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The Hyborian Age[]

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An illustration of The Hyborian Age primarily based upon a map hand-drawn by Robert E. Howard in March 1932.

File:Hyboria map1950.jpg

Another version of the map, drawn by David Kyle for the 1950 Gnome Press edition of Conan the Conqueror.

 The Hyborian Age is a fictional period within the artificial mythology created by Robert E. Howard, in which the sword and sorcery tales of Conan the Barbarian and Red Sonja are set. The word "Hyborian" is a transliterated contraction by Howard of the Ancient Greek "hyperborean", referring to a "barbaric dweller beyond the boreas (north wind)."[1] Howard stated that the geographical setting of the Hyborian Age is that of our Earth, but in a fictional version of a period in the past, c. Upper Paleolithic (40,000 to 10,000 B.C.).[2] The reasons behind the invention of the Hyborian Age were perhaps commercial: Howard had an intense love for history and historical dramas; however, at the same time, he recognized the difficulties and the time-consuming research needed in maintaining historical accuracy. By conceiving a timeless setting – a vanished age – and by carefully choosing names that resembled our history, Howard avoided the problem of historical anachronisms and the need for lengthy exposition.[3] Although he is not represented in Howard's library, nor alluded to in his papers and correspondence, there is a strong likelihood that Howard's conception of the Hyborian Age originated in Thomas Bulfinch's The Outline of Mythology (1913), acting as a catalyst that enabled Howard to "coalesce into a coherent whole his literary aspirations and the strong physical, autobiographical elements underlying the creation of Conan."[3] Howard's Hyborian Age is also related to Clark Ashton Smith's Hyperborean cycle. In Howard's artificial legendarium, the Hyborian Age is chronologically situated between two other eras: "The Pre-Cataclysmic Age" of Kull (c. Upper Paleolithic 20,000 B.C.) and the onslaught of the Picts (c. 9,500 B.C.).[2] According to "The Phoenix on the Sword", the adventures of Conan take place "...Between the years when the oceans drank Atlantis and the gleaming cities, and the years of the rise of the Sons of Aryas..."[4]

The Hyborian Age[]

The following can be found in Marvel's Conan Saga series number 50, 51, 52, 53, 54 and 56. It is an adaptation by Roy Thomas and Walt Simonson of Robert E. Howard's immortal essay commencing with the age of Kull.

"Know, O prince, that between the years when the oceans drank Atlantis and the gleaming cities, and the years of the rise of the sons of Aryas, there was an Age undreamed of, when shining kingdoms lay spread across the world like blue mantles beneath the stars ... Hither came Conan, the Cimmerian, black-haired, sullen-eyed, sword in hand, a thief, a reaver, a slayer, with gigantic melancholies and gigantic mirth, to tread the jeweled thrones of the Earth under his sandaled feet." -- The Nemedian Chronicles

When Robert E. Howard began to chronicle the adventures of Conan the Cimmerian, more than forty years ago, he prepared a fictional history of the so-called Hyborian Age which he had created. That "history" dealt not only with the period during and after Conan's life, but also with events some eight thousand years earlier, during the Thurian civilization which produced King Kull, exiled warrior of Atlantis in the days before that continent sank into the surging seas.

The Pre-Cataclysmic Age (circa 20,000 BC)[]

Of that epoch known by the Nemedian Chronicles as the Pre-Cataclysmic Age, little is known except the latter part, and that is veiled in the mists of legend.

Known history begins with the waning of the civilization of the main, or Thurian continent... a civilization dominated by the kingdoms of Ramelia, Valusia, Verulia, Grondar, Thule and Commoria. These people spoke a similar language, suggesting a common origin. Though they don't seem to be in agreement. The barbarians of the 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 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, occupied a relatively small portion of the whole planet. Valusia was the westernmost kingdom of the Thurian continent: her capital, the City of Wonders, was the marvel of her age. Grondar, whose people were less highly cultured than those of the other kingdoms, was the easternmost land. Among the less arid stretches of desert East of Grondar, in the serpent-infested jungles and among the snow-perched mountains, there lived scattered clans and tribes of primitive savages.

On the Far Eastern shores of the Thurian continent 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. Far to the South, there was a second mysterious civilization, unconnected with the Thurian culture and apparently pre-human in its nature.

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

Then the cataclysm rocked the world. Atlantis and Lemuria sank, the Pictish islands were heaved up to form the mountain peaks of a new continent, while sections of the Thurian continent vanished under the waves or sinking, forming great inland lakes and seas. Volcanoes broke forth and terrific earthquakes shook down the shining cities of the empires. Whole nations were blotted out and the face of the world was forever changed.

The Rise of the Hyborians (circa 17,000 - 15,000 BC)[]

When the great cataclysm caused the destruction of Atlantis and Lemuria, the inhabitants of the Pictish isles likewise perished. But a great colony of them, already settled along the mountains of Valusia's Southern frontier, were virtually untouched. Atlantis' kingdom on the main continent also escaped the common ruin, and to it came thousands of their tribesmen, fleeing in ships from the sinking land. Many Lemurians also made their way to the Eastern coast of the Thurian continent, only to be enslaved by the ancient race which already dwelt there. And their history, for thousands of years, became a story of brutal servitude.

In the Western part of the continent, thick jungles covered the plains, wild mountains were heaved up, and lakes covered the old cities in fertile valleys. Forced to battle continually for their lives, the Atlanteans yet managed to retain vestiges of their former state of advanced barbarism. Then, their struggling culture came into contact with the powerful Pictish nation. The stone-age kingdoms clashed, and in a series of bloody wars, the outnumbered Atlanteans were hurled back into savagery, and the evolution of the Picts was halted. Five hundred years after the cataclysm, the barbaric kingdoms had vanished.

