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The Aurean Dominate is a large, Romano-Byzantine-inspired multiplanetary empire covering the entirety of the Planet Aurea, plus some bits and pieces of the neighboring worlds Awal, Vigam, and Arturia. Its southernmost province on Aurea is Tiorangi, covering roughly the entirety of a roughly Australia-sized island continent whose southernmost point is very close to but does not quite touch the south pole (think a similar latitude to the Ross Ice Shelf).

The northern third or so of Tiorangi is fairly flat, sits along the path of a warm ocean current, and has a mild, wet oceanic climate, similar to northwestern Europe. The west coast, while not as warm as the north, also experiences fairly mild weather for its latitude thanks to the same ocean current, featuring dense forests beginning to transition into taiga, similar to northern New England, Quebec, and the Canadian Maritimes. Further inland, the climate dries out somewhat and becomes more continental, similar to eastern Europe or the American upper midwest. In the center of the continent where the Coast Ranges block precipitation from the east coast and the other coasts are too remote for much precipitation penetrate, lie the dessicated and nearly uninhabited badlands of the Edimorca Desert, similar to the Taklamakan or Gobi. The southern coast, completely ice-bound in the winter months, is covered in dense taiga and features extreme continental weather, not unlike Siberia or northern Canada. The east coast, hemmed in by the high peaks of the Coast Ranges and featuring a cold current funneled up the coast by the Tarutaru Islands, is cold with seasonal precipitation mostly occurring in the warm summer months, similar to Manchuria and North Korea.

Unsurprisingly, almost the entire population lives along or close to the northern, western, or eastern coasts, particularly the north, as it is both the part of the province most suited to agriculture and is closest to the larger landmasses of Aurea. Despite this, Paeburna (Paivourna if you speak Centralian rather than Aurean), the main port of the north and communications hub to the rest of the Aurean Dominate, is only the second largest city and is not the provincial capital. Instead, both titles go to Pahia, a cold city 3,400 feet above sea level in the Coast Ranges near the east coast.

My question is, how could I justify making somewhere in a hostile environment like Pahia the provincial capital when the north is much more suited to agriculture and closer to less remote territories of the empire?

enter image description here Koppen Climate Map of Tiorangi Province:

-Cities with <50K inhabitants in black

-Cities with >50K inhabitants in white

-9 Largest non-Capital cities in Cyan

-Capital (Pahia) in hot pink

-Major rail lines in grey

enter image description here Climate Data for Pahia

enter image description here Climate Data for Paeburna (Paivourna)

The tech level we're working with here is sort of late medieval-early renaissance (cannons but no handheld firearms). Railroads were imported very recently as the first step in an ongoing modernization project, with contractors from the much more advanced Ishga civilization hired to build them. Space travel is handled magically rather than technologically in a complex system I've explained elsewhere.

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  • $\begingroup$ It's an empire? so there's an emperor, so he just likes it there then .. oh and [-] for that great big wall of mostly unreadable text packed chock full of largely unhelpful information .. for a start we do not need to know any of your in-world names for things or places, they add nothing and just get in the way. $\endgroup$
    – Pelinore
    Commented Jun 18 at 17:19
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    $\begingroup$ "How could I justify making somewhere in a hostile environment the capital?" Do you realize that the capital of the mighty Russian Empire was Saint Petersburg? That the capital of the one and only Republic of India is New Delhi? That the great country of Kazakhstan has voluntarily moved its capital from the balmy and fragrant Alma-Ata to the decidedly rigorous Astana? That the Brazilians actually spent an unimaginable fortune to build a new capital city in the middle of nowhere rather than use any of their ready made splendid sea-side cities? $\endgroup$
    – AlexP
    Commented Jun 18 at 17:33
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    $\begingroup$ Never mind the capital, why is there a city way up there in the first place? $\endgroup$
    – Cadence
    Commented Jun 18 at 18:19
  • $\begingroup$ @Pelinore it's an empire in the sense that it's a gigantic and diverse political unit ruled from the central capital of Astras in Argentolia Province. There isn't an "Emperor" though, there Aurean Dominate is led by an elected leader called a Dominus who wields (mostly) supreme executive power subject so Senate approval or veto. Also Provinces like Tiorangi have their own local governments that pledge allegiance to and cooperate with the central government in Astras, it's complicated $\endgroup$ Commented Jun 18 at 18:19
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    $\begingroup$ OK, so just have that where the empire started then, all empires have to start somewhere, and inertia can often be an overwhelmingly strong force in human affairs, politics, industry and culture, your explanation doesn't have to be complicated. $\endgroup$
    – Pelinore
    Commented Jun 18 at 20:40

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Places like this tend to become economic and cultural centers

Because the North has so much better agriculture, it is as a general rule, more spread out. There are big cities there, yes, but they are each far apart and only exist to serve as hubs for the sprawling agriculture nearby. When you look at the area around Pahia though, there are several large cities in close proximity in every direction.

