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Title: The Hyborian Age
Author: Robert E. Howard
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eBook No.: 0603571.txt
Language: English
Date first posted: July 2006
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The Hyborian Age
Robert E. Howard

(Nothing in this article is to be considered as an attempt to advance
any theory in opposition to accepted history. It is simply a fictional
background for a series of fiction stories. When I began writing the
Conan stories a few years ago, I prepared this 'history' of his age
and the peoples of that age, in order to lend him and his sagas a
greater aspect of realness. And I found that by adhering to the
'facts' and spirit of that history, in writing the stories, it was
easier to visualize (and therefore to present) him as a real
flesh-and-blood character rather than a ready-made product. In writing
about him and his adventures in the various kingdoms of his Age, I have
never violated the 'facts' or spirit of the 'history' here set down,
but have followed the lines of that history as closely as the writer
of actual historical fiction follows the lines of actual history. I
have used this 'history' as a guide in all the stories in this series
that I have written.)

Of that epoch known by the Nemedian chroniclers as the Pre-Cataclysmic
Age, little is known except the latter part, and that is veiled in the
mists of legendry. Known history begins with the waning of the
Pre-Cataclysmic civilization, dominated by the kingdoms of Kamelia,
Valusia, Verulia, Grondar, Thule and Commoria. These peoples spoke a
similar language, arguing a common origin. There were other kingdoms,
equally civilized, but inhabited by different, and apparently older

The barbarians of that age were the Picts, who lived on islands far
out on the western ocean; the Atlanteans, who dwelt on a small
continent between the Pictish Islands and the main, or Thurian
Continent; and the Lemurians, who inhabited a chain of large islands
in the eastern hemisphere.

There were vast regions of unexplored land. The civilized kingdoms,
though enormous in extent, occupied a comparatively small portion of
the whole planet. Valusia was the western-most kingdom of the Thurian
Continent; Grondar the eastern-most. East of Grondar, whose people
were less highly cultured than those of their kindred kingdoms,
stretched a wild and barren expanse of deserts. Among the less arid
stretches of desert, in the jungles, and among the mountains, lived
scattered clans and tribes of primitive savages. Far to the south
there was a mysterious civilization, unconnected with the Thurian
culture, and apparently pre-human in its nature. On the far-eastern
shores of the Continent there lived another race, human, but
mysterious and non-Thurian, with which the Lemurians from time to time
came in contact. They apparently came from a shadowy and nameless
continent lying somewhere east of the Lemurian Islands.

The Thurian civilization was crumbling; their armies were composed
largely of barbarian mercenaries. Picts, Atlanteans and Lemurians were
their generals, their statesmen, often their kings. Of the bickerings
of the kingdoms, and the wars between Valusia and Commoria, as well as
the conquests by which the Atlanteans founded a kingdom on the
mainland, there were more legends than accurate history.

Then the Cataclysm rocked the world. Atlantis and Lemuria sank, and
the Pictish Islands were heaved up to form the mountain peaks of a new
continent. Sections of the Thurian Continent vanished under the waves,
or sinking, formed great inland lakes and seas. Volcanoes broke forth
and terrific earthquakes shook down the shining cities of the empires.
Whole nations were blotted out.

The barbarians fared a little better than the civilized races. The
inhabitants of the Pictish Islands were destroyed, but a great colony
of them, settled among the mountains of Valusia's southern frontier,
to serve as a buffer against foreign invasion, was untouched. The
Continental kingdom of the Atlanteans likewise escaped the common
ruin, and to it came thousands of their tribesmen in ships from the
sinking land. Many Lemurians escaped to the eastern coast of the
Thurian Continent, which was comparatively untouched. There they were
enslaved by the ancient race which already dwelt there, and their
history, for thousands of years, is a history of brutal servitude.

In the western part of the Continent, changing conditions created
strange forms of plant and animal life. Thick jungles covered the
plains, great rivers cut their roads to the sea, wild mountains were
heaved up, and lakes covered the ruins of old cities in fertile
valleys. To the Continental kingdom of the Atlanteans, from sunken
areas, swarmed myriads of beasts and savages--ape-men and apes. Forced
to battle continually for their lives, they yet managed to retain
vestiges of their former state of highly advanced barbarism. Robbed of
metals and ores, they became workers in stone like their distant
ancestors, and had attained a real artistic level, when their
struggling culture came into contact with the powerful Pictish nation.
The Picts had also reverted to flint, but had advanced more rapidly in
the matter of population and war-science. They had none of the
Atlanteans' artistic nature; they were a ruder, more practical, more
prolific race. They left no pictures painted or carved on ivory, as
did their enemies, but they left remarkably efficient flint weapons in

These stone-age kingdoms clashed, and in a series of bloody wars, the
outnumbered Atlanteans were hurled back into a state of savagery, and
the evolution of the Picts was halted. Five hundred years after the
Cataclysm the barbaric kingdoms have vanished. It is now a nation of
savages--the Picts--carrying on continual warfare with tribes of
savages--the Atlanteans. The Picts had the advantage of numbers and
unity, whereas the Atlanteans had fallen into loosely knit clans. That
was the west of that day.

In the distant east, cut off from the rest of the world by the heaving
up of gigantic mountains and the forming of a chain of vast lakes, the
Lemurians are toiling as slaves of their ancient masters. The far
south is still veiled in mystery. Untouched by the Cataclysm, its
destiny is still pre-human. Of the civilized races of the Thurian
Continent, a remnant of one of the non-Valusian nations dwells among
the low mountains of the southeast--the Zhemri. Here and there about
the world are scattered clans of apish savages, entirely ignorant of
the rise and fall of the great civilizations. But in the far north
another people are slowly coming into existence.