To the far South, untouched by the cataclysm, is veiled in mystery, its destiny still pre-human. But a remnant of one of the non-Valusian civilized nations dwells among the low mountains of the Southeast. They are the Zhemri.

Meanwhile, in the far North, another people are slowly are coming into existence. A band of barely human savages had fled thither to escape destruction, they found the icy countries inhabited only by a species of snow-apes, whom they fought and drove beyond the arctic circle, to perish, as the savages thought. The primitive humans then adapted to their hardy new environment and survived.

Then, another lesser cataclysm further altered the appearance of the original continent and left a great inland sea to separate East and West. The earthquakes, floods and volcanoes completed the ruin of the barbarians, already begun by their fierce tribal wars.

A thousand years later, wandering bands of ape-men exist without human speech, fire or tools. These are the descendants of the once-proud Atlanteans. To the Southwest dwell scattered clans of degraded cave-dwelling savages, primitive of speech, yet still retaining the name of Picts. Far to the East, the enslaved Lemurians have risen and destroyed their masters. They are savages, stalking the ruins of a strange civilization. The survivors of that civilization have come westward, overthrowing the pre-humans of the south and founding a new kingdom called Stygia. In the North, one tribe is growing: the Hyborians or Hybori. Their god is Bori, some great chief whom legend has raised to the status of a deity. 1,500 years in the snow-country have made them a vigorous and warlike race. And now, they are pushing southward in leisurely treks.

A wanderer to the North at about this time returned with the news that the Northern icy wastes were inhabited by ape-like men, descended from the beasts driven out of the more habitable land by the Hyborians' ancestors. To exterminate these creatures, a small band of warriors followed him beyond the arctic circle. None returned.

And meanwhile, the tribes of the Hyborians drifted ever southward, to make the following age an epoch of wandering and conquest.

The Hyborian Kingdoms (circa 14,000 - 10,000 BC)[]

1,500 years after the lesser cataclysm which created the inland sea, tribes of tawny-haried Hyborians have moved southward and westward, conquering and destroying many of the small unclassified clans. As yet, these conquerors have not come in contact with the older races. To the Southeast, the descendants of the Zhemri are beginning to seek to revive some faint shadow of their ancient culture. To the West, the apish Atlanteans have began the long hard climb back toward true humanity, while to the South of them, the Picts remain savages, apparently defying the laws of nature by neither progressing nor retrogressing. And, 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, while next to the Picts, in the broad Valley of Zingg, protected by great mountains, a nameless band of primitives has created an advanced agricultural system and life.

Meanwhile, the first of the Hyborian kingdoms has come onto existence, the rude and barbaric kingdom of Hyperborea, which had its beginnings in a crude fortress of boulders heaped to repel tribal attack. There are few more dramatic events in history than the rise of this fierce kingdom, whose people turned abruptly from nomadic life to rear dwellings of naked stone, surrounded by cyclopean walls.

All this time, far to the East, the Lemurians are evolving a strange semi-civilization all their own, built on the wreckage of the one they overthrew. The Hyborians, meanwhile, have founded the kingdom of Koth, on the borders of the pastoral lands of Shem. The savages of the lands of Shem, through contact with the Hyborians and the ever ravaging Stygians, are slowly emerging from barbarism. Far to the North, the first kingdom of Hyperborea is overthrown by another tribe 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, invading Picts have merged the agricultural dwellers of the fertile Valley of Zingg. This mixed race in turn will be conquered by a roving tribe of Hybori, and from this mingled elements will come the kingdom called Zingara.

500 years later, the kingdoms of the world are clearly defined. The kingdoms of the Hyborians - Aquilonia, Nemedia, Brythunia, Hyperborea, Koth, Ophir, Argos, Corinthia and the Border Kingdom - dominate the Western world. Zamora lies to the East, Zingara to the Southwest of these. Far to the South sleeps Stygia, untouched by foreign invasions, though the peoples of Shem have exchanged the Stygian yoke for the less galling one of Koth. The Stygians have been driven South of the great river Styx, also called Nilus or Nile, which empties into the Western Sea. North of Aquilonia are the Cimmerians, ferocioius savages untamed by any invaders. Descended from the ancient Atlanteans, they are progressing more rapidly 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 virile civilization, whose most powerful kingdom is Aquilonia, though others vie with it in strength and splendor. They are the supreme in the Western world. In the North, however, golden-haired, blue-eyed barbarians have driven the remaining Hyborian tribes out of all the snow-countries except Hyperborea. Their land is known as Nordheim, and they are divided into the red-haried Vanir and the yellow-haired Aesir. Now the Lemurians enter history again, as Hyrkanians. Pushing westward, one tribe establishes the kingdom of Turan on the Southwestern shore of the inland Vilayet Sea. Later, other Hyrkanian clans push westward around that sea's northern extremity.

Glancing briefly at the peoples of that age. The dominant Hyborians are no longer uniformly twany-haired and grey-eyed; they have mixed with other races, but this mixing has not weakened them. The Shemites are men of medium height with hawk noses, dark eyes and blue-black beards. The ruling classes of Stygia are tall men, dusky and straight-featured. The Hyrkanians are dark and generally tall and slender. The people of Nordheim retain their light skin, blue eyes and red or yellow hair. The Picts are the same type as they always were; short, very dark with black eyes and hair. The Cimmerians are tall and powerful, with dark hair and blue or grey eyes. South of Stygia are the vast black kingdoms of the Amazons, the Kushites, the Atlaians and the hybrid empire of Zembabwei. Between Aquilonia and the Pictish wilderness lie the Bossonian Marches, peopled by descendents of an aboriginal race mixed with Hyborians. They are stubborn fighters and great archers, as they must be to have survived centuries of warfare with the barbarians to the North and West.

