Exploring the Life and Works of Edgar Rice Burroughs

FAQs, Articles, Reviews, Persona Directory, Hall of Memory
Summarizing ERB's works one chapter at a time
Shorts, Novels, Poetry, Plays, Pulps
Articles, Contributors: Tangor Responds, Edgardemain, ERB: In Focus, Nkima Speaks, Beyond 30W, Tantor Trumpets, Dime Lectures, Korak in Pal-ul-don, Public Domain novels of ERB
Worlds of: Barsoom, Pellucidar, Moon, Amtor, Caspak, Pal-u-don

"WE STILL LIVE!" ...John Carter
Copyright © 1982, 1996-2003 All Rights Reserved.



A Barsoom Glossary

Barsoomian technology is a curious mixture of the sophisticated advanced scientific society and the primitive innocence of barbarism. Mars, according to Edgar Rice Burroughs, has a human history spanning millions of years and in that time races have risen to scientific heights exceeding our planet and then faded to memory as a younger, more vital race emerges. Much of the technology has been passed down over the ages, but a significant part of the elder races' knowledge has been lost. For example, the great atmosphere plant created by the Orovars as the oceans of Mars evaporated, has never been duplicated by the red race which now maintains the gigantic device. Methods of cold light, radium light, or some forms of manufacturing have been lost. Yet, for all the knowledge lost there remains a significant core of scientific study that is astounding.


-- range in size from single seaters to 10,000 man crafts.* The swift scout flier (pre-Fighting Man of Mars) had a top speed of 1,100 haads per zode (166 mph). At some time before the events of Fighting Man, an unknown padwar in the Helium navy developed a new motor with half the weight and twice the power. The motor depended upon the planet's magnetic field for energy, thus was practically unlimited in range. The new one-man fliers built with that motor achieved speeds of 2,000 haads per zode (approximately 300 mph). Effective max appears to be 3,000 haads per zode until better ship building methods are developed. Hastor launched the largest battleship ever, with the capacity to carry 10,000 men (Fighting); John Carter and Vor Daj left Helium (Synthetic) in a small cruiser of new design that could attain speeds over 400 mph.

* There is only one 10,000 man craft mentioned. It is unnamed and is a vessel of Hastor. The 10,000 men are actually a military landing force called a Umak. An Earth Army unit of similar size is a Divsion, which comprises three Brigades. The rest of the "battleships" of Barsoom appear to be 1,000 men in size. (Update, December 14, 2020)

Airships play a vital role in the Barsoomian novels. The vessels of Barsoom are of varying sizes ranging from personal units not unlike surfboards in size and shape to immense 10,000 man battleships. These airships are found in every novel. The airship, or "flier" as it is called in the books by Edgar Rice Burroughs, connect the widely separated and isolated Barsoomian communities for either trade or war. All follow a basic configuration as illustrated in the image below.

It is apparent that Barsoomian airships are constructed in configuration similar to surface water vessels as the First Born have routinely converted stolen Barsoomian fliers for use on the surface of the underground Omean Sea.

In the matter of equipping a fleet to enter Omean the details were left to Kantos Kan and Xodar. The former agreed to take such vessels as we required into dock as rapidly as possible, where Xodr would direct their equipment with water propellers.

For many years the black had been in charge of the refitting of captured battleships that they might navigate Omean, and so was familiar with the construction of the propellers, housings, and the auxiliary gearing required. (GODS)

Equally apparent are the immense numbers of Barsoomian airships. In Gods of Mars Kantos Kan assembled a substantial rescue fleet of modified Heliumetic warships over a period of 300 days without arousing the suspicion Zat Arras, a Zodangan jed then currently in control of Helium.

"To-night there lies about the great docks at Hastor a fleet of a thousand of the mightiest battleships that ever sailed above Barsoom, and each equipped to navigate the air of Omean and the waters of Omean itself. Upon each battleship there are five ten-man cruisers, and ten five-man scouts, and a hundred one-man scouts; in all, one hundred and sixteen thousand craft fitted with both air and water propellers." (GODS)

"At Thark lie the transports for the green warriors of Tars Tarkas, nine hundred large troopships, and with them their convoys. ..." (GODS)

