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.
| 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 miles² (130 km²) including surrounding fiefdom|
|Population||Approx. 1,000,000 (including surrounding fiefdom) including approx. 50,000 Dwarfs (Discworld's largest dwarf population outside of Uberwald)|
|Establishment|| Founded 2564 years before AM dating |
Modern city-state established 4th Grune 1688 AM
|Currency||Ankh-Morpork Dollar (AM$)|
|National anthem||We can rule you wholesale|
Ankh-Morpork is also the mercantile capital of the Discworld, and the books give a 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 City. 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. Ankh-Morpork is also referred to as "The Great [or Big] Wahoonie" on occasions, alluding to "The Great Wen" (London), or to "The Big Apple" (New York). There are also strong parallels with the political structure, economy, social structure, topography and history of the city-state Florence during the Renaissance.
Lying approximately equidistant from the cold Hub and tropical Rim, Ankh-Morpork is in the Discworld's equivalent of the temperate zone.
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: First, many people own basements and have no idea they do. Second, 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 city's dwarf population have extended this into a complex network of tunnels, which has recently been made municipal property.
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" (although in The Truth, Arnold Sideways plays it safe by distributing his weight over boards).
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." (A reference to the saying that London tap-water is allegedly filtered by seven sets of kidneys). 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 of the river catch fire, others sprout small trees and also the spray of the Ankh turns into a shade of green. Wading birds are apparently uncommon, as their legs would be eaten away by the pollution. Such fish as are known to exist are described as looking like vacuum cleaners, and explode when brought to clean water. There are a lot of microorganisms living in the river, which Mustrum Ridcully believed was proof that the water was safe to drink - as anything capable of supporting that much life had to be healthy.
Although some cities have been invaded by barbarians approaching by river, there is small danger of this with the Ankh, since any invasion fleet would have to be preceded by a gang of men wielding shovels. If this does happen, there is a magic horn in the Patrician's Palace which is said to blow itself.
In the times when the city catches fire, the river gates are closed, and the river rises and smothers the flames. This also has the unfortunate side effect of destroying any remaining buildings that the fire missed.
The original city was little more than a walled keep, surrounding the Tower of Art, a building of mysterious origin which may even predate the Disc itself.
At one point it had an empire, similar to the Roman Empire, that covered half the continent including the neighbouring country of Klatch. These were the days of the "Pax Morporkia," another reference to Rome and their Pax Romana.
The empire was largely the creation of General Tacticus (an obvious pun on both "tactics" and the name of the real-world historian Tacitus), the greatest military mind in history. 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 (a probable reference to Jean Baptiste Jules Bernadotte, who served under the Emperor Napoleon but later, as King of Sweden, allied with France's enemies).
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, giving way to real kings who were realistically corrupt and perverse and ultimately leading to the collapse of the empire. (This could be seen as a parody of the fictional city of Minas Tirith, which also had a "Golden Age" many years before, with Kings who were remembered as being noble and wise.)
Royalty became extremely debased and the later kings of Ankh-Morpork are recalled in history as power-mad and corrupt, or just mad; some are mentioned by name in Men at Arms:
The last and worst - the euphemistically-remembered Lorenzo the Kind (the full extent of whose infamy is not explicitly revealed, save that he was said to be "very fond of children," possessed "secret rooms" from which "bits" had to be cleaned, and 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 (These events parallel the English Civil War of the 1640s, and the execution of Charles I by Oliver Cromwell). Afterwards "Old Stoneface" (an ancestor of the current City Watch Commander Samuel Vimes and a play on Cromwell's nickname "Old Ironside") and his Ironheads (a play on "Ironsides" and "Roundheads") attempted to introduce democracy, but the people voted against it. After "Old Stoneface" himself was overthrown, Ankh-Morpork reverted to a non-hereditary oligarchic system, where the leaders are still ruthless tyrants, but don't have the audacity to invoke divine right. It is, however, rumoured that the royal blood line of the Kings of Ankh has not in fact died out but instead continued, and that the true king, Carrot Ironfoundersson, walks the streets of the city on a nightly basis. 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 the city has become the mercantile and political capital of the Discworld, so much so that the Sto Plains operates under a new Pax Morporkia, which operates not on the principle of "If you fight, we will kill you," but on the principle of "If you fight, we will call in your mortgages." 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 current Patrician's own, typically pragmatic, view on multiculturalism is "Alloys are stronger.") Mimes are strictly forbidden. Anyone caught practising the art is hung upside-down in a scorpion pit, upon the walls of which is written: "Learn the words."