This, then, was an "Age Undreamed Of", when shining kingdoms lay spread across the world like blue mantles beneath the stars.

This, then, was the age of Conan.

The Beginning of the End (circa 9,500 BC)[]

500 years after the time of King Conan, the Hyborian civilization was swept away while its vigorous culture was still in its prime. It was the greed of Aquilonia which indirectly brought about that overthrow. Wishing to extend their empire, her kings annexed Zingara, Argos and Ophir, as well as the western cities of Shem. Koth itself, with Corinthia and the eastern Shemitish tribes, was forced to pay Aquilonia tribute and lend aid in its wars. Nemedia, which had successfully resisted Aquilonia for centuries, now drew Brythunia and Zamora and secretly, Koth into an alliance against that western kingdom. But before their armies could join in battle, a new enemy appeared in the East. Reinforced by Hyrkanian adventurers, the riders of Turan swept over Zamora to meet the Aquilonians on the plains of Brythunia. Defeating the Turanians, the Aquilonians sent them flying eastward; but the back of the Nemedian alliance was now broken. The defeat of the Hyrkanians showed the nations the real power of Aquilonia.

Zamora was reconquered, but the people discovered they had merely exchanged an eastern master for a western one. Auilonian soldiers were quartered there, to keep the people in subjection as well as to protect them. In the North, there was incessant bickering along the Cimmerian borders between the black-haired warriors and their various neighbors, the Nordheimr, the Bossonians and the ever more powerful Picts. Several times, the Cimmerians raided Aquilonia itself, but their wars were less invasions than plundering forays.

But, by a strange quirk of fate, it is the growing power of the Picts in the West which is destined to throw down the kings of Aquilonia from their high places. At about this time, a Nemedian priest named Arus determined to go into the western wilderness and introduce to the heathen Picts the gentle worship of Mitra. He was not daunted by the grisly tales of what had happened to traders and explorers before him. Over the years, the Picts had benefited from contact with Hyborian civilization, but they had always fiercely resisted that contact. They dwelt in clans which were generally at feud with each other, and their customs were bloodthirsty and generally inexplicable to a civilized man such as Arus of Nemedia.

Arus was fortunate in meeting a chief of more than usual intelligence, Gorm by name, who gave him permission to remain among his tribe unbutchered. This was a case unique in the history of the Picts; and better for the flower of Hyborian civilization if Arus had been speared instead. Having learned the Pictish tongue, Arus harangued Gorm at length, expounding rhe eternal rights and justices which were the truths of Mitra. Being a practical man, Arus appealed to the savage's sense of material gain. He pointed out the splendor of the Hyborian kingdoms as proof of the power of Mitra. Arus spoke of wealthy cities and fertile plains, of jeweled towers and glittering armor. And Gorm, with the unerring instinct of the barbarian, passed over his words regarding gods and their teachings, and fixed on the material riches he so vividly described. There, in the mud-floored wattle hut, where the silk robed priest droned on the dark-skinned chief crouched in his tiger-hides, were laid the foundations of the Pictish Empire.

Fire and Slaughter (circa 9,500 BC)[]

Arus, priest of Mitra, had instilled in Gorm, the Pictish chief a desire to see the civilized lands. At Gorm's request, Arus conducted him and some of his warriors through the Bossonian Marches, where the honest villagers stared in amazement, and into the glittering outer world. Soon, Picts came and went freely into all Aquilonia. Arus no doubt thought he was making converts for Mitra right and left, because the Picts listened to him and refrained from smiting him with their copper axes. But what they really wished to learn from him and did, was how to mine the vast iron deposits in their hills and work them into weapons. With these, Gorm began to assert his dominance over the other Pictish clans.

Aquilonia, meanwhile, pursuing her wars of aggression to the South and East, paid little heed to the vaguely known lands of the West, from which more and more stocky Pictish warriors swarmed to take service in her mercenary armies. 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. As for Gorm, he became chief of chiefs, the nearest approach to a king the Picts had in thousands of years. He had waited long, he was well past middle age. Too late, Arus saw his mistake; he had touched only the pagan's greed, not his soul. And making a last effort to undo his unwitting work, he was brained by a drunken Pict. Gorm was not without gratitude; he caused the skull of the slayer to be set on top of the priest's cairn. The Picts burst upon the Bossonian Frontiers, clad not in tiger skins but in scalemail, wielding weapons of keen steel. Still, for years, the sturdy Bossonian Marches held the invaders at bay, thus keeping them from attacking Aquilonia itself.

Meanwhile, the Aquilonian Empire waxed strong and arrogance leading them to treat less powerful peoples, even the Bossonians, with growing contempt. Argos, Zingara, Ophir, Zamora and the Shemite countries were treated as subjected countries, which was especially galling to the proud rebellious Zingarans. Koth, too, was practically tributary and first Stygia, then Brythunia were defeated in battle. Yet, powerful Nemedia directly to the West had never been subdued. Thus, the Aquilonian armies moved at last against their neighbor state. Their glittering ranks however, were largely filled by mercenaries, especially the Bossonians. Because of the eastern war, scarcely enough men were left in the Bossonian Marches to guard the frontier. And hearing of Pictish outrages in their homelands, whole Bossonian regiments quit the Nemedian campaign and marched westward, where they defeated the Picts in a single great battle.

