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The Hyborian Age, Ancient Or Medieval?


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#61 deuce

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Posted 23 January 2012 - 06:26 AM

What are you doing? Is there something weird about your computer? Are you composing it in some weird word processor?


I agree. It only seems to be happening to Constantine. It's unfortunate, because those posts are quite interesting, but very difficult to read.

Constantine, if you want, I could probably go in and edit the effed-up posts into a more readable format.

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#62 constantine

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Posted 23 January 2012 - 11:41 PM

I agree. It only seems to be happening to Constantine. It's unfortunate, because those posts are quite interesting, but very difficult to read.


I think I saw once the same problem in someone else's post as well. And some of my posts are normal (more or less). Am I responsible for this mess? What should I do in order to place correctly other people's quotes? I feel like a retarded Hyborian...

Constantine, if you want, I could probably go in and edit the effed-up posts into a more readable format.


That sounds nice. If possible, it would be good to have the posts in a readable condition, so that others will be able to put their own comments. If it is trouble though, just leave them the way they are. Hope I don't ruin this post as well...

#63 Ironhand

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Posted 24 January 2012 - 06:27 AM

I agree. It only seems to be happening to Constantine. It's unfortunate, because those posts are quite interesting, but very difficult to read.


I think I saw once the same problem in someone else's post as well. And some of my posts are normal (more or less). Am I responsible for this mess? What should I do in order to place correctly other people's quotes? I feel like a retarded Hyborian...

Constantine, if you want, I could probably go in and edit the effed-up posts into a more readable format.


That sounds nice. If possible, it would be good to have the posts in a readable condition, so that others will be able to put their own comments. If it is trouble though, just leave them the way they are. Hope I don't ruin this post as well...

Thats perfect! :)
"Did you deem yourself strong, because you were able to twist the heads off civilized folk, poor weaklings with muscles like rotten string? Hell! Break the neck of a wild Cimmerian bull before you call yourself strong. I did that, before I was a full-grown man...!" - Conan, in "Shadows in Zamboula", by Robert E. Howard
"... you speak of Venarium familiarly. Perhaps you were there?"
"I was," grunted [Conan]. "I was one of the horde that swarmed over the hills. I hadn't yet seen fifteen snows, but already my name was repeated about the council fires." - "Beyond the Black River", by Robert E. Howard

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#64 deuce

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Posted 28 January 2012 - 07:35 PM

I agree. It only seems to be happening to Constantine. It's unfortunate, because those posts are quite interesting, but very difficult to read.


I think I saw once the same problem in someone else's post as well. And some of my posts are normal (more or less). Am I responsible for this mess? What should I do in order to place correctly other people's quotes? I feel like a retarded Hyborian...

Constantine, if you want, I could probably go in and edit the effed-up posts into a more readable format.


That sounds nice. If possible, it would be good to have the posts in a readable condition, so that others will be able to put their own comments. If it is trouble though, just leave them the way they are. Hope I don't ruin this post as well...


Been really busy. Will reformat when I have time. :)

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Posted 05 February 2012 - 08:13 AM

Ancient or Medieval ? I will give you my perspective. As far as the Hyborian Age ( including the Hyborian nations ) are concerned there is no purity here, no overriding right or wrong, too many intersecting historical periods and anachronisms by the plenty. Nevertheless, for me, the ancient period elements stand out, with barbarism just around the corner.
I also see REH’s Hyborian Age loosely following the tradition set out by late 19th Century and early 20th century lost civilisation fiction writers, notably Edgar Rice Burroughs. Note the REH tale The Slithering Shadow where Conan and Natala come across the lost city of Xuthal. ERB’s literary influence can also be seen in the Sword and Planet tale Almuric. Yag Kosha from TTOTE hints at that too.

Quote by Icarus

“ I definitely think Hyboria as a whole is equivalent to the ancient world. I really like the similarities between the Vaenir and Vikings, which I guess would be more dark ages than anything. The cool part about Howard’s world is that it seems to be a mixture of several different time period.“

I imagine a prehistoric/lost civilisation base with a thick layer of ancient classical/near east and dark age mix. Now add a little High/Late middle ages. Some hint of the American frontier period, buccaneer and oriental adventure. Wrap it up in magic and fantasy and present it to the masses for entertainment purposes.

