸν δ᾽ ὃ γέρων Πρίαμος πρῶτος ἴδεν ὀφθαλμοῖσι
παμφαίνονθ᾽ ὥς τ᾽ ἀστέρ᾽ ἐπεσσύμενον πεδίοιο,
ὅς ῥά τ᾽ ὀπώρης εἶσιν, ἀρίζηλοι δέ οἱ αὐγαὶ
φαίνονται πολλοῖσι μετ᾽ ἀστράσι νυκτὸς ἀμολγῷ,
ὅν τε κύν᾽ Ὠρίωνος ἐπίκλησιν καλέουσι.
λαμπρότατος μὲν ὅ γ᾽ ἐστί, κακὸν δέ τε σῆμα τέτυκται,
καί τε φέρει πολλὸν πυρετὸν δειλοῖσι βροτοῖσιν"

"It was him that Priam saw first
Racing gleaming across the plain, like the star that appears at harvest time
That shines so brightly amid the hosts of stars in the dark of night
The star that men call the Dog of Orion
The brightest of all, yet he is a sign of evil
Who brings fiery heat to wretched humanity."

A delegation of "concerned citizens" persuaded the Princeps to make a public appeal for calm. In his role as Pontifex Maximus, the bridge to the gods, he spoke firmly and with authority, dismissing the rumours as primitive scaremongering that no intelligent person could believe. It was science that showed the Imperium Romanorum the way forward, and the gods approved. In line with that policy, a new space facility would be constructed, the Europa Castra Scientia.



One of the Princeps most treasured possessions: a 2,200 year old statue of his namesake not as a military leader, but as Pontifex Maximus​

That seemed to stop the more extreme outpourings, though it is hard to say whether it was his speech or the arrest, rapid trial, conviction and immediate imprisonment of the more vociferous soothsayers that achieved the most.

The Sirius system continued to fascinate everyone as more information arrived. Sirius V, should we ever be able to settle its surface, has rich minerals below ground. Sirius IV, which might be suitable for terraforming, was particularly rich in carbon compounds and Sirius I was a high priority for a space mining station, with more minerals present than on any planet surveyed to date.

It was Sirius II that confirmed again that intelligent life existed in space, or at least had existed. I suppose the use of the word "intelligent" is questionable as what was found was the equivalent of astral graffiti. Some idle space traveller, aeons ago, had doodled with a massive laser beam, writing on the smooth barren landscape. There was an awful lot of it, perhaps the writer was stranded for a long time or had nothing better to do. The huge amount, however, gave our linguists plenty to work on, and they deciphered most of it pretty easily with the help of software specially designed to assist in interpreting alien languages. The ancient graffiti detailed the exploits, some apparently sexual, of a soldier for hire as he made his way across the galaxy. Our scientists were disappointed, having hoped for something a little more intellectual from our first communications from another race. The space novelists ( a booming market now existed for trashy novellas) loved it, and the randy space mercenary with a mighty laser gun was soon a stock character in science fiction.



At first thought to be natural sand formations, it was soon clear these markings were the remains of millenia old laser carving on the surface of Sirius II​

Any rumblings that might have survived were soon quieted by the broadcast, beamed live across the planet, that a nearly perfect world circled Sirius. Gravity a little high, but larger and just as fertile as Terra, and completely empty. It would be a little expensive to develop, but it would seem our search for the first planet to colonise was over. Princeps Augustus was positive: he declared that from now on Sirius III would be known as Nova Roma.

That habitable planets were not rare but apparently fairly common prompted the creation of a new administrative organisation, the "Habitable Worlds Survey Group". It is to gather and analyse information on the first eight worlds we discover. I am not sure what it will achieve, but arguing against the bureaucracy is too mind-numbing to contemplated unless something important is at stake.

The last news for 2202 was that Europa Castra Scientia was complete and that Artifex I was on its way to Triton to build another science station. The Princeps is happy, the Senate is under control and the people are working hard and not rioting. For all Romans, that is a definition of peace.
 
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stnylan

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Oh the need to tiptoe around a prickly authoritarian.
 

Uriah

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Well quite a busy year for our little scribe. And yes, appearing to be too intelligent can be detrimental to personal safety.
Yes - I suspect things will quiet down a bit - it might take a long time at one year per update.

I am rather enjoying your writing style.
You leave the subject open: I was waiting for a "but". I am told it grows on you, like mould. It is too late for me to change alas. But thankyou for the compliment: the life of an AAR writer is a lonely one, shivering in a garret, only the warmth of a LED screen to keep off the bitter cold, living on pizza and beer. What we endure for our art!

Oh the need to tiptoe around a prickly authoritarian.
Yes: I think crucifixion may have passed out of fashion by 2200, and not a lot of call for galley slaves, but there are still silver mines for the recalcitrant. Note that I have doubled the number of years in an update. This is real progress.
 

Yenzen

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Aaaand I'm subscribing. It's good to see a well-written Stellaris AAR with a story, rather than narrative/gameplay focus.