At the time of the Cataclysm, a band of savages, whose development was
not much above that of the Neanderthal, fled to the north to escape
destruction. They found the snow-countries inhabited only by a species
of ferocious snow-apes--huge shaggy white animals, apparently native
to that climate. These they fought and drove beyond the Arctic circle,
to perish, as the savages thought. The latter, then, adapted
themselves to their hardy new environment and throve.

After the Pictish-Atlantean wars had destroyed the beginnings of what
might have been a new culture, another, lesser cataclysm further
altered the appearance of the original continent, left a great inland
sea where the chain of lakes had been, to further separate west from
east, and the attendant earthquakes, floods and volcanoes completed
the ruin of the barbarians which their tribal wars had begun.

A thousand years after the lesser cataclysm, the western world is seen
to be a wild country of jungles and lakes and torrential rivers. Among
the forest-covered hills of the northwest exist wandering bands of
ape-men, without human speech, or the knowledge of fire or the use of
implements. They are the descendants of the Atlanteans, sunk back into
the squalling chaos of jungle-bestiality from which ages ago their
ancestors so laboriously crawled. To the southwest dwell scattered
clans of degraded, cave-dwelling savages, whose speech is of the most
primitive form, yet who still retain the name of Picts, which has come
to mean merely a term designating men--themselves, to distinguish them
from the true beasts with which they contend for life and food. It is
their only link with their former stage. Neither the squalid Picts nor
the apish Atlanteans have any contact with other tribes or peoples.

Far to the east, the Lemurians, levelled almost to a bestial plane
themselves by the brutishness of their slavery, have risen and
destroyed their masters. They are savages stalking among the ruins of
a strange civilization. The survivors of that civilization, who have
escaped the fury of their slaves, have come westward. They fall upon
that mysterious prehuman kingdom of the south and overthrow it,
substituting their own culture, modified by contact with the older
one. The newer kingdom is called Stygia, and remnants of the older
nation seemed to have survived, and even been worshipped, after the
race as a whole had been destroyed.

Here and there in the world small groups of savages are showing signs
of an upward trend; these are scattered and unclassified. But in the
north, the tribes are growing. These people are called Hyborians, or
Hybori; their god was Bori--some great chief, whom legend made even
more ancient as the king who led them into the north, in the days of
the great Cataclysm, which the tribes remember only in distorted

They have spread over the north, and are pushing southward in
leisurely treks. So far they have not come in contact with any other
races; their wars have been with one another. Fifteen hundred years in
the north country have made them a tall, tawny-haired, grey-eyed race,
vigorous and warlike, and already exhibiting a well-defined artistry
and poetism of nature. They still live mostly by the hunt, but the
southern tribes have been raising cattle for some centuries. There is
one exception in their so far complete isolation from other races: a
wanderer into the far north returned with the news that the supposedly
deserted ice wastes were inhabited by an extensive tribe of apelike
men, descended, he swore, from the beasts driven out of the more
habitable land by the ancestors of the Hyborians. He urged that a
large war-party be sent beyond the arctic circle to exterminate these
beasts, who--he swore--were evolving into true men. He was jeered at; a
small band of adventurous young warriors followed him into the north,
but none returned.

But tribes of the Hyborians were drifting south, and as the population
increased this movement became extensive. The following age was an
epoch of wandering and conquest. Across the history of the world
tribes and drifts of tribes move and shift in an everchanging

Look at the world five hundred years later. Tribes of tawny-red-haired
Hyborians have moved southward and westward, conquering and destroying
many of the small unclassified clans.

Absorbing the blood of conquered races, already the descendants of the
older drifts have begun to show modified racial traits, and these
mixed races are attacked fiercely by new, purer-blooded drifts, and
swept before them, as a broom sweeps debris impartially, to become
even more mixed and mingled in the tangled debris of races and tag-ends
of races.

As yet the conquerors have not come in contact with the older races.
To the southeast the descendants of the Zhemri, given impetus by new
blood resulting from admixture with some unclassified tribe, are
beginning to seek to revive some faint shadow of their ancient
culture. To the west the apish Atlanteans are beginning the long climb
upward. They have completed the cycle of existence; they have long
forgotten their former existence as men; unaware of any other former
state, they are starting the climb unhelped and unhindered by human
memories. To the south of them the Picts remain savages, apparently
defying the laws of Nature by neither progressing nor retrogressing.
Far to the south dreams the ancient mysterious kingdom of Stygia. On
its eastern borders wander clans of nomadic savages, already known as
the Sons of Shem.

Next to the Picts, in the broad valley of Zingg, protected by great
mountains, a nameless band of primitives, tentatively classified as
akin to the Shemites, has evolved an advanced agricultural system and

Another factor has added to the impetus of Hyborian drift. A tribe of
that race has discovered the use of stone in building, and the first
Hyborian kingdom has come into being--the rude and barbaric kingdom of
Hyperborea, which had its beginning in a crude fortress of boulders
heaped to repel tribal attack. The people of this tribe soon abandoned
their horse-hide tents for stone houses, crudely but mightily built,
and thus protected, they grew strong. There are few more dramatic
events in history than the rise of the rude, fierce kingdom of
Hyperborea, whose people turned abruptly from their nomadic life to
rear dwellings of naked stone, surrounded by cyclopean walls--a race
scarcely emerged from the polished stone age, who had by a freak of
chance, learned the first rude principles of architecture.