Quote by deuce

“The data derived from only the writings by Robert E. Howard concerning the Hyborian Age simply will not support the "Greco-Roman Period" or the Bronze Age or the "Dark Ages" as the model for REH's Hyborian Age.“

“ Once again, I'd like to see these "ancient history elements" presented (especially in the case of the western Hyborian nations) which outweigh the "feudal"/medieval elements.“

The Hyborian Age history with it’s fall of the Hyborian nations, references to nations paying tribute to Aquilonia, Hyrkanian ( Hun ) raids into Zamora and barbarians entering the Aquilonian mercenary armies is very reminiscent of the historical late Roman Empire and early Dark Age periods. The barbarian Conan rising to the throne of a civilised Aquilonia; Historical Dark Age barbarians attained such lofty positions in the early Dark Age Visigothic and Ostrogothic Kingdoms. REH might not have been overly fond of the Romans, but he certainly added them into his Hyborian Age mythos. The whole decadent civilised/barbarian noble savage paradigm is classical in concept. REH fell hook, line and sinker for that ancient Greco- Roman world view popular in the early 20th Century, and used it to good effect.

When I think of Hyborian cities I see something a little like Rome, Athens, Babylon and Carthage. The last thing on my mind are lordly stone castles overlooking rustic hamlets with their peasant populations. Let me break down some of the Conan tales.

The Tower of The Elephant – Rowdy Zamoran Maul, rogues, Bel god of thieves, discussion regarding worth of certain women in silver pieces. I can imagine slave traders haggling in the thief infested back streets and alley ways of Polytheistic Rome. REH description of Conan “ This person was as much out of place in that den as a gray wolf among mangy rats of the gutters. “ ( noble savage or Celt amongst Romans ).

Queen Of The Black Coast – Argos, galleys sailing south to Kush to “ trade beads and silks and sugar and brass-hilted swords to the black kings for ivory, copra, copper ore, slaves and pearls. “ Echoes of Mediterranean sea trade undertaken by the Greeks and Phoenicians.

Plenty of references to temples, altars and lost cities in many of the Conan yarns.

In more than one tale Conan is described as wearing scale mail and it seems to be the dominant type of armour in the Hyborian Age. Black Colossus -Shemites in scale corselets. The Frost Giants Daughter - Vanir with mail made from brass scales. Now the ancient Celts, Scythians and Persians wore mail ( at least the better off ones did ). It was also popular amongst the Dark Age Vikings.

One can find ancient or prehistoric elements all over the map of the Hyborian Age. Rogues In The House – the man ape Thak. The Devil In Iron – neanderthal like Yuetshi fisherman, “ He was broadly built, with long apish arms and a mighty chest, but with lean loins and thin bandy legs. His face was broad, his forehead low and retreating, his hair thick and tangled. A belt for a knife and a rag for a loin cloth were all he wore in the way of clothing. “ The West - Who can forget the savage Picts “ the Pict remained the eternal barbarian, ferocious, elemental, interested only in the naked primal principles of life, unchanging, unerring in his instincts which were all for war and plunder, and in which arts and the cultured progress of humanity had no place. “

Quote by Kahn

“The Hyborian world on the hand is something of a Pangaea i.e. one massive super-continent. So it’s very plausible for nations from different epochs to co-exist (although generally not for very long!)“

Yes, the Hyborian Age was a period consisting of wondrous ancient capitals surrounded by a sea of barbarism. That contrast is the effect. REH had a romantic primitivist philosophy “Barbarism is the natural state of mankind,” the forester said, still staring somberly at the Cimmerian. “ Civilisation is unnatural. It is a whim of circumstance. And Barbarism must always ultimately triumph.” from Beyond The Black River.

#66 Guest_Bront_*

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Posted 05 February 2012 - 08:32 AM

Medieval ? Apart from Ottoman inspired Turan, most of the medieval bits and pieces relate to some of the arms and armour, weapons like pikes and great swords. The poinard from RITH for example.

I had written somewhere else that to my way of thinking Hyborian Age swords would have been of the medieval and Viking age types. Makes perfect sense. If I was creating a fantasy world set in the prehistoric past, I might give my characters later Arabic style scimitars and Landsknecht long swords. It is just a bit of mix and match by REH to get the right effect. In reality many of those iron age Celtic and Roman blades where made by complicated pattern welding procedures or from better ore deposits that yielded iron that could be made into good steel.

Quote by deuce

“ REH talks about casques, burgonets, etc... all through the Conan yarns. Weapons like poinards and five-foot swords. NONE known to the Romans, let alone the Greeks.“


Quote by deuce

“While you seem willfully oblivious to the fact, medieval technology DID sport elements from Classical times.

Trying to say that ballistae make the Hyborian kingdoms "Classical" is about like asserting that 7-day weeks and 360-degree circles make the modern USA "Sumerian".

