The Sword Coast has long been home to native human cities who intermingled with wave upon wave of immigrants, whether they arrived as conquerors or refugees. In recent centuries, these disparate groups have gradually coalesced into a relatively new ethnic group known as Tethyrians, occupying a vast territory stretching from Calimshan to Silverymoon and from the Sea of Swords to the Sea of Fallen Stars. After centuries of enslavement and oppression by one group or another, Tethyrians are fiercely independent, protective of their freedoms and suspicious of threats posed by powerful kingdoms and empires. Given their disparate ancestry, Tethyrians have never developed a unique language of their own, instead adopting the language of the latest wave of conquerers or refugees. Today most Tethyrians speak Chondathan.
As Tethyrian culture is a melting pot of Calishite, Chondathan, Illuskan, and Low Nethereses, Tethyrians are tolerant of and comfortable with members of ethnic groups with the notable exception of upper class Calishite and, to a lesser extent, Mulan of Thayan descent. In Calimshan, Tethyrians compose the bulk of the lower classes and have long been discriminated against by the largely Calishite upper classes. Outside Calimshan, many Tethyrians are craftsmen or caravanners, while others find employment as mercenaries in the employ of other realms. Tethyrians make skilled fighters and rogues, reflecting the struggle to survive successive waves of conquest and generations of warfare. Tethyrian culture has a long tradition of bardcraft, reflecting the absence of a Tethyrian empire at any point in history and the corresponding reliance on itinerant bards to preserve and spread Tethyrian oral history.
Tethyrians are of medium build and height, although taller and broader in build than most Calishite. Their skin tends to have a dusky hue, although average they are increasingly fairer in complexion the farther north one travels along the Sword Coast, reflecting a decreasing fraction of Calishite heritage and an increasing fraction of Illuskan and Low Netherese ancestry. Tethyrian hair and eye color varies widely, with brown hair and blue eyes being most common.
Most Tethyrians are proud of their multi-ethnic heritage, seeing their society as having defeated all would-be conquerors through assimilation rather than empire. Tethyrians are suspicious of remote rulers and large realms, a cultural bias reflected in the predominance of city-states over kingdoms and empires in Tethyrian-dominated regions. If Tethyrians have a common weakness, it is their reluctance to come together in common causes with those who are not their immediate neighbors.
Tethyrians view life as a struggle to be survived through ties to family, clan, and tribe. To a Tethyrian, freedom is the most precious gift, and the enslavement of another is the greatest sin. Although an individual may guard his or her freedom through skill at arms or the accumulation of wealth and status, these are merely different means to a far more precious end. Loyalty to one's kin and neighbor and generosity to hose in need are considered far more lasting than the fleeting favor of Lady Luck. Although it has been many generations since the majority of Tethyrians dwelt in tribes, the cultural tradition of loyalty to those held dear is as strong today as it ever was. Where a Tethyrian lacks kin or clan, his loyalty is transferred to settlement, guild, company, band, or other organization from a young age.
Tethyrians usually take up a life of adventure in hopes of redressing a wrong to family, clan, or tribe, or in search of the freedom to chart their own course in life. Many would-be adventurers are inspired by the tale of the legendary Tethyrian heroes of yore, whose exploits have been recounted for generations by traveling bards. A Tethyrian adventurer would rather wield a blade carried by his ancestors than have a new one forged, and would rather spend his last coin on a bard's tale than a pint of ale.
Bards occupy an honored role in Tethyrian culture, and many aspire to the rank of master bard. Fighters and rogues are common in civilized regions, while rangers flourish among outlaw communities. Clerics and, to a lesser extent, druids are quite common as well, as the intermingling of cultures has produced a great deal of theological strife in centuries past. Wizards and sorcerers are also commonplace, although they rarely work in concert together. Monks and paladins are rare among Tethyrians, as adherence to a code of conduct rarely stands the test of family, clan, and tribal loyalties.
Although the cultures of most major human ethnic groups exhibit regional variations, Tethyrian culture exhibits much greater regional variation than most. Tethyrians dwelling in Calimshan, Tehtyr, and Amn share much in common with their Calishite neighbors. Similarly, Tethyrians dwelling in the North hold much in common with Illuskan culture, and Tethyrians of the Western Heartlands exhibit many cultural traits shared with the Chondathans who dwell to the east.
Nevertheless, Tethyrian culture does exhibit certain unique characteristics. Tethyrian place a high value on personal freedom, and regard kingdoms and empires with a great deal of suspicion. Noble-minded rebels are much admired in Tethyrian folklore, ensuring that many common bandits of Tethyrian ancestry refer to themselves as “freedom fighters.” Tethyrians despise class divisions based on heritage, as they have long been subject to prejudice by their Calishite neighbors to the south. However, class divisions based on wealth and personal accomplishment play strong role in many Tethyrian societies.
Aside from bards, Tethyrians have not traditionally has access to book learning, although those who do are much esteemed by their peers. Childhood is short, with even the youngest children expected to contribute to their family's way of life. Adults earn their keep practicing the same trade as their parents, and many have the same surname as their profession. Familial, clan, and tribal bonds require that adults look out for one another, so the elderly and those who cannot earn their keep turn to relatives and friends for support. In death, the body is buried quickly, and simply. The person is celebrated through stories and song, their memory preserved and maintained through bardcraft.
Outside Tethyrian-dominated lands, Tethyrians usually form an insular underclass, welcoming of others yet holding themselves apart. Tethyrians have little resistance to adopting local deities, languages, and dialects, but their traditional ties to other Tethyrians serve to isolate them from their non-Tethyrian neighbors. Tethyrians usually organize themselves into extended clans and guilds, dominating one or two trades in the surrounding culture.
The melting pot of Tethyrian culture has ensured that most deities of the Faerunian pantheon are venerated in Tethyrian-occupied lands. Tempus is believed to have been a Talfirian deity who defeated the Netherese god Targus (Garagos). Netherese refugees brought with them the faith of Amaunator (reborn as Lathander), Chauntea, Talos, Mystryl (reborn as Mystra), Selune, and Shar. Illuskan invaders introduced worship of Auril, Mielikki, and Oghma. Calishite armies introduced tieh faiths of Ilamter and Tyr. Chondathan merchants carried with them the teachings of Deneir, Helm, and Waukeen. Newer deities have arisen and been adopted as well, including Cyric, Kelemvor, and Siamorphe. Other deities that enjoy large Tethyrian following include Eldath, Milil, Shaundakul, and Torm. Six of the most prominent churches in Tethyrian-occupied lands include the faiths of Cyric, Helm, Ilmater, Kelemvor, Oghma, and Siamorphe.
Siamorphe is originally a Tethyrian goddess, worshiped primarily in Waterdeep, Baldur's Gate, and Tethyr. Her church has waxed and waned in centuries past as waves of idealism and cynicism have swept the nobility, but Siamorphe is currently ascendant. The church of Divine Right is most popular among the nobility, although Siamorphe is also seen as a guarantor of just rule by many commoners.
Relations with Other RacesEdit
Tethyrians hold the Proud Peoples (elves and dwarves) in high esteem, bordering on reverence, for Tethyrian folklore contains stories