The rise of this kingdom drove forth many other tribes, for, defeated
in the war, or refusing to become tributary to their castle-dwelling
kinsmen, many clans set forth on long treks that took them halfway
around the world. And already the more northern tribes are beginning
to be harried by gigantic blond savages, not much more advanced than

The tale of the next thousand years is the tale of the rise of the
Hyborians, whose warlike tribes dominate the western world. Rude
kingdoms are taking shape. The tawny-haired invaders have encountered
the Picts, driving them into the barren lands of the west. To the
northwest, the descendants of the Atlanteans, climbing unaided from
apedom into primitive savagery, have not yet met the conquerors. Far
to the east the Lemurians are evolving a strange semi-civilization of
their own. To the south the Hyborians have founded the kingdom of
Koth, on the borders of those pastoral countries known as the Lands of
Shem, and the savages of those lands, partly through contact with the
Hyborians, partly through contact with the Stygians who have ravaged
them for centuries, are emerging from barbarism. The blond savages of
the far north have grown in power and numbers so that the northern
Hyborian tribes move southward, driving their kindred clans before
them. The ancient kingdom of Hyperborea is overthrown by one of these
northern tribes, which, however, retains the old name. Southeast of
Hyperborea a kingdom of the Zhemri has come into being, under the name
of Zamora. To the southwest, a tribe of Picts have invaded the fertile
valley of Zingg, conquered the agricultural people there, and settled
among them. This mixed race was in turn conquered later by a roving
tribe of Hybori, and from these mingled elements came the kingdom of

Five hundred years later the kingdoms of the world are clearly
defined. The kingdoms of the Hyborians--Aquilonia, Nemedia, Brythunia,
Hyperborea, Koth, Ophir, Argos, Corinthia, and one known as the Border
Kingdom--dominate the western world. Zamora lies to the east, and
Zingara to the southwest of these kingdoms--people alike in darkness
of complexion and exotic habits, but otherwise unrelated. Far to the
south sleeps Stygia, untouched by foreign invasion, but the peoples of
Shem have exchanged the Stygian yoke for the less galling one of Koth.

The dusky masters have been driven south of the great river Styx,
Nilus, or Nile, which, flowing north from the shadowy hinterlands,
turns almost at right angles and flows almost due west through the
pastoral meadowlands of Shem, to empty into the great sea. North of
Aquilonia, the western-most Hyborian kingdom, are the Cimmerians,
ferocious savages, untamed by the invaders, but advancing rapidly
because of contact with them; they are the descendants of the
Atlanteans, now progressing more steadily than their old enemies the
Picts, who dwell in the wilderness west of Aquilonia.

Another five centuries and the Hybori peoples are the possessors of a
civilization so virile that contact with it virtually snatched out of
the wallow of savagery such tribes as it touched. The most powerful
kingdom is Aquilonia, but others vie with it in strength and mixed
race; the nearest to the ancient root-stock are the Gundermen of
Gunderland, a northern province of Aquilonia. But this mixing has not
weakened the race. They are supreme in the western world, though the
barbarians of the wastelands are growing in strength.

In the north, golden-haired, blue-eyed barbarians, descendants of the
blond arctic savages, have driven the remaining Hyborian tribes out of
the snow-countries, except the ancient kingdom of Hyperborea, which
resists their onslaught. Their country is called Nordheim, and they
are divided into the red-haired Vanir of Vanaheim, and the yellow-haired
AEsir of Asgard.

Now the Lemurians enter history again as Hyrkanians. Through the
centuries they have pushed steadily westward, and now a tribe skirts
the southern end of the great inland sea--Vilayet--and establishes the
kingdom of Turan on the southwestern shore. Between the inland sea and
the eastern borders of the native kingdoms lie vast expanses of
steppes and in the extreme north and extreme south, deserts. The
non-Hyrkanian dwellers of these territories are scattered and pastoral,
unclassified in the north, Shemitish in the south, aboriginal, with a
thin strain of Hyborian blood from wandering conquerors. Toward the
latter part of the period other Hyrkanian clans push westward, around
the northern extremity of the inland sea, and clash with the eastern
outposts of the Hyperboreans.

Glance briefly at the peoples of that age. The dominant of Hyborians
are no longer uniformly tawny-haired and grey-eyed. They have mixed
with other races. There is a strong Shemitish, even a Stygian strain
among the peoples of Koth, and to a lesser extent, of Argos, while in
the case of the latter, admixture with the Zingarans has been more
extensive than with the Shemites. The eastern Brythunians have
intermarried with the dark-skinned Zamorians, and the people of
southern Aquilonia have mixed with the brown Zingarans until black
hair and brown eyes are the dominant type in Poitain, the southern-most
province. The ancient kingdom of Hyperborea is more aloof than
the others, yet there is alien blood in plenty in its veins, from the
capture of foreign women--Hyrkanians, AEsir and Zamorians. Only in the
province of Gunderland, where the people keep no slaves, is the pure
Hyborian stock found unblemished. But the barbarians have kept their
bloodstream pure; the Cimmerians are tall and powerful, with dark hair
and blue or grey eyes. The people of Nordheim are of similar build,
but with white skins, blue eyes and golden or red hair. The Picts are
of the same type as they always were--short, very dark, with black
eyes and hair. The Hyrkanians are dark and generally tall and slender,
though a squat slant-eyed type is more and more common among them,
resulting from mixture with a curious race of intelligent, though
stunted, aborigines, conquered by them among the mountains east of
Vilayet, on their westward drift. The Shemites are generally of medium
height, though sometimes when mixed with Stygian blood, gigantic,
broadly and strongly built, with hook noses, dark eyes and blue-black
hair. The Stygians are tall and well made, dusky, straight-featured--at
least the ruling classes are of that type. The lower classes are a
down-trodden, mongrel horde, a mixture of negroid, Stygian, Shemitish,
even Hyborian bloods. South of Stygia are the vast black kingdoms of
the Amazons, the Kushites, the Atlaians and the hybrid empire of

Between Aquilonia and the Pictish wilderness lie the Bossonian
marches, peopled by descendants of an aboriginal race, conquered by a
tribe of Hyborians, early in the first ages of the Hyborian drift.
This mixed people never attained the civilization of the purer
Hyborians, and was pushed by them to the very fringe of the civilized
world. The Bossonians are of medium height and complexion, their eyes
brown or grey, and they are mesocephalic. They live mainly by
agriculture, in large walled villages, and are part of the Aquilonian
kingdom. Their marches extend from the Border kingdom in the north to
Zingara in the southwest, forming a bulwark for Aquilonia against both
the Cimmerians and the Picts. They are stubborn defensive fighters,
and centuries of warfare against northern and western barbarians have
caused them to evolve a type of defense almost impregnable against
direct attack.