Ankh-Morpork has evolved in the series. At the beginning of the series in The Colour of Magic, it was a corrupt, crumbling medieval city. It still has corruption (mostly organised in guilds) but is far from crumbling by Going Postal and has become a high-tech (for the Disc) city-state bordering on almost steampunk levels of technology. The city is indeed the 2nd most developed nation of the disc after the Agatean Empire. Ankh-Morpork has seen the appearance of
Crime is kept in check by the Watch and the guilds, mainly the Thieves' Guild; in the novel Jingo a character casually notes the Thieves' Guild weathervane is an actual unofficial and currently deceased thief. Lord Vetinari has a firm grip on the city (or seems to). The wizards of UU no longer murder each other intentionally. The city is now a highly-advanced metropolis rather than the fading, broken-down city of The Colour of Magic. It is implied that the Axle discovered in Thud! will revolutionise both municipal transportation (with many references which parallel the London Underground including the minesign symbol for a mine) and machinery, and Moist von Lipwig's invention of the banknote in Making Money.
Power is, to some degree, shared with the many Guilds (see above) and the surviving nobility. They form a sort of advisory city council, but the Patrician has the only vote at meetings. This may be the same as the "council of aldermen" referred to briefly in Sourcery, and never mentioned since.
The nearest surviving relative of the former royal family seems to be Captain Carrot Ironfoundersson, technically a human, but fundamentally a dwarf (or vice-versa depending on point-of-view). However, he has gone to some effort to keep his royal connections as quiet as possible. The origin of Corporal Cecil Wormsborough St. John (Nobby) Nobbs remains shrouded in mystery. At one point he was identified as being a descendant of de Nobbes, the Earl of Ankh (and therefore the next in line), but this was (probably) a deliberate deception.
The Patrician has almost absolute power over the affairs of the city and works together with the leaders of the city's Guilds, who elect him through the Guild Council, as shown in The Truth. In an analogy of Renaissance Florence, Ankh-Morpork is an oligarchy. Eligible for election are members of rich and influential families. 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:
Vetinari appears rather more permanent than most, largely due to his Machiavellian ("for a given value of Machiavelli", according to Terry Pratchett) machinations. He has arranged the politics of the city in such a way that to remove him from office would cause chaos among the Guilds and nobility. He firmly believes that what people really want is stability, and that is what he provides.
Although Vetinari is the absolute leader of the city, he has been able to give some people the illusion that they have some power:
It should be pointed out that traditionally the relationship between the city and Unseen University is one of mutual cooperation, in which it is stated that the University agrees to do anything asked of them and the city promises to never ask, and it is possibly the only place where the Patrician's influence is reduced. For example, the city has never taxed the university ("A Collegiate Casting-Out of Devilish Devices"). According to Interesting Times, the Patrician can, in theory, have the Archchancellor summoned and, indeed, have him executed; however, the Archchancellor could turn the Patrician into a small reptile and, indeed, start bouncing around the room on a pogo stick.
At its most basic level, law in Ankh-Morpork operates on the principle that a grocer is free to mix soil in his coffee, and also to be vivisected by any customer who happens to find out. Other than that, options are slim. In cases of personal grievance, one might make an appeal to the Guild of Lawyers, providing, of course, one is wealthy enough to pay (The Lawyers' Guild consider this a very reasonable arrangement, as the poor are inveterately criminal anyway). Barring that, the only course of action in criminal cases is a direct appeal to the Patrician, which frequently works, as he sees such a result as highly instructive.
