Official Edgar Rice Burroughs Tribute Site
Since 1996 ~ Over 10,000 Webpages in Archive
ANTHROPOLOGY ON AMTOR
ANTHROPOLOGY ON AMTOR
A Single People
A Common Language
Where are all the Gods?
Early Human History on Amtor
The Limits to Growth
Decay and Revolution
Notes on Other Races
Let's take a look at the people and cultures of Amtor, and see what we find. In many ways, Amtor's society poses interesting questions. Why do the Amtorians all look alike? Why is there one language? How is that nonhumans speak that language? How do we reconcile the lack of ethnic or linguistic diversity with the great age of their civilization? Why is their science so erratic, their geography so poor? Where do the Thorists and Zani come from? Where, for that matter, do the Amtorians come from.
Follow me, and I'll make my best effort at resolving these mysteries, and perhaps offer up a coherent theory and history to explain what the Amtor are, how they got here, and where the are going.
A Single People
The first remarkable thing we observe is that there is a remarkable lack of diversity among the human population of Amtor. Both Earth and Mars sport a multitude of ethnic and racial types. On Amtor, however, there is on one real human ethnic group: Clean limbed people, with straight hair, beardless and without body hari, roughly caucasian features and dark or dusky skin. This seems to be the nature of people of Thora, Vepaja, Havatoo, Andoo, Kaptal and other regions. Carson's blue-gray eyes and blond hair are completely unknown, they remark upon his facial hair.
There are, of course, many other races on Venus. There are human amoeba, human plants, bird men, beast men, monkey-like pygmies, but all of these races are explicitly non-human. The only other definitely human race that Carson encounters is the Cloud People, who have corpse like skin, large eyes, tiny noses and pant rather than sweat. But for the most part, the Cloud Men seem confined to a tiny area, and the rest of Venus is a monoculture.
What does this suggest? It seems to imply that the human population of Venus is genetically far less diverse than that of either Earth or Mars. This implies further that Venus was colonized by a relatively tiny group from Earth, and not terribly long ago.
Consider the humans of Earth. Genetically, humanity has less diversity in its genetic profile than almost any other creature on Earth. Literally, all humans are brothers and sisters, or at least close cousins, to each other. The genetic differences between the various races and ethnic groups are almost meaningless, when compared, for instance to the genetic variation between individuals and common to individuals. In contrast, dogs and cats as merely one example have vast genetic diversity, there is, in fact almost as much diversity within breeds of dogs as there is between humans and chimps.
The only animal with less inherent diversity than humans are Cheetahs, who are literally all clones of one another. The Cheetahs passed through a genetic bottleneck an estimated 5000 years ago. What this means is that the Cheetahs literally almost became extinct, their population was reduced to a tiny handful of breeding pairs, perhaps even only one or two. All Cheetahs alive today are the direct descendants of that tiny number from 5000 years ago.
Meanwhile, all humans alive on Earth today, genetic studies indicate, are descendants from a tiny population, perhaps even a small single tribe of a few dozen individuals, from 40,000 years ago. We almost became extinct, all it would have taken was one flood, a forest fire, one virus, perhaps merely a single hungry leopard that developed a taste for monkey meat... And we would not exist. All humans today, all six billion of us, are descendants of that tiny group. Which is why our genetic code shows so little diversity.
By that same token, all of the human races and ethnic groups are relatively recent as well, assuredly less than 40,000 years old. Some may be no older than ten or fifteen thousand years.
So, if we see what appears to be a planet wide ‘monoculture’ or single ethnic group on most of Venus, we have to wonder about this lack of diversity. Were there other ethnic or racial groups and they were simply wiped out, as we saw on Barsoom? There's no evidence to support this. Rather, we may be forced to assume that in real terms, all Venusian humans are descendants of a relatively small group that came to Venus only a few thousands of years ago, resulting in a very uniform population, even more uniform than Earth.
There are other indications of this, the uniform language spoken by all Venusians, the remarkably stable or uniform culture of cities and states with their ruling Jongs. The persistence of castes. All suggest that Venus was occupied by a single dominant culture/ethnicity.
There are at least some environmental reasons to explain the lack of diversity. The sun is perpetually hidden behind clouds, so there is not a bath of ultraviolet, and no regional variations at different latitudes. The planet is on average warmer, and temperature, humidity and elevation appear to be uniform. So there is far less environmental pressure to diversify into races or ethnic groups.
A Common Language
There is only a single language on Amtor. Not only is this common tongue spoken by the humans, but it is also the language of the inhuman species, the Nobargans, the Angans, the Brokols, Myposans and others. This language even extends into the northern hemisphere, spoken in places that the people of the Southern Hemisphere do not believe even exists.
We know from Earth that languages tend to evolve and diverge, the language spoken by the Anglo Saxons, or the British of Chaucer's or Shakespeare's time, and the English of today, are all related, but hardly easily intelligible to each other. Even within the last couple of centuries, English has mutated in the Caribbean to a form of creole.
The existence of a single common language would normally suggest close origins. A common language suggests both a common ethnic origin and common culture, and to a large extent, that is what we find with Amtorian culture.
Of course, there are other ways to a common language. Barsoom achieved a common language through utter social and environmental collapse. But there's no indication of that here. Terrestrial nations like France or the Philippines have moved towards a common language, and Earth is moving towards English as a common language... But there are endless little language ‘fossils’ around, and no sign of that on Amtor. So by default, we are left with the common origin theory.
There are anomalies. There are a number of nonhuman races who are almost certainly not part of the original Amtor root culture. Other cultures with their own histories normally produce their own languages. What happened to those languages? Meanwhile the Amtor root culture seems very old and very widespread, and widespread languages tend to diverge in isolation. So why didn't that happen here?
One possible solution to the ‘other races’ problem, is that these races may have originated with or been created by the root culture, and are only speaking the language that they inherited. The trouble is that this suggests a degree of genetic manipulation and selective breeding that seems well beyond the abilities of the current Amtor culture, or what we know of its earlier self. There's just no evidence for an Amtor superscience culture to create Angans, Brokols, Myposans and Nobargans. Nor is the distribution of these nonhuman races consistent with their having been created... They all occupy their own isolated corners.
