Mottoes: Merus in Pectum et in Aquam and Quanti Canicula illa in Fenestra

Population: 1 million.

Ankh-Morpork is the Discworld's oldest city. It is bisected by the river Ankh, which also marks the boundary between the two 'cities' which form the Disc's capital: Ankh, Turnwise of the river, and the less salubrious Morpork, Widdershins.

Ankh Morpork is situated on the Sto Plains, close to the Circle Sea. According to tradition, the city is built on loam, although it is actually built on previous versions of itself.

Ankh-Morpork has been burned down many times; some say this is just for the insurance. The oldest building in Ankh-Morpork is generally accepted to be the Tower of Art, the central point of the Unseen University. Parts of the original city walls still survive, although the city's centre has gradually moved downstream over the years.

The current system of government is a form of democracy: as they say in the city, it's a case of One Man, One Vote - Lord Vetinari (the Patrician) is the man, he has the vote.

The city is governed fairly, therefore, by the interplay of various pressure groups such as the Guilds so actively encouraged by the Patrician. Ankh-Morpork survives by being the bottleneck between the rich Sto Plains and the rest of the Discworld. It is the big city you go to to seek your fortune. And other people also seek your current fortune as soon as you arrive.

Fresh water used to be brought straight into the city by a viaduct now barely visible in Water Street, but it fell down centuries ago and, what with one thing and another, no one ever got round to rebuilding it. Water is now drawn from wells, which are very shallow indeed with Ankh-Morpork's high water table. This, along with the slaughterhouses and the cabbage fields and the spice houses and the breweries, is a major component of Ankh-Morpork's most famous civic attribute: its Smell.

The citizens are proud of the smell; on a really good day, they carry chairs outside to enjoy it. They even put up a statue to it, to commemorate the time when troops of a rival state tried to invade by stealth at night; they managed to get only as far as the top of the walls when, to their horror, their nose plugs gave out.

No enemies have ever entered Ankh-Morpork.

This is not entirely true. Technically they have, quite frequently; the city welcomes free-spending barbarian invaders, but somehow the puzzled raiders always find, after a few days, that they don't own their horses any more, and within a couple of months they're just another minority group with its own graffiti and food shops.

It has been said that the largest dwarfish colony anywhere in the world is in Ankh-Morpork. This may be the case. Certainly the city is home to a large number of dwarfs, a growing number of trolls, and many undead and other special-interest groups. This has caused a number of problems but also some benefits - in jobs, for example. The silicon-based trolls gravitate towards messy jobs because, to them, nasty organic substances are of no more account than sand and gravel would be to a human; vampires tend to end up in the meat business, and often run shops catering to those of a kosher persuasion; undead often undertake dangerous tasks, such as working on high buildings, because nothing can happen to them that hasn't happened already.

The associated problems are more traditional. Trolls hate dwarfs, dwarfs hate trolls. It's a symmetrical arrangement which dates back thousands of years and has accumulated enough ill-feeling that the actual cause is now quite irrelevant. This mutual antagonism has been imported into the city. Also, there has recently been talk of the law of diminishing returns, whereby a loaf of bread is worth more to a dwarf than to a human, since dwarves are smaller, and they can later use their bread as a weapon. (Of course, gnomes have it best of all - they can fashion a makeshift dwelling out of a loaf of bread and feed their family for a week.)

So, mingling in the streets of the city are people whose relative ancestors variously ate, skinned, beheaded or in some cases jump up and down in heavy boots on one another. That there is not a permanent state of all-out war is a tribute to the unifying force of the Ankh-Morpork dollar.

There are two legends about the founding of Ankh-Morpork.

One relates that the two orphaned brothers who built the city were in fact found and suckled by a hippopotamus. Eight heraldic hippos line the city's Brass Bridge, facing out to the sea. It is said that if danger ever threatens the city, they will run away. Nobody knows why the hippopotamus is the royal animal of Ankh-Morpork. The reasons are lost in the smogs of time. Rome had a she-wolf; on this basis, it is possible that the founders of Ankh-Morpork were suckled, or possibly trodden upon, by a hippo. But a hippo seems at least as legitimate as a slug, the city animal of Seattle, Washington. It has been speculated that hippos once inhabited the Ankh. If so, they have long since dissolved.

The other legend, recounted less frequently by citizens, is that at an even earlier time a group of wise men survived a flood sent by the gods by building a huge boat, and on this boat they took two of every animal then existing on the Disc. After some weeks the combined manure was beginning to weigh the boat low in the water, so - the story runs - they tipped it over the side, and called it Ankh-Morpork.

Thanks to 256.

On a non-diegetic level, Ankh-Morpork is a parody of Fritz Leiber's Lankhmar. Not only is the name effectively the same with the addition at the end of the inherently humorous word »pork«, the city's character is clearly based on its precursor. Bizarrely, Terry Pratchett denied this for his entire life and career, claiming first that it was a pure coïncidence, then at a later date that it must have been an unconscious influence. These are startling lies, since the first time Ankh-Morpork is mentioned in the Discworld series, in the first book, The Colour of Magic, it's in connection with Bravd and the Weasel, overt parodies of Leiber's characters Fafhrd and the Grey Mouser, who call Lankhmar home.

Presumably, Pratchett was motivated in this ludicrous attempt at deceit by how critical the city ended up being in his own œuvre; having started as a parodist, he was embarrassed at continuing as a half-plagiarist. This is not to say that we're talking about some grand crime, and certainly the city gradually develops its own character, but the lineaments are very obvious, and the idea that e.g. Tallinn (as he claimed on some occasions) had a greater influence on it is patently absurd; the two main sources are visibly Lankhmar and Dickensian London. It would have been worthier, to my mind, for Pratchett to have just owned the connection and admitted his debt to Leiber, who is, after all, the best inspiration imaginable for a fantasist. I can't imagine that a man with Leiber's good cheer and sense of humor would have objected to such a homage.


Log in or register to write something here or to contact authors.