Cities of Tirenia: Taras
The city of Taras is located on a small walled island between the Grand Harbour and the Little Harbour, a reservoir large enough to hold ships. Overlooking the city to the south-west is Mount Taleton.
Taras was an ancient Ercolian city founded about the year 1182 A.A.S. by the local hero Taras, the son of a local nymph. During a shipwreck, he was carried ashore here by a friendly dolphin. The city developed a reputation for its mighty soldiers, and today calling someone a Tarasian is a poetic way to compliment their strength, endurance or skill at arms. It became the most powerful city in Ercolia. Part of its success was in creating a slave population, called helots, from towns that fought them. This led them into conflict with Auromia. The Tarasians proved their prowess when they drove back Auromia’s mighty armies, even though greatly outnumbered, but in 748 A.A.S. the Tarasians were defeated. Their control over Ercolia was lost, and the helots were freed. Taras gradually grew again, and it became a major part of the Kingdom of Trinacia. After the death of Ruggiero il Vulpo in 609 A.S. his sons fought between them to succeed him, and after three years of war they divided the Kingdom between them. The Principate of Taras became an independent state that acknowledged the overlordship of the Kingdom of Trinacia. This situation remains the case to this day.
In 987 A.S. the last Prince of Taras died, and the Prince of Trinacria inherited the title and land, which he bestowed upon his heir. Taras and the surrounding lands are now the possession of the heir presumptive to the kingdom. As the Prince of Taras generally dwells in Kymaiopoli, the principate is managed by the viceré who dwells in Taras. The city also has its own sindaco, who runs the civic government. The patron saint of Taras is Saint Nikon, an itinerant ascetic preacher whose holy suffering was reminiscent of the asceticism of the old Tarasian warriors. His relics are held in the city’s great Cattedrale, for which he helped lay the foundations.
The memory of the old Tarasians still runs strong. Philosophers and statesmen hold up Taras at the greatest city that ever lived for its emphasis on the martial virtues. Those who love Taras tend to ignore its unfortunate history of slaveholding. Taras has its own mercenary company, the Sons of Taras, that only accepts those who can endure great pain and deprivation.
Image: 'Port of Taranto.' Leonardo Coccorante, 1738.