and also Amtorianist
on population, religion…
and even a bit of economy
(can’t help it…)
I was just thinking of the possibilities of populating other planets through astral projection and stuff, and suddenly I came to realize that something was wrong or incomplete with this problem, and so it needed to be addressed.
So let’s see…
Barsoomian humanity is supposed to be at least 1 million years old, isn’t it so?
On the other hand, it is obvious that humans upon all the Burroughsian planets come from Earth, as we all suppose and as Den Valdron demonstrated so well.
So how on Earth can there be full of Homo Sapien Sapiens (even if oviparous) upon Barsoom? We weren’t even supposed to be in existence back then…
Of course, one might say theBarsoomians came from other sort of hominid… but then, two questions:
These facts speak of a very recent split of the race and prompt me to suppose that the history of human peoplement of other worlds might be much less old than thought.
- how can there be cross-species reproduction (see JC's kids) considering that the stuff is thought to have been a problem even with the Neanderthals?
- how come JC looks very similar to them, and even exactly like a specific Thern once he puts on a blonde wig? ERB is full of exaggerated coincidences, but perfect similarity between people with ancestries separated since 1 million years ago, that’s too much…
There could, in fact, not be any peoplement before the modern humanity has appeared, and even before the apparition of the human races here on Earth. I explain: if the similarity of the terrestrial and Barsoomian figures is so big, then it is impossible that much time has passed between the founding of the two populations. Even populations separated for 2-3 thousands of years become very different physically: Nordic Europeans are said to come from northern Iran or, how do they look compared to the Iranians now? And the Jews from Yemen are totally different from the ones from Poland, despite the fact that the genetic studies have showed surpirisingly little admixture from other peoples in both cases, and they have separated since less than 2000 years… To speak for our case, even if Therns split from Europeans like 2 millenia ago, it’s already a big miracle that JC could find one to look like him. So the fact is, there is no way the split between the Barsoomian and the Terrestrial parts of the humanity could be more ancient than the formation of the known principal races on Earth, meaning 20-30,000 years ago at best.
So where do come the incredibly long traditions of Barsoom from?
Well, the history of the Red Planet might very well not be that long.
We have cases of massive faking of history here upon our orb: the Babylonians for example had a history… 500,000 years long! Which is of course preposterous: the first generation lasting for 100,000 years? Come on!
The Egyptians are said by some to have put in succession what really were regional and competing, meaning contemporary, dynasties, thus lengthening by at least 4-5 centuries their history…
Hindus also have incredibly long genealogies and stuff…
Let’s just say the real length of the human presence upon Barsoom must be around, say, 20,000 years.
How come they developed so early, compared to their elder brothers upon Earth?
Well, long lives and telepathy must have helped a lot, since both characteristics have a lot to do with gathering and transmission of knowledge and with time to do lotta things.
A guy who lives for 1,000 years while the length of one generation is 50, it means he theoretically lives to see his grand-grand-grand-another 17 times grand-kids. All the while, he’s mildly telepathic. Can any of us imagine the amount of knowledge he manages to amass and retransmit, all this time?
I’m ready to bet for the high likeliness of the following scenario:
- around 20,000 years ago human peoplement starts upon Barsoom
- after around 1000 years they get the long healthy life, the mild telepathy and the oviparity (maybe even sooner, after all Den Valdron might be right about the very act of astral projection acting as an instant-catalyst of genetic adaptation to the new environment)
- so considering the facts above, 19 to 18,000 years ago the proto-Barsoomians jump across the Paleolithic and get as far as early Neolithic
- 18 to 17,000 years ago, they leap again, from early to late Neolithic
- 16,000 y. before POM, they get to the, say, classical Mesopotamian level. The cult of something like Komal might have been predominant.
- 15,000 b.POM, they get roughly to Greece-Rome level; from then on, the classical Orovar culture develops: after all the impression the Orovar art gives is roughly Greco-Roman, only much more advanced; first, they didn’t have barbarians invading, until the ecological catastrophy of the dissapearence of the oceans; and maybe their own Hero of Alexandria or Antykythera builders got lucky to live in a more scarcely populated and less sclavagistic society, not having the cheapness of the workforce thwarting their mechanization efforts. The cult of Tur may have been predominant then.
- 15-13,000 b.POM, apex of the Orovars; start of the vanishing of the oceans; the Orovars, despite being at their best, seem to have been unequally developed: we later learn that it was them who built the atmosphere factory, but at the same time the Lotharians didn’t know anything mechanical, not even guns…
- 13-12,000 slow decline
- 12-10,000 collapse, dark ages; first canals and beginning of the Red Race towards the end; beginning of the Iss cult?