This desertion, however, was the direct cause of the Aquilonians defeat by the desperate Nemedians, and thus brought down on the Bossonians the cruel and shortsighted wrath of the Imperialists. Aquilonian regiments were brought to the borders of the Marches, and the Bossonian chiefs were lured into their encampment. There, the unarmed chiefs were massacred and the Imperial hosts then attacked 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, led by Gorm, an old man now, but with the fire of his fierce ambition undimmed. This time there were no sturdy Bossonian warriors in their path, so that the blood-mad barbarians swarmed into Aquilonia itself, before her legions could return from the war in the East. Zingara seized this opportunity to throw off the yoke, 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, while still the Picts surged irresistibly eastward. In the most of this chaos, the wild-born Cimmerians swept down from their Northern hills, completing the ruin, and the Aquilonian Empire went down in Fire and Blood.

The Darkness... and the Dawn (circa 9,500 BC)[]

Following the collapse of the Aquilonian Empire, the Hyrkanian hordes came riding in from the East. Hyrkanians and Turanians together in time, united under one great chief. With no Aquilonian armies to oppose them, they were invincible, sweeping first over Zamora, then Brythunia, Hyperborea and Corinthia. Next, they swept into Cimmeria, driving the black-haired barbarians before them. But, among the hills, where the Hyrkanian cavalry was less effective, the Cimmerians turned on them, and only a disorderly retreat saved them from complete annihilation. The Picts, meanwhile, made themselves the masters of Aquilonia, massacring nearly all the inhabitants in the process. Probably only these fierce Pictish thrusts stopped the raging Hyrkanians from adding even Stygia to their widening empire. Nemedia, never before conquered, now reeled between West and East when a tribe of Aesir wandered South, to be engaged as mercenaries. Meanwhile, the Pictish chief Gorm, whose ambition had begun the slaughter, was slain by Hialmar, a chief of the Nemedian Aesir. 75 years had elapsed since he had first heard tales of the western lands from the lips of Arus, priest of Mitra. Long enough for a man to live, or a civilization to die.

For a short age, Pict and Hyrkanian snarled at each other over the ruins of the world they had conquered. Then began the glacial ages, and many nordic tribes were driven southward by the moving ice fields, driving kindred clans before them in turn. Nemedia, meanwhile, became a Nordic kingdom, ruled by descendants of the Aesir mercenaries. Pressed by the Nordic tides, the Cimmerians were on the march, destroying first Gunderland, then hewing their way through the Pictish hosts to defeat the Nordic-Nemedians and sack some of their cities. Then they continued eastward, overthrowing an Hyrkanian army on the borders of Brythunia. Hot on their heels, hordes of Aesir and Vanir swarmed South, and the newly founded 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 Nordic-Nemedians broke the back of Hyrkanian power in Shem, Brythunia and Hyperborea, forcing the descendants of the Lemurians back toward the Vilayet Sea. Meanwhile, the Cimmerians, wandering southeastward, destroyed the ancient Hyrkanian kingdom of Turan and settled by the inland sea.

Their Western empire destroyed, the Hyrkanians butchered all unfit captives and herded thousands of slaves before them as they rode back onto the mysterious East. They would return thousands of years later, as Mongols, Huns, Tartars and Turks. Meanwhile also, red-haired Vanir adventurers came into Stygia, where they overthrew the reigning class and built up a vast southern empire which they call Egypt. From these red-haried conquerors the early pharaohs were to boast descent. The Western world was now dominated by Nordic barbarians. There were few cities anywhere; the once dominant Hyborians had vanished from the earth, leaving scarcely a trace of blood in the veins of their conquerors. In time, the whole history of the Hyborian age was lost in a cloud of myths and fantasies.

And then, another terrific convulsion of the earth hurled all into choas again, carving out the lands as they are known to us now. Great strips of the western coast sank, and the mountains of western Cimmeria became islands later called British. A vast sea, later called Mediterranean, was formed then the Stygian continent broke away from the rest of the world. The territory around the slowly drying inland sea was not affected, and the Nordics retreating there lived more or less at peace with the Cimmerians already present. In time, the two races became intermingled. In the West, the remnants of the Picts, reduced to the status of stone-age savages, possessed the land once more, till, in a later age, they were overthrown by the westward drift of the Cimmerians and Nordics. This drift resulted from a growing population which thronged the steppes West of the inland sea, now known as the Caspian and much reduced in size -- to such an extent that migration became an economic necessity. Known now as Aryans, these tribes moved into the areas now occupied by India, Asia Minor and much of Europe.

Some variations of these primitive sons of Aryas are still recognized today; others have been long forgotten since. The Nemedians of Irish legendry were the Nemedian Aesir, while the later sea-roving Danes were the descendants of the Vanir. The blond Achaians, Gauls and Britons were decended from the pure-blooded Aesir. The Gaels, ancestors of Irish and Highland Scotch came of pure-blooded Cimmerian clans. The ancient Summerians were of mixed Hyrkanian and Shemitish blood, while from the purer Shemites were descended both the Arabs and the Israelites. The Hyrkanians, retreating to the Eastern shores of the continent, evolved into the tribes later known as Huns, Mongols, Tartars and Turks before they bloodily re-entered Western history.

The origins of the 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.

Fictional history[]

Cataclysmic ancestors[]

Howard explained the origins and history of Aquilonia and its people in his essay The Hyborian Age. The civilizations of Thuria, Lemuria, and Atlantis, mentioned in his series about Kull and Thulsa Doom, all fell to a cataclysm only a few centuries after the reign of the Valusian King. According to the essay, at the time of this cataclysm, a group of primitive humans were at a technological level hardly above the Neanderthal. They fled to the northern areas of what was left of the Thurian continent to escape the destruction. They discovered the areas to be safe but covered with snow and already inhabited by a race of carnivorous apes. The apes were large with white fur and apparently native to their land. The Stone Age invaders engaged in a territorial war with them and eventually managed to drive them off, past the Arctic Circle. Believing their enemies fated to perish and no longer interested in them, the recently arrived group adapted to their new, harsh environment and its population started to increase. 

