Shortly after the server was started a player named Karseius established an absolute monarchy in Near Harad with a "Serpentlord" as emperor and multiple "Vipers" who served him as loyal landlords. This phase is recalled as the golden age of Near Harad in which the number of Southron players was at its highest and most of the greatest monuments and cities were built of which many were lost unfortuatly.
Old Empire Serpentlords:
- Serpentlord Karseius I.
- Serpentlord RookieNinjas I.
- Serpentlady shamiir
- Serpentlord Karseius II.
The Old Empire ended after Serpentlord Karseius II. transformed the Old Empire into the Principalities of Near Harad in an attempt to counter faction intern tensions and balance the distribution of power. The empire also had an important nobility class of which "Vipers" were the most important. Viperlords were given certain provinces to rule over and adviced the Serpentlord although the latter held the monopoly of power.
The Old Empire streched over all regions belonging to Near Harad as well as Harandor and the Far Harad region of Zarak and the eastern Far Harad Island of Zazarak. The empire also claimed the northern Half-Troll Island of Torfalas altough it never enforced this claim.
The most populated region of the empire was the ferile valley of Near Harad although a conciderable population also lived in northern Harandor.
Cities and Strongholds
Old Ain al-Harad (Capital)
Freehold of the Gulf
The only cities which survived the fall of the Old Empire until today are Ajtiaz al-Harad, Poros and the ruins of Old Ain al-Harad.
Beginnings of the Old Empire
The first player to reach and settle in Near Harad was Karseius. He established the dynasty of the Serpent-lords with himself as the first Serpent-lord of Near Harad. As he reached the fertile valley of Near Harad in the west he founded Ain al-Harad to be the capital of Near Harad and is one of the oldest, if not the oldest city on the server. Throughout time more and more players joined the faction, which experienced its first golden age as the city grew and the player number rose. Under the reign of Karseius I Ain al-Harad arose from a small village to a greater city. He was also able to secure Harandor and a small colony in the west of Gondor through diplomacy in the Gondorian Civil War. After Karseius I's demise Rookieninjas I became the second Serpent-lord and new guardian of Ain al-Harad. Under his reign tensions arose between Near Harad and the northern human kingdoms of Gondor and Rohan until his mysterious disappearance. A small mausoleum in Ain al-Harad marks the mysterious event today.
The Uncertain Period (Old Empire)
After the event Near Harad became leaderless for a short period of time having multiple feuding warlords having control over parts of the vast empire while Ain al-Harad's population declined and became a dead city. Although Serpent-lord RookieNinjas I. left a steward in case of his demise, his chosen representative did not manage to hold the empire and either fled the lands or was killed by one of the warlords. In this short period the Old Empire lost most of its power to the Gondorian competitors. Just before the Old Empire seemed to die, shamiir, being the most powerful warlord from central Harandor, claimed the throne.
The Golden Age (Old Empire)
As new Serpent-lord shamiir moved from Harandor to the fertile lands and founded Ajtiaz-al Harad to establish a new great city as the capital of the Empire. Shortly after the founding of Ajtiaz-al Harad Karseius II, son of Karseius I. appeared at which point shamiir resigned as third Serpent-lord and gave the authority over Near Harad to him in hope of seeing a restoration of its former glory. Karseius II. reestablished Ain al-Harad as capital and continued rebuilding the city while also fortifying it. A while later a new golden age for Near Harad begun with the construction of architectural wonders in the cities of Near Harad, and the great fortifications along the great Southron road saw a rise in numbers of Haradrim players. At the same time Gondor experienced a similar growth. The new strength on both sides of the factions contributed to a rise of tensions especially at the border between Harandor and Ithilien which resulted in the First Southern War between Near Harad and the Gondorian coalition. Shortly before the war Karseius II. disappeared and left shamiir to lead the Near Haradrim forces. After various intense sieges of the Near Haradrim Fortress of Poros a truce between Gondor and Near Harad was ratified.
