"Gor," he said, "is the name
of this world. In all the languages of this planet, the word means
Home Stone." He paused, noting my lack of comprehension. "Home
Stone," he repeated. "Simply that."
---Tarnsman of Gor, 2:26
In Tarnsman of Gor,
the first of the series of the Chronicles of the Counter
Earth, Matthew Cabot explains the planet to his newly arrived
son by making reference to Pythagoreans. If one researches
the Pythagorean theories, they quickly conclude that the
similarity in terms can hardly be coincidental.
As he spoke,
my father often referred to the planet Gor as the Counter-Earth,
taking the name from the writings of the Pythagoreans who had first
speculated on the existence of such a body. Oddly enough, one of
the expressions in the tongue of Gor for our sun was Lar-Torvis,
which means The Central Fire, another Pythagorean expression, except
that it had not been, as I understand it, originally used by the
Pythagoreans to refer to the sun but to another body....
---Tarnsman of Gor, 2:28
Pythagoras of Samos, born:
about 569 BC in Samos, Ionia, died: about 475 BC, is best remembered
as the mathematician whose scholars gave us the theorem that carries
his name. Little indeed is known of the man's actual works, as it
is said a very strict code of secrecy was part of the Pythagorean
'way'. In that sense, Pythagoreans themselves may well have been
the inspiration for John Norman's Caste of Initiates.
It is believed most
of the Pythagorean beliefs and customs were largely influenced
by Pythagoras's 535 BC trip to Egypt and his encounters
with Egyptian Priests. One can find many similarities in
'rules' or 'codes' between Pythagorean scholars and the
customs of Egyptian Priests, refusal to eat beans, refusal
to wear cloths made from animal skins, the mystery and secrecy
of their doings and research, the attributed mystical powers
and their striving for purity. These not only make Pythagoreans
and Egyptian Priests seem alike, but to the reader of Gor,
the 'aura' will be reminiscent of the descriptions John
Norman gives us of 'White Caste'.
Initiates claim to be the intermediaries between the Priest-Kings
and men. They have temples, rituals, ceremonies, etc. They
are celibate, eschew beans and study mathematics.
are much concerned with asceticism and purity, at least
officially. Their robes are long, severe, and white. Their
heads are shaved. They are suggested by blending elements
from the priesthood of Ancient Egypt with the Pythagorean
brotherhood. They are a powerful, but parasitical class,
rapacious and sanctimonious.
---John Norman, Letter to The Gorean Group, Sept 20th, 2000
What we do know about
Pythagoreans is that they claimed the existence of a Central
Fire, as well as that of a Counter-Earth. Oddly, their whole
basis for the Counter-Earth theory is one of absence. As
Pythagoreans believed there HAD to be ten bodies moving
through the heavens, the presence of only nine visible ones,
led to the belief that, as ten was the perfect number and
the basis for much of their theories, there necessarily
had to be a tenth, and therefore, hidden body.
was another possibility I mentioned to my father--perhaps
the planet had been in our system all the time, but had
been undiscovered, unlikely though that might be, given
the thousands of years of study of the skies by men, from
the shambling creatures of the Neander Valley to the brilliant
intellects of Mount Wilson and Palomar. To my surprise,
this absurd hypothesis was welcomed by my father.
he said with animation, "is the Theory of the Sun Shield."
He added, "That is why I like to think of the planet
as the Counter-Earth, not only because of its resemblance
to our native world, but because, as a matter of fact, it
is placed as a counterpoise to the Earth. It has the same
plane of orbit and maintains its orbit in such a way as
always to keep The Central Fire between it and its planetary
sister, our Earth, even though this necessitates occasional
adjustments in its speed of revolution."
