City Construction

Only free people are permitted to construct cities on Gor, although Port Kar was an exception. Port Kar was almost completely built by slave labor. Construction is normally limited to the Builder's Caste. Unfortunately there is not much information given on this Caste or construction matters on Gor. We do know that Goreans possess advanced technology in the the field of architecture. Many city buildings are cylinders, some as tall as one thousand feet. This would be roughly equivalent to a one hundred story building on Earth. Girders, frame steel and timber iron are used to construct these cylinders. These materials are created in the iron shops of Gor.

Granite is also a common construction material. There are quarries in different areas of Gor that provide this granite. There are even quarry galleys that help transport granite via a river or Thassa. The spring time sees the highest prices for granite as it is the busiest time of the year for construction. A typical granite building stone is a rectangular piece, six inches by six inches by eighteen inches.

Brick is another common construction material, created in large kilns within the cities. In Ar, the Hinrabian family own a major kiln business that provides many of the bricks used in Ar. In the cities of the southern hemisphere of Gor, flat, narrow bricks are very common in building construction.

Wood, an inexpensive construction material, is used in many cities though it is more prone to the dangers of fire. The northern forests of Gor are the primary source of timber throughout much of Gor.

City Walls and Gates

Nearly all of the cities of Gor are walled cities, walled to protect the city from attack. The height, thickness and number of the walls will vary from city to city. For example, the city walls of Ar might be thought to be the grandest of walls of any city on Gor. Ar has two exterior walls. The outer wall is about three hundred feet high and the interior wall, about sixty feet away from the outer wall, is about four hundred feet high. Each wall is thick enough so that six tharlarion wagons, side by side, could pass down the wall. In addition, there is a guard tower spaced about every fifty yards on the wall. The walls of Ar and Ko-ro-ba are painted white. This is done so that the sun's glare will reflect off the walls and make it more difficult for attackers to see. At night, beacon fires will be lit on the walls to serve as markers for returning tarnsmen.

Each city will have a number of gates that provide entrance into the city, the exact number varying city to city. Most cities have at least one, though sometimes more, sun gates. A sun gate is open only from dawn to dusk. At night, it is much more difficult to enter or exit a city. Some cities do have night gates for such evening entrances and exits though such gates are scrutinized carefully. Some cities may also have additional gates such as secret gates or restricted gates. For example, Ar has about forty public gates and an additional number of other gates. There is also a secret entrance into Ar through a Dar-Kosis pit outside of the city.

City Streets

The length, width and makeup of streets within a city will vary considerably. Street surfaces are commonly either dirt or cobblestone. Most streets do not have a sidewalk or curb. They often slope gently from each side to a central gutter. Some streets are very wide while others are too narrow for a wagon to travel down. Many city streets do not have an official name. They thus often acquire unofficial names and different people may know a street by different names. A street might be named according to who lives or works on the street. It might also acquire its name from a famous incident that occurred on that street.

A long street might be known by different names at different points on the street. This makes it difficult for strangers to travel around in a city. Thus, they must ask directions to locate a certain street. People generally will only ask someone of their own sex for directions. Free women would not ask questions of a strange man and also would not answer the questions of such a man. Slaves though, of either sex, may be asked concerning directions. When streets do have official names, a street sign will commonly be painted onto a building corner, a few feet above the ground. Street signs are not placed onto poles. In some cities, it is illegal for non-citizens to make maps of a city or transport a map out of the city.

City streets are often kept very clean, usually cleaned once a week. Many streets are cleaned by the residents of the buildings facing the street. They are responsible for the maintenance of their own street. The larger streets, plaza and squares are maintained by state slaves. Where the streets are too narrow for wagons, porters or carts must be used to transport goods to the buildings in those areas. On other streets, the use of wagons is limited to certain times, generally at night and the early morning. This is done so not to interfere with foot traffic during the day. The narrow streets, because of the closeness of the buildings, are generally kept in shadows during the day. At night, many small streets are dark. Some of the major thoroughfares may be lit by tharlarion-oil lamps or torches, maintained by the state. Other streets may be lit, but if so, are maintained by the residents of the buildings on those streets, similar to the responsibility for cleaning the streets. Many people, traveling at night, will carry their own torches or lamps.

