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Sir_Godspeed

Conspicuous by its absence: Egypt

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Glorantha is often marketed as a Bronze Age world, and while most of the people here will be quick to explain that it's a lot more complicated than that, the general idea is that Glorantha is at the very least based on a world from before the medieval period. 

We have many civilizations which have inspired and left their mark on Glorantha, from the Indus Valley civilization and Mesopotamia to the Migration Era Byzantines or Sarmatians, and even Plains Indians of the Americas. 

Yet, aside from merely the title of "Pharaoh", not retconned away, there is not really any input from that most long-lived of ancient civilizations: Egypt. 

At first this completely passed me by, but the more I think about it, the more curious I find it. Are the influences there, but too subtle for me to see? I know that Orlanth and Yelm and the Gods War are inspired by the conflict between Set and Ra/Osiris, but that's a deep cut. I know that lunar blades have in the past sometimes been presented as khopeshes instead of the more common Greek blades we've seen in later artwork, but that's such a small, ephemeral detail. Was Greg just not that interested in Egyptian society and architecture? Or was it a case of not really having a place to put them? There aren't a lot of truly sandy deserts in Glorantha with massive winding rivers through them, I suppose. I know some people will mention the Zola Fel, but well, it's a bit underwhelming, and hardly an urbanized centre of power like Egypt proper. Oslira comes second, but given its subarctic regions and the continental climate, again, not really a good fit.

I guess I just find it a bit interesting that we have several examples of stepped pyramids (even the Tusk Raiders get one), but none of the smooth ones, as it were. No barques winding up a slow river, through lotus flowers, with the baking sun above, and massive irrigation fields silted by reliable annual floods. The closest we get there is perhaps Esrolia, which again is not a very close fit, aesthetically or otherwise. Just... curious.

Edited by Sir_Godspeed
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12 minutes ago, Sir_Godspeed said:

we have several examples of stepped pyramids (even the Tusk Raiders get one), but none of the smooth ones, as it were.

Well, there is one striking example of a Gloranthan pyramid: the Spike.  But you're right, we even have both Mesopotamian-style ziggurats in the Ivory Plinth and certain Dara Happan structures, and Mesoamerican-style step pyramids in the Kingdom of Ignorance, but very few examples of smooth pyramids.

If any Gloranthan societies were likely to build such structures I'd figure it'd be Malkioni ones, as physical representations of the Spike and the Law.  I wonder if the Middle Sea Empire erected such pyramids, as statements and as geomantic foci, only to have them annihilated by the Luathans and the Closing.

I'd go further, and suggest that the Vadeli might build pyramids too--but point down, as stone sailing or flying vessels built after the fashion of their mostali allies' stone ships.  For the perversity of inverted Law and a representation of Law that moves.  Such things have probably not been seen since the destruction of the Vadeli empires in the Darkness, but boy, when those suckers rise from Magasta's Pool we'll all know the Hero Wars are here.

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Chen Durel, from the Guide: "It is dotted with ruins dating far back to the God Time, most notably massive pyramids covered with strange picture-writing."

I've been tempted for years to port the D&D campaign Desert of Desolation to the Kingdom of Ignorance.  (I see that dumizid also mentions here, but I always felt that this was more Egyptian than Mayan)

Edited by Psullie
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While it isn't in a desert, traditional Dara Happa is analogous in many ways to Egypt. We've got a sacred king that's identified with a solar deity, that maintains cosmic order (Maat in Egyptian), what is Antirius if not Horus? We've got Osiris and Amun-Ra as Yelm,  Isis as Dendara, Shargash and Orlanth both take from Set.

Successive dynasties that claim the crown of being the true Pharaoh/Emperor with interregnum chaos? Yeah that's Kazkartum for you.

The Double Crown of Dara Happa is analogous to the Crown of the Upper and Lower Nile.

The Seven-Part Soul of Dara Happa is the Egyptian idea of the many part soul, ẖt (Physical Form), sꜥḥ (Spiritual Form), jb (Heart), kꜣ (Vital Essence), bꜣ (Personality), šwt (Shadow), sḫm (Life Force after death or perhaps Power), rn (Name), ꜣḫ (Intellect, Light).

