The World

Conan lived during the era that scholars and dreamers alike called “The Hyborian Age.” But mankind’s lost prehistory extends back much farther even than that. The Nemedian Chronicler referred to that earlier period as “The Pre-Cataclysmic Age,” which probably occurred 15 to 20 millennia ago. This era gave rise to the Thurian civilization, the waning days of which were dominated by the mainland kingdoms of Valusia, Grondar, Thule, and others, all of whom spoke a common language. But that time had its barbarians as well, including the Picts, the Atlanteans, and the Lemurians. These tribes dwelt on islands or small continents far out on the Western Ocean. The Atlanteans were the ancestors of the Cimmerians—the race of which Conan would one day spring—and the mightiest of them all was Kull of Atlantis, who rose to become king of civilized Valusia. “Then,” as Robert E. Howard wrote, “the Cataclysm rocked the world.”

Barbarians in a strange new world

The Great Cataclysm! Volcanoes and earthquakes destroyed the mighty Thurian cities, reducing their once-proud culture to savagery. Atlantis and Lemuria sank beneath the seas, and the Pictish Isles were heaved up, forming the mountain peaks of a new continent. In the centuries that followed, the untamed islands races migrated to the mainland in seagoing vessels, where the Atlanteans and the Picts fought a series of bloody wars that left both sides in a near-bestial state. The Lemurians were enslaved for thousands of years by an ancient race on the main continent, and theirs became a history of brutal servitude.

The rise of The Hyborians

The first tribe of survivors to begin the steep climb back to a state of civilization were the Hyborians, for whom this age is named. This was a time of wanderings and conquests, as tribes mingled and mixed and formed new peoples. The first of the Hyborian realms to come into existence was Hyperborea, whose inhabitants turned abruptly from a nomadic life and began erecting dwellings of naked stone in the far north. In the years that followed, other Hyborians founded kingdoms of their own. The first of these was the more southerly state of Koth, which bordered the lands of the nomadic clans that would soon establish the domain called Shem. The dusky-skinned Zhemri, who were descended from the remnants of one of the Thurian nation-states, founded the eastern kingdom of Zamora. And a hybrid race, formed of Picts, Hyborians, and the agrarian dwellers of the Valley of Zingg, brought forth a kingdom all their own. They called it Zingara.

The Age of Conan

Over the next 4,000 or 5,000 years, many of the migrating clans gradually build new and civilized nation-states in the large central land mass, including Aquilonia, Nemedia, Ophir, Brythunia, Argos, Corinthia, and the Border Kingdom. The Picts, however, remained in a state of unbridled savagery.

Meanwhile, dwelling north of Aquilonia were the Cimmerians, ferocious Atlantean-descended barbarians untamed by any invaders. Still farther north, other strands developed into the red-haired inhabitants of Vanaheim and the blond denizens of Asgard. The descendants of the Lemurians at last rebelled, threw off their masters’ yoke, and became the Stygians. They ruled a territory to the south of the great River Styx, which wound its way like a serpent to the Western Ocean. Other branches of once-Lemurians trekked eastward, where they gradually evolved into the Hyrkanians and the Khitans. And all the while, the dark-skinned tribal inhabitants of the far south lived in isolation.

This, then, was the high Hyborian Age. This was the Age of Conan.