- 10,000 on, to POM time – classical new Barsoom, stabilized as we know it
It’s much shorter than the history they boast, but heck, the Babylonians had a much shorter one and nevertheless came up with a 500,000 years long version… can we blame the Barsoomians for lengthening theirs to 1-2 million? Besides, the telepathic nature of the Barsoomian ethos could produce a sort of “distension of history”, each individual feeling the weight of the other lives upon his own, and his own life prolonging into the other’s, past, present and future… It might be easy for the historians of such a world to persuade people that 1000 years have passed instead of 100, who knows…
Yes, I’m totally aware that we discuss the Burroughs Universe now, and in B.U. the Homo Sapiens roams the Earth since more than 1 million years – see Nu, and his possible time leap into Tarzan’s time, after all we don’t know 100% if it’s really been just a dream, or not – so who knows, an early colonization of the stars might be possible. Nevertheless, let’s take into consideration the alternative above, just in case.
I’ve decided, after rereading the Amtor cycle for the first time since I was like 18, to give a bit of attention to this ERB world as well. After all, it revealed itself as an equally endearing one, although much sketchier than Barsoom. So I’ll have a bit of unfaithfulness to my first love and take a tour to “payer mes hommages” to this one.
So, what about the peoplement of Amtor? Now I have my reasons to think this one is even more recent than the one of Barsoom. I’ll even throw a year for its beginning: 250 BC!
One reason is the lack of serious historical data further ago than some thousands of Venusian years: the earliest date we have is the one of Klufar’s theory: 3,000 years ago – that’s 1,900 earthly years, as ERB seems to hint in Pirates.
The second one is the type of peoplement of the Amtorian lands, almost exclusively urban, along shores and big river valleys. The jungle conditions might be what they are, but still, it’s just not in the human nature not to settle everywhere. Even by destroying the ecosystem in the process, but he just has to try… And we know he didn’t do it in the past, there’s no hint of ancient ruins in the jungle, there’s no “big lost civilization” upon Amtor, not in the Barsoomian, or Maya, terms anyway. Den Valdron might be right with his explanation of the cultured colonists not being willing to revert to more primitive levels, but this can be only a part of the explanation: first of all, we do see a primitive tribe of homo sapiens in the books, speaking the unique language of Amtor: the tribe with the masculine women. And then, there are always misfits and outcasts that run in the wild and somehow survive. Time passing, they should have set up a rural, barbarian or tribal alternative to the main culture. What if they didn’t do it not just because of the excessive commodity of the urbanized population or the excessive fierceness of the Amtorian nature, but also because they didn’t have enough time for this? Linked to what I said above, the knowledge of the geography is far too sketchy, even for a sunless world: after many years, they should have figured out the real thing, at least partially…
And the general culture also is peculiar in this respect, it doesn’t seem to have any stratification of new-upon-old traditions. As if one culture has existed since the beginning and has spread alone all around, with non-essential changes.
The third reason is the Amtorian lack of religion, which has been a serious aspect that has preoccupied me a lot. It’s even been a big challenge to try to rationalize, and a pleasure to do as intellectual exercice. But it requires a very specifical set of circumstances, since it is well known, it is quasi-impossible to totally uproot in humans the faith in something. Even some of the stauchest atheists, when one really corners them, they acknowledge that “there must be something out there”. Besides the Amtorian civilization seems to be a born-godless one, for there’s absolutely no hint of religious past for it. Now that’s weird! There are cultures here on Earth that aren’t preoccupied with gods, but nevertheless have remembrances of some ancestral cult and, more importantly, a lot of spiritist superstitions!
Now, first of all, are the Amtorians as irreligious as that? Well, the answer is a bit complicated.
Duare invokes her ancestors at one time in supplicative terms -“may they forgive me”- when she recognizes she loves Carson. Now that’s a silly thing to say if you don’t believe in any sort of afterlife. It’s like me saying all of the sudden something like: “may holy Napoleon help me with this trip to Egypt that I intent to make!”
Then there’s this story of the “wizard” of Venus and the belief people around him had that he could change beings from one shape to another. This would be impossible to believe for a total materialist, because it obviously implies the belief in the existence of a force that transcends the given nature of the things, therefore defining itself as a supernatural agency.
While prisoner of the amoeban people, Ero Shan derides telepathy but he implies that some do believe in it.
There must therefore exist upon Amtor a faith in some sort of diffusion of energy that escapes scientific physics and transcends nature. It may not occupy a lot in the preoccupation of the inhabitants, but it’s definitely there.
There’s definitely something “African-to-disorganized-Hindu” about this mentality.
I explain myself hereby: Africans, from what I have gathered about their sacral mentality, most of their cultures don’t have a very organized theology or mythology like Greeks or Hindus, but a certain view of things seems to transcend the tribal variations of the beliefs: the ideea that each entity is present say, here in Joe as his soul, and at the same time there in the wall where the skull of his grandpa has been buried, as protective home spirit, and another bit of it in a, say, savage bull that roams 100 miles from here, as a wraith; and so on. It may be that the pre-buddhists in Asia have hold similar beliefs, because it seems to me that the Shinto also sees the soul as composed of more than one part, and each part can be in different places and do different things and being in different states. It seems to me that it’s Buddhism and Brahmanic Hinduism that reglemented everything with the laws concerning Karma, reincarnation and stuff. Before, it probably was just a “vitalism-animism” pervading everything like in Africa. Besides, Africans worship a god named Murungu, and one of the principal avatars of the Hindu god Shiva is called Murunga… I don’t draw this parrallel just like that: it’s in order to show the big possibility of the evolution of a metaphysical concept. And it’s also in order to make a leap from Africa to India, for this is where I root my subsequent investigation.