Perhaps the better solution is that the non-human races did not have language or did not have sophisticated language, until the Amtor culture introduced it to them. That's an astonishing notion to us humans, for whom language is as natural as breathing.
On the other hand, studies of Gorillas, Chimpanzees and even Parrots have proven intriguing. The evidence seems to be that gorillas and chimps in the wild do not have language, and don't normally have it. They have signals, they have affection, they have sounds to signal danger or lust or anger or happiness. Their skills are taught by example, the lessons obvious. But they don't actually have language.
But, on the other hand, they have a capacity for language, and can be taught American sign language or visual symbol codes, or words in the case of parrots. And once they are taught language, they can use it, and indeed, there is evidence that they will pass this on to their offspring.
So it may be that the various non-human races simply had the capacity for language, but did not have language itself... Until they borrowed it from the Amtor root civilization. Is this possible? I've speculated elsewhere that both the Wieroo and the Lu of Caprona may not have originally developed language in their social evolution, but borrowed it from humans. The same applies for the Angan and Myposans, who may well be derived from Caprona.
The Nobargans and Monkey-Pygmies may well be pre-humans on the cusp of language, with innate capacity, but short of developing it on their own. So it is likely that they would have adopted Amtorian.
A variation on this is that the languages of the other races were poorly developed or primitive, and that when they made contact with Amtorians, they simply adopted so many loan words and phrasings that their own languages eventually withered away. One advantage of Amtorian over a tribal speech is that it would allow communication, not just with Amtorians, but other Amtorian speakers, like adjacent tribes.
A tougher mystery is how the Amtorian language has avoided diverging over time and in different regions. The Amtor culture is very extensive, covering most of the southern hemisphere and an unknown extent of the northern hemisphere. The cities and communities that we see, even in Anlap's interior and in the northern hemisphere, are clearly offshoots or colonies of the root culture, and even the advanced non-human societies, like the Brokol and Myposans seem to be modeled on the Amtor culture. It is a culture that seems to be at least 2500 Earth Years old, and may date back much, much further.
Interestingly, there is no appreciable evidence within the Amtor culture of the existence now or in the past of any substantial rival culture, there's no apparent loan words, religious cults, technology, ideas, legends, etc. that we could deconstruct to find evidence of a rival culture. This may explain some of the linguistic and social stability. Societies can often decay from within, becoming more and more ineffective and hidebound, more fragile, but never quite collapsing on their own without an external push A major cause of language change is meeting other cultures, and borrowing their words and ideas. A huge proportion of English words, for instance, are borrowed from other languages.
Presumably, on Amtor, there was no other major culture to borrow words from, or to be shaken up by. The Amtor culture had no rival empires or kingdoms to challenge, there were no mongols or visigoths to invade, no foreign religions, no foreign ideas. And thus, no foreign language to mix with or influence the Amtor root culture.
We do note that in Lost on Venus, Carson notes that the northern hemisphere people, while speaking and writing classic Amtorian are beginning to diverge. There are subtle differences in their language and culture, although clearly these are minor. This may simply be a matter of regional custom and accent, or it may be the beginnings of a true divergence. Oddly, the northern Amtorians do not believe the southern hemisphere exists. On the Anlap plains, the Amtorians, speaking classic Amtorian and with Amtor culture also believe that they are the only people in the world.
There was probably a positive feature that stabilized the language as well: The invention of writing. We know that the Amtor culture has writing now, and that it had writing at least 2500 years ago to record the wisdom and mathematics of its philosophers. Literacy, particularly widespread literacy, tends to slow down or even halt the evolution of language. We have no trouble with the English of 250 years ago, when literacy became quite common. On the other hand, neither we nor the English speakers of 250 years ago find Shakespearean English quite antiquated. All eras find Chaucer's English fairly impenetrable only 250 years before that. It may be a stretch, but I would argue that common literacy did much to freeze the development of the Amtor language, even in places as remote as the northern hemisphere or Anlap plain and ensure that essentially the whole world was speaking the same tongue.
Where are all the Gods?
One of the peculiarities of Amtorian civilization which Carson encounters is that there is no religion as such. Carson himself makes specific mention of this when he finally encounters the Brokols in Lost on Venus. Nowhere else has he found any worship or religious belief.
The only sign of real religion anywhere is among the Brokols, who have a ceremonial God/Queen, but who are clearly physically and psychologically nonhuman, notwithstanding their resemblance.
As for the true humans, there is no sign of a God or Gods, there is no reference to an afterlife, to heaven or hell, or to primeval creation myths, there are no apparent totems nor spirit faiths, or any apparent mystical or magical traditions. The peoples of Amtor are astonishingly secular.
Why is this? It is not clear at all. It may be that the nature of their environment leaves them without extreme phenomena that they might identify with a god. There is, for instance, no sun, moon or stars visible, merely an endless cloud layer of alternating brightness. The low elevations mean for the most part, no mighty mountains. Volcanoes are rare. Droughts are rare. The climate is generally uniform. Even seasons, for the most part, are likely mild and not well defined in comparison to Earth. The surface of Amtor is almost as monotonous and free of diversity as that of Pellucidar. Perhaps more so, since the geography is less active and less diverse.
The only cataclysmic or radical natural event is Sun-storms, when the sun breaks through both layers of cloud. In which case, the results are uniformly fatal for those beneath. There are almost never survivors to wonder if they've offended someone. Further, the phenomena seems rare and explained within the Amtor cosmology.
So, if spirits and gods are originally intended to reflect and anthropomorphize unpredictable and capricious natural phenomena, and worship and magic are intended to placate that phenomena, then the impulse to develop spirits and gods on Amtor might have been considerably weakened.
The Amtorians, making their way in a relatively benign and unchanging environment probably never developed strong spiritual traditions.
Of course, there are other possible explanations. Amtorian civilization is very old, possibly, it is older than any continuous human civilization. Carson is told of a philosopher/mathematician who, three or four thousand years before, solved a cartographical riddle. Or mis-solved it. Four thousand years is a long time. Even adjusting for the Venerian year, this is still about 2000 to 2500 years. And yet, the teachings of this philosopher are still current.
