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In my world , the entire planet is covered by highly salt oceans ( at the level of the dead sea ) save for patches of islands dispersed across the planet. Island states emerge and , eventually , so do empires. The human race emerges from a single island chain and as such , while islands are being captured , humans must migrate to populate the island.

My question is:

What difficulties would arise while acquiring and maintaining such a state that are different than those of conventional land empires?

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    $\begingroup$ You've got a huge jump between dead oceans and human-like organisms living on some island chains. From the preliminary answers, answerers are having trouble figuring out how you'd feed these humans, much less conquer the world. $\endgroup$ – Green Feb 6 '17 at 13:28
  • $\begingroup$ "What are we going to do today, Brain?" "The same thing we do every day, Pinky. Try to take over the world!" ~Pinky and the Brain $\endgroup$ – CaM Feb 6 '17 at 13:54
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    $\begingroup$ Dead Sea levels of salinity are bad in many ways, but they have one advange: wooden ship will not rot and will not be attacked by borers. $\endgroup$ – AlexP Feb 6 '17 at 13:56
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The first issue is that of food. Are the islands large enough to support agriculture? With a salinity level that high, are you planning to use "alien" sea life forms that can survive the salinity, unlike the real dead sea?

Empires expand because they can feed their people efficiently and reliably enough to support armies (or in your case navies and marines). Since this will be islands, you're going to struggle to feed an army on the move. Supply chains will be critical, so some portion of your navy will be consumed in supply ships and the support vessels to guard them. the logistics will be an issue.

How will your navy be built? are the islands large enough to provide timber as well as farmland? Or are the ships going to be more on the tech level of animal-hide kayaks?

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    $\begingroup$ I cannot think of an empire that didn't have at least one dependable grain. Wheat, rice, corn. Cultures that relied primarily on fish or wildlife never rose to empire status, if memory serves. $\endgroup$ – CaM Feb 6 '17 at 13:41
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    $\begingroup$ The Athenian Empire imported grain from third party colonies, mostly in exchange for olive oil and ceramics. And silver. $\endgroup$ – AlexP Feb 6 '17 at 13:51
  • $\begingroup$ One could suggest that they didn't develop empires because an empire looks to the land, where a fishing orientated society looks to the sea. $\endgroup$ – Separatrix Feb 6 '17 at 13:52
  • $\begingroup$ @Separatrix: Dead Sea salinity = no fishing. $\endgroup$ – AlexP Feb 6 '17 at 13:54
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I see a huge problem in your ocean being dead sea-like.

By this I mean that it makes sense that a primitive society, seeing how the sea can provide resources, venture forth in exploring it while mastering the art of navigation.

But in a sea which is so salty that no life can grow in it (dead sea is not a poor marketing job, is actually a no life sea), which driving force can lead a civilization in exploring it?

The first reason to put effort in building a ship (well, to carve a tree into an hollow floating shape) is to gather fishes. In a dead sea maybe children will enjoy bathing and floating in the saline water, but no more than that, I fear.

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  • $\begingroup$ As stated in the OP they live on an island chain, so they already know at least a few islands exist. If they manage to see any islands in the distance they will venture in search of new land as they already did for their island chain. The only problem would be food, since you could always get some fish on our oceans if it ran short. $\endgroup$ – user31746 Feb 6 '17 at 14:58
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It's not the islands, it's the salt. Fresh water and food are going to be your primary concerns. Such an environment would be mineral poor as use of any sort of metal would be strongly curtailed, even if found, by the corrosive nature of such a high saline environment.

First, you would need a reason to leave a given island, then you would need to find a way to construct boats large enough to travel. You would be limited to bone tools, trees, vines, and whatever fabric could be woven into sails.

Then, food would be a problem. All food would have to be gathered and shipped along with the people, possibly causing a serious depletion of the source island.

Buoyancy would be less of a problem, as the high saline content would make ships more seaworthy, but the sea itself would be lifeless unless some alien sort of creatures could process that much salt.

Another challenge would be setting up production on the new islands. Ships would have to be cannibalized to create shelters until the new island could be explored and exploited. Finding new food sources would be a top priority, as the sea would not be of any help. again, animal or human bone tools would be the only tools available, and only the ones they brought with them until new ones could be fashioned. There would be no industry to speak of, and the lifespan would be very short due to hard living and no technological progress past a very primitive island lifestyle.

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