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The Hyborian Age, Ancient Or Medieval?


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#361 Ironhand

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Posted 20 March 2012 - 03:57 AM

Of course Howard put everything into his world. But what spawned this thread in the first place was the excessive "Romanization" of Aquilonia by artists, to the complete dismissal of medieval aspects.
"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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#362 ollonois

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Posted 14 April 2012 - 12:01 AM

hey I'm very glad that a post created by me has became this interesting changes of ideas and opinions about the correspondences between hyborian age and real history, my favourite subject in Howard related issues.

I've got some ideas to expose:

First, not only by Frazetta, but from the depiction of the character and his background by other artists is the mind image we have of Conan not exactly as a medieval saga, take for instance this powerful illustration by Nestor Redondo

Posted Image

you can feel the neoclassical feel and quality of the painting it reminds the style of the neoclassical french artist David

About the names, you have mentioned the shakesperian theory very correct in my opinion but you haven't mention, at elast not as much as the people names, the names of geographical issues, take for instance Argos, Messantia, Aquilonia, Tabor, Tarantia, Numalia, Corinthia... for being indiferent or agressive with classical issues he took a lot of toponyms from the greeks and the romans

The as REH wrote a lot of medieval historical stories and almost no classical ones the hyborian kingdoms must be taken as medieval Europe thing is a kind of phalacy for me since these tales were set most of them in the near east in the time of the Crusades not in Europe

But otherwise I'm in the medieval side, and I can't understand something, I think medieval scenarios are more atractive for epic fantasy reader... Tolkien, George RR Martin, Dragonlance... why then the comic artists and writers had not gave a chance to medieval depictions in the comics of Conan? at least sometimes to vary a little... by the way I have the curiosity, which artists do you think have bring the more medieval feel and tone to the Conan comics?

More interesting things I have read here, and I think this can give place to other post, your sights on the concept itself of the hyborian age, alternate history, historical fantasy and the more extreme the sugestion made by Deuce in the first posts of a ciclical vision of history by Howard with a civilization with a cultural and technological level of the XV century, more or less, falling in barbarism and evolving into real history... by the way I think I read somewhere, that the idea of Howard creating Conan the cimmerian was to write historical adventures without doing historical research, isn't it?

I hope you excuse my poor english...
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and my name will be known to all
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#363 Pictish Scout

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Posted 14 April 2012 - 10:10 PM

by the way I think I read somewhere, that the idea of Howard creating Conan the cimmerian was to write historical adventures without doing historical research, isn't it?


Historical research is strongly present in Robert Howard fantasy, especially in Conan. This still makes his work unique today.

I think he truly loved history and research history but chose “fantasy” in Conan for more creative freedom and for commercial reasons, but not laziness ;)

#364 RJMooreII

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Posted 15 April 2012 - 08:21 PM

by the way I think I read somewhere, that the idea of Howard creating Conan the cimmerian was to write historical adventures without doing historical research, isn't it?


Historical research is strongly present in Robert Howard fantasy, especially in Conan. This still makes his work unique today.

I think he truly loved history and research history but chose “fantasy” in Conan for more creative freedom and for commercial reasons, but not laziness ;)

Oh man, I just love the air of historicity and anthropology that Howard lends his writing. It is just like going on a tour with Gilgamesh. Such a creative world. A my friend Bob Price said, H.P. Lovecraft didn't create a complete mythology but he knew what a mythology would look like: complicated, obscurantist, inconsistent, etc. Howard has done the same thing, but with the Hero-King saga of the ancient world. Having an understanding of the real thing he composes a modern version of it, but completely out of his personal whims as to what history and legend to blend in. Great stuff.

I think Moorcock actually Tropes over himself, in avoiding Hyborian ambiguity he does get into a kind of 'aligned and organized' cosmos in his Eternal Champion books, whereas Conan has the element of Hodgson and Lovecraft, and really of any kind of nihilistic materialist; that whether or not there are gods out there it's just another wretched thing that can probably kill you if it takes a mind to.

Edited by RJMooreII, 15 April 2012 - 08:24 PM.

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#365 constantine

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Posted 19 April 2012 - 06:46 PM

About the names, you have mentioned the shakesperian theory very correct in my opinion but you haven't mention, at elast not as much as the people names, the names of geographical issues, take for instance Argos, Messantia, Aquilonia, Tabor, Tarantia, Numalia, Corinthia... for being indiferent or agressive with classical issues he took a lot of toponyms from the greeks and the romans

ollonois


The choices for toponyms were probably made in the same manner as for the personal names: they tend to give a European feel to the Hyborian kingdoms. Concerning Howard's indifference for the Classical era, it has already been dealt extensively. A further point...

