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The first mention of Laconia is in the epilogue to Nemesis Games:

[Cortázar's] pleasure in the project they were undertaking at the new Laconia Station had a feeling of anticipation that was almost sexual.

The Expanse wiki's page on Laconia mentions that there were some settlers on Laconia before

Duarte's breakaway fleet arrived

but the wiki does not indicate what name the settlers used for the system.

I would have thought the UN gave Laconia a name when it was first discovered, similar to how the UN named the planet New Terra (which was renamed Ilus by the first colonists there, and Ilus was the name that stuck). Did the UN (or the first settlers) name it Laconia or something else?

The reason I'm not sure if the UN or the first settlers on the planet named it Laconia is that

the Earth-Mars Coalition (EMC) names the location of a naval battle with Duarte's Laconians "Point Leuctra" with the following explanation:

"We're calling it Point Leuctra."

"Luke-tra?"

"The Spartans were decisively defeated there by Thebes," Lafflin said. "I mean, they call their planet Laconia. Psy ops thought it might speak to their sense of their own invincibility."

Persepolis Rising (Chapter 34: Drummer)

The explanation suggests that Duarte's breakway fleet (the "Laconians") thought of themselves as new Spartans and named the system ("they call their planet Laconia") after the region the Greek city of Sparta is located in. Or did the UN name the planet Laconia, and Duarte's Laconians simply continued to use the name? The psychological effect of "Point Leuctra" is minimal, though, if Duarte's Laconians were just re-using the name given to the planet by someone else.

On the other hand, if Duarte's breakaway fleet named the planet then how did everyone else know that "Laconia" was their name for the system? While the Laconians' Free Navy allies would know the name, how would Earth and Mars know it? (Avasarala mentions the "Laconia gate" in chapter 10 of Babylon's Ashes, so she knew the name before she could have learned it from the Free Navy or the Laconians themselves.)

  • It seems evident that Duarte would've established the Sparta analogy himself, given his fixation on military power shaping a state... but I can't seem to find any explicit reference to Sparta coming from him in the novel. However, I believe I can find some references that would establish how they're communicating their presence to Earth/Mars et al., if that would be sufficient for an answer. – recognizer Jun 11 '18 at 19:18
  • @recognizer If you can establish that Duarte could have communicated the name "Laconia" to Earth/Mars by the time Earth/Mars used the name then that at least makes it possible that Duarte named it. If that's the case, though, I'm curious why Earth/Mars didn't insist on using the original UN name much like the UN and RCE insisted on "New Terra" instead of "Ilus". I'd also be curious what that original UN name was, though that wouldn't be strictly necessary for an answer -- I'm mainly curious as to who named it. – Null Jun 11 '18 at 19:55
  • I really dug through the books and it seems like everything points to Duarte naming the colony... EXCEPT that one bit you mentioned with Avasarala. Quite pernicious! – recognizer Jun 11 '18 at 21:32
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Spoilers for Strange Dogs novella:

Laconia is settled before

Duarte's fleet arrives.

The name of the system and primary habitable planet in the system is already Laconia before

Duarte jumps through the gate to take it over, possibly because he's aware of the in-orbit ship building facilities available.

  • Thanks! Does the novella indicate whether it was the UN or the first settlers who named it? That's not necessary for an answer here, but it'd be nice to know (I just wanted to know if Duarte named it, which the novella indicates not). – Null Aug 27 '18 at 3:18
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Laconian consul Winston Duarte seems to be obsessed with shaping society via strong exercise of executive power, enforced through a military which is held to a strict, unforgiving code of justice. Given this, it seems evident that we're meant to infer that Duarte chose the name Laconia himself, as an explicit reference to the Spartan polis.

The first mention of the name Laconia in the series is in fact after Duarte's defection - in the epilogue of Nemesis Games, we see the crew of a ship that's traveling through the gates as part of Duarte's fleet. The captain thinks of his destination as "the new Laconia Station", suggesting that Laconia is a new establishment.

However, even if we accept these inferences, your other key question remains: How would the people of Earth, Mars, and the outer planets learn of this name?

The means by which Laconia communicates with the rest of humanity is actually mentioned, very briefly. In chapter 13 of Persepolis Rising, Transport Union president Camina Drummer receives a summary of communications with Laconia from an Earth-Mars Coalition liaison:

Lafflin was a thick-faced man with a tight haircut that made him look like a particularly self-satisfied toad. He cleared his throat. "Data on Laconia has always been thin," he said... "The defecting forces from Mars have been playing their keep-away message since before the Transport Union was chartered. They’ve flooded the gate from the realspace side with chatter along the whole electromagnetic spectrum—radio, visible light, X-ray, everything. We’ve had no passive intelligence to speak of. The few times that probes were sent through, they were disabled or destroyed.

