On the trail of the Arbarians
"Arbare" is the Echyrene term for the vast areas in the northwest, covered in ancient times by primeval forests, still beyond the Arros, then considered an uncivilised borderland. Its inhabitants, called simply "Arbarians" by the Echyrians, were considered uncivilised savages, little better than animals, in many ancient accounts from the Phalopos are also hard to distinguish from actual depraved animal-men. But who were the ancient Arbarians, whose only contribution to history for a long time were raids on Arroan settlements?
"The Arbarians" - they did not actually exist in antiquity, at least not in the self-image of the peoples and tribes who lived in and around the Bezilla forest, wrested land from the swampy Foslach plains or defied the cold Kulskirra.
It was not until the middle of antiquity that several clans joined together to form a tribal alliance, initially usually only in order to be able to invade the increasingly well-protected Arros together.
It took until late antiquity for these tribes to form a more stable structure and to clearly distinguish themselves from other tribes. During the Classical period, the first tribal kingdoms were slowly formed, first on the Arroian model and later on the Arrosevian model.
But although the "Arbarians" never saw themselves as one people (the "Arbarian" people is a creation that was only forced in the period around the Magic Revolution, when the northwestern states wanted to separate themselves from the Echyrean south), they had more in common than that they joined together to form marauding hordes: a common language, a common mythology and a common social structure.
The map beside shows the rough settlement areas of the Late Antique/Classical tribes and the centres of Classical tribal kingdoms: Korkarras, Rudhareim and Rakreg, the only major settlements to develop in the region before the Middle Ages.
Connected through language
Ancient "Arbarian", like most ancient languages, was of course characterised by dialects, some of which were very different, differing in the pronunciation of certain sounds, divergent vocabulary and grammatical forms that were only regionally widespread. Nevertheless, the "Arbarian" could be understood well enough by members of all clans for a common treasure of myths about gods, heroic songs and instructive fairy tales to spread throughout the entire settlement area early on - presumably by wandering „Sinners“ ("storytellers"). These Sinners are probably also responsible for the introduction and spread of a genuinely "arbaric" script, which initially developed in the form of scribal signs without the influence of southern writing systems.
Comparison of script forms: classical Echyric on the left, ancient Arbarian in the middle, classical Arbarian (sometimes called "Echyro-Arbarian") on the right.
You can see that the "original form" of the Arbarian script was still quite independent; in the Classical period, however, the Arbarian script came very close to it due to the influence of Echyric from the south.
Connected through faith
The stories spread everywhere soon led to the formation of a common pantheon, which was supplemented locally by other deities, but always had a common core. All "Arbarians" worshipped Ertius, the Eldar Muder, Ruck, the Sturma Muder and Erkisa, who were everywhere thought of in animal form. The younger Dôdig Heljar was also widespread.
Besides these deities, about which more will be told elsewhere, there were also heroic songs and fairy tales, which were told almost the same everywhere and were only rarely adapted to local incidents or events.
The Arbarians did not build temples to their gods, instead they worshipped them at "Vivedi" (votive stelae) and "Gihorgi" ("altar", literally "pile of stones"). The shape of the Vivedi was as varied as the tribes that built them and the gods they were dedicated to. Sometimes they were just painted tree trunks or decorated with colourful ribbons, sometimes they were elaborately carved and garlanded wooden pillars, and sometimes even entire animal figures were sculpted from the wood.
Connected through social customs
From time immemorial, the society of the "Arbarians" consisted of Esgern (sg. Asger, the "free man") and Trellern (sg. Traller, the "slave").
A Traller was usually a prisoner of war living in the clan, or the descendant of one; only later did the "Arbarians" also buy slaves from southern slave traders. The Esger were members of a clan who were largely equal to each other. Although according to customary law they had more rights and different duties than the Treller, Esger and Treller were often hardly distinguishable from each other.
Within a clan, the Gemicher ("elder") enjoyed the greatest respect and can be understood as the clan head. In the early days, he was in fact the oldest man or woman of the clan, later the title became hereditary and passed to the men or women of a certain (sub)family, depending on the clan. Around this time, the designation also changed and we hear more and more often of an Arela ("prince"). The Arela then soon became more than just the profane heads of their clans and also became religious heads who led and held cultic rites that were important for the well-being of the entire clan.
When the "Arbarians" began to form tribes, the Arelas met irregularly to consult and, in times of war, to appoint an Arax ("king") from their ranks. The Arax was at first only a "war chief" appointed for a fixed term, but in late antiquity this title too slowly became hereditary, having initially been awarded for life.
"Arbarian" warriors already decorated their bodies with tattoos in early times, but this body adornment became increasingly complex in antiquity. Soon there was a certain arsenal of pictorial signs that not only provided information about membership of a clan and tribe, but also reported on the deeds of their bearers. This custom of the warriors then spread to other areas and soon they were the only reliable sign in many places to distinguish an Asger from a Traller.