I see a bit of contradiction here. On the one hand you are saying that having some medieval style weaponry in the Hyborian Age proves a medieval basis for many parts of that age, and yet you argue that classical elements proves nothing.

Actually, medieval elements also existed in the historical Ancient or Classical period.

Black Colossus - references to mounted Knights.


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Relief from Kermanshah Iran shows a cataphract from the final years of the centuries long war between Rome and Persia. The heavily armoured Parthian Knight, with helmet , shield and long lance, and a heavy horse armoured with what was probably quilted cloth, looks like a figure from the high middle ages .

Circa 50 BC Crassus legions where destroyed by mounted horsemen similar to Europes Knights of 1200 years later. I guess real history is not such a neat package after all.

In Tarzan, Lord of the Jungle 1928, Tarzan comes across the Knights Templars and also armed himself with a lance and shield. A jousting Tarzan. I don’t think anyone would say now that Tarzan’s setting was high medieval because of this.

I think what attracted people to the 1960’s paperback Sphere and Ace editions was the Frazetta covers with a primal Conan set against a very ancient and prehistoric fantasy world. Most people reading the books don’t turn back to the front cover and say “ Hey, its not like this “. I get that feel from the original REH stories. The trend continued with the Marvel comic adaptations. Who would have bothered if Conan and Co looked like they stepped out of Tudor England or Shakespeare ? When people want something a little more medieval or 17th Century they pick up Solomon Kane or works by authors like Moorcock, Salvatore and Tolkien. The only time I read Conan and pictured medieval was when I read Conan of Venarium, and that was by Harry Turtledove and not REH ( I enjoyed that book ).

This attempt to give the world of Conan a more medieval cast seems to be a recent phenomenon and is an attempt in large part, to pander to the new wave fantasy crowd who jumped on board during the revival of High Fantasy literature in the late 1980’s. Look at some of the threads on this forum and you will find politically correct subjects about Conan’s treatment of women, or what Conan tale should I recommend to my wife or child. It is a modern cultural thing. I’m sure The Hobbit will do well on the silver screen ( one medium where Conan unfortunately will always miserably fail ). It is a little like some people are embarrassed of Conan and the Hyborian Age and want to re-imagine the whole thing.

#67 Gin-Wulf

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Posted 05 February 2012 - 02:10 PM

so great research you have done, but it still doesn't change the fact that you personally are taking an ancient "look" away from reading REH, and that does not change the fact that that is wrong. there may be names and such that match up with the ancient world but after reading how REH himself felt about rome and greece and most the ancient world there is no way any western hyborian nation is based off them.
all the high spires and towers seem more medieval.the 5 foot Aqualonian sword seems WAY more medieval. conan himself is most often dressed in medieval clothing, wether it be wide legged short breeches with a white wide collar wide sleeve shirt. or chain and plate mail.
i have no clue were your idea of a 80s ban wagon jump on to things medieval, but trying to make conans world be what the creator intended is not a recent phenomenon .
17th C Solomon Kane is set in renaissance times not medieval.
the idea that people can't "see" and medieval/renaissance world with some ancient in there is like a mental block, it the same for those who will read REH words and still picture a F.F. cover as conan. it doesn't matter if it what you want to see that fact is when you start doing that you couldn't be more wrong.
i know i for one get pissed off if the cover has conan in chain mail fighting skeletons but that look or scene never comes up in the book. that is like false advertising.

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Posted 05 February 2012 - 03:49 PM

Gin-Wulf

Hi.

Mail armour is common amongst the ancients.

I did not say that 17th Century Kane is set in the medieval period. Exact words " medieval or 17th Century ".

I also went into some way in explaining that a bit of historical mix and match was evident in the Conan Yarns.

Quote by Gin-Wulf

"....wide legged short breeches with a white wide collar wide sleeve shirt."

As I stated in my post, REH mixed in a bit of the Bucanneer and other periods. Also as a Kozak in The Devil In Iron "His gilt worked leather boots...Through his widely open white silk shirt..."

However,

The Hand of Nergal ( Fragment ) - " The fellow was a Cimmerian, a giant with a black mane and smoldering eyes. His gidled loin-cloth and high strapped sandals were splashed with blood. "

The God In The Bowel - " Arus saw a tall powerfully built youth, naked but for a loncloth, and sandals strapped high about his ankles....A long sword hung in a leather scabbard at his girdle."

Rogues In The House - " He discarded his ragged tunic and moved through the night naked but for a loin-cloth "

The Slithering Shadow - " He stood like a bronze image in the sand, apparently impervious to the murderous sun, though his only garment was a silk loin cloth, girdled by a wide gold-buckled belt from which hung a saber a broad bladed poinard."