That's not out of line for Earth. Alexander the Great, Julius Caesar, Kubla Khan, Xerxes, Darius, Rameses, Plato and Aristotle are still current names which have meaning in our culture. So we can't say for sure that the Amtorian philosopher was of the same culture as current Amtorians, its possible, but its also possible that he was of a related or ancestral culture.
However, given the uniformity of language and culture found in current Amtor, I'm inclined to believe that the philosophy was part of the same continuing culture
So where does this digression get to religion? In two ways. First, the root culture which seems to have spread across Amtor may simply have never been fundamentally religious in and of itself. They may have been somewhat like the Chinese, with a tendency to embrace a philosophy rather than a specific faith.
The other possibility is that perhaps religions simply wear out, given enough time. Our culture itself is becoming less and less religious. Europe with its history of religious wars is almost entirely secular. It may well be that in Roman society, or Egyptian society, that Christianity and Islam were able to take over easily because the traditional religions had lost their dedicated following. In fact, records from around the time suggest that the old Roman gods were definitely on the wane, and Roman society was swept by all sorts of gnostic and mystery cults, including Mithraism and Attis worship.
In the case of our own societies, the trend seems to be that new religions sweep in from the outside, they seldom develop within a society that is moving towards secularism. Islam in Egypt and Christianity in Rome were both religions from foreign lands. Secular Europe shows no signs of any new home grown cults.
So, with respect to Amtor, it may well be that the monoculture is so old that religion simply faded away entirely, drifting into a mild fringe obscurity.
In fact, the likely truth is a combination of the three things. Amtor's static nature weakened the need for active gods to personify nature. Nature wasn't all that rambunctious. Meanwhile, the early Amtor society was more disposed towards philosophy than mysticism, and finally, the long passage of time killed whatever religious tradition existed. There were no outside religions or outside cultures, and so religion slowly faded away.
The accumulating picture of the Amtor culture, as we are seeing, is of a generally high society, very old, very very stable, but rather limited in many ways.
Early Human History on Amtor
From these clues, we are slowly but steadily building up a picture of Amtor's history. I suppose this is as good a time as any to get into it.
But before we do, there is a final observation to make: There are no hunter/gatherer tribes on Amtor so far. Carson has travelled quite a bit of it, and in particular, he's traveled through the jungles, forests and plains of the continent, literally without meeting another soul.
How likely would that be in Africa? Or pre-European North or South America? Or the jungles of Borneo or Indochina? Or even Pellucidar? The truth is that on other worlds wild lands are occupied by hunter gatherer societies using a mixture of stone, worked metal, crudely forged metal, weaving and ceramics. In fact, hunter gatherers are the oldest human societies. On Earth, hunter gatherer societies spread across the world, founding endless root cultures, before the first hint of civilization.
Yet, on Amtor, there is a worldwide ‘civilized culture’ of relatively urbane cities and towns, of farms, trade and fishing... But apparently, not a hint of human hunter/gatherers. Why is that?
There is obviously ample game and forage for hunter gatherers. And in fact, there are primitive hunter gatherers in the form of Nobargans and Monkey-pygmies. But given what we see of these societies, human hunter/gatherer tribes should be able to compete quite well. Perhaps even better than that, human hunter gatherers on Earth may well have done for competing hominid species as well as megafauna in North America, Australia and elsewhere. The Nobargans are not going to be fierce competition, from what we've seen.
So, let's offer a hypothesis: The first true human to Astral Project to appear on Amtor winds up on the main continental system.... And is promptly devoured by a Thanbar; the next is gored by a Basto, the third is eaten by Nobargans, and so on and so forth.... Venus is not a hospitable world to a complete stranger just dropping in. Hell, if Carson had not been rescued, his stay on Venus would have been about fifteen minutes.
Even if by some fluke, a true human does manage to survive on the continent, then he simply wanders around millions of square miles of territory without finding another human mate, and dies alone. So, over thousands of years, the fate of humans on Venus is nasty, brutish and short. In contrast, both Barsoom and Va-Nah may be slightly more hospitable.
But sooner or later, humans will wind up on spots off the main continent, on islands. And in particular, sooner or later, humans might wind up on a habitable large island without major predators or inhuman races. Throw in a few more, or at least one of an opposite sex, and you've got a breeding population.
We have Amtor's garden of Eden. Now, this Garden of Eden has to have a few things going for it, or Amtor civilization would not develop as it has in Carson's time. Obviously, it has to be lacking in major predators, or the Amtor humans will simply be dinner once again, and the race fails to take off. It has to be a fairly huge Island, large enough to sustain a major population and a substantial civilization. And it has to be remote and isolated enough that simple travellers in dugout canoes cannot make their way around to colonize the world for hunter gatherers.
Because, as should be very clear now, it is a mature, literate, urban civilization that colonizes Amtor, not roving bands of hunter gatherers. If there had been colonization by hunter gatherers the mainland would have been full of savage tribes, which Carson never finds, and there would have been rival cultures, which don't seem to exist.
Instead, what we get colonizing the mainland are civilized people, traders, soldiers, city-builders, all of whom are too ‘civilized’ to really go back and embrace a hunter/gatherer lifestyle. And even if they tried, their inexperience and discomfort with their lifestyle make them easy prey for the Nobargans.
So, back to our Garden of Eden. Originally, the breeding population on this little Island far from anywhere on Amtor are simple hunters and gatherers. Eventually game is wiped out, they become fishermen and develop agriculture. With relative luxury, they develop civilization, living in towns and cities, they develop writing, and their fishing fleets range further and further to feed the growing population.
None of this is unreasonable. Civilizations and proto-civilizations developed independently on several places on Earth over the millenia, in Sumer, on the Indus, in China, the Yucatan, the Andes, etc. Most recently, on Easter Island, a polynesian culture evolved into a monument building urban society and even independently invented writing. Amtor's Island was probably far larger than Easter Island, perhaps as large as Crete or Sicily, or even New Zealand or Madagascar. The point is that a fairly mature civilization arises on Amtor Island.
