This thread runs parallel with the ''Aquiromian''. Some really strong points have been made here IMO.
There is a basis in amster's claim. The Cimmerians are described by Orastes as ''a terror to the nations of the south'' and the Nemedians, according to Astreas, seem to have bitter experiences from them. I suppose that even as raiders they have gained a fearful reputation.
Additionally, the Nordheimir, while unknown to Prospero, might have roamed Hyboria as raiders or mercenaries, if only in small numbers. After all, Nordheim (or at least, a part of it) was formerly a habitat of Hyborians seized by oncoming northerners and if the Nordheimr of the James Allison stories are even remotely connected with their namesakes in Conan's time, it is obvious that they are a roving, foot-loose race spurred by their wanderlust. In any case, there is a mention in THA of their onslaughts in Hyperborea at the time of Conan.
So, if one takes the Cimmerians as a counterpart of the Celts and the Nordheimir as Germanics/Scandinavians, with the Picts a class unto themselves, it is not difficult to create an analogy with the Classical civilization vs Barbarism theme. This can be reinforced by Conan's own case being similar to that of prominent barbarian individuals in the Late Roman world.
However, as Deuce has pointed out, there are other barbaric threats outside Hyboria. Turan is an analogue to the Ottoman empire and the Turanians/Hyrkanians even mount long-distance raids that reach Nemedia and Ophir, very reminiscent of the Mongols. And in THA the Hyrkanians play an important role for the downfall of the Hyborians as well. That should bring medieval images, since Russians, Poles, (Christianised) Hungarians and Byzantines would have a tale to tell about barbarian foes.
Further, in a fine description by Astreas in AWsbB, ALL Shemites are called barbarians, city-dwellers and nomads alike. This was very much intentional on Howard's part IMO, since the Astreas' letter shows the attitude that the Hyborians (especially the western ones), bearers of a particular culture, had for other peoples, in this case the Shemites (or even the Kothians). Therefore, it would seem that Howard was not limiting the the ''barbarian threat'' exclusively to the western ''Celt-Germanic'' factor.
But on this one I believe that amster hit the mark in a way:
I think the theme (if not the aesthetics) of the Hyborian Age (a highly advanced Western Culture with Celtic and Germanic barbarians beyond their frontiers) is more akin to Classical Greece and Rome than Medieval Europe.
So, when REH thinks of Rome, he fantasizes about it's destruction at the hands of barbarians, and approximately a year later he creates a faux historical world in which a Western style civilization with plenty of Latin sounding names is brought down at the hands of barbarian hordes, but the read should infer no similarties between The Hyborian West and classical Rome? So what is it, mere coincidence? And who exactly was REH writing for? Academic scholars or average people with average educations?
This is what happened in the course of recreating Howard's Hyboria IMHO, without presuming that I am a REH scholar. I mentioned that possibility in other posts and it seems a certainty to me now (others may have also come to this conclusion). I think that many of the early pastiche writers and illustrators perceived the theme ''Classical Civilization vs Barbarism'' as inspiration for REH in forming not just a historical framework of the Hyborian Age, but the character and civilization of the Hyborian kingdoms
as well. The Greco-Roman names and some classical elements reinforced this mistaken approach.
This is most evident on the illustrators, probably influenced by the pastiche authors: there is hardly a well known early illustration of Conan in medieval full plate armor, wielding a five-foot sword, despite numerous such descriptions by REH. Is this not a compelling image? We don't see Conan in his pirate attire either. Why? Because these images don't fit with the ''ancient'' look that was preferred by those illustrators who seemed to enjoy the sandal/boot-loincloth icon (admittedly, an image closer to antiquity that often appears in the yarns).
They may have thought that this was a better way to present physically formidable, well built figures. Yet Howard achieved this even when his characters wore clothes or heavy armor (the examples are far too many). But he almost never put Conan half-naked (and certainly not dressed as legionary) when the Cimmerian was to join an all-out battle. The pastiche writers did this, however, on many occasions (Conan the Superman, as deuce has pointed). Since some of those were considered REH authorities whose writings were added to the canon (while they supported or did not oppose this pro-antiquity view), they further muddied the waters for illustrators and readers alike. And the ancient civilizations were deemed more advanced and glorious and simultaneously more prone to decadence than Europe in the Middle Ages. Therefore, the various characters were drawn mostly in an archaic/antique background.
Thus, a very powerful and enduring imagery was created that effectively dominates until now the perception of the Hyborian
culture as one inspired - or at least, heavily influenced - by Classical Antiquity. Yet a careful reading of REH's tales (and not just the Conan yarns) shows his open preference for the Middle Ages, though with a unique pseudo-historical color in the case of Hyboria. There is no need for repetition of examples.
Of course, everyone is entitled to his own preferences and images and by now this post is very long...
Edited by constantine, 17 February 2012 - 03:05 AM.