Black Colossus - " beneath the scarlet cloak which flowed carelessly from his mailed shoulders. The torchlight glinted dully on the polished blue steel of his greaves and basinet."

Reading those descriptions, it is easy to see why artists like John Buscema, Joe Jusko and Frazetta gave Conan that generic barbarian cast. It gives me more of an ancient feel, but as I said before, other historical elements are mixed into the package.

Will have something else that may be of interest to present in the next day or so.

Edited by Bront, 05 February 2012 - 03:53 PM.


#69 Gin-Wulf

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Posted 05 February 2012 - 03:56 PM

tunic and sandals with out pants was a common dressing style for the irish up till the end of the 16th century.

#70 constantine

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Posted 05 February 2012 - 10:00 PM

While the title of the topic is about the Hyborian Age, the debate is mainly about the culture of the Hyborian kingdoms. No one doubts, for example, that Shem and Stygia correspond to historical Near Eastern civilizations of antiquity. But the ethnically Hyborian nations, with the partial exception of Koth, have a predominantly pseudo-medieval culture, one that has the High and Late Middle Ages as a primary source of inspiration. In any case, they are not exact replicas of historical medieval kingdoms. Of course, there are no few elements and echoes of other historical periods, from Classical antiquity to Late Renaissance (I mentioned some in an earlier, barely readable post), but these do not alter the basic character of Hyboria, which is medieval.

The ''Aquiromians'' thread deals with this topic, but from the perspective of a ''Romanized'' Aquilonia. Taranaich's articles on the issue treat the subject properly (and, if anything, rather mildly for my own tastes) and some of his arguments can easily be applied for rest of the Hyborian kingdoms as well.

As for this thread:

Black Colossus - references to mounted Knights.

Relief from Kermanshah Iran shows a cataphract from the final years of the centuries long war between Rome and Persia. The heavily armoured Parthian Knight, with helmet , shield and long lance, and a heavy horse armoured with what was probably quilted cloth, looks like a figure from the high middle ages .

Circa 50 BC Crassus legions where destroyed by mounted horsemen similar to Europes Knights of 1200 years later. I guess real history is not such a neat package after all.

Bront


What's that supposed to mean? What do the ancient Hellenistic Greek (Seleucid), Parthian, Sassanid Persian or Late Roman cataphracts have to do with the Hyborian knighthood as it is presented in the canon? In fact, the knights of Khoraja in BC are even more ''west-european medieval'' than I expected, riding with ladies' tokens on their belts or helmets, while their steeds did curvets and so on. As for the existence of ''Knights'' in a Classical Antiquity context, the term was introduced in anglophone histories to describe the Roman Equites (a social class of Rome) for lack of a better one. No connection whatsoever with the medieval knights (not to mention that the Roman cavalry was really lame before the Late Imperial era).

Further, you should remember the victorious charge of the exiled Khauranians (Kothic Hyborians and probable counterparts to medieval knights) against the asshuri in AWsbB. Most reminiscent of European crusaders charging on their foes (and REH was heavily influenced from the Crusades).

I should add that the Hyborian knights exist in a society that has an obvious High/Late Medieval basis. One notable exception could be the description in THotD of Emilius Scavonus, a powerful Aquilonian noble in royal lands, as a ''patrician''. Even if it is not a ''stock-phrase'' (and I think it isn't), this does not change the fundamentally medieval character of the Aquilonian society.

Actually, THotD is the most ''medievalist'' Conan story. The plague in Nemedia is believed to be a mark of Mitra's wrath due to the sins of men, Orastes was bound to burn at the stake for practicing black magic (that he was a former priest of Mitra is a definite indication of Late Medieval influence), the great bell tolls the dirge of the king's death in Tarantia and so on.

When I think of Hyborian cities I see something a little like Rome, Athens, Babylon and Carthage. The last thing on my mind are lordly stone castles overlooking rustic hamlets with their peasant populations. Let me break down some of the Conan tales.

Bront


Well, that is a novelty. Carthage might have something to do with Koth, while Babylon is out of the question. So where did you find inferences that would suggest a Hyborian counterpart to Rome or Athens? Maybe something close to Late 15th c. Italian cities on the course of early Renaissance with the added medieval spires (probably even for secular buildings), plus a few touches from antiquity, like the Museum inTGitB. But where is a forum, a curia, an agora or an acropolis?

