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Old June 27 2009, 07:23 PM   #1
Praetor
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Thoughts on the Romulan Empire

I thought I'd begin a discussion on how everyone views the structure and culture of the Romulan Empire based on what we've seen.

I know that most people seem to think that there's a rather Trek-standard military dictatorship in place there, and I can't wholly disagree, but I think there's more to it than that. I don't want to spoil all my own thoughts before I hear what others have to say, but let's say I see them as something of a rather confusing combination of the Roman Empire, China, North Korea, and Imperial Japan circa WWII (which I'll expand more later.)

But let's hear what everyone else thinks.
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Old June 27 2009, 07:29 PM   #2
The Grim Ghost
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Re: Thoughts on the Romulan Empire

I see them as modern China mixed with ancient Rome.

The Romulans have that "we can always fool a foreigner" thing going on that China buys into.

I think the average Romulan has more freedom than the average Cardassian ever did (during their military government period anyway).

I see the Romulans allowing a token amount of rabble rousing, but only up to a certain degree.
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Old June 27 2009, 07:55 PM   #3
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Re: Thoughts on the Romulan Empire

Well in the Original Series the Romulans were a race of 'honorable warriors' much like the Klingons later became. The Klingons in the Original series were much more like Cardassians, an almost Orwellian society, backstabbing, treacherous and unpredictable. I think if the later series had followed the original model we would have seen a 'Next Generation' featuring the Romulans and Federation as allies and the Klingons remaining the adversary.

It always seemed to me that the Romulans had more in common with the Federation than the Klingons ever did. In the Original Series it seemed like there could have been peace between the Federation and The Romulans if either side had been able to put aside thier mutual distrust and resentment from the previous conflicts.

The Klingons on the other hand were brutal sadists who used thier technology for hideous purposes like the mind shifter, and agonizers who believed that sick people should die, and weak people had a right to be conquered.

As for the Romulan Empire itself, I never saw it as some vast far reaching swath of territory, at least not as of the 23rd century. I thought perhaps it would consist of only a single solar system or two and that any other worlds they had annexed during the war had been liberated and were then protected by the neutral zone surrounding Romulan space. Romulan innovation has allowed them to use what little resources their system has to keep their military a force to be reckoned with, but there is an ever increasing need to expand their territory.

This likely culminated in some sort of conflict in the era of the Enterprise-C which lead to the "Tomed Incident" whatever that was all about and a need to renegotiate with the Romulans in the interests of peace.
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Old June 27 2009, 10:52 PM   #4
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Re: Thoughts on the Romulan Empire

Warning: Long-winded, almost stream of consciousness, first-draft analysis follows.

I see the Romulans as a resembling the Roman Empire during ascent (before the peak in 212); and also a bit like North Korea or China today.
There are numerous feuding aristocratic leaders. Each is juggling for position and power (this is how they are most similar to the late Roman Republic and early Roman Empire). Honors and position can be earned by military victories, etc.
Romulans can be brutal to those subject worlds who resist rule; but provide quite a bit of "civilizing influence" to those subject worlds who submit (again, compare to Rome's treatment of extra-italic peoples).
The Romulans see a "manifest destiny" to one day rule the galaxy. They see it as both inevitable, and necessary to protect their home, and Romulus. They are ruled by the Romulan Senate, consisting of all the aristocrats, and there is a Council of Romulans or some such consisting of all Romulan Citizens. Only ethnic Romulans have suffrage, and then only if they have served in some capacity to advance the cause of the Romulan Way (expanding to rule the galaxy).
The Romulans are paranoid and nationalistic (similar to North Korea today). In my thinking, they fought an early war with the Klingons (prior to first contact with the UFP by either), and have fought some pitched wars with several races close to Romulus (FASA has some interesting backstory on a civilization a little more advanced than the Romulans between Romulus and what is now the RNZ - the Romulans conquered and eradicated them in their first major interstellar war), and also on the far side of the Empire from the UFP. Their first-contact with Earth/UFP, in line with their history of having fought bloody wars with every significant space faring race they had encountered led them to strike first and assume a fight to the death with Earth/UFP (The Romulan War).
With the establishment of the Romulan Neutral Zone, the Romulans faced a semi-hostile Klingon Empire, a (to them) very hostile UFP, and a hostile race opposite the UFP. Surrounded on three sides, they naturally felt squeezed. They view the Klingons as a serious threat, but also as a useful tool to tie down the Federation. They view the Federation as a mortal threat (much as how the US and USSR saw each other). While the UFP cannot be attacked outright, it can be infiltrated and damaged from within. Their policy was to play the UFP and the Klingons off each other in order to instigate war between them - allowing the Romulans to sweep both aside and move on towards their inevitable Galactic Rule. They did not understand the nature of the Organian Treaty between the UFP and the Klingon Empire (even if they knew it in detail, they did not entirely believe it). The Khitomer Accords (ST:TUC) lead to a thawing of UFP-Klingon Empire relations, causing panic in the Romulan halls of power. This was their worst fear - the Klingons and the UFP joining forces against them. The attempt to derail the accords detailed in TUC was in part supported by the Romulans. The Tomed Incident and the attack upon Khitomer (leading to the death/capture of Worf's father) were both "last ditch" efforts to instigate war between the Klingons and the UFP, or at least derail the alliance.
Their return to visibility in the 2360s was the result of sufficient redirect of efforts and confidence in their increased ability to stand on equal footing with the UFP and Klingons. The Dominion War drew all three together staring a push towards greater cooperation among the three "Great Powers", possibly eventually leading towards a new expanded alliance that might one day defeat the Borg and cooperate to push collective frontiers out and establish a Galactic Republic.

