Shem

"BÍlit's eyes were like a woman's in a trance. The Shemite soul finds a bright drunkenness in riches and material splendor, and the sight of this treasure might have shaken the soul of a sated emperor of Shushan." -- Robert E. Howard: "Queen of the Black Coast"


The provinces of Shem

A southern kingdom bounded on the west by the Western Ocean, on the east by the Eastern Desert, on the south by Stygia, and on the north by Argos, Koth and Khoraja.

Western Shem was a fertile meadowland with cities and city-states in the hills. The land became more and more arid as one traveled the caravan routes eastward; but busy trade-centers continued to abound. There was constant warfare between the meadow cities and those of the desert.

Anciently the lands of Shem were part of the Old Stygian Empire. Nomadic savages of the eastern borders of Shem-Stygia, called the Sons of Shem, slowly attained a higher level of culture through contact with the Stygians. We have presumed a subsequent westward movement of vigorous Shemite peoples, who intermarried with the Stygians of the coastal meadowlands.

It may be presumed that the Old Stygian Empire did little with its subject lands north of the Styx other than graze herds and undertake agriculture on a small scale. If Stygia had prospered mightily in the trans-Nilotic area, it would have fought harder to keep it when the invading Kothians came down from the North.

Asgalun

The genes of Hybori and Stygians combined with those of west-drifting Shemites to produce a fierce, hybrid people who established the city-states of western Shem after casting off the yoke of Koth.

The gods of the Shemites were Ishtar, Ashtoreth, Derketo, Adonis, and Bel. The people were primarily pastoralists, raising cattle in the lush meadows and sheep in the marginal areas. The land was also suited to specialized agriculture -- such as the growing of wine-grapes and other fruits -- as well as to the growing of grain. There were also reserves of copper and gold.

The vigor and intelligence of the Shemites led them to prosper in other commercial areas such as textile production and small manufactures. They also produced an important warrior-clan, the Asshuri, who saw service as mercenaries in many parts of the Hyborian world. They probably arose in response to early Kothian invasions.

The Shemites of Conan's time had little truck with the cheapjack coasting galleys of Argos and Zingara. Rather, they were overland traders. However, some Argossean galleys traded mirrors, silk cloaks, gilded helmets and swords for Shemite copper and gold.

The Aquilonian Empire that arose after the reign of Conan dominated Shem. Later, when Aquilonia had to withdraw to protect itself against the Picts, Shem began to feel its oats. It conquered neighboring Koth and tried unsuccessfully to invade Stygia. Not long after this, Shem's dreams of glory were destroyed by invading Hyrkanians, who held sway over the land until the advance of the glaciers and the birth of the Mediterranean Sea drowned the once proud nation under fathoms of saltwater.


