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Acheron - The Nightmare Empire


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#1 deuce

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Posted 02 October 2007 - 05:06 AM

Kortoso commented in the "Shem" thread that it would be a good idea to have a topic devoted to each nation/race/culture of the Hyborian Age. I also thought that would be a good idea. So...

Every direct reference made by REH to Acheron (with the just possible, indirect exception of the "Hall of the Dead" fragment) is connected in some way with his writing of the Conan novel, The Hour of the Dragon. We might as well start at the start, with the earliest known reference that REH ever made to Acheron (so far published). All quotes are from The Bloody Crown of Conan (Del Rey)...

From the synopsis:"The mummy (of Xaltotun) was that of a sorcerer of long ago, an Hyborian of a kingdom which had been destroyed by the Nemedians, Aquilonians and Argosseans. The name of this kingdom was Acheron, and its capital city was called Python. Many centuries before the people of Acheron, Hyborians more highly civilized than their neighbors to the east and the west, had been lords of an empire which had included what was later southern Nemedia and Brythunia, most of Corinthia, most of Ophir, western Koth and the western lands of Shem, northern Argos and eastern Aquilonia. With the overthrow and destruction of Acheron by its ruder western neighbors, their greatest sorcerer fled to Stygia, living there until poisoned by a Stygian priest of Set the Old Serpent." (p.335)

Hmmm... Robert E. Howard plainly states that the Acheronians were Hyborians. It looks like he conceived of Acheron as a kind of sorcerous Roman Empire, precociously civilized, enslaving far and wide, until thrown down by their "rude" barbaric kin from the west. Why did de Camp/Carter change the Acheronians to Stygians? Sure, the "Achies" worshipped Set, but the Kothians worshipped Ishtar without becoming Shemites.

Xaltotun: "was a tall man with quick strong hands and strange magnetic eyes and thick black hair." (p.335) Xaltotun said that "before he could regain his full magical power, they must steal for him the jewel called the Heart of Ahriman, which was kept in a secret place in the kingdom of Aquilonia. This had been taken from him when Python fell, and so he had been forced to flee to Stygia. In his own heart the wizard planned to restore the ancient kingdom of Acheron. The descendants of Acheron were more plentiful than men supposed, dwelling in the fastness of the hills, in communities in the great cities, and scattered throughout the kingdom as priests, menials, secretaries, and scribes." (p.335-336)

We see here that Howard's basic physical conception of Xaltotun stayed true from the beginning of the the writing process. The wizard's ultimate objectives stayed the same as well. The role of the Heart is slightly different, though its basic evil character is never in doubt.

Let's move on to the published version of The Hour of the Dragon (TBCoC, Del Rey)...
Xaltotun:was "a tall, lusty man, naked, white of skin, and dark of hair and beard". (p.85) He had "black wavy locks that fell to his shoulders." (p.86) The same description from the synopsis. He "was a high priest of Set in Python", and spoke "Nemedian with a curious, archaic accent." (p.86) So, in the days of Acheron, Xaltotun learned to speak "Nemedian", which merely sounds "archaic" after three thousand years. Xaltotun had a "lion-like head". (p.88)

Acheron: Encompassed at least part of the territories that would later become "Aquilonia, Nemedia, and Argos...". "The older kingdoms of Ophir, Corinthia and western Koth, which had been subject to the kings of Acheron, regained their independence with the fall of the empire." "In the hills small groups of folk still boast descent from Acheron" (according to Orastes). (p.88)

The "Younger Kingdoms":"rose on the imperial ruins and waxed great", according to Orastes. (p.88) "Younger", not "Hyborian" kingdoms. Does Xaltotun ever refer to the (Hyborian) "barbarians" as "Hyborians"? He instantly notices that Conan "is no Hyborian" (p.90), demonstrating that he's familiar with the term (and the physical type) immediately after resurrection.

Xaltotun:claimed that he had seen barbarian "heads piled to make a pyramid in the great square in Python when the kings returned from the west with their spoils and naked captives." Evidently, Acheron, like other Hyborian nations, kept kingship and high-priestship separate.