Outside the guilds, most law enforcement is undertaken by the Watch, under the leadership of Sam Vimes.
The City Watch is one of the greatest success stories, having grown under the leadership of Captain Vimes from three unemployable men to the most modern police force on the Disc. Which still employs the three men in question.
The AM$ is reputedly the 'hardest' currency outside of the Agatean Empire. A dollar coin is Sequin (coin) sized, and although theoretically made of gold the metal has been adulterated so many times that, according to The Discworld Companion:
"There is more gold in an equivalent weight of seawater. In a sense, then, Ankh-Morpork is on the gold standard in all respects except the one of actually having any gold to speak of"Ankh-Morpork being an extremely rich city state, the AM$ is the currency of choice amongst the lands around the Circle Sea; although other city states have their own currencies they maintain strong links with the dollar, as Ankh-Morpork is the only place which has anything worth buying.
Biers is a pub frequented by creatures of the night, usually lumped together as "undead", though they can include werewolves and bogeymen. Difficult to find, unless you happen to be "the right sort." It is often compared to Cheers but with the tagline "Where everybody knows your shape". Susan Sto Helit is a noted frequenter of Biers. The more typical clientele occasionally loudly demand to know what she thinks she's doing there. They seldom do so twice. The barman of Biers is named Igor, though he doesn't appear to be an Igor. It's best to eye what he serves carefully; as Pratchett noted in Hogfather, "When Igor the barman was asked for a Bloody Mary, he didn't mix a metaphor."
The Dwarf Bread Museum which, as its name suggests, is a building where certain articles of the (in)famous dwarf bread are kept; usually specimens of a cultural or historical importance. First mentioned in Men at Arms; more prominently featured in The Fifth Elephant as the building from which the Scone of Stone (a reference to the Stone of Scone) is stolen.
The Dysk, a theatre staging "usurper-killing-a-king dramas". A reference to the Globe Theatre.
The Mended Drum, formerly the Broken Drum (old motto: "You can't beat it") until it burned down in the city's first attempt at insurance fraud, is the city's principal inn. Located on Filigree Street, it is a rowdy, cloudy, crowded, smelly and utterly disreputable establishment, and therefore the ideal haunt for the Disc's plethora of heroes. It is a favourite watering hole for the students of Unseen University, and regular haunt of the Librarian. It is also a favoured locale for those wishing to discuss business of a clandestine nature. The Broken Drum is the setting for the first meeting between the central characters Rincewind and Twoflower in the first Discworld novel, Colour of Magic. When Ankh-Morpork became more civilized in the later books, The Mended Drum was the last bastion of lawlessness although the bar fights have become a team sport, with teams getting points for performing classic brawling techniques. Limbs are still chopped off, but they are tattooed to ensure that Igor sews them back correctly. Curiously, this romantic disreputable place is what Twoflower sought naively in Colour of Magic.
The Shades, Ankh-Morpork's slum district, comprise the oldest region of the city. The moral equivalent of a black hole. A pretty nasty place, all told (a horse in the Shades is often called "lunch", and nothing is seen as more suspicious than fresh paint).
Cockbill Street, located in the Shades, is the poorest area of the city. Despite this, people on Cockbill Street are so proud that they refuse to acknowledge this, believing eating comes second to keeping up appearances and leading to the saying that what you mostly ate on Cockbill Street "was your pride". Samuel Vimes was raised here.
The Isle of Gods, a residential area almost encircled by the river Ankh. A reference to the Isle of Dogs area of London.
Unseen University (UU) is in many ways the city's core. Centred around the 800-foot Tower of Art, the tallest building on the Disc, it serves as the Sto Plains' (and possibly the entire Discworld's) premier magic academy. The city originally grew out of the need to service and maintain the University. The Shades technically fall under its dominion, and much of its income is derived from rents there.
We Can Rule You Wholesale is the national anthem of Ankh-Morpork; it is a parody of the song 'Rule, Britannia!'. The use of 'ner ner ner' as official lyrics (see below) is also heavily reminiscent of the English football anthem, 'Vindaloo'.