The as REH wrote a lot of medieval historical stories and almost no classical ones the hyborian kingdoms must be taken as medieval Europe thing is a kind of phalacy for me since these tales were set most of them in the near east in the time of the Crusades not in Europe

ollonois


Howard submitted most of these tales for publishing to the Oriental Stories magazine. Obviously, his medieval European heroes had to be in the East (Outremer etc.). Apparently, he did not write about Classical Antiquity heroes in the ancient Near East.

BTW, ''The Shadow of the Vulture'' is placed in Central Europe and again, it is a contest between Europeans and Easterners. It was published in the Magic Carpet. Evidently, Howard was interested in this theme.

Incidentally, he did not make the same effort to put down tales in the Classical Antiquity, a good indication of his preferences.

#366 constantine

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Posted 19 April 2012 - 06:55 PM

A good thing you forwarded Redondo's illustration Ollonois. The depiction of the Aquilonians shows how remote these images are from REH's descriptions and it is further evidence of the accumulative effects of Classical Antiquity-oriented illustrations.

#367 ollonois

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Posted 20 April 2012 - 12:12 AM

Other excellent illustration of Nestor Redondo in the same saga but this is slightly more medieval for me with a touch of eastern Europe, Poland or Russia

Posted Image
For I am the Bringer of War
I am The Bearer Of The Black Sword
and my name will be known to all
Lord Elric of the Bright Empire of Melnibone
The Dragonlord

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#368 constantine

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Posted 20 April 2012 - 02:21 PM

Apart from the tower in the background, I don't see anything medieval in the last illustration.

#369 Lunatic

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Posted 13 May 2012 - 01:24 AM

I was wondering about bronze metalworking in Hyboria. I imagine that stygians would have chariots, galleys and bronzeweaponry as described in "Black Colossus" and such. But why? (obviously it is a nice description, sounds/looks cool in the readers mind, but while we are nerding away...how does it fit in?)

Bronze is a strong material but far more expensive than iron. Would it be more expensive than quality steel? While strong, bronze can be shaped very fast, with less skill than a master smith. Bronze technology is far older than ironworking.

My theory is that there is a big tin resource in stygia, making bronze much cheaper here. Therefore they save time and manpower.

Or, Stygians are such a stratified civilisation that they have banned steel because they know that the peasants would then have cheap and effective arms to turn on the nobles. Kind of like the pope tried to ban crossbows in the middleages.

#370 Ironhand

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Posted 13 May 2012 - 09:14 AM

I always assumed that the Stygians had steel. How else could they maintain there geopolitical ranking in a world where other nations had steel?
"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
http://www.scrollsof...d.us/index.html or at
http://www.delicious...ic=ConanProject

#371 docpod

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Posted 14 May 2012 - 01:58 AM

"Five hundred years later the Hyborian civilization was swept away. Its fall was unique in that it was not brought about by internal decay, but by the growing power of the barbarian nations, and the Hyrkanians. The Hyborian peoples were overthrown while their vigorous culture was in its prime." Robert E. Howard, "The Hyborian Age"

Morgan

Edited by docpod, 14 May 2012 - 01:58 AM.

Ignorance can be cured. Stupid is forever.

#372 Ironhand

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Posted 14 May 2012 - 04:52 AM

"Five hundred years later the Hyborian civilization was swept away. Its fall was unique in that it was not brought about by internal decay, but by the growing power of the barbarian nations, and the Hyrkanians. The Hyborian peoples were overthrown while their vigorous culture was in its prime." Robert E. Howard, "The Hyborian Age"

Morgan

That's almost a reprise (or preprise?) of the transition from Bronze Age to Iron Age, when bronze-using civilizations were swept away by iron-wielding barbarians.
"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
http://www.scrollsof...d.us/index.html or at
http://www.delicious...ic=ConanProject

#373 deuce

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Posted 14 May 2012 - 09:02 PM

I always assumed that the Stygians had steel. How else could they maintain there geopolitical ranking in a world where other nations had steel?


REH states that the Stygians have steel weapons several times. The ONLY time they don't is in QotBC. Those Stygians appear to be very early after the "Khari"/Stygian arrival in Stygia, which (depending on your views) would be 3000-10000yrs before Conan.

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#374 deuce

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Posted 14 May 2012 - 09:06 PM


"Five hundred years later the Hyborian civilization was swept away. Its fall was unique in that it was not brought about by internal decay, but by the growing power of the barbarian nations, and the Hyrkanians. The Hyborian peoples were overthrown while their vigorous culture was in its prime." Robert E. Howard, "The Hyborian Age"

Morgan

That's almost a reprise (or preprise?) of the transition from Bronze Age to Iron Age, when bronze-using civilizations were swept away by iron-wielding barbarians.


I don't think REH would agree, since he called the fall of the Hyborian kingdoms "unique" in the annals of history. Of course, I guess he might have held a different definition than standard, but he used "unique" in other contexts and it was always with the standard meaning.