Well, it's getting late and there's plenty of meat to chew on above. Feel free to comment. :)

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#2 Strom

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Posted 02 October 2007 - 09:18 AM

Hmmm... Robert E. Howard plainly states that the Acheronians were Hyborians. It looks like he conceived of Acheron as a kind of sorcerous Roman Empire, precociously civilized, enslaving far and wide, until thrown down by their "rude" barbaric kin from the west. Why did de Camp/Carter change the Acheronians to Stygians? Sure, the "Achies" worshipped Set, but the Kothians worshipped Ishtar without becoming Shemites.


Not sure. But, maybe it was an attempt to fit Acheron within Howard's The Hyborian Age essay which describes the entire history of the Hyborian Age - from the great cataclysm that sunk Atlantis to the formation of the kingdom of Egypt - and yet never mentions the kingdom of Acheron, a contemporary of Stygia, according to The Hour of the Dragon. Having a barbarian Hyborian kingdom so powerful with Stygian-style magic kinda goes against the barbarian, up from the mud story Howard establishes in his Hyborian Age essay for the Hyborians.

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#3 Pictish Scout

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Posted 02 October 2007 - 02:51 PM

The first time I read about Acheron was on the marvel comics. They seamed to me like a tween kingdom to Stygia.I always thought Acheron was founded by that strange race of the east, the ancestors of the Stygian race. Even the name Acheron and Stygia are paralels, both are infernal rivers: Acheron was the River of Woe, the dead should cross it into Hades, guided by Charon the ferrymen. It was a border of Hell. It is a real river too in the Northwest Greece ( maybe not too far from Howards kingdom of Acheron).

Styx( the Stygian river) was also a border to Hades, as it does to the kingdom of Stygia. It is possible that the ancient Greeks, decendents from Aesir and Argosians, still remembering stories about the ancient wars with Stygia ( Zeus vs Chronos and Typhon) started to form the myth of the underworld ( Hades, Tartarus) placing it inside the border of the river Styx and Acheron. The river Styx had miraculous powers and could make someone immortal/invunerable as was the case of Achilles who was dipped into the river by his mother leaving his heel out of the water. Maybe Achilles was a late hyborian age hero who tried to cross the poluted Styx river and became weird :lol:

It is very new to me the idea of Acheron as an hyborian kingdom. It almost has no historical paralel as other kingdoms of the hyborian age. I always seen it as an independent Northern Stygia ( Like upper and lower Egypts. Pharaohs used to bear the title: Lord of the Two Lands). Maybe it has something to do with the giant kings of the pr?-hyborian age.

I'm not sure if Hyperboria as a "wizard kingdom" is cannonical. As "wizard kingdom" I mean a kingdom with a strong caste of wizards, rulers or not. If that is the case Acheron isn't the only hyborian kingdom to embrace the dark arts.

#4 Almuric

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Posted 02 October 2007 - 07:20 PM

I a vein of pure speculation, perhaps the Hyborian ancestors of the Acheronians were once vassals of Stygia, conquered and civilized according to Stygian ways. This might account for Acheronians being the only Hyborian people who worship Set, an otherwise Stygian deity and their embrace of sorcery.
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#5 Taranaich

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Posted 02 October 2007 - 08:24 PM

How long has the synopsis been known about? I got the impression that it was first officially published in the Del Ray books.

[quote name='deuce' post='74393' date='Oct 2 2007, 05:06 AM']From the synopsis:"The mummy (of Xaltotun) was that of a sorcerer of long ago, an Hyborian of a kingdom which had been destroyed by the Nemedians, Aquilonians and Argosseans. The name of this kingdom was Acheron, and its capital city was called Python. Many centuries before the people of Acheron, Hyborians more highly civilized than their neighbors to the east and the west, had been lords of an empire which had included what was later southern Nemedia and Brythunia, most of Corinthia, most of Ophir, western Koth and the western lands of Shem, northern Argos and eastern Aquilonia. With the overthrow and destruction of Acheron by its ruder western neighbors, their greatest sorcerer fled to Stygia, living there until poisoned by a Stygian priest of Set the Old Serpent." (p.335)[/quote]

[quote]Hmmm... Robert E. Howard plainly states that the Acheronians were Hyborians. It looks like he conceived of Acheron as a kind of sorcerous Roman Empire, precociously civilized, enslaving far and wide, until thrown down by their "rude" barbaric kin from the west. Why did de Camp/Carter change the Acheronians to Stygians? Sure, the "Achies" worshipped Set, but the Kothians worshipped Ishtar without becoming Shemites.[/quote]

Roman Empire seems a good match. Having thought about it a bit more, I think Acheron was a sort of dark side of Aquilonia: both were mighty Hyborian empires, but Acheron became decadent and indulged in dark sorcery where Aquilonia didn't, and one could argue that it could have headed down that path with Namedides. Conan could've been the shot in the arm Aquilonia needed to keep it going until the Picts came.