With that many people, and so little agriculture, this part of the country is likely to be your hub for everything that is not food: Industrialists, Innovators, Bankers, Artists, Writers, Poets, and Musicians tend to accumulate in places where life is a bit harder and survival takes more ingenuity than just farming the endless swaths of resources around you. And these sorts of people tend to be more politically minded and have more influence over politics than the simple farmers and plantation owners in your Northern territories. So, it's not that life is pleasant in Pahia that makes it a natural choice for your capital, it's that it is a bit harder. It's where there are a lot of people willing to try new things. It's were there are a lot of desperate starving people who are easy to exploit for profits. It's where you will see your newspapers and other cultural works coming out of to influence the rest of the region. Basically, think of it like New York (the original capitol of the United States), and its location will make a lot of sense.

The only real question is what created such a large population in a resource scarce area to begin with?

There are a few possible explanations for this. You already mentioned that it's not the closest shore to the mainland; so, it's probably not the most convenient place to immigrate to, but depending on whether patterns, a farther port is sometimes actually easier to get to. Most of the early settlements in the New World came to the Caribbean region because even though it is farther from Europe than most of North America, Ocean currents and wind patterns made it the quickest way across.

It is also possible that most immigration simply did not come from the closest/easiest possible place. While the northern region may be closer to the mainland, there may be cultural reasons for more immigration to happen from somewhere farther away like how Ancient Ireland was made of mostly Iberian immigrants even though Britain was so much closer. The Iberian Celts were just more inclined to spread out, and Ireland was the most available place for them to go.

Or there may have at some point been an especially valuable resource here which caused a "gold" rush (or maybe for your setting a Navigation Crystal rush). That resource may or may not still be here, but it could have caused a mass immigration here by particularly ambitious people.

Lastly, High Elevations Make for good Space Ports

While not ideal for a sea port, the city might be an ideal place for a space port. You mentioned in your other question that your ships need to get up to speed to take off and have trouble flying long distances through the atmosphere; so, what better way to do address that than by using the water features you only find at higher elevations. Perhaps this city is next to a large raised lake similar to Lake Titicaca. As a bonus feature, the lake might feed out into a giant waterfall: No better way to get a boat up to take off speed than free fall. Because of this, the city might be a center for interplanetary trade even if it's not the most convenient place for other kinds of trade.

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    $\begingroup$ Bankers tended historically to be located in centres of trade eg London, not in places where life is just plain harder - the financial capital probably isn't the governing capital in this case. The vast majority of artists, writers, poets and musicians are poor, they can't afford to live somewhere with high food and heating bills (assuming the population is mobile enough that they get a choice). The (historically racist) idea that inventors tend to come out of harder environments has been debunked. $\endgroup$ Commented Jun 18 at 22:33
  • $\begingroup$ @KerrAvon2055 I said Innovators, not Inventors. Inventors come from every walk of life, but the people who come up with and apply new economic opportunities tend to come out of places with large wage gaps and unemployment issues. Earlly banks started off in places where people were desperate for loans where they could charge high interest rates, not in places that already had stable and safe economies. Artists, writers, poets and musicians are poor, yes, but they have to migrate to cultural centers to make a living at all, and that means going to cities where the big industry is culture. $\endgroup$
    – Nosajimiki
    Commented Jun 19 at 15:51
  • $\begingroup$ Paris, Hollywood, New York, etc. These are expensive places to live, yet they were also the places you needed to go to make it as an artists. I'm not saying that the place is hard for everyone, I'm saying that the place needs to develop as a cultural, financial, and manufacturing center out of necessity due to its large population and few natural resources. $\endgroup$
    – Nosajimiki
    Commented Jun 19 at 15:53
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Why Just one?

As others have pointed out, centers of industry and culture are normally good places for capital, and Pahia may meet those requirements. However, the capital does not need to be where the farming happens, to Pahia is a choice that works.

However, one capital seems too small for this region. With the technology level mentioned, communication would be slow(barring magical communication that makes this irrelevant), which favors a more decentralized government. This whole island would probably be broken into smaller provinces, as they will be more effective at governing themselves than a single large province considering slow communication.