In short, a small number of influences from non-medieval periods does not indicate a culture oriented towards Classical Antiquity. Koth, as has been stated in earlier posts, seems somewhere between ''medieval'' Hyboria and ancient ''Near East'' (Shem mainly). Similarities with historical events from Late Antiquity barely have effect on Hyborian culture (and no barbarian became Roman emperor). The closest thing to Rome would be Acheron and that by a long shot.

Last but not least, most illustrations of Conan, no matter how great they might look (say, Frazetta's Conan versus the Vanir, Conan wearing only loincloth, about to go to a Manowar concert), do not reflect the images the original REH tales would conjure. And neither do most of the pastiche stories, including those by respectable writers like Wagner. Period.

Edited by constantine, 05 February 2012 - 11:45 PM.


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Posted 06 February 2012 - 06:18 AM

Quote by Gin-Wulf

“ tunic and sandals with out pants was a common dressing style for the irish up till the end of the 16th century. “

Yes, but the Irish did not wear horned helmets in the 16th Century, but many of the ancient Celts did.

TFGD – Both Conan and the Vanir where dressed in mail corselets. They also had horned helmets. Now horned helmets have become stock barbaric items and have an ancient basis. Some ancient Gauls wore them and they crop up from time to time in some ancient near east cultures.

The Vanir are based on Vikings, but it is pure fiction on REH’s part. Vikings never wore horned helmets. REH was an amateur historian ( a really good one ) like you and me, and as a fictional writer wanted to add a bit of the Wagnerian opera thing. I would not comdemn him for it, but we should recognise it for it was.

Quote by Constantine


“ In short, a small number of influences from non-medieval periods does not indicate a culture oriented towards Classical Antiquity. Koth, as has been stated in earlier posts, seems somewhere between ''medieval'' Hyboria and ancient ''Near East'' (Shem mainly). Similarities with historical events from Late Antiquity barely have effect on Hyborian culture (and no barbarian became Roman emperor). The closest thing to Rome would be Acheron and that by a long shot.

Last but not least, most illustrations of Conan, no matter how great they might look (say, Frazetta's Conan versus the Vanir, Conan wearing only loincloth, about to go to a Manowar concert), do not reflect the images the original REH tales would conjure. And neither do most of the pastiche stories, including those by respectable writers like Wagner. Period. “


Actually, that Frazetta painting was not Conan versus the Vanir, he was fighting Frost Giants, but that is not a big thing to beat about.

I applaud your response and I respect the effort you put in, but it is a personal opinion only ( as are all the posts, including mine ). I do like the historical associations ( always needed ) you included. I think you missed the whole point about the Parthian Knights.
You mention Orastes being bound to the stake to burn, but do not forget that in AWSBB Conan was nailed to a tree. Crucifiction and nailing criminals on stakes was very much a Roman practise.


I also would have liked to see you breakdown more of the Conan yarns to back up your argument for a strong medieval basis ( as opposed to it is medieval because I say it is and that is what REH meant type of thing ).

I think some of the points I made in my main posts have been ignored or forgotten. I never said that medieval material elements did not exist in the Hyborian Age. Most of us are in agreement that REH’s Hyborian Age had elements from diverse historical periods. We have a difference of opinion when it comes to the overall feel and the proportion of influences.

I have read a few of the posts where note is made of Howard’s dislike for Romans and that is a reason why they could not be included in any capacity. Yet, we seem to meet them outright in the Bran Mak Morn tale Worm of the Earth in the form of characters like the Roman Titus Sulla.

I see the classical world view having enormous influence on REH’s Conan tales, but looking for absolutes in a fictional setting is a waste of time. Variation occurs from tale to tale, region to region, writers whims and fancies.

Edited by Bront, 06 February 2012 - 06:21 AM.


#72 Ironhand

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Posted 06 February 2012 - 09:24 AM

All I needed to convince me that the leading Hyborian nations were feudal in nature was the big battle early in THotD, which depicted clashes between armored chivalry in articulated plate - not maneuvering of phalanxes and legions. Other battles in other stories talk about Bossonian longbowmen and Gunderman pikemen. The Gundermen alone might be called phalanxes, but the overall relation of chivalry (as the leading and main arm of Hyborian armies) and Gunderland pikemen and Bossonian longbowmen sound decidedly medieval, perhaps late medieval or early Renaissance, when combined arms forces were beginning to be used.

And from time to time, REH talks about nobles clad in jupons and doublets - medieval garb.

Stygians and Shemites are described in Ancient or maybe classical terms. The Nordheimers sound like they are right out of the Dark Ages. REH was mixing cultures and periods in his world for maximum effect. But the leading Hyborian nations were medieval in nature.

Edited by Ironhand, 06 February 2012 - 09:26 AM.