This is the first detailed description of outside communications from Laconia, and the first mention of the "keep-away message", but earlier, in chapter 10 of Persepolis Rising, Drummer hears from her aide that the message from the Laconia gate has changed:

"Laconia put out a message, ma’am."
Drummer looked at him. "What?"
"The warning message from Laconia gate was taken down," Vaughn said. "It’s been replaced by a new message. The report from Medina came in"—he looked away and then back to her—"four minutes ago."

In this message, Anton Trejo introduces himself as "Admiral Trejo of the Laconian Naval Command", and announces that the gate is being opened for travel again and that his forces are traveling to Medina Station. Since the Laconian military freely identifies themselves by that name, and since they've been broadcasting a warning message through their gate for many years, it certainly seems likely that Duarte's government identified itself as "Laconia" as part of the warning message or some earlier communication.

However, the waters are muddied by the minimal elaboration on this in Babylon's Ashes. Almost every character who refers to the name "Laconia" in the novel is someone in contact with Duarte's fleet - a member of the Free Navy, or someone aboard Medina Station. When Earth government officials mention it, however, it's used with some ambiguity. In chapter 10, Chrisjen Avasarala asks an aide, "...Do we have anything from our Martian friends about why their rogue navy was so interested in the Laconia gate?" and receives the response, "Not even confirmation that that’s where the breakaway ships went." Later, in chapter 38, Earth Navy Admiral Souther mentions "...the colony systems, including Laconia, where former Martian naval officer Winston Duarte appears to have set up shop."

By the time that the Roci crew and Earth forces assault the rail-gun emplacement on the gate station, everyone is certain that Duarte is indeed through that gate. Things are made further ambiguous by the fact that Duarte evidently hasn't set up his constantly repeating "keep-away message" yet. In chapter 50 of Babylon's Ashes, the Roci examines the gate:

"Anything coming out of Laconia?" he asked.
"We don’t have a repeater on the far side of that gate, but just peeping through the keyhole? Nothing," Naomi said. "No signal. No sign of approaching drives."

So it certainly seems feasible that it was already named Laconia. Alternately, it's possible that as soon as Duarte traveled through the gate, he sent a warning message back establishing his new base of operations with its new name. In that case, the Earth government might not be certain if the message was legitimate, since it's being relayed back to them via sources in the Free Navy-controlled gate space. The oddest thing in this interpretation would be Earth officials using the name Laconia even though it was established so recently. But I think that's the only detail which strongly implies that the name precedes Duarte's defection.

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    The original "keep-away message" is given in chapter 52 of Bablyon's Ashes, and it does mention Laconia by name: "Laconia is under its own sovereign authority. This message serves as notice that any ships passing through the Laconia gate will be in violation of that authority and will be denied passage." However, that's after Avasarala calls it Laconia in chapter 10 and -- as you pointed out -- the keep-away message wasn't broadcast even by chapter 50 (because previously the Free Navy had been guarding the gates and the message wasn't necessary). – Null Jun 11 '18 at 21:39
  • "Alternately, it's possible that as soon as Duarte traveled through the gate, he sent a warning message back establishing his new base of operations with its new name." I doubt that. No such message was necessary (the Free Navy was guarding the gates at that time) nor desirable (it would only serve to provide Earth with the new name, but Duarte would have wanted to keep Earth and Mars in the dark as long as possible). – Null Jun 11 '18 at 21:43
  • Given Avasarala's (and Souther's) use of "Laconia" before the keep-away message was broadcast I would infer that the UN named it Laconia and Duarte kept the name because he liked it. That means the Point Leuctra statement doesn't make a whole lot of sense, but it could be explained as the EMC grasping at straws against a vastly superior opponent. It's hard to conclude either way, though. – Null Jun 11 '18 at 21:47
  • @Null Yeah, it's really tricky... Since the authors never use the Laconia name before Duarte makes his trip, and they make it very clear that he's eager to broadcast his presence and intentions once he arrives, it feels to me like they intended it to be his name... but obviously they failed to establish that fact clearly. Maybe someone will get to ask them at a Q&A :3 – recognizer Jun 12 '18 at 7:11

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