[quote]Xaltotun: "was a tall man with quick strong hands and strange magnetic eyes and thick black hair." (p.335) Xaltotun said that "before he could regain his full magical power, they must steal for him the jewel called the Heart of Ahriman, which was kept in a secret place in the kingdom of Aquilonia. This had been taken from him when Python fell, and so he had been forced to flee to Stygia. In his own heart the wizard planned to restore the ancient kingdom of Acheron. The descendants of Acheron were more plentiful than men supposed, dwelling in the fastness of the hills, in communities in the great cities, and scattered throughout the kingdom as priests, menials, secretaries, and scribes." (p.335-336)[/quote]

Now this is interesting: how come we never see evidence of these plentiful descendants in the story itself? Surely they wouldn't have been unaware of Xaltotun's presence as he asserted his power. Perhaps behind the scenes, Xaltotun was already communicating and leading them in preparation for his final betrayal of the Rebel Four, and although he seems to be capable of taking on his foes, it would be more efficient for him to employ his loyal subjects to carry out his will. Of course, maybe then Howard decided to reduce the numbers of Acheronians from synopsis to final cut.

[quote]Let's move on to the published version of The Hour of the Dragon (TBCoC, Del Rey)...
Xaltotun:was "a tall, lusty man, naked, white of skin, and dark of hair and beard". (p.85) He had "black wavy locks that fell to his shoulders." (p.86) The same description from the synopsis. He "was a high priest of Set in Python", and spoke "Nemedian with a curious, archaic accent." (p.86) So, in the days of Acheron, Xaltotun learned to speak "Nemedian", which merely sounds "archaic" after three thousand years.[/quote]

Anyone else picture a living sculpture of Zeus or a similar Greek god when they visualise Xaltotun? I found Xaltotun's resemblance to the sculpture of Mitra in Black Colossus very intriguing:

Yasmela looked in awe at the sweep of the magnificent shoulders, the clear-cut features - the wide straight eyes, the patriarchal beard, the thick curls of the hair, confined by a simple band about the temples.

Both tall and well built, with curly/wavy hair, bearded, striking eyes, adding resonance to the idea that Xaltotun was a Hyborian, and that Acheron was a Hyborian empire.

[quote]The "Younger Kingdoms":"rose on the imperial ruins and waxed great", according to Orastes. (p.88) "Younger", not "Hyborian" kingdoms. Does Xaltotun ever refer to the (Hyborian) "barbarians" as "Hyborians"? He instantly notices that Conan "is no Hyborian" (p.90), demonstrating that he's familiar with the term right after resurrection.[/quote]

I think it would be redundant of Xaltotun to call the barbarians "Hyborians" if Acheron and he himself was one, as it implies a sense of otherness that isn't there, like the Romans calling the Gauls "Europeans" or something. However, he could be shocked that the king of the Aquilonians was not a Hyborian in any sense, like how a Roman emperor would be perturbed to see a Gaul as the king of Greece.

[quote]Xaltotun:claimed that he had seen barbarian "heads piled to make a pyramid in the great square in Python when the kings returned from the west with their spoils and naked captives." Evidently, Acheron, like other Hyborian nations, kept kingship and high-priestship separate.[/quote]

Was it Timur who built "pyramids of skulls" from executed victims? Not sure if it's an eastern tradition or not (not that the East has a monopoly of grisly monuments).

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#6 deuce

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Posted 02 October 2007 - 10:58 PM

Hmmm... Robert E. Howard plainly states that the Acheronians were Hyborians. It looks like he conceived of Acheron as a kind of sorcerous Roman Empire, precociously civilized, enslaving far and wide, until thrown down by their "rude" barbaric kin from the west. Why did de Camp/Carter change the Acheronians to Stygians? Sure, the "Achies" worshipped Set, but the Kothians worshipped Ishtar without becoming Shemites.