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.

Yet it was Aquilonia's greed which brought about that overthrow,
though indirectly. Wishing to extend their empire, her kings made war
on their neighbors. Zingara, Argos and Ophir were annexed outright,
with the western cities of Shem, which had, with their more eastern
kindred, recently thrown off the yoke of Koth. Koth itself, with
Corinthia and the eastern Shemitish tribes, was forced to pay
Aquilonia tribute and lend aid in wars. An ancient feud had existed
between Aquilonia and Hyperborea, and the latter now marched to meet
the armies of her western rival. The plains of the Border Kingdom were
the scene of a great and savage battle, in which the northern hosts
were utterly defeated, and retreated into their snowy fastnesses,
whither the victorious Aquilonians did not pursue them. Nemedia, which
had successfully resisted the western kingdom for centuries, now drew
Brythunia and Zamora, and secretly, Koth, into an alliance which bade
fair to crush the rising empire. But before their armies could join
battle, a new enemy appeared in the east, as the Hyrkanians made their
first real thrust at the western world. Reinforced by adventurers from
east of Vilayet, the riders of Turan swept over Zamora, devastated
eastern Corinthia, and were met on the plains of Brythunia by the
Aquilonians who defeated them and hurled them flying eastward. But the
back of the alliance was broken, and Nemedia took the defensive in
future wars, aided occasionally by Brythunia and Hyperborea, and,
secretly, as usual, by Koth. This defeat of the Hyrkanians showed the
nations the real power of the western kingdom, whose splendid armies
were augmented by mercenaries, many of them recruited among the alien
Zingarans, and the barbaric Picts and Shemites. Zamora was reconquered
from the Hyrkanians, but the people discovered that they had merely
exchanged an eastern master for a western master. Aquilonian soldiers
were quartered there, not only to protect the ravaged country, but
also to keep the people in subjection. The Hyrkanians were not
convinced; three more invasions burst upon the Zamorian borders, and
the Lands of Shem, and were hurled back by the Aquilonians, though the
Turanian armies grew larger as hordes of steel-clad riders rode out of
the east, skirting the southern extremity of the inland sea.

But it was in the west that a power was growing destined to throw down
the kings of Aquilonia from their high places. In the north there was
incessant bickering along the Cimmerian borders between the black-haired
warriors and the Nordheimir; and the AEsir, between wars with
the Vanir, assailed Hyperborea and pushed back the frontier,
destroying city after city. The Cimmerians also fought the Picts and
Bossonians impartially, and several times raided into Aquilonia
itself, but their wars were less invasions than mere plundering

But the Picts were growing amazingly in population and power. By a
strange twist of fate, it was largely due to the efforts of one man,
and he an alien, that they set their feet upon the ways that led to
eventual empire. This man was Arus, a Nemedian priest, a natural-born
reformer. What turned his mind toward the Picts is not certain, but
this much is history--he determined to go into the western wilderness
and modify the rude ways of the heathen by the introduction of the
gentle worship of Mitra. He was not daunted by the grisly tales of
what had happened to traders and explorers before him, and by some
whim of fate he came among the people he sought, alone and unarmed,
and was not instantly speared.

The Picts had benefited by contact with Hyborian civilization, but
they had always fiercely resisted that contact. That is to say, they
had learned to work crudely in copper and tin, which were found
scantily in their country, and for which latter metal they raided into
the mountains of Zingara, or traded hides, whale's teeth, walrus tusks
and such few things as savages have to trade. They no longer lived in
caves and tree-shelters, but built tents of hides, and crude huts,
copied from those of the Bossonians. They still lived mainly by the
chase, since their wilds swarmed with game of all sorts, and the
rivers and sea with fish, but they had learned how to plant grain,
which they did sketchily, preferring to steal it from their neighbors
the Bossonians and Zingarans. They dwelt in clans which were generally
at feud with each other, and their simple customs were blood-thirsty
and utterly inexplicable to a civilized man, such as Arus of Nemedia.
They had no direct contact with the Hyborians, since the Bossonians
acted as a buffer between them. But Arus maintained that they were
capable of progress, and events proved the truth of his assertion--though
scarcely in the way he meant.

Arus was fortunate in being thrown in with a chief of more than usual
intelligence--Gorm by name. Gorm cannot be explained, any more than
Genghis Khan, Othman, Attila, or any of those individuals, who, born
in naked lands among untutored barbarians, yet possess the instinct
for conquest and empire-building. In a sort of bastard-Bossonian, the
priest made the chief understand his purpose, and though extremely
puzzled, Gorm gave him permission to remain among his tribe unbutchered--a
case unique in the history of the race. Having learned the
language, Arus set himself to work to eliminate the more unpleasant
phases of Pictish life--such as human sacrifice, blood-feud, and the
burning alive of captives. He harangued Gorm at length, whom he found
to be an interested, if unresponsive, listener.

Imagination reconstructs the scene--the black-haired chief, in his
tiger-skins and necklace of human teeth, squatting on the dirt floor of
the wattle hut, listening intently to the eloquence of the priest, who
probably sat on a carven, skin-covered block of mahogany provided in his
honor--clad in the silken robes of a Nemedian priest, gesturing with
his slender white hands as he expounded the eternal rights and
justices which were the truths of Mitra. Doubtless he pointed with
repugnance at the rows of skulls which adorned the walls of the hut
and urged Gorm to forgive his enemies instead of putting their
bleached remnants to such use. Arus was the highest product of an
innately artistic race, refined by centuries of civilization; Gorm had
behind him a heritage of a hundred thousand years of screaming
savagery--the pad of the tiger was in his stealthy step, the grip of
the gorilla in his black-nailed hands, the fire that burns in a
leopard's eyes burned in his.

