Updated: Apr 8
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I can swear in 25 languages but, Lord help me, can I ask for even a beverage in one of them?
It might be considered odd by some that what would become Là Glòstean Empyraen, ESG, or Easy-G started from such vulgar beginnings as it did. My characters are mostly soldiers and mostly male. I am sure many of your know the kind of language non-military males share among themselves and sodiers/sailors/airmen/marines/etc are worse. For the sake of equality it is worth saying that I know women who would shame an Admiral too.
Alexander and his crew are rough men, they are somewhat educated but, living on Thanatos' doorstep each and every day tends to roughen one's sensibilities, to paraphrase someone whose name I have managed to forget completely. There was a lot of what sensitivity readers called LiLTO or Language Incredibly Likely To Offend in the Empyraeum Collections alone. They clearly hadn't gotten to the first page of Son of the Dragon, the last Novella yet! Neshaa launches into an unbelievably inventive tirade of invective towards Alexander for those who haven't read it yet. Rest assured, we now have Glòsta for him to do that in without offending your tender sensibilities.
So I, the serious and respected author thereof, started with a list of insults and cuss words which I shaped into something a citizen of the Empyraeum might use. Standard modern or ancient Greek would not do. That would offend my audience when The Empyraeum Cycle makes it big and it gets translated into Greek! So what, then?
The Cultural Melting Pot
Many times during those tales chronicling what would become the founding of the Empyraeum, somewhere close to six-ten million people followed Alexander. Of those six million were probably soldiers of some kind or another. What many tend to forget is that soldiers need stuff, swords break, bellies grumble, needs need seeing to. Soldiers got paid in coin and plunder and are, by nature of their profession, the gambling types. They also like to enjoy their riches while they still possess the ability to spend it, they can't take anything more than two obals with them, afterall.
So we have smiths from Greece but also from Persia, fletchers and bowyers from Scythia, chefs of a hundred cuisines, ladies of - shall we say (thank you Terry) - negociable affection, clothes washers and seamstresses, purveyors of sacrificial offerings and relics, sellers of wine or the local spirits, the sellers of shiny tat, and then we have army wives and children. We have doctors, fortune tellers, animal drovers, grooms, food gatherers, slaves, and indentured labour. What we have is a slow-moving city. Accounts tell us that what was called the Baggage Train could stretch for miles behind the advancing army, was so large that it needed a second army to protect it.
Now, this army had accrued, drawn to Alexander like a lodestone draws iron filings; soldiers and tradespeople from two hundred nations, all of whom spoke at best a dialect of what was considered the koine of the army. Only after Alexander left Babylon, that army was no longer predominently Greek. It was Persian, Scythian, Anatolian, Sogdianian, Phoenician, Indian, Bactrian, Egyptian, Babylonian, Judean, various kinds of African...most of these soldiers had never seen a Greek before, let alone had a chance to learn his language.
What Alexander had, he realised, was not an army, he had bands who stuck with those they could communicate with. He had no cohesive centre, he had a very large band of mercenaries following the source of plunder and adventure. He knew that this boded ill because he was not, contrary to appearance and rumour, immortal. he would die and the centre would not hold in the aftermath. He'd seen it during his illness in Babylon.
It was not until the army was forced to camp for months on the frigid Nepeli plains below Chomolungma/Sagamartha/Mt. Everest that things began to change. Forced to interact and mix, the army started a curious process, they started to come up with a way for everyone to communicate. It began as numrous cants, patois, and pidgins and somehow morphed into what we would call the argot. They found what you might call common tongues each 'faction' knew enough to get by in and added or altered words, combined it with another popular language and soon, a concensus formed on what was 'right' for that dialect. The merchants learned it, the soldiers taught it to their children and to each other in the temporary taverns, eating houses, and gambling dens. When the Kalshodar and Dracograth emerged and the march onward began once more, the process was accelerated.
The Regular Irregulars
It is thought that it was none other that Korae that came up with this particular comedic gem. After the ten thousand, three hundred were forever changed, those regular humans left, in their irregular mishmash of equipment and ethnicities felt that they had something to prove. Many left along the way but more stayed and were desperate to do so; they wanted to see the adventure "to the end" and, maybe, be rewarded by the man they adored as a god, even more so now he too was changed.
It is said that change is often brought about through adversity and so it happened here. No longer were the regular irregulars men and women of two hundred nations. Even the least bright amongst them knew they were part of something unprecidented and huge and no-one; be they man, beast, god, or bloody great metal man was going to tear them away from it. They were Alexander's Army and what thousands of miles had failed to do before, their worry of being supplanted by the Kalshodar achieved almost overnight.
Officers started to learn the argot, all the camp followers obviously followed, and every soldier who didn't want to settle the newly conquered lands made the effort to make sure they stayed. All the little cants and patois started to blend together into one, standard argot and soon, even the Kalshodar and Dracograth were starting to learn it.
Alexander was, of course, delighted. He saw what he had always dreamed of achieving, what he had fought to himself create in spite of the objections of his Greek compariots. He wasn't creating a Greek Persia or, now, a Greek World. He wanted to create something entirely new which combined the best parts of Greece with the best parts of every nation that had kneeled before him. Now, because of their own imagined fears, the army were doing it for him. Alexander encouraged the tender shoots of shared identity which the army were nurturing and began to learn this new tongue for himself.
He knew something very important you see; that when the conquest was over and the building began, it would not be his Kalshodar or, perhaps, even him that shaped it, it would be the common citizens. It would be people like these soldiers though possibly less violent, cleaner, and less inclinded to the consumption of suspect alcoholic liquids.
The Model of the Future
As the army drove on, across Europe, Africa, and towards the cold and misty islands which, everyone thought, represented the edge of the world, the amry grew and the argot gained new flavours. His melting pot became more varied but, as will often be the case, several flavours floated to the top and began to shape the overall character. Of the hundreds of languages which eventually came to make up Là Glòstean Empyraen, only seven or eight of those are immediately obvious in their presence. What the majority of the army ended up speaking was a language that would have been as unfamiliar to them, years ago, as Greek had been at the time. They were all changing and, when did they eventually return home, they would be near unrecognisable.
They would also be heroes, rich men and women, people of influence and, Alexander knew well, the kind of people others both listen to and seek to emulate. What began in the controlled environment of the army would spread to the four corners of what would become The Empyraeum in no time. It just had to be managed properly and so, in what would be known as EA7, he did just that in sending out the very first Lexilocla Empyrean to all the new schools, universities, and libraries the money pouring out of the Senate helped to build. It only took ten years for Là Glòstean Empyraen to become, at least, the second language for 80% of Empyraen citizens. As Aristotle had taught him so many years ago;
You never force or demand change because change at the end of a sword is resisted and, no sooner do you take the sword away, the knife for your back is ready. No, son, you make the change desirable, you make it profitable. You dangle it and, before you know it, they are fighting you, demanding it. Do it right and they will citicise you only for not giving it to them quickly enough!
He knew what even his Kalshodar could not do, a future that the people could taste would and that all began with a language, and identity. It began with a hope; a hope Alexander had dreamed for thirty years.
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