Not sure. But, maybe it was an attempt to fit Acheron within Howard's The Hyborian Age essay which describes the entire history of the Hyborian Age - from the great cataclysm that sunk Atlantis to the formation of the kingdom of Egypt - and yet never mentions the kingdom of Acheron, a contemporary of Stygia, according to The Hour of the Dragon. Having a barbarian Hyborian kingdom so powerful with Stygian-style magic kinda goes against the barbarian, up from the mud story Howard establishes in his Hyborian Age essay for the Hyborians.


Hey Strom! Way to be a "first responder" (and a good, solid first response). :) To tell the truth, that was kind of a rhetorical question. I was trying to drum up debate. Still, it points to how the Hyborians are often conceived (rightly, in general) by most people. Hyborians couldn't become something like the Acheronians, could they? Obviously, Howard thought that the Children of Bori could, under the right set of circumstances. Set 'em off on the wrong foot, let 'em get a good run at it and watch 'em go! The Hyborians were a VERY capable ethnos. Capable of anything, as it turns out.

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#7 Pictish Scout

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Posted 02 October 2007 - 11:44 PM

Is it possible to Acheron to be one of the oldest Hyborian civilized kingdoms? In THOTD Orestes tells Xaltotun how his kingdom was destroyed by Barbarians. It is possibel that Aquilonians, Nemedians, etc were still nomadic and barbarian though Acheronians were masters of a civilized empire. Maybe it is as the Romans and Germans. Romans are indoeuropeans like the Germans ans Celts. Romans once were "barbarians" but they adopted "civilization", formed an empire and called other indo-european ( Celts, Germans) Barbarians. The same way Xaltatoun could have called barbarians to other (nomadic) Hyborians.

I think my confusion of Acheron/Northern Stygia started with the Black Colossus. Kutchemes is a Stygian city, not Acheronian. No mention of Acheron in that story. Yet Kutchemes seams to be located near Khoraja and Southern Koth. Maybe even inside future or past Acheronian borders.

Like Python, Kutchemes was destroyed by barbarians, yet I don't know WHEN. In TBC Kutchemes is destroyed by barbarians who later founded Koth. So Kutchemes seams to be BEFORE Acheron Empire, as Koth was a Province to this same empire. Maybe Kutchemes served as an "inspiration" to the later Acheron, the same way Etruscans did for the Romans who conquered them. Or maybe Acheron and Koth were founded after the fall of Kutchemes. Both hyborian kingdoms were influenced by the southern culture of Shem and Stygia. But Acheron got stronger and started to dream of empire. The upper classes adopted the more civilized cultures of the south, maybe starting a Kutchemes revivalism et voi la: Stygianised upperclass ( Wizards) in an hyborian kingdom.

#8 deuce

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Posted 03 October 2007 - 12:32 AM

The first time I read about Acheron was on the marvel comics. They seamed to me like a tween kingdom to Stygia.I always thought Acheron was founded by that strange race of the east, the ancestors of the Stygian race. Even the name Acheron and Stygia are paralels, both are infernal rivers: Acheron was the River of Woe, the dead should cross it into Hades, guided by Charon the ferrymen. It was a border of Hell. It is a real river too in the Northwest Greece ( maybe not too far from Howards kingdom of Acheron).


Hey Scout! Of course, Marvel™ was following de Camp's lead. Actually, the real River Acheron lies not too far from where REH placed the n-w border of Koth. Was "Tybor" the original name of the Tybor river? Perhaps it was "Acheron", then changed. Perhaps there is an echo of "Bori" in the name.

Styx( the Stygian river) was also a border to Hades, as it does to the kingdom of Stygia. It is possible that the ancient Greeks, decendents from Aesir and Argosians, still remembering stories about the ancient wars with Stygia ( Zeus vs Chronos and Typhon) started to form the myth of the underworld ( Hades, Tartarus) placing it inside the border of the river Styx and Acheron.


The Styx existed as the "Stagus" in the Thurian Age. Its course seems to have been diverted after the Cataclysm. The Stygians (like the Kansans :P) named themselves after the great river of their land.

It is very new to me the idea of Acheron as an hyborian kingdom. It almost has no historical paralel as other kingdoms of the hyborian age. I always seen it as an independent Northern Stygia ( Like upper and lower Egypts. Pharaohs used to bear the title: Lord of the Two Lands). Maybe it has something to do with the giant kings of the pr?-hyborian age.


