(urth) Thea's Identity

Sergei SOLOVIEV soloviev at irit.fr
Fri Apr 12 08:32:19 PDT 2013

It may be useful to compare it with the Rajan seraglio in other series -

I don't have answers to your questions, David, but they are really, 
really interesting -


>     ------------------------------------------------------------------------
>     *From:* Sergei SOLOVIEV <soloviev at irit.fr>
>     *To:* The Urth Mailing List <urth at lists.urth.net>
>     *Sent:* Friday, April 12, 2013 10:07 AM
>     *Subject:* Re: (urth) Thea's Identity
>     But in Ottoman empire the harems (seraglios) had reproductive
>     purpose as a central one.
>     Moreover, since it was difficult to apply the principle of
>     "primogeniture" with the great
>     number of babies, when the time to designate a heir arrived, it
>     was desperate for women
>     to fight for their sons to be chosen (by intrigue etc.) because
>     usually all other male descendants
>     after the heir was chosen risked elimination. It is quite
>     different with autarchs because
>     the successor is defined differently.
>     Exactly---an excellent summary, much better than mine. This is why
>     the autarchs' seraglio cannot function exactly as did the
>     sultans'. So we have two interpretive choices:
>     (1) The seraglio is only for holding hostages. It may also be a
>     leftover from an era when it did have a reproductive/imperial
>     function. The current Autarch's inability to impregnate ironically
>     highlights this and may symbolize Urthly infertility as well, but
>     doesn't by itself make a harem irrelevant to the succession,
>     because it's already been irrelevant for a chiliad.
>     (2) It is a fully functional harem, but in parallel to the usual
>     operation. That is, there's no sex---especially since Severian's
>     predecessor on the throne came back unmanned from Yesod---but lots
>     of intrigue, because everything else is in play---except,
>     presumably, the succession itself. This is perhaps why the
>     concubines like to pass as khaibits---because otherwise they ain't
>     gettin' any action.
>     As for that succession---as far as I can recall there is no
>     evidence anyone knows about the central gimmick of the Autarchy
>     except the Autarch himself and Father Inire, and I suppose Vodalus
>     and whatsername. So the entire seraglio may be under the
>     impression that their kids have a shot at the throne. Keeps 'em
>     focused. And if they think they have a shot, then they have a
>     shot. (I grant that under this logic, you'd think the Autarch
>     would disband the harem system to protect his throne. But he
>     didn't. Why?)
>     Finally, I think the key phrase in your description is "the great
>     number of babies." Think about it.
>     Finally finally, there is the male question. Males were killed at
>     a new heir's ascension, females discarded or sent somewhere, or
>     killed at birth. Does Urth have a surplus of female clones? It
>     would seem so.
>     If one is to propose routine use of cloning at any level,
>     especially within the House Absolute, one must account for it
>     impact on all this.
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