From what I know of the Amtorian language, it seems to me there definitely is something Dravidian-Basque about it. South Asian sounding words like Jong, thandor, ongyan, Basque sounding ones like Basto, Korva, Moosko, Zog, indo-european ones like Thor, Mephis, Kiron etc. I might not be a qualified linguist, but I never get such impression from the language of Barsoom. Especially after the studies of Den Valdron, Barsoomian appears even to have strata of evolution, but not so the Amtorian.
Barsoomian culture seems to be wholly Barsoom-grown, the Amtorian one less so, even though we don’t really have informations on this theme; but it just seems so to me, it just feels like a transplant from somewhere else. Maybe it’s the fringe type of peoplement, or the lack of religion and therefore the failure to intertwin their psyche with the place and favorise the manifestation of a Genius Loci, I don’t know for sure, but that’s the impression.
What if what was to become the Amtorian culture formed upon Earth in a very specific place and moment, and then was transplanted upon Amtor as a whole?
I’ve imagined a scenario about this:
First Alexander the Great conquers the Indus valley, and in a small region of the Afghan mountains he colonizes some Macedonian veterans whom he marries to local Dravidian women.
Now, the veterans are originating, not from a Greek-speaking region, but from a mountainous one north of Macedon, whose inhabitants don’t even speak an Indo-European tongue but one more ancient, close to the Basque; this is not an invention, there really was such a region in today Bosnia.
So this is how an indo-greek polis, populated by Basque-like veterans and their Dravidian relatives, appears. Since the Hellenistic kings of Bactria are occupied with making war with the Seleucids, and since the general mood of the age is to experiment and form new religions, new mentalities, new world-views, and the Hellenistic colonies are very rich, the inhabitants of our polis do not make an exception to the named mood. They begin to analyze and blend Buddhism and Greek philosophy, apply them in their little urban setting and see what happens. And since the Greek part of the population is not really Greek, they develop a language that blends pre-indo-european and Dravidian, with just a hint of indo-european from the Greek education. But they keep Greek phylosophy and urbanity.
Why exactly choose this particular time and place? Well, it’s mostly because of the atheistic aspect of the problem: since Amtorians come from Earth, and their culture was rooted there, and since there’s no religious tradition upon Amtor, its atheism must come from there too. Or, the only atheistic creed I’m aware of during ancient times is Buddhism, and only in its early stages: the years 500 to 0 BC or so. And the only place where Buddhism interracted with a science-oriented and western-Caucasian culture is eastern Afghanistan, during the Hellenistic age…
Let’s invent a history for the beginning of the Amtorian adventure of the human species.
And in order to make it less boring, let’s write it like a dialogue between one guy of Greek culture, let’s name him Zopyryon, and a local guy named Ananda. Their dialogue was, in “real life”, a socio-political mass debate that took decades, of course. But we’ll make it as short as possible:
Ananda: So, Zopyryon, it seems to me that we are about to form a new tribe here: we’ve managed to blend, in less than 50 years, our languages and ethos and we feel like one group now. At the same time, we kept what’s best in both cultures: we kept your passion for systematic analysis and enquirry, and for organizing things, knowledge and especially social life according to rational schemes.
Zopyryon: And we accepted your abyssal capacity for abstraction, which can only help in the future intellectual enquiries. But this is not all. We also have to touch the subject of religion. You see, we find your local Buddhist reasoning very interesting, but its application is a bit odd: your theory that everything is illusion, including matter, including time and space, including reason, including the afterlife and the gods, sound pretty convincing, especially for an intellectualist. But then, why do you people keep worshiping various gods?
A: Well, this is more like a spiritual help if you want. We think that, even if the gods are illusions, it is better to concentrate on them rather than on more mundane notions.
Z: OK, but nevertheless, this is wrong. We should give them up altogether, yours and ours, and keep the pure intellectual doctrine of the illusion. And you know what? I’ve noticed your wise ones seem to have developed various powers that manifest themselves under concentration. And I wonder, what would we be capable of if we meditated all of us, altogether, without parasitic images like the gods?
A: Parasitic, that’s a bit far to go. We have noticed that most of the meditating ones have had more results when concentrating upon some gods rather than upon pure abstraction and nothingness.
Z: Hasn’t your Buddha achieved Nirvana while detaching himself from all illusory forms? Also, we know from the mythologies that gods have been born and some have even died. Why should we keep taking such things into account?