The largest streets in a city are often adorned with trees, plants, flowers, fountains, artwork and more. They are made to be attractive as Goreans love beauty. Most city fountains have two basins, an upper and lower one. Any resident may gather or drink water from these fountains but there is a restriction over who can use the upper basin. The upper basin, often the deeper of the two basins, is restricted to free people only. The lower basin is for slaves and animals. On many streets, there will also be tharlarion or slave rings, to tether such beasts while the owner wanders the city. There are public gardens in many cities, and they are often maintained so that they are in bloom all year round. Such gardens will have numerous paths winding through the lush vegetation, some providing more private and intimate areas.

City Districts

Certain sections of the city make up specific districts or neighborhoods. These areas are often united by common businesses or types of neighborhoods. Two common districts that exist in many cities are the Street of Brands and the Street of Coins. Despite being known as "streets" these most often refer to an entire district. The Street of Brands is the merchant area concerned with the institution of slavery. Slaves, slavery equipment and any other slavery related item can be obtained in this district. The Street of Coins is the district where various forms of banking occur such as money changing and loans. Other districts might be residential areas, maybe very poor areas or very rich ones. Cities sometimes have rather markedly different districts very close to one another. For instance, some expensive paga taverns may be near an area of sleazy insulae and tarsk-bit brothels.


Many Gorean cities possess a multitude of tall cylinders, joined by numerous bridges. Thus, the cities become in essence tiered cities, divided into several levels. The higher levels are generally set aside for the High Castes and the wealthy. The bridges are very colorful and beautiful. Most of these bridges also do not possess safety rails and can be very narrow, some only three feet wide. When the highest bridges may be one thousand feet high or greater, this can pose an intimidating situation. "Let those who fear to walk the high bridges not walk the high bridges."(Outlaw, p. 248) The bridges also serve a purpose in making it easier to defend the city. By blocking off a bridge or two, you can isolate cylinders and limit the movement ability of invaders.

City Buildings

Thousands of different buildings will exist in each city and this scroll will not address every type of possible building. It will address many of the different buildings that were mentioned within the novels. Such information will give you a better understanding of the composition of a Gorean city, including its differences from the cities of Earth.

As many Goreans are illiterate, many of these buildings need a way to identify their function to such individuals. Thus, they often hang signs outside their buildings with pictures to identify the type of business. For example, a sign may have a paga goblet, thus indicating a paga tavern. A sign might have a hammer and anvil to indicate a Metal Worker, or a needle and thread to indicate a clothworker. The exact name of the establishment is more likely to be known through word of mouth.

Homes: The typical Gorean home is a simple place, without the clutter of a lot of furniture. The rooms are often circular rooms and possess about a seven-foot ceiling. Any windows are very narrow, so that a man cannot pass through them. Most entry doors will have locks, generally highly ornate and set into the center of the door. Spiral staircases are common in multi-level dwellings. The floor may be covered with rugs, furs or even tiles. If the house contains a garden or courtyard, it will commonly be located within the cylinder and not outside of it. Some private homes may contain a keep, constructed for personal defense. Such a keep is generally a round, stone tower. It will contain adequate supplies of food and water to withstand a short siege. The more wealthy or important the residents, then the more secure the keep will be constructed. Obviously wealthy Goreans live more luxurious lives. Their homes contain more artwork, fancy rugs, elaborate furniture and much more. Some wealthy Gorean men have a Pleasure Garden within their homes, a special residential area for their slaves. This would be like an Earth harem. Though the slaves there are often pampered with many luxuries, it can be a lonely life, especially if you are one of many slaves in that Pleasure Garden. Such a kajira may not see her owner for weeks if not months at a time. Not all Goreans own their own homes. Some live in dormitories within their Caste cylinders such as the Warrior or Initiate Castes. Others rent rooms in insulae, especially those with limited income.

