Slavery in Conan...

A

Anonymous

Guest
I'm seeing to many contradictions about slavery in all of the Conan RPG books...either that, or I'm just getting confused. :?

I thought that in all of the Hyborian nations, slavery was outlawed, (as it's frowned upon by Mitra, which is the primary god of most of the Hyborian nations). The only exception to this I thought was the HyPERborians, who of course are a more primitive culture, and they were the ones who enslaved Conan in his younger years.

Yet I'm looking over the "Road of Kings" book, and I see that slavery is legal in Corinthia, as well as in Koth. And I'm unsure about Ophir, Khoraja, and Khauran. Is it just that all Hyborian kingdoms south of Aquilonia and Nemedia practice slavery?

Zingara and Zamora of course have slavery, but they're Western nations, not Hyborian nations....

Could someone provide a list of every nation that practises slavery? And where do most of these nations that DO get their slaves from? Do they take from their own citizens? Or do they plunder from other kingdoms? I ask because it seems that the Hyrkanians, (and Turanians) get their slaves from every other nation they raid. But am I right that the Zamorans take slaves from their own citizens, (putting their 'dark-haired beauty's' up on the slave blocks?)
 

Orkin

Mongoose
It would be quite a chore to enumerate each of these nations, as well as a work of the imagination, as Howard did not specify in detail which land did and did not practice slavery.

Looking at it from a historical perspective, slavery, under different names, was very widespread in ancient times. Whether you could buy someone outright, for instance, might have been regulated, since many slaves might be working off a debt, and expect to be freed once that was paid off...
 

Darkstorm

Mongoose
There is no proof (not even circumstantial) in any of Howard's Conan stories that slavery is outlawed in any of the Hyborian countries. (even Conan's Aquilonia). There are a few mentions of Kings selling their daughters as slaves and that sort of thing. Thoth-Amon was the slave of an Aquilonian noble during Conan's rule. The Nemedians sold a huge number of Aquilonian citizens as slaves during their occupation to foreign countries.

As for Conan frowning on slavery because of his being captured by the Hyperboreans, that really only conjecture. What Howard said was that Conan was captured by the Hyperboreans and escaped, ending up in the Hyborian kingdoms. Conan's stint as a slave was created by DeCamp/Carter and both of the Comic writers.
 

iltharanos

Mongoose
Anonymous said:
I'm seeing to many contradictions about slavery in all of the Conan RPG books...either that, or I'm just getting confused. :?

I thought that in all of the Hyborian nations, slavery was outlawed, (as it's frowned upon by Mitra, which is the primary god of most of the Hyborian nations). The only exception to this I thought was the HyPERborians, who of course are a more primitive culture, and they were the ones who enslaved Conan in his younger years.

If you look at the requirements for worship of Mitra, page 290, the only things truly forbidden to his worshippers are sorcery, human sacrifice, and trafficking with demons. So technically, there's no reason why slavery would be outlawed in the Hyborian nations due to any aspect of Mitra's worship.
 

The King

Cosmic Mongoose
Darkstorm said:
There is no proof (not even circumstantial) in any of Howard's Conan stories that slavery is outlawed in any of the Hyborian countries. (even Conan's Aquilonia). There are a few mentions of Kings selling their daughters as slaves and that sort of thing. Thoth-Amon was the slave of an Aquilonian noble during Conan's rule. The Nemedians sold a huge number of Aquilonian citizens as slaves during their occupation to foreign countries.

As for Conan frowning on slavery because of his being captured by the Hyperboreans, that really only conjecture. What Howard said was that Conan was captured by the Hyperboreans and escaped, ending up in the Hyborian kingdoms. Conan's stint as a slave was created by DeCamp/Carter and both of the Comic writers.

This is totally true and I didn't remember the facts. But I think these are exceptions; Thoth-Amon was reduced to slavery because he was a powerful sorcerer (so his "master" could use him for some dark purposes) and the mass slavery imposed by the Nemedians on the Aquilonians was due to the long hatred of the former (Aquilonia regularly attacked Nemedia). I would say that slavery in those kingdoms was limited to some exotic exceptions.

On a more general level the Hyborians nations are based on a feudal system with absolute monarchies (this is implied by Howard in many stories because Namedides, the former Aquilonian king, was called a tyran). So most of the whole peasantry should consist of serfs working hard for their lords and receiving little or nothing in return. This is not slavery but it's not far from it. This is also probably why many free farmers settled in the Westermarck on Pict territory to avoid serfdom and paying heavy taxes (this would be a logical extrapolation because I would see no reason for them to migrate in such a dangerous country just to please their barons).