The Oslira floods regularly, it's just been tamed by irrigation ditches and canals like the Nile was, so as not to be a source of woe like the Yangtze River of China or the Tigris or Euphrates of Mesopotamia, and the Oslira floods from snow melt, rather than the Niles flooding from the seasonal monsoon upriver. And yes barges regularly sail the Oslir.

The Dara Happans have pyramids as well, it's just that they're stepped ones like earlier Egyptian Pyramids (they started off stepped just like every other pyramid building culture), rather than the Giza Pyramids with their smooth slopes, like the Giza Pyramids are rather the anomaly in ancient pyramid building.

Like the connections are there, and obvious when laid out, but because it isn't a desert or doesn't have smooth sloped pyramid, or that it snows, that connection isn't made obvious enough. Obviously Dara Happa has other influences that run through it as well, we don't need to belabor that point, but Egypt is very much a part of Glorantha in a rather big way already.

Edited by Mirza
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7 hours ago, Sir_Godspeed said:

... I know some people will mention the Zola Fel, but well, it's a bit underwhelming, and hardly an urbanized centre of power like Egypt proper. Oslira comes second, but given its subarctic regions and the continental climate, again, not really a good fit ...

I think the budding Egypto-Gloranthologist would take   <Zola Fel & Prax>  and  <Oslir & DH>  as a pair:  If you carefully pull elements from each one,  you end up with a pretty big part of Egypt. 

Edited by g33k
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30 minutes ago, g33k said:

I think the budding Egypto-Gloranthologist would take   <Zola Fel & Prax>  and  <Oslir & DH>  as a pair:  If you cafefully pull elements from each one,  you end up with a pretty big part of Egypt. 

Tempting to imagine one of those budding Egypto-Gloranthologists growing up in Adari with sacred architecture on his mind and the magical resources to build. Map the right parts of Dara Happa on that river without a city, the city appears. This actually rehabilitates a lot of the fan "Egyptian Freemasonry" that has accumulated around his cult.

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1 hour ago, Mirza said:

While it isn't in a desert, traditional Dara Happa is analogous in many ways to Egypt. We've got a sacred king that's identified with a solar deity, that maintains cosmic order (Maat in Egyptian), what is Antirius if not Horus? We've got Osiris and Amun-Ra as Yelm,  Isis as Dendara, Shargash and Orlanth both take from Set.

Successive dynasties that claim the crown of being the true Pharaoh/Emperor with interregnum chaos? Yeah that's Kazkartum for you.

The Double Crown of Dara Happa is analogous to the Crown of the Upper and Lower Nile.

The Seven-Part Soul of Dara Happa is the Egyptian idea of the many part soul, ẖt (Physical Form), sꜥḥ (Spiritual Form), jb (Heart), kꜣ (Vital Essence), bꜣ (Personality), šwt (Shadow), sḫm (Life Force after death or perhaps Power), rn (Name), ꜣḫ (Intellect, Light).

The Oslira floods regularly, it's just been tamed by irrigation ditches and canals like the Nile was, so as not to be a source of woe like the Yangtze River of China or the Tigris or Euphrates of Mesopotamia, and the Oslira floods from snow melt, rather than the Niles flooding from the seasonal monsoon upriver. And yes barges regularly sail the Oslir.

The Dara Happans have pyramids as well, it's just that they're stepped ones like earlier Egyptian Pyramids (they started off stepped just like every other pyramid building culture), rather than the Giza Pyramids with their smooth slopes, like the Giza Pyramids are rather the anomaly in ancient pyramid building.

Like the connections are there, and obvious when laid out, but because it isn't a desert or doesn't have smooth sloped pyramid, or that it snows, that connection isn't made obvious enough. Obviously Dara Happa has other influences that run through it as well, we don't need to belabor that point, but Egypt is very much a part of Glorantha in a rather big way already.

