The Gostak Distims the Doshes:

Economic Warfare in 27th-Century Apalasia

Auctor: Orionis, Leo David, O. L., U. Calafiensis

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The Gostak Riots of 2692 are usually portrayed as a clash between the rich and the not-rich, or between youth and seniority. Certainly the factors1 of the Gostacerium Praeseodymium were mature, wealthy men, while their opposition was notably young, middle-class or below, or both.

Yet this is only a surface reading of one of the most important events between the Oclahomma Dosh Rush of 2649 and the Mundane War. Had the Vice-Emperor of Hippolytana acted differently, this writer believes that the consequences could well have been as serious as a Han victory in Transoceana.

The Importance of Doshes

Dosh is so central to our way of life that we find it hard to appreciate, as a fish is hardly aware of water. A 25th-century wit called civilization "a condition preceded by forests and followed by deserts." Had he said, "preceded by dosheries and followed by nedoshes," he would have been no less correct.

The distribution of the human race on Mother Earth is determined in the first order by (a) the availability of fresh water and of salt, and (b) mean temperature, mediated by distance from the Equator and by elevation above sea level. Imperial geographers have demonstrated that there is only one second-order determinant: the world-wide distribution of dosheries [Cymara].

The Egyptians were the first nation to build gostaks for distimming doshes; the abundance of dosheries, no less than the outpourings of their gold and silver and copper mines, fueled Pharaoh's dominance of the ancient East. It's also interesting to note that the oldest known law suit, written in cuneiform on a baked clay tablet, is between two parties disputing ownership of a gostak [Daryush, p. 348]; while, fourteen centuries before the founding of the City, the King of the Hittites asked aid of Egypt against the People of the Sea, entreating Egypt to send electrum and dosh to buy mercenaries [Lugdunensis, no. 1024].

The scarcity of dosheries made the Greek cities weak and easily conquered, while their great abundance in Hibernia made the conquest of Britain an important intermediate goal for the early Empire. Had the Hibernians known how to build efficient gostaks, they might well have remained outside the Imperium; as it was, the greater efficiency of Roman gostaks, even in the Ninth Century, made Imperial victory inevitable. Just as inevitable, for the same reasons, was the southward flow into and eventual conquest of sub-African Cingutana, and the development of the whole continent into the wealth, prestige, and political influence of today [Procopius, Cap. 12, "Economic Factors"].

Dosh has become more important and more pervasive as Roman science has progressed. Coal gave way to steam, which yielded to electricity generated by a variety of means, including wind, solar, tidal, and nuclear power. Before the age of steam, dosh made up ten percent of a legionnaire's kit by weight, and twelve percent of a trireme's structure and cargo by bulk; for a modern dosheant-bearing infantryman and a modern jet airdosher, the percentages rise to fifteen and twenty, respectively [Rhaetius, p. 600, fig. 12]..

Building a Better Gostak

As we saw above, having an abundance of dosheries is not as important as being able to process their output. Modern chemistry began with the hit-and-miss attempts of the Greeks to distim raw dosh into usable forms. With the abundance of safe dosh from modern gostaks, we tend to forget that raw dosh, if eaten, is poisonous; if smoked, causes pharyngeal cancer as well as liver and spleen failure; if molded, is brittle; and if woven, easily torn.

Up to the 12th Century, Imperial gostaks used lye for the first stage of the distimming process, human urine for the second stage, and river water to flush the dosh after each stage. The noxious effluent drained into the same river, leading to livestock death downstream. Modern plants use inorganic bases and acids, flush with distilled water, process the effluent to recover the active ingredients, and reduce the remainder to a very small amount of sludge, which is carefully interred in unbreakable containers.

Building the civic gostak was always one of the earliest projects at a new colony's site, more urgent than the amphitheater and even more important than the mill. Like the amphitheater or the baths, ownership of the gostak was invested in the city, and it was managed and operated by public officials. The reason for this should be obvious—the citizenry could grind their own grain without a mill, but a household could not build and operate its own gostak without great risk to itself and its neighbors [Grosser, Cap. 8, "Tanneries and Distimmeries"]..

A Brief Background

Such was the accepted wisdom in the year 2692 after the founding of the City, not only in Transoceanian Hippolytana, but throughout the Empire and the world. The events of that year can be best explained, I believe, not as political ambition or a clash of generational values, but as simple greed.