Hyborian ancestors[]

One thousand five hundred years later, the descendants of this initial group were called "Hyborians". They were named after their highest ranking god deity, Bori. (Howard apparently based this god on Búri, first god in Norse mythology, father of Borr and through him grandfather of Odin, Vili, and Ve).Template:Or The essay mentions that Bori had actually been a great tribal chief of their past who had undergone deification. Their oral tradition remembered him as their leader during their initial migration to the north though the antiquity of this man had been exaggerated. By this point, the various related but independent Hyborian tribes had spread throughout the northern regions of their area of the world. Some of them were already migrating south at a "leisurely" pace in search of new areas in which to settle. The Hyborians had yet to encounter other cultural groups, but engaged in wars against each other. Howard describes them as a powerful and warlike race with the average individual being tall, tawny-haired, and gray-eyed. Culturally, they were already accomplished artists and poets. Most of the tribes still relied on hunting for their nourishment. Their southern offshoots, however, had been practicing animal husbandry on cattle for a number of centuries. The only exception to their long isolation from other cultural groups came due to the actions of a lone adventurer, unnamed in the essay. He had traveled past the Arctic Circle and returned with news that their old adversaries, the apes, were not in fact annihilated. They had instead evolved into apemen, and according to his description were by then numerous. He believed they were quickly evolving to human status and would pose a threat to the Hyborians in the future. He attempted to recruit a significant military force to campaign against them, but most Hyborians were not convinced by his tales and at last only a small group of foolhardy youths followed his campaign. None of them returned. 

Beginnings of the Hyborian Age[]

With the population of the Hyborian tribes continuing to increase, the need for new lands also increased. The Hyborians started expanding outside their familiar territories, beginning a new age of wanderings and conquests. For five hundred years, the Hyborians spread towards the south and the west of their nameless continent. They encountered other tribal groups for the first time in millennia. They conquered many smaller clans of various origins. The survivors of the defeated clans merged with their conquerors, passing on their racial traits to new generations of Hyborians. The mixed-blooded Hyborian tribes were in turn forced to defend their new territories from pure-blooded Hyborian tribes which followed the same paths of migration. Often, the new invaders would wipe away the defenders before absorbing them, resulting in a tangled web of Hyborian tribes and nations with varying ancestral elements within their bloodlines. The first organized Hyborian kingdom to emerge was Hyperborea. The tribe that established it entered their Neolithic age by learning to erect buildings in stone, largely for fortification. These nomads lived in tents made out of the hides of horses, but soon abandoned them in favor of their first crude but durable stone houses. They permanently settled in fortified settlements and developed cyclopean masonry to further fortify their defensive walls. The Hyperboreans were by then the most advanced of the Hyborian tribes and set out to expand their kingdom by attacking their backwards neighbors. Tribes who defended their territories lost them and were forced to migrate elsewhere. Others fled the path of Hyperborean expansion before ever engaging them in war. Meanwhile, the "apemen" of the Arctic Circle emerged as a new race of light-haired and tall humans. They started their own migration to the south, displacing the northernmost of the Hyborian tribes. 

Rulers of the West[]

For the next thousand years, the warlike Hyborian nations advanced to become the rulers of the western areas of the nameless continent. They encountered the Picts and forced them to limit themselves to the western wastelands, which would come to be known as the "Pictish Wilderness". Following the example of their Hyperborean cousins, other Hyborians started to settle down and create their own kingdoms. The southernmost of the early ones was Koth, which was established north of the lands of Shem and soon started extending its cultural influence over the southern shepherds. Just south of the Pictish Wilderness was the fertile valley known as "Zing". The wandering Hyborian tribe which conquered them found other people already settled there. They included a nameless farming nation related to the people of the Shem and a warlike Pictish tribe who had previously conquered them. They established the kingdom of Zingara and absorbed the defeated elements into their tribe. Hyborians, Picts, and the unnamed kin of the Shemites would merge into a nation calling themselves Zingarans. On the other hand at the north of the continent, the fair-haired invaders from the Arctic Circle had grown in numbers and power. They continued their expansion south while in turn displacing defeated Hyborians to the south. Even Hyperborea was conquered by one of these barbarian tribes. But the conquerors here decided to maintain the kingdom with its old name, merged with the defeated Hyperboreans and adopted elements of Hyborian culture. The continuing wars and migrations would keep the state of the other areas of the continent for another five hundred years. 

The world[]

The Hyborian Age was devised by author Robert E. Howard as the post-Atlantean setting of his Conan the Cimmerian stories, designed to fit in with Howard's previous and lesser known tales of Kull, which were set in the Thurian Age at the time of Atlantis. The name "Hyborian" is a contraction of the Greek concept of the land of "Hyperborea", literally "Beyond the North Wind". This was a mythical place far to the north that was not cold and where things did not age. Howard's Hyborian epoch, described in his essay The Hyborian Age (most recently republished by Del Rey in The Coming of Conan the Cimmerian in 2003), is a mythical time before any civilization known to anthropologists. Its setting is Europe and North Africa (with occasional references to Asia and other continents; e.g. Mayapan, representing the American continent) – with some geological changes. 

File:Chrysagon Hyboria 1024.jpg

A larger map of Robert E. Howard's Hyborian Age.