Facts/statements found in the texts that are general in nature: Upon each battleship there are five ten-man cruisers, and ten five-man scouts, and a hundred one-man scouts (Gods). An Amhorian airship of some size traverses 750 earth miles in seven and one-half earth hours, indicating a cruising speed of 100 miles per hour. (Synthetic)


commanded by Gatholian San Tothis. A 35-man cruiser. (Chessmen)
Commanded by Bal Zak (Master Mind) vessel belongs to Ras Thavas
another of Ras Thavas' ships. (Master Mind)
Commanded by Tan Hadron. The ship has an invisibility cloak. (Fighting)
a flagship of Helium; led the rescue expedition to Morbus. (Synthetic)
Commanded by John Carter (Llana)
flagship of Phor San (Llana)
Heliumetic warship (Gods)
Commanded by Vas Kor, Dusar registry.
Gar Nal's space ship in Swords
Fal Siva's space ship in Swords

Glossary Entries

artificial life
see hormads
atmosphere factory
— an ancient constuct built by the Orovars and operated by the red Martians which provides the artificially generated atmosphere of Mars. (Princess, Llana)
atom gun
- hand weapon described as a pistol or rifle in Giant of Mars.
brain and organ transplants
and other surgical/medical miracles (Master Mind, Synthetic).
— man-made waterways transporting water from the polar caps into the inhabited regions of Barsoom. Generally bordered by trees and agricultural areas, often accompanied by a broad roadway.
carborundum aluminium
— a light-weight material, nearly impenetrable, used in the construction of Barsoomian fighting airships.
— mechanical brains; a device capable of responding to telepathic commands and utilized in Fal Sivas' spaceship (Swords)
Destination Compass (directional compass)
— a aerial navigation device which Carthoris improved. In operation one sets the desired latitude and longitude. The device then navigates to the location, then shuts down the propulsion and lowers the craft to the group. It also has altitude ranging which operates by reflected light (think lasers) which prevents ground collision. The device is so light sensitive that it functions by starlight, or in the event of the rare occasion the night sky is covered with cloud, by the beam of a downward directed artificial light.
Directional lighting
of cities, see street lighting below (Swords)
Disintegration Ray
— invented by Phor Tak of Jahar; a weapon which can be set to selectively destroy organic or inorganic materials. (Fighting)
Eighth Ray
— a form of antigravity produced from forces emanating from the planets and stars.
Electromagnetic devices
— most significant is the Guardian of the North, a vast magnetic device built over the North Pole for the defense and destruction of airships. (Warlord and Thuvia)
— identical in function to the Jasoomian equivilant. (Swords)
— personal flying belts based on the Eighth Ray;
The equilibrimotor is an ingenious device for individual flying. It consists of a broad belt, not unlike the life belt used aboard passenger ships on Earth; the belt is filled with the eighth Barsoomian ray, or ray of propulsion, to a sufficient degree to equalize the pull of gravity and thus to maintain a person in equilibrium between that force and the opposite force exerted by the eighth ray. Attached to the back of the belt is a small radium motor, the controls for which are on the front of the belt; while rigidly attached to and projecting from the upper rim of the belt is a strong, light wing with small hand levers for quickly altering its position.
— Barsoomian airships ranging in size from personal one-man filers to 1,000 man battleships*. When John Carter first arrived on Barsoom, top speeds were 166 miles per hour. By the end of the series speeds approaching 550 miles per hour were attained. (see Airships)

* Correction. Original ABG entry read "10,000". Further research clearly indicates "1,000" is the crew size of Barsoomian aerial battleships.

fliers, ground
— airships with a maximum ceiling of 100 feet and maximum speed of 60 miles per hour, otherwise similar in design and shape as ordinary fliers and airships. Several varieties falling into two categories: ground effect machines using over-large tires inflated with the Barsoomian Eighth Ray with motive power supplied by a small radium driven propeller at the rear, and smaller personal fliers with limited lift designed for use in urban areas. (Thuvia and Gods)
Flying Death, the
— a "smart" torpedo that will adjust trajectory to destroy a designated target; invented by Phor Tak of Jahar.
food tablets
— concentrated energy (Warlord)
— lightest and hardest of metals used by Barsoomians; principally a building material.
Gridley Wave
— not of Barsoom; radio-like frequency/device discovered by Jason Gridley of America. Ultimately used for real-time communication between Earth and Barsoom.
— another name for destination compass, Giant.
— rare form of headdress, perhaps an apparel of defense.
holographic telescopes
— Princess and again in Synthetic Men
— hormads; produced from large vats and a chemical mixture; cannot be killed though can be incapacitated by striking the head from the body; self-regenerating, though the process is flawed—a hormad head might regenerate a leg from the neck down instead of a body and have to be again decapitated or thrown back into the vat; created by Ras Thavas of Toonol during his residence at Morbus (Synthetic)(see Non-Human Martians)
hypnosis and deathless minds
- specifically the Lotharians, additionally the creature in the pits of Horz, also references the intellects of Bantoom.
International air travel
, freight and passengers. (Thuvia)
invisibility and cloaking devices
— organic and inorganic methods of inducing invisibility; Phor Tak of Jahar developed an invisibility paint that, when applied to cloth or warships, bent light rays around the object producing the invisibility effect. The humans in the Forest of Lost Men swallow a pill which renders one invisible for ten zodes. On Sasoom the Savators plaster their dwellings with a sand of invisibility which reacts in the same fashion as the Phor Tak paint, bending light around objects.
- radio with at least one secret frequency at 2000 kilocycles.
Nerve machine
— controls the bodies of indexed and encoded subjects in the First Born valley of Kamtol. (Llana)
Ninth Ray
— used in atmospheric plant
personal home protection
— houses hydraulically raised at night.
photostatic copies
— reproduction of images in an instant. Described as a service of the Temple of Knowledge, Greater Helium (Fighting).
Pneumatic tube transport systems