A: You know, all these are metaphors, of forces and energies of the universe that manifest and occult themselves under specific circumstances, and also of the laws, of the cycles of the named universe.
Z: Well why not think directly of the energies then? And the mathematical equations of the universe?
A: Our wise men have reached good degrees of abstraction and detachment anyway. We even have a college of them in this town, they reunite to meditate on a regular basis.
Z: But you know, we should worry of more material things, like the fact that one of our neighboring principalities is about to lie siege to us. And we’re headed for sure defeat. Say, you told me that some of your gurus managed to tear the fabric of reality when under big concentration. Viswamitra initiated even the birth of an alternative universe, right? Couldn’t we try to use this gathering of gurus we have, in order to twist reality in our favor during this siege? Let’s make them concentrate, let us concentrate with them in the measure we can, and see what happens.
A: Good ideea, I’ll make the arrangements. You might be getting somewhere.
Mass meditation during the siege. The purpose of it is to obtain a modification of the reality, in any way that could be profitable to the polis.
And since it’s about modifying a war situation, and since Kali is the goddess of war under her avatar Durga, and since Kali is also linked to love in her best moments, and since the goddess of love is Venus, even if the guys in town that are buddhists or materialists don’t believe in her, they all agree to concentrate upon Venus for the good of the meditation session.
The tension is big since the siege has brought misery and famine and its outcome looks bleak for the besieged. They all hope and wait for something. The tension is growing even more. Time is running short. Kali is also godess of time…
WHAM! The entire polis together with a swath of land around it teleports to Venus.
People begin to make their living there. Since they are only 5-6,000 at the beginning, and game and fish are plentiful, and bacterias are shaped along different structures and don’t match much of their metabolism, survival is not a problem. Besides the cloud envelope shelters them from solar radiations. Life is long and easy, except for the occasional predators. But the people, being martial, know how to organize to counter such problems.
After a while, Z and A meet again to discuss:
Z: Now what about the marvelous thing that happened to our community? You were right about the power of meditation! But do you think we landed in a new world, or did we wipe the Iron Age illusion with our concentration, and now we have hurled ourselves back to the Golden Age?
A: Golden, I don’t think so… We still die and there are all these predators… This is definitely not the Krita Yuga… As for the new world, well, might be…
Z: Maybe not, you’re right, but admit there are parallels to some ancient Age: luxuriant life, no Sun, mild climate, long life… I think it’s definitely the Silver Age…
A: Whatever it is, we must not forget anything short of Nirvana is an illusion, and we have to strive to fight it.
Z: Oh, come on! Be honest here, who really wants to totally extinguish its entity? We’ve done good enough like this, changing the cosmic address! Whether we’ve swapped worlds, dimensions or realities, fact is we’ve severed the links with our origins. Our gods have proved to be false indeed, or totally indifferent. But why shouldn’t we not remain at this state we’ve reached? It’s much better than our former state! Life is beautiful if properly lived, illusion or not! And now we have a world just for ourselves!
A: I must admit you’ve influenced me on that and besides I’ve never been a true “self-annulator”… I’ve come to love active life, inquisitive, inventive and crafty as you’ve set it to be…Yeah, let’s just live our lives.
Z: And since there is no more link with the Earth, why bother to cultivate remembrances of our former existence, with its history and religions and stuff? Let’s just erase them, it should be easy, after all, all human culture here is under our grasp…Of course we would keep the crafts and wisdom, but not the beliefs that we’ve defeated. History also should be ignored, except maybe some good examples like Thermopylae that we could accommodate to a local setting, or Aristotle that we could know under a name of ours, in a city of ours, or something like that…
A: Yeah, good idea. But nevertheless, we need a structure for our mentality. Why not keep our Buddhism?
Z: What you were practicing at the time of our arrival was already far from the ideas of Gautama, he had practically become one of the Hindu gods, or almost… No, we’ve got to be radicals, for the event through which we’ve been going has been radical. We must take advantage of it: since we are alone in this world, no influence from other cultures will ever come to us. So, this is the time to be bold. No other occasion would ever be so pure.
A: In this case, I know a guy that used to trade with China, he brought from there two of their important books, one by a guy Confucius and one by a guy Lao-tse. They seem to be complementary, to me, because the first guy writes about all sort of rituals and institutions necessary to organize and keep in order a society, without caring much about the religious side. The second guy sees the nature as eternal and as a network of active energies that must be understood. And once understood, they could be used in improving life, stamina, health, crops even … Very shortly put, that’s what the works are about.
Z: That’s splendid, I like these guys. Their ideas can fit with the godless world of Gautama, but at the same time, they teach us how to go on with our lives in this de-divinized world, without neglecting our connection to the rest of nature, and without ruining our civilization. And also, they seem to be pretty “average-reasonable” as their attitude towards life goes, don’t they? Their ideas would stop us from becoming too obsessed with the nirvana-self-annulation thing…
A: Yeah, we should teach our kids a mixing of all that, while carefully avoiding anything resembling the description of some divinity. Naturalistic-civic education, with a hint of pantheism. But what about the very important question of life after death? I mean, it’s very important for the human psychical equilibrium to have the confort of knowing there’s something “after”… Otherwise, many would refuse to take any risk, in any circumstance…The society would collapse.