It was not written by a native Ankh-Morporkian, but by the visiting vampire Count Henrik Shline von Überwald (born 1703, died 1782, also died 1784, 1788, 1791, 1802, 1804, 1807, 1808, 1821, 1830, 1861, finally staked 1872). His inspiration came from his observations that Ankh-Morpork's chief means of defence was not warfare but corruption, bribery and mercantile tactics, since most of the weapons used against the city were actually made there in the first place.
The anthem is particularly noteworthy for being the only one that has a second verse officially consisting of incoherent muttering. Count von Überwald had also observed that any group of people singing their country's national anthem never remembers how the second verse goes anyway, so he decided to make things easier for Ankh-Morpork. The anthem's sentiments are of course summarised in the 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."
On formal occasions, the anthem is supposed to be performed by a large soprano singer wearing a sheet and holding a torch in one hand and a fork in the other.
The lyrics of the anthem are as follows:
"When dragons belch and hippos flee
My thoughts, Ankh-Morpork, are of thee
Let others boast of martial dash
For we have boldly fought with cash
We own all your helmets, we own all your shoes
We own all your generals - touch us and you'll lose.
Morporkia owns the day!
We can rule you wholesale
Touch us and you'll pay.
We bankrupt all invaders, we sell them souvenirs
We ner ner ner ner ner, hner ner hner by the ears
Er hner we ner ner ner ner ner
Ner ner her ner ner ner hner the ner
Er ner ner hner ner, nher hner ner ner (etc.)
Ner hner ner, your gleaming swords
We mortgaged to the hilt
Hner ner ner ner ner ner
We can rule you wholesale
Credit where it's due."
The final part of the anthem is usually sung much louder than the rest of the second verse, since the singers want to show they know the words...
The anthem was actually written in 1999 by Pratchett (words) and Carl Davis (music), for the BBC Radio 3 programme The Music Machine. It was performed by the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra and the soprano was Clare Rutter. It was also performed at that year's Proms by the Prommers' Orchestra and Chorus.
|1 Ick||Hogswatch Day (New Year, Christmas)|
|28 April||The Creator's birthday (in reality Terry Pratchett'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|
Ankh-Morpork was twinned with the town of Wincanton in Somerset, in the south-west United Kingdom on the spherical planet Earth (known in the Discworld books as Roundworld) on 7 December 2002. The town is home to a Discworld shop called "The Cunning Artificer which is named after a street in Ankh-Morpork. However due to legal reasons, the twinning was not officially displayed on the road sign. Fans however have added stick-on notices to some of the signs. This has now been changed and a new town sign prominently declaring the twinning with Ankh-Morpork and other Roundworld places has been erected. This sign was designed by the Cunning Artificer himself, Bernard Pearson. There are rumours of a footpath to be named the Ankh-Morpork Way coming to pass in due course.
Many details of Ankh-Morpork appear to have been inspired by Fritz Leiber's fictional city Lankhmar (although Pratchett has said "I didn't -- at least consciously, I suppose I must say -- create Ankh-Morpork as a takeoff of Lankhmar).
The most obvious similarities include the names of the two cities, the similar-sounding titles afforded to the respective rulers (a Patrician for Ankh-Morpork, a Patriarch for Lankhmar), the browned-iron equipment that characterises both sets of city guards, some conspicuous buildings (Tower of Art, Rats Tower), the similar names of associated countries (in particular; Klatch and Klesh) and what may be termed a certain general atmosphere. This resemblance is most marked in the earliest Discworld books, and becomes increasing diluted as the series moves away from parody into satire.
Lankhmar's only Patriarch to feature prominently in one of Leiber's stories was Glipkerio Kistomerces. Like Ankh-Morpork's Lord Vetinari, Glipkerio is described as tall, thin ("emaciated" is the word most frequently used), and dressed in black. After which resemblance ceases, as "Glippy" is an inept ruler, a hopeless sadist and an extreme physical and moral coward.
The word "Morpork" may be a reference to a Spam-type canned food product produced by Wilson & Co., whose product line included Mor Pork and Mor Beef.