The city of Civitas Sykofantia sits on the shore of Lake Sykofantia, a high-elevation salt lake the size of Lake Superior in the US. The lake is located on the Great Pagomenos Plateau, a huge escarpment 9,500 feet above sea level, extending south from the Pagomenos Mountain Range. Due to elevation the city has a frigid subarctic climate.

Climate data for Civitas Sykofantia: enter image description here

The city has great economic wealth. It exports huge amounts of lumber, salt, osmiridium (a fictional metal), and caviar from a local sturgeon species. They export goods using flying sailboats called startreaders (use the link for context) that take off and land on the lake.

The city has a population of at least 100k. How would a civilization with a late medieval/early renaissance tech level feed and hydrate such a city?

  • $\begingroup$ Are assuming that the city is self sufficiently feeding itself? Keep in mind that the city of Rome was feeding itself by importing grain, predominantly from Egypt, over 1400 years before the early renaissance. $\endgroup$
    – sphennings
    Aug 11, 2022 at 15:56
  • $\begingroup$ @sphennings not completely self-sufficient (The Aurean Dominate, the empire in question, is heavily inspired by Rome to begin with and they can import food from more agriculturally productive areas like Tifinagh, Zebusylvania, or the Pheron Valley) but I'd imagine they'd want to produce at least a decent portion of it locally because imports are expensive. $\endgroup$ Aug 11, 2022 at 16:01
  • $\begingroup$ Exporting lumber via sailboats sounds implausible. Maybe it can be rafted down otherwise impassable rapids, if you have any rivers? Also, 100k population in late Medieval sounds implausible - 5k for the whole plateau should do. $\endgroup$
    – alamar
    Aug 11, 2022 at 16:54
  • $\begingroup$ @alamar click the "startreaders" link, read the top comment on that post, and it'll make a bit more sense. $\endgroup$ Aug 11, 2022 at 17:03
  • 3
    $\begingroup$ whatever rivers feed said lake will be normal fresh water. $\endgroup$
    – John
    Aug 11, 2022 at 18:17

2 Answers 2


Fish from the lake, and imported food acquired in trade. For water, cryo-desalination.

Since you already said that there are fish in the lake (the sturgeon that supplies the caviar), it stands to reason that fish would be the primary protein for this city.

Since the city has such great wealth, they would develop finer tastes and just import grains, vegetables, other protein, etc. that they acquire in trade for their commodities.

Water can be desalted from the salty lake by freezing it. Look up Cryo-Desalination. This could be achieved using a series of successive freezing ponds, or just done on a household level.


The flying sailboats are used to transport potatoes into the city. Ancient Rome did something similar. Most of their grain came from Egypt rather than from the Hinterlands of Rome. To make imports easier just put the city on the edge of the escarpment and put the farms at the bottom. There is little horizontal distance for the ships to cover but a lot of vertical distance. As you say this is expensive but they make the money back transporting loads of tasty ore in the outgoing ships. It is a waste to send the ships home empty. So fill them with potatoes.

Water is a harder issue. Rome used aquwowaducts to sent water downhill from far away. This will not work for you since your city is high up. Instead I suggest their water comes from melting nearby glaciers. To melt the water they dig their buildings a few metres into the ground. This makes them warmer than the surrounding arctic land and brings them above freezing point.

Perhaps it is unrealistic to have glaciers on top of a plateau. Perhaps it is unrealistic to have ore mines on top of a plateau too. Your homework is to find out.


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