But wait! Aren't there trains that allow fast communication? Yes, and now smaller regional capitals are not as necessary. However, the trains seem to be a recent addition. Before the rail lines, the island would likely be broken up into smaller provinces, and there is little reason to change this after the rail lines were added. So unless the empire suddenly had a pressing need to completely change the structure of the government recently, they would probably keep the smaller provinces, even if they're no longer strictly necessary.

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  • $\begingroup$ Even if it is many smaller provinces, those provinces should still be united under a more centralized government which would have a capital. Very rarely do unified nations have more than one top level capitol city. $\endgroup$
    – Nosajimiki
    Commented Jun 18 at 21:24
  • $\begingroup$ @Nosajimiki I was under the impression that these were regional capitals, not actually the national capital. If it is the national capital than yes three would probably be only one, but since they are mentioning only one island in a larger empire, this is probably a regional capital at best. $\endgroup$
    – Bubbles
    Commented Jun 19 at 3:31
  • $\begingroup$ The OP said that his nation is based after the Roman/Byzantine Proventil system. At its height, Rome had less than 50 provinces. The Aurean Dominate is a multi-planetary empire; so, if they were to divide thier empire into about 50 provinces, and we assume at least 5-10 of these are on other worlds, then the average provence should be at least the size of Australia. $\endgroup$
    – Nosajimiki
    Commented Jun 19 at 17:57
  • $\begingroup$ Also, this whole region only has 20 cities with populations over 50k suggesting a total population of probably 5-10 million people; so, even though the climate is diverse, it may actually be like New Zealand where it's not very big, but still contains a lot of different climate zones due to elevation changes and weather patterns. $\endgroup$
    – Nosajimiki
    Commented Jun 19 at 18:13
  • $\begingroup$ In a situation like this, the population actually matters a lot less than area does, as it is a problem of communications being to slow. Doesn't matter if there is few people living there, the distance is what counts. With such a large area, you would probably want to divide it into more than 50 provinces. Also, Ths landmass is Australia-sized, which is twice the size of the roman empire, so by that measure, it should have 100 provinces. $\endgroup$
    – Bubbles
    Commented Jun 20 at 5:04
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Reason 1: It is defensible

There are many historic capitol cities that exist in their location purely because they were the most defensible position against invaders, so it was where the King built their castle and so became de-facto the capitol.

Reason 2: It is centrally located

So I have lived in 2 countries: UK and NZ. In the UK, the Capitol is Laaaaandon (innit) and it is in the South of England. If you are familiar with UK Regional politics, you may be aware of the North-South Divide - where the South (and those regions closer to London) tend to be more economically prosperous than those further away (up t'North). I currently live in NZ. Auckland is by far our biggest city (and for a time was the capitol city) - It has all the trappings of a Capitol city, but the Capitol is Wellington - which is at the bottom of the North Island - it is much more centrally located and was the reason it was chosen to be the seat of governmental power.

Reason 3: The Warriors reason

Tough circumstances raise Tough people - the Capitol should be in a hostile climate so that only the Strong may rule. Many cultures have rituals and rites of passage that involve pain, suffering and demonstrating a willingness to do something to prove yourself.

It could be that the culture of your people rejects conveniences and the trappings of Luxury in order to make sure that each generation has to struggle to survive and therefore produce the type of person worthy of ruling.

Think of the Spartans with their Agoge or for a less war-like example - the Amish.

Reason 4: It just kinda happened

This is the more historically plausible reason, although normally there are a number of Geographic reasons that support this. Most organic Capitol cities exist where there is a Navigable River, for Trade, but that is far enough away from the coast that it is protected from raiding parties (See Defensible comment) - so you get Trade, commerce, riches etc. with less risk.

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    $\begingroup$ For reason #3, it's less likely that this place was chosen to breed a warrior caste, as it is the seat of a warrior empire. Any time a place outgrows its means, that place tends to go on to conquer its neighbors to expand its means. So, it could be that this place was not chosen as the capitol so much as it started off as an insignificant city state that conquered the rest of the region making it the de facto capital. $\endgroup$
    – Nosajimiki
    Commented Jun 18 at 21:30
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Unique place of power.

During the mage-wars of legend, the last survivors of an ancient civilization fled from the coastal city where they were being overrun by conquerors.

They were pursued by the hoards, the objective being a total eradication of that people.