There were already "northern Stygian kingdoms" (see Black Colossus). The "giant kings" appear to have been human-headed serpents living in the southern part of Stygia. I'm not sure what they'd have to do with the Hyborian heartland.

I'm not sure if Hyperboria as a "wizard kingdom" is cannonical. As "wizard kingdom" I mean a kingdom with a strong caste of wizards, rulers or not. If that is the case Acheron isn't the only hyborian kingdom to embrace the dark arts.


REH really doesn't indicate whether Hyperborea had a strong "wizardly caste". It certainly wouldn't be as depicted in the DH comics (or the de Camp/Carter tales). Still, one has to wonder where the original Hyperboreans, driven out by more virile Hyborians from the North, finally ended up.

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#9 deuce

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Posted 03 October 2007 - 06:31 AM

Great post, Taranaich. It's late, so some replies may be clipped a little...
[quote name='Taranaich' post='74428' date='Oct 2 2007, 08:24 PM']How long has the synopsis been known about? I got the impression that it was first officially published in the Del Ray books.[/quote]

As far as I know.

[quote]Roman Empire seems a good match. Having thought about it a bit more, I think Acheron was a sort of dark side of Aquilonia: both were mighty Hyborian empires, but Acheron became decadent and indulged in dark sorcery where Aquilonia didn't, and one could argue that it could have headed down that path with Namedides. Conan could've been the shot in the arm Aquilonia needed to keep it going until the Picts came.[/quote]

My exact thoughts. I'll have to put off going deeply into the concept now. Y'all will have to wait 'til I can put up my "Nightmare Empires, Dreaming Cities and Draconic Dominations" post, where I discuss my views as to how Moorcock and SM Stirling seem to have been inspired by the "Acheron concept".

[quote]The descendants of Acheron were more plentiful than men supposed, dwelling in the fastness of the hills, in communities in the great cities, and scattered throughout the kingdom as priests, menials, secretaries, and scribes." (p.335-336)[/quote]

[quote]Now this is interesting: how come we never see evidence of these plentiful descendants in the story itself? Surely they wouldn't have been unaware of Xaltotun's presence as he asserted his power. Perhaps behind the scenes, Xaltotun was already communicating and leading them in preparation for his final betrayal of the Rebel Four, and although he seems to be capable of taking on his foes, it would be more efficient for him to employ his loyal subjects to carry out his will. Of course, maybe then Howard decided to reduce the numbers of Acheronians from synopsis to final cut.[/quote]

I could see it either way.

[quote]Anyone else picture a living sculpture of Zeus or a similar Greek god when they visualise Xaltotun? I found Xaltotun's resemblance to the sculpture of Mitra in Black Colossus very intriguing:

Yasmela looked in awe at the sweep of the magnificent shoulders, the clear-cut features - the wide straight eyes, the patriarchal beard, the thick curls of the hair, confined by a simple band about the temples.

Both tall and well built, with curly/wavy hair, bearded, striking eyes, adding resonance to the idea that Xaltotun was a Hyborian, and that Acheron was a Hyborian empire.[/quote]

Awesome insight! I hadn't noticed that. Orastes even put a band around X's temples.

[quote]I think it would be redundant of Xaltotun to call the barbarians "Hyborians" if Acheron and he himself was one, as it implies a sense of otherness that isn't there, like the Romans calling the Gauls "Europeans" or something. However, he could be shocked that the king of the Aquilonians was not a Hyborian in any sense, like how a Roman emperor would be perturbed to see a Gaul as the king of Greece.[/quote]

I might not have been clear enough. That was my point. :) Howard was subtly showing the "Hyborian-ness" of Xaltotun.

[quote]Was it Timur who built "pyramids of skulls" from executed victims? Not sure if it's an eastern tradition or not (not that the East has a monopoly of grisly monuments).[/quote]

REH knew his Timur. I also saw a Stygian "pyramid" connection and the beheadings in "BC". Of course, gladiatorial combat was originally human sacrifice. :)

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#10 Ironhand

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Posted 03 October 2007 - 07:09 AM

I have to disagree with a lot of this; instead I more or less agree with Pictish Scout. I never got any impression from HotD that the Acheronians were racially Hyborian, although they were geographically Hyborian. The true Hyborians were a race of barbarians that drifted down from the northwest, driven in turn by the pale apemen who later evolved into Nordheimers. The Hyborians, led by heroic chiefs and "feathered shamans", overwhelmed the Acheronians. This is supported by some of the things that Epimetreus says to Conan in Phoenix on the Sword. I don't know what the racial origin of the Acheronians was. Does Dale Rippke have anything to say about this?