Arus was a practical man. He appealed to the savage's sense of
material gain; he pointed out the power and splendor of the Hyborian
kingdoms, as an example of the power of Mitra, whose teachings and
works had lifted them up to their high places. And he spoke of cities,
and fertile plains, marble walls and iron chariots, jeweled towers,
and horsemen in their glittering armor riding to battle. And Gorm,
with the unerring instinct of the barbarian, passed over his words
regarding gods and their teachings, and fixed on the material powers
thus vividly described. There in that mud-floored wattle hut, with the
silk-robed priest on the mahogany block, and the dark-skinned chief
crouching in his tiger-hides, was laid the foundations of empire.

As has been said, Arus was a practical man. He dwelt among the Picts
and found much that an intelligent man could do to aid humanity, even
when that humanity was cloaked in tiger-skins and wore necklaces of
human teeth. Like all priests of Mitra, he was instructed in many
things. He found that there were vast deposits of iron ore in the
Pictish hills, and he taught the natives to mine, smelt and work it
into implements--agricultural implements, as he fondly believed. He
instituted other reforms, but these were the most important things he
did: he instilled in Gorm a desire to see the civilized lands of the
world; he taught the Picts how to work in iron; and he established
contact between them and the civilized world. At the chief's request, he
conducted him and some of his warriors through the Bossonian marches,
where the honest villagers stared in amazement, into the glittering
outer world.

Arus no doubt thought that he was making converts right and left,
because the Picts listened to him, and refrained from smiting him with
their copper axes. But the Pict was little calculated to seriously
regard teachings which bade him forgive his enemy and abandon the
warpath for the ways of honest drudgery. It has been said that he
lacked artistic sense; his whole nature led to war and slaughter. When
the priest talked of the glories of the civilized nations, his
dark-skinned listeners were intent, not on the ideals of his religion,
but on the loot which he unconsciously described in the narration of rich
cities and shining lands. When he told how Mitra aided certain kings
to overcome their enemies, they paid scant heed to the miracles of
Mitra, but they hung on the description of battle-lines, mounted
knights, and maneuvers of archers and spearmen. They harkened with
keen dark eyes and inscrutable countenances, and they went their ways
without comment, and heeded with flattering intentness his
instructions as to the working of iron, and kindred arts.

Before his coming they had filched steel weapons and armor from the
Bossonians and Zingarans, or had hammered out their own crude arms
from copper and bronze. Now a new world opened to them, and the clang
of sledges re-echoed throughout the land. And Gorm, by virtue of this
new craft, began to assert his dominance over other clans, partly by
war, partly by craft and diplomacy, in which latter art he excelled
all other barbarians.

Picts now came and went freely into Aquilonia, under safe-conduct, and
they returned with more information as to armor-forging and sword-making.
More, they entered Aquilonia's mercenary armies, to the
unspeakable disgust of the sturdy Bossonians. Aquilonia's kings toyed
with the idea of playing the Picts against the Cimmerians, and
possibly thus destroying both menaces, but they were too busy with
their policies of aggression in the south and east to pay much heed to
the vaguely known lands of the west, from which more and more stocky
warriors swarmed to take service among the mercenaries.

These warriors, their service completed, went back to their wilderness
with good ideas of civilized warfare, and that contempt for
civilization which arises from familiarity with it. Drums began to
beat in the hills, gathering-fires smoked on the heights, and savage
sword-makers hammered their steel on a thousand anvils. By intrigues
and forays too numerous and devious to enumerate, Gorm became chief of
chiefs, the nearest approach to a king the Picts had had in thousands
of years. He had waited long; he was past middle age. But now he moved
against the frontiers, not in trade, but in war.

Arus saw his mistake too late; he had not touched the soul of the
pagan, in which lurked the hard fierceness of all the ages. His
persuasive eloquence had not caused a ripple in the Pictish
conscience. Gorm wore a corselet of silvered mail now, instead of the
tiger-skin, but underneath he was unchanged--the everlasting
barbarian, unmoved by theology or philosophy, his instincts fixed
unerringly on rapine and plunder.

The Picts burst on the Bossonian frontiers with fire and sword, not
clad in tiger-skins and brandishing copper axes as of yore, but in
scale mail, wielding weapons of keen steel. As for Arus, he was
brained by a drunken Pict, while making a last effort to undo the work
he had unwittingly done. Gorm was not without gratitude; he caused the
skull of the slayer to be set on the top of the priest's cairn. And it
is one of the grim ironies of the universe that the stones which
covered Arus's body should have been adorned with that last touch of
barbarity--above a man to whom violence and blood-vengeance were

But the newer weapons and mail were not enough to break the lines. For
years the superior armaments and sturdy courage of the Bossonians held
the invaders at bay, aided, when necessary, by imperial Aquilonian
troops. During this time the Hyrkanians came and went, and Zamora was
added to the empire.

Then treachery from an unexpected source broke the Bossonian lines.
Before chronicling this treachery, it might be well to glance briefly
at the Aquilonian empire. Always a rich kingdom, untold wealth had
been rolled in by conquest, and sumptuous splendor had taken the place
of simple and hardy living. But degeneracy had not yet sapped the
kings and the people; though clad in silks and cloth-of-gold, they
were still a vital, virile race. But arrogance was supplanting their
former simplicity. They treated less powerful people with growing
contempt, levying more and more tributes on the conquered. Argos,
Zingara, Ophir, Zamora and the Shemite countries were treated as
subjugated provinces, which was especially galling to the proud
Zingarans, who often revolted, despite savage retaliations.