M. Nitius Rufus had distinguished himself as a cavalry officer in Oclahomma, putting down native uprisings with notable brutality while treating his own men scarcely less harshly. His desertion rate was exceeded only by his rate of success against Han border incursions, and the Han Emperor's Transpacific governors sent an unceasing stream of protests to their Roman counterparts over Nitius' atrocities and violations of the laws of war2.

Yanked from active duty and denied a command in the Emperor's service, Nitius was nevertheless popular with a certain class of journalist, due to his non-regulation dress and grooming, and his equally colorful (and quotable) opinions of the natives, the Han, and his civil and military superiors. Their support emboldened him to run for Censor of Nebrasca Caesaria, which election he lost by a landslide. At this point he was approached by the publisher of Tribunus Dacotensis, a regional news sheet.

Aulus Pontius Bithynius made his living as a publisher, but his political career had brought him to the sub-governorship of Dacota. As such he could approve new colonies, though his approval could be overturned by the governor. The purely imaginary colony of Praeseodymium was to be the official location of Pontius' gostak. Actually it was just over the border from the Apalasian town of Gregorius, so that it could draw away the Gregorian gostak's income.

When Nitius was introduced to P. Lydius Minor, C. Taurentius Varro, and the others who had contributed money to Pontius' enterprise, he asked why they needed him. The conspirators assured him that they wanted not his money, but his prestige to add to that of Pontius. If their intent was to secure a possible scapegoat, their judgment was as faulty as it was when they estimated public reaction to their scheme.

Opposition, confined to workers in the legitimate gostak at first, grew when that gostak was shut down and all doshes had to be distimmed at Praeseodymium, much further away. The lower prices at the new gostak made up for the inconvenience and kept protest at a grumble. But after the old gostak closed, prices at the new one were set higher than they had been at the defunct, legitimate gostak. A public uproar ensued.

Praeseodymium supporters, mainly the conspirators and their employees, argued that the arrangement was legal as long as there was an operating gostak—"The gostak distims the doshes." (Gostacerium doscedes distimet.) Opponents protested that anything that made dosh more expensive would ultimately reduce the supply; their slogan was "The gostak distims the doshes," (Doscedes gostacerium distimet, or even Doscedes gostacerio distimentur). Next to these economic concerns, I believe the generational gap between the wealthier, older Praeseodymium supporters and the working-class, younger opposition (sometimes in the same household) was irrelevant.

It was alleged, though never proven, that the ex-legionnaires who set upon and beat Ma. Septimus Narses, the factor of the legitimate gostak, were hired by Nitius. Whoever hired them, the authorities could no longer ignore such civil disorder.

M. Nitius Rufus was arrested by the commander of the 53rd Legion (Tipicanūs Victoria) acting under the order of the governor of Apalasia and the Vice-Emperor of Hippolytana. He was convicted of "actions detrimental to the public good", fined 500 caesars, and held under house arrest for a year. When the Mundane War began in 2712, he was assigned command of the Second Brigade of the 41st Legion (Pauvatanni Negri). In 2714, in forward operations against the enemy, he divided his forces on the shore of the Great Salt Lake in Liu-Shen Province. Each division of his command was engaged in turn by a combined Han and Ute force with overwhelmingly superior numbers; there were no Roman survivors [Sylvestris, pp. 1430-1435]..

Aulus Pontius Bithynius was convicted of the same charge, fined, and exiled from Apalasia. He took the Via Nacessia to Hadriana and Tehas, and retired from public life. In 2715 he died in his sleep in his villa outside Considia, Tehas [Lopessis].

The other conspirators were fined lesser amounts and served no prison time. The writer could find none of them in a computer search of the 2750 Hippolytan Census, so their destinies are unknown.

Not Political

The Praeseodymium Incident has been often examined, occurring as it did in a sensitive time—just before the Mundane War—and a sensitive place—the frontier between Han Transpacifica and Roman Transoceana. Ultimately, despite all the verbiage, it has been dismissed as an historical curiosity of no lasting importance. I believe this is wrong. I intend to show that it was the aborted birth of something far more dangerous than any war, and that the furor and alarm it evoked at the time was fully justified, even though those expressing them may have reacted more from an instinct for danger than from reason.