Late Period and Transformation (Old Empire)
Since the end of the war Near Harad suffered the loss of some of its players and faced some internal problems. Later Karseius II. returned and reorganized the internal power structure of the faction with the appointment of new Viper-lords and shamiir as his heir to the throne to fight the growing internal instability. During these reorganization efforts Serpent-lord Karseius II. appointed Skilliar as Viper of the Gulf of Near Harad and GetWrekt_ as new Viper of Harandor and the northern desert while demoting the former Viper of Harandor RookieNinjas. This caused great upset for RookieNinjas who immediately traveled to Ain al-Harad with the intention to convince Karseius II. to give him his titles back. As Serpent-lord Karseius II. denied his requests, RookieNinjas traveled back to his fortress Poros where he declared an open rebellion against the Serpentlord and all his followers together with two other players. Soon after the third siege of Poros begun in which the forces of Near Harad led by the Serpent-lord surrounded the fortress in hope of bring the rebels to surrender to prevent RookieNinjas from making his threats a reality to burn down Poros. Following the rebellion the Serpent-lord gained support from all over Middle-Earth, including Isengard, Gondor, Gundabad, Rohan and the Woodland-Realm as well as from various dwarven and elven lords. Pressured by the predominance of Near Harad the rebels soon surrendered and Poros was retaken by the Near Haradrim. The crushing of the rebellion of Poros resulted in the destruction of the mausoleum of RookieNinjas I. in Ain al-Harad by angry citizens. After the victory over the rebels Serpentlord Karseius II. decided to end the absolute reign of the Serpentlords and transformed the faction from an absolute monarchy into a collection of city states.
The religious landscape of the Old Empire was diverse. Along with the dominant Southron Mythology several smaller religions and cults have existed.
Southron Mythology is the oldest and most common religion in Near Harad. Its a polytheistic religion centered around a great sun god called "Rah" or "Rayh" and various other gods. The Serpentlords of the Old Empire were also High Priests of the mythology at the same time. During the Old Empire most Near Haradrim follow some strain of Southron Mythology. Countless temples have been errected during this period to honor the Southron gods. The main temple of the sun was located in Old Ain al-Harad, which was lost with the rest of the city after the mysterious Doom of Ain al-Harad at the hight of principality period. After the decline of the Old Empire the title of High Priest was abandonned. The religion was very diverse and differed from region to region. While the Sun was the center of worship in the Fertile valley up to Haradwaith, in Harandor a Shadow goddess was more prevalent. The main symbol of the religion is a carved red falcon with spread wings although other symbols can be found on temples too. The religion has been under heavy influence of other religions and cults over the centuries. Early Numenorean worship of Eru Illuvatar has led to a centralized role of the sun in the mythology and merge between the god of the sun and Eru Illuvatar in some regards. Another recent influence on the Southron Mythology is the Sauron Cult which came into existence after the rise of Sauron in Mordor.
The Shadow Cult is considered to be part of the Southron Mythology but developed into its own religion in the golden age of Near Harad. At its height the Shadow goddess, who is said to be the goddess of death and stealth, was worshiped predominantly in Harandor and the gulf regions. The main Shadow temple was located in Poros. The rapid rise in popularity was linked to the rise of the Serpent Venom guild who took the shadow goddess as their main deity. After the first civil war in Near Harad and the destruction of the Serpent Venom guild, the Shadow cult was deemed blasphemy. Its practice was forbidden in the Old Empire and followers of the religion were persecuted and forced to either flee to Mordor or Far Harad. Temples dedicated to the shadow goddess in Near Harad were destroyed during the late Old Empire. Remains of the main temple can still be found deep in the catacombs of Poros.
The Sauron Cult arrived during the late high period of the Old Empire in Near Harad and was mostly found in a combination with the Southron Mythology. Pure Sauron cultists in Near Harad were rare and mostly found at the borders with Mordor or Harandor. It is centered around the worship of Sauron and its symbol is the Great Eye. Although not very common it has a big influence during the late Old Empire due to close relations between Near Harad and Mordor. Many Shadow cultists especially in Harandor converted to the Cult of Sauron to avoid persecution after the First Near Harad Civil War.
Dunlandism was the only religion west of the Anduin to reach Near Harad. A great temple was built for the small dunlending population living in Ain al-Harad by King Evil_Mogwai of Dunland who settled a dunlanding group of refugees in the city. The religion was practiced mostly by Dunlandings, only rarely Near Haradrim converted. Since the Doom of Ain al-Harad and the demise of its dunlending minority there are no followers of Dunlandism left in Near Harad.
The Old Empire is remembered by most Near Haradrim as a period of wealth and glory. Especially during the New Empire of Near Harad this period was romanizized. The Emperors of the New Empire legitimized their claims by claiming to recreate the Old Empire in order to regain the lost glory lost during the late phase of the Principalities of Near Harad. Later on Karseius III., first Astrasi Emperor, used his dynastic relation to the Serpentlords of the Old Empire to consolidate his power over the continent of Harad.
Remains of Old Empire culture can still be found today. The ancient title of Serpentlord is still used by Astrasi Emperors to express their power over Near Harad. Other titles which have their origin in the Old Empire are still partly used among Astrasi nobility like the title "Viper" although their meaning and importance have changed.