Stygia is a country of the Hyborian Age.
Stygia is located south of Shem and north of the Black Kingdoms . Much of its borders are defined by the river Styx. Stygia's terrain is a mix of mountains, desert, plains, and marshes.
- Khemi, Stygia's priestly capital, if not the royal one, is located at the northeastern tip of the country where the bordering Styx river empties into the Western Sea. The Hour of the Dragon mentions a dead nameless city that is the true religious centre of Stygia.
- Luxur, the royal capital of Stygia, lies a hundred miles south of the Styx on the tributary Bakhr River, almost exactly halfway between the east and west borders. The City of Kings was built around and eventually engulfed an oasis in the desert. Foreign traders find it easier to sell their wares here rather than the much more regulated Khemi.
- Pteion is an abandoned, cursed city in eastern Stygia, rumored to have been built by the serpent men of Valusia. It was a home to the black wizards before the deserts encroached upon it and the wizards fled to Khemi during the Seventh Dynasty.
- Independent Harakht, the City of the Hawk God, is located along the river Styx. Its independence is only barely tolerated being used a buffer between Stygia and Shem. The city is defended by giant hawks and their riders, grown to enormous size by a mysterious green star-rock discovered by a former ruler.
- Khesatta, City of Magicians, is a walled city located in the southern mountains.
- Kutchemes a city in what is now eastern Shem, was ruled by the sorcerer Thugra Khotan in ancient times. He expanded Stygia to its territorial height, but his forces were later defeated by the Kothian incursion. Kutchemes was left in ruins, but he managed to survive.
- Sukhmet, a slaver city bordering the cannibal country of Darfar.
History and politics
Stygia has existed as a pre-human kingdom south of Thuria, since before the Cataclysm, which left her untouched. After the Cataclysm however, a civilization who had oppressed the Lemurians far in the east of Thuria were overthrown, and its survivors came and conquered Stygia.
Stygia is an intensely insular country. Though in ancient times its borders have extended very far, encompassing Shem and the fertile uplands of Koth, Ophir, and Argos. Their empire was defeated, about three thousand years before the time of Conan, and driven back below the Styx by the Kothian barbarians that razed Kutchemes to the ground. Now Stygias external power has diminished, and its rulers hold the borders very strictly.
Stygia is technically a monarchy, with a ruling family and line of noble succession.The daughter-kingdoms of Stygia, like Kutchemes and Acheron, were obviously priest-monarchies ruled by priest-kings. In "The Phoenix on the Sword", Thoth-Amon reveals that the king casts down and elevates priests and mages at his own will..Note that when priestmage Orastes resurrects Xaltotun in The Hour of the Dragon with an incantation to Skelos, old when Atlantis was young, he wears an ermine-brimmed cloak, a traditional royal attribute. The most recent monarchs have been Thugra Mentuphera (killed during a Taian rebellion), succeeded by his son Ctesphon II (slain by Belit), Ctesphon III (the sister of Ctesphon II and one of the few women to rule as monarch), and during the reign of Conan in Aquilonia, Ctsephon IV. However, sorcerors such as Hath-Horeb and Thoth-Amon have long held great power in the affairs of the nation.
One of the most notable features of Stygia's ancient history is the former kingdom of Acheron. Though in the time of the Nemedian Chronicles, Acheron is long forgotten by most, in its day it was a truly powerful and terrifying land ruled by black sorcery. The northeastern province Taia is ruled by Governor Wenamon, and its militia commanded by Shuat. Its ancient (now abandoned) capital was Thuran, conquered by Stygians 500 years ago.
Aquilonia's conquests were pushed to the Nilus, where their armies slaughtered the Stygian army. The king of Stygia sent tribute to divert invasion of his kingdom.
Stygia overthrew an attempt by the Kingdoms of Shem to conquer Stygia. But a Stygian army was defeated by the Hyrkanians at Nilus and the country was over-run by the invaders until the Amazon. It was because of the Pictish thrusts on their western conquests that they couldn't afford conquering all Stygia. However Stygia was shaken by the war and was afterwards encroached by the black kingdoms, while oppressed by the cruel aristocratic reigning class.