The usual interpretation of the gostak incident is that it was a variation of the age-old political conspiracy. However, in such a conspiracy, a politically important individual recruits others, through compromising information or a promise of political power, to support him in a bid for higher office. In the early days of the Empire, before the Constitution, this usually meant attempting to seize the purple. In today's Empire, the rare conspiracy usually involves political maneuvers to force the local governor or vice-emperor to appoint the conspirators to offices for which they aren't qualified, or otherwise could little hope for.

But Pontius was not a person of any conventional importance. As a newspaper publisher he might influence public opinion to such degree as his readers were unable to distinguish fact from opinion, but no more; and his position as a subgubernator carried just enough power to charter a new colony, provided his superior did not check for the actual existence of the town, or grow suspicious when the usual municipal paperwork failed to appear.

Further, Pontius was not seeking higher office or greater power, which helps to explain why he was not stopped earlier. His goal was not power, but money. By charging a lower fee initially for his illegal gostak's services, he hoped to seize the legal distimmery's income, as a pirate might seize a merchant's cargo. His political maneuvers were all to make this possible and then let him get away with it.

His confederates, moreover, were not chosen for political power, nor sworn by a pact of treason. Instead, they were chosen for their wealth, which they contributed by "buying" portions of the gostak, which did not yet exist. With this money, Pontius bought land and material, hired workers, and created the gostak.

Though the conspirators had no polical goals, it is good that the vice-emperor reacted as he did, for the economic consequences of their success could have been devastating.

What Is Money?

The Lydians invented money as a convenient way of recording the outcome of trading. Before money, if a wine merchant delivered wine to a copper mine, he would have to accept copper hides in payment, then trade the hides to, perhaps, the shipowner who would bring in the next cargo of amphoras. Often the cycle of trading would be much longer than this. Not only did it involve lots of dickering (how many cotton shirts do you exchange for a basket of fish?), it was inefficient. The time that the wine merchant spent transporting and trading copper hides was time he was not trading in wine.

Money makes trade more efficient. Each merchant sells only his own product, and is paid a standard amount of money for it, which he can use anywhere to buy whatever he needs at standard prices. Money has problems of its own—it can be stolen easily, it can be counterfeited, and it can be adulterated (as witness the coinage of some of the early emperors). But by and large, the Lydian Experiment has to be judged a success [Clericus].

Success and Disaster

If the Praeseodymium plot is judged as inconsequential, it is because it happened to fail. To properly evaluate it, I believe, one must examine the consequences had it succeeded, which none of the literature has done.

The Praeseodymium plotters sought not power, but money. Yet they were already wealthy, as their purchases of Praeseodymium "shares" demonstrate. What would be the use of even greater wealth than they had already? Can a man sleep in more than one bed at a time, eat more than a full belly's worth of food, or drink more than a certain amount of wine without spewing it up again?

Given the obvious answer, we must infer a kind of money-fever, like the dosh-fever that drove the forty-niners or the power-hunger of early emperors like Nero and Caligula. The source of this pathology is less ominous than the effects on society if it were widespread, or customary.

If money were an actual thing, desirable for its own sake, and amassed in quantities far greater than the amount of property a single person might sensibly own, what might the consequences be for a society?

Might it not create a kind of business that the world has never seen? Instead of a business created by its owner and passed to his son, dedicated to the manufacture of a product or the management of a shop, imagine a group of men like the Praeseodymium conspirators being the norm. If money were the only object of a business, might not every business seek to become the only business in its field, by destroying its competition? By selling "shares" to the wealthy, and using the money thus raised to underwrite reduced prices, might a business not achieve exactly that? And once it had achieved its goal, might it not charge whatever it wished, now that its customers had nowhere else to turn? And was that not exactly what the Praeseodymium cabal intended, and tried to bring about?

That they did not succeed was largely because of public outrage stirred by the factor whom they targeted, and the vigorous response of an alert governor. But what if the factor had been a meeker man, or they had paid him money as part of the plot? What if the public had been less independent and outspoken than our Hippolytan colonists? What if Pontius had been the governor instead of the sub-governor, with troops at his disposal? What if the governor of Apalasia, or the aedile of Gregorius, had been part of the plot?

Let such a plot succeed once, and the same plotters, or imitators, may try again. Let them succeed often enough, and a new kind of business has been added to the economic model: a business whose sole aim is to make money for its "shareholders", without regard for the consequences to the public good or the economy. If it becomes widespread enough, can even the Emperor stamp it out? If it rises and spreads in a remote part of the Empire (and only Luna and Mars are more remote than Transoceana), would the Emperor even hear about it, if the governor and vice-emperor were lax, blind to the danger, or part of the plot? And what if a venal emperor became a "shareholder" himself?