Koth was practically tributary, being under Aquilonia's 'protection'
against the Hyrkanians. But Nemedia the western empire had never been
able to subdue, although the latter's triumphs were of the defensive
sort, and were generally attained with the aid of Hyperborean armies.
During this period Aquilonia's only defeats were: her failure to annex
Nemedia; the rout of an army sent into Cimmeria; and the almost
complete destruction of an army by the AEsir. Just as the Hyrkanians
found themselves unable to withstand the heavy cavalry charges of the
Aquilonians, so the latter, invading the snow-countries, were
overwhelmed by the ferocious hand-to-hand fighting of the Nordics. But
Aquilonia's conquests were pushed to the Nilus, where a Stygian army
was defeated with great slaughter, and the king of Stygia sent
tribute--once at least--to divert invasion of his kingdom. Brythunia
was reduced in a series of whirlwind wars, and preparations were made
to subjugate the ancient rival at last--Nemedia.

With their glittering hosts greatly increased by mercenaries, the
Aquilonians moved against their old-time foe, and it seemed as if the
thrust were destined to crush the last shadow of Nemedian
independence. But contentions arose between the Aquilonians and their
Bossonian auxiliaries.

As the inevitable result of imperial expansion, the Aquilonians had
become haughty and intolerant. They derided the ruder, unsophisticated
Bossonians, and hard feeling grew between them--the Aquilonians
despising the Bossonians and the latter resenting the attitude of
their masters--who now boldly called themselves such, and treated the
Bossonians like conquered subjects, taxing them exorbitantly, and
conscripting them for their wars of territorial expansion--wars the
profits of which the Bossonians shared little. Scarcely enough men
were left in the marches to guard the frontier, and hearing of Pictish
outrages in their homelands, whole Bossonian regiments quit the
Nemedian campaign and marched to the western frontier, where they
defeated the dark-skinned invaders in a great battle.

This desertion, however, was the direct cause of Aquilonia's defeat by
the desperate Nemedians, and brought down on the Bossonians the cruel
wrath of the imperialists--intolerant and short-sighted as
imperialists invariably are. Aquilonian regiments were secretly
brought to the borders of the marches, the Bossonian chiefs were
invited to attend a great conclave, and, in the guise of an expedition
against the Picts, bands of savage Shemitish soldiers were quartered
among the unsuspecting villagers. The unarmed chiefs were massacred,
the Shemites turned on their stunned hosts with torch and sword, and
the armored imperial hosts were hurled ruthlessly on the unsuspecting
people. From north to south the marches were ravaged and the
Aquilonian armies marched back from the borders, leaving a ruined and
devastated land behind them.

And then the Pictish invasion burst in full power along those borders.
It was no mere raid, but the concerted rush of a whole nation, led by
chiefs who had served in Aquilonian armies, and planned and directed
by Gorm--an old man now, but with the fire of his fierce ambition
undimmed. This time there were no strong walled villages in their
path, manned by sturdy archers, to hold back the rush until the
imperial troops could be brought up. The remnants of the Bossonians
were swept out of existence, and the blood-mad barbarians swarmed into
Aquilonia, looting and burning, before the legions, warring again with
the Nemedians, could be marched into the west. Zingara seized this
opportunity to throw off the yoke, which example was followed by
Corinthia and the Shemites. Whole regiments of mercenaries and vassals
mutinied and marched back to their own countries, looting and burning
as they went. The Picts surged irresistibly eastward, and host after
host was trampled beneath their feet. Without their Bossonian archers
the Aquilonians found themselves unable to cope with the terrible
arrow-fire of the barbarians. From all parts of the empire legions
were recalled to resist the onrush, while from the wilderness horde
after horde swarmed forth, in apparently inexhaustible supply. And in
the midst of this chaos, the Cimmerians swept down from their hills,
completing the ruin. They looted cities, devastated the country, and
retired into the hills with their plunder, but the Picts occupied the
land they had over-run. And the Aquilonian empire went down in fire
and blood.

Then again the Hyrkanians rode from the blue east. The withdrawal of
the imperial legions from Zamora was their incitement. Zamora fell
easy prey to their thrusts, and the Hyrkanian king established his
capital in the largest city of the country. This invasion was from the
ancient Hyrkanian kingdom of Turan, on the shores of the inland sea,
but another, more savage Hyrkanian thrust came from the north. Hosts
of steel-clad riders galloped around the northern extremity of the
inland sea, traversed the icy deserts, entered the steppes, driving
the aborigines before them, and launched themselves against the
western kingdoms. These newcomers were not at first allies with the
Turanians, but skirmished with them as with the Hyborians; new drifts
of eastern warriors bickered and fought, until all were united under a
great chief, who came riding from the very shores of the eastern
ocean. With no Aquilonian armies to oppose them, they were invincible.
They swept over and subjugated Brythunia, and devastated southern
Hyperborea, and Corinthia. They swept into the Cimmerian hills,
driving the black-haired barbarians before them, but among the hills,
where cavalry was less effectual, the Cimmerians turned on them, and
only a disorderly retreat, at the end of a whole day of bloody
fighting, saved the Hyrkanian hosts from complete annihilation.

While these events had been transpiring, the kingdoms of Shem had
conquered their ancient master, Koth, and had been defeated in an
attempted invasion of Stygia. But scarcely had they completed their
degradation of Koth, when they were overrun by the Hyrkanians, and
found themselves subjugated by sterner masters than the Hyborians had
ever been. Meanwhile the Picts had made themselves complete masters of
Aquilonia, practically blotting out the inhabitants. They had broken
over the borders of Zingara, and thousands of Zingarans, fleeing the
slaughter into Argos, threw themselves on the mercy of the
westward-sweeping Hyrkanians, who settled them in Zamora as subjects.
Behind them as they fled, Argos was enveloped in the flame and slaughter
of Pictish conquest, and the slayers swept into Ophir and clashed with
the westward-riding Hyrkanians. The latter, after their conquest of
Shem, had overthrown a Stygian army at the Nilus and overrun the
country as far south as the black kingdom of Amazon, of whose people
they brought back thousands as captives, settling them among the
Shemites. Possibly they would have completed their conquests in
Stygia, adding it to their widening empire, but for the fierce thrusts
of the Picts against their western conquests.

