Bergonian History

The Iregemi

the landed, semi-feudal nobility

For over 2,000 years the Bergonian peasants had to pay rent to and put up with the fat old mossback Iregemi class.  As long as there has been "civilization" in Bergonia, with cities dependant upon an agricultural surplus,  there have been Iregemi organizing and oppressing the peasants.  In Bergonia (apparently like most other civilizations) the appearance of an oppressive landed gentry coincided with the appearance of cities, which also coincided with the appearance of the state.  

The Iregemi's relationships with the state, on the one hand, and with the peasants, on the other, have changed over the centuries, but generally several things have always been true:  (a)  The Iregemi have always lived in the countryside, among the peasant villages they controlled, in quite luxurious manor estates (iregoi).  (b)  The Iregemi have always had power over the peasants and collected a share of the peasants' produce.  (c)  The iregemi held their privileges upon the sufferance of the state, at least as a matter of law, and remitted to the sovereign a share of their share.

The grant and the right was held, not by an individual but by a family-- a noble house.  Within the house the male members usually recognized one of their number as patriarch of the house.  Thus no individual held any title like "duke" or "earl."  Instead the title and right went, emphatically, to the noble house.

At most stages of history the Iregemi and his family obtained their land and peasants by virtue of a grant from the sovereign, and in exchange gave a share of the harvest for the state.  When the state was strong, the sovereign could easily remove an Iregemi family from their lands and even from their mansions.  At other times the Iregemi families were quite autonomous of the state, and operated like little kings, with their own bands of armed men, inflicting whatever cruelties suited them on their peasants, paying the ruler only a minimal amount out of the harvest.  

Fathers and Sons

It was the custom for the fathers in the manor house to send their sons to a banda academy affiliated with his clan, to teach them literacy, warrior values and fighting skills.  Then the fathers sent their sons into the military, for careers as army officers, and sometimes into government.  But most of the sons retired from army careers after ten or twenty years and came home to the family estate, largely just to enjoy their wealthy lives.  Sometimes military campaigns resulted in profitable conquest, allowing second or third sons to take new estates.  But quite often the second son stayed back on the estate to run it.  This was the son who actively farmed the land and dealt with the peasants.  He was still banda, no less than his older and younger brothers who commanded troops, by virtue of his banda academy training.  He might use his banda skills to organize his own militia or armed band.  The armed bands were useful in intimidating the peasants, discouraging theft and banditry, and feuding with other Iregemi.  A number of the noble houses had interests other than the land or the military, like timbering, mining or trade-- this was increasingly so after the fall of the Two Empires, when banda values, including contempt for commerce, had begun to erode.   

The Life of Luxury

In nearly all eras of history, the Iregemi have enjoyed an excellent standard of living.  The average manor-house consisted of the masters house, a kitchen/pantry building, a laundry/sewing building, workshops (e.g. carpentry, a forge, a potters wheel), a nice large garden behind the master's house, and servants quarters.  The masters house generally consisted of a grand foyer leading into a great-room, a wing for bedrooms, a wing for dining and entertainment, at least one and usually three courtyards, and a section for the bath and toilet.  At most times in most regions the entire complex has been enclosed by stone or stucco walls.  Of course the size and grandeur depended upon the family's degree of wealth.  Some were quite modest, and others were palaces.

Often the Iregemi families went into the city and stayed either at a mansion they owned there, or at a fine hotel that catered to nobles.  The men often had business in the city that needed tending; if nothing else they desired contact with the tieri (or emperor) and his inner circle.  Their wives loved the diversions of the city (shopping of course, and also relaxing in the salons that have always catered to noble women in Bergonia).  Their sons and daughters of courting age loved the balls and parties that Iregemi and other nobles hosted.  This was where romances and marriages originated.  The Iregemi, as much as the nobles who lived in town, patronized the theater, the concerts, and the poetry readings.  

At home the servants of course did all the work.  The Iregemi did not work at all.  They enjoyed their own hot baths every day.  The had cooks to provide them with fine dinners every night.  They enjoyed plush mattresses with clean sheets.  They enjoyed fitted linen clothes, perfumes and incense, wines and glassware, and cosmetics.  Servants dressed them.  Inside their great-rooms and parlors they played dice games, strategy games, and word-games.   They usually had musicians and singers among the servants  or peasants to entertain them and their guests.  The Iregemi themselves enjoyed playing musical instruments (and banda values did not forbid it).  They read books aloud to one another, and enjoyed reciting poetry.  The men enjoyed hunts on the surrounding countryside the family controlled, and the families enjoyed hikes and picnics.  They visited one another's homes for parties, picnics, dinners, games  and contests.  They bought, traded and treasured beautiful objects, which they loved bringing out for all their relatives and guests to view.  And when they tired of so much active self-indulgence, they could always find peaceful repose under a favorite shade tree in their flower gardens.   Elsewhere the "cult of beauty"is discussed, but here one can see how powerfully it prevailed among the Iregemi. 

The Love and Hate of Peasants

In many ages and in many places the Iregemi abused their peasants horribly.  But many Iregemi appreciated, even loved, their peasants, and managed them with a light, considerate hand.  In many cases the Iregemi and his peasant villages (or some of them) were of the same clan, thus allowing for some solidarity between them.  There were no lack of peasant insurrections and revolts against cruel leaders.  Sometimes peasants rose up against their masters for bad reasons as well.

The Iregemi throughout History

The panitei warriorswho, in the Subanei invasion (150 BC to 0 AD), spread Shufrantei religion everywhere, usually ended up settling in the lands they conquered.  They recruited conquered locals into their panitei orders.  They kicked the old iregemi out of their estates and seized the estates for themselves and their recruits.  While panitei values prohibited an honorable man from engaging in commerce & most forms of manufacture, they endorsed a landed life.  Thereafter nearly all panitei/banda were landed gentry, and at least before 500 AD most Iregemi were panitei/banda.  , and Iregemi were expected to uphold all the banda values.  This of course changed after 500 AD, during the medieval period when new non-panitei families entered the nobility and successfully competed with the panitei, by now with very ancient lineage.  After 1000 AD the panitei did not exist in any practical sense, except that the lodge houses existed as social clubs.  The iregemi of that era loved the social clubs, and spent a great deal of their time visiting each other's clubs.

The plagues and the European onslaught destroyed many Bergonian institutions, such as the clans.  But the Iregemi remained.  In many areas, when the native Iregemi succumbed to the plagues, Europeans moved into their manor houses and took over, lording over the small numbers of surviving native peasants, in time taking the appellation Iregemi for himself.  Of course in time, the atrei population replenished, giving the Iregemi plenty of subject peasants.  Under the Europeans the law gave title and rights to an individual, and the Bergonian ideal of the noble house as the primary legal unit died.

In the 1800s the Iregemi consisted of both Europeans and atrei, and also sherei (the mixed blood).  The reforms of the 1850s gave the peasants title to their land (at least most of it), thus eliminating the Iregemi's legal right to a share of the harvest.  The Iregemi however were allowed title to their manor houses and enough land to maintain some wealth.  The vestiges of the Iregemi were finally swept away in the Revolution.  Many of the old manor houses have been converted to nursing homes, orphanages, juvenile facilities, retreats and spas, museums, and hotels and inns. 

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