Then, one day, the fishing fleet discovers another large habitable island. This island is colonized, first with fishing stations, then farmers. Trade and commerce develops as the new island ships food back to its parent, eventually, it has its own cities. Meanwhile, another island is discovered, and another, and another. Colonization of new islands is refined so that the process of expansion becomes fairly automatic. The islands are kept in touch by a network of ships, trade and literacy.
The culture which develops is uniform, but not necessarily united. After all, the Greeks and Phoenicians were single cultures which were divided into a multitude of city states. The island based nature of the Amtor civilization would make it easy for political divisions and ‘Island states’ to form, compete and even war with each other.
In fact, the Amtor culture is almost certainly not politically united at this stage. They are leapfrogging from Island to Island in different lines, and not colonizing from a centrally directed Empire. If you look at both the Anlap plain and the northern hemisphere nations, we see that both these areas refuse to believe in other lands. If there was a central early Empire, this would be impossible. But if there are a multitude of competing Island states, each founding its own colonies, which in turn found their increasingly remote colonies, this becomes understandable. Each of the Island states refuses to countenance any rival as greater than itself, in particular, it refuses to countenance that it may have originated or been founded by a rival. Or that rivals are older. Instead, history is neatly obscured, a continuing process, until you get colonies founded in extremely remote areas which have no clue whatsoever about history. The Amtor might acknowledge a common origin, but ‘cough cough’ have no idea which nation was he original one.
In fact, there may be an inbuilt tendency to reject history in the remotest colonies. We do know that knowledge is not permanent. In Tasmania, the knowledge of fire was lost, in parts of Polynesia the skill of making clay pottery was abandoned, firearms were abandoned by the medieval Japanese. In terms of historical knowledge, at least a few Chinese Emperors are believed to have ordered all histories destroyed because, in their opinion, all history should begin with them. Both the French, Russian and Chinese revolutions also showed an impulse towards ‘year zero’ revisionism.
On some Islands, particularly the larger ones, fierce predators and aggressive herbivores are discovered, which make it unsafe to wander alone in the forest. But organized soldiers or hunters with a civilization at their back and safe refuges would be more than equal to the task of keeping towns and farms safe. But the wild lands on Islands would probably remain wild.
The mainland would be discovered and colonized. But the colonization of the mainland would not be bands of farmers or prospectors crossing the countryside for plots of land. It would be ‘city’ based, with rival kingdoms establishing outpost cities and towns. There would be little interest in colonizing the interior, and no interest in taking up hunter gatherer tribal lifestyles.
And in fact, there would be obstacles to colonizing the interior of a continent. On an Island, you can be sure that there are only a limited number of Thanbars, and once you've killed the last one, you're fine. On the continent, there is an infinite supply of Thanbars, and no matter how often you clear out your territory, new ones keep drifting in. On an Island, there is no such thing as a giant herd of stampeding Basto. Even worse, the urban Amtor culture finds that expansion into the interior brings it up against the fierce Nobargan, who are quite handy at dealing with city dwellers on their territory. Thus the colonization of the continent is slow and based principally on city states, with large uninhabited areas between them and little incentive to occupy these uninhabited areas.
Of course, increasing travel brings the Amtor people into contact with other non-human races, who are living at primitive levels. The Amtor language spreads rapidly. The Angan are incorporated into Amtor society. The Nobargan and Monkey-Pygmies retain their lifestyles and successfully defend themselves. The Myposans, Brokol and Voo-Ad at the fringes of Amtor contact absorb and adopt both Amtor language and culture.
Two to three thousand years ago, the Amtor civilization is in its golden age, an age of Cities and City States, of literacy and wealth, of exploration and discovery. This is the age of great philosophers and philosophies, of mathematics and learning. It is the equivalent of Earth's Phoenician, Greek and Renaissance Italy periods.
So, what happens? Each of these cultures passed their peak and went into decline, their hinterlands growing strong and eventually absorbing them. The Persians and Egyptians did for the Phoenicians. The Romans did for the Greeks. The Austrians and French did for the Italians.
But on Amtor, there was no outside power to sweep in and swallow a society gone stale. Instead, the Amtor culture simply.... continued.
It grew stale and static. The Explorers were replaced by Traders, unwilling to take chances, or to search for new lands... Everything worthwhile had already been found, much more profitable to exploit it. The Philosophers were replaced by disciples, preferring to preserve, defend and honour the works of the masters, rather than see those works overthrown or new masters come to the fore.... Everything worth knowing had already been discerned, it was much wiser to refine the masters lore rather than discover new lores.
It is likely that the golden age was followed by a long lasting economic depression which contracted the economies of the Amtor nations. During this depression, trade declined from worldwide to local, and the peoples of the southern and northern hemisphere, and of the plains, lost contact with each other. This has happened on Earth, following the waves of expansion, the Polynesians themselves experienced an economic contraction and lost contact with their remoter regions, including Hawaii and Easter Island.
We can even offer a guess as to when that contact was lost. The northern Amtorians believe that their hemisphere is a flat dish, but do not confuse poles and equator. In the south, we are told that 3000 years ago (approximately 1800 Earth years) the great scientist Klufar expounded a theory of relativity of distance which resolved diverging measurements and validated the Strabol/Karbol theory.
Klufar was undoubtedly not a golden age scientist. His work appeared to be focused on resolving the contradictions of previous learned theories, rather than putting new ones forwards. He was a systematizer and elaborator of old knowledge. In the north, they have obviously never heard of Klufar, and without his genius to mislead, they've managed to get it right, or at least, closer to right. Another sign of the divergence is in the technological level of the north, they have no high technology and are still making do with biremes. Thus, we can place the divergence of the north as being pre Klufar, in the depression or dark age between the golden age and Klufar's silver age.
Even on Earth, we saw signs of this sort of stagnation. For instance, well after the age of the Greek city states, after the time of the Roman Empire, well into the Middle Ages and right up to the Renaissance, the teachings of the Greek philosophers were treated as revealed truths.
