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From: adam louis stephanides <astephan@students.uiuc.edu>
Subject: (urth) Pardons, Autarchy, Test
Date: Mon, 13 Jul 1998 16:53:13 



On Sun, 12 Jul 1998 mantis wrote:

> A thousand pardons!  I was confused.

The confusion was partly my fault; I should have been more explicit.
 
> Your initial post of 9 Jul is entirely focused on how Valeria
> couldn't be regent and how Severian has abdicated.  There is no
> positive model asserted, just a negation of the existing model.

My initial post asserted no positive model because, aside from believing
that Severian abdicated, my reconstruction of events was the same as yours
and raster's.  And in my second post I didn't realize how I'd been
misunderstood.  Hopefully everything is now clear.

Having said this, I now feel obliged to again rush in where angels fear to
tread.  I have doubts--nothing more--both about whether it is really
impossible for Valeria to be a legitimate Autarch, and about whether
unmanning is the invariable penalty for failing the Test.

First Valeria's putative Autarchy.  You and raster both say Valeria can't
be Autarch, but for different reasons.

> The funny thing is: you are as adamantly opposed to the apparantly
> flippant use of the term "regent" as I am about the flippant use of
> the term "autarch" (divorcing title from Multiversal Mandate; hence
> "pseudo-autarch," since Valeria cannot be genuine autarch)!...
> 
> The autarchy was created/recognized by Yesod.

What you are saying, in essence, is that the Commonwealth is not
fully sovereign, since the choice of its legitimate ruler does not lie
entirely in its own hands.  The alternative view, which I lean towards, is
that the Commonwealth is fully sovereign, and that whoever is recognized
by the "political nation" (in practice, the army) as Autarch
is fully the Autarch, whether the Hierogrammates like it or not.

As far as I can tell, you base your view upon the facts that the Autarchy
was created about the same time as Urth was condemned by the
Hierogrammates (the end of Typhon's reign), that the old Autarch is said
to be the Hierodules' puppet,  and that both Severian and the
old Autarch rely on the Hierodules for advice, and presumably for
weaponry.  I don't deny any of these points.  I accept that the
Hierogrammates undoubtedly played a major role in the establishment of
the Autarchy, and that in the politics of the Commonwealth, the Hierodules
are the Autarch's allies.  The Autarch may even be de facto dependent upon
the Hierodules' support; I take this to be the implication of the claim
that he is the Hierodules' puppet, although I can't locate that claim in
the text (although this would imply that they must be continuing to help
Valeria, regardless of whether they think she's legitimate).  But I don't
see this as being incompatible with the de jure independence of the
Commonwealth, in the sense I spoke of earlier.

There are a few points on my side, although I none of them are conclusive.
There is the term Autarch itself, which if taken literally implies that
there are no external restraints on the Autarch's rule, either on or off
Urth.  There is the fact that neither the old Autarch or Malrubius are
shown as mentioning any "pact" such as you describe in _Citadel_, although
I grant that they were both pressed for time.  Finally, Famulimus tells
Severian "'We would not rob your race of your own rule'" (III, ch. 34).
If Famulimus is not lying, this implies to me that the Commonwealth is
indeed fully sovereign, although again this isn't definitive.

raster argued that, as long as Severian was still alive or if he'd been
lost at sea, nobody could be a legitimate Autarch.  It's not clear to me
whether this is because a legitimate Autarch must eat his predecessor's
brains, or simply that a legitimate Autarch must be chosen by his
predecessor.  If the former, it would seem that the Autarchy runs a
grave risk of being permanently lost, either through the Autarch being
captured by the enemy, or killed in battle or by assassination with
the designated successor unable to arrive in time.  (We don't know this
hasn't happened; Severian is unsure whether his predecessors' memories
stretch back to Ymar (Urth, ch. 41).

The latter is less of a problem, but it's still hard to see a political
system surviving a thousand years with no provision to cover the
contingency of a sovereign becoming insane, senile, or simply neglecting
to name a successor until it's too late. My thinking here is also
influenced by the analogy with the Byzantine Empire, which Wolfe has
explicitly stated the Commonwealth was based on. Byzantine history
provides numerous instances when the throne was not passed in an orderly
fashion from one Emperor to his designated successor; in fact, it's
notorious for it.  Of course, Byzantine Emperors did not eat their
predecessors' brains, either, so the analogy is inexact.  Again
I'm not claiming it's definitive, just suggestive.


Now to the Test:

> The prize of success is the New Sun.  The penalty for failure is a
> loss of ability to procreate

This is what Severian was told, but is it true?  Appian was unmanned, but
Severian later learns that this was done specifically so that Severian
would succeed to the throne.  This would not seem to apply to Ymar, so was
he unmanned?  I don't recall it ever being stated that he was, and, as
mentioned above, Severian himself doesn't seem to remember.  For that
matter, had Severian failed the Test, would the Hierogrammates have gone
through with the punishment?  It would seem pointless, especially if
Severian is correct that he is Urth's last chance.

A couple other questions about the Test while we're on the subject.  We
know Appian's Test was a put-up job.  Was the same true of Ymar's?  My
guess would be yes.  Also, was the refusal of all the Autarchs between
Ymar and Appian to take the Test in part due to advice from the
Hierodules?  It seems suspicious that the test is taken by the minimum
number of Autarchs "necessary": Ymar, the first Autarch, to set the
precedent and to establish in the minds of the populace that an Autarch
will eventually bring the New Sun; and Appian, so that Severian will
remember Appian's Test (though why it's important for Severian to
believe his Test will be what Appian's seemed to be is something else I'm
not clear on).

> (If you can find additional pointers towards
> "abdication of autarchs taking the Test"

So far all I have are Severian's statements that he "was" Autarch, and his
references to reclaiming the Throne.  I agree that the latter group of
references are not definitive.

> and/or "success at the Test
> means you lose the throne which you've already abdicated anyway," I'd
> be most interested in seeing them.)

This was an idea that came to me as I was writing my post, and I now think
it's wrong.  I had temporarily forgotten Severian's thoughts at the start
of ch. 34, where he thinks the New Sun will come but not in his lifetime,
and talks about reclaiming the throne.  In the light of this, it seems
clear that when Severian had said he would not return as Autarch if he
succeeded, he had been thinking that if he succeeded, then Ushas would
arrive as soon as he returned to Urth and there would be no more need for 
Autarchs. And when he spoke of being "permitted to reclaim the Phoenix
Throne" he must have meant permitted by fate, or something of the sort.

--Adam


*More Wolfe info & archive of this list at http://www.urth.net/urth/



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