Introduction   |   Table of Contents   |   Updates   |   Stories   |   Links   |   Contact Luther

(#62, Version 5.0)
It is very obvious that ancient Rome was also one of the primary inspirations for the Gorean novels of John Norman. Mr. Norman did a lot of historical research prior to and during writing the Gorean novels. Some words used in the books may seem archaic and confusing but are actually ancient Roman terms. Other Gorean items, institutions and ideas also derive from the ancient Romans. Some of these inspirations are very apparent while others are more subtle and only uncovered after detailed research. This scroll will provide a list of items inspired by the ancient Romans for the Gorean novels.
This scroll is shorter than the Greek Origins scroll as it seems more of Gor was inspired by ancient Greece than Rome. But ancient Rome contributed significantly in a few areas including Gorean law, the gladius and slavery. I have purposefully omitted from this scroll the topic of Roman Slavery as it is large enough to warrant its own scroll. That scroll will be forthcoming.
This scroll is a work in progress and thus more will be added to it over time as my research continues. The information in this scroll comes from my own personal research into ancient Greece, seeking its similarities and differences to Gor. Numerous books, magazines and other sources have been consulted. A bibliography of my varied sources would be lengthy. Some of the items I address in this scroll are my own opinions about what might have inspired Gor. These are not necessarily correct but I have attempted to fully discuss my reasons for those opinions. Many of the similarities are too extensive to be merely coincidental. Any mistakes in this scroll are solely my own.
I welcome anyone who would like to further discuss the matters raised in this scroll to contact me. I am always open to informed debate about such matters. The origin of Gor is an area that has been largely untouched in the online Gorean community. Very little has been posted or publicized about such matters. But I believe it is a very important area that can aid one in comprehending Gor. If we know more about a thing's beginnings, we will understand it better.
Gorean Law
Gorean law is derived in large part from ancient Rome, especially in the area of its various magistrates. The exact functions of these different magistrates on Gor is never made very clear so we must base our thoughts in part on what those positions once meant in ancient Rome. We should remember though that there may be some differences as well.
magistrates: The magistrates of Rome were governmental officials responsible for a wide variety of duties. Some magistrates were rulers while others were more akin to judges or police. Magistrates included such positions as consuls, praetors, censors, aediles, and quaestors. There was a hierarchy of magistrates in Rome. Any Roman seeking a high level political position needed to spend some time as a lower magistrate to build their experience before being permitted to attain a higher rank. Generally, a magistracy was held for a single term of a year. They were unpaid positions, seen as an honor. They were also stepping stones to the more powerful magistracies.
dictator: During the time period of the Roman Republic, there was a type of magistrate known as a "dictator." This is a leadership position very similar to the Ubar of Gor. A dictator would be appointed during a military or civil crisis to help the city through the crisis. He wielded vast powers over the city. A dictator would wear purple robes and his throne was a curule chair. He was generally permitted to remain in power for only six months, or shorter if the crisis was resolved prior to that time. But, sometimes a dictator might remain in power after the crisis was resolved and then become a tyrant.
aedile: This is a magistrate whose powers varied over time. They were responsible, in different eras, for the superintendence of public buildings, keeping the streets clean, policing the streets, regulation of marketplaces, and holding public games.
praetors: This is a type of legal magistrate though at times the praetors also had some military power. The praetor could command armies though their primary duty was to help administer the civil law of Rome. They generally only presided over civil matters in their preliminary stages. They did not go so far as to actually try cases. They would assign the case to the appropriate judge or board of arbiters.
quaestor: This was the lowest ranking magistrate in Rome though their duties were important. They were in charge of financial matters, helping to maintain the state treasury in the time of the Republic. They might also serve in the military, working as a quarter-master or officer.
prefect: These magistrates could be quite powerful as they would rule Rome during the Republic when the consuls were away. They were one of the highest ranking of magistrates. They also could preside over legal matters as a judge.