Nemedia, unconquerable by Hyborians, reeled between the riders of the
east and the swordsmen of the west, when a tribe of AEsir, wandering
down from their snowy lands, came into the kingdom, and were engaged
as mercenaries; they proved such able warriors that they not only beat
off the Hyrkanians, but halted the eastward advance of the Picts.

The world at that time presents some such picture: a vast Pictish
empire, wild, rude and barbaric, stretches from the coasts of Vanaheim
in the north to the southern-most shores of Zingara. It stretches east
to include all Aquilonia except Gunderland, the northernmost
province, which, as a separate kingdom in the hills, survived the fall
of the empire, and still maintains its independence. The Pictish
empire also includes Argos, Ophir, the western part of Koth, and the
western-most lands of Shem. Opposed to this barbaric empire is the
empire of the Hyrkanians, of which the northern boundaries are the
ravaged lines of Hyperborea, and the southern, the deserts south of
the lands of Shem. Zamora, Brythunia, the Border Kingdom, Corinthia,
most of Koth, and all the eastern lands of Shem are included in this
empire. The borders of Cimmeria are intact; neither Pict nor Hyrkanian
has been able to subdue these warlike barbarians. Nemedia, dominated
by the AEsir mercenaries, resists all invasions. In the north
Nordheim, Cimmeria and Nemedia separate the conquering races, but in
the south, Koth has become a battle ground where Picts and Hyrkanians
war incessantly. Sometimes the eastern warriors expel the barbarians
from the kingdom entirely; again the plains and cities are in the
hands of the western invaders. In the far south, Stygia, shaken by the
Hyrkanian invasion, is being encroached upon by the great black
kingdoms. And in the far north, the Nordic tribes are restless,
warring continually with the Cimmerians, and sweeping the Hyperborean

Gorm was slain by Hialmar, a chief of the Nemedian Aesir. He was a
very old man, nearly a hundred years old. In the seventy-five years
which had elapsed since he first heard the tale of empires from the
lips of Arus--a long time in the life of a man, but a brief space in
the tale of nations--he had welded an empire from straying savage
clans, he had overthrown a civilization. He who had been born in a
mud-walled, wattle-roofed hut, in his old age sat on golden thrones,
and gnawed joints of beef presented to him on golden dishes by naked
slave girls who were the daughters of kings. Conquest and the
acquiring of wealth altered not the Pict; out of the ruins of the
crushed civilization no new culture arose phoenixlike. The dark hands
which shattered the artistic glories of the conquered never tried to
copy them. Though he sat among the glittering ruins of shattered
palaces and clad his hard body in the silks of vanquished kings, 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. Not so with the
AEsir who settled in Nemedia. These soon adopted many of the ways of
their civilized allies, modified powerfully, however, by their own
intensely virile and alien culture.

For a short age Pict and Hyrkanian snarled at each other over the
ruins of the world they had conquered. Then began the glacier ages,
and the great Nordic drift. Before the southward moving ice-fields the
northern tribes drifted, driving kindred clans before them. The Aesir
blotted out the ancient kingdom of Hyperborea, and across its ruins
came to grips with the Hyrkanians. Nemedia had already become a
Nordic kingdom, ruled by the descendants of the AEsir mercenaries.
Driven before the onrushing tides of Nordic invasion, the Cimmerians
were on the march, and neither army nor city stood before them. They
surged across and completely destroyed the kingdom of Gunderland, and
marched across ancient Aquilonia, hewing their irresistible way
through the Pictish hosts. They defeated the Nordic-Nemedians and
sacked some of their cities, but did not halt. They continued
eastward, overthrowing a Hyrkanian army on the borders of Brythunia.

Behind them hordes of Aesir and Vanir swarmed into the lands, and the
Pictish empire reeled beneath their strokes. Nemedia was overthrown,
and the half-civilized Nordics fled before their wilder kinsmen,
leaving the cities of Nemedia ruined and deserted. These fleeing
Nordics, who had adopted the name of the older kingdom, and to whom
the term Nemedian henceforth refers, came into the ancient land of
Koth, expelled both Picts and Hyrkanians, and aided the people of Shem
to throw off the Hyrkanian yoke. All over the western world, the Picts
and Hyrkanians were staggering before this younger, fiercer people. A
band of Aesir drove the eastern riders from Brythunia and settled
there themselves, adopting the name for themselves. The Nordics who
had conquered Hyperborea assailed their eastern enemies so savagely
that the dark-skinned descendants of the Lemurians retreated into the
steppes, pushed irresistibly back toward Vilayet.

Meanwhile the Cimmerians, wandering southeastward, destroyed the
ancient Hyrkanian kingdom of Turan, and settled on the southwestern
shores of the inland sea. The power of the eastern conquerors was
broken. Before the attacks of the Nordheimir and the Cimmerians, they
destroyed all their cities, butchered such captives as were not fit to
make the long march, and then, herding thousands of slaves before
them, rode back into the mysterious east, skirting the northern edge
of the sea, and vanishing from western history, until they rode out of
the east again, thousands of years later, as Huns, Mongols, Tatars and
Turks. With them in their retreat went thousands of Zamorians and
Zingarans, who were settled together far to the east, formed a mixed
race, and emerged ages afterward as gypsies.

