Shastapsh is a rarity among Martian city-states in that it came about as a result of relatively recent events. Most of the cities along the grand canals date from the Empire of the Seldons, but Shastapsh is of more recent construction. Because of the recent unpleasantness, opportunities for archaeological excavations have been few, and little is known about any previous habitation.
Tradition in Shastapsh itself holds that the city was established by a rival of the original Seldon, Idaan Shastapshaan, and conquered after a long and bitter campaign that left the city a mound of rubble. This is impossible considering that not a single building in Shastapsh dates from even the last period of imperial construction. The tall spires typical of so many canal cities are completely absent, and it is difficult to see how a city could have existed since the time of the early empire and not have had any major construction take place. Neither of the excavations that were undertaken before the present rebellion found any
trace of buildings below levels associated with three to four centuries before the present.
The city’s dock facilities are obviously not original constructions (the style and materials used are not consistent with those used by the builders of the grand canals). It is difficult to date the city with accuracy, but it seems to have been founded within the last three to five centuries of the present era. The contention that the founder was a rival of the empire may not be completely mistaken, however, as it is possible that Idaan Shastapshaan was a rebellious local government official or (more likely) military officer who decided to strike out on his own. The present prince (Omahundaan II) retains the family name as a link with the city’s “historic” past.
Human historians believe the city began life as a brigand’s camp, where a robber baron (like those who inhabited the Rhine River in Earth’s medieval times) began extorting “tolls” on canal barges as a more profitable means of earning ,a living than raiding them. After a time, the camp became a town, the town a city, the city a minor mercantile center—and the tolls became taxes for the maintenance of the canal. Soon, except for its more modern
architecture, Shastapsh was like every other Martian canal city.
Omahundaan II assumed the title of prince of Shastapsh upon the death of his father in 1878. Neither he nor any other member of his court were fond of humans, but they managed to maintain peaceful (if not exactly warm) relations with the British until 1884, when six members of an anti- British secret society attacked and killed two British subjects (one of them a Methodist missionary) outside the Temple of the Water Monks in Shastapsh. The incident would have blown over if it had not become the subject of an opposition speech in the House of Commons, causing the P. M. some discomfort, and consequently bringing demands for action. When the governor-general of Syrtis Lapis demanded that the murderers be bound over for trial in Syrtis Major, the prince of Shastapsh refused.
Public opinion demanded that the city be taught a lesson, and a gunboat squadron was sent to bombard the city in 1884. The prince turned over (or at least six Martians he said were the brigands), but he nursed a seething hatred of the British from that moment on.
In 1887, repeated pressure by British merchants, angry over the high tariffs and continual harassment of the growing human trade through the city, resulted in a military expedition and the subsequent annexation of the colony in that same year. A British military governor was appointed (the place was a conquered territory), and the prince was retired to private life on an estate outside of the city.