These are all very good points. I was not aware that Dara Happa had a double crown, for example. That's a pretty significant giveaway, especially since there isn't really anything "double" about Dara Happa (I can't remember it from the Glorious Reascent, but it's probably mentioned elsewhere, I should get to reading Fortunate Succession). 

I suppose I viewed Dara Happa through a too strongly Mesopotamian lens, so that I missed the parallels to Egypt, though to be fair some of these work for both civilizations. I've always imagined Egypt as too "unitary" to be properly Dara Happan though, and more like the often quarreling Mesopotamian city-states that get unified and split up continously, but the unity of Egypt is obviously exaggerated as well, and isn't the be all end all of its history. 

I guess I missed just how "tame" the Oslir was. Though its mouth ends up in a decidedly less cosmopolitan place than Egypt's. 

Lots of stuff to consider here. 

Maybe I just miss guys with kohl around their eyes and wigs on their heads riding around in slender chariots and firing bows while dragging up the kopesh. But then chariots are archaic by the time of the Dawn Age already in Glorantha, so it's not like any other civilization is using them en masse either. 

And the Esrolians have kohl so there is some for Egyptianesque aesthetics if you know where to plug them in. 

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For Egyptian style art and statuary in Glorantha, I always think of the mysterious Artmal Empire.

Edited by metcalph
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As others have pointed out, I think a lot of places in Glorantha borrow from Egypt. Oslir is the main one, the Holy Country probably does, but not just in the title of Pharaoh, which has been pretty much forgotten recently. Obvious borrowing from Egyptian frescoes is not really present in the same way that it is for Mesopotamian art, but I use Egyptalike art for Earth Temples, especially the Inner Earth or Secret Earth. Some Gloranthan mythology is sort-of based on Egyptian mythology, the Earth and sky being violently separated, for example. 

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So, to summarize, there is no "Egypt as a whole" parallel anywhere in Glorantha, where we like to imagine pyramids, charioteer armies, temple cities and navies all in one go, forgetting that those elements may have been spaced as far from one another as the most recent ones are away from our time. Terry Pratchett summed up all those anachronistic elements when he had the Djelibeybians (the original pyramid builder culture on his Diskworld) judge their Tsortean imitators for their mish-mash of historical periods.

One difference between Mesopotamia and the Nile Valley that was pointed out to me quite recently is that the network of canals and river arms in the lower Euphrates and Tigris valley made it pretty much impossible for a single city state to control all the water-borne traffic, which is why there was rarely a unified empire in Mesopotamia. While the Nile Delta offered more than one possible route, too, much of the Nile Valley was pretty narrow and easy to control for upper Egypt.

In that regard, Dara Happa is mainly operating on a single waterway, and only Suvaria/Darjjiin comes with a network of inter-connected waterways. The Poralistor system was controlled by the riverine Waertagi, and the lower Arcos held Kestinliddi civilization together despite the neighboring bird or horse riders.

The canal connecting the metropolis of Glamour to the Oslir River may be the most work-intensive artificial waterway in Glorantha, as it doesn't seem to have much of a natural current. That would mean that the Empire would be dredging that canal almost constantly, piling up mud which may be quite fertile if it serves as the main cloaca for Glamour.

One major difference between Dara Happa and Egypt is the agriculture. Dara Happa grows rice in paddies, rather than wheat on fields that are allowed to fall dry after the seasonal floodings and only occasionally watered. While the grasslands can be used for wheat or oats cultivation, rather few of those are supplied with irrigation infrastructure.

(Which incidentally kept the damage Sheng's re-purposing of dry farming areas for grassland on a local level rather than making it a wide-spread disaster. Sheng's henchmen had little interest to let their horses gain hoof rot among the rice paddies.)

 

As for smooth-surface pyramids, these were only really built by the fourth to sixth dynasty, with a few imitations in the eighth dynasty. You'd have to go south to the Kushites for the continuation of pyramid construction.

 

But then, the Dara Happan dynasties never practiced body burials, they went for cremation or exposure to birds. I think that Alkoth has bone houses, but Dara Happan nobility expects highly efficient cremation with at best small amounts of ash remaining for reverent disposal. There is no cult of the mummy in Dara Happa, and no requirement of an intact dead body for a functional rebirth anywhere in Glorantha except where atheist wizards are supposed to resurrect fresh dead bodies.