Meanwhile, also, a tribe of Vanir adventurers had passed along the
Pictish coast southward, ravaged ancient Zingara, and come into
Stygia, which, oppressed by a cruel aristocratic ruling class, was
staggering under the thrusts of the black kingdoms to the south. The
red-haired Vanir led the slaves in a general revolt, overthrew the
reigning class, and set themselves up as a caste of conquerors. They
subjugated the northern-most black kingdoms, and built a vast southern
empire, which they called Egypt. From these red-haired conquerors the
earlier Pharaohs boasted descent.

The western world was now dominated by Nordic barbarians. The Picts
still held Aquilonia and part of Zingara, and the western coast of the
continent. But east to Vilayet, and from the Arctic circle to the
lands of Shem, the only inhabitants were roving tribes of Nordheimir,
excepting the Cimmerians, settled in the old Turanian kingdom. There
were no cities anywhere, except in Stygia and the lands of Shem; the
invading tides of Picts, Hyrkanians, Cimmerians and Nordics had
levelled them in ruins, and the once dominant Hyborians had vanished
from the earth, leaving scarcely a trace of their blood in the veins
of their conquerors. Only a few names of lands, tribes and cities
remained in the languages of the barbarians, to come down through the
centuries connected with distorted legend and fable, until the whole
history of the Hyborian age was lost sight of in a cloud of myths and
fantasies. Thus in the speech of the gypsies lingered the terms
Zingara and Zamora; the AEsir who dominated Nemedia were called
Nemedians, and later figured in Irish history, and the Nordics who
settled in Brythunia were known as Brythunians, Brythons or Britons.

There was no such thing, at that time, as a consolidated Nordic
empire. As always, the tribes had each its own chief or king, and they
fought savagely among themselves. What their destiny might have been
will not be known, because another terrific convulsion of the earth,
carving out the lands as they are known to moderns, hurled all into
chaos again. Great strips of the western coast sank; Vanaheim and
western Asgard--uninhabited and glacier-haunted wastes for a hundred
years--vanished beneath the waves. The ocean flowed around the
mountains of western Cimmeria to form the North Sea; these mountains
became the islands later known as England, Scotland and Ireland, and
the waves rolled over what had been the Pictish wilderness and the
Bossonian marches. In the north the Baltic Sea was formed, cutting
Asgard into the peninsulas later known as Norway, Sweden and Denmark,
and far to the south the Stygian continent was broken away from the
rest of the world, on the line of cleavage formed by the river Nilus
in its westward trend. Over Argos, western Koth and the western lands
of Shem, washed the blue ocean men later called the Mediterranean. But
where land sank elsewhere, a vast expanse west of Stygia rose out of
the waves, forming the whole western half of the continent of Africa.

The buckling of the land thrust up great mountain ranges in the
central part of the northern continent. Whole Nordic tribes were
blotted out, and the rest retreated eastward. The territory about the
slowly drying inland sea was not affected, and there, on the western
shores, the Nordic tribes began a pastoral existence, living in more
or less peace with the Cimmerians, and gradually mixing with them. In
the west the remnants of the Picts, reduced by the cataclysm once more
to the status of stone-age savages, began, with the incredible
virility of their race, once more to possess the land, until, at a
later age, they were overthrown by the westward drift of the
Cimmerians and Nordics. This was so long after the breaking-up of the
continent that only meaningless legends told of former empires.

This drift comes within the reach of modern history and need not be
repeated. It resulted from a growing population which thronged the
steppes west of the inland sea--which still later, much reduced in
size, was known as the Caspian--to such an extent that migration
became an economic necessity. The tribes moved southward, northward
and westward, into those lands now known as India, Asia Minor and
central and western Europe.

They came into these countries as Aryans. But there were variations
among these primitive Aryans, some of which are still recognized
today, others which have long been forgotten. The blond Achaians,
Gauls and Britons, for instance, were descendants of pure-blooded
AEsir. The Nemedians of Irish legendry were the Nemedian AEsir. The
Danes were descendants of pure-blooded Vanir; the Goths--ancestors
of the other Scandinavian and Germanic tribes, including the
Anglo-Saxons--were descendants of a mixed race whose elements contained
Vanir, AEsir and Cimmerian strains. The Gaels, ancestors of the Irish
and Highland Scotch, descended from pure-blooded Cimmerian clans. The
Cymric tribes of Britain were a mixed Nordic-Cimmerian race which
preceded the purely Nordic Britons into the isles, and thus gave rise
to a legend of Gaelic priority. The Cimbri who fought Rome were of the
same blood, as well as the Gimmerai of the Assyrians and Grecians, and
Gomer of the Hebrews. Other clans of the Cimmerians adventured east of
the drying inland sea, and a few centuries later mixed with Hyrkanian
blood, returned westward as Scythians. The original ancestors of the
Gaels gave their name to modern Crimea.

The ancient Sumerians had no connection with the western race. They
were a mixed people, of Hyrkanian and Shemitish bloods, who were not
taken with the conquerors in their retreat. Many tribes of Shem
escaped that captivity, and from pure-blooded Shemites, or Shemites
mixed with Hyborian or Nordic blood, were descended the Arabs,
Israelites, and other straighter-featured Semites. The Canaanites, or
Alpine Semites, traced their descent from Shemitish ancestors mixed
with the Kushites settled among them by their Hyrkanian masters; the
Elamites were a typical race of this type. The short, thick-limbed
Etruscans, base of the Roman race, were descendants of a people of
mixed Stygian, Hyrkanian and Pictish strains, and originally lived in
the ancient kingdom of Koth. The Hyrkanians, retreating to the eastern
shores of the continent, evolved into the tribes later known as
Tatars, Huns, Mongols and Turks.

The origins of other races of the modern world may be similarly
traced; in almost every case, older far than they realize, their
history stretches back into the mists of the forgotten Hyborian age...


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