If there is slavery in Koth, Ophir, Khoraja, and Khauran, it is probably due to the "cultural habits" of the local civilizations before their absorption by the Hyborian tribes. Koth, Ophir and Corinthia existed before the Hyborian migrations and were subject states to the Acheron Empire. The Hyborian conquerors imposed their way on these nations but by absorbing the locals inhabitants they couldn't prevent "local habits". That is why Mitra is not the only cult in Koth and Ophir. This is even more true in Khauran as the Hyborian only seized power but the local overwhelming population had other origins and worshipped other gods.

I would guess that slavery is a general fact in the Hyborian Age as was common in the antiquity where the defeated became subjects of the winners (hence the Roman saying : “woe to the vanquished!”). And it was probably a generality in the southern nations (beginning with the line Shem-Turan).

As for Zamora, I would say there is no slavery as such but the civilization there is so corrupt that people sell themselves for any jobs to rich nobles or merchants just in order to survive, be it to serve dishes or to sell their body. So a beautiful but poor woman would rather sleep with a disgusting fat man (this is just a stereotype – no prejudice intended) in a palace in a bed with silk cushions than work as a prostitute in the dirty brothels of the Maul. But of course this is the case everywhere. This is some of the reasons why Conan loathes the so-called civilized society (after all he is the living example of freedom and independency).
 

Grendel

Mongoose
For the games I've run i've been able to cover the subject of slavery fairly simply, within the Hyborian Kingdoms I've decided that it is illegal to buy or sell slaves on the streets or in a market.... but the actual owning of slaves isn't illegal but may be frowned upon depending on the actual nation/polictical situation. Those individuals who own slaves have simply gone further afield to obtain them, and while they may trade them, they do so behind closed doors.

The slaves themselves tend not to run from their masters because within Hyboria they are generally well treated (well better than beggars) and if they did, well they would be on the streets with no money or property.
 

Darkstorm

Mongoose
Well, both Conan of Aquilonia and Tarascus of Nemedia enjoyed the concubines of their seraglio (harem). In a letter to P.S. Miller, Howard claims that Conan even fathered a "goodly number of sons that were not recognized as heirs to the throne". Zenobia was a concubine of King Tarascus of Nemedia.

Pretty much everything I've read about concubines and seraglios leads me to conclude that they are nothing more than the pleasure slaves of the king. Its not a paying job that they can quit whenever they want.
 

The King

Cosmic Mongoose
Darkstorm said:
Well, both Conan of Aquilonia and Tarascus of Nemedia enjoyed the concubines of their seraglio (harem). In a letter to P.S. Miller, Howard claims that Conan even fathered a "goodly number of sons that were not recognized as heirs to the throne". Zenobia was a concubine of King Tarascus of Nemedia.

Pretty much everything I've read about concubines and seraglios leads me to conclude that they are nothing more than the pleasure slaves of the king. Its not a paying job that they can quit whenever they want.
It is true that many women in some harem were slaves bought on markets for their beauty. But the royal harem were the result of political alliance were nobles would "give away" their daughter as a present to their king so that they may secure their own domain. The rights of women throughout history was quite limited. Even if they hadn't the status of slave they were treated no better (just consider the Western Middle-Age).
But of course it would be normal for lowly kings or princes (villains) to support such a slave harem.
Only Kull didn't support such a practice.
 

Darkstorm

Mongoose
I think that you're just splitting hairs here. If a noble "gives away' his daughter as a present to the king for whatever reason, she becomes the property of the king; ie. his slave.

It doesn't matter if the concubine is bought in a market or given as a gift. Her legal status would be the same either way; as property. A difference that makes no difference is no difference.

Now, if someone wants to run their RPG with slavery outlawed in the Hyborian lands, I have no problem with that. All I'm doing is showing examples of "involuntary servitude" within the scope of Howard's Hyboria.
 

The King

Cosmic Mongoose
Basically I was just trying to help our Guest who posted this interesting topic of slavery and just gave my opinion on the matter where Hyborian kingdoms weren't the only nations involved.

Anyway I wouldn't say there is no difference between a wife who has no rights (or a girl from a harem) and a true slave (bought on the market). A child from a (harem) princess may become an heir to some distant county or even to the throne should his mother become the favorite, whereas a child of a slave has no chance at all.
But as a whole I agree that the general conditions for the girl would be the same.
 

Orkin

Mongoose
"The girl was a Brythunian, whom Conan had found in the slave-market of a stormed Shemite city, and appropriated." - Xuthal of the Dusk.
 

Sutek

Mongoose
Also keep in mind though that Slavery can be handled in drastically differnt ways depending on the culture.