 On a map Howard drew conceptualizing the Hyborian Age, his vision of the Mediterranean Sea is also dry. The Nile, which he renamed the River Styx, takes a westward turn at right angles just beyond the Nile Delta, plowing through the mountains so as to be able to reach the Straits of Gibraltar. Although his Black Sea is also dry, his Caspian Sea, which he renames the Vilayet Sea, extends northward to reach the Arctic Ocean, so as to provide a barrier to encapsulate the settings of his stories. Not only are his Baltic Sea and English Channel dry, but most of the North Sea and a vast region to the west, easily including Ireland, are, too. Meanwhile, the west coast of Africa on his map lies beneath the sea. There are also a few islands, reminiscent of the Azores.Template:Citation needed


In his fantasy setting of the Hyborian Age, Howard created imaginary kingdoms to which he gave names from a variety of mythological and historical sources. Khitai is his version of China, lying far to the east, Corinthia is his name for a Hellenistic civilization, a name derived from the city of Corinth and reminiscent of the imperial fiefdom of Carinthia in the Middle Ages. Howard imagines the Hyborian Picts to occupy a large area to the northwest. The probable intended correspondences are listed below; notice that the correspondences are sometimes very generalized, and are portrayed by ahistorical stereotypes. Most of these correspondences are drawn from "Hyborian Names", an appendix to Conan the Swordsman by L. Sprague de Camp and Lin Carter.[5] {| class="wikitable"|+ Table of Correspondences|-! align="left" | Kingdom, Region, or Ethnic Group !! align="left" | Correspondence(s)|-| Acheron || A fallen kingdom corresponding to the Roman Empire. Its territory covered Aquilonia, Nemedia, and Argos. In Greek mythology, Acheron was one of the four rivers of Hades (cf. "Stygia").|-| Afghulistan || Afghanistan. Afghulistan (sometimes "Ghulistan") is the common name of the habitat of different tribes in the Himelian Mountains. The name itself is a mixture of the historical names of Gulistan and Afghanistan.|-| Alkmeenon || Delphi. Its name derives from the Alcmaeonidae, who funded the construction the Temple of Apollo in Delphi, from which the oracle operated.|-| Amazon || Mentioned in Robert E. Howard's Hyborian Age essay, the kingdom of the Amazons refers to various legends of Greek Amazons, or more specifically to the Dahomey Amazons. In classical legend, Amazonia was a nation of warrior women in Asia Minor and North Africa. The legend may be based upon the Sarmatians, a nomadic Iranian tribe of the Kuban, whose women were required to slay an enemy before they might marry.|-| Aquilonia || A cross between the Roman Empire and Carolingian Empire. The name is borrowed from Aquilonia, a city of Southern Italy, between modern Venosa and Benevento; it is also an ancient name of Quimper and resembles that of Aquitaine, a French region ruled by England for a long portion of the Middle Ages. The name is derived from Latin aquilo(n–), "north wind".|-| Argos || Various seafaring traders of the Mediterranean. The name comes from the Argo, ship of the Argonauts; or perhaps from the city of Argos, Peloponnesos, reputedly the oldest city in Greece, situated at the head of the Gulf of Argolis near modern Nafplion. Also, hints of Italy in regards to the indigenous population's appearance, names and culture. Howard labels the populace of his Argos as "Argosseans", whereas the folk of the historical Argos are known as "Argives". In Hyborian Age cartography, Argos takes on the shape of a "shoe" in its border boundaries as compared to Italy appearing as a "boot". The coastal city of Messantia/Massantia derives its name from Massalia, the name given to Marseilles by its Greek founders.|-| Asgard || Dark Age Scandinavia. Ásgard is the home of the Æsir in Norse mythology. Howard states that the Baltic Sea would , post cataclysm, divide his fictional Asgard into the modern Norway, Sweden and Denmark according to The Hyborian Age essay.|-| Barachan Islands || The Caribbean Islands. The pirate town of Tortage takes its name from Tortuga.|-| Border Kingdoms || Geographically located over the modern German Baltic Sea coast. A lawless place full of savages, Conan once traveled through the Border Kingdom on his way to Nemedia. He befriended Mar the Piper and the King of the Border Kingdoms. He helped save the kingdom before returning to his quest to reach Nemedia.|-| Bossonian Marches || Wales, with an overlay of colonial-era North America. Possibly from Bossiney, a former parliamentary borough in Cornwall, South West England, which included Tintagel Castle, connected with the Matter of Britain.|-| Brythunia || The continental homelands of the Angles and SaxonsTemplate:Citation needed who invaded Great Britain, which is the origin of the nameTemplate:Citation needed. Semantically, the name Brythunia is from the Welsh BrythonTemplate:Citation needed, "Briton", derived from the same root as the Latin Brito, Britannia, although Howard stated that the name was kept by the Æsir and Nemedians that settled there. The land is depicted geographically over modern Poland, Lithuania, and Latvia. |-| Cimmeria || Howard states in The Hyborian Age that "the Gaels, ancestors of the Irish and Highland Scots, descended from pure-blooded Cimmerian clans." He correlates Cimmeria to the Cymric people, the Cimbri, the Gimirrai, the Cimmerians and the Crimea. Geographically located over the modern Ireland, Scotland and England, since  during the cataclysm which would mark the end of the said Hyborian Age, Cimmeria is said (according to the essay "The Hyborian Age" by R.E.Howard) to partially sink , surrounded by what would be the North Sea, its mountains dislocating into the British Isles.|-| Conajohara (Aquilonia) || The name may have been based on Canajoharie. |-| Corinthia || Ancient Greece. From Corinth (Korinthos), a rich city in Classical Greece. Possibly suggested to Howard by the Epistles to the Corinthians, or by the region of Carinthia.|-| Darfar || Howard derived this name from the region of Darfur, Sudan, in north-central Africa. Darfur is an Arabic language name meaning "abode (dar) of the Fur", the dominant people of the area. In changing the name to Darfar, Howard unwittingly changed the Arabic meaning to "the abode of mice". The original Darfur is now the westernmost part of the Republic of the Sudan.|-| Gunderland || Possibly from Gunderland of Hesbaye, a count in the Merovingian court, or from Gelderland a province in The Netherlands or from Gunther (Gundicar), King of Burgundy or Gunderic, King of the Vandals.|-| Hyperborea || Finland, Russia and the Baltic countries (Hyperborea) was a land in "outermost north" according to Greek historian Herodotus. Howard's Hyperborea is described as the first Hyborian kingdom, "which had its beginning in a crude fortress of boulders heaped to repel tribal attack".