Central Cylinder: The largest cylinder within a city is most often its Central Cylinder, so large that it nearly forms its own community. The cylinder commonly has a huge entrance, large enough for a number of tharlarion to enter side by side. This cylinder includes the bureaus and agencies that help run the city. The city ruler also resides here and has his offices here as well. The High Council will have offices and meet in this cylinder. This meeting room may be referred to as the Chamber of the Council. In the Chamber, Council members will sit on stone benches, separated into five tiers. The wall behind each tier is painted a color to match the High Caste that sits on that tier. The highest Caste, the Initiates, has the bottom-most tier. In the center of the room will be a throne for the city leader. No Council member or visitor is permitted to be armed within this room. Other city Councils are also likely to have offices and meet in the Central Cylinder as well. This Cylinder is likely to be located close to the middle of the city and often very large and important streets lead to it.

Caste Cylinders: The books mention specific cylinders exist in some cities for the High Castes of Initiates, Physicians and Warriors. Little details are given on these cylinders though it does appear that they include dormitories for caste members, offices, training areas and more. It would seem logical that such cylinders also exist for the Scribe and Builders Castes, the remaining two High Castes. It is less certain if individual cylinders would exist for any of the Low Castes. If so, they would likely be for the more important Low Castes within a city such as the Merchant Caste.

Baths: A number of cities contain private or public baths, similar to the baths of ancient Rome. Gorean baths are often important social centers. Most of them are public and you just pay a small fee for entrance. They are segregated by sex so that free men and women do not use the same baths at the same time. But, slaves of the opposite sex do not face such segregation. Both female and male slaves work in the baths, the male slaves often being the ones who clean the baths. Bath girls may be rented by a man similar to the use of a paga kajira. Weapons are generally not permitted within the baths. The larger and more encompassing baths will include many additional rooms and services such as massage rooms, steam rooms, exercise yards, recreational gardens, art galleries, strolling lanes, merchant markets, physicians, reading rooms, and music rooms.

Brewery/Distillery: Many cities will contain breweries and/or distilleries to make their own paga, wine or other alcoholic beverages. Each city's products will have their own distinctive taste. For example, diverse cities such as Ar, Tyros, Ko-ro-ba, Helmutsport, Anango, and Tharna all brew their own brands of paga. Ta wine is not restricted to Cos. Other cities actually create their own Ta wines though Cosian Ta wine is still considered the best.

Brothel: Some cities contain brothels and such brothels also vary considerably. Some are simply places one goes for sex with slaves. Others bear little difference to a paga tavern. The cost for entry into a brothel may be as little as a tarsk bit or as expensive as several gold tarns. Brothels are not very popular on Gor, paga taverns being the general preference. Some people mistakenly believe that free women willingly work as prostitutes in some of these brothels but the books do not state that. The books do mention that some men, as punishment or a joke, might capture a free woman, keeping her bound and gagged, and then force her to work for a night in a brothel. The next morning, the poor women would be set free, naked, onto the streets. Such women are not willing prostitutes.

Carnarium: The plural form of this word is carnarii. These are refuse pits, kept outside the city walls. They are for the dumping of waste and garbage from the cities. Male slaves usually collect the garbage from within the cities and carry it to the carnarii. Certain companies exist that provide these slaves to a city. It is unknown what is ultimately done with these refuse pits. They may simply be buried in time or there may be methods used to eliminate the refuse.

Cylinder of Documents: In some cities, this cylinder would be a place where legal and official documents are kept. It is assumed that this Cylinder is well protected against the threat of fire as such a disaster could devastate those city records.

Cylinder of Justice: This cylinder would be the location for the civil legal authorities within a city. There is also the possibility that the civil authorities would share this cylinder with the Initiates who would use it for their own legal proceedings. Prisoners might be kept here, especially those awaiting trials. Trials, before judges and/or juries, would be held here. Court documents and legal scrolls may also be maintained here. Executions, mutilations and other punishments might also be enacted in this cylinder. For example, in Ar the top of their Cylinder of Justice contains a fifty-foot high impaling spear.

Inn: Inns are not common on Gor though a few exist in most cities. An inn is a place where someone can rent a room for a night. Visiting merchants, foreign delegates and certain other travelers have need of such rooms. You cannot rent a room at a paga tavern. An inn may also provide food and drink with your room. The average price for an inn room, including food and paga, is about two to three copper tarsks a night. Some inns let you share a common lodging room with other visitors while the wealthier travelers will obtain their own private room. Such wealthy men may also bring their own food or even their own cooks.

