Calormen—or more formally, the Calormene Empire—was an empire in the south of the world of Narnia. Most of the country had a semi-arid climate, and its most notable geographic features were a volcano known as the Flaming Mountain of Lagour, and the Great Desert at its northern exterior.
On Calormen's east was the Bight of Calormen, on its west were a conglomeration of unnamed nations, and on its south lay, quite possibly, the Southern Waste. The Great Desert was in the north of the country and was virtually uninhabited; the difficulty of crossing this desert prevented aggressive Calormene governments from invading Archenland and Narnia for many centuries.
The Calormene empire was founded in the early days of the Age of Conquest, after certain exiled outlaws from Archenland fled across the southern desert and arrived in a then un-inhabited land. They founded the Calormen empire in this new land in the year 204, which started off in the northern band of the country. This was led by a cult leader from Archenland who was called the Tisroc, who claimed himself to be a descendent of the god Tash.
The details of early Calormen's history are never explicated. But because the country is described as en empire, presumably descendents of early Calormenes (loyal to the Tisroc) migrated further south or to the west, founding their own respective civilizations and countries. Over the centuries, however, the Calormenes expanded their empire greatly, conquering many of these southern countries, whose inhabitants had separated from the early Calormene settlers, most notably the province of the city Zalindreh. In 300, Calormenes spread their power further north, colonizing the land that would come to be called "Telmar" (to the far west of Narnia). But Aslan turned the Calormene colonists into dumb animals for their wicked deeds.
After this, former Calormene-settled lands in the west (what would become Telmar) remained unpeopled until pirates and their wives came from Earth's "South Sea" in 460, and together they settled in the land and made it their home and eventually founded the new kingdon of Telmar. After Telmar became civilized and established as a nation-state, it presumably allied itself with Calormen.
During the Age of Winter, the Calormens were apparently aware that Narnia was in an endless winter under the rule of Jadis, however, they thought her army was too powerful to conquer. It was during this age that Calormen conquered many nations in the Southern Waste, and made them colonies of the empire, enslaving and trading slaves with Telmar.
One of the most notable confrontations between Calormen and the northern countries was during the Golden Age, which was called the Archenland Conflict, in 1014. Prince Rabadash, the son of the Tisroc, was furious that Queen Susan of Narnia had rejected him. He led a small army across the desert in an effort to surprise and quickly conquer Archenland, to use as a staging ground for abducting Susan and, in the future, conquering Narnia. But his plans had been discovered by four travelers, Aravis, Hwin, Bree and Shasta, and they warned Archenland of the impending invasion on their way from Calormen to Narnia. A Narnian relief army arrived to aid the Archenlanders, and the Calormenes were defeated.
After the battle, Rabadash was captured by Archenland, and a trial was held there for his wicked deeds, during which Aslan himself showed up. In the end, Aslan punished him for his cruelty and arrogrance by changing him into a donkey, but said that he would change back into a man once he stood outside the Temple of Tash in his homeland. He was, however, warned that should he ever venture more than ten miles (16 kilometres) from his home, he would change back into a donkey, and would forever remain so.
During the early Dark Age, Rabadash succeeded his father as Tisroc when he died, after which he was called "Rabadash the Peace Maker", as he could not risk waging any wars, because of his curse. However, after he died, and his own son succeeded him, he was renamed "Rabadash the Ridiculous" in Calormene history books.
In later centuries of the Dark Age, Calormen competed with Archenland over the govermentless nation of Narnia. The Lone Islands became a colony of the Empire, and became a nation that traded slaves with other islands, most notably Galma and Terebinthia; however, the Seven Isles were largely left alone to their own devices. However, it was Telmar that was successful in capturing Narnia.
In Narnia's last days, of the year 2555, an ape named Shift made an alliance with the Calormenes to conquer Narnia, and subsequently the rest of her empire. The plot involved the False Aslan Affair, which divided the people of Narnia. However, when Calormen's success seemed within reach at the final battle, Aslan declared the time had come to destroy the world of Narnia. Calormen, along with the rest of the world, was destroyed, but was surpisingly part of Aslan's Country when the world's inhabitants had escaped Narnia's destruction.
Geography of Calormen
The empire was described as being vast, with Narnia being no larger than one of its provinces.
The cultural centre of Calormen was the River Calormen, which flowed from west to east along the south side of the Great Desert. The capital city was Tashbaan, located on an island in the river's delta, and the river was bordered for much of its length by farmland and wealthy communities.