Thus Medieval scholars blankly accepted Aristotle's teaching that women had only 28 teeth, without ever bothering to count them. Why count them, when Aristotle had pronounced? A woman with 32 teeth was obviously a freak, and no one wanted to admit to being a freak.
By the same token, Plato's theory of celestial spheres around the Earth held for almost two thousand years despite mounting evidence to the contrary from Astronomers.
Wise men attempted to refine Plato's spheres to allow for the anomalies.... Right up until a Pole Copernicus revolutionized astronomy with his solar centered model.
Meanwhile, Greek theories of the nature of matter, gravity and the four elements held chemistry and physics back for thousands of years, until Galileo and others challenged these views.
In short, the good and worthy and the wrong and bad ideas of the Greeks persisted for thousands of years as ‘inerrant truth’, despite evidence to the contrary. Brilliant minds wasted their lives coming up with increasingly baroque theories to explain the contradictions. And this was in a history where their civilization was long gone and even successor civilizations had passed, where a variety of cultures and ideas competed and squabbled.
In the Amtor culture, there was no fall, there were no successor civilizations, there were no rivals and there was no diversity of rival and competing cultures. Under such terms, the received wisdom of the ancient philosophers, scientists and mathematicians would be utterly unassailable. The Galileo's and Copernicus’ of this culture would be wacky cranks peddling their theories but ignored by right thinking people. Orthodoxy and tradition would rule.
Of course, this does not mean that after its peak, all development would come to an end. Not at all. It just means that future development would take place according to the rules laid out in the past. Colonization and exploration would continue, but increasingly slowly and with less regard and less success, as social investment and interest declined. Reasons would be found to conclude that outlying areas were uninhabitable and therefore not worth visiting, theories that suggested that there was nothing there would lead to people not even bothering to find out. A northern hemisphere goes undiscovered.
There would still be philosophers, scientists and mathematicians, like Klufar, but their inquiries and investigations would proceed along lines laid out by their elders, concerned developing, extending and refining those theories.
Some ancient golden age or silver age scientist pronounced heavier than air travel impossible.... No one would even bother to try, after all, it was a fact.
Nevertheless, medicine would continue to advance on trial and error, or by operation of half accurate theories, or simply continuing application of herbs and botanical remedies, to eventually produce a longevity serum, approximately 1000 (roughly 700 Earth) years ago.
Other sciences might stumble onto super-efficient fuels in a misguided search for a platonic philosopher’s stone, much as medieval alchemists actually accomplished much despite being completely misguided. But even here, a society would be hampered in applying this super-efficient fuel to industrial uses, simply because it did not truly understand the physics. The application of this technology would be wrapped up in philosophical mumbo jumbo what would cripple its effectiveness.
True science would not really emerge, not in the sense of science as a continuing process of gathering data, developing and testing hypothesis, rejecting unsatisfactory hypothesis and continuing with the gathering of data. There would be no systematic effort to gather data, nor would there be any interest in anomalous data.
But despite this, the accumulation of data even at a slower pace, the application of even wrong theories, the refinement of those theories to explain problems, and simple trial and error might produce quite technologically sophisticated societies which in some areas reached or exceeded our own levels, and in other areas, were unaccountably and spectacularly primitive.
Politically and economically, there would still be progress. The free city states would have opportunities to experiment with different sorts of government and society. But over time, the patterns of the culture would assert themselves. Eventually, various warring City states and Islands would be consolidated into states, and eventually into an Empire: The Empire of Vepaja. Recall that Carson was told that the society which ruled the Island of Vepaja had once been an empire encompassing a thousand islands, vast lands and seas, ruling over a population of millions.
It is notable that Empires tend to conceive of themselves as encompassing the whole world. In both the Chinese and the Roman Empires, these Empires touted themselves as ruling the entire world. There might be a few towns and villages calling themselves nations beyond that, but as far as the Empires are concerned, they're not important and hardly existing. The Romans could have explored the coasts of Africa and Norway, they just didn't bother. The Chinese were oblivious to India and Indonesia, and kept ignoring the northern barbarians like the Manchu and Mongols, right up until they took over. Interestingly, the Chinese Imperial disinterest in outside lands, did not stop Chinese minority populations from winding up in Indonesia, the Philippines and Indochina. There was an ethnic and cultural dispersion well outside the political boundaries.
This period of Empire was probably the time of the founding of the Anlap interior plains cities, which clearly possess ‘Empire’ level technology in their land dreadnoughts, super-efficient fuel and T and R rays.
Thus, this history explains, is perhaps the only real explanation, for the Amtor that Carson finds himself on. A world of diverse states, but uniform language and culture, a world where there are advanced cities and completely virgin forests and jungles, a world where science is sublime and primitive in different parts.
But there are two more aspects to explore before we have fully coloured in Carson's Amtor.
The Limits to Growth
When Carson is told of the history of Vepaja, it's worth noting the reference to a population of only ‘millions’ in an Empire which clearly must have ruled much of the Southern Hemisphere. The Vepajan Empire ruled a thousand Islands and extended to only millions? That's not even a medium sized country on Earth. Two thousand years ago the Roman empire ruled the Mediterranean and stretched from England to Iraq, an area far smaller than Vepaja's southern hemisphere, but sported a population of seventy million.
Amtor is still thinly populated, the population having only a handful of millennia to expand. But there are other factors limiting and constraining the Amtor civilization.
In my previous discussion, Unravelling Amtor, I talked about the geography and geology of Venus and its effect on life. The premise there, and my premise here is that the Venus that we know is essentially Burroughs Venus, or Amtor. Venus is Amtor, except that somewhere along the line, Amtor's atmosphere thinned out, it got oceans, water, a habitable atmosphere and life. But scratch beneath that, and the nature and history of the world is essentially Venus, or as close as Burroughs universe will come.
Earth's surface is billions of years old, and in constant flux. Venus’ surface, on the other hand, was established 900 million years ago and is frozen. Venus is simultaneously younger and older than Earth in ways that have consequences.
