The mightiest kingdom of the West and the foremost of the Hyborian states of Conan’s day, the Kingdom of Aquilonia was a commercial and military giant with a high level of civilization and technology. Only Nemedia, Aquilonia’s greatest rival, boasted of a richer cultural diversity and heritage.
Aquilonia was, overall, a land of pleasant, temperate climate. The Aquilonians were tall and varied in complexion, but all were steadfast in their devotion to Mitra, the Phoenix Lord. In matters of war, Aquilonia put its trust in a heavily armed heavy cavalry and a strong heavy infantry. The Aquilonian imperial troops were called the Black Legion, and the king’s personal royal bodyguard was known as the Black Dragons. Tarantia, the kingdom’s greatest city and the seat of power in Aquilonia, was a center of romance, adventure, wisdom, and wit. If in a later era, it was said that all roads led to the city of Rome, then in the Hyborian Age, the same could certainly be said of Tarantia, which was located astride the exact center of the Road of Kings. No matter their destination or direction, travelers were likely to pass through Aquilonia or sail upon its major rivers, the Khorotas, the Shirki and the Valkia. Tarantia also housed the grim Iron Tower, a notorious prison. Aquilonia was also home to other large cities, such as Shanar in the south along the Tybor River and Galparan and Tanasul along the Shirki. The kingdom was divided into feudal provinces for administrative purposes although its overall sigil was that of a roaring lion. The source of much of Aquilonia’s wealth was its abundant possession of fertile croplands and fecund forests. There was a shortage of good farmland in the interior of Aquilonia, however, because the great feudal lords of the kingdom had sequestered much of the cropland for personal use (such as privileged hunting preserves), creating a never-ending movement of pioneers toward the Westermarck, the frontier between Aquilonia and the far western Pictish Wilderness.
The Aquilonians were a people divided behind a front of unity, and threatened behind a show of dominance. Their kingdom, the so-called Flower of the West, was the unrivaled jewel of Hyboria. It was a land of prosperous cities, great wealth, enlightened culture, with a king-sanctioned order of religious freedom, where no faith was suppressed. Yet for all the kingdom’s vaunted glories and despite the actions of its popular Cimmerian monarch, King Conan I, it was a land where culture clashed and the chaos of unrest always threatened the populace.
Aquilonians know now, just as they always have, that their borders are neither safe nor sealed. Conflict with other nations scars Aquilonia’s history, with Pictish raids increasing in number year by year and enmity between Aquilonians and Nemedians reaching back for many decades. With the kingdom comprised of so many conquered, submissive or allied nations, Aquilonians also expected a degree of tension within their own lands. In the past, pretenders to the throne had raised armies and marched on the capital city of Tarantia, plunging the people of the nation into periods of civil war. While the nation was ostensibly peaceful, all Aquilonians had come to expect a degree of bloodshed around their throne and over issues of sovereignty.
For all these epic domestic troubles, the people of the world’s greatest kingdom were cultured and educated, more so than any other nation in the Hyborian Age could claim of its citizens. Scholars were respected as much as soldiers, and slavery—where it was still practiced—was nowhere near as harsh as the servitude found in other nations during this time. Quality of life was important to the Aquilonians. Aquilonian fighters were disciplined and tough, often more soldier than warrior. The people value martial skill and admire any who stand against the nation’s many enemies, especially the hated Picts. Aquilonians also value free-thinking and independence, so those who can make a living off the backs of their own self-reliance often garner respect. Sorcery was shunned as the pursuit of evil men, but Mitran priests practiced their own magic and earned great respect among the populace for their perceived favor in the light of the true god’s grace.
Another reason for the prosperity and relative domestic peace of Aquilonia was that the nation was shielded from attack by several buffer frontier provinces. The thinly settled region known as the Westermarck lay between the Black River and the Thunder River, separating Aquilonia from the Pictish Wilderness. The Westermarck regions of Schohira, Oriskonie, Conawaga and Conajohara, “a 19-mile spear thrust into the Pictish Wilderness”—before it fell to the Picts—were each controlled by a baron who owed only a tenuous allegiance to the king of Aquilonia. Bossonia, also called the Bossonian Marches, likewise resisted all-out rule by the central government. The hills of Gunderland provided troops to the capital of Tarantia, but its people “never considered themselves exactly Aquilonians.” Poitain, Aquilonia’s southernmost region, had not always been a part of the great kingdom. But in Conan’s day, it was ruled by Count Trocero and was renowned for its military strength and its fealty to the Aquilonian Crown in Tarantia. Its banner was that of the Trocero family, a golden leopard.
As noted above, Aquilonia contained at least three provinces with distinct cultures and heritages from other Aquilonians. The province of Gunderland in the north of the country did not have any slaves, as the Gundermen were opposed to the practice of slavery on cultural grounds. The people of this province had underwent less interbreeding with other races than any other Hyborians of the time. They resembled the ancient Hyborians closer than any of the others and were still auburn-haired and gray-eyed.
The Bossonian Marches extended from the border of Aquilonia with Zingara, along its border with Pictland and to the south of Cimmeria east of the Border Kingdoms. The Bossonians descended from a formerly independent race which had been among the first to fall to the conquests of the Hyborians. They had some Hyborian blood by the time of King Conan’s reign but were distinct in appearance from their fellow Aquilonians. They were people of average height and skin pigmentation, and had either gray or brown eyes while their skull shapes were mesocephalic.
The Bossonians’ position at the borders of Hyborian civilization with the barbarians of Cimmeria and Pictland never allowed them to advance to the cultural height of the other Hyborians. They were mostly farmers, settled in fortified villages and their main concern was the defense of their land from barbarian raids. In effect, the Bossonians were Aquilonia’s and Hyboria’s first line of defense also from invasions by the Picts, the barbarians of Nordheim or the Cimmerians. Centuries of barbarian wars led to the Bossonians being particularly stubborn combatants and their defense techniques were impenetrable to the direct charges of light and heavy infantry favored by barbarian military commanders.
In the south of Aquilonia, the province of Poitain lay along the kingdom’s borders with Zingara. The relatively peaceful relations between the two civilized kingdoms allowed for people and goods to flow with ease through the borders of Aquilonia and Zingara. Interbreeding with the Zingarans led to the people of Poitain being predominantly dark-haired and brown-eyed.
Nestled in a valley and sheltered from the harsh winters of the region, the Wild Lands of Zelata exemplified Aquilonia’s untamed eastern frontier. It was a place for people with the desire to start afresh, to begin anew—to establish a life away from the bustling metropolis of Tarantia or any of Aquilonia’s other majestic, chaotic cities. Settlements were built, spreading slowly in the wilderness, protected by hunters and occasional patrols of soldiers who fended off both the wild beasts of the northern forests and the bandit groups which plagued so much of Hyboria. Another source of conflict arose from the Nemedian border to the east; the location of the Wild Lands made them an infrequent battleground for clashes between King Conan’s men and the soldiers from Aquilonia’s rival nation.
Names: Aquilonian names tend to have a Latin air to them. Examples: (male) Amalric, Arpello, Athemides, Attelius, Balthus, Brant, Brocas, Drago, Dion, Dirk, Emilius, Epheus, Epeus, Epemitreus, Galannus, Galter, Gault, Gorm, Gromel, Hagar Hadrathus, Hakon, Jon, Karlus, Namedides, Nestor, Numedides, Otho, Pallantides, Prospero, Publius, Rinaldo, Scavonus, Servius, Soractus, Strom, Thasperas, Thespius, Tiberias, Tiberio, Trocero, Valannus, Valerian, Valerus, Valerius, Vilerus, Volmana; (female) Valeria, Zelata.