"Did you deem yourself strong, because you were able to twist the heads off civilized folk, poor weaklings with muscles like rotten string? Hell! Break the neck of a wild Cimmerian bull before you call yourself strong. I did that, before I was a full-grown man...!" - Conan, in "Shadows in Zamboula", by Robert E. Howard
"... you speak of Venarium familiarly. Perhaps you were there?"
"I was," grunted [Conan]. "I was one of the horde that swarmed over the hills. I hadn't yet seen fifteen snows, but already my name was repeated about the council fires." - "Beyond the Black River", by Robert E. Howard

Read my Conan screenplays at The Scrolls of Ironhand (in particular my transcription of THE FROST GIANT'S DAUGHTER in Act II of "The Snow Devil") at
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#73 Gin-Wulf

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Posted 06 February 2012 - 12:32 PM

there is like one "horned " helmet in example that i have seen in a museum and those are not even real horns but formed from the metal and look nothing like bulls horns.
but people "seeing" what they want seems to be half the problem with this franchise , its not about what we wanna see, its about what REH created, what he wrote and there is no greek/roman theme.

#74 Taranaich

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Posted 06 February 2012 - 12:49 PM

Bront, you have no idea how much I want to address your post, but I'm dealing with many of the issues you raise in my "Aquiromian Holiday" series on my personal blog. I've been using "The Phoenix on the Sword" to discuss the alleged Ancient/Classical milieu of the Hyborian Kingdoms, but a story you bring up, "Black Colossus," has so many quintessentially and indisputably Medieval elements that denying them would be untenable.

Briefly: there is zero justification to say that the Ancient elements of the Hyborian Age kingdoms in any way override, overshadow or otherwise take precedence over the medieval elements. You cite cataphracts, as if Howard's mention of knights should be taken as "really" meaning the heavy cavalry of the Persians, Sarmatians and such. However, a reading of Black Colossus would (or should) assuage any doubt that Howard was fully intending his knights to be knights with a capital (silent) K:

There were the knights, gleaming in richly wrought plate-armor, colored plumes waving above their burnished sallets. Their steeds, caparisoned with silk, lacquered leather and gold buckles, caracoled and curvetted as their riders put them through their paces. The early light struck glints from lance-points that rose like a forest above the array, their pennons flowing in the breeze. Each knight wore a lady’s token, a glove, scarf or rose, bound to his helmet or fastened to his sword-belt. They were the chivalry of Khoraja, five hundred strong, led by Count Thespides, who, men said, aspired to the hand of Yasmela herself.


Plate armour, plumed sallets, caparisons, caracoles, pennons, lady's tokens, chivalry: you couldn't get much more Medieval if you tried. If you can find any classical sources that could even be arguably interpreted as analogues, I'd like to hear them.

You mention "lordly stone castles overlooking rustic hamlets with their peasant populations" being the last thing on your mind. Really? Even after reading passages like this:

As the villages thinned, the land grew more rugged, and the keeps that frowned from eminences told of centuries of border war. But none rode down from those castles to challenge or halt him. The lords of the keeps were following the banner of Amalric; the pennons that were wont to wave over these towers were now floating over the Aquilonian plains.

Guess you and I are reading different stories.

This attempt to give the world of Conan a more medieval cast seems to be a recent phenomenon and is an attempt in large part, to pander to the new wave fantasy crowd who jumped on board during the revival of High Fantasy literature in the late 1980’s. Look at some of the threads on this forum and you will find politically correct subjects about Conan’s treatment of women, or what Conan tale should I recommend to my wife or child. It is a modern cultural thing. I’m sure The Hobbit will do well on the silver screen ( one medium where Conan unfortunately will always miserably fail ). It is a little like some people are embarrassed of Conan and the Hyborian Age and want to re-imagine the whole thing.



I have a rather different interpretation: I think that the "ancient" Hyborian kingdoms misrepresentation is a mistake that has persisted for far too long. I'm also disquieted by your reference to "politically correct" topics regarding Conan's treatment of women, and that you seem to assert Conan will always fail on screen - as if there's something inherent to Conan, not Hollywood's stupidity, which causes it. Most of all, though, is this implication that applying Medieval aspects is endemic of some sort of agenda of embarassment, as if we want to re-imagine Howard's creation so it "fits in" more with established fantasy, which is just so wrong-headed as to be somewhat astounding.


I see a bit of contradiction here. On the one hand you are saying that having some medieval style weaponry in the Hyborian Age proves a medieval basis for many parts of that age, and yet you argue that classical elements proves nothing.