Z: Well, we must avoid the ideea of reincarnation, because it automatically brings the whole concept of karma with it, and all this hyerarchy of Boddisatvas and stuff that can so easily become gods… Let’s keep it simple: I’ve noticed the simple peasants seem to have this image, similar to the one of many Africans, of a soul that is part of the wirlwind of energies of nature and which is participating to various entities all the time and at the same time, one’s existence being just one of the very temporary aspects of it. This point of view doesn’t require any precise gods and mythology, and people seem very satisfied with it.
A: That’s a good ideea, but how to avoid the fall of such a community into magic? I mean, if all is a concert of energies, these energies can be tamed by procedures and strong will, and bend to one’s volition…
Z: Yep, I think we’ll never get totally rid of such a temptation… But if the eliminate now all the people knowledgeable in magic that exist within our community, a great deal of the tradition should be lost and would never reappear, and so would never recover to its former power. Besides nature is on our side upon this world, since a great deal of magic is based upon the position of the astres, and we don’t seem to have them here…As for the public order, we’ll stress the role of the ruler and the civic spirit.
A: Now that we settled all the important points, let’s start the implementation!
So in conclusion, that’s the story of religiosity upon Amtor: the first colonizers, influenced by both the nihilistic inclinations of Buddhism and by Hellenistic scientism, made the experiment to skip the cultural heritage of religion from their kids. They developed a mild form of Tao-like thing and Confucianism, but without mysticism nor many methods or rituals, and a bit of animism for the confort of the soul. But even that faded away from the day-to-day preoccupations, presumably after the invention of the life serum, especially. Which isn’t to say there’s nothing left, it’s just that it’s deeply buried and personal, and unorganized as structure of the creed and/or the dogma.
Of course, on Earth such an evolution would be impossible, the neighboring, more lively religions always destroying the one that is losing ground. So far, there has never been a successful agnostic culture – not in the long term. Even within the same culture, fanatics always end up assimilating the merry skeptics – see the evolution of Islam for example, from Abu Nuwas to today’s Wahhabis. One can complain, but it’s just the way it is.
What about the marriageless society? I think ERB has been excessively optimistic about the potentialities of human nature, here too. There’s no way to convince the great majority to behave, without written forms. Whether we talk business or couple life, very few trust others without signing something in front of witnesses. That too, it’s just the way it is. OK, maybe we could infer that the Amtorian ecosystem being wild and wet but uniform and stable, maybe its human component behaves in the same fashion. Yeah, could be… But this is taking a serious leap of faith here or, Amtor is a faithless world… just kidding. But you see what I mean. Logically, were you immortal and childless – as it is the situation in most cases as ERB has told about Amtorian demography – and untied by any contract, would you be monogamous? Highly unlikely. That’s even more unlikely than the Barsoomian sattelite Thuria shrinking people…
This lack of marriage ritual brings us to a more serious puzzle of the Amtorian culture: where are the rituals in general? They don’t seem to have any, except their devotion to their Jongs. Which by the way, isn’t very codified either. And doesn’t translate into social rituals at the day-to-day level.
Normally, rituals should be very elaborate and very heavily reinforced, especially in a religionless society – a bit like the Confucian part of the Chinese culture. One may say that in the Venus books we see mostly disrupted societies, all having incurred some sort of revolution. Still, this trait should be there, or at least remembered. Or, from what Danus tells Carson, there doesn’t appear for any Imperial China-like ceremony to have ever existed. Maybe he’s hiding things. But that’s quite unlikely: revolution or not, these things were so old that they were probably regarded as part of the very human nature. After all here on Earth the Hindus considered other peoples less human than them because they were not observing the Brahmanic norms. The Greeks called all non-speakers of Greek “babblers”-barbaroi. Even if the regime under which Danus was born collapsed, he still wasn’t very likely to be ashamed of it: shame towards one’s own culture is a very modern and Western thing, Danus is neither of these. So we must accept that, although he may embelish the picture a bit, the general image must be quite true. Which leaves us with the puzzle intact: how can a Confucian-like absolute monarchy be almost devoid of rituals? That’s almost an oxymoron: if there’s no god to channel the collective attachment of the people, it has to be the king. But since the king is only one for an entire nation, and is remote, the only way to partake from his order are the rituals!
