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In this setting Pangaea never broke apart into different landmasses. Instead it stayed together as one giant super continent. As a result, most human civilizations developed along the coastline, where the most fertile land is. Because human society is in relative proximity to each other, cultures and religions became more homogeneous and globalization occurred far sooner than in our world. Travel and communication became easier, with sea travel being the most common as one could theoretically get to any civilization by boat.

The interior of the super continent contain vast regions of desert. This is where marginal and disenfranchised people have been known to reside (exiles, defeated kingdoms, criminals, etc). Over time, this developed into a civilization of its own. It has dreams of making war against its neighbors and establishing a world wide empire, but is at a significant disadvantage due to its lack of resources.

How could an empire developing this deep into Pangaea gain control of its neighbors?

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    $\begingroup$ "Defeated kingdoms" aren't "marginal and disenfranchised people" in the way you say they are. $\endgroup$ – RonJohn Oct 14 '18 at 20:44
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    $\begingroup$ Have you never heard of (in chronological order) the Persians? The Arabs? The Mongols? The Russians? Those are all great empires which sprang from less-then-ideal lands. One of them is still standing... (And Persia remains a very large country.) $\endgroup$ – AlexP Oct 14 '18 at 22:09
  • $\begingroup$ Defeated monarchies can flea, "kingdoms" are geopolitical entities, the land they're on won't be moving anywhere. $\endgroup$ – Ash Oct 15 '18 at 10:28
  • $\begingroup$ What about the 'continental divide'? The layout/arrangement of drainage areas of the larger overall continent would be of major tactical and strategic importance, from a military maneuver perspective, both in terms of troop movements, as well as resource aqcuisition and management. Are we dealing with a single mountain range (like south america), two parallel ranges (north america), a ring of mountains with a depression/crater in the center (mordor), a central peak with radiating arms of lower ranges dividing up the outer edges? $\endgroup$ – Dalila Oct 15 '18 at 21:42
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The Mongols are a Good Example

What really made the mongols so effective at expansion was how they were willing to incorporate the people they conquered into their plans to conquer their next target. Thanks to a campaign of brilliant (and brutal) psychological domination the mongols often utilized captured specialists to perform tasks for them that they themselves could not do. This is how despite being a rather simplistic and backwards tribe of nomads from the barren steppes they were able to construct huge siege engines and vast navies. That is to say, they were able to force their conquered subjects to build such things for them. All your inland fledgling empire needs to do is conquer one of the coastal empires and then through psychological and physical domination force them to build and crew the ships for them. Everyone likes to think that they would be a hero and resist the invaders, but the reality is that if you are a shipwright and are faced with the choice between a very lucrative and generous contract with the new rulers, or having everyone in your family and anyone who even vaguely knows you be raped, tortured and executed you tend to rather happily accept the former option. Its not very nice, but its how some smelly barbarians on little horses were able to conquer damned near everyone they met.

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  • $\begingroup$ What really made the Mongols so effective was that their nomadic horseman lifestyle had a great built-in logistics system, and was perfect for long-distance invasion. $\endgroup$ – RonJohn Oct 14 '18 at 21:22
  • $\begingroup$ And, of course, had a few talented and dynamic leaders. It all collapsed when the last died out. That doesn't help with "retain control over its neighbors". Of course, OP also writes, "gain control", so he might not be thinking clearly. $\endgroup$ – RonJohn Oct 14 '18 at 21:26
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    $\begingroup$ The mongol empire did not just die out overnight, Kublai Khan's sons and grandsons continued to rule and conquer for quite a good while, the mongol empire was actually around for close to 300 years in some form. This is actually pretty typical of most of the empires of the era, splitting into different regions based on whom inherited what upon the death of the ruler. $\endgroup$ – TCAT117 Oct 14 '18 at 21:44
  • $\begingroup$ The Mongol Empire divided during Kublai Khan's reign. He didn't rule as much as his predecessor did. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Division_of_the_Mongol_Empire $\endgroup$ – RonJohn Oct 14 '18 at 21:54
  • $\begingroup$ The Steppes that gave rise to the Mongol Empire are an amazingly rich environment compared to the interior of a super continent. $\endgroup$ – Ash Oct 15 '18 at 10:31
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This answer assumes that you are actually living on a desert far off nearby waters

You basically lose your chances of waging war towards the kingdoms that are near the coastline, because of Water

Technological advancements would be a pain, specially since if your age would start on somewhere from primitive to medieval age, water helped craft metals which is essential for your civilization to advance technologically. And water is essential to every day life so....

So, what could you do?

Rather than invading them, WORK with them, that way you'll have access to water, which would then provide you to somehow enhance your technology and build your empire or your country.

BUT you still want to CONTROL them right?

Then control them in a different perspective.

All of their lives they live in a paradise different than yours, culture, arts and even science. You must "showcase" your culture, arts and science as beautiful as you could, as true as you could as the best as you could, and if the people from the coast accepts those, then that could be one way to control the other kingdoms.

Here are some examples to elaborate my point.

Religion: Rome, Italy - Vatican City. The place where the pope lives. The Pope "controls" (in a way) how catholics worship. One example is Pope John Paul II introduced the Mysteries of Light.

Culture: Japan's culture is widely envied, accepted and loved worldwide (specially their anime), yes they lost the war, but they won the hearts of many people, including the nation that dropped the bombs wink.

Arts: African American Rap music is regarded as one of the most "influential" arts as it somehow "dictates" the way someone wishes to live, from being a hustler, a baller, a gangster. Even the way they speak is influenced by this.

Science: Albert Einstein is a German theoretical physicist. IF Hitler just produced a million or more of this guy (Not going to "clone" him, but let other nations LEARN from him) Germany could have influenced more countries in the field of science and maybe, dictate the flow of technology advancements.

TL:DR War is not the only option to control other countries, there are plenty of other way to influence them, essentially controlling them without them knowing it.

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A Matter of Priorities

Consider the role of Prussia in central Europe. By making the military a priority, they could "punch above their weight" and unify Germany in a manner that kept their rivals, the Austrians, out.

  • A militaristic society with a sense of "mission" to avenge perceived slights.
  • A militaristic leadership to keep them on course.
  • An ideology that allows them to incorporate the conquered areas without a loss of focus.

Remember what happened when the Chinese were conquered by the Manchu. Pretty soon, the Manchu were Chinese ...

Have them put great store in being raised in the central badlands. The only source of hardy warriors and disciplined leaders, and all that. Local governors must send their children back home, and leaders of assimilated people may be allowed to send their children to the badlands. Most survive the hardships, and become new leadership cadre.

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The realities of a super continent are that while people may be pushed to the damper margins of the central desert they simply can't live in the deep desert in any numbers or for any great length of time; the Atacama Desert is wetter and more hospitable to human kind than the interior of Pangaea. The only way I can see for such a fringe to become an influential civilisation would be through:

A. carefully exploiting ground water resources to become an actual civilisation rather than a scattering of oasis towns scraping a living at the edges of the richer coastal societies.

and

B. having exclusive access to a strategic resource, or resources, not easily found on the coast. Saltpeter is one example of a material that can be mined in large volumes, of high purity product, in desert deposits that can only be sourced in wetter environments through complex chemistry. Metal ores could be accessible in the deserts that aren't found elsewhere simply because of an accident of location. This is believable given the shear size of the deserts as a percentage of the total landmass.

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