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    A Wine Dark Sea - Wine, Trade & Piracy on the Greater Azure Sea
    Posted on Tue, September 27, 2005 by Dongul
    gvdammerung writes "What drives trade over long distances between ports in the Flanaess? Ask the pirates. These sea dogs know more, and can tell us more, about sea trade in the Flanaess than any desiccated sage half hidden behind stacks of account ledgers. A pirates business is trade and its interception. They sail a wine dark sea.

    A Wine Dark Sea - Wine, Trade & Piracy on the Greater Azure Sea
    By: Glenn Vincent Dammerung, aka GVDammerung
    Used with Permission. Do not repost without obtaining prior permission from the author.

    I. Overview of Historical Piracy

    For sustained piracy to occur, there must regularly be something of value being transported in ships that pirates can and will desire to capture. For there to regularly be something of value being transported in ships, there must, usually, be trade between ports. With one notable exception, there is no piracy without such trade.

    Piracy is not an invention of the early modern period of the 1600s - 1700s. This so-called Golden Age of Piracy was preceded by piracy in the ancient world of a no less grand scale. For example, during the First Triumvirate Period of Roman history, piracy in the Mediterranean was so great that it threatened the continued growth of the Roman state. Pompey The Great, rival of Julius Caesar and member of the First Triumvirate, earned his title “The Great” in part by suppressing the Mediterranean pirates that threatened to strangle Rome’s trade.

    II. Piracy Models

    Piracy in the Mediterranean Sea can be broken down into three models for easy classification.
    Greek Piracy: When Greece and her colonies dominated the Mediterranean, the most common trade cargo was wine. Greek wrecks and records reveal that wine was shipped throughout the Mediterranean and was the principal item being traded by sea at the time. Because there was such a lively sea trade, pirates flourished, preying on the trading vessels.
    Roman Piracy: When Rome came to supplant Greece as the dominant power in the Mediterranean, wheat from Egypt became the principal item being traded by sea. Egypt was the “bread basket” of the Roman Empire. Without Egyptian wheat, Rome could not feed her subject populations. Pirates threatened this vital commerce by preying of trade vessels.
    Medieval Piracy: After the Dark Ages, when trade and piracy again flourished in the Mediterranean, Venice and Genoa were the leading trade powers, with Venice eventually dominating Genoa. Spices were the principal item being traded by sea.

    Golden Age piracy of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries was not dominated by trade and was not found in the Mediterranean. In 1453, the Ottoman Turks supplanted the Venetians as the dominant power in the Mediterranean and cut Europe off from the East, helping prompt the Age of Discovery, as the Europeans looked for other avenues to the East where they could obtain spices, silks etc. Piracy most famously took place instead in the Caribbean where pirates preyed on treasure galleons exporting the wealth of Central America to Europe. No real trade was involved.

    While there were other piratical hot spots during the Golden Age of Piracy, the foregoing will suffice as background for considering piracy in the Azure Sea, Wooly Bay and Relmor Bay - the Greater Azure Sea.

    III. Pre-Wars Trade on the Greater Azure Sea

    Principal Pre-Wars seaports on the Greater Azure Sea included - Gradsul (Keoland), Gyrax (P Ulek), Eldredd (Wild Coast), Fax (Wild Coast), Safeton (Wild Coast), Hardby, Nessermouth (Nyrond), Oldred (Nyrond), Mithrat (Nyrond), Chathold (Almor), Prymp (South Province), Scant (Onnwal), Irongate, Naerie (Idee). The vast majority of trade vessels on the Greater Azure Sea that might be prey to pirates had to be carrying goods between these port cities.

    The questions are then:

    Q1 - Between which ports did trade occur?

    Nyrond is unlikely to have traded with the South Province during the period. Similarly, the South Province is unlikely to have traded with the Iron League ports. All of the remaining ports might trade more freely amongst themselves.

    Q2 - What trade items were being carried? What trade item dominated the trade?

    The answer is not simple. Looking at the resource map from the 83 Boxed Set, there does not appear to be a great surplus of a commodity in one place and a corresponding shortage in another that would spur sea trade. The Roman wheat model does not seem to work. All the other models might work - the Greek wine model, the Medieval spice model but only from Hepmonaland and the Amedio presumably, and the Golden Age treasure model but, again, presumably only from Hepmonaland and the Amedio.

    While it might be that the trade was predominantly mundane and local, such an answer would make the existence of the Hold of the Sea Princes at the same time as the pirates of the Pomarj difficult to explain, for there must have been a great deal of valuable trade to sustain so many pirates.

    IV. Post-Wars Piracy on the Greater Azure Sea

    Post-War the Azure Sea proper is almost completely controlled by the Scarlet Brotherhood. Only the ports of Gradsul, Prymp and Naerie have sufficient resources and backing in Keoland and Ahlissa respectively to be able to even begin to challenge this dominance.

    Relmor Bay is an Ahlissan lake, as Nyrond has all but collapsed.

    Wooly Bay is dominated by the expanded Domain of Greyhawk and the expanded Pomarj. These two regional powers, stretched beyond their traditional bounds, check each other in a practical stalemate.