The danger is not so much the political power that men of extreme wealth might wield (Though it could be considerable. Imagine a modern Maecenas buying votes, bribing legislators to pass laws in his favor, or purchasing all the newspapers in a province so that he could shape public opinion at will). The real danger would arise when such extreme wealth became respectable instead of monstrous. If a man of vast wealth were permitted to do anything he wished, who but the Emperor could check him? There are laws regulating the power of the Emperor, the Senate, the Assembly of Tribunes, all the organs of power; but who shall keep our new Maecenas from any abuse that pleases him?

The Crash of '29

It's not hard to imagine a world controlled by individuals who lust after political power above all else, as though political power were a real thing worth pursuing and having, like the love of a beautiful woman, or mastery of the flute. We have enough horrible examples in our history of single people who suffered from such a dementia, that we can dimly extrapolate a hell in which it were common. Whether we can fully imagine what such a world would be like, in all its particulars, I sincerely doubt; but at least the bow exists to launch the arrow, whether it hits the gold or not.

We are unequipped to imagine a world in which money is regarded as a real thing, desirable in and of itself. What would be the consequences if money, rather than honor and happiness, were the supreme passion of large numbers of people? How would everyday life be lived, and how would our public and private institutions be shaped, if the supreme standard by which all things were judged were "How much money will this get for me?" or "How much money will this cost me?"

The speculative-fiction novel of last year, The Crash of '29 [Paloma], posits a world in which companies are largely unregulated, and are owned not by a single person but by hundreds of people ("shareholders") who have each bought one or more portions of the ownership of the company ("shares"). Indeed, in this imaginary world of 3029, shares were often bought and sold, and almost everyone had "invested" far more than he could afford to lose. Thus, when a company on a planet of another star couldn't meet its debt payments, it dishonored itself by refusing to make any further payments. Other companies to which it owed money were forced to do the same, despite the public disgrace; and in the end all the companies failed (the "crash" of the title). The Empire in that novel drew its income from taxes on the citizens ("income tax"), so not only the citizens but the government itself found itself without funds. Remarkably, though real property and real wealth were unchanged, the mere lack of money made it impossible for people to live, because the "economy", enormously inflated by billions of caesars of unreal money, had "crashed".

Though Crash was widely read, the critics found it weak and unconvincing. In particular, they found the hypnotic non-human beings who engineered the entire chain of events, so that they could conquer the Empire without an army, unrealistic. They also didn't believe that people would place so much importance on money, nor that, if they did, they would then readily assume so much debt, or that they would be so helpless if the money went away.

But The Crash of '29 is an eerily accurate picture of what might happen if the Praeseodymium plot had succeeded. If speculative financing and ownership of profit-only companies became the norm, wouldn't everyone want to buy shares? And wouldn't ownership be divided into enough shares that everyone could indeed buy, thus maximizing sales? And wouldn't an unwise government see this sudden new wealth as a source of income? And wouldn't the whole structure, founded less and less on anything real, become shakier and shakier, until it must fall?

The scariest thing about linking Crash and the Praeseodymium plot is that it eliminates the improbable "aliens". Given the spread of publicly-owned, for-profit "corporations", we would do it to ourselves!

Even if such companies did not fail all at once, their effect on life would be predatory and devastating. Like an old carp introduced into a pond of young ones, they would begin gobbling everything up. What ordinary company, faced with the abnormally low prices that a corporation could afford to subsidize, would be able to compete? In short order all the ordinary companies would be replaced by shops of the same size, but owned by the corporation. Millions of independent business owners would be replaced by a smaller number of dependent wage earners, whose income came solely from the "corporations", who dared not quit and were paid less than a free business owner would make. Enough of the difference would go to keep the shareholders happy, after the corporate management took their cut, to perpetuate this system of economic slavery. The fact that this picture, and these terms, comes from a speculative-fiction novel, doesn't mean it couldn't happen.