The surface of Venus is basically baked basalt, hard volcanic rock devoid of moisture. Earth has had billions of years of geological processes, mixed with water, which has created igneous, sedimentary and metamorphic rock, which has allowed for sand and gravel, and even the formation of soils and topsoils. Amtor/Venus has simply not had time. It could only have become wet after its surface was established, so Amtor's oceans and waters are much less than a billion years old. Probably less than a hundred million years old.
The result is that much of Venus is a thin layer of sand, soil and gravel upon naked basalt rock. The terrain is probably much like the Pre-Cambrian shield of northern Canada. So you get trees and vegetation that are relatively shallowly rooted, much of the biological wealth is in the ecosystem itself, not in the soil. On Earth, for instance, the Brazilian rainforest is unbelievably lush and rich, yet that lushness is in the forest itself, the topsoil is barely there. Plow the forest under and plant crops... And all you'll raise is a sunbaked parking lot. Most of Amtor is like this.
The result is that agriculture is a tricky proposition. In many, even most areas, clearing the wild plants and animals out to plant crops will simply strip the area of its productivity and leave you with bare rock. The areas that will support normal agriculture are much more limited. Terrestrial style agriculture based on irrigation and intensive crop farming is often likely to be disastrous in many areas, as the Amtor people have likely found out.
Of course, intensive agriculture is possible in some areas. And other kinds of agriculture, orchards, vine and fruit cultivation, working with or modifying wild lands is viable. But that kind of agriculture is much less productive. The fisheries, because of interaction with cold polar waters and shallow seas are likely to be much more productive than Earth, on the whole. But overall, Amtor's food production capacity will be substantially less than Earth's. Thus, a civilization on Amtor will only be able to support, and will tend to have, a smaller population than a civilization at a similar social, technological and territorial level on Earth.
There are more handicaps. The baked basalt structure of most of Venus’ rock means that it will tend to have fewer deposits of minerals than Earth. And baked basalt is far harder and stronger than terrestrial basalt, so it means that mineral deposits are going to be significantly harder to dig up. Even clay is formed by millions or billions of years of water assisted geological processes, so even clay will be relatively less common and more precious on Amtor.
Thus, the Amtor culture will be relatively clay and metal poor. Luckily, the Amtor culture does not use metals and clays at anything near the runaway rate of our modern society, even adjusted for population. It's rate of metal and clay use is probably around that of the Roman, Persian or early Chinese Empires, and there's no indication that there is real scarcity. Metal is used in the Amtor culture, but it is not particularly precious. Still, obtaining it is significantly more costly to the Amtor culture than it was for Earth cultures, and the availability is constrained. The cost and scarcity of metals acts as a break on the expansion or development of the Amtor society.
For the Amtor culture to rise to the level of technology, and a comparative rate of metal use, as current Earth society, it would find its mining efforts immensely, perhaps even prohibitively expensive, and it simply might not be able to find enough metal at all.
There are critical power handicaps holding back the Amtor culture as well. The probable history of Burroughs Venus does not seem to allow for petrochemicals, and in fact Carson never even hints that this exists. Without oil and gas, our civilization could not exist. The Amtor culture has no oil and gas. The relatively flat and shallow geography of land masses also means that for the most part, except in a very few areas, significant waterpower is not available, so no watermills (which were crucial to the development of Europe) and no hydro-electric power.
Which leaves wind and currents, human and animal muscle, and the burning of wood and vegetable material as the power sources available to the Amtorians. Again, this is definitely a constraint on the Amtor culture's ability to progress.
It may also explain why the Amtor's make such inconsistent use of their super-efficient fuel. They never developed an industrial steam power or petrochemical society. Their new fuel is simply grafted onto a roman era level of technology and society that simply never developed (and would be resistant to developing) the industrial structure necessary to make full application of this fuel. This may come in time, but slowly.
So, what does the Amtor culture have to work with? The basics of biology and chemistry. It has access to and opportunities to develop a wide variety of plant life. One might expect botanical sciences, and also biological and medical sciences to become very advanced.... Leading to longevity serums. There would also probably be a refinement of chemistry, even by hit and miss, and the perfection of distillation techniques. The Amtorians are probably able to refine extremely concentrated jet fuel. Some may have even stumbled onto some form of atomic fission or fusion power, if we go by Carson's descriptions. But these applications are almost invariably on a small scale.
As a result, the various limitations of Venus’ geology and geography in Amtor combine to really prevent the Amtor culture from leaping ahead like Earth or Mars. Instead, what you would tend to get is long term stability at a certain level, and a lot of difficulty moving up to the next levels, or effectively exploiting the move to the next levels. This will tend to reinforce the social stability factors in the previous section.
Decay and Revolution
So now we have the Amtor Culture, and partly for reasons of natural cultural evolution, partly for limitations in its environment, and partly for lack of any rival, it has become stale. Centuries, even a millennia pass, and the Amtor culture, with nothing around to knock it over, simply proceeds, becoming ever more stale and stagnant, ever more delicate, but keeping on. Without anything to knock it over, it will simply carry on indefinitely, no matter how frail it becomes.
Or will it?
One of the most interesting things about Carson's description of Amtor
cultures is the state of revolution that it appears to be in.
What's going on? It's very simple. If a civilization grows frail and delicate and unable to defend itself, then sooner or later Barbarians will come along to knock it over. And if there are no Barbarians.... then that civilization will create its own.
In short, the long stability of the Amtor civilization is coming to an end, it has reached the end of its tether.
Of course, civilizations do not just collapse. They often put a lot of time and effort into taking themselves down. But the signs are everywhere that the Amtor culture has been doing just that.
In the Pirates of Venus, an Amtorian named Danus recounts the
recent history of Vepaja and the Thorists:
Reading between the lines, Danus seems to give us a picture of a society with extremely rigid class distinctions, with a strict hierarchy, where everyone had a place and the military was the acknowledged only way out.
But read a little further, Danus is at pains to deny the rigid caste or class system. Yes, he says, there were classes, but it wasn't personal, and people could move... If they were exceptional... And if they were in the military... He's working very hard to convince us, and likely to convince himself, that his society is far more egalitarian than it is. And frankly, Danus has a certain amount of luxury to indulge this illusion because he is at the top of his society, a member of the small group of ‘brainworkers.’