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#375 Ironhand

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Posted 15 May 2012 - 06:09 AM

Knowledge of the Bronze Age civilizations that fell to iron-wielding barbarians may be more recent than REH. About a decade ago I read that someone had deciphered a writing or inscription from one of these civilizations in which the depradations of iron-wielding barbarians were described. This writing also described the preparations of a Bronze Age city, mustering its forces to withstand attacks. This was one of the last writings recovered from that city. :(

This city was evidently thriving and growing just before its downfall.

Edited by Ironhand, 15 May 2012 - 06:10 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
http://www.scrollsof...d.us/index.html or at
http://www.delicious...ic=ConanProject

#376 Pictish Scout

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Posted 15 May 2012 - 06:02 PM

Hey, Ironhand

Maybe you are talking about Ugarit in modern Syria.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ugarit

At least I remember reading some letters from the king of Ugarit asking help from the Hittites as sails were seen in the horizon (the sea people?).

The Hittites were facing their own problems and they couldn’t help. Ugarit was destroyed forever some time later. Very dramatic. Egypt survived, though.

I think the main difference between this and Howard is that the Bronze Age barbarians (if we can call them barbarians) were technologically more evolved than their civilized and rich enemies.

The Hyborian Age barbarians (at least Cimmerians and Picts) got their steel technology from civilized hands. I think there is something similar between Stygia and the Black Kingdoms.

This is closer to the “modern times” when the Europeans, Arabs, Turks, etc. traded guns (from harquebus to AKs) with natives from America, Africa and Asia.

#377 Lunatic

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Posted 15 May 2012 - 06:55 PM

Pictish scout quote:
I think the main difference between this and Howard is that the Bronze Age barbarians (if we can call them barbarians) were technologically more evolved than their civilized and rich enemies.

Actually just iron weapons are a weaker material than bronze as opposed to later steel technology. But iron is much much cheaper than tin and a common ore, widely spread across the planet. It is understandable that the ironage would mean a revolution and disrupt trade.

But, about the Stygians in Black Colossus. Why the all the bronze if you got steel?

#378 Pictish Scout

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Posted 15 May 2012 - 09:59 PM

Actually just iron weapons are a weaker material than bronze as opposed to later steel technology. But iron is much much cheaper than tin and a common ore, widely spread across the planet. It is understandable that the ironage would mean a revolution and disrupt trade.


Agreed. I meant weapon and warfare developments both using Bronze and Iron. If I remember well both Trojans and Argives in The Iliad use Bronze gear.


But, about the Stygians in Black Colossus. Why the all the bronze if you got steel?


It seems to me that the "horde" is armed with steel. Bronze and gold are also present, maybe in armor, standards, chariots and ornaments.

some quotes:

At first glance the amazed watchers seemed to be looking down upon a glittering sparkling sea of bronze and gold, where steel points twinkled like a myriad stars.


The fighting-men in the chariots were tall figures, their hawk-like faces set off by bronze helmets crested with a crescent supporting a golden ball.


The wild Kushites rushed into the shambles, spearing the wounded, bursting the helmets of the knights with stones and iron hammers.


The also had gunpowder!! :P

#379 Ironhand

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Posted 16 May 2012 - 08:05 AM

This is all really interesting. :)

Bronze, being expensive, would have been the metal for the elite, the nobility. But there aren't very many of those. Fighters, and barbarians, too poor to afford bronze would be spear fodder. Then with the appearance of iron on the historical scene, suddenly much bigger armies could be fielded.

Even the Romans found a use for iron: the pilum was mainly made of iron.
"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
http://www.scrollsof...d.us/index.html or at
http://www.delicious...ic=ConanProject

#380 Lunatic

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Posted 16 May 2012 - 08:27 PM

This is all really interesting. :)

Bronze, being expensive, would have been the metal for the elite, the nobility. But there aren't very many of those. Fighters, and barbarians, too poor to afford bronze would be spear fodder. Then with the appearance of iron on the historical scene, suddenly much bigger armies could be fielded.

Even the Romans found a use for iron: the pilum was mainly made of iron.


Yes, but officers from the upperclass of roman society would probably wear bronze hauberks, while the commoners had mail. The swords and the pilum, would be iron because it was cheap I believe. Then as their metallurgical skills improved I am sure they would wear steel because bronze is inferior to quality steel. But was it lack of know-how or just quantity over quality-strategy which they abandoned when they became a superpower. (and rich)?

Ok, this is why I asked in this ancient vs medieval-thread...but one could argue that the stygian nobles just wore bronze because it looked pretty. Perhaps they could mold little set-figurines on the helms and stuff. The fact that they also wear gold a lot, would strengthen this theory right?