Products in a Corporate World

Much of our way of life would fall victim to a world run by and for money-making corporations, who have no goal beyond the making of money. The pride of the working man would suffer, for he would work for a corporation that didn't care about the quality of his work, as long as he did it "well enough" that the customers, who had long forgotten what good quality was like, could tolerate it. The worker would find it difficult to start his own business, for only a large corporation could compete with the existing corporations, and such are not begun with one man's savings. If somehow he did succeed in establishing a place for himself in the market, the corporations would bring political pressure against him, or simply purchase his business, with or without his consent.

One imagines that nothing would escape being a product in the corporate world. The old empire had slavery, for instance. Can we say with certainty that the corporate world would not revive it, even uglier than before? If you buy a man, and own him, you need not pay him any wages whatsoever. A corporate world would probably not develop space travel; it would "cost too much money", for no immediate financial reward. But if it did, and found exploitable non-humanm species on other planets, would it hesitate to turn them into products? "Alien" slaves would not have to be branded or collared, for their appearance would mark them as slaves from birth. Apologists for slavery would soon develop a sales pitch that said the aliens were inferior, because humans found them and not the other way around; slavery would be made to sound like doing them a favor by civilizing them, as certain writers said of "the barbarians" in the early empire. This poisonous racial lie could well spread throughout the Empire and down the centuries, polluting the minds of slave and slaver alike, forever.

Equally serious is the effect that corporate money would have on the arts. In a world run by money, where everything had to be bought and paid for, art would be just another product. What artist could be wise enough to turn down the universal exposure that corporate sponsorship would bring? And what corporate Crassus could resist the idea that he knows more than anyone else about everything, because his corporation makes money in a world where that is all that counts? How long before art cannot exist without corporate sponsorship, and the form and content of that "art" is dictated by the corporations? Art that couldn't be sold would surely die stillborn. So would art that corporations believed couldn't be sold, or that the artists believed couldn't be sold.

The metamorphosis of art into corporate "product" is surely the worst foreseeable consequence of a corporate world that might have arisen had the Praeseodymium plot succeeded. Surely there are others that we fortunate citizens of the real world cannot imagine!


The importance of a nation's economic models is little appreciated. The early Empire mostly fought savages inferior in martial organization, weapons technology, and population. This let the Empire conquer even though it had no Constitution and was often wracked by civil war3. Defeats by the Persians underscored the need to establish the Empire on a firm foundation of law, but Persian and Roman economies were qualitatively similar [Asimovus], so the Imperial Constitution addresses political rights and curtails abuses of political power. It remains weak on economic rights and abuses of economic power.

The rejection of dosh by the Han, on religious grounds, left them at a technological disadvantage in the Mundane War. Desperate as the times may have seemed during the War, the Han electronic binary computers were no match for our multitronic decimal ones, "firearms" for dosheants, "airplanes" for airdoshers, nor "tanks" for armored autodoshers. Only the size of the Han population allowed their production to stay within shouting distance of ours [Sylvestris, pp. 225-240].

It has been widely suggested that the Han forced the war before their technological handicap could grow worse. Another point, which a search of the literature has not turned up, is that had they waited, they would have fallen under our control in any case, because of their economic deficiencies were as great as their technological ones. Unlike Roman money, Han currency was printed paper, without intrinsic value4, and represented whatever the issuing authority said it did. The "real" value of a note, or "bill", varied over time, depending on how many such notes were printed, how many the fiscal authorities allowed to circulate, and laws passed to shore up or bring down the price of various goods. Also, currency being printed by local mandarins and merchant houses, many notes were not recognized outside their province of origin. Others were recognized, but accepted at a rate subject to corruption and political regulation. It has been argued that this uncoupling of money from value would have defeated the Han in time, regardless of any armed conflict [Eboracensis].

In the second half of the 28th century, the Empire is preoccupied with absorbing the Han and organizing them into Roman vice-imperia. Given the size of Hippolytana the continent, setting up the former Han provinces here as the vice-empire of Cispacifica, rather than including them in the vice-empire of Hippolytana, was wise. Future vice-emperors may well choose to petition the Senate to further divide this continent, or further divide Eastern Asia and the Pacific islands [Cicero].

Looking to the future, it must be obvious to all that the consolidation and rule of Terra and the Solar System must be settled between Rome and Cuzco. Whether this will be determined by a Supermundane War, or by diplomacy, is a matter for Emperors (but see Laurentius [Laurentius] for some very intriguing suggestions).

But whatever form the struggle takes, economic models will be very important. Roman and Quechuan technology are very similar, nor are our political systems too different. Our economic systems, however, differ vastly.