  • Abbaddrah: A Shemitish city-state that lies in the eastern meadowlands along the banks of the River Styx east of Luxor. It is a surprisingly upright and compact city of white domes, surrounded by a thick battlemented wall. It is the junction of caravan roads leading to Asgalun in the west and Eruk in the north. To the northeast of the city lies a magnificent cedar forest. (Conan the Raider)
  • Akbitana: Also spelled Akbatana, a desert city of Shem situated south of Khoraja. It was a center of trading and steel making. (Black Colossus, Jewels of Gwahlur)
  • Akkharia: One of the southernmost city-states of Shem. (Hawks over Shem, Witch Shall Be Born, Black Tears, Conan and the Emerald Lotus)
  • Anakia: A city-state of Shem. (Hawks over Shem, Witch Shall Be Born, Return of Conan, Conan and the Grim Grey God)
  • Aphaki: A people, originally from Shem (Aphaka?), who migrated southwestward and established the city of Tombalku in the Southern Desert of Kush. (Drums of Tombalku)
  • Asgakin: A city-state of Shem famed for its copper craftsmen. (Conan the Guardian)
  • Asgalun: Or Askalon, the most important coastal city of Shem, situated on the Asgalun River. Asgalun was the capital of the region of Pelishtia, a degenerate metropolis that was "a contrast of splendor and decay". The royal palace was in a walled inner city. BÍlit's people were once "kings in Asgalun". (Queen of the Black Coast, Hawks over Shem, Jewels of Gwahlur, Lord of the Black River)
  • Asgalun River: A great Shemitish river that winds eastward through the vineyards of Kyros and Ghaza. (Conan and the Grim Grey God)
  • Ashabal: A Shemitish town a half days walk west of Nakhmet along the north bank of the River Styx. There is a great temple to Ashar, god of winds, located there. (Conan the Bold)
  • Ashur: An ancient Shemitish maritime nation that existed fifteen hundred years before Conan's age. Its chief seaport was located on the site of present-day Asgalun. The nation existed for three hundred years before its destruction, exploring coasts from far to the north of Vanaheim to the very southern tip of the continent, and beyond. One expedition is said to have reached Vendhya by sailing to the south. After an earthquake leveled the walls and much of the city, local Shemites looted Ashur, destroying it utterly. (Conan and the Treasure of Python)
  • Asshuri: A group, possibly a clan, of Shemitic mercenaries having origins in the city-states of Nippr, Shumir, and Eruk, among others. Nippr and Shumir developed warriors during Shem's breakaway from Stygia. Eruk's fighters arose in response to Kothian invasions. (Black Colossus, Road of Eagles, Witch Shall Be Born, Conan and the Grim Grey God)
  • Azilis: A nomadic tribe of desert raiders that live in the Southern Desert around Qjara. (Conan the Outcast)
  • Baalur: A Shemitish city-state, the octagonal-walled city lies in the foothills of the Pyrrhenian Mountains. The city-state is the richest of all the Shemitish city-states in crops and husbandry. It is a major caravan center, lying between the Hyborean lands and the sunny, southern realms. (Lord of the Black River)
  • BÍcharadur: A coastal city-state in the meadow region of Shem. (Conan the Barbarian #179, "The End of All There Is", by James Owsley)
  • Booty Island: The island where Conan buries his treasure as a pirate of the Barachans, off the coast of Shem. (Savage Sword #190-193, "Skull on the Sea", by Roy Thomas)
  • Buryat: A city of dwarf-men located south of Akkharia, in southwestern Shem. The "Sea of Buryat", a rank ocean of plumed and waving grass surrounds the city to such a height that the city cannot be discerned from a distance. (Conan the Barbarian #104, "Sons of the Bear-God", by Roy Thomas)
  • City of Brass: A ruined, ancient city that lies in the desert of eastern Shem. The city is the ruins of the Holy City of Nithia, destroyed by the Acheronian army three thousand years before Conan's age. Marvelous verses are writ in gold on its marble walls. It is rumored to appear only once every century, and to be the resting-place of an incredible artifact, a statue called the "Grim, Grey God". (Conan and the Grim Grey God, Conan and the Amazon)
  • Dan-Marcah: A free city on the northern coast of Shem, near the Argossian border. BÍlit's father was from this small city. (Conan the Rebel)
  • Eastern Desert: Name given to the entire vast arid region east of the Hyborian kingdoms, Shem and Stygia, lying between their eastern borders and the mountains along the Vilayet Sea. (Hawks Over Shem, et al.)
  • Eruk: A city-state of Shem, on the main caravan route. (Black Colossus)
  • Fire, Mountains of: A range of volcanoes on the northern border of Shem, the northeast edge lies within sight of the foothills of the southern Kezankian Mountains. (Conan and the Grim Grey God, Conan the Hunter)
  • Ghaza: A western Shemitish city-state famed for its expensive wine, which was exported via the caravan route to Zamboula. It lies on the Asgalun River, near Kyros. (Shadows in Zamboula, Conan and the Grim Grey God)
  • Kaetta: A small, Shemitish city-state that lies between the River Styx and the ruins of Nithia. It sits atop a plateau, affording a panoramic view of the desert for leagues in all directions. While the inhabitants worship the god, Mitra, his temple is actually an ancient temple of Ibis. Opals are the main export of this city. Kaetta sits atop a spring of cold, fresh water. (Conan and the Grim Grey God)
  • Khyfa: A mountainous Shemitish realm, the inhabitants are loyal Mitra worshippers. They destroyed the empire of Amentet in a holy war seven hundred years before Conan's age. (Conan and the Grim Grey God)
  • Kuthchemes: A ruined city with an ivory dome, situated in the desert southeast of Shem, to the southwest was the Big Bend of the Styx. The city flourished 3000 years before Conan's time, contemporaneous with Acheron and Old Stygia. The ancient god Zug lives at the bottom of a pit beneath the ruins, next to the subterranean "River of Darkness". (Black Colossus, Flame Knife, Conan the Barbarian #250, "Chaos Beneath Kuthchemes", by Roy Thomas)