So, if you are looking at Pre-TOS and early TOS Romulans, they are frightened and cornered by hostiles on all sides. If you are looking at mid TOS Romulans through the TOS Movies, they are playing the Federation and Klingons off each other to weaken both. If you are looking at the Post-Khitomer/Pre-TNG Romulans, they are again frightened and cornered by hostiles on all sides. TNG Romulans are not paralyzed by fear, but are afraid of the Federation and Klingons. DS9 Romulans (Dominion War) are more afraid of the instability brought by the Dominion into the power balance than they are of the Federation and the Klingons. They still do not TRUST the Federation or the Klingons, but their fear is much more tempered. With time, and lack of betrayal by the Federation and Klingons, the Romulans may come to trust them both, and all three powers come to not only a peaceful co-existence, but even cooperation in unifying their part of the Galaxy, if not the whole in a very long time.
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Old June 27 2009, 11:49 PM   #5
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Re: Thoughts on the Romulan Empire

I think the average Romulan has more freedom than the average Cardassian ever did (during their military government period anyway).
I think they have a considerable amount of freedom and it's possible that their "Senate" represents a truly representative democracy. The fact that they are aggressive and xenophobic towards outsiders doesn't indicate anything about their internal politics.

The thing I'm curious about: if Vulcanoids have dysfunctionally strong emotions which threatens their social stability; and Vulcans have coped with this by making a fetish of emotional repression; and Romulans are Vulcans who have rejected this solution; then how do Romulans cope? Is the xenophobia their coping mechanism?

Also, why precisely did Romulans reject Surak's solution? Has that ever been explained? Is it simply that it represented a rejection of the true nature of Vulcanoids? If so, I think there's a good argument for the Romulans being right, at least in an abstract philosophical sense, but not so much in a pragmatic sense.

Vulcans have been far more successful in dealing with other species precisely because they reject their true natures. Everyone gets on the Vulcans' case for being prickly jerks, but they've actually made a considerable sacrifice simply for the benefit of interstellar relations.
The Romulans see a "manifest destiny" to one day rule the galaxy.
Do they? I haven't noticed truly imperialistic tendencies - they don't continually strive for conquest, but instead have a pattern of getting into fights and then retreating for long periods of time.

To me, this suggests that the fighting is an extension of their coping mechanism. Rather than direct their dysfunctional emotions inward, and threaten their ability to have a functional society, they turn it outwards.

In that sense, their aggressiveness is parallel to Klingons', which also is not inherently imperialistic, but rather just an expression of their culture. Ironically, Klingons are in a better position to turn their warlike ways on and off, as appropriate to a given situation. They aren't hostage to their aggression, like Romulans are.