Gorean Terms
amphorae: The Romans often used these vessels to store and transport liquids. It commonly has two horizontal handles, for lifting, and often a narrow, pointed base. As it cannot stand straight up due to the pointed base, it is placed into storage holes in the ground. This tends to keep the liquid cool due to the protection of the ground, especially at night. Amphorae were often carried on merchant ships to transport liquids such as wine. Archaeological digs of Roman ships have sometimes uncovered sealed amphorae still containing old wine.
carnarium: The plural form of this word is "carnarii" and they refer to "refuse pits," commonly located outside the city. This is where all of the city's garbage is dumped by male slaves. This term derives from the Roman word "caro" which means "flesh." Carna was a Roman goddess of health.
cestae: These are leather gloves or gauntlets, often used in gladiatorial combats. They commonly bear metal studs or spikes. On Gor, they have more deadly varieties of cestae, including the four-bladed dagger cestus of Anango and the hatchet gauntlet of eastern Skjern.
civitatis: The plural form of this term is "civitates." It is a Roman term that refers to villages, towns and communities of non-citizens. On Gor, the term means that you are a citizen of a city. For example, the sentence "Civitatis Trevis" means "I am a citizen of Treve."
curule chair: A "sella" was a Roman stool, basically a chair with four legs but no back. This was the most common chair in Rome. A special form of the sella was the "sella curulis," also known as the curule chair. This was a type of folding stool. Its legs were intricately carved, often of ivory or bronze in the shape of horns. It could be folded for convenience and even had straps on it hold a seat cushion. The curule chair is apparently of Estruscan origin.
gens: This is a Roman term for one's clan name. Clans do exist on Gor, family groups that are most often limited to a particular city. They may include family members of different Castes. Most often, clans have little power though in a few cities they do hold much sway. On Gor, women cannot pass on the gens name. It can only pass through the man. A woman though can keep her gens name if she joins in Free Companionship, provided it is part of the written contract. But, even if she keeps it, her children will take on the gens of their father.
haruspex: This is a Roman term that literally translates as "gut-gazer." A haruspex was a fortune teller who read the entrails of sacrificed animals. He would carefully examine the color, markings and shape of the animal's liver and gall bladder. The harsupexes of Gor often do the same.
insula: The plural form of this word is "insulae." In Rome, insula referred to rectangular building lots that often had apartment buildings on them. These were poorly constructed apartments, known by most to be unsafe. There were laws governing insulae concerning fire safety and limiting the height of the buildings. The Gorean insulae are exactly the same as this, including down to the laws governing them.
palestrae: These are gymnasiums where men could engage in a variety of athletic games. It was common for palestrae to compete against each other, similar to the Olympic games. They would engage in games such as hurling the stone (shot-put), hurling the thonged javelin both for distance and accuracy (javelin-throwing), foot-races of various sorts, jumping, and wrestling. There are regular meets and even local championships though it is very rare for the palestrae of different cities to compete against each other. Contestants were kept within age categories. Winners at these contests would receive wool ribbons, dyed different colors. A champion might earn a crown made from Tur tree leaves..
pomerium: This term refers to the boundary, sometimes symbolic, between a city and the countryside. It may be an actual, defined area that surrounds a city. This boundary helps to define the actual border of a city. On Gor, the laws of a city would not apply past the pomerium.
sistrum: This is a type of musical instrument that resembles a rattle.
Gorean Cities
Argentum: The name of this Gorean city is derived from the Roman word for silver. An "argentus" was a Roman silver coin. Argentum has some rich silver mines so the name is very appropriate.
Brundusium/Brundisium: This Gorean city is a very important port. It was also one of the most important Roman ports, located in southeastern Italy on the Adriatic Sea. Many trade goods came to this port and then traveled north to Rome. It also garnered much revenue from its oysters, grape vines and bees.
