In the vast land of Shem, despotic kings ruled stately city-states in luxurious, sensual splendor within walled palaces in the west, and lean nomads in camel’s hair tents ruled the arid desert sands to the east. The coastline had few harbors, thus overland trade was the true lifeblood of the nation. Crisscrossing the land in all directions were the famed caravan routes, ever-traveled by camel trains.
Founded in ancient days by the dark-haired nomads called the Sons of Shem, the land’s western regions were composed of fertile meadowlands, with its many cities lying at higher elevations. Although the land became more arid as one moved eastwards, caravans never ceased crisscrossing this kingdom, and many Shemite cities fed off the trade traffic going from west to east and from north to south. Asgalun, Anakia, Akkharia, Nippr, Shumir, Eruk, Uruk and Ghaza…all the cities of Shem were commercial crossroads at heart.
There were numerous wars between the city-states of the meadowlands and the city-states of the desert, between armies made up on both sides of grim horsemen with their blue-black beards. It was Shem that gave birth to the Asshuria, a famed clan of warriors that was often mentioned in the accounts of the mercenary armies of the Hyborian Age.
Paradoxically, though trade flowed like a river through this country, the Shemites profited far more from the movement of goods through their land than from industry of their own. Nor did they send ships to sea to transport merchandise from their shores. As the Nemedian Chronicles pointed out, “there was scant profit in trade with the fierce and wary Sons of Shem.” The Shemites were, for the most part, always middlemen in the great currents of trade.
The people of Shem were generally of medium height, broad shouldered and solid, with hooked noses, dark eyes, and blue-black hair. The men sported thick, curled beards and were famed as archers, selling their skill with a bow to many a Hyborian army. Primarily these people were herdsmen and farmers. An industrious, clever people, they manufactured textiles and pottery for their own use and for export.
The Eastern Desert of Shem was the home of the Zuagir nomads, aggressive raiders whose desert-bred horses were the finest in the world. These nomads were not aligned with any of the Shemite city-states. They raided Shemitish, Zamoran and Turanian caravans and steadings for their food, weapons and wealth. Much of the mercenary work available in eastern Shem was due to fear of the Zuagir, and the kings of Turan repeatedly sent forces into the desert to drive the Zuagir away. All Shemites, west and east, worshiped the female Earth Mother Goddesses whom they deemed responsible for watching over their lands, their herds, and their families. Chief of these were Ashtoreth, Derketo, and Ishtar. Pteor, Adonis, and Bel of Shumir were popular male gods. Though the rival city-states were polytheistic and welcomed worship of foreign gods, each also had its own patron deity.
Names: Shemite names are Middle Eastern or Biblical in form. Examples: (male) Bît-Yakin, Gebal, Gilzan, Khumbanigash, Zargheba; (female) Bêlit. Suggestions: (male) Abaddon, Arvad, Baruch, Eban, Gabai, Hyam, Lamech, Noam, Yadon; (female) Alumit, Daya, Idra, Jamila, Talitha, Yael.