— aerogram, wireless, etc., headphones and morse code.
- everlasting light bulbs
- explosive bullets
- pistols and rifles
range finders
- wireless, generally used to target large weapons from airships.
Recording Machine
— type of computer assisted telefax which records weights and measures, and transmits from a distance.
space ships
- Two vehicles are described capable of space flight—the manually operated ship created by Gar Nal of Zodanga and the thought-operated ship created by Fal Sivas of Zodanga. Both ships traveled to Thuria, the nearer moon. (Swords)
street lighting
A peculiar feature of the street lighting of Toonol, and in fact the same condition applies to the lighting of other Barsoomian cities I have visited, I noted for the first time that night as I waited upon the landing stage for the return of Bal Zak with the watchman. The luminosity below me seemed confined directly to the area to be lighted; there was no diffusion of light upward or beyond the limits the lamps were designed to light This was effected, I was told, by lamps designed upon principles resulting from ages of investigation of the properties of light waves and the laws governing them which permit Barsoomian scientists to confine and control light as we confine and control matter. The light waves leave the lamp, pass along a prescribed circuit and return to the lamp. There is no waste nor, strange this seemed to me, are there any dense shadows when lights are properly installed and adjusted, for the waves in passing around objects to return to the lamp, illuminate all sides of them.
    The effect of this lighting from the great height of the tower was rather remarkable. The night was dark, there being no moons at that hour upon this night, and the effect was that obtained when sitting in a darkened auditorium and looking upon a brilliantly lighted stage.
— First Born vessels capable of navigating the depths of the Omean Sea. (Gods)

— used in Okar for solar energy and heating.

suspended animation
- the many frozen warriors collected by Hin Abtol of Panar, a red Jeddak of the Barsoomian North. Humans cached in frigid conditions then later thawed to supplement Hin Abtol's armies. (Llana)

- invented by Ras Thavas, Giant
"Theoretical Mechanics"
— a technical book authored by an unnamed Barsoomian. (Swords)
torches, handheld
— a portable illumination device found in Horz. It is a cylindrical object producing a cold light when exposed to atmosphere; the greater the exposure, the more light produced; an ancient device manufactured by unknown methods that have not been duplicated in modern times.
traffic flow, standardized
— in urban areas. These ground fliers are a common means of private transportation in many Martian cities. (see fliers, ground) In Amhor all north and south traffic moves at ground level at intersections, east and west traffic passing above it. East and west traffic is compelled to rise above north and south traffic at each intersection because there is a short runway inclining upward to a height of about ten feet at each intersection, ending in an abrupt drop at the intersection. These inclines force all east and west traffic to rise above the north and south traffic intersections. All vehicular traffic moves in but one direction on any avenue, the direction of flow alternating so that half the avenues carry traffic in one direction and the other half in the opposite direction. Left turns are made without diminishing speed by the simple expedient of rising above both lanes of traffic. The result is that traffic flows steadily in all direction at an average speed of about fifty miles per hour. Parking accommodations are frequent, and are found inside buildings at a level of about sixty feet above the pavement. North and south pedestrian traffic moves without interruption in either direction on both sides of North and South Streets at the ground level; and, similarly, on East and West Streets through underpasses at street intersections. (Synthetic)
watch or chronometer
In a cylindrical bracelet of gold about my wrist was my Barsoomian chronometer—a delicate instrument that records the tals and xats and zodes of Martian time, presenting them to view beneath a strong crystal much after the manner of an earthly odometer.