Spoiler warning. Don’t read this unless you’ve read the book.
Did you wonder about ‘Rith’? Keashil’s husband (Aramish) took the stage name ‘Rith’, which offended the Vorthenki. Rith was a magician in Vorthenki folklore. Keashil sang his story in Deenar. Rith was actually Gilish. Gilish was originally Vorthenki and, as you would expect, made quite an impression on them. But when he sailed south and conquered Relanor no one knew where he was from.
Of course he could never have managed to conquer it if he hadn’t got Sheagil on his side. Relanor was, at that time, under the control of the Monnar. Sheagil herself was a Monnar. She all but says that to Azkun. And, of course, it was she, not Gilish who was responsible for the conquest and the building of those impressive structures. She was one of the more powerful Monnar magicians.
In fact Gilish was really something of a con artist, as well as being good at the kind of magic you can see in any magic show today (Aramish’s appropriation of his name was more apt than anyone knew). He had a charismatic personality and huge self-confidence, and he had Sheagil using her magic against her own folk for him.
Who were the Monnar? They were the people who built most of the ruins. The old Monnar at the end uses a double headed axe to cut fennel. There are similar axes on the ruins of the Gashan city and Kishalkuz. The Monnar civilisation peaked just before Gilish’s adventure and crashed when he took over Relanor. After that the ones with the power decided to live simpler lives and had nothing more to do with running countries. The others are still there in Relanor but they don’t know they have Monnar ancestry.
The Monnar, in using their power, had made a number of mistakes. The state of Gashan was the result of one, and the Duzral Eye was another. It is possible that the dragons themselves are yet another.
The Anthorians, with their almond shaped eyes, are oriental looking. The Anthorians and the Monnar are fairly closely related, more than anyone suspects. The Vorthenki, of course, look like Scandinavians. They aren’t giants, but they are bigger than Relanese/Anthorians. So the racial mix in Relanor is quite interesting. The original inhabitants were Monnar, oriental-looking. Gilish’s people were blond but this story is a thousand years later so there has been mixing. Essentially the more important you are the more Vorthenki looking you are. Then there has been a fresh influx of Vorthenki invaders (so Sinalth’s is the second Vorthenki invasion of Relanor) moving the existing Relanese down a notch. In Anthor the mixing did not take place because it was not conquered. The royals, including Menish, have some Vorthenki but they mostly look oriental. This is why it was not obvious to Menish that Vorish was his son. Vorish looks a bit Anthorian and a bit Vorthenki. So does Menish.
The Anthorian culture is influenced by both Mongolian and Arab ideas. The superb horsemanship, the wrestling matches and the sword dance all come from my readings about Mongolia. The Anthorians look much like Mongolians, although they are longer boned in the north (Grath, for example) because there has been just a little mixing with Vorthenki who are not so far away from there. The cattle raiding and feuding is based on Arab culture where sheep raiding was once regarded as something like a national sport. There were rules about not harassing women and children during raids and so on, and I picked up these ideas for Anthor. The Anthorian prohibition about raiding the King’s herds is my own idea since I couldn’t see how Menish could be away so long as well as feed everyone at his court if he had to put up with raiders as well.
As for the food, the Anthorians eat Mongolian food. Mein is oat porridge flavoured with pepper or chilli. But with no contact with the New World I expect Anthorians would not know about chilli. Tsamba is described in the text, balls of butter dusted with roasted barley. These are words the Mongolians use. Ambroth is fermented milk, I made up that word. Relanese have a more varied diet because they grow more crops and have a sea coast.