There is not quite 60 leagues (~207 miles) between Ethshar of the Rocks and Ethshar of the Spices.
At the end of the Great War the remaining three of the top leaders of the Ethsharitic forces, General Gor of the Rocks, General Anaran of the Sands, and Admiral Azrad the Great declared all lands outside the borders of Old Ethshar to be part of the Hegemony.
While the armies under the Generals and Admiral held certain parts of the land that would become the Hegemony the modern division of powers among the three overlords was established around 5005 YS. This agreement divided the defense of land holdings between the overlord of Ethshar of the Rocks and Ethshar of the Sands and placed defense of the sea under the purview of the overlord of Ethshar of the Spices.
Each city is ruled over by one of the three overlords, descendants of the top Generals and the Admiral of the Ethsharatic forces. Within their city they rule absolutely, only being subject to rules enforced throughout the Hegemony. The three overlords are also triumvirs, ruling the associated lands outside of the cities through majority rule between them.
According to the terms of the original agreement the overlord of Ethshar of the Spices is in charge of all maritime issues, the overlord of Ethshar of the Rocks is responsible for defending the borders west of the Great River, and the overlord of Ethshar of the Sands is responsible for defending the borders east of the Great River. They're supposed to maintain the appropriate navy and armies but never actually have, which is why the Pirate Towns were never suppressed. The navy is supposed to maintain a hundred ships; it has three, one of them being a purely ceremonial vessel that's more or less the overlord's personal yacht, and they don't see much action. The armies are supposed to be 10,000 men apiece, but they were actually subsumed into the city guards a long time ago and no longer have any independent existence at all.
Citizens of the Hegemony are called Ethsharites and speak the Ethsharatic language. Ethsharites typically have dark hair, tending to brown or black, and similarly colored eyes.
Since the end of the War population density all through the Hegemony outside the cities has been steadily increasing, and the border between Shanna and the Hegemony has gradually crept northward. The population of the Hegemony in 5000, right around the end of the Great War, was 3.5 million and by 5220 it had grown to 8.2 million.
Ethshar has about 90% literacy thanks to a law that requires parents to teach their children to read. This law was originally instituted when the Hegemony was a military dictatorship because the leaders wanted soldiers who could handle written orders. Violation of this law carries escalating penalties. If a child is found to be unable to read at age nine the penalty for his or her parents or guardians is twelve lashes and an annual follow-up. That flogging doubles every subsequent year to age eighteen, which means it's effectively a death sentence by about age twelve. If both parents, or two or more other guardians, are present they get to choose which of them gets flogged or they can split the dozen lashes between them.
Literacy is an absolute, inflexible requirement for getting an apprenticeship, joining the guard, or crewing aboard any ship licensed by the Hegemony.
Pretty much the only people who can't read are orphans and those with serious learning disabilities. 
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