Esrolian female burials come closest to this cult of the mummy. Which creates some problems, as their climate is really too humid for dry mummification. Bog mummification might work a lot better in their climate, but bog mummies are hard to build mausoleums for.

The Nochet necropolis may have a better rainwater drainage system than the parts of the city inhabited by their descendants.

The Necropolis in upriver central Esrolia doesn't have these problems - it is a place without life, possibly strong enough to halt even (biological, i.e. Darkness-being) decay.

 

The use of the term "sarcophage" in Egyptian context is pretty much a mis-nomer, as the Greek word translates as "Flesh-Eater", a burial device that leaves only the bones of the dead body behind, the flesh presumably eaten by the container. The idea would have horrified the ancient Egyptians.

 

The closest parallel for the Egyptian cult of the Godking as guide for the dead that I could find is in Kralorela, where the Emperor serves as the divine being conveying the waiting masses from the waiting place to their afterlife or to transcendence. The rest of Glorantha has way too direct contact to the non-manifest deities (i.e. without demigod avatars) who maintain the rebirth process. Maybe there are more Egyptian things to be found in Kralorela?

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9 hours ago, Sir_Godspeed said:

Though its mouth ends up in a decidedly less cosmopolitan place than Egypt's.

Elz Ast is a large city. What's it's decidedly less of is warm. 😉

9 hours ago, Sir_Godspeed said:

especially since there isn't really anything "double" about Dara Happa

It's the joining of the crown of DH with that of Naveria (or possibly Pelanda). 

9 hours ago, Sir_Godspeed said:

Maybe I just miss guys with kohl around their eyes and wigs on their heads

You can find that in Nochet, even with the Humakti.

2 hours ago, soltakss said:

the Holy Country probably does, but not just in the title of Pharaoh, which has been pretty much forgotten recently

Definitely find aspects of art and styles in Esrolia that are similar (or blend Minoan, Egyptian, and Indian styles). Pharaoh was dropped because it doesn't mean what Greg thought it meant (i.e. God-king).

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16 minutes ago, Joerg said:

The use of the term "sarcophage" in Egyptian context is pretty much a mis-nomer, as the Greek word translates as "Flesh-Eater", a burial device that leaves only the bones of the dead body behind, the flesh presumably eaten by the container. The idea would have horrified the ancient Egyptians.

In Glorantha, with the exception of the trolls, Mummies are normally the preserve of the Undead Cults.

I have Pentian wind-dried mummies in my games, but other cultures don't generally include mummification in their burial practices, as far as I can recall.

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7 minutes ago, Joerg said:

The closest parallel for the Egyptian cult of the Godking as guide for the dead that I could find is in Kralorela, where the Emperor serves as the divine being conveying the waiting masses from the waiting place to their afterlife or to transcendence. The rest of Glorantha has way too direct contact to the non-manifest deities (i.e. without demigod avatars) who maintain the rebirth process. Maybe there are more Egyptian things to be found in Kralorela?

I think there's a lot of mileage to go on here.

The Archexarchs of the Masses and Works as similar to the tjati/vizier and similar posts, the exarchs themselves being nomarchs.

1 minute ago, soltakss said:

In Glorantha, with the exception of the trolls, Mummies are normally the preserve of the Undead Cults.

I have Pentian wind-dried mummies in my games, but other cultures don't generally include mummification in their burial practices, as far as I can recall.

The Retirement Towers of Sun County seem to be a form of living mummification, similar to sokushinbutsu. Walling yourself off to slowly die with the blessings of the sun.

My guess is this kind of living mummification may also be practised by the priests of Dayzatar, and that Dayzatar maybe a divine form of it.

There's even an animated version, in the form of the lich Seolinthor in Sun County

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7 minutes ago, soltakss said:

other cultures don't generally include mummification in their burial practices, as far as I can recall.