The most truly imperialistic entities in the Star Trek cosmos are the Federation and the Dominion. Those are both societies that seem determined to expand continuously, for the sake of expansion.
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Old June 27 2009, 11:52 PM   #6
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Re: Thoughts on the Romulan Empire

Using information from the books as well as onscreen Trek:

The Romulan Star Empire is an oligarchic society with a strict caste system, ruled by noble families whose members often gain seats in the Imperial Senate. The Senators aim to represent their constituants honourably, although backstabbing, power struggles and mutual suspicion often get in the way. Still, the Senators usually represent the views and concerns of the people they represent, or at least noble families in their constituency. The Senate is led and organized by a Proconsul, while the Praetor judges and presides from his seat in the Senate Chamber. The Praetor is politically the most powerful, the proconsul essentially his or her second in command. The Emperor or Empress is a spiritual figurehead who wields considerable power but less than the Praetor and leading Senators. The orders of priests serve the Emperor/Empress. The Praetor commands the military and the Tal Shiar. Leading senators have seats on the Continuing Committee, the senatorial oversight council led by the Praetor. The Chair of the Tal Shiar usually has a seat on the CC, but not always. Only full-blooded Romulans are true citizens of the Star Empire. Citizens have codified legal rights, such as the opportunity to make an official Statement when put on trial by the legal system. Personal honour is highly important, but sadly the paranoia of the Tal Shiar makes many citizens fearful to question the government. As a stereotype, Romulans are nationalistic and xenophobic. Self-reliant and proud after having survived exile from Vulcan and tamed a new world, they believe it is their destiny to rule the stars, at least traditionally. After the Coalition of Planets (later UFP) and Klingons prevented expansion from continuing in certain directions, Romulan history became a string of long periods of isolation punctured by brief periods of cold war, scheming and dischord-sowing. The 2360s (TNG) was the latest of these careful-aggressive periods. The Romulan Star Empire is large and far more varied than those in the Federation think.
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Last edited by Deranged Nasat; June 28 2009 at 12:03 AM.
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Old June 28 2009, 12:01 AM   #7
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Re: Thoughts on the Romulan Empire

Temis the Vorta wrote: View Post
I think the average Romulan has more freedom than the average Cardassian ever did (during their military government period anyway).
I think they have a considerable amount of freedom and it's possible that their "Senate" represents a truly representative democracy. The fact that they are aggressive and xenophobic towards outsiders doesn't indicate anything about their internal politics..
I think their democracy is oligarchic and dominated by issues of wealth or family influence, but it's real. Senators who do not serve well can be removed by the people, shamed for their inability to provide honourable or competent leadership. Of course, the Tal Shiar dampens free speech, but as we've seen on TNG, Romulans themselves speak out against the Tal Shiar and its paranoia.

Temis the Vorta wrote: View Post
The thing I'm curious about: if Vulcanoids have dysfunctionally strong emotions which threatens their social stability; and Vulcans have coped with this by making a fetish of emotional repression; and Romulans are Vulcans who have rejected this solution; then how do Romulans cope? Is the xenophobia their coping mechanism?.
Their secretive, controlled, and careful approach to things and rather rigid customs of social conduct act much like Vulcan suppression of emotion, I think. Of course, open displays of passion are also a big part of their culture. Most Romulans we see on TV are interacting with aliens, so possibly they are simply trying to prevent aliens "reading" them when they act all stoic. Also, Romulus is a lush and fertile world. Maybe when resources are plentiful, Vulcanoid violence and passion instincts become less pronounced than they are when in the desert habitat of Vulcan.

Temis the Vorta wrote: View Post
Also, why precisely did Romulans reject Surak's solution? Has that ever been explained? Is it simply that it represented a rejection of the true nature of Vulcanoids? If so, I think there's a good argument for the Romulans being right, at least in an abstract philosophical sense, but not so much in a pragmatic sense..
The TV series never explained. The books have tried: read the "Vulcan's Soul" trilogy.

Temis the Vorta wrote: View Post
Vulcans have been far more successful in dealing with other species precisely because they reject their true natures. Everyone gets on the Vulcans' case for being prickly jerks, but they've actually made a considerable sacrifice simply for the benefit of interstellar relations.
Actually, they adopted Surak's teachings prior to interacting with other races. Their motivation was preventing their warfare from destroying Vulcan.
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Old June 28 2009, 12:04 AM   #8
Temis the Vorta
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Re: Thoughts on the Romulan Empire

I think their democracy is oligarchic and dominated by issues of wealth or family influence, but it's real.
That would be a natural extension of a society that was founded by a relatively small number of colonists, who all would have been "founding families." I can see how the main line of each family would hold onto their original positions of power but as the society grew, the secondary lines would not have as much power. Yet, they're all "family" so nobody is totally left out.

