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sffcorgi ([personal profile] sffcorgi) wrote2013-04-17 07:39 pm

Thoughts on Yarth's Transylvanian history

(Originally written for and posted in the TVTropes Girl Genius forum)


In 1146, Géza II of Hungary married Euphrosyne, sister of Grand Prince Iziaslav II of Kiev.

That's an useful spot to start, given the coincidence in names and the fact that Géza is attributed as the first of the Hungarian kings to starting hiring in the various sorts of German tradesfolk to settle in Transylvania.

Yarth history up to this point seems generally parallel, barring the odd Spark here and there, to our history — the Romans conquered the Dacians (Getae) who were living in this downright idyllic basin created by the sharp-edged Carpathian Mountains and the mighty Danube River. For all the rough reputation of the mountains, the lower lands are lush and support a wide range of fruit trees and other crops.

(Another side note, while I was looking at things to assemble for this — the Dacians/Getae allegedly had a fondness for wolves, and wolf-shifting. Lycanthropy came early to Transylvania.)

The Romanised Dacians survived the withdrawal of the Empire, and had to deal with miscellaneous other conquerors before the Hungarians over in Pannonia (a former small seabed, and lovingly described by Steven Karl Zoltán Brust in his science fantasy series) got their acts together and decided Transylvania was theirs. I mean, wouldn't you?

The Huns had already come and gone through the area, giving this new kingdom its collective name; the Mongols were coming, and heralds warned the Transylvanian and Pannonian inhabitants well in advance.

We know the first Castle Heterodyne was built in 1042, which allows a small assumption that the clan were already fairly well-established and in control of the territory. When the Mongols arrived not many years after, Agatha's 'ancestors learned so much from them!'

Our Hungarians only had to worry about Mongols. Their Hungarians, and the rest of Europa, had to worry about the Mongols AND the Heterodynes. This brings us back to mercenary Germans. Although the primary reason for Géza II's invitation was border defense with the Szeklers against invaders, Germans were also sought for their mining expertise and ability to develop the region's economy. The first settlements were WSW of where Beetleburg and Mechanicsburg seem situated, but over the next handfuls of decades, towns built by colonists and fortresses built by the Teutonic Knights (who were quickly kicked out for appearing too powerful) and Kirchenburgen would be found all around the Transylvanian Plateau.

The Mongols ravaged the area in our timeline, despite the best defence the colonists and the Hungarian armies could put forth. I should like to extrapolate that the Heterodynes ended up eating the Mongols for lunch, then took over the ravaging themselves. In the mid-1200s, instead of Mongols tearing it up and leaving, I put forth that the Heterodynes tore it up and said 'That was fun!' then said 'Mine.' From this point on is when the Heterodynes started to become the continentally-feared power we hear whispered of in the histories.

Despite the devastation, though, there were still plenty of survivors from all the major ethnic groups — the native Dacians, the colonist Germans (who were being called 'Saxons' by the locals) and the Szekly/Magyar from the west. People who fight for a land tend to get stubborn about it. In our history, the ‘Sachsen’ became a legally-protected sort of bourgeoisie, with privileges the Romanian (read: Dacian) peasants never got.

This social status and the original intent of importing these demi-mercenary populations suggests where the Barony of Wulfenbach originated, although the documented (Secret Blueprints) regard of the most recently late Baron and Baronin Wulfenbach – and by extrapolation, plausibly their predecessors and so on in reverse – for the peasants over whom they had responsibility is exceptional for the time. This exemplary attitude of service-from-above was passed on to their son and heir, who we know intended to instill it in his own students, as noted in the novels (“The Baron insists that those with lands that need planting in the spring should help oversee the process personally, and actually assist if they’re old enough.” “He says that it gives them a better appreciation of where their power comes from and who’s actually keeping them fed.” – Chapter 5, ...Airship City)

The rapid expansion of cities populated by the Saxons led to Transylvania being known in German as ‘’Siebenbürgen’’ and ‘’Septem Castra’’ in Latin, referring to seven of the fortified towns – presumably the following list [names in German/’’Sachsen’’ (Romanian) [Hungarian] {Latin})]:

Bistritz, formerly Nösen(Bistriţa)[Beszterce]{Bistrita}
Hermannstadt (Sibiu)[Nagyszeben]{Cibinium}
Sächsisch Regen (Reghin) [Szászrégen or Régen] {n/a}
Kronstadt (Braşov) [Brassó] {Brassovia or Corona}
Mediasch, ‘’Medwesch’’ (Mediaş) [Medgyes] {Media}
Mühlbach, ‘’Melnbach’’ (Sebeş) [Szászsebes] {n/a}
Schässburg (Sighişoara) [Segesvár] {Castrum Sex}



This is the source of the arms of the Siebenbürgen:

– the seven towers. You can easily see how this relates to the Wulfenbach single-tower badge and to the Mechanicsburg seven-towers-assaulted arms. My interpretation of that design, for what it’s worth, is not an attack on a specific city as much as symbolic of how the Heterodynes, using Mechanicsburg as a base of operations, have dominated the Seven Fortresses and the surrounding lands in general. It’s a brag.

History is, of course, complicated and has many things going on simultaneously. In our timeline, the cities were founded between 1142-1208; the Mongols invaded during 1241–1242 and again in 1285. During this same period on Yarth, the Heterodynes would have been gobbling up Europa, heading towards the Valois in the west/northwest from their southeastern stronghold, growing stronger and stronger from appropriated troops, tribute and loot. As of two centuries before Agatha’s time, ‘the Heterodynes had been unchecked for centuries’ (...Clockwork Princess) – that’s four or five more centuries of mass gleeful violence than the hotspot warring of our timeline. Except that the Heterodynes obviously protected their own – in some way or another - Transylvania’s survival is nearly miraculous and Budapest’s, no matter its current post-Wars condition, even more so. This does still beg the question of the location of Sturmhalten and Balan’s Gap, and how far the Heterodynes’ immediate terror spread before stopped by the Coalition. That may yet be hinted at in time.

For now, though, we have a good idea of one of the major forks between our Terra and Agatha’s Yarth, and the developments which might be extrapolated from those changes. As terrible as some of our own wars have been, we can see how much worse it could have been with Sparky ingenuity driving Ares’s war chariot.

Appendix:

For an excellent view of the countryside in question, relatively unmarred: ‘’A Transylvanian Bimmer-Go-Round’’
http://www.advrider.com/forums/showthread.php?p=10397524