How much will it matter that our Emperor owns no more than any other great noble, while the God-King of the Quechua owns everything, including the people themselves? How will it affect Quechuan morale that a great noble of that Empire controls several million times the wealth of a common laborer, as opposed to one thousand times, as in ours? What advantage or disadvantage will the existence of actual slaves, owned as property with no property of their own, confer on the Quechua?

The children of the 29th Century will undoubtedly know the answers to these and other crucial questions. Upon the answers depends whether the eagle of Rome, or the vulture of Cuzco, shall ascend to the waiting stars.

—Leo David Orionis, O. L., U. Calafiensis
Calafia, Hipolytana Cispacifica
a. d. 18 Kal. Ian. 2755 A.U.C.


1. The word factor has been used with a variety of meanings in the literature about the Praeseodymium incident. Granted, the word already has a number of meanings even when we exclude mathematical and scientific terminology. Ma. Septimus Narses was the factor of the Gregorian gostak in one of the usual senses of the word; i.e., he was the official in charge of the facility.

On the other side of the conflict, Aulus Pontius Bithynius was the factor of the Praeseodymium gostak in several senses of the word, being (a) the person who brought it into being, and (b) one of its owners, but he concealed any connection to it except as the sub-governor who approved the colony of Praeseodymium. Publius Menander Taurentius was the factor insofar as he managed the gostak, but he was not a public official, being paid by Pontius. The other conspirators were factors in that they owned "shares" of the gostak, but they had no say in its management, nor any control over its operations or policy.

This extension of the word factor in several new directions, to describe people all connected in different ways to the Gostacerium Praeseodymium, was what first made me think that the gostak represented something new.

2. This account of the Praeseodymium incident is drawn mostly from official records, so that there can be no dispute as to the facts of the case. Except when otherwise noted, my source is the Acta Apalasia DVD set.

3. The strength or weakness of one's economic model scarcely matters when one's opponents can hardly be said to have an economy.

4. The Han claim to have invented money independently of the Lydians, and archaeology shows they did indeed have copper and silver coins at one time, before they united into a single state. They also had currency of tortoise shells, cowry shells, ivory tablets, small gold ingots, and peacock feathers [Huan-Ling et Minucius]. In light of this, the question is not whether they invented money on their own, but whether they ever really had money at all, as opposed to a barter system with a strictly limited set of bartering tokens.


Acta Apalasia DVD, 12:2691-2700, Apalasia Gubernatorial Printing Office, Nasvilla, 2750.

Asimovus, Isacus Sarmatius, "Persian and Roman Economic Foundations in the 8th Century," Annals of the Imperial Institute of Economics, vol. 330, issue 4, January 2748.

Census Hippolytanus 2750 DVD set, Hippolytana Vice-Imperial Printing Office, Augusta Transoceana, 2750.

Cicero, Gregorius Iohannes, "Population, Geography, and History in former Han states: Sparse versus Turgid administrative trees integrated over time," Imperial Administration, vol. 521, issue 12, December 2722.

Clericus, Arturus C., "The Origins of Money," Scientific Hippolytan, October 2735.

Cymara, Fergus Lloidius, "Global Population Determinants," Scientific Hippolytan, September 2752.

Daryush, X., "Further Decipherment of the Library of Elam," Archaeologica Orientalis, vol. 200 [2748], issue 33.

Eboracensis, L. Tullius, et al., "Alternate Histories: Projections of Han Currency Policies from the 27th through 29th Centuries", Annals of the Imperial Institute of Economics, vol. 334, issue 27, August 2750.

Grosser, Ursula, History of Industrial Technology, University of Germania Press, Rome and Berlin, 2742.

Huan-Ling, Yu, and C. Minucius Senior, "Currency of Ancient Han Precursor States," Scientific Hippolytan, March 2745.

Laurentius, Ma. Gomessis, "Casting the Dice: Roman-Quechuan Accomodation Strategies from Mutual Destruction to Mutual Cooperation", Imperial Administration, vol. 524, issue 5, May 2725.

Lopessis, Iesus Iosephus, "Former Journalist, Publisher Found Dead," Nuntius Considianus, 2715:340:25.

Lugdunensis, C. Polonius, Correspondence in 18th-Dynasty Aegyptus, Aegyptian Archaeological Society Press, Rome and Alexandria, 2738.

