I'm considering an alternative history of the Earth were in the last century of the Western Roman Empire, a large group of christian settlers, about 1.000, from a mix of the nestorian and the manichean sects, arrived to South Australia from India.

These settlers soon lost every contact with the other cultures of the Old World and in few centuries created a little but extremely prosperous empire of confederated state-cities along the shores of South and South-East Australia. Their political form was a sort of elective monarchy-theochracy where every city had a bishop-king and all of them elected a Pope-Imperator.

I have a long list of questions to ask for improving the plausibility of this history and this empire, but the first that waits for your advice is this:

1.- What are the most plausible relations of these late-roman-early-mediaeval christians with the australian aboriginal population?

Is important to know some things about these settlers:

1.- The religion and moral of this para-manichaean sect abhorres slavery and war. They will barter or beg every thing they take, even land. Their religious values also make their population increase extremely low. They use to be extremelly honest in trade and politics.

2.- Their "science" and technology is equal to the late roman, but there were only basic artisans and humble peasants between the first setlers. They had no philosophers, no librarians, no warriors, no architects. They know the principles of basic roman buildings: bricks, teals, archs, water supply, but they couldn't build a huge domed Pantheon.

3.- Some of them can read and write, but their culture is proper from the lowest classes. They haven't kept with them most of the classical greek and latin writings. The first settlers have a large degree of familiarity with roman religion and mythology, but they reject it.

4.- They are not racist (if such ideology was posible in late Antiquity) but they are not proselitist. They consider that a man has to know extremely well their religion before being accepted into his group. They will teach some basic concepts of their religion to the native people if they are begged to, but they will not go very far if they are not pressed.

5.- They believe that true Salvation is impossible without a harsh ascetic and philosophical effort to achieve perfection. When a man dies and has done enough merits, they believe, he reencarnates in a child belonging to a "more saint" and socially superior family where he will have more chances to improve himself. They marry and have childs, but sex is "imperfect" and very large families are shameful. They will not practice marriage or sex with natives. If there are children from some "sins" comitted with natives, these persons will be feeded and nurtured and treated kindly, but they will never be accepted in the "saint" classes.

I think that the result of this interaction may be some kind of feudalism where the economically and technically more advanced manichaean-christians will be the upper castes, but I beg for your opinions.

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    $\begingroup$ Manichees are most definitely not Christians. St. Augustine was Manichean before he converted to Christianity, and he wrote several letters about the errors of the Manichean faith. That being said, Manichean-ism was a proselytizing religion of its own that was heavily persecuted, and would be a good choice for religion of a group of colonists/exiles in that time period. $\endgroup$
    – kingledion
    Commented Dec 7, 2016 at 19:30
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    $\begingroup$ @kingledion You are right. I've used "manicheanism" to describe a christian sect of my own creation escinded from nestorianism and which mixed zoroastrian, manichaean and dharmic influences as a result of their pass by Persia and India in the way to Australia. They were roman-greek-christians mainly in matters of ritual and morals (monogamy, some degree of democracy) $\endgroup$
    – Ginasius
    Commented Dec 7, 2016 at 19:51
  • $\begingroup$ I m just curious to know if it was technically feasible to travel from Inda to Australia during those times. You would need very accurate navigation. Why make those settlers want so far? Why didn't they stop earlier in South East Asia where there are plenty of islands. $\endgroup$
    – Fred
    Commented Dec 8, 2016 at 0:58
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    $\begingroup$ Worth noting: its very hard to get to know the aboriginal cultures of Australia. Their culture is very private - there are many things we do not know about them, even today. However, one thing we do know is that their concept of land ownership is very nuanced and intimately tied to the Dreamtime. This could make the interactions between these groups very tricky. $\endgroup$
    – Cort Ammon
    Commented Dec 8, 2016 at 1:48

2 Answers 2


There was an essay I read on the native Americans when the Europeans arrived.

The authors conclusion was that it wasn't the solders or diseases that doomed way the natives lived; it was the traders that brought goods that the natives couldn't make on their own. Things like glass beads, steel knives, steel needles, salt, and pretty much anything else.

Even if the colonists manage to avoid war through diplomacy, they are still going to make the natives completely dependent on them for imported goods, and the only way to remove this dependence is to educate the natives, which will destroy the old ways.

So a kind of class based society with the "lower class" natives completely dependent on the "upper class" colonists.

Feudalism probably isn't the right term though:

the dominant social system in medieval Europe, in which the nobility held lands from the Crown in exchange for military service, and vassals were in turn tenants of the nobles, while the peasants (villeins or serfs) were obliged to live on their lord's land and give him homage, labor, and a share of the produce, notionally in exchange for military protection.

Where in this case the natives will still own their own land, and while some may go to work for the colonists, it would be as employees, not serfs.


Unfortunately despite claims of horrible Europeans immediately bringing violence to the native peoples. It doesn't hold up. When the first settlers of Australia landed they started by clearing land for farms and the like. The natives not taking this well elected to attack instead of any attempt at parley. The reality is unless your settlers keep things small, every time they try to expand land the natives will not take it well and attack. Additionally, the diseases the people will bring from the densely populated roman empire will severely damage the aboriginal population. They will see the connection.

There is a reason why in every settlement case hostilities erupted. Fundamentally it comes down to resources and incompatible cultures.

If you did everything in your power to keep good relations with the many different tribes, you may face some limited success if you first demonstrate strength and then a desire for peace. Otherwise, they will only see people taking their land and want to remove the settlers.

If you wanted to look into how longer term "peaceful" relations could exist, I would look at Canada's history with aboriginals.

I think that the result of this interaction may be some kind of feudalism where the economically and technically more advanced manichaean-christians will be the upper castes, but I beg for your opinions.

After a very long time and forced immersion into the culture, yes. Without that they will be more than happy to keep going on their own as is seen in many interactions with natives. They are not interested in being "advanced." If they have enough food and tools they're fine. Additonally where the settlers may find value in something like gold natives do not.

I hope this helps if you have any follow up questions feel free to ask!

  • $\begingroup$ I hand't realised the importance of the diseases. This might be a useful mcguffin, because this sect of christians are awating (and hoping) the End of the World, and a series of epidemics that take a heavy toll on natives would be interpreted according to this view. This events were about the time of the Justinian Plague. $\endgroup$
    – Ginasius
    Commented Dec 7, 2016 at 19:56
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    $\begingroup$ In that case, you should definitely add in link $\endgroup$ Commented Dec 7, 2016 at 23:27
  • $\begingroup$ By the way, I can't understand why @Parkerwieck answer has been downvoted. $\endgroup$
    – Ginasius
    Commented Dec 8, 2016 at 10:04
  • $\begingroup$ Your link about climate issues in Late Antiquity may be highly vauable in some other question that I may ask about this proyect. I'll keep it. $\endgroup$
    – Ginasius
    Commented Dec 8, 2016 at 17:26

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