I've got mummified dead in my Esrolian necropolises. The Ty Kora Tek cult does have Prepare Corpse as a skill after all.  Not undead ones (necessarily), but they do like to come to Nochet for the Day of the Dead there.

 

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21 minutes ago, jajagappa said:

Elz Ast is a large city. What's it's decidedly less of is warm. 😉

 

I meant "metropolitan" in the sense of "connecting Egypt to the wider world". Elz Ast is, from what I can tell, not much more than an oversized fishery entrepot and dockyard. Unless they're trading with the Glacier Trolls. I guess it serves as a medium to connect Oslir to the other river valleys without having to go overland, which is is useful.

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Even for a 'water empire' Egypt was in many ways atypical, if you compare it with those in Mesopotamia or China (or India, though we don't really know very much about the Indus culture), if you take the view that its culture was homogeneous and its history fairly static. Neither of those statements are true, the closer you look it them, and the periods of its pyramid building and chariot armies were a very small chunk of its history; there was also an awful lot of regional variation between the nomes.

There may not be a great river surrounded by desert, but in many ways, Fonrit is a bit Egyptian. There was certainly a pyramid in the HQ game at Shepherds Bush a few weeks ago, and the cult of Gark the Calm certainly has plenty of restless dead.

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1 hour ago, M Helsdon said:

the cult of Gark the Calm certainly has plenty of restless dead.

What better than some great pyramid "temples" to Gark (they are very static structures!) containing prior city rulers and their immediate attendants, servants, guards, etc!  The leaders mummified, their followers hosts of zombies, and all continuing on in their eternal non-death at their "daily" tasks within the pyramids. Of course, these pyramids have great wealth and riches for the undead to use which might entice the living to try to recover....

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Chern Durel has a sequence of religious revelations with pyramids as a feature of their Deep Past. The different cultures may have built different styles of pyramid. I could easily see black or grey stone Egyptian-style pyramids, built by enlo and human slave labour, housing the mummified bodies of their uz rulers. 

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1 hour ago, Ali the Helering said:

Chern Durel has a sequence of religious revelations with pyramids as a feature of their Deep Past. The different cultures may have built different styles of pyramid. I could easily see black or grey stone Egyptian-style pyramids, built by enlo and human slave labour, housing the mummified bodies of their uz rulers. 

I took that into consideration, but have you heard about uz funerary feasts? The bandages and ointments would be treated as a form of breadcrumb coating and condiment.

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4 hours ago, Joerg said:

I took that into consideration, but have you heard about uz funerary feasts? The bandages and ointments would be treated as a form of breadcrumb coating and condiment.

So Chen Durel, instead of practising mummification has instead got the funeral rite of marinading?

Well, given the troll fondness for insects, I could actually see them having mellified men there.

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the first risk for a human entering a troll grog shop is how many of the liquors on offer will simply kill a human drinker.  the second risk is that the trolls will give the human things they can safely drink, but trick them into drinking themselves to death, as a way of marinating 'from the inside out'

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11 hours ago, Joerg said:

I took that into consideration, but have you heard about uz funerary feasts? The bandages and ointments would be treated as a form of breadcrumb coating and condiment.

Consider it as a carnivorous form of kimchee. Or if you prefer it religious rather than culinary 'Basko Saves! For later...' 

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The closest Gloranthan parallel may have been the First age - an empire led by a fatally flawed god of light, eventually torn down by a barbarian whose curse blighted the land and left a vast lake of dust and ash, where once stood farms and a beautiful city. Sounds like Egypt to me.

The Sahara was not nearly as dry thousands of years ago as it is today.

During the First Dynasty, 5000 years ago, Egypt was a lot wetter. The Great Pyramid was built during a period when Egypt was drying out, but was still wetter and more arable than today.

Egyptian recordkeeping was good enough that some ancient scholars must have been aware their land was changing. Perhaps their great religious edifices were in part an attempt to bring back the rain.

A debate is still ongoing about how much humans contributed to the drying. The 20,000 year wet / dry cycles predate human habitation, but some scientists think primitive agriculture may have accelerated the desertification which accompanied the great drying.

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