Paga Tavern/Café: A paga tavern is a combination bar, restaurant and brothel. In the southern hemisphere, cafes often take the place of paga taverns but are essentially the same type of entity. Paga taverns exist primarily for the pleasure of men, but such pleasures range widely. Men go there to relax or be sociable. They often play Kaissa there. Some taverns even have special tables with a Kaissa board inlaid on the table. Men may wish to watch slave dances or other men duel in the sands. It is also a place where men can learn a lot about a city and hear the latest news. A new visitor to a city can learn much at a paga tavern about his new surroundings. A paga tavern is much more than just a place where men go to enjoy kajirae. Certain paga taverns do permit free women, and even children, to visit. Such establishments are obviously run much more modestly than a normal paga tavern.

Casino: Some paga taverns and cafes may have gaming tables for gambling. It is unclear if any businesses exist strictly for gambling, such as a casino. It would be possible and even likely due to many Goreans enjoying games of chance and gambling.

Insula: The plural form of this word is insulae (an ancient Roman term). Insulae are tenements, rentable apartments. They differ from inns in a few ways. Insulae are often rented for long terms than inns. Inns are also maintained in better condition. Insulae are considered to be cheap and quick to construct. They are built of wood and brick and are infamous for their proneness to fire problems. Because of this, insulae often can not obtain fire insurance. Room ceilings are often low, allowing the insulae to stack additional levels in less space. City laws often limit how high these insulae may be so space is at a premium. Stairways are also narrow, helping to conserve space.

At the bottom of the stairs is a central vat for waste. The insulae residents will pour their own waste pots into this central area. Eventually the vat will be taken to the carnarii. By law, the central vat must remain covered. This is not always done. In addition, some of the lazier insulae occupants are not too careful in ensuring that all of their individual waste pots gets into the central vat thus this can be a disgusting area. Insulae often also have poor ventilation. Some insulae do not permit animals or slaves to be housed there while others have either basement kennels or slave rings in a yard. Insulae are not comfortable places to live but their cheapness is attractive. Most charge only a tarsk bit a night and they are popular for secret affairs and rendezvous.

Public Nurseries: These buildings are where very young children are educated. The basics of the First or Second Knowledge will be instilled here, dependent on the Caste of the children. The basics will be disseminated in story form to the children.

Library: Most cities have a library where thousands of scrolls are kept, all organized and cataloged by members of the Scribes Caste. These libraries are open to all castes, both High and Low. The libraries do not restrict information to the Low Castes. A Low Caste person could actually learn the truths of the Second Knowledge within a library. But, with illiteracy being very common, especially with the Low Castes, few such persons would ever learn those truths.

Palestra: The plural form of this word is palestrae (an ancient Roman term). These are basically gymnasiums for men. A city will often contain several different palestrae and these different palestrae will sometimes compete against each other. They rarely compete against palestrae from other cities. At these competitions, they will engage in various events such as hurling a stone (similar to a shot put), hurling a javelin both for distance and accuracy, various running races, high jumping and wrestling. These competitions resemble the ancient Greek Olympics in some ways. Contestants will generally be separated into age brackets. Winners will receive prizes, often wool ribbons of varied colors. The ultimate champion of the tournament will often receive a crown of Tur tree leaves, like a laurel wreath.

Gladiatorial Arena: Some cities enjoy gladiatorial combat, similar to the ancient Romans, and have a special arena for this entertainment. For example, Ar has a Stadium of Blades for such battles. Most of the arena combats are to the death. Thus, most of the combatants are slaves, criminals or poor mercenaries. Members of the Warrior Caste rarely enter the arenas. Successful arena combatants can win money or even their freedom. These combats are very popular with the Low Castes so men trying to earn the support of the people will host arena games. Some men, involved in pending litigation, may even host a game to help induce their jury to side with them. The games can be expensive so they are most often hosted by Merchants, Initiates, Ubars, and Administrators.

There is much variety in these arena combats. Men will battle with a wide assortment of weapons. They may battle each other or vicious animals such as larls and sleen. Both Outlaw of Gor and Assassin of Gor discuss some of the different types of combats that might be fought. Even slave girls might be forced to battle in the arenas, armed with steel claws attached to their hands. Some arenas might even be flooded to enact a sea battle. At this time, the water would also be filled with marine predators. As these gladiatorial games can be a major business, some cities contain training schools to educate such combatants.