The city of Azim Balda, located at a crossroads in the heart of the country, was a major hub for travel and communications.
People of Calormen
Calormenes were known to be dark-skinned, with the men mostly bearded. Flowing robes, turbans and wooden shoes with an upturned point at the toe were common items of clothing, and the preferred weapon was the Calormene scimitar.
Lavish palaces were present in the Calormene capital Tashbaan, with the overall leitmotif of Calormene culture was portrayed as ornate to the point of ostentation.
The people of Calormen were concerned with maintaining honour and precedent, often speaking in maxims and quoting their ancient poets. Veneration of elders and absolute deference to power were marks of Calormene society. Many Calormene customs spawned from the Calormene's beliefs.
Power and wealth determined class and social standing, and slavery was commonplace (Narnians held Calormenes in disdain for their treatment of their animals and slaves).
It is unknown from where the human race of Calormenes originated, although it is suspected they may have been outlaws sent into the Great Desert from Narnia and Archenland as punishment. Instead of dying, though, they appeared to have successfully crossed the desert, creating their own civilisation at the River Calormen, which eventually became the country of Calormen. Their migration through the Great Desert, with the sun beating down on them, may have also attributed to their dark complexion.
In an alternative theory, Calormen was founded by Middle Easterners accidentally crossing into Calormen from Earth through a portal in a manner not unlike the Telmarine pirates, which was subsequently unaccessible, preventing their return. The Calormenes speak a flowery version of the standard English favoured by both human and animal Narnians, which might support this argument; however, Jadis also speaks English. The reason for the ancient Persian, Moorish, Mughal, Indian and Ottoman Turkish aspects of Calormene culture, or the origin of their religion, was not satisfactorily explained, but stand in strong counterpoint to the largely European, Anglo and Greco-Roman (and Christian) aspects of Narnia and Archenland.
Society of Calormen
Calormene society is complex, Byzantine, and deeply class-conscious, being divdied into a rigid, hereditery caste structure.
At the top of this class system is the Calormene royal family itself, headed by the monarch/emperor called the Tisroc. Just beneath the monarchy is the Calormene nobility/aristocracy, called the Tarkaans, who filled senior advisory and political, beurocratc professions, as well as holding office in senior military positions, filling the ranks of religious clergy, etc.
It is never stated what the class of common people in Calormen are officially called; they work in a number of occupaions including fishermen, farmers, merchants, manual labourers, woodworkers, smiths, etc.
At the bottom of the social scale is a slave class. It is known that Calormene commoners may be sold into slavery as punishment for minor offenses. Prisoners of war and the peoples of conquered nations can and are sold into slavery, as well.
Calormene culture is militaristic and imperialistic. Its foundational legends and stories are centered around military courage, battle victories, and glorification of war and military leaders. Calormen is an expansionist empire which maintains an a quite uneasy peace with what surrounding countries it has not conquered.
The Calormene economy appears to be mercantilistic and built upon both slave labour and exploitation of propertyless persons including most commoners.
It is also a religious society with a highly developed mythology. Calormene state religion is polytheistic; many gods and goddesses are said to be venerated although the chief god worshipped is Tash, who is said to be the ancestor of the Calormene royals.
- "Calor" is Spanish and Portuguese for "heat" which seems to suggest how the name of the warm desert country was developed.
- C.S. Lewis may have based Calormen off of the Middle East, especially the Ottoman Empire, as well as Ancient Persia and India. Both have arid climates with dark-skinned inhabitants, although the Persians and many northern Indians have lighter skin. The opulence and overall attitude of the Tisrocs evokes the Ottoman Sultans, and there is an obvious resemblance of "Tarkaan" to "Turk". The Calormenes follow a polytheistic religion more akin to that of the early Middle East or India rather than the monotheistic Muslim Middle East. Nevertheless, the strong emphasis on Tash in the Calormenes' religion would parallel a European view of the Muslim Allah as a competitor to the Christian God.
- The name Calormen is similar to that of Kalórmë, a mountain found in the easternmost part of the world, in the Land of the Sun where the Sun rises every dawn, and which is the tallest mountain of Arda after Taniquetil in Tolkien's legendarium.
- In the Russian translation of the Narnia books, Calormen is known as "Tarkhistan" (Тархистан), as a reference to its Tarkhaan nobles and its Turkish and Persian cultural influences.