08 January 2013

Robber Monks

Please give to the poor, er, to us.
Robber Barons are a well-known nuisance that plagues societies living in feudal anarchy— such as Umathela after it has severed all links with the Middle Sea Empire, and has started suffering from the effects of the Closing. I must absolutely post about Malki Robber Barons one of these days.

Today, however, I want to post about Robber Monks. These are less well-known than Robber Barons, but no less a nuisance. This post has been inspired by a book I'm reading about Muslim Sicily. In the book, mention is made of the famous Muslim traveller Ibn Ḥawqal, who wrote a travelogue on Muslim Sicily, the Ṣūrat al-’Arḍ, in which he complained that:

There are quite a few ribāṭ [fortified monasteries] on the coastline, full of freeloaders, scoundrels and renegades, both old and young, poor and ignorant. These people would pretend to perform their prostrations, standing in order to steal money given to charity, or to defame honourable women. Most of them were pimps and perverts. They sought refuge there because they were incapable of doing anything else, and because they had no place to go. They were low-life and rabble...

I love these guys! The concept of Robber Monks can be transposed to coastal Umathela. With the demise of central authority, and with the decrease in alms and donations, some of the fortified monasteries have to resort to extorting 'tolls' from travellers. Some others turn to outright banditry— or worse, as per the text above. Robber Monks needn't be poor and ignorant, though. The demise of Malki civilisation in Pamaltela is still an ongoing, recent phenomenon, so these monks still have access to their fortified monastery in good shape; the road they 'work' on is also in good shape, as are their weapons and their grimoires. All in all, these guys are formidable opponents, and most certainly lord it over a large swath of coastline.

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