Tarn Racing Stadium: Some cities enjoy tarn racing, similar to the chariot races of the ancient Romans, and have a special stadium for this entertainment. For example, Ar has a Stadium of Tarns, for such races. Tarn racing is generally more popular than gladiatorial combats and the audiences for each event are often quite dissimilar. Tarn racing teams are divided into factions, often denoted by specific colors. For example, in Ar there were factions divided into blue, orange, green, red, gold, yellow, silver and steel. Racing fans commonly wear a patch on these clothes to indicate the faction color they support. New factions can be created but it is an expensive and risky venture. Racing rules indicate that a new faction must win a significant portion of races during two racing seasons or lose their ability to remain a faction.

A tarn racing stadium will include not only a racing track but will also contain cylinders holding tarn cots, offices and dormitories of the various factions. Special racing tarns are used for these events. They are very light birds, cannot hold much weight and lack the stamina of other tarns. Thus riders generally need to be small men, like Earth jockeys. Racing tarns also have broader and shorter wings than other tarns and this permits them to make a more rapid take-offs and maneuver better within close quarters. Though permitted, few racers would use any other type of tarn in the races except for racing tarns. The typical tarn racing track is an open padded ring suspended over a net. The track is one pasang long is is shaped like a rectangle with rounded ends. The two straight sides are about 1700 feet long and the rounded corners are about 150 feet wide. The track is divided by twelve rings, each hung from a supporting tower. The six rings on the straight sides are rectangular shaped. The six rings in the corners are round. Wooden tarn heads, kept in the middle area enclosed by the track, are used to make the number of laps that have been completed. The tarns start on perches and must race through the rings along the path of the track.

Tharlarion Racing Stadium: Some cities, especially in areas where the domestication of the tarn does not exist or is much rare, enjoy tharlarion races. The city of Venna is famed for its races. Special racing tharlarions are bred for this purpose and they are commonly larger and more agile than normal saddle tharlarion but smaller than draft or war tharlarions. Some famous breeds of racing tharlarion include the Venetzia, Torarii and Thalonian.

Slave Pens: Both public and private slave pens exist in most cities. They are essentially a place to board your slaves when you must leave the city for a time and you do not want to be accompanied by your slaves. The private pens are considered better, by owners and slaves, though they do cost more. The private pens may also be able to train your slave while you are away for an additional fee.

Slave Lockers: In some cities, there are slave lockers where an owner can keep his slave for a temporary time. The idea is similar to the lockers you see in Earth gymnasiums, bus depots, etc. An owner places a coin in a slot, often a tarsk bit, and receives a key to a specific locker. He then places the slave in the locker. The door of the locker is perforated so the girl can receive air. These lockers may be stacked together. Obviously a girl cannot be left for too long in these lockers as she has no food or water.

Slaver Houses: Each city will contain a number of Slaver Houses, complexes containing a multitude of buildings and employees engaged in the business of slavery. The larger Houses will contain such facilities as baths, kitchen, laundry, commissaries, storerooms, medical facilities, library, records room, wardrobe and jewelry chambers, tarn cots, training rooms, recreation rooms, pens, kennels, chambers for processing, private sales rooms, and offices and quarters for staff including Metal Workers, Bakers, Cosmeticians, Bleachers, Dyers, Weavers, and Leather Workers. In some Slaver Houses, any free woman who visits must possess a special license. They must also remain in the company of a free man who is responsible for her. Part of the rationale for this is to prevent a slave from trying to escape by pretending to be a free woman. An additional reason is to protect the sensibilities of the free woman and prevent her from seeing certain aspects of the Slaver House which free women are considered better off not knowing.

Theaters: Most cities will have one or more stages for theater productions, and some of these stages may be quite elaborate. The types of theater on Gor vary from sophisticated comedies and serious dramas to low comedy, burlesque, farce and mime. Many roles are masked. In the more sophisticated dramas, all of the parts are played by men as women are not permitted on the stage. It is believed that the voices of women do not carry as well as a man. But, as most theaters have excellent acoustics and some masks have sound amplifiers, this is not a real problem. In the lesser forms of theater, women are permitted to take on roles though primarily slaves are used. Most theater seating, except for certain privileged sections, is not reserved in advance. You simply show up on the night of the performance and sit in any available seat. In the lower forms of theater, audience participation, comments and criticisms are encouraged. One of the most famous theaters on Gor is in the city of Ar. The Theater of Pentilicus Tallux is a vast structure and its stage could easily hold one thousand actors.