Howard's physical description of Xaltotun sounds nothing like his description of pureblood Hyborians (sandy hair and gray eyes.)
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#11 Axerules

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Posted 03 October 2007 - 04:46 PM

[quote name='Deuce'][quote name='Taranaich']I think it would be redundant of Xaltotun to call the barbarians "Hyborians" if Acheron and he himself was one, as it implies a sense of otherness that isn't there, like the Romans calling the Gauls "Europeans" or something. However, he could be shocked that the king of the Aquilonians was not a Hyborian in any sense, like how a Roman emperor would be perturbed to see a Gaul as the king of Greece.[/quote]
I might not have been clear enough. That was my point. :) Howard was subtly showing the "Hyborian-ness" of Xaltotun.[/quote]That's also what I understood and IMO Deuce is right about Acheronians being Hyborians.

[quote name='Strom'][quote name='Deuce']
Hmmm... Robert E. Howard plainly states that the Acheronians were Hyborians. It looks like he conceived of Acheron as a kind of sorcerous Roman Empire, precociously civilized, enslaving far and wide, until thrown down by their "rude" barbaric kin from the west. Why did de Camp/Carter change the Acheronians to Stygians? Sure, the "Achies" worshipped Set, but the Kothians worshipped Ishtar without becoming Shemites.[/quote]
Not sure. But, maybe it was an attempt to fit Acheron within Howard's The Hyborian Age essay which describes the entire history of the Hyborian Age - from the great cataclysm that sunk Atlantis to the formation of the kingdom of Egypt - and yet never mentions the kingdom of Acheron, a contemporary of Stygia, according to The Hour of the Dragon. Having a barbarian Hyborian kingdom so powerful with Stygian-style magic kinda goes against the barbarian, up from the mud story Howard establishes in his Hyborian Age essay for the Hyborians.[/quote]Strom, I don't see so much contradictions here. The Hyborian drift extended through centuries. Several moves southward.
Think about Aryara's story (The Children of the Night) and the reincarnation yarns. As soon as one of REH's barbarian people settle, it becomes weaker. Same for the Hybs. The progeny of the older drifts (who founded Old Koth, Corinthia and Ophir as well as Acheron) could have degenerated. Between the writing of THA and The Scarlet Citadel, REH ALTERED the previous timeline.
3000 years IS in Pelias words (in The Scarlet Citadel). Having such a big time now between the foundation of the first Hyb kingdoms and Conan's life could lead to other changes: one could easily shoehorn a "degenerated" Hyb kingdom between the first and later drifts.

They needed some fresh blood to become again a virile and powerful race. Ironhand said that the "true Hyborians" were a race of barbarians. Yes, the Hybs who overthrew Acheron are describded in THotD as barbarians, clad in wolf-skins with a primitive priest/feathered shaman for religious and magical asset. Being more "pure", they could have rejuvenated the older "mixed" and weakened stock.

[quote name='Deuce']Acheron: Encompassed at least part of the territories that would later become "Aquilonia, Nemedia, and Argos...". "The older kingdoms of Ophir, Corinthia and western Koth, which had been subject to the kings of Acheron, regained their independence with the fall of the empire." "In the hills small groups of folk still boast descent from Acheron" (according to Orastes). (p.88)

The "Younger Kingdoms":"rose on the imperial ruins and waxed great", according to Orastes. (p.88) "Younger", not "Hyborian" kingdoms. Does Xaltotun ever refer to the (Hyborian) "barbarians" as "Hyborians"? He instantly notices that Conan "is no Hyborian" (p.90), demonstrating that he's familiar with the term right after resurrection.[/quote]"younger" could fit with my idea of "fresh blood".


[quote name='Taranaich']Anyone else picture a living sculpture of Zeus or a similar Greek god when they visualise Xaltotun? I found Xaltotun's resemblance to the sculpture of Mitra in Black Colossus very intriguing:

Yasmela looked in awe at the sweep of the magnificent shoulders, the clear-cut features - the wide straight eyes, the patriarchal beard, the thick curls of the hair, confined by a simple band about the temples.

