Ankh-Morpork

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Ankh-Morpork
(Modern Morporkian)
Ankhius et Morporkia
(Latatian, the Old Language)
Coat of arms: A shield, quartered by a river (the Ankh) and tower (the Tower of Art). The quarters bear two moneybags, a field of cabbages and the unmarked black field of the Vetinaris.
The shield is supported by two hippopotami and crested with a morpork holding an ankh.
mottos: Quanti canicula ille in fenestra
(Latatian: How much is that small dog in the window)

Merus in pectum et in aquam
(Latatian: Pure in heart and water)

Official language Morporkian is de facto
Patrician Lord Havelock Vetinari
Area Approx 50 mile² (130 km² including surrounding fiefdom
Population Approx. 1,000,000 (including surrounding fiefdom)
Establishment Founded 2564 years before AM dating
Modern city-state established 4th Grune 1688 AM
Currency Ankh-Morpork Dollar
National anthem We can rule you wholesale

Ankh-Morpork is a fictional city-state which features in Terry Pratchett's Discworld series of fantasy novels. As cities go, it is on the far side of corrupt and polluted, and is subject to outbreaks of comedic violence and brou-ha-ha on a fairly regular basis. It is home to Unseen University, a centre of magical learning.

Ankh-Morpork is also the mercantile capital of the Disc, and the books give an excellent flavour of a "working" quasi-medieval city. Even when it is under attack from a dragon, the vegetable carts still have to come in.

In The Art of Discworld Pratchett explains that the city is similar to Tallinn and central Prague, but adds that it has elements of 18th century London, 19th century Seattle and modern New York. He also states that, since the creation of The Streets of Ankh-Morpork, he has tried to ensure that the descriptions of character movements and locations in the books match the Ankh-Morpork map; this has allowed him, and fans of the series, to visualise the story more clearly.

Contents

Geography

Ankh-Morpork lies on the River Ankh (the most polluted waterway on the Discworld), where the fertile loam of the Sto Plains (similar to Western Europe) meets the Circle Sea (the Discworld's version of the Mediterranean). This, naturally, puts it in an excellent trading position.

Lying about equidistant from the cold Hub and tropical Rim, Ankh-Morpork is in the Discworld's equivalent of the temperate zone.

The name "Ankh-Morpork" refers to both the city itself, a walled city about a mile (1.6 km) across, and the surrounding suburbs and farms of its fiefdom.

The central city divides more or less into Ankh (the posh part) and Morpork (the humble part, which includes the slum area known as "the Shades"), which are separated by the River Ankh.

Ankh-Morpork is built on black loam, broadly, but mostly what it is built on is more Ankh-Morpork. Because of the nature of the Ankh-Morpork citizenry and the flooding of the River Ankh, they figured it was simply easier to build on top of the existing buildings when the sediment grew too high, rather than excavate them out. This has resulted in two things: Firstly, many people own basements and have no idea they do. Secondly, there is a "cave network" below Ankh-Morpork made up of old streets and abandoned sewers – these "unknown basements" allow people to get around relatively unimpeded.

The River Ankh

Even before it enters Ankh-Morpork, the River Ankh is full of silt from the plains; by the time it gets to the seaward side of the city, "even an agnostic could walk across it".

The citizens of the city are strangely proud of this fact, even going so far as to say that "it is easier to suffocate than drown in the Ankh". They also claim it to be the purest water on the Disc, as "Anything that's passed through so many kidneys has to be very pure indeed". Owing to the build-up of centuries, the bed of the river is higher than some parts of the city. When winter snows swell the flow, the low-rent areas of Morpork flood. In spring some parts catch fire, and others sprout small trees.

In the times when the city catches fire, the river gates are closed, and the river rises and smothers the flames.

History

According to legend, the first city of Ankh-Morpork was founded thousands of years ago by twin brothers who were raised by a hippopotamus (an allusion to the myth of Romulus and Remus). It is in memory of this that the hippo is the royal animal of Ankh. The original city was little more than a walled keep, surrounding the Tower of Art, a building of mysterious origin.

At one point it had an empire, similar to the Roman Empire, that covered half the continent, and much of the neighbouring continent of Klatch. These were the days of the "Pax Morporkia", another reference to Rome, (Pax Romana), although the Morporkian version is translated as "Do not fight, or we will kill you".

The Empire was largely the creation of General Tacticus, the greatest military mind in history - an obvious play on words. Tacticus refused to accept that the Empire was growing too big to control, and was finally shipped off to be king of Genua. As king he decided that the greatest threat to Genua was the Empire, and declared war on it.

This was a Golden Age, ruled by the Kings of Ankh, who are recalled in legend as wise, noble and fair. The line died out approximately 2000 years before the present, leading to the collapse of the empire.

Shortly before this, however, the mage Alberto Malich had founded the Unseen University in the Tower of Art, and Ankh-Morpork continued as a service town for the wizards.