Also, Romulus is a lush and fertile world. Maybe when resources are plentiful, Vulcanoid violence and passion instincts become less pronounced than they are when in the desert habitat of Vulcan.
Since Vulcanoids evolved in the desert, maybe that's the ideal climate for them, and Romulans had to "settle" for a planet that is too cold and rainy to really ever be comfortable to them. Romulus just looks nice to us humans.
Actually, they adopted Surak's teachings prior to interacting with other races. Their motivation was preventing their warfare from destroying Vulcan.
Oh yeah, I didn't mean to suggest otherwise. But it just so happens that it made them more successful in interstellar relations.
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Old June 28 2009, 12:22 AM   #9
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Re: Thoughts on the Romulan Empire

Temis the Vorta wrote: View Post
I think their democracy is oligarchic and dominated by issues of wealth or family influence, but it's real.
That would be a natural extension of a society that was founded by a relatively small number of colonists, who all would have been "founding families." I can see how the main line of each family would hold onto their original positions of power but as the society grew, the secondary lines would not have as much power. Yet, they're all "family" so nobody is totally left out.
That makes lots of sense. Thank you for building on and improving my argument!

Temis the Vorta wrote: View Post
Also, Romulus is a lush and fertile world. Maybe when resources are plentiful, Vulcanoid violence and passion instincts become less pronounced than they are when in the desert habitat of Vulcan.
Since Vulcanoids evolved in the desert, maybe that's the ideal climate for them, and Romulans had to "settle" for a planet that is too cold and rainy to really ever be comfortable to them. Romulus just looks nice to us humans.
Good point, but competition for resources is always an issue for a species, and Romulus has far more water and arable land, so the instinct for competition and violence might be reduced.

Temis the Vorta wrote: View Post
Actually, they adopted Surak's teachings prior to interacting with other races. Their motivation was preventing their warfare from destroying Vulcan.
Oh yeah, I didn't mean to suggest otherwise. But it just so happens that it made them more successful in interstellar relations.
Yes, but perhaps it made them less successful at interactions with passionate races. The Andorians and Arkonians come to mind as races the Vulcans failed to cultivate good relations with at first, possibly as the Vulcans were prejudiced against violent emotion.
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Old June 28 2009, 01:26 AM   #10
Temis the Vorta
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Re: Thoughts on the Romulan Empire

Good point, but competition for resources is always an issue for a species, and Romulus has far more water and arable land, so the instinct for competition and violence might be reduced.
My take on the Vulcanoid emotions issue is that it's an inherent trait that is natural for their species, possibly something that evolved because of the hostile environment of Vulcan, but being in their DNA, a new environment won't remove the tendency.

It's like the way zebras can't be domesticated like horses because zebras evolved in an environment where there are much more vicious predators than horses were exposed to - lions, hyenas, etc - which made zebras far more high-strung animals. Even if you take a zebra out of that environment, you still can't domesticate it, or even its descendants after many generations.
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Old June 28 2009, 01:46 AM   #11
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Re: Thoughts on the Romulan Empire

I've always thought of the Romulan Empire as sort of like the later stages of the Soviet empire.Rather threadbare,a place where huge emphasis is placed on military strenght while the "plebs" struggle to get by.Add in the secret police and the autocratic elite and it's apotent mix.
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Old June 28 2009, 03:45 AM   #12
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Re: Thoughts on the Romulan Empire

I had my own thoughts on a reconceptualization of the Romulans for TOS+:

Romulus is a good free world where the civilians live good productive lives and they just happen to be antagonists to the Federation WITHOUT being so obviously bad. I mean as it stands they never really delved deep enough into the Romulan culture anyways and they used the Military Dictatorship stuff for the Cardassians (to their benefit). Why not have the Romulans turn out NOT to also be a Military-Ruled Empire but a pleasant place that just happens to oppose the Feds?

The Romulans can be a democracy that respects its' people without having the exact same values as the Feds, perhaps they see it as okay to go around settling on worlds with native populations and interfering with their development as long as they get a new world. Maybe they just feel they have a manifest destiny (which is pretty much canon...) and the Feds are an obstacle.

