But above all, the Emperor wished to be perceived by his subjects and enemies alike as an honorable man. Much as his predecessors had maintained the fiction of limited government and subservience to the Senate, the Emperor sought to build up the edifice of himself as a benevolent and reasonable monarch. This in spite of the fact that his grandfather, the great Emperor Kaysar Irum, had severed Imperial power from all oversight and reduced the Senate to a mere debating society.

In time, the Emperor heard of the philosopher Sulnahk, a popular and forceful advocate of a democratic society along the lines of the ancient Republic of Laconia that now made up one of the Empire’s central provinces. Rather than have this offense answered by death or exile, the Emperor sought to show his honor and mercy by debating Sulnahk before an audience in the Hall of Columns. Parts of their exchange have been preserved.

“I have been trained my whole life for the wise exercise of power and the administration of a great realm,” the Emperor said. “How can one not so trained hope to rule?”

“If ably supported by a bureaucracy and advisors, any man may rule, and a limited time in power will safeguard against choosing the wrong leader,” replied Sulnahk. “Many of your august predecessors came to the throne early upon the death of their fathers, as well. Were you to be replaced tomorrow, and the machinery of empire remain, few would know the difference.”

“Yet none can argue that I have ruled wisely and well, without war or strife, as did my father,” said the Emperor, who had thoroughly cleansed the official record of the assassinations and intrigue which had made him heir presumptive instead of his four older brothers. “Who would argue for the replacement of such strong rule with such weak?”

“There is no guarantee that the next prince of your line will share in your enlightened rule, with naught but your teachings and the weight of tradition or threat of rebellion to restrain him,” said Sulnahk. “Sooner or later, a tyrant will come to the throne, or a mediocrity, and the only recourse to save the empire will be rebellion and strife.”

“Would there not be rebellion and strife if an elected Emperor promoted the cause of his own people and gens ahead of others?” countered the Emperor. “It would be an invitation to a tyrannical demagogue exploiting a powerful minority to retain their control at the cost of ruin.”

“I cannot think of a smaller minority, nor a more powerful one, than the imperial family,” said Sulnahk.

That was too much; the Emperor angrily ordered Sulnahk to be taken away into “exile” for his brazenness; the philosopher was killed and cremated, and the records altered accordingly. In a final touch of irony, the Emperor died before his only surviving son came of age…giving Sulnahk’s final debate the ring of prophecy.

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