Royalty became extremely debased and the later kings of Ankh-Morpork are recalled in history as power-mad and corrupt. Some are mentioned by name in Men at Arms:

  • Queen Alguinna IV
  • King Cirone IV
  • Queen Coanna
  • King Loyala the Aaargh (Had a 1.13 second rule from coronation to assassination) -The Discworld Companion
  • King Ludwig the Tree (Known to issue royal proclamations on the need to develop a new type of frog and similar important matters)-The Discworld Companion
  • King Paragore
  • King Tyrril (ruled circa AM 907)
  • King Veltrick III
  • Webblethorpe the Unconscious

The last and worst - the euphemistically-remembered Lorenzo the Kind (the full extent of whose infamy is not revealed, save that he was said to be "very fond of children" and have had in his dungeons "machines for . . .") - was overthrown in the Ankh-Morpork Civil War of 1688 (dating from the founding of UU). The question of what to do with the deposed king (no judge would try him) was settled when he was executed by the then Commander of the City Watch, Suffer-Not-Injustice Vimes. Known as "Old Stoneface", his regicide resulted in his being banned from bearing arms. Afterwards "Old Stoneface" (an ancestor of the current City Watch Commander Samuel Vimes) and his Ironheads attempted to introduce democracy, but the people voted against it. Ankh-Morpork reverted to an non-hereditary oligarchic system. The Patrician rules the city, and operates a specialised form of one man, one vote democracy: the Patrician is the Man, and he has the Vote.

Under the Patricians it has become the mercantile and political capital of the Discworld. So much so that the Sto Plains operates under a new Pax Morporkia: "If you fight, we'll call in your mortgages. And incidentally that's my pike you're pointing at me. I paid for that shield you're holding. And take my helmet off when you speak to me, you horrible little debtor." The current Patrician has opened the city to dwarfs, trolls, gnomes, humans from across the Disc and even the undead, making a truly multicultural society, with both the advantages and problems that suggests. (The Patrician's own, typically pragmatic, view on multiculturalism is "Alloys are stronger".)

In recent years, the city has seen numerous changes. Most notable are the rise of the semaphore network (the "clacks"), the invention of the newspaper and the revitalisation of the City Watch and the Post Office.

Civic symbols include Morporkia, a woman in a cabbage-spangled cloak and an old-fashioned helmet, carrying a shield with the civic coat of arms and a toasting-fork symbolising "something or other" (compare Britannia, Columbia).

Politics

The succession of the Patrician is normally either by assassination or revolution. It has been known for Patricians to resign, but it is very much the exception.

Power is to some degree shared with the many Guilds of Ankh-Morpork (including legalised Thieves, Assassins and "Seamstresses"), and the surviving nobility. They form a sort of city council, but the Patrician has the only vote at meetings.

The most recent office-holder is Lord Havelock Vetinari, a former assassin.

The nearest surviving relative of the former royal family seems to be Captain Carrot Ironfoundersson, technically a dwarf. However, he has gone to some effort to keep this as quiet as possible. The origin of Corporal Nobby Nobbs remains shrouded in mystery. At one point he was identified as being a descendant of the Earl of Ankh (and therefore the next in line), but this was (probably?) a deliberate deception.

A Patrician has almost absolute power over the affairs of the city and works together with the leaders of the city's Guilds, who are the ones who unofficially elect him in the first place. Eligible for election are members of rich and influential families. Unfortunately, almost all of the people who have held the post through the years proved once in office to be little different from a king, except that power did not pass automatically to their descendants. They were despotic, oppressive and fairly often mad. Past Patricians have included:

  • Mad Lord Snapcase (preceded Vetinari)
  • Homicidal Lord Winder (preceded Snapcase)
  • Deranged Lord Harmoni
  • Laughing Lord Scapula
  • Frenzied Earl Hargath
  • Nersh the Lunatic
  • Giggling Lord Smince
  • Olaf Quimby II

Public holidays

Date Name
1 Ick Hogswatch Day (New Year, Christmas)
28 April The Creator's birthday
1 May May Day (also called May Blossom Day)
25 May The Twenty-Fifth Of May (commemorates the last Ankh-Morpork revolution, but only if you participated)
6 Grune Patrician's Day (in reality Stephen Briggs' birthday)
The first Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday after the last half moon in Sektober Soul Cake Days
31 December Hogswatch Eve
32 December Hogswatchnight

References

  • Pratchett, Terry (1983). The Colour of Magic. Colin Smythe.
  • Pratchett, Terry (1989). Guards! Guards!. Gollancz.
  • Pratchett, Terry (1993). Men At Arms. Gollancz.
  • Pratchett, Terry (1996). Feet of Clay. Gollancz.
  • Pratchett, Terry (1997). Jingo. Gollancz.
  • Pratchett, Terry (2000). The Truth. Gollancz.
  • Pratchett, Terry (2002). Night Watch. Gollancz.
  • Pratchett, Terry & Briggs, Stephen (1993). The Streets Of Ankh Morpork. Corgi.
  • Pratchett, Terry & Briggs, Stephen (2003). The Discworld Companion (3rd ed.). Gollancz.
  • Pratchett, Terry & Pearson, Bernard (2004). The Discworld Almanak. Doubleday.
  • Pratchett, Terry & Kidby, Paul (2004). The Art of Discworld ISBN 0575075112. Gollancz.de:Ankh-Morpork

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