The game, in general, isn't vastly unforgiving. One of the things worth noting is that being selective about colonies and sometimes going further away from the near ones, if they're better or near more valuable resources, is well worth it. I would not consider such "optimal playing" considering that's how one historically founded colonies, in strategic points or near critical resources.

I must admit my gaming side is curious about something: Would you share the empire creation screen so we can see ethics, traits and civics of the Space Romans, or do you prefer we infer them from the story? Are you operating with one Science officers?
 
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Idhrendur

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No qualifications on my complement: I've had a hard time getting into Stellaris AARs, and you're doing quite well.

One question, did you make those economy charts by hand, or is there a tool that helps create them?
 

Uriah

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Aaaand I'm subscribing. It's good to see a well-written Stellaris AAR with a story, rather than narrative/gameplay focus.

The game, in general, isn't vastly unforgiving. One of the things worth noting is that being selective about colonies and sometimes going further away from the near ones, if they're better or near more valuable resources, is well worth it. I would not consider such "optimal playing" considering that's how one historically founded colonies, in strategic points or near critical resources.

I must admit my gaming side is curious about something: Would you share the empire creation screen so we can see ethics, traits and civics of the Space Romans, or do you prefer we infer them from the story? Are you operating with one Science officers?
One creation screen as requested. I think I have mentioned all the traits etc in the narrative, but with so much to read, who knows?



I am a but alarmed about the "unforgiving": as you may have noticed I am sitting on the edge of the galaxy. I suspect that I will only have a few habitable planets before some one will block my expansion. And of course that will mean they need to share the benefits of peace. Yet I suspect I am nowhere near strong enough economically. We shall see what happens.

PS The story line is to mask my poor play. The old magician's trick of distracting the viewer.

Just keep up this trend and you'll be finished in no time! But then, where's the fun in that? :)
See above: I could be at war in a few decades. But that might be interesting. I always found Rome's battles for Latium at least as engrossing as the later expansion across the world.

No qualifications on my complement: I've had a hard time getting into Stellaris AARs, and you're doing quite well.

One question, did you make those economy charts by hand, or is there a tool that helps create them?
Thanks again. I must say I like AARs with a story and in fact was first drawn to AARs by some of the great EU sagas.

The charts were by hand, using my primitive Excel skills. I am not being modest: my way of doing a spreadsheet was to ask one of my staff to do it. Oh for the days of Lotus 1-2-3!
I suppose Pdx dropped the charts as they thought them oldfashioned, but I find them v useful in working out what is going on and how to manage my economy.

PS Remembering to note the stats at the end of each year is a bugger, but it is not too hard if you play on slow as I do. If I play any slower I will be giving daily weather reports.
 

Yenzen

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I am a but alarmed about the "unforgiving": as you may have noticed I am sitting on the edge of the galaxy. I suspect that I will only have a few habitable planets before some one will block my expansion. And of course that will mean they need to share the benefits of peace. Yet I suspect I am nowhere near strong enough economically. We shall see what happens.

PS The story line is to mask my poor play. The old magician's trick of distracting the viewer.
Well, is the entire galaxy bound to use hyperdrives or is it random?

Hardship makes for the greater story. If it helps then as of 1.5, a lot of AI nations will not close off borders, so it's not such a huge problem.

In any case it's a fine setup. Civics are flavorful but not necessarily something I would use in game (army damage can be solved by bringing more cannon fodder, Governor costs isn't such a huge issue). However, I can't imagine Space Romans without warrior culture and for the aristocratic elite... eh, it was either that or cutthroat politics, no?

The combination with resilient, however, means that with a defensive garrison on top of the regulars, your planets will be hell for the enemy factions to actually conquer by fighting for them, forcing them to either attempt an extremely difficult landing, or move on and leave vulnerable ships in orbit bombarding the planet below.

In other words, it doesn't matter how many planets space Hannibal puts under siege if he can't take control of the planet without dividing his forces.
 

thedirtygerman

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I really enjoy reading this, so consider me subbed. Regarding possible future conflicts and conquests, are you planning on enslaving the conquered or will they have a chance of becoming true roman citizens?
 

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I really enjoy reading this, so consider me subbed. Regarding possible future conflicts and conquests, are you planning on enslaving the conquered or will they have a chance of becoming true roman citizens?
I mean, at least some of the xenos will have to serve the Romans space grapes, no?

It depends on where he takes it. The Roman empire did enjoy its "prop up the ruling class to act on our behalf" methods, but they also treated them as subordinate auxiliary units in war until the late period.
 
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thedirtygerman

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I mean, at some of the xenos will have to serve the Romans space grapes, no?

It depends on where he takes it. The Roman empire did enjoy its "prop up the ruling class to act on our behalf" methods, but they also treated them as subordinate auxiliary units in war until the late period.
That's exactly why I'm asking. You could argue either way for complete slavery, full citizenship or any mix in between.