Both tall and well built, with curly/wavy hair, bearded, striking eyes, adding resonance to the idea that Xaltotun was a Hyborian, and that Acheron was a Hyborian empire.[/quote]Hey, I had not noticed the similarity...but it makes sense.

About the "number" of Acheronians descendants in the story, Orastes said that he saw Xalt performing rituals with them. Now I have a question, folks: do you think that Xalt's two "familiars" (Baal and Chiron) were some kind of Demons or Acheronians ? They're hairy and bestial, like the descendants of Acheron Orastes talked about...

[quote name='Almuric']In a vein of pure speculation, perhaps the Hyborian ancestors of the Acheronians were once vassals of Stygia, conquered and civilized according to Stygian ways. This might account for Acheronians being the only Hyborian people who worship Set, an otherwise Stygian deity and their embrace of sorcery.[/quote]Hey Almuric ! Set is not strictly restricted to have Stygian worshippers. In Black Colossus, Natohk/Thugra Khotan attracted a lot of Shemite followers among the nomad clans. It doesn't help a lot to assert anything about Hyborians, but it proves that Set's worship isn't restricted to Stygians/Stygian-related peoples.

[quote name='Ironhand']This is supported by some of the things that Epimetreus says to Conan in Phoenix on the Sword.[/quote]Can you tell us more about this ? I don't remember Epi talking about Acheronians and I don't think that REH ever wrote something about Acheron before 1934. YEARS after TPotS.

[quote]Does Dale Rippke have anything to say about this?[/quote] The Hyborian Heresies book was written before the release of the Bloody Crown of Conan. He linked the Acheronians to the Giant-Kings.
Of course, the concept of Acheron arose only in 1934, when REH wrote THotD, a long time after the writing of THA or The God in the Bowl: the Giant-King link is IMHO impossible. If REH had G-K's in mind when he invented the concept of Acheron, the synopsis would be the greatest inconsistency he ever wrote.

Edited by Axerules, 09 October 2007 - 09:02 PM.

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#12 Kortoso

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Posted 03 October 2007 - 05:15 PM

Wow. I never thought I would see such an apparently obscure corner of the Hyborian world as Acheron fleshed out in so much detail. Great spade-work, you guys!

#13 Almuric

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Posted 03 October 2007 - 06:06 PM

Oh dear, I had forgotten that. :blink:
"It is more than a mortal sea. Your hands are red with blood and you follow a red sea-path, yet the fault is not wholly with you. Almighty God, when will the reign of blood cease?"

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#14 Taranaich

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Posted 03 October 2007 - 09:10 PM

My exact thoughts. I'll have to put off going deeply into the concept now. Y'all will have to wait 'til I can put up my "Nightmare Empires, Dreaming Cities and Draconic Dominations" post, where I discuss my views as to how Moorcock and SM Stirling seem to have been inspired by the "Acheron concept".


I await with bated breath :)

Awesome insight! I hadn't noticed that. Orastes even put a band around X's temples.


Cheers! What's really interesting was that (obviously) REH wrote Black Colossus before Hour of the Dragon, so Howard could have been unconciously reminding the reader of Mitra and Epimitreus.

I might not have been clear enough. That was my point. :) Howard was subtly showing the "Hyborian-ness" of Xaltotun.


I know, I just thought I'd elaborate to make sure I got the idea.

About the "number" of Acheronians descendants in the story, Orastes said that he saw Xalt performing rituals with them. Now I have a question, folks: do you think that Xalt's two "familiars" (Baal and Chiron) were some kind of Demons or Acheronians ? They're hairy and bestial, like the descendants of Acheron Orastes talked about...


I was never quite sure about Baal and Chiron, but come to think of it it would make sense for them to late Acheronians, and if this were the case it offers a poetic juxtaposition of the race: Xaltotun at the race's height of virility and power, and the sad, de-evolved remains of the mighty people. Howard seems to really heap on the physical degradation of races: Atlanteans become apish, the Winged Ones go from angels to monstrous demonic apes.

Hey Almuric ! Set is not strictly restricted to have Stygian worshippers. In Black Colossus, Natohk/Thugra Khotan attracted a lot of Shemite followers among the nomad clans. It doesn't help a lot to assert anything about Hyborians, but it proves that Set's worship isn't restricted to Stygian/Stygian related people.


