Theros Lore - EP.2 Polies
It's no surprise that Theros is heavily influenced by Greek Mythology and History, from the gods to the creatures, and as you'll find out in this article, the city-states as well. The warrior culture of Akros being much like the Spartans and thinkers of Meletis resembling the philosophers of Athens. We will see where the Magic Team draws influence and where they take the themes present in these places and expand on them to suit a fantasy world. So join me as we take a look at the city-states of Theros, the seat of civilization.
Akros is the Poleis of warriors, tacticians, and gladiators. You can find Akros high in the mountainsides of Theros, but the concentration of its government lies within the fortress Kolophon. It is found at the edge of the mountains, meant to govern its land just as much as defend it. Akros is odd in that a great deal of its population live in forts that are scattered across the lands that they control, but all power and influence still does come from Kolophon. The only temples you will find within the city limits of Akros are those of Iroas and Purpohoros the god of war and the god of the forge respectively.
There are some other temples to the gods but those can be found deep in the mountain ranges. Akroin culture revolves around the perfection of body and mind in the pursuit of glorifying the god of war. The highest order for many is to become a Stration, the warrior cast of Akros, and prove their worth to the gods and to themselves. Because of this, Strations are the most feared warriors in all of Theros, a title they take very seriously. Almost the entire army of Akros travel their lands in small bands, fending for themselves and keeping their territory safe from monsters or any other threat. While the Strations are a feared lot and make up the majority of the Akroin armies there are three units that take on special roles: the Alamon, Lukos and the Oromi. The Alamon, or wanderers, are the scouts who travel far and wide. They are specially trained in tracking, hunting, and traveling great distances, often taking them on missions that reach outside the limits of Akros. The Lukos, or Wolves are the most feared of all the Strations, when a job needs to get done or a threat is to great these are the ones that get called in. Hand picked out only the very best these warriors have no match on Theros and the sight of their armor can send their enemies running.
The Oromi or Watchers, are the Stration who guard and police the Kolophon, they are trained to lay down their lives in the protection of the fortress and its people. The Flamespeakers, while not technically Akroin warrior cast, they are worth mentioning here. These shamans live near the volcanoes of Theros within Akroin territory, they worship the Eidolons that wander the active volcanic geysers and seems. These shamans can control fire and their word is taken as guidance in times of tribulation. Akros, with their culture of war front and center in their society, always have an ever-looming threat that they all must guard themselves against. That is the influence of Mogis, the god of slaughter, who looks to turn honor into blood lust. It is taught early in training to guard yourself against this threat but some Startions do succumb to the allure of this god and leave for enclaves in the mountains, it's said that these warriors turn savage, some even turning to cannibalism.
To give its people an outlet in times of peace and as a way to glorify the best of them and weed out the week, the Akroins hold what's called the Iron games. This is a long-standing tradition and something every Akroin looks forward to all year. It is held during the hottest days of the year and pits Akroin on Akroin in gladiatorial combat, and the winner is considered a hero and the best of their people... Life of an Akroin may be a hard one but for those who can prove their worth it is a place where Heroes are made.
It is said there is a temple on every street and they show their devotion to every god. The city sits along the sea with many of the rivers of Theros flowing through it, and so it has become the center of trade on the plane. Because of this, some other races call Meletis home even if they are few, such as the Tritons who live on land and sea, as well as the traveling centaur called the Legonna. Melations take great pride in their architecture and use it as a way to showcase their creative intellect, with every street and corridor filled with complex geometric shapes and intricate designs.
These complex bits of architecture are usually the work of the mages called the Stonewise, Thaumaturges who specialize in the art of forming stone into beautiful works of art. Much like the philosophers, the mages of Meletis are held in high regard. It is believed that skill in magic is the truest form of art that one can muster, and so the training and hierarchy of mages is taken very seriously. The most skilled mages are called Thaumaturges, or Wonder Workers. Not all Mages who train at the Meletian school of Dekatia can call themselves Thaumaturges though, only those who have gained the favor of one of the gods can have that honor, which is proven usually by a gift given to them by that god. The Formalists are some such mages of the rank of Thaumaturge, who it is believed, can manipulate Aether, which can alter reality. Now just because Meletis is a place of thinkers, traders and artists do not mean they do not have a skilled army.
Their soldiers are called the Reverent Army, religious zealots who may not be as fearsome as the Akroan or as sturdy as the Settessan, but excel at tactical warfare. They believe that their devotion to the gods makes them superior to any other fighting force on Theros. Now whether that is true or not, it is said, that many in their ranks have skill in rudimentary magic, such as healing or bolstering their comrades. The Battlewise is the highest-ranking among the Reverent Army and is trained from a young age in war tactics, these are the ones who will end up leading battalions... Meletis is a testament to the resilience and ingenuity of humanity and evidence of this can be seen down every street and corner to this day.
Setessa is the Poleis of farmers, hunters, and astrologers. Setessa Lies deep within the woodlands of Theros, and is interwoven with nature. Even the city structure resembles the rings of a tree, with the temple to Karametra at its core and rings of walls going outward. All through the city the trees and farmlands intermingle with the natural aqueducts carved out of the hillside that resembles waterfalls and small rivers. Everything in Setessa lives with nature and not against it, with the dwellings only secondary to their natural works. In the outermost ring of Setessa lies a heavily wooded forest that acts as a natural barrier that is patrolled by their warriors.
So even if you don't get lost trying to gain entry you'll surely be caught unaware by their many skilled archers and trackers. In Settessan culture there is no marriage or strict property laws, everyone lives as one whole, with the community as its focus. The majority of the population is also women and children with most men leaving for the outside world once they are old and strong enough. All children are welcomed to Setessa with open arms and the people even make an effort to bring in all orphans because Karametra, being the goddess of motherhood and agriculture, looks fondly on those who watch over the children of Theros. You will only find temples to the Goddess' Nylea and Karametra within the city limits. The other deities are still observed in the ritual of viewing the Kalema Veil. The Veil is the name given to the spread of galaxies and stars scattered across the sky.
There are four points, called the Nexus, based on the four-season of Nylea where the Veil is read. Those who can decipher the Veil can tell the stories written in the constellations of the history of the gods. As you can imagine the seasons are very important to the people of Setessa even to the point of dividing their military into four groups, each with their own fort and purpose. There are the Lions, who are the core army and do much of the training of fresh recruits. Then there are the Falcons, who are scouts and tracker, these warriors have their eyes and ears all throughout Setessa and its lands.
Then there is the Fox's, who are superior archers and masters of guerrilla warfare, they are always on the move and ready to strike. Finally, there are the Serpents, the spies who move outside of the border of Setessa, keeping an eye on the outside world and finding orphans to bring back to their people... The people of Setssa have built a community based on the traditions of living alongside nature and intend to do so for generations to come.
Thanks for reading my latest article. Theros is such a great Plane and makes for an even better setting for DnD and Magic the Gathering. Be sure to check in again for the next installments in the Theros Plane breakdown.