Urbanized Sartar

From: Joerg Baumgartner (joe@toppoint.de)
Date: Wed 05 Nov 1997 - 20:37:00 EET


I apparently shocked "Mr. Tines" by pointing out:
>> It is an unfortunate fact that by census, Sartar is one of the most
>> urbanized regions of Glorantha, with about 14,000 urban people supported by
>> only about 190,000 rurals (including Telmori and ducks, according to old
>> census numbers).

>> Sartar is part of the Kethaelan civilisation, at least the cities.

>While the ratio of 10+ rurals to 1 urban is plausible
>with RW mediaeval cultivation, it rather blows my
>suspension of disbelief that Sartar is that urbanised,
>especially to the extent of being "one of the most
>urbanised" parts of Glorantha.

Well, it didn't start out like that, but Orlanthi have always had an urge
to cluster to cities even despite clan or tribal differences. The First
and Second Age Orlanthi chieftains (princes) were a splendid combination
of barbarian warlords and shrewd merchant princes, ruling with their

sizeable hird of warriors from their fortress cities, which provide them
and their warriors with almost all the speciality craft skills needed.

Third Age Orlanthi suffered from Alakoring's curse of disunity, aka cult
of Orlanth Rex, which propagates small tribes with lots of tribal "kings"
who are little more than glorified chieftains. Often they overcame this
problem, as in Sylila, Tarsh, or Heortland, only to become a target for
other large nations. As soon as Sartar reached this stage, look who
invaded...

>At least, given the
>clan and steading based Sartar of the current paradigm,
>that is - Celts,

Yes. Think Caesar's foes and allies in Gaul. Caesar spends as much time
chasing rebels through the hills as he spends besieging enemy _cities_
(oppida).

>Vikings,

Famous as city founders in Ireland...

>the old shaggy Germans from
>Caesar's Gallic Wars were none of them renowned as
>being urbanised; and they had little economic
>incentive to form urban areas for settled specialist
>trade.

Right. The same Germans, 150 years later, had become respectable citizens
of the Roman Empire south of the Limes, and provided the Romans with a
useful heavy (noble) cavalry, the clibanarii precursors of chivalry.

Sartar has both the (perhaps declining, although actually strengthened by
the Lunar conquest) tribal and steading-oriented society, and a more
urban society which retains quite a few characteristica of the
ultra-traditional lifestyle the Tamers of Dragon Pass chose over their
more sophisticated life-style in Heortland.

>Courts, worship places or markets, perhaps,
>but few that are town-like.

True before the coming of Sartar, 150 years after the first settlement.
Runegate and Clearwine seem to be exceptions.

>The nature of Orlanthi culture - especially as
>we know that attempts to build a larger scale
>civilisation have collapsed in the past -

After flourishing for hundreds of years, and after cataclysmic conflicts
with neighbouring cultures.

>indeed seems to mitigate against urbanisation. In the
>steading, you know these people are kin, and there
>is that social binding. When there is selection
>on economic grounds (specialist craft niches,
>mercantile opportunities), that kin-binding is
>at the least weakened.

Great Orlanthi propaganda, the kind the Colymar king who refused to have
a city built in his tribal country told and believed. However, as soon as
the first cities rose, the other tribes wanted one as well...

>Now, if we were still back in the naive Jonstown=Athens mode,

Quite a bid. No, Jonstown = Alesia.

>I could believe this degree of urbanisation - the transition between
>tribal and civic society had been made in Classical Greece.

In this regard, Jonstown=Athens might even be valid - if you take Athens
around 700 BC.

>I still would expect to find Sartar well behind Kralorela, Ralios,
>Seshnela, Dara Happa, Teshnos and possibly
>Fonrit in the significance of urbanisation.

Not really in the significance, but surely in the tradition of
urbanisation. The Sartarite cities are mere 140 years old, whereas the
other regions you mentioned have cities at least 1000 years old.

>This is one of the things I find so darn
>frustrating about Glorantha : the big picture
>is wonderful, but every so often along comes
>some silly detail which punctures the whole
>pretty balloon...

I think that the problem here is that we always get one detailed look at
a certain aspect of Glorantha, and then jump to the conclusion that all
the rest must be that way as well. Boldhome and Old Pavis with their
zoo-style nonhuman quarters aren't the norm as Gloranthan cities, but for
quite some time that impression ruled the imagination. The Lunar Empire
is not inhabited by millions of Seven Mothers initiates...

Magic HeroQuest roads:
>> Yes. However, these roads didn't necessarily lead to features one wanted to
>> visit, like e.g. cities.
>> Generally, use of the roads is meant to be riskier than using the equivalent
>> overland route.

>If they aren't to be just another bit of background clutter
>(the line between useful background colour and
>interesting-to-the-Gloranthaphile irrelevance being
>an important one to keep in mind, in my experience), then
>there do have to be conceivable occasions on which they
>would be used by preference.

One general occasion would be whenever both locations the quester travels
from/to are already part of the "mythic plane". It would surely spoil a
Hill of Gold Quest for an Orlanthi if he had to use the Daughters Road to
get from Aggar to Bikhy...

>Back to economics here : if it's easier to plod the mundane
>route between your current location and intended destination,
>the only use of the magic roads will be for bravado or
>ritual reasons;

That's what they are for, IMO.

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