Read a little deeper. Why is he going through these contortions? Who cares? Why can't he just say: Slaves were slaves and damned well knew their place, merchants were merchants, thinkers were thinkers and that was a good system! In fact, the only reason he would dwell on this, is if it was a social stress point, the focal point of the controversy.
The class system had become so rigid that the different classes didn't
even communicate, they were out of touch with each other, and the Jong
was the most out of touch of all. The lack of communication meant
that the lower classes began to suffer, without the upper classes noticing
or caring. The class barriers became corrosive, this was the real
source of stress and revolution, and Danus knows it. This is why
he is at such pains to simultaneously acknowledge, dispute and deny the
Note that Danus seems to mention a defined Criminal Class, and later an Agrarian Class. More strict class and status divisions.
The rest of Danus’ lecture on history is more or less about the same. Thor founds a secret society, by lies and propaganda, he gets all the lower classes supporting him, and they rise up and treacherously overthrow the ruling class... Which had no idea this was all going on. As far as the ruling class was concerned, everyone was happy. It's bitter and self pitying and not just a little snarky towards his successors in rule, who may well be as vicious and incompetent as he claims. But their victory, despite being vicious and incompetent, speaks volumes about the incompetence and viciousness of those they overthrew.
And in fact, right at the end, Danus acknowledges that the old order
had it coming and that its fate was richly deserved:
Now, at this point, I'm not advocating or endorsing the Thorist philosophy or government, whatever it is. From the little we see, it is thuggish and crummy, much like any other post-revolutionary society.
My point, however, is that the Vepajan Empire had deteriorated to such an extent through class and caste stratification that it could not save itself from what it describes as a handful of cranks and criminals, incompetent malcontents.
And in fact, the refugee society formed by the former ruling class that fled to the Island, responded by attempting to do away altogether with any class distinctions. Which is a fairly telling admission of how rotten their society had become.
Of course, this effort is hardly as successful as they claim. There is still a hereditary Jong, the Jong still rules in a fashion that is hardly egalitarian. His daughter is a prisoner of custom and circumstance where men are not even supposed to look upon her. For all the pretensions, there are indeed class divisions.
If we look to Havatoo, we see a very similar history. Ero
Now, once again, I'm not endorsing Mankar the Bloody and his reform through genocide campaign. Nor do I endorse the Zani. I'm simply pointing out that the established and stable Amtor culture is reaching the end of its rope. It's notable that in each case, the revolution comes from within. There is, as I've said, no outside culture to knock them over. But the Amtor culture has weakened to the point where it no longer served the mass of people, its ruling class so weak and ineffectual that even an ineffectual clown like Mephis poses a near fatal challenge.
But still, is something missing? A society as static as the Amtor Culture should be able to decay indefinitely without being pushed over. Obviously there is now a class based revolutionary movement. Why?
The answer might be immortality. Approximately 1000 Amtor years (700 Earth) the Vepajan Empire discovered a longevity serum that would convey a thousand year life span. Oddly, this is the same life span the Barsoomians automatically enjoy, and there are indications that there are similar longevity treatments on Earth which Tarzan receives. Perhaps the Barsoomians' long lives are not truly inhuman, but merely the result of the fact that the elements or chemicals which induce longevity are common in the environment of Barsoom. On Amtor they are less common, but can be distilled into a serum on a large scale. On Earth, they are least common of all, but still available to some.
In any event, consider the impact of a serum which would extend human life tenfold. On the island of Vepaja, Carson notes an absence of children, which makes sense, or as the Amtorians admit, there would be standing room only. There are indications that in the previous Empire of Vepaja, the longevity serum was restricted in its use. On the Island of Vepaja, Carson is told that there are only a relatively small number of ‘earliest’ people, and larger numbers of ‘younger’ types, Mintep the Jong is 700 years old, while Danus is only three hundred.
Of course, it would make a certain amount of sense to restrict the serum. If everyone had it and continued to breath normally, humanity would become as thick as flied. Meanwhile if the slaves or commoners had it, they might become dissatisfied with their lot over several lifetimes. No, the Vepajan Empire probably made longevity a closely guarded secret, and doled it out to the aristocracy, the merchants who could buy it and other deserving types like scientists and entertainers. There may have even been state determined gradations of potency, with only a few people receiving the full strength longevity treatment. There is indirect evidence of Imperial restriction of both the serum and knowledge of the serum in that the Thorists do not have it, and they want it more and more desperately.
I cannot imagine anything more calculated to produce ferocious class schisms than a selectively administered longevity serum. For the poor and disenfranchised, every gray hair, every wrinkle, every creak would be a call to revolution. The aging and deaths of friends, relatives and family would feel like an assault by the immortal classes.
Thus, Venus in Carson's time is ripe for revolutions, it is ripe for change. And there's probably nothing more revolutionary on the planet than a renegade Earthman with no sense of direction.
Consider for a few minutes, Carson's impact: In Vepaja, he was literally a foreign body, his ideas about the shape of the Earth meeting oblivious indifference.
In Havatoo he is a science and technology revolutionary, not only does he introduce brand new sciences, he also introduces airplanes.
In Korva he gets right into the middle of the civil war.
On a planet where, for the most part, the most profound new political notion is alienation, here is a man walking around with the scientific method rattling around in his brain, with knowledge of chemistry, physics, mechanics, astronomy, engineering, with intimate familiarity with forms of government ranging from American Constitutional Democracy, British Parliamentarianism, and a dozen others, with knowledge of religions, mystical and philosophical traditions, the product of a long and diverse history of clashing ideas and clashing cultures.
The Amtor haven't seen nothing yet. Carson is their revolution!
Notes on Other Races
We have given an inordinate amount of time and thought to the humans of Amtor. So as a postscript, I'd like to offer a few thoughts as to the history and place of other races.
The Nobargan and the Monkey-Pygmies almost certainly preceded humans on Amtor. They were hunter/gatherers, a niche they occupied successfully and defended from the occasional stray human. The arrival of humans, and the domination of the Amtor culture has done little for them beyond pushing them out of a few areas and giving them a language. They probably engage in peaceful trade with the Amtor (its hard to learn a language while trying to kill someone). But overall, they are the most stable of Amtor's peoples, their lives have not and probably will not change.