In the swamps, they made a desperate last stand, step by step they were pushed back until their numbers dwindled to a few hundred, including the women, children, elderly and a few surviving mages. The two or three companies of guardsmen were bedraggled and weary, the ruling family - undistinguishable from peasants by the mud and demeanor.

On arrival at what is now the center of the city, hemmed-in by hostile wilderness with hungry predators on three sides and the hoard on the forth, they met their fate.

Not all was as it seemed. The remnant mages, enfeebled by their flight and previous battles, started to fight. Something extraordinary happened.

Their normally tame powers were suddenly magnified tenfold and more. A simple freeze spell which would normally fix a scold's tongue for a few minutes or paralyze an arm or a leg in place - suddenly great swathes of the hoard were falling catatonic and helpless. The battle turned in their favor. The hoard diminished and failed, the peoples were safe, for the moment.

The food was running low, diseases began to take the weak. The mages again discovered that their powers were magnified. Ailments were cured, remaining rations were multiplied and the people were fed.

A new home was established, dwellings and gathering places placed on wooden stilts dragged from a few miles away by ass and man at first, new sources of food were found - birds and small mammals normally undisturbed by people were now a boon and a child's rite-of-passage to hunt.

Word spread. Many travelled from afar seeking the ministrations of these now most powerful magic-users - who were sited still in that place where their power had proven strongest in the people's defense. Goiters were shrunk, extra fingers were no-longer a family curse - the healing powers here were the people's greatest asset. Trade flourished, the city grew.

Eventually, some clever scribe figured out what was going on. The lines of magical power were known to cross in many places, these were known for their allowing access to increased spell effectiveness. Reports were mapped, the lines were traced and the reasons were revealed. A grand conjunction of many (~7 ish) great lines of power were found to all meet at exactly that spot. No-one had dared venture there before with the intention of casting spells. It wasn't discovered because no-one in their right mind would have gone there of their free will. Tragedy, chance and fortune had brought them there to that place which saved them in their direst need.

At least, that's the story that's been passed down. Only the mages and their scribes keep such records accurately, and the oral tradition tends to exaggeration and heroism. The scribes aren't saying anything to contradict their masters.

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Administrative/political reasons

It's not at all uncommon for many modern-day countries to have their capital located in a relatively small city, or at least not in one of the biggest cities. Some examples - Ottawa in Canada (4th largest city, much smaller population than Toronto or Montreal), Canberra in Australia (8th most populous and far far smaller than Sydney, Melbourne or other big cities), Ankara in Turkey - far smaller than Istanbul, and many other examples.

There can be many reasons for this. Sometimes the big cities and regions around them evolve a distinct regional identities and concerns and for political reasons the capital is placed in a 'neutral' territory. Sometimes the capital city is purpose-built to house the nation's/empire's government. Maybe there are some tensions between your empire's outlying offworld territories where life is harsh and the rich and developed parts of the homeworld and the capital is positioned away from those parts to try and minimize those tensions. Perhaps your capital's climate is more similar to the prevailing climate of the neighbouring worlds it owns than the more fertile northern parts of the continent.

With a sufficiently developed technological level you can have large cities in very inhospitable climates - Las Vegas in in the middle of a desert and there are multiple cities in Siberia with population of over a million. Since your empire's technological level has to be higher than modern day Earth it's even less of a concern.

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Magic.

Or Sufficiently Obfuscating Technobabble, if you prefer. You have an interstellar empire. All bets are off.

The mountains are a single giant self-aware self-expanding supercomputer that rules every aspect of your otherwise primitive society. The "capital city" is really just the people who benefit from up-cycling the computer's waste, since there's no human government.

The bargain struck between the dread Wizard-kings and the Spirits of Air and Darkness to travel the void between world requires that they never again descend to the fertile valleys of their home.

The Gate Builders left the World Portal here for reasons unknown except to their own long-lost magic.

The Gate Builders left the Wormhole Ring here, along with a sign which scholars of the primordial language believe translates to "Scenic overlook - no fishing." There has been a small but vocal cult ever since advocating an immediate and total end of fishing in the Great Rapids River so that when the Gate Builders return, they will not smite us for our transgressions.

The Space Dragons which carry us between worlds prefer to roost atop mountains.

The Quantum Trimethyl Sagittarius Drive doesn't work well at pressures higher than 0.9 bar because the Inverse Toshiba effect causes a resonance cascade in the lateral triangulation matrix. As a result, all space ports must be situated where the atmospheric pressure seldom gets that high.

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