Temples: Initiates exist in nearly all Gorean cities and thus there is at least one temple to the Priest-Kings within each city. Temple styles vary widely, some being quite ornate and luxurious while others are very simple. Temples are constructed so that they are oriented to the Sardar Mountains, the home of the Priest-Kings. Temples do not contain chairs or benches, except for the Initiates, as Goreans are supposed to stand during religious services. Weapons are not permitted within the temples. A white rail divides the temple into two main areas. One area is for the worshipers and attendees to stand in. The other area is a sacred section for only the Initiates and anyone who has been specially anointed. At the altar area, there will likely be a depiction of the symbol of the Priest-Kings, a large golden circle. There are no actual representations of the Priest-Kings as they is considered blasphemous. Depending on the wealth of the temple, the symbol may or may not be an actual circle of gold. Some temples will also have choirs of young boys, and these boys stand outside the white rail. The boys are bald and have been castrated so that they will have lovely soprano voices.

Tarn Cot: These are buildings or structures to house tarns. Numerous buildings might possess steel projections on their exterior walls that act as perches for tarns but that is generally a temporary measure. Long term boarding is commonly done with tarn cots. Tarn cots vary in their construction and may be small or very large. Some cots are simply wire cages where the tarn is locked to a perch. Other cots fill large cylinders and have hundreds of perches on the walls. Again, the birds are commonly locked to the perches. The roof may have a portal that can open and close and allow the birds access to the sky. When the portal is closed, the tarns are sometimes allowed the freedom to fly around the interior of the cylinder.

Merchant Shops: A myriad of different merchant shops will exist in each city. There are few stores though that sell general items. For the most part, stores specialize in certain items. Though that may be more time consuming than being able to shop in a single store, many cities congregate the various shops together and/or have public markets. Most items are created very close to where they are sold. This allows merchants to better examine the quality of the products they sell. Few shops have windows and they are commonly either open to the street or have counters open to the street. At night, shutters will be closed and locked to protect the store. The more expensive stores will not be open to the street. Instead, there will be a door leading through the store into an inner courtyard where the wares will be displayed. Haggling is the order of business in the markets as the prices are not fixed. Thus, markets are noisy and fun places, busy with the constant hustle of commerce. Slaves may visit merchant shops but if they are unaccompanied by a free person, they must wait until all the free patrons have been waited upon.

Items manufactured within a city, and considered to be worthy, may be stamped with the official city seal to authenticate the origin of the goods. For example, the goods of Ar are considered to be of excellent worth so that the seal of Ar is important to many. Other cities are known for the quality of specific products so that their city seal is important on those items. But, these stamps can and are sometimes forged so a buyer must be careful of which Merchant he buys from.

Some of the Caste types that own Merchant shops in a city may include Bakers, Bleachers, Cloth Worker, Cosmeticians, Dyers, Leather Workers, Metal Workers (including precious metals like silver and gold), Potters, Rug Makers, Saddle Makers, Tarn Keepers, Tharlarion Keeper, Vintners, Weavers. Other craftsmen with shops might include carvers, varnishers, table makers, gem cutters, jewelers, carders, tanners, makers of slippers, toolers of leather, glaziers, and weapon smiths. There might also be curio shops that sell a variety of unique and different items. You will also find produce markets, selling a variety of fruits, vegetables, meats and other food items.

Grain Cylinders: Cities often have large storage cylinders for grain, especially to protect against the possibility of a siege.

Siege Reservoirs: These large cylinders contain stores of fresh water. Like the Grain Cylinders, Siege Reservoirs are a defense against the possibility of siege.

Public Kitchens: There are no "restaurants" on Gor as we know them. People may get food at a paga tavern or inn. There are also public kitchens where people can go to eat though these are more functional than social places.

Public Laundry: This city service is provided to any citizen and slaves work at this facility. Free women generally have to do very little work at home unless they want to. Such public facilities allow them to have the work done by slaves.