|-| Hyrkania || Mongolia, Hyrcania. In classical geography, a region southeast of the Caspian Sea or Hyrcanian Sea corresponding to the Iranian provinces of Golestan, Mazandaran and Gilan. The name is Greek for the Old Persian Varkana, one of the Achaemenid Empire satrapies, and survives in the name of the river Gorgan. The original meaning may have been "wolf land". In Iranian legend, Hyrcania was remarkable for its wizards, demons, wolves, spirits, witches and vampires.|-| Iranistan || An eastern land corresponding to modern Iran. Historically, the name of the country is derived from the Iran + the Persian istan, estan, "country".|-| Kambuja/Kambulja || The original name of Cambodia, now Kampuchea.|-| Keshan || The name comes from the "Kesh", the Egyptian name for Nubia.|-| Khauran ||  The name perhaps derives from the Hauran region of Syria.|-|Khitai|| China. The name is derived from the English word "Cathay" and Marco Polo's Cathay (kăthā'). In Russian and other eastern European languages China is called Khitai. Khitai is an ancient empire which is always at war with Kambuja to the south. The people of Khitai are yellow-skinned and of medium height. Khitai is ruled by a God-Emperor who's decisions are greatly influenced by The Scarlet Circle, a clan of some of the most powerful mage lords in all of Hyboria. Khitan laws flow from the overlord of the city-state. The culture of Khitai is similar to that of ancient China. The most prominent feature of Khitai is its Great Wall(similar to Great Wall of China) which protects it from foreign invasions from the north. The cities of Khitai are Ruo-Chen, Shu-Chen, Shaulum and the capital Paikang which contains the Jade Citadel, from where the God-Emperor rules over all of Khitai.|-| Khoraja || Constantinople and the Etruscans. and possibly the associated Principality of Antioch, County of Edessa and County of Tripoli, collectively known as Outremer. The name itself was inspired by the references of Sax Rohmer to the fictional city of Khorassa in The Mask of Fu Manchu novel.|-| Kosala || From the ancient Indo-Aryan kingdom of Kosala, corresponding roughly in area with the region of Oudh.|-| Kozaki || Semi-barbaric steppe-dwelling raiders analogous to the Cossacks.|-| Koth ||From the ancient Hittites (the name Koth may come from the fact that the Hittites are called in the Bible the children of Heth, and the Egyptians called their land Kheta); The Kothian capital of Khorshemish corresponds to the Hittite capital of Carchemish. Perhaps from The Sign of Koth in The Dream-Quest of Unknown Kadath by H. P. Lovecraft. There is a town of Koth in Gujarat, India, but the connection is doubtful. Howard also used the same name in his interplanetary novel Almuric.|-| Kusan ||Probably from the Kushan Empire.|-| Kush ||From the kingdom of Kush, Nubia, North Africa.|-| Meru || Tibet. In Hindu mythology, Meru is the sacred mountain upon which the gods dwell. NOTE: Meru is not an original Hyborian Age country and was created by L. Sprague de Camp and Lin Carter for "The City of Skulls".|-| Nemedia || A cross between Rome and Byzantium. Nemedia was the rival of Aquilonia (which corresponds to The Carolingians), and depended on Aesir mercenaries for their defence (as the Byzantine Empire hired Vikings as the Varangian Guard). The name comes from Nemed, leader of colonists from Scythia to Ireland in Irish mythology; perhaps the name is also meant to allude to Nemea, home to the Nemean Lion of Greek mythology.  The name may also be suggestive of various names for Germany in Slavic languages, e.g. Czech Německo.|-| Ophir || Ancient Ophir, a gold-mining region in the Old Testament, possibly on the shores of the Red Sea or Arabian Sea (e.g. western Arabia), though clearly Howard saw it as situated somewhere in Italy.|-| Pathenia || Greenland. The name comes from the Greek word Parthenia meaning "virgin" or "untouched" since Pathenia is a forbidden country and its landscape has largely remain untouched from any human activity. It contains the dreaded snow apes and Yahlgan, the sacred city of Erlik, the flame-god. NOTE: Pathenia is not an original Hyborian Age country.|-| Pelishtim || Philistines (P'lishtim in Hebrew).  The Pelishti city of Asgalun derives its name from Ashkelon.  The Pelisti god Pteor or Baal-Pteor derives its name from the Moabite Baal-Peor.|-|Picts|| Pre-Columbian America, with an overlay of North America during the European colonization of the Americas, possibly even colonial-era New York. Howard bestows names from Iroquoian languages on many of his Hyborian-Age Picts (but not the quasi-historical Picts featuring Bran Mak Morn). Note that the name "Pict" comes from the Latin language term for "painted one", which could be applicable to a number of the Indigenous peoples of the Americas. The historical termed Picts were a confederation of Celtic tribes in central and northern Scotland which bordered Roman Britain.|-| Poitain || A combination of Poitou and Aquitaine, two regions in southwestern France. From the 10th to the mid-12th century, the counts of Poitou were also the dukes of Aquitaine.|-| Punt || The Land of Punt on the Horn of Africa. A place with which the ancient Egyptians traded, probably Somaliland.|-| Shem || Mesopotamia, Syria, Palestine, and Arabia. In the Bible, Shem is Noah's eldest son, the ancestor of the Hebrews, Arabs and Assyrians; hence, the modern "Semite" and Semitic languages (via Greek Sem), used properly to designate the family of languages spoken by these peoples.|-| Stygia || Egypt. The name comes from Styx, a river of the Greek underworld in Greek mythology. In earlier times the territory of Stygia included Shem, Ophir, Corinthia, and part of Koth. Stygia is ruled by a theocracy of sorcerer-kings.The people are dark skinned. Most of the common people are descendants of the various races across the world.They worship the serpent god Set. Stygia's terrain is a mix of mountains, desert, plains, and marshes. The Styx river flows through Stygia into the sea.|-| Turan || Persian name for Turkestan. A Turkish land, possibly referring to the Gokturk Empire, the Timurid Empire, or the Seljuk Empire. The name derives from Turan, the areas of Eurasia occupied by speakers of Ural–Altaic languages. The names of the various Turanian cities (e.g. Aghrapur, Sultanapur, Shahpur) are often in Persian language. King Yezdigerd is named after Yazdegerd III, ruler of the Sassanid Empire. The name of King Yildiz means star in the Turkish language. The city of Khawarizm takes its name from Khwarezm, and Khorusun from Khorasan.|-| Uttara Kuru || From the medieval Uttara Kuru Kingdom at the north and central of Pakistan. NOTE: Uttara Kuru is not an original Hyborian Age country.|-| Vanaheim || Dark Age Scandinavia. Vanaheim is the home of the Vanir in Norse mythology|-| Vendhya || India (The Vindhya Range is a range of hills in central India). The name means "rent" or "ragged", i.e. having many passes.|-| Wadai (tribe) || The Ouaddai Empire.|-| Wazuli (tribe) || The Waziri tribe in northwest Pakistan.|-| Zamora ||The Romani people. The name comes from the city of Zamora, Zamora province, Castile-León, Spain, alluding to the Gitanos of Spain (see Zingara for discussion); or possibly it is based on the word "Roma". There may also be some reference to southern Italy, as Zamorans dance the tarantella.[6]