Try for as long as I like, I can’t find a good formula for the society that ERB paints to sound feasible. Not for someone who knows serious history and sociology. It just doesn’t ring true at all. I think that these who want to paint a realistic frame for the Amtorian society (like those who are about to make it into a picture, for example) should obligatorily describe it with a sort of naturalistic-yoga-like spirituality, some sort of pantheism-animism with humanistic leaning – after all there are the discussed above hints of preoccupations for a spiritual side, and Danus hints at sort of a cult of good shape and health. Instead of places of cult, there could be ritual bath buildings for yoga exercising, like the ones the archeologists seem to have found at Harrappa and Mohenjo Daro. After all, I’ve given Amtorians a partly Dravidian ancestry… And, if the fans of Amtor don’t want the Jong to rule over some absolute and dreadful bureaucracy that regulates even how one should sh*t, then they have to imagine a society with private but omnipresent professionals of law, making people sign contracts for all things that they do when gathering more than one. If the law of the Jong isn’t omnipresent, then the law of the City must be so, by necessity.
Amtorian architecture. We know very little of it, being as sketchilly represented as many other aspects of Amtor. But one element bothers me here as well: “towers and spires” are mentionned. ERB is always fond of these. But do they fit upon Amtor?
Who builds tall structures?
Religious colleges, for their cult places.
The political leaders and the municipalities.
The very powerful private companies.
The first above named are not found upon Amtor.
The second ones can very well build tall structures to make their places of power more majestic, but I don’t remember any description of a palace with towers. Maybe I’m wrong, I might have missed it.
The third ones can’t be very big and powerful in the frame of an absolute monarchy exerting its grasp within the walls of a city-state surrounded by jungle and with little links to the rest of the world. I’m ready to bet there’s no Donald Trump upon Amtor.
The general description ERB gives of the cities is quite spread, with not many cases of more than 2-3 stories high buildings.
And after all, the Amtorian cities seem quite small in terms of populations. No need for Manhattans.
And then, there’s another factor, very important upon Amtor: the trees! Even if only the Vepajan ones reach miles in height, they communely reach hundreds of feet. So, there’s serious dillemma here, since the main purpose of a tower is to dominate the surroundings! If one can’t do that because of the trees, it sounds like good taste to drop it. And building mastodons higher than Sears Tower, well, first of all I’m not sure that Amtor has the technical knowledge to do it, and second, does any Amtorian city-state have the economic necessity to do such a thing, and the means and ressources? Doubtful.
So the image of an Amtorian NY isn’t fit at all.
Which brings us to Amtorian science and level of development.
Since the steam engine has been invented by Hero of Alexandria in the first century BC, it’s likelythat, the Amtorians being Hellenists themselves, they could have invented it too, and had it since the very beginning. Still, despite discovering ray-guns they didn’t invent radio. They sometimes have cars, like in Havatoo, and huge dreadnoughts like the guys in the mountain plateau states in Escape on Venus, but there are problems about all these things.
Let’s see: Havatoo is full of cars: yet, it’s a totally isolated city in the jungle. What need, then, for individual cars? Mass transportation means should be more than sufficient. Tramways and stuff. Especially in a polity where the interest of the populus predates by far the interest of the individual.
The huge land-ships of the guys in Escape, they are totally out of place: there’s no way some isolated city-state could build such mastodons. One would need at least an economy of similar size as France in the 1930s to build such a fleet. Meaning 40 million developed industrial people, thickly populating a land the size of Texas. What we see is 4 city-states, isolated from the rest of the planet, rather small in size, located upon a thinly populated plateau without much cultivated land, and occupying together a surface roughly 700x100 miles, at most. Totally impossible under such circumstances to have a land-fleet the size similar to the one of the USA in the 30s.
Ray-guns but no radio, land-ships but no airplanes? These occurences are practically impossible, one can’t have knowledge of some of these but not of the others. The knowledge of them just goes together.
I think ERB got taken by his imagination, here. Future people desiring to take Amtor to the screen should make a choice: whether depict Amtor as developed, or as backward. But they should avoid mixing the thing as ERB did. If it’s a backward world, they could still have mechanical engines, Hero invented them long ago. But this should stop at the big boats. And the tramways for the most developed cities. If it’s a developed world, then it should resemble ours: yes, we still have backward places here on Earth. But the modern areas are dominant, populated, connected etc. The modern areas dictate the rhythm to the others. And even the guys in the middle of the jungle have MTV (to have the misery complete?…).
What do Amtorians eat? From where do they obtain their sustenance?
It appears they do all their activities inside their walls. So they cultivate only small surfaces, surely with highly productive crops.
Not much fishing, as it seems, goes on: although the Amtorian seas teem with huge life, there’s no mention of fishing flotillas and industry. Besides, Korva has lost its fleet and yet they don’t starve without it.
So what could be the staple food of Amtor?
Bananas. Or something similar to banana-culture. Why not, after all it’s a jungle-tropical planet… I’ve read somewhere that the yields of these plants are incredible, quantitatively speaking you can stuff the stomachs of more than 10,000 people from 1 sqkm (1/4 sqm) cultivated with bananas! So a city of 100,000 – like Sannara – could nourish its people from 10 sqkm inside its walls. Plus the inhabited area, that shouldn’t make more than 20 sqkm (5 sqm) of total surface for the city. Of course, Amtorians could have plants and yields similar to the bananas, but more nourishing and tasty fruits.