And the Tal Shiar would be respected and seen as a necessary and noble force by the Romulan public for protecting them from external threats who would subvert Romulus and from fellow Romulans who want to undermine and subvert all that they have built from within. A nice contrast from the Obsidian Order (who are feared and hated by nearly all Cardassians).
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Old June 28 2009, 07:05 AM   #13
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Re: Thoughts on the Romulan Empire

I tend to picture the Romulan Star Empire as being something akin to 18th Century Britain.

A mostly -- but not entirely -- ceremonial Emperor, with a Senate comprised of both noble families and commoners, but with the noblemen invariably gaining more power and prestige, inheriting their seats whilst the commoners in the Senate compete for popular votes. The DS9 episode "Inter Arma Enim Silent Leges" implied that one ascends to the position of Praetor with a vote of the Continuing Committee; I would take that as meaning that a Romulan seeking to become Praetor would be trying to cultivate alliances with powerful Senators and Continuing Committee members. Presumably the position is ceremonially appointed by the Emperor on the basis of the Continuing Committee's vote.

The Tal Shiar would likely make up the fifth basic power bloc in the Star Empire. Whether they're a partisan organization, or one that ruthlessly puts down dissent against the Praetor of the day, whomever that Praetor might be, I don't know. I would tend to infer that they seek their own agenda, independently of the Senators, Praetor, and Emperor, though they have to curb their behavior and always have a rhetorical justification for it that seems non-partisan.
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Old June 28 2009, 08:19 AM   #14
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Re: Thoughts on the Romulan Empire

Should we merge this thread with “life in the empires”?
________________________________________

Anwar wrote: View Post
I had my own thoughts on a reconceptualization of the Romulans for TOS+:

Romulus is a good free world where the civilians live good productive lives and they just happen to be antagonists to the Federation WITHOUT being so obviously bad. I mean as it stands they never really delved deep enough into the Romulan culture anyways and they used the Military Dictatorship stuff for the Cardassians (to their benefit). Why not have the Romulans turn out NOT to also be a Military-Ruled Empire but a pleasant place that just happens to oppose the Feds?

The Romulans can be a democracy that respects its' people without having the exact same values as the Feds, perhaps they see it as okay to go around settling on worlds with native populations and interfering with their development as long as they get a new world. Maybe they just feel they have a manifest destiny (which is pretty much canon...) and the Feds are an obstacle.

And the Tal Shiar would be respected and seen as a necessary and noble force by the Romulan public for protecting them from external threats who would subvert Romulus and from fellow Romulans who want to undermine and subvert all that they have built from within. A nice contrast from the Obsidian Order (who are feared and hated by nearly all Cardassians).
Interesting ideas. How about this, drawing from our own history:

The experience with Nero brings the Romulan Empire and the UFP into contact many years before the events of Balance of Terror. They try to form a framework for peaceful coexistence, but because of extreme differences in their respective cultures they have to make some very uncomfortable compromises, just as the North and South did in crafting the U.S. Constitution. Neither side is satisfied with the compromises, leading to tremendous tensions and ultimately war, but it doesn’t take 74 years like it did in the U.S. Or perhaps it’s heroic actions by the crew of the Enterprise and a Romulan counterpart that prevents (or postpones) war.
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Old June 28 2009, 11:33 AM   #15
TedShatner10
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Re: Thoughts on the Romulan Empire

The Romulan Star Empire is pretty much like the Vulcan and Andorian empires were before they were incorporated into the UFP, only the RSE remained seperate and grew seperately. The Romulan Star Empire seems more benign to its own race than the Cardassian Union for example and the standard of living seems more pleasant than in the Klingon Empire, and their ships and military are more efficient as well (one gets the impression their forces were not as militarily burned out as the UFP and Klingon Empire were in the Dominion War).

We have no clear idea how Romulans treat conquered people, but judging from "Birthright" and Sela, they don't seem to be as racist and vindictive as the Cardassians or Dominion.

The Tal Shiar are perhaps like the French intelligence agency in that the civilian government has no proper control over them, they've cultivated a bad reputation, but don't affect most people. Also the fiasco at the Founder's homeworld earlier on in DS9 did not seem to damage the Romulan's political stability and military strength as badly as it did to the Cardassian's (also the Obsidian Order was rendered virtually defunct, while the Tal Shiar was still extanct and significant much later in DS9).
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