Also hints of ancient Israel and Palestine.|-| Zembabwei || The Munhumutapa Empire. The name comes from Great Zimbabwe, a ruined fortified town in Rhodesia, first built around the 11th century and used as the capital of the Munhumutapa Empire. Oddly, this is the same route as the modern name for the Republic of Zimbabwe.|-| Zingara || Spain/Portugal. Iberian Peninsula as a whole. Zingara is also Italian for "Gipsy woman"; this may mean that Howard mixed up the source names of Zingara and Zamora, with Zingara originally meant to apply to the Roma kingdom, and Zamora to the Spanish kingdom.|-| Zuagir (tribe) || The name is perhaps derived from a combination of Tuareg and Uyghur.|-! colspan=2 align="left" | Other Geographic Features|-| Amir Jehun Pass || Takes its name from a combination of the Amu Darya river and the Gihon river (Jayhoun in Arabic), which has been identified by some with the Amu Darya. Perhaps corresponds to the Broghol Pass, which is near the headwaters of the Amu Darya in Wakhan.|-| The Himelian Mountains || Take their name the Himalayas but correspond more closely to the Hindu Kush or Karakoram ranges.|-| The Karpash Mountains || The Carpathian Mountains.|-| The Poitanian Mountains || The Pyrenees.|-| The River Styx || The river Styx runs northward through Stygia, following the course of the historical Nile river. Then it turns and runs westward through Shem, following the historical Mediterranean Sea, finally emptying into the western ocean. Styx in classical mythology, is the River of the Dead, and this symbology is used in The Hour of the Dragon. |-| The River Alimane || Alamana river, (present Spercheios) in Greece. It may also be a reference to the Alemanni.|-| Vilayet Sea || Geographically, the Caspian Sea. The name comes from vilayet, the term for administrative regions in the Ottoman Empire.|-| Zhaibar Pass || The Khyber Pass which has been the traditional borderline between Afghanistan and Pakistan.|-| Zaporoska River || The Dnieper river and/or the Don and/or the Volga. The river's name was probably influenced by Zaporizhian Sich, a settlement of the Ukrainian Cossacks in Zaporizhzhia (region). It was situated on the Dnieper river, below the Dnieper rapids (porohy, poroz.a), hence the name, translated as "territory beyond the rapids".|} 

==See also==Template:Wikisource

  • Kull of Atlantis
  • Bran Mak Morn


  1. Harold Lamb, The March of the Barbarians; 1940, Country Life Press, ASIN: B000GQ81MM.
  2. 2.0 2.1 Robert E. Howard's Hyborian Age essay adapted by Roy Thomas and Walt Simonson.
  3. 3.0 3.1 Patrice Louinet. Hyborian Genesis: Part 1, page 434, The Coming of Conan the Cimmerian; 2003, Del Rey.
  4. Howard, Robert E., "The Phoenix on the Sword", The Coming of Conan the Cimmerian (2003).
  5. De Camp, L. Sprague, Carter, Lin, and Nyberg, Björn (1978). "Hyborian Names". Appendix to Conan the Swordsman. Toronto: Bantam Books. ISBN 0-553-20582-X.
  6. Shadows in Zamboula


  • de Camp, L. Sprague, Carter, Lin, and Nyberg, Björn (1978). "Hyborian Names". Appendix to Conan the Swordsman. Toronto: Bantam Books. ISBN 0-553-20582-X

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