This is because, despite your conflation of the cataphracts with knights, you can have "classical" things in Medieval settings, but not the reverse. You can have ballistae, legions, "imperial troops," temples and whatnot in a classical and medieval context, because both existed in those periods. A lot of technologies, institutions and inventions from the period carried on into the Middle Ages. But you can't have Medieval elements in a classical context, for obvious reasons.

Not to speak for Deuce, but the fact of the matter is that the medieval elements vastly outweigh the classical elements when it comes to the Hyborian kingdoms.
We have references to legions, imperial troops, imperial squadrons, mystery cults, and temples - all things which existed, in some way or another, in the Middle Ages as well as Classical period. But we also have references to things that are quintessentially Medieval: knights, pennons, seneschals, lady's tokens, batons of authority, high councillors, peers, caparisons, burgonets, bascinets, sollerets... Where are the manicae, centurions, consuls, phalanxes, aquilifers, gladiators, fasces, gladii, praetorians, senators?

Howard didn't talk down to his audience, so if he intended the Hyborian Kingdoms to be classical, then we wouldn't be having this conversation, because Howard wouldn't leave the reader in any doubt. Are there classical elements in the Hyborian Kingdoms? Of course, just as there were classical elements in the Middle Ages themselves. Were the Hyborian Kingdoms more Classical than Medieval? Were Tarantia, Belverus and Shamar more like Carthage, Rome or Babylon than - say - Orleans, Prague or Toledo? I'd say not.

Robert E. Howard, 1906 - 2006

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#75 theagenes

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Posted 06 February 2012 - 01:19 PM

The fact we are here 80 years arguing about which historical analogues go with which HA countries shows me that REH was very successful with his "culture-splashing" in contra to HPL's opinion.

I'm enjoying the discussion so far. Let me throw out a little more red meat for you guys.

In fairness to Bront, there were barbarian Roman emperors in the last few centuries of the western empire. The first (and the one with the coolest name, imo) was Maximinius Thrax (i.e. Thracian) in the 3rd century. In most cases they were generals, like Conan, that seized power. I can buy that REH had this theme in mind when he made Conan usurp the throne. Just to play the name game (for what that's worth) I would suggest that Amalric/Almuric etc. has a Gothic/Merovingian sound. So I can see that might be some Late Empire/Early Dark Ages elements in there. If any period of Roman history would appeal to REH I would think this would be it.

But that said, the overall look and feel still seems to be more medieval.

A few random thoughts:

Patrice has noted that a good deal of the descriptive terms for TSC come from Doyle's The White Company and Sir Nigel, novels about The Hundred Year's War.

Another source of inspiration, according to Patrice, is apparently Carolingian, coming from Bulfinch's Legends of Charlemagne.

Also, keep in mind that immediately prior to the Conan series (and contemporanously with the first few Conan stories) REH was writing all of his Crusades stories. If you take the supernatural elements out of say "Black Colossus" and change Khoraja to Outremer, it would fit in very nicely in the pages of Oriental Stories or Magic Carpet.

Al, I haven't had a chance to read your Aquiromian series yet, except to glance over it. I'll check that out today.

Edited by theagenes, 06 February 2012 - 01:22 PM.

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#76 constantine

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Posted 06 February 2012 - 06:54 PM

I also would have liked to see you breakdown more of the Conan yarns to back up your argument for a strong medieval basis ( as opposed to it is medieval because I say it is and that is what REH meant type of thing).

Bront



When I first posted on this thread I supported the existence of certain elements of Classical Antiquity (along with others, of course) in the Hyborian kingdoms, including the loincloth-sandals combination. But the predominant medieval influences were quite obvious to me and had already been exhaustively and painstakingly laid by many other forum members in numerous posts and not just in this thread. Therefore, I resent your demands for more evidence from the Conan yarns. Others have read your posts, so you should return the courtesy. And I suggest you read them carefully. If you don't want to that's fine. But then, you should really tone down this ''I'll show you how it is'' attitude about ''modern culture things''. The ''pro-medieval'' view is not arbitrary nor a subjective opinion, but based on Howard's works.

I applaud your response and I respect the effort you put in, but it is a personal opinion only ( as are all the posts, including mine ). I do like the historical associations ( always needed ) you included. I think you missed the whole point about the Parthian Knights.
You mention Orastes being bound to the stake to burn, but do not forget that in AWSBB Conan was nailed to a tree. Crucifiction and nailing criminals on stakes was very much a Roman practise.

Bront



Well, thank you, but I missed nothing about the Parthian ''knights'', as proven by the fact that you still call them such. They should not be termed as ''knights'' in the first place.
Crucifixion was not just Roman practice; it had been used earlier by others as well (Persians, Carthaginians, Greeks). In any case, check what has been written about Koth (some of it in the ''Hyperboreans'' thread).