Paloma, Henricus, The Crash of '29, Libri Baenici, Rome and Augusta Transoceana, 2754.

Procopius, M. Tertius, March of Conquest, Augustan Press, Rome and Constantinopolis, 2744.

Rhaetius, Franciscus Guillelmus, "Military Logistics with Respect to Dosh," Legionnary, February 2750.

Sylvestris, C. S., History of the Mundane War, Imperial Press, Rome, 2740. With a foreword from His Imperial Majesty Urban XXXII.

Sylvestris, ibid., pp. 225-240.

About This Story

This is the only thing I've written so far in the "Roma Aeterna" time line. Other items waiting their turn are the mystery stories "Death of a Demi-God", "A Vulture Too Late," and "Too Many Elephants".

Once upon a time, in the 1960's, I read a science-fiction story (probably in a science-fiction anthology checked out of a library) in which the protagonist was transported into another society. That society was divided by a slogan, "The Gostak distims the Doshes." No one could explain to him what the phrase meant, but it led to social disorder, and eventually international war, with great battles and naval actions, and much slaughter. This was the inspiration, in 2002, for what you're reading now. The original story, "The Gostak and the Doshes," by Miles J. Breuer, appeared in the March 1930 issue of Amazing Stories. So 72 years passed between his story, and my take on his idea, and another 16 years between my first version, and this one. For other takes, "google" the phrase on the internet.

So what (or who) is a gostak, who (or what) the doshes, and how does one distim them? The original story never did say, and if it was good enough for him…

Actually, I decided what the words meant in the context of this story, but I'm not sure any purpose is served by revealing my answer. Make up your own, and see how well it fits. Here's a glossary to aid you.


Airdosher (aerodoscēans)—Heavier-than-air transportation. Airdoshers in the 28th century completely replaced the lighter-than-air airships used throughout the Empire from the middle of the previous century.

A.U.C. (Ab Urbe Condita)—The Roman calendar, dating from the founding of the City of Rome. Subtract 753 from Roman years to get dates in the Christian calendar; for instance, 2755 A.U.C. is 2002 A.D.

Autodosher (autodoscēans)—A mechanical vehicle for travel on land; a horseless carriage.

Cingutana—The continent bordered by the Mediterranean Sea on the north, the Atlantic Ocean on the West, and the Indian Ocean on the east. The Cingutanan provinces of Africa and Aegyptus are two of the oldest provinces in the Empire, and Aegyptus was the home of a civilization old before Rome was founded.

Distim (distīmere)—To transform raw doshes into useful dosh.

Dosh (doscēdium)—The end-product of distimming, hence the output of a gostak.

Dosheant (doscēans)—The personal weapon of a modern infantry soldier.

Doshery (doscēria)—A natural region in which doshes are found and may be harvested.

Doshes (doscēdēs)—The harvest of a doshery. Doshes are distimmed into dosh in a gostak.

Europa—The continent bordered by the Mediterranean Sea on the south, the Atlantic Ocean on the West, and the Ural Mountains on the east. The City of Rome, capital of the Empire, is in the Europan province of Italia. Europa is ruled under the Emperor by a Vice-Emperor, whose capital is Constantinopolis, sometimes referred to by its old Greek name of Byzantium.

Gostak (gostacerium)—The building or collection of buildings in which doshes are distimmed into dosh; a distimmery.

Mundane War (2712-2720 A.U.C.)—The world war (Bellum Mundānum, Ūniversum, or Ūniversāle) between the Roman, Han, and Quechuan empires. Major theaters were: (1) India, where hostilities began when Roman legions came to the aid of the Indian Emperor against invading Han armies; (2) Persia, where Persian and Roman legions fought a second Han attack; (3) Australia, where Quechuan and Han colonies fought each other; (4) Hippolytana, where Han and Roman colonies fought; and (5) Luna, where Roman and Quechuan colonies fought. Major fleet actions occurred in the South Pacific Ocean, South Atlantic Ocean, and cis-Lunar space as well. Europa, Cingutana, Brasilia, and trans-Lunar space (including Mars) saw little or no action.

Nedosh (nedoscēria)—A natural region totally devoid of doshes; a doshless wasteland.

Transoceana—The continents of Hippolytana and Brasilia, across the Atlantic Ocean from Europa and Cingutana, hence the name.

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