---Tarnsman of Gor, 2:33
Aristotle, in referring
to the Pythagoreans, states :
say that the whole heaven is limited, the opposite to what
those of Italy, called the Pythagoreans, say; for these
say that fire is at the centre and that the earth is one
of the stars, and that moving in a circle about the centre
it produces night and day. And they assume yet another earth
opposite this which they call the counter-earth, not seeking
reasons and causes for phenomena, but stretching phenomena
to meet certain assumptions and opinions of theirs and attempting
to arrange them in a system.
---Phys. ii. 13; 293 a 19.
give an example of my meaning: inasmuch as ten seemed to
be the perfect number and to embrace the whole nature of
numbers, they asserted that the number of bodies moving
through the heavens were ten, and when only nine were visible,
for the reason just stated they postulated the counter-earth
as the tenth.
---Metaphys. i. 5 ; 985 b 23-986 b 8. [Page 137]
Gor then, may very well have
been inspired by the Pythagorean theories of the existence of a
Counter-Earth. As a matter of fact, such is stated in fairly clear
terms by Matthew Cabot himself. Certainly, that whole slice of Earth
history, be it from the Greek or Roman cultures in the case of high
civilizations, or the tribal, more barbaric cultures of the Vikings
and Huns, is ever present in the John Norman's world of Gor. Names
like Samos and Polycrates, the weapons used and the military formations,
the gladiatorial events for the purpose of disposing of prisoners,
the existence of institutionalized slavery, as well as many of the
items used in every day Gorean life, sometimes renamed, sometimes
not, can clearly be identified with one or the other of Earth's
Many feel that the
Gor series for a large part resembles Europe at the end
of the Roman Empire, 300 to 600 A.D. But Gor didn't exist,
According to The Atlas
of the Ancient World, a CDROM from Maris Multimedia, published
in 1997, it did. If one looks at this map of the Sassanian Empire,
600 A.D., southeast of Persepolis, near the Persian Gulf, Gor existed
1400 years ago
City of Gor is described as follows:
(Firuzabad) is a great Circular City built by the founder
of the Sassanian dynasty, King Ardashir 1. Huge clay double
ramparts forming a perfect circle surrounded the city. In
it were four main gates from which led the main thoroughfares
dividing the city into four equal sections. Where they crossed
at the center there was a square tower called a minar, either
a political symbol of the king's power and authority or
a religious building at the summit of which a sacred fire
Ardashir also had a massive palace built to the north of
the city. The three halls here are the earliest known examples
of square buildings roofed with circular domes using squinches
(half domes built across the corners to give an octagon
on which to construct the roof dome).
The city, which was known as 'Ardashir Khurrah' - 'the Glory
of Ardashir', may have been built to celebrate Ardashir's
victory over the Parthian king Artabanus V in AD 226.
Alternatively, its construction may have been the decisive
factor in provoking the conflict between these two rival
kings. Whatever the case may be, the city is a physical
testimony to the transfer of power in Persia from the Parthian
dynasty to the Sassanians.
© 1997 Maris Multimedia and its licensors
And yes, it still
exists, in the southwest of Iran, some 100 miles from the
East coast of the Persian Gulf (28.85 N - 52.32 O). In modern
maps it is still called Firuzabad, now a county and a city
in the province of Fars.
That one or any or all of
these elements were a part of John Norman's inspiration to one degree
or another, can be established by the similarities in terminology,
philosophies and descriptions found throughout history books and
comparing them to the Gor series. Gor cannot simply be looked at
as 'pure invention', as clearly the elements of research and the
quest for a world untainted by progress, be it at ecological, social,
or gender role level were not just inserted into Gor to add a little
color. Throughout the books, over and over, what John Norman speaks
of are ideals and beliefs that, in the civilizing of our world,
something was lost, or at least buried deeply enough that it is
now difficult to find.
To recapture this then, and
portrait a more primal type of world, in addition to the beliefs
and ways of simpler times, John Norman returns the land to near
prehistoric times. Carnivorous plants, savage beasts, harsh climate
and limited technology are but some of that which forces Goreans
to find their places within nature rather than forever being in
control of it. On Gor, man is but one part of all that is life.