Of course, here and there, exterior plantations and farms do exist. Hunting should be a quite widespread sport and also economic activity – after all the textiles are made from wild giant spider web, as it seems… And the shore-built cities should all have fishing fleets, under normal circumstances.
So we have somehow explained the alimentary part of the problem. But how do Amtorians obtain various other ressources like metals, potable water, building materials, combustibles, if they quasi-never quit their cities? Well that is another problem of the books. Energy, let’s accept they have it from their cold fussion thing. But nowhere in the books is it question of mines, quarries, forrest cuts etc. Of course, it doesn’t mean they don’t exist. And wood is aplenty, they probably foray once in a while just around their cities and get all the hard durable wood they want. But still, there’s too much of a feeling of total lack of infrastructure throughout the books, to make a technical society believable. If I were ERB, I would have painted a totally traditional society, just maybe a bit of mechanic, steam-engines and stuff. After all, some steam locomotives still function since the 1880s so that should do: here we would have our economy of metal that makes artisanal collection of ore, Amazon-mining style, believable within a mildly technical society.
In my essay on Barsoom I’ve explained the lack of industry by the incredibly long lasting products that planet was having the secret. There’s no mention of something similar to that upon Amtor, so precisions should be made in order to maintain the suspension of disbelief. Once again, scenarios should choose once and for all between totally traditional and very modern society upon Amtor.
What would be the population of Amtor? What about its evolution through time?
As I said above, the image we have of Amtor is much sketchier than Barsoom’s, but we do have some hint about it:
Havatoo has an amphiteater with a capacity of 200,000. That would hint to around 500,000 of total population. The kingdom near that of the Brokols is hinted to have at least 500,000 inhabitants, too. Etc.
The Amtorians began with the population of the teleported polis, meaning around 5,000. I’ve read somewhere that the population of Paraguay grew tenfold between 1823 and 1870. In the 20th century, Zimbabwe grew tenfold between 1900 and 1980.
So why wouldn’t Amtor do the same? After all, there must be the enthusiasm of new beginnings, new world, new reality, and of course the absence of many Earthly illnesses that make life difficult and short. And since the peoplement of Amtor remains fringe, there are few chances that many local bacterias take hold in the bodies of the new colonizing species. Also, the less powerful solar radiation and the much more constant climate must do a lot to protect the health and lengthen the life of the humans.
So, even if they start with just 5,000 in our year 250BC, they might be even as much as 3-4 million in our year 1 AD. By then they have just kept duplicating the former number of polis, by new colonies. As Den has shown in his essays, it’s an urban, fully formed and civilized culture that colonizes Amtor. Afterwards, of course, the rhythm of growth slows down spectacularly, for urban cultures are, demographically, never very fertile in the long run and, although there is always plenty of space to colonize, the enthusiasm has changed into routine, especially if the conditions they find in the new lands are relatively the same: for if the conditions are the same, it means there are not plenty of optimal regions to settle, the colonizers are not very adaptable and they are quite picky with the spots. Besides, Den showed that Amtor isn’t a world with many ressources, and as soon as one goes to a region which doesn’t have many, or if a region gets too stressed by the large number of humans, the system snaps quicker than upon Earth. And since the conditions are the same everywhere, there’s the tendency to pursue uniformity. Scarcity is less likely to get accepted as a matter of life. Especially if they have good means of transport from early times and are used to them.
This state of things, of course, doesn’t favor the strong accretion of humans somewhere and the apparition of big problems calling for big inventive solutions. So the Amtorians prefer to settle just the best areas and let the rest empty. Earthly humans have done the same on many occasions: the Aztecs seem to have had strong differences in human density in their territories, from the 1000 something per square mile in the Mexico valley to less than 20 in many mountain/plateau areas. Chinese have thoroughly colonized their hills and interior only once they possessed and generalized the use of the American potatoes and corn, otherwise up to the early 1700s, there were savage tribes just 100 miles from Beijing…
Since we talked Ages up above, let’s divide the Amtorian history in them, for sake of simplicity and because Den also used the term in his essays.
The Golden Age is that of the formation of the culture and its fitting in this world, the most inventive period, the biggest increase in population, the most energetic phase of colonization, the biggest independence of the city-states and the most intensive trade. Let’s say it lasts between our years 250BC to 200AD. At its end, there are like 1000 city-states totalling maybe 100 million, all equiped with mechanical boats and intensive agriculture. The Amtorians probably believe themselves old already, since it is likely they took elements of their Terrestrial history and adapted them to Amtorian settings. A bit like the Romans saying they were Trojans, and putting Etruscan kings to rule them in the early times.