Table of Correspondences

Kingdom, Region, or Ethnic Group 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 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 Ghulistan (q.v.) and Afghanistan.
Amazon Mentioned in Robert E. Howard’s “Hyborian Age” essay, the kingdom of the Amazons refers to various legends of African 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 The Carolingian Empire, France in the Middle Ages and to a certain extent embodying many aspects of the Roman Empire with occasional hints of England. The name derived from the ancient city of Aquilonia in Southern Italy, between modern Venosa and Benevento, although the name Aquilonia also resembles Aquitaine, a French region ruled by England for a long portion of the Middle Ages. The name in Latin means aquilo, -onis, “north wind.”
Argos Various seafaring traders of the Mediterranean Sea. 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 were called “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.”
Asgard Dark Age Scandinavia. (Ásgard is the home of the Æsir in Norse mythology).
Border Kingdoms 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 (Aquilonia) 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 Saxons who invaded Great Britain, which is the origin of the name, though the civilization depicted is similar to that of medieval Poland, Lithuania, Latvia. Semantically, the name Brythunia is from the Welsh Brython, “Briton,” derived from the same root as the Latin Brito, Britannia.
Cimmeria While Howard wrote that there was a continental shift after Conan’s time, some scholars believed that the Gaelic regions that are supposed to encompass the British Isles was the geographical place of Cimmeria even though ostensibly it can also be argued from Howard’s map of the Hyborian Age that its a part of North America that are shared with the Picts. Howard states in The Hyborian Age that “the Gaels, ancestors of the ”http://www.wikipedia.org/wiki/Irish_people" title=“Irish people”>Irish and Highland Scotch, descended from pure-blooded Cimmerian clans." The name is based on that of Cimmeria, which was once hypothesized to be the homeland of the Celtic Cymric tribe, due to the word’s similarity to the names of Celtic areas such as Cymru (the Welsh word for Wales), Cumbria, etc. Conan, a Cimmerian, has an Irish name, as do the Cimmerian gods Crom, Lir and Manannán mac Lir (the latter two mentioned in Xuthal of the Dusk) The inclusion of Celtic associations.
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 Sudanese Republic.
Gunderland (Aquilonia) The Netherlands; perhaps Germany. Probably 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 Kingdom of Jerusalem and possibly the associated Principality of Antioch, County of Edessa and County of Tripoli, collectively known as Outremer. The name perhaps derives from the Hauran region of Syria.
Khitai China. The name is derived from the English word “”http://www.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cathay" title="Cathay">Cathay" and Marco Polo’s Cathay (kăthā’), derived from the word Khitan and/or Khitai, a Manchurian people who conquered northern China and founded the Liao dynasty (937–1125), and/or “Khitan,” a medieval Tartar word for China. Also, the Kara-Khitai were a prominent tribe amongst Mongol steppe tribes.
Khoraja Possibly Khazaria. The name itself was inspired by the references of Sax Rohmer to the fictional city of Khorassa in The Mask of Fu Manchu novel, and resembles the name of Khorasan, a north-eastern province of the Persian Empire.
Kosala From the ancient Indian Aryan kingdom of Kosala, corresponding roughly in area with the region of Oudh.
Koth From the ancient Hittites; 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.
Nemedia The Germanic Holy Roman Empire. Nemedia was the rival of Aquilonia (which corresponds to the Carolingian Empire/France), 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.
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.
Pictish Wilderness Pictish Scotland, with an overlay of North America during the European colonization of the Americas, possibly even colonial-era New York. Howard bestows names from Algonquian languages on many, though not all, of his Picts (see also: 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 tribes in central and northern Scotland which bordered Roman Britain.
Poitain (Aquilonia) 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 “”http://www.wikipedia.org/wiki/Semite" title=“Semite” class=“mw-redirect”>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.
Turan The Old Persian name for Turkestan. A Turkish/Persian land, possibly referring to the Timurid Empire, the Sassanid Empire, or the Mughal 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 of India.
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.
Zamora The Roma people. The name comes from the city of Zamora, Zamora province, Castile-Leon, Spain, alluding to the Gitanos of Spain (see Zingara for discussion); or possibly it is based on the word “Roma.” The name could also, in part, allude to Sonora, a region of Mexico that is “spider-haunted” like Zamora. 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.
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.
Other Geographic Features
The Himelian Mountains The Himalayas.
The Karpash Mountains The Carpathian Mountains.
The Poitanian Mountains The Pyrenees.
The River Styx The Nile.
Vilayet Sea The Caspian Sea. The name comes from vilayet, the term for administrative regions in the Ottoman Empire.
Zaporoska River The Don and/or the Volga. The river’s name was probably influenced by Zaporizhian Sich, a settlement of the 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.”

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The World

The Nemedian Chronicles Flatscan