    Of a certainty, the Scarlet Brotherhood has near absolute control of contact with the Amedio Jungle and Hepmonaland, and has a chokehold on movement into and out of the Densac Gulf through its control of the Olman Islands.

    This leads to an obvious question -

    Q - How then does trade occur?

    The Roman wheat model is still inapplicable. The Greek wine model has some remaining vitality, though with practical difficulties in disputed regions. The Medieval spice model is inapplicable as is the Golden Age treasure model. Indeed, the post-Wars state of naval affairs on the southern seas suggests strongly the Ottoman dominance of the Mediterranean after 1453.

    V. The Wine Trade

    Pre-Wars, nothing mandates a single trade model and corresponding piracy. Post-Wars, the options appear substantially limited to the Greek wine model. While wine need not be the principal trade item, it is hard to imagine another commodity that would generate as much trade and which is not undercut or ruled out by the resource map of the 83 Boxed Set. The love of wine is well established in almost all cultures. If it is to be imagined that there is a consistency to economic relationships among the nations of the Flanaess, the Greek wine model would then suggest itself as the principal model pre-Wars, as well.

    The precise pattern of a wine trade pre-Wars is hard to fathom, with the exception of obvious antagonists who refuse to trade with one another. The pattern of a wine trade post-Wars is strongly suggested by the nature of the post-War Flanaess. Nyrond was devastated during and after the Wars and is unlikely to produce wine of any quality. Ahlissa, as well, physically suffered significantly during the Wars but has rebounded economically and now has perhaps the greatest mercantile economy, even if most of its vineyards may have been trampled. Keoland was physically untouched and would produce wine in quantity. This suggests a situation where, in broad terms, Keoland produces wines, which sees purchase in Ahlissa.

    VI. The Wild Card

    There is in this thinking a wild card - Nessermouth, situated at the mouth of the Nesser River which is fully navigable by ocean going vessels into the Nyr Dyv. Substantial trade might well include the heartland states of the Flanaess, particularly the Duchy of Urnst, which is blessed with both mineral and agricultural resources and was untouched by the Greyhawk Wars, having only its sleep mildly disturbed by events in the Bright Desert. Dyvers and Veluna would also have access to a greater trade via the Nyr Dyv and the Nesser River. Arguing against such thoughts is a noticeable lack of river piracy on the Nesser. Were a tremendous volume of trade being conducted via this waterway, one might suppose pirates would inevitably appears to prey upon it. Conversely, the Duchy of Urnst is sufficient wealthy to afford to protect traffic along the Nesser, and could profit handsomely for the protection it could offer. In such a scenario, the Duchy of Urnst could play an economic role almost the equal of Ahlissa.

    VII. Conclusion

    While it seems most likely that the Flanaess has a pattern of sea trade and piracy reminiscent of the wine trade of ancient Greece, canon offers few specifics on the economics of trade or particular trade routes. One is left to speculate.

    Certainly, the Greyhawk Wars reduced the immediately viable options for large scale trade and unrestricted piracy. The rise of the Scarlet Brotherhood smothered what was an environment much more open to possibilities. Of course, piracy is one of the all time adventure standards - fighting pirates or crusading as such. When it is considered that the rise of the Scarlet Brotherhood during the Greyhawk Wars also severely limited the viability of the Hold of the Sea Princes and the Wild Coast as adventure incubators, more generally, it is perhaps easier to understand the pall that the Brotherhood now casts over the Flanaess. Perhaps more than any other event during the Wars, the unveiling of the Scarlet Brotherhood did the most to fundamentally alter the nature of the Flanaess.
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    Re: A Wine Dark Sea - Wine, Trade & Piracy on the Greater Azure Sea (Score: 1)
    by Woesinger on Tue, September 27, 2005
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    Interesting! When I have some time - I'll post my thoughts on trade in the Flanaess here.

    Re: A Wine Dark Sea - Wine, Trade & Piracy on the Greater Azure Sea (Score: 1)
    by Douginator on Wed, September 28, 2005
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    I liked the thesis very much.  However, I think there may be more of an adventure hook than is realized.  The common denominator of any culture is trade.  trade never stops, even in war time.  It may change its aspect, but it will not stop.  Rome and Persia carried on trade for a very long time, even though they were frequently at swords' points.  So, I believe belligerent nations will still trade, but perhaps through a third party (that darn middleman again). 

    The Scarlet Brotherhood, now that it has come into the light, may seem daunting at first.  Big, powerful culture, with a big, powerful fleet.  However, they can't be everywhere.  What would it take for Irongate to start issuing Letters of Margue?  What if Keoland does the same (but is in better economic shape to actually pay for any prize ship)?  How long before the Wild Coat cities/towns say, "The Scarlet Brotherhood is too strong...wait a minute, you'll pay us money for what we do naturally and cheer us on as we do it?  Death to the Red Tyrants!"

    There may be others (will the Sea Barons give up this opportunity?).  Just some thoughts.  Great article overall.


    Re: A Wine Dark Sea - Wine, Trade & Piracy on the Greater Azure Sea (Score: 1)
    by GVDammerung on Sat, October 01, 2005
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    Thanks to everyone for their comments!

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