Also, the further south and east the Hyborians got, the more open they became to foreign deities. The most northerly Hyborians (Hyperborea and Gunderland) mostly retained Bori worship, Aquilonia and Nemedia seemed to worship Mitra strongly, and the southern/eastern realms seem to revere a few Shemite gods, Koth in particular adopting Ishtar as their patron. Because the Stygian Empire extended further north and the Shemites were not a strong power, it stands to reason that the first Hyborian nations adopted some Stygian influences like Set.

I wonder if Ibis was involved in Acheronian religion: it would explain why he is still revered in Nemedia, despite the general suspicion "Stygian" religion is treated with in the Hyborian lands.

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#15 Kortoso

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Posted 03 October 2007 - 09:29 PM

Awesome insight! I hadn't noticed that. Orastes even put a band around X's temples.

Trying to enhance the similarities?

#16 Scott Oden

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Posted 03 October 2007 - 10:53 PM

So, what's the earliest mention of Acheron in Howard's stories? Before Black Colossus?

Scott (who is finding these threads quite interesting)

#17 Axerules

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Posted 03 October 2007 - 10:53 PM

I was never quite sure about Baal and Chiron, but come to think of it it would make sense for them to late Acheronians, and if this were the case it offers a poetic juxtaposition of the race: Xaltotun at the race's height of virility and power, and the sad, de-evolved remains of the mighty people. Howard seems to really heap on the physical degradation of races: Atlanteans become apish, the Winged Ones go from angels to monstrous demonic apes.

Very good point, Taranaich.
In THotD, the Acheronians are describded as "surviving remnants of an old race: dark, silent folk who claimed descent from an ancient kingdom" (The Bloody Crown of Conan, p 229). Baal and Chiron, the two "familiars" of Xaltotun COULD have been Acheronians, their description as "hairy, furtive and dark" (p 246) echoes the words of Orastes speaking of "accursed descendants" and "beast-like worshippers" (p 230).
Xaltotun is the only Acheronian described as white-skinned in THotD and it could be a result of his undead "mask" OR/AND because he is like-the-race-once-was.

Edited by Axerules, 04 October 2007 - 03:35 AM.

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#18 Axerules

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Posted 03 October 2007 - 11:07 PM

So, what's the earliest mention of Acheron in Howard's stories? Before Black Colossus?

Scott (who is finding these threads quite interesting)

Hello Scott.
I asked the same thing to Ironhand a few posts ago. Epi didn't say a word about Acheron in The Phoenix on the Sword.
As far as I know, there's no reference to Acheron in another story than THotD, written in 1934.
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#19 deuce

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Posted 04 October 2007 - 12:01 AM

So, what's the earliest mention of Acheron in Howard's stories? Before Black Colossus?

Scott (who is finding these threads quite interesting)

Hello Scott.
I asked the same thing to Ironhand a few posts ago. Epi didn't say a word about Acheron in The Phoenix on the Sword.
As far as I know, there's no reference to Acheron in another story than THotD, written in 1934.


Hey y'all! There's no mention of the Nightmare Empire in "TPotS" or "BC". Epi seems to be referring to a resurgence of Set-worship 1500 years before the reign of Conan. In "Colossus", dC/C "retrofitted" Acheron into that yarn. It can't be found in the (Rusty-edited) Del Rey edition. I guess something could always turn up, but I'm willing to bet green money that REH only thought up Acheron in 1934. There's absolutely no mention of it in THA. In fact, its very existence violates The Hyborian Age essay, timeline-wise. The only possible "Acheronian" reference might be the "city of the ancients" in the "Untitled" ("Hall of the Dead") fragment, with its giant, mummified warriors and jade "serpent-god" idol. That might be an example of REH toying with an "Acheron-like" idea that he later fleshed out, sort of as he did with "Xuthal", then "Red Nails". Just an idea. :)

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#20 Ironhand

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Posted 04 October 2007 - 04:49 AM

Well, Axerules is right. I "read" the story of the Hyborian conquest of Acheron into Phoenix, but in fact there is no mention or even hint of Acheron in Phoenix, just the story of Epimetreus' personal struggle against Set.

BTW, I think Epi is stronger than Xaltotun, because Epi retained free will and freedom of action after death. Like Sauron, he conquered death without outside aid.

Edited by Ironhand, 04 October 2007 - 04:59 AM.

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