Tuesday, 27 September 2016

Meeting In Babylon II

For once, Poul Anderson does not describe a city. We are told that two disguised anthropologists, closely guided by fellow Time Patrol members, tour Hammurabi's Babylon in 1765 BC but we are not told what they see. This left me with the probably mistaken impression that the city was highly regimented, even hive-like, and that anyone who did not seem to be going about officially authorized business would be challenged.

When a Nantucketer enters the city in 10 AE, SM Stirling presents a description of street traffic very similar to those that Anderson gives us for other ancient cities:

gaping crowds;
a noble and his driver in a chariot;
acolytes around a priest with astrological symbols on his robes;
a proud scribe holding boards and stylus;
slaves bearing a courtesan in a litter.

Kathryn wishes that she could go incognito - like the Patrolmen. A broad processional street runs north and south parallel to the Euphrates, reminding us of Lir Way and Taranis Way in Ys.

1 comment:

Sean M. Brooks said...

Kaor, Paul!

It made sense for the Patrol's director of the Babylon Base in Hammurabi's time to carefully disguise and guide/guard short term visitors. Such persons would simply not be as familiar with local laws and customs--and possibly get into trouble as a result.

And your first paragraph reminded me of this bit from Poul Anderson's essay "On Thud and Blunder," from page 165 of FANTASY (TOR, September 1981): "Travel could be extremely difficult, not merely because of physical problems and robbers, but because of official wariness. Fire being another hazard very much in the public awareness, you could not get into a Danish town around 1500 without convincing documentation; the fear of foreign arsonists was that great. Doubtless it was unfounded, but we've seen enough popular paranoia in our own age, haven't we? Elsewhere the mayoralty might suppose you were a spy, or the guilds might not want to admit a new worker."