「燈台の都」 (Toudai no Miyako)
“The City of the Lighthouse”
So how was your three week break? Certainly long enough to make remembering back on Altair troublesome, at least for me. It seems that time off though was just what the show needed to jumpstart the interest and intrigue. After Mahmut got his awakening last time around and showcased Altair’s character development chops, this week continued the trend by showing why geopolitics is not a realm you simply ignore.
While Altair’s new arc is relatively simple premise-wise—stop Balt-Rhein from establishing hegemony over the Centro Sea—there were some nifty elements operating underneath that machinery. The obvious one of course is the relation between Balt-Rhein’s Centro domination and China’s quest to make a lake out of the South China Sea, but that’s only really scratching the surface. The true conflict here is rather one between pride and ambition. Phoinike for example is clearly based off of Phoenicia, but ironically functions more like Byzantium. It sees itself as the sole preserver of imperial history and rightness, a moral guardian per say in the community of nations. As Byzantium openly sought unilateral control over the naming of rulers (until Charlemagne at least, see the tidbit below), only Phoinike can decide who’s fit to be named an empire. It’s arrogance disguising fear, a life lived in the past to avoid the problems of the present, and one almost all ascending states (i.e. Balt-Rhein) detest when their own desires runs headfirst into this tradition. Phoinike is playing with fire, but their pride prevents them from seeing the grave risk.
What makes this setup all the more fascinating is Mahmut’s role. Unlike the kid’s deliberate involvement before, here he intended on having no role, yet wound up in the thick of things nonetheless. Might seem strange seeing Mahmut swing things so drastically, but coincidence is often the thing which affects history the most. Mahmut alone chose to travel to Phoinike for example, but that presence is enough for Magistros
Gilgamesh Constantinos to incite the “empire” into declaring war on Balt-Rhein. Hilarious to consider, when they could have simply rejected the actual empire’s naval basing demands and obtained the moral high ground. Mahmut’s presence, however, also gives himself a unique opportunity to pursue his wish. He cannot prevent the war, but he, in his coincidental capacity, has a way to potentially stop it. For a boy who only recently was quixotically rushing headfirst into trouble without thinking, it’s a significant turnaround and shows Mahmut is more than capable of learning and applying that learning. Without a doubt this kid will be dangerous before too long. Once you learn effectively apply brains like that, the results can be amazing.
Before we get to showdowns with the big bad(dies) though, first comes succeeding with the intended plan. With a blockade to break and an unruly ally to bring back to the fold, Mahmut has his work cut out for him, but it’s perfect practice for later, more serious problems. Having finally discovered his weakness and his limited options, the only thing holding Mahmut back is himself. All he has to do now is rise to the occasion.
A good overview of what I’m referring to regarding Byzantium is given by D.M. Nicol’s excellent chapter on Byzantine political theory in Cambridge History’s Medieval Political Thought. TL;DR: Byzantium believed it was superior to all the post-Roman successor states and only it could legitimize their kings, until Charlemagne—by being crowned Emperor of the Romans—showed those claims to be mere bluster. Good example of how words often mean something only if you have the power to back them up.