  • Kyros: A western Shemitish city-state famed for its expensive wine. It lies on the Asgalun River. (Flame Knife, Conan the Buccaneer, Conan and the Grim Grey God)
  • Libnun Hills: A small area of uplands south of Asgalun in western Shem. (Hawks Over Shem)
  • Nakhmet: A small Shemitish town on the north bank of the River Styx across from the Khopshef Province. (Conan the Bold)
  • Nameless Isle: Or Siojina-Kisua, an island in the Western Ocean, a "remnant" (more likely an island possession) of vanished Valusia, lying due south of the coast of Shem. The island had a temple of alien architecture, home of the toad-god Tsathoggua, who was worshipped by serpent-men. (Conan the Buccaneer, Conan of the Isles)
  • Nedrezzar: A Shemitish city-state located on the Incense Road between Baalur and Asgalun in western Shem. Its northern border with Baalur is the Asgalun River. (Lord of the Black River)
  • Nippr: A city-state of Shem, on the caravan route. (Black Colossus)
  • Pashtun: A city situated on an island just north of center on the River Styx. The city is claimed by neither Shem nor Stygia, and acts as both riverport and clearing-house for goods traveling or crossing the river. (Conan the Bold)
  • Pelishtia: A region in Shem. Its capital was Asgalun. (Hawks Over Shem, Devil in Iron, Jewels of Gwahlur, Witch Shall Be Born)
  • Pyrrhenian Mountains: A lofty range in northwestern Shem, beneath them are some of the best and most fertile croplands in the country. (Lord of the Black River)
  • Qjara: A city-state of the Shemitish League in the great Southern Desert. It is a caravan-city, well known for its trade in salt. A river marsh lies along the city's north side, whose source is in the snow-capped Mountains of Desperation to the north. There is a low, eastward running mountain range to the southeast of Qjara. The city-state of Sark lies many leagues across the desert to the southwest. (Conan the Outcast)
  • Sabatea: Shemitish city of evil repute, on the Stygian border near the Taian Mountains, just west of the Shan-e-Sorkh. The city's people worshiped a golden peacock by means of abominable rites. The Wizards of the Black Ring had their headquarters here. (Hawks Over Shem, Flame Knife, Hour of the Dragon, Conan the Hunter)
  • Saridis: A walled free-town of Shem serving wayfarers, merchants, and Asshuri of all callings. It sits upon the crossing of diverse roads, where the borders of the city-states of Ghaza, Kyros, Anakia, and Akkharia meet. It lies one days ride south from the village of Varhia. (Conan and the Grim Grey God)
  • Sendaj: A squalid, riverside hamlet of western Shem. (Conan the Gladiator)
  • Shem, Sons of: A group of nomadic, savage clans that dwelt along the eastern fringe of Old Stygia several thousand years after the Cataclysm. They were the principle ancestors of the Shemites. (Hyborian Age I)
  • Shumir: An ancient city in Shem, birthplace of the god Bel. (Queen of the Black Coast, Hawks Over Shem)
  • Shushan: An ancient city of Shem, called "imperial". (The empire would have to be that of Old Stygia.) Its women dressed in barbaric splendor. (Queen of the Black Coast, Witch Shall Be Born, Devil in Iron)
  • Shushan River: A Shemitish watercourse. (Conan the Barbarian #249, "Red Wind", by Roy Thomas)
  • Simura, Gate of: The entry to Asgalun. (Hawks Over Shem)
  • Skauraul, Stronghold of: An ancient, ruined, green-stone tower found in the Shan-e-Sorkh desert of southeast Shem. (Conan the Hunter)
  • Tal'ib: The "City in the Waste" is the haunted ruins of the long-dead city of Yb. The only source of water to be found in the area known as the "Waste", the oasis of Tal'ib lies in the southern gorge in the Mountains of Desperation. The name Tal'ib means the "Mound of Yb" in Shemitish. (Conan the Outcast)
  • Thujara: A town of the Shemitish plains that has sun-baked mud walls. It lies amid grainfields and pasturelands. (Conan the Gladiator)
  • Urgal: A village of eastern Shem. (GURPS Conan)
  • Varhia: A border-village that lies between the city-states of Ghaza and Kyros in the meadowlands of Shem. (Conan and the Grim Grey God)
  • Waste, The: A barren, desolate desert in eastern Shem, the dusty red valley appears to be the bed of an ancient dead sea. It stretches dead flat from the near vertical base of the Desperation Mountains, to the scarified jaws that sustain Zhafur's Fangs, to the crumbling Blood of Attlos peaks. Across the waste, shards and monoliths lie scattered like toy idols. At the base of the Desperation chain is an oasis called Tal'ib, the "City in the Waste". (Conan the Outcast)
  • Yamman: A small Shemitish city-state lying southwest of Khoraja. (Conan the Barbarian #247, "The Sword That Conquers All", by Roy Thomas)
  • Zuagir: A numerous and aggressive Shemitic nomad tribe of the Eastern Desert. They were accustomed to raid the caravans moving from Hyborian lands to the south and east, and even penetrated into Khauran. Conan led a band of them when he was about 30. Among the bands mentioned are the Dniri, Duali, Kharoya, and Qirlata. (Bloodstained God, Hawks Over Shem, Witch Shall Be Born, Flame Knife, Red Nails, Shadows in Zamboula, Return of Conan, Conan the Marauder, et al.)

References: Hyborian Age I-II, Tower of the Elephant, Queen of the Black Coast, Shadows in the Moonlight, Witch Shall Be Born, Black Colossus, Hour of the Dragon, et al.

  • Population: 6,300,000
  • Capital: Asgalun (pop. 410,000)
  • Ruler: King Akhirom (Pelishtia)
  • Major cities: Akhlat, Anakia, Akkaria, Nippr, Eruk, Shumir, Sabatea, Ataku
  • Resources: Cattle, sheep, wine, grapes, fruit, grain, copper, gold
  • Imports: Mirrors, silks, armor, weapons
  • Allies:
  • Enemies: Koth, Stygia
  • Tech level: Bronze age
  • Religion: Ishtar, Pteor, Bel, Nergal, Set, Ashtoreth