The Angan's are the most interesting of the non-human races, because their development probably parallels the humans. For the record, I will assume that the Angan are offshoots of the Wieroo somehow. The Wieroo are essentially marsupials who have evolved as a sort of combined raptor/primate. They are intelligent, but their social evolution is probably closer to birds than to primates.
The transfer to Amtor resulted in profound changes to the Wieroo. On Caprona, they lived on an island in the lake. Like sea birds, they required a secure offshore location to rest and nest safely. On Amtor, they literally had their pick of thousands of small uninhabited islands without predators. Like the humans, they would have failed on the continent, but once they made it to an island or two, they would become secure and prosper.
The Wieroo were originally nocturnal, but with no predators on their islands or in their seas, the Wieroo would inevitably shift to daylight existence, so smaller eyes and larger noses. Their environments would be rich in small game on their islands, but even richer fisheries. The Wieroo anatomy would have adapted for fish catching, resulting in longer arms, shorter legs, and taloned feet for snatching fish. In some ways, the Wieroo's adaptations would have made their intelligence less critical, and so they might have become less smart, simply because there wasn't the need.
However, safe environments and bountiful food would have helped to make the Wieroo more sociable. But perhaps, not much more. Several persons comment on their non-human natures, and in particular, the primal basis of their motivations, including their loyalty to whoever is dominant at the moment.
The two races probably encountered each other during the age of exploration. The Wieroo would have preferred small islands, the humans large islands. The humans would have incorporated their Wieroo neighbors into their culture, reducing them to an occasional and occasionally useful servant race, and perhaps obliterating any indigenous primitive culture that the Wieroo might have developed.
The Myposans, Voo-Ad and Brokols, respectively, amphibians, amoebas and plants are probably all highly local populations. Their special natures would limit their ability to travel and explore, thus the habitats that they occupy are far more restricted than those which humans can occupy. Of the three, the Myposans are most likely derived from the Lu of Caprona, themselves derived from a species which has evolved to mimic humans. The Amtor provided a quick and ready template for a culture they were only too happy to adapt. Similar circumstances may have held with the Voo-Ad and Brokols, they were flexible life forms used to imitating apex creatures. Apart from the gifts of language and culture, Amtorians seem to have little continuing contact. Likely, the imitation is perfect enough that the Amtor culture as a whole simply assumes that these are peculiar subsets of itself.
Interestingly, the true humans like the citizens of Japal, or Duare or Ero Shan do not see these beings as human at all.
The Myposans city is radically incompetent in every respect, a crude surrealist imitation of human habitations and habits. The Myposans are described as lacking love and human emotions. Their behaviour, particularly with regard to reproduction, seems dominated by instinct. Their offspring instinctively return to their breeding pools, the parents instinctively protect their offspring and instinctively destroy unrelated offspring. The infants, upon ascending to land, are simply small animals.
The Brokols are similarly inhuman in psychological terms. They have no real concept of family, of love, or of society. Their children, similarly, are unintelligent animal who must be trained to a semblance of humanity. They are able to speak, but have little innate desire, using language only when necessary.
The Voyorgans of Voo-ad are similar inl acking human sentiments and emotions. They lack close feelings or affection for each other. Ero Shan describes them as mimics, supreme imitators.
Each of these races, it seems is psychologically inhuman and lacks the critical elements needed to form a culture. They do not have family structures, they do not have pair bonds, their reproduction processes are radically different, there is a far larger instinctual component. Instead, it is quite clear that they have borrowed Amtor culture, including its language, government organization, architecture and other features, producing their own variations on them.
The horned and tailed men in the continental interior, by contrast, seem far more emotionally and culturally human, though at a relatively primitive level. Linguistically and culturally, they seem part of the larger Amtorian culture, but at subsistence or tribal level economies. Still, they are not truly hunter/gatherers, living in stable villages. They probably have agriculture, and their weapons are not markedly inferior to the cities.
They may simply be a population of the greater Amtor culture which moved inland and had a couple of peculiar mutations spread through the population. Alternately, their horns and tails may not be real, but rather tissue grafts or costume, their tattooed faces are a hint that this is a body-modification society.
Overall though, Carson's encounter with them is much too brief for us to do more than speculate.
The Cloud Men are the most likely to be truly human, and they may actually represent a splinter race. Perhaps a subset of the Amtor culture which fled into the mountains and has been adapted by time, isolation and the radical circumstances they find themselves in.
The technology of the Cloud Men seems primitive, they wear suits of sewn fur in order to get around in dry areas. They live in villages, and appear close to a subsistence economy. It is likely that their culture and race separated in the Dark age.
However, as tempting as it is, the Cloud Men seem too confined to their particular habitat to pose much of an issue for the Amtor culture as a whole, and we know too little about them to make detailed judgments.
And now, gentle readers, I bid you good night. I hope that you've
enjoyed these discussions.
ERBzine WEB REFS
Pirates of Venus
Lost On Venus
Carson of Venus
Escape On Venus
The Wizard of Venus
Worlds of ERB: Amtor
ERB Artists Encyclopedia
Dejah's Amtorian Gardens
Amtorian Art Gallery III: J. Allen St. John
Amtorian Art Gallery I: Fortunino Matania
Amtorian Art Gallery II: Fortunino Matania
Carson Napier Before Venus by F. Ekman
John Coleman Burroughs Venus Gallery: Carson of Venus
John Coleman Burroughs Venus Gallery: Escape On Venus
Map of Amtor by ERB
Den Valdron's Fantasy Worlds of ERB
Visit our thousands of other sites at:
BILL AND SUE-ON HILLMAN ECLECTIC STUDIO
ERB Text, ERB Images and Tarzan® are ©Edgar Rice Burroughs, Inc.- All Rights Reserved.
All Original Work ©1996-2005/2010 by Bill Hillman and/or Contributing Authors/Owners
No part of this web site may be reproduced without permission from the respective owners.