Historically, the Norse (vikings) practiced slavery, but thier slaves might have even been given the same privelages as other members of a village (hunting, voting, fighting for the community, etc.). They held deeds above standing and a slave could make a name for himself and, although still technically be owned by his "master", it could put him in equal status to a fostered child (swapping of children for land/prestige/tribute).

I'd say all countries ahve slavery, but they may approach it very differently to a neighboring nation.
 

The King

Cosmic Mongoose
The first two pages of The Tower of the Elephant tell the tale of a professional kidnapper from Koth receiving a contract from a Count of Ophir to find him a sleek young Brythunian of the better class. It took him weeks to find one, disguised as a beggar, then he went to the Zamorian border where a caravan was waiting to receive her. He received 300 pieces of silver for the job.
 

The King

Cosmic Mongoose
Sutek said:
Also keep in mind though that Slavery can be handled in drastically differnt ways depending on the culture.

....

I'd say all countries ahve slavery, but they may approach it very differently to a neighboring nation.
True, there is also a good idea in the former AD&D Al-Qadim Campaign setting where the Enlightened could only own unenlightened slaves. This is approximately what happened in the Middle-East during the middle-age, where Muslims could own slaves only if the slaves weren't Muslims or "people of the book" (i.e. Jews or Christians).
 
A

Anonymous

Guest
Orkin said:
"The girl was a Brythunian, whom Conan had found in the slave-market of a stormed Shemite city, and appropriated." - Xuthal of the Dusk.

I was hoping someone would bring that up. :) I didn't have a quote handy though.
 

S'mon

Mongoose
Darkstorm said:
There is no proof (not even circumstantial) in any of Howard's Conan stories that slavery is outlawed in any of the Hyborian countries. (even Conan's Aquilonia).

Yeah, I don't remember any nation being anti-slavery in any REH Conan story. Maybe Aquilonian slavery is more enlightened than Stygian, but that's just conjecture. Slavery in Conan's world seems to be part of the 'ius gentium' - the universally accepted practices of all nations, like in pre-Christian historical Earth. For a Conan feel I'd recommend just not making a big deal out of slavery, neither anti ("kill the evil slavers!") or Gor-style fetishisation. Unless the scenario involves rescuing a particularly attractive damsel from slavery it should just be an unremarkable fact of life. Many slaves may be well-educated & in positions of power (esp in Roman-type countries, Koth & Ophir perhaps), & there may be many 'freedman' characters, former slaves who've bought their freedom.
 

S'mon

Mongoose
Sutek said:
I'd say all countries ahve slavery, but they may approach it very differently to a neighboring nation.

Yeah - you want to avoid thinking in terms of American style racial slavery & human rights, both alien concepts to the 'ancient world' type setting Howard was modeling. With no human rights often slaves are far better treated than freepersons - eg in Rome if you accidentally killed a slave you had to pay the owner compensation, accidentally kill a freeperson & you didn't have to pay anything (from my Roman law class) :) - and Rome was still a 'western' culture with an idea of citizenhood & rights therefrom, in an 'eastern' culture like Persia everyone was 'slave of the Great King' to start with! In this kind of culture (which would suit non-Hyborean Conan nations) slaves could own slaves who owned slaves etc... ***slavery was a relationship, not an absolute.***
 

Sutek

Mongoose
Yep...when the alternative was a Legion slaughtering you and your known family, slavery was a decent option to aspire to... :D
 

The King

Cosmic Mongoose
S'mon said:
Yeah - you want to avoid thinking in terms of American style racial slavery & human rights, both alien concepts to the 'ancient world' type setting Howard was modeling. With no human rights often slaves are far better treated than freepersons - eg in Rome if you accidentally killed a slave you had to pay the owner compensation, accidentally kill a freeperson & you didn't have to pay anything (from my Roman law class) :) - and Rome was still a 'western' culture with an idea of citizenhood & rights therefrom, in an 'eastern' culture like Persia everyone was 'slave of the Great King' to start with! In this kind of culture (which would suit non-Hyborean Conan nations) slaves could own slaves who owned slaves etc... ***slavery was a relationship, not an absolute.***
I wouldn't say slavery is an appreciable condition if you are destined to serve as dinner for the beasts in the arena or if you have to row in a galley.
A free man can take his possession (because he can own something) and can go and travel whereever he wants. He can make carreer and become rich and even king like Conan.
Under Rome law, you could kill a slave and give compensation to its owner but if you killed a free man you would go to jail and could be sentenced to mutilation or death and perhaps even become a slave on a Roman galley.
Slaves who were well treated were a minority. If that weren't the case, I guess there wouldn't be any need for a democracy and every free person would jump at the feet of some noble person to ask him to enslave him, where he could have a place to sleep and something to eat. The noble will probably be very happy to have someone who could be worked to death for no salary.
 
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