During the Nordic drift, red-haired Vanir migrated southwards from Zingara. These found the slaves and led them to a general revolt and overthrew the ruling class. After setting themselves up as a caste of conquerors, the ancestors of the Pharaohs, they subjugated the northern-most black kingdoms, and Stygia became a vast empire, which they called Egypt. The vanir are red-haired because ancient Egyptian legends say that Egypt was founded by "red-haired" conquerors.
Population and culture
Stygian royalty and certain lines of ancient nobility were typically relatively tall people with ivory skin and dark brown or black hair. The rest of the nobility and the influential middle class are typically dusky-skinned and hawk-faced. The lower classes and the slaves typically have lighter ancestry, often (though not always) resulting from mating among Stygians themselves, Kushites, Shemites, and most especially Hyborians from the northeastern core.
Stygia is ruled by a theocracy of sorcerer-kings. Magic, human sacrifices, and slavery are common in Stygia.
The people are typically tan-like skinned with black hair. Many of the common people are descendants of various races across the world, including men of Shem, the Black Kingdoms, and the Hyborian kingdoms. Taians from the northeast province are taller, more slender, and darker of skin than the average Stygian, wearing dyed kilts to show clan allegiance.
Since ancient times, Stygians worshipped the chaos serpent god Set. Perhaps this is a construed political religion with a construed godhead, probably inspired by the Serapis cult of Ptolemaic Egypt. This was a mixture of Greek Hades (Stygia) and Egyptian Osiris. The commoners may be scions of the human slaves of the serpent men of old. The exchange of a non-human master race for an inhuman one perhaps was nothing for them to be happy about, but the conquerors understood to play on this and turn it to their own advantage. The elite perhaps worship "The great dark nameless one" (Skelos?Ahriman?). His cult was always strong in Stygia, although worship of the noble and peaceful heron god Ibis took root in the Hyborian age; however, Thoth-Amon banned the worship of Ibis and instituted the worship Set by force once more.
Stories set in Stygia
Characters from Stygia
- Thoth-Amon- High priest of Set at Luxur, and a very powerful sorcerer. What we see and hear of him in "The Phoenix on the Sword" (the only Robert E. Howard story where he appears), however, indicate that his reputation is much greater than himself.
- Kalanthes- A high ranking priest of Ibis.
- Thugra Khotan- Ancient ruler of Kuthchemes and powerful sorcerer of Set. In his ravings, when confronting Conan, is a vainglorious egomaniac respecting or believing in nothing but himself. The same for Thulsa Doom in "Delcardes cat", the only Howard story where he appears. To some degree, this also applies the priest Thutotmes in The Hour of the Dragon. Thugra Khotan in his ravings reveals that the "Blood-sacrifices" of Set-worship actually serves to enhance the magical power of the perpetrator. Xaltotun indicates the same in The Hour of the Dragon. Another indication that Set-worship is to no small degree a facade, indeed perhaps a bogus.
- Prince Kutamun- A rebel prince that joined forces with Natohk (Thugra Khotan).
- Lord Thotothmes- A high priest of Set.
- Hath-Horeb- A Stygian wizard.
- Princess Akivasha- A princess who became a vampire some ten thousand years ago. Akiwayya was the name of the Egyptians of Greek. Note Ptolemaic rule in Egypt. According to some sources, Thais initiated the burning of the royal palace of conquered Persia.
- Thothmekri- Ancient high priest of Set, revived by the Heart of Ahriman improperly and became an animate mummy.
- Thalis- A beautiful Stygian princess who sought refuge in Xuthal. Thais was allegedly a concubine of Ptolemy I ,a general of Alexander the Great and founder of the Ptolemaic dynasty.
- Ctesphon, the king of Stygia who, according to Thoth-Amon, casts down and elevates priests and mages at his own will. He is probably a priest-king, like the rulers of Stygia's daughter kingdoms, like Kutchemes and Acheron. He may be the pontiff of maltheists in Conan's world and probably serves the gods that the white-skinned elite did worship before conquering the land of the serpent-men and founding Stygia. With white skin instead of green(!) and the black ring on his finger the purple-robed dark mage depicted in Marvels Handbook of the Conan universe might be Ctesphon.