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The "Short" History of Glorantha

The Red Moon
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"Gloranthan history is a lot shorter than Earth's, at least since the Dawn."

I'd like to weigh in against this odd interpretation, which seems to rely on comparing the 21st-century modern, literate, global society we live in today with the "Bronze Age" (read: ancient through mediaeval) world of Glorantha. Here's a few examples of what I'm on about.

When the Mycenean Greeks were camped outside Troy, we don't know how much "history" they had. They could look back to the previous "end of an Age" (Theseus overthrowing the Cretan Minotaur and destroying the Minoan middle sea empire), but probably saw this in mythical/heroic terms. The heroes traced their ancestry back a few generations to the gods, and were content with that.

When Augustus Caesar made himself the first Roman Emperor, the Romans had roughly 750 years of their own "history" (the earlier half of which was at least partly mythical, since the "end of an Age" when the Gauls sacked Rome and burnt the annals), and an indeterminate chunk of mythic "pre-history" borrowed from the Greeks (mostly to do with Trojan heroes escaping from the Iliad to Latium).

When Charlemagne was crowned Holy Roman Emperor on Christmas Day 800 AD, none of the Dark Age Frankish nobles and bishops "remembered" the Roman Empire. It was a bygone Golden Age: although Latin history books survived in monastic libraries, they had been unread for centuries. The Frankish sense of history derived largely from the Old Testament: righteous anointed kings smote their foes with the aid of the Lord God. What had happened before them in Gaul was not really relevant to their world-view.

The start of the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle is a wonderful confusion of names and dates: some bits are Biblical, others are Classical, Christian, or even derived from the legendary pagan genealogies of the Migration period. It's beautifully incoherent, and represents the finest scholarship of the period. Later, we have Geoffrey of Monmouth's account of the origins of Britain (named, of course, for Brutus the Trojan), another farrago of jumbled myth and invention, again written to prove a point (that Brits are better than Romans), rather than to make much coherent sense.

Mediaeval illustrators saw the heroes of the Matter of Troy and the Old Testament as knights in shining armour; books on heraldry included the coats of arms of such diverse persons as Hector the Trojan and Judas Maccabeus.

History for ancient/mediaeval people (like myself) is not about how many continuous years of events we can piece together from different annalistic sources, or about how accurate our vision of the past is: it's about how we see our place in the world, what we think of as important in determining our ancestry, our faith and our rule.

It seems to me that our poster is saying, "Because I know there have been five thousand or so years of recorded history, I am better informed than Gloranthans who can only look back for 1620 or so years before history is replaced by myth". Frankly, I find this rather silly: the Dara Happans, Malkioni, Kralorelans etc. know that they can trace back histories for thousands of generations, while for the Sartarites the Dragonkill War was "before our time" and history begins with King Sartar, just six or seven generations back. Apart from the really long-running feuds, that is...

Besides, 1700 years is a LONG time. Things change. One of my favourite things about Glorantha (as compared to other fantasy settings) is that the history is hectic, confusing and changeable. Societies evolve and decline; belief systems change; there is a vast difference between the different Ages of history. There's none of this "the Second Age lasted for three thousand years, after which the Evil Dark Lord attacked the Good Kingdom again and the ancient alliance between Men and Trees was invoked once more" rubbish. If history worked that way, the Gulf War would have been fought as revenge for the Battle of Kadesh...

History is a very busy place at times. "Only 1700 years", my foot! There are serious people around today who think our world was created just 6000 years ago (and will shortly be wound up), while the Dara Happans can trace over a hundred thousand years of glorious Imperial rule. Who's got a short history now, eh?

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Glorantha, HeroQuest, Hero Wars, and Issaries are trademarks of Issaries, Inc. The contents of this page are copyright by Nick Brooke, 2003; any material derived from Greg Stafford's world of Glorantha is also copyright by Greg Stafford. Glorantha is the creation of Greg Stafford, and is used with his permission.

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