I have read a few of the posts where note is made of Howard’s dislike for Romans and that is a reason why they could not be included in any capacity. Yet, we seem to meet them outright in the Bran Mak Morn tale Worm of the Earth in the form of characters like the Roman Titus Sulla.

Bront



Romans can be included as antagonists and enemies of tale hero, but not as protagonists or ''favourites''.

TFGD – Both Conan and the Vanir where dressed in mail corselets. They also had horned helmets. Now horned helmets have become stock barbaric items and have an ancient basis. Some ancient Gauls wore them and they crop up from time to time in some ancient near east cultures.

The Vanir are based on Vikings, but it is pure fiction on REH’s part. Vikings never wore horned helmets. REH was an amateur historian ( a really good one ) like you and me, and as a fictional writer wanted to add a bit of the Wagnerian opera thing. I would not comdemn him for it, but we should recognise it for it was.

Bront



First, I was talking about Frazetta's illustration; Conan wears only a loincloth. Therefore, it was not based on REH's story. And viking helmets were still believed to have horns by some at REH's time. What does this have to do with the non-Howardian representations of his characters? Finally, unlike you, I am not an amateur historian (and with a little luck I might be able to teach in the future).

You know, I am not trying to kow-tow you into submission or anything. But if you do not actually care about other people's views as stated in their posts, what's the point of debating?

#77 constantine

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Posted 06 February 2012 - 07:21 PM

Taking the bait...

In fairness to Bront, there were barbarian Roman emperors in the last few centuries of the western empire. The first (and the one with the coolest name, imo) was Maximinius Thrax (i.e. Thracian) in the 3rd century. In most cases they were generals, like Conan, that seized power. I can buy that REH had this theme in mind when he made Conan usurp the throne. Just to play the name game (for what that's worth) I would suggest that Amalric/Almuric etc. has a Gothic/Merovingian sound. So I can see that might be some Late Empire/Early Dark Ages elements in there. If any period of Roman history would appeal to REH I would think this would be it.

Theagenes


Maximinus Thrax was as Roman as Philippus Arabs (i.e. Arab). But the former was a legionary grunt who stayed in the embattled borderlands and disrespected the Senate, unlike the latter. Hence the intended pun about his supposedly barbarian origins in the histories of the 3rd c. The closest examples of barbarians getting close to the imperial throne would be the half-Roman, half-Vandal Stilicho, the Suevian Ricimer and Aspar the Alan, all in the Late period. None of them rose to the purple. I agree that Conan seems a more ambitious and succesful version of (and possibly inspired by) those men, but we are talking about a fantasy world. In any case, this has little to do with the culture of the Hyborian kingdoms.

Amalric is a historical name of medieval, French-born Crusader kings. Of Germanic origin and in Latinized form, such names appear in the High Middle Ages as well.

Edited by constantine, 06 February 2012 - 08:19 PM.


#78 theagenes

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Posted 06 February 2012 - 07:54 PM

You could also probably include Odoacer, who crowned himself king after deposing Romulus Augustulus. I can certainly see that Conan coming to power could be inspired by these figures at least in a general sense. I also completely agree that that doesn't change the fact that overall Hyborian culture is predominently medieval, as I indicated.

Actually I very much like your suggestion of Acheron as the analogue to imperial Rome in the other thread.

And yes, most likely REH got "Amalric" from the Amalrics that were kings of Jerusalem during the Crusades, but as the name was popular in the Dark Ages it seemed fair to throw it out as a possibilty. (playing devil's advocate a little bit) ;)

Edited by theagenes, 06 February 2012 - 07:56 PM.

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#79 constantine

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Posted 06 February 2012 - 08:25 PM

Odoacer came first in my mind, but even he did not dare to proclaim himself as emperor of Rome, but only as king of Italy, while sending the imperial insignia to Constantinople. I just recalled that the eastern (i.e. Byzantine) Roman emperor at the time was an Isaurian mountaineer who took the name Zeno when he ascended to the throne. While the Isaurians were Roman citizens in all probability, they were considered as little better than barbarians by other Byzantines.

Acheron's analogy with Rome has more to do with similarities in historical circumstances than anything else. But we should keep it out from this thread.

I really don't recall any Amalrics from the Early Middle Ages, while there were many Germanics with the latinized suffix -ric in their names. But you may be right.

#80 theagenes

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Posted 06 February 2012 - 08:37 PM

Amalaric son of Alaric was a king of the Visigoths.
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