Samnium: This Gorean city also takes its name from a place that existed during the days of ancient Rome. Samnium was a city located in a mountainous region in central Italy. Samnium was conquered by Rome and became one of its allies. The arms and armor of the Samnites would eventually be used by some gladiators in the arenas.
The most common sword used on Gor, especially by the Warrior Caste, is the gladius, a type of short-sword. Though Gorean commonly use a helmet and shield derived from the ancient Greeks, they use a sword more closely affiliated with the Romans. But, the Spartans of ancient Greece, the likeliest inspiration for the Gorean Warrior Caste, also preferred to use short swords. That will be more fully discussed in the Spartan scroll.
The gladius is actually of Spanish origin. Its proper name is the "Gladius Hispaniensis" which means "Spanish sword." The term "gladiator" means "swordsman." The gladius was first used by the Celtiberians of Spain, a people of mixed Celtic and Iberian blood. They were enemies of Rome and the Romans fought several campaigns in Spain. The Romans eventually adopted the gladius. The actual time-frame when the Romans began using the gladius is unclear. It seems likely that it was adopted no later than the First Punic War, around the 3rd century B.C. though it may have been adopted as early as the 4th century B.C. It is also unknown why the Romans chose to adopt that particular sword. Whatever the reasons, it became a very deadly weapon in the hands of the Romans. The historian Robert O'Connell, in his book, Of Arms and Men (1989), stated that the gladius accounted "for more deaths than any other weapon prior to the advent of firearms."
The earliest Roman gladius was over two feet long but it soon became shorter. It also acquired a longer point, so that it could be used more effectively for thrusting. Two primary types of gladius developed, the Mainz and the Pompeii. The older Meinz type was about 22 inches long, had an 8 inch triangular point and weighed about 8 pounds. The Pompeii model was 16 to 20 inches long and was used more as a chopping weapon rather than to thrust. The Gorean gladius more closely resembles the Meinz type. It is 20 to 22 inches long, double-edged, and well balanced. It can be used to thrust or cut.
The Roman gladius was forged from high-grade steel so it was very strong and would rarely break in combat. They did not revere their swords nor did they name their swords. To the Romans, their gladius was only a tool. Goreans do the same. They do not name or revere their swords. They treat it as an effective tool, making sure to care for it so it works well when needed.
Roman soldiers were not true swordsmen. They did not engage in protracted duelling. Sword battles were simple to them, just cut and thrust. Roman relied more on thrusts to kill their opponents than cuts. Due to the prevalence of armor, cuts would rarely make a killing strike. They would be more likely simply to wound. A thrust though, despite the armor, had a much greater success rate at kills. Because of this emphasis on thrusts, fighting with a gladius became akin to punching, relying on the same piston-like motion of the arm. Goreans, on the other hand, are very limited into the armor they can use, only a helmet and shield being permissible. Because of this, cuts with a gladius are as effective as a thrust for making killing strikes.
The Gorean Warrior Caste are also trained swordsmen, duelists. They learn how to use their gladius effectively and not simply as a cut and thrust weapon. Swordplay on Gor is elevated to a science and an art. The gladius has a number of benefits over a longer blade. The gladius is more maneuverable and can penetrate behind the guard of a longer weapon. A gladius can also clear a scabbard a fraction earlier than a longer weapon. That can be a sufficient advantage alone to win a battle. A man wielding a long sword must generally finish a battle in the first few thrusts or he will commonly lose the battle. One of the only major disadvantages of the short sword is that it is a poor weapon choice to use while mounted.
Miscellaneous Items
Aqueducts: These were invented by the Romans and were a way to transport water from one place to another, sometimes from a great distance even. Greeks used tunnels to transport water but the Romans added arches to make it more efficient. Aqueducts are considered one of Rome's greatest architectural achievements. Some Gorean cities, such as Torcodino, use aqueducts.
Artillery: Siege warfare existed in ancient Rome and they were familiar with the use of catapults and ballistae. In addition, the Roman, like Goreans, often used human hair as cordage for their artillery. The "onager" is a type of Roman catapult that is also used on Gor. "Onager" is a Latin word that means "wild ass," a nickname given to this catapult because of its powerful kick. Onagri is the plural form of this word. In the Gor novels, it is often called a chain-sling onager.
Baths: Roman baths, also known as "thermae," were very important to them. They were elaborate facilities including such areas as a changing room, cold room, warm room, hot room, dry sweating room; swimming area, garden and much more. They are very similar to the baths that exist on Gor.
Calendar: Roman calendars, like most Gorean calendars, mark their years according to the reign of their rulers.
Chariot Racing: Roman chariot racing was an exciting activity, made famous in the movie Ben-Hur. Gorean tarn racing resembles these chariot races. Chariot racers were divided into colored factions as are tarn racers. The infamous Emperor Caligula favored the Green chariot racing faction. In Assassin of Gor, the infamous Cernus also favored the Green faction of tarn racers. This may indicate some similarities between these two figures.
Feasts: The Romans were known for excess, especially in their parties and feasts. Some of these feasts would resemble the famed Turian feasts of Gor. They both would consist of many different courses of food and wine. In between courses, guests would be encouraged to use the Roman vomitarium to purge some of the food and drink they have already consumed. The Turians simply provided their guests a bowl for their purging.
Gladiatorial Games: Ancient Rome is famous for its gladiatorial games held in great stadiums. Some Gorean cities have very similar contests in special stadiums. For example, Ar has its Stadium of Blades.
Hail: The term "hail" was used as an honorific greeting in ancient Rome. It was reserved for special individuals such as leaders. "Hail" is used for a similar greeting on Gor.
Marlenus of Ar: It does not seem that too many characters in the Gorean series derive directly from Earth historical figures. There may be some basic similarities but there are also major differences as well. For example, Marlenus, the Ubar of Ar, seems to bear some similarities to Augustus, the first Emperor of Rome. Under the reign of Marlenus, Ar first became an empire, conquering twelve other cities. Marlenus also apparently created the Taurentians, similar to Augustus forming the Praetorian guard.
Phalanx: The phalanx was a very common tactic in ancient military campaigns but the Romans eventually advanced in their strategic thinking away from it. Around the 4th century B.C., the Romans chose to abandon the phalanx because it was found to be too inflexible to changes in tactics and not good on anything but flat terrain. The Romans divided their phalanxes into smaller groups, 120-man maniples, and arrayed these units in a gapped formation. Some Gorean cities have also evolved from the use of the phalanx to more flexible units like the Roman maniples.
Praetorian Guard: These were Rome's imperial guards, an elite force to protect the Emperor. They were created by Emperor Augustus and eventually became a political force in their own right, sometimes even choosing who will be the next Emperor. These men resemble the Taurentians of Ar, the Ubar's personal guards. They too got involved in politics during the Cosian/Ar war.
Saturnalia: This was a festive Roman holiday, held near the winter solstice. It was a joyous occasion for all with much celebrating and gift giving. It may also be some of the inspiration for the Gorean holiday of Kajuralia. First, consider the suffixes. It is a common Roman suffix for a holiday. Second, one aspect of Saturnalia is that slaves were given the day off from their normal duties. In fact, their owners might even serve them on this day. This aspect does resemble Kajuralia.
Ships: Roman ships, like Gorean ones, had eyes painted on them to reflect the superstition that a ship was considered "alive." The Latin word for a warship was "navis longa" which means "long ship." The term "long ship" is also used on Gor to refer to warships.
Wine: Both Greeks and Romans preferred wine over other alcohols. Distilled spirits, like brandy and whisky had not been invented. Beer was seen as a drink of barbarians. Roman wines, like those of ancient Greece as well, were often watered down due to their high alcohol count. Some Romans also preferred their wine to be heated. On Gor, wine is often watered down and some Goreans prefer their wine to be heated.