Then comes the Silver Age, the Vepajan phase of unification, the scholasticism of the alikes of Klufar probably inaugurates it. Invention of the ray guns, maybe. Now must occur the colonization of the other hemisphere, although without the world realizing the importance and significance of the fact. The age lasts from 200 to our 850 AD. The population peaks around 200 million.
Then comes the Bronze age, the slow decline of the culture but without barbarians to make it collapse. The ties with the northern hemisphere cease with the contraction of the trade. The civilization level registers a certain decrease everywhere, but more so among the settlers of the northern hemisphere, because of their still big dependance upon some key products and knowledge from the South. This Age lasts from 850 to 1400.
Finally the Iron Age brings the big discovery of the Immortality Serum, probably the only big invention in 1500 years, but influential enough to trigger the collapse of the existing order. Vepaja crumbles, Thorism reigns, population probably shrinks sensibly, links between the political entities are almost non-existent. This Age starts around 1400 and is still in swing when Carson arrives, in the 1920s. The population at this time is probably less than 100 million.
What about the Vepajan empire numbering “millions” of inhabitants only, during its splendor days? I think ERB got a little bitten by his apparent phobia of big numbers. There’s no reason why a world of 200 million square kilometers of land (~100 million square miles), teeming with life, wouldn’t have at least 200 million human souls. Heck, Pakistan is almost there, with less than 1/100 of that surface, of which half is desert!
Let’s try to visualise the state of the kingdom of Korva, since it’s the best known.
It looks like it occupies a peninsular area of around 250,000 sqkm (110,000 sqm). What would be its population? No way to know, but the capital gives the impression to be not big, but sizeable enough. It’s said it’s smaller than Havatoo, so let’s say 200,000. The city where Carson gets adopted must be around 100,000. We know there are other cities in the kingdom, but they shouldn’t be many and since almost no one lives outside the cities, the kingdom of Korva in general must not have more than 500-700,000 souls. And it’s probably pretty respectable for Amtor.
Vepaja? Much less, since the cities seem to be hidden, and no open socio-economical structure exists upon the island. It’s obvious the Vepajans are too few to dare to come in the open, even upon a planet where any ennemy would have huge problems with organizing any reliable transportation and logistics. So maybe only 100-200,000 Vepajans roam their big trees… Speaking of population, it is said the refugees chose Vepaja which was an empty island… the size of Madagascar! Can one imagine that, upon Earth? Even in Magellan’s time, or earlier? That’s more evidence for recent peoplement, I guess.
What about the Amoeba-town? It’s said to be around twice the size of Havatoo, so maybe as many as 1 million Amoeba guys should live there.
Myposans? And the human city-state the other side of the lake? Maybe each 50-100,000, not more. Comparable anyway, since there’s war between them and it’s not being won by any of the two.
We can’t say more about any other polity. But from what we see of the Thorist town where Carson kills the ongyan, we can infer that Thora is seriously depopulated and squalid, the impression this spot gives is one of no more than 20-30,000 souls, poor ones at that. A mean little town. And since it’s a regional political center, it means the whole region can’t be more than 100-200,000 strong, and the whole empire a handful of millions maybe. Way down from maybe 50 million.
We see in the books that not all the polities have fared that bad. Some like Havatoo have improved in the last centuries, some have remained the same, some have passed through revolutions but without big catastrophy. I guess spots like Thora and, even worse, Morva, must be the epicentres of the fall of the ancient order. But other regions have kept the old ways almost intact. On the whole, as I said above, Amtor must be about half the population it had during the golden times.
One more thing before closing the essay: what about the quite serious spread of piracy upon Amtor? Well, I think it’s a logical result of the local circumstances: insular settings encourage piracy anyway, and besides most societies seem to be in some turmoil, which isn’t encouraging for concepts like order and safety. And all societies give birth to misfits and marginals from time to time. So where would these misfits go? They couldn’t stay between the walls of their cities, for as I explained above, law should normally be harsh in a legalist society as Amtor is bound to be. They can’t go to the jungles either, because nature would execute them almost as swiftly as their fellow citizens. So the logical thing to do upon a planet full of seas and islands and with almost exclussively littoral peoplement, is to become a pirate!
Now, don’t imagine my main intention with this essay is to demean ERB's Amtor. If I didn’t find it so interesting, I would have never consecrated to it the time and thoughts to write this text. As every imaginary world ERB invented, this one makes the mind wander marvelously.
Nevertheless, I’m quite a perfectionist when it comes to mental constructions, so I felt like correcting here and there, but only in order to make the whole sound better. In order to make the reader’s pleasant suspension of disbelief last longer.
Speaking of which, I hope this essay was entertaining too.
CRISTIAN SILDAN ARTICLES IN ERBzine
Barsoom Analysis Part I: Demography, Polity, Society and Economy
Barsoomian Analysis II: Sociology and Morality
Barsoomian Analysis III: Girl, Reconstructed
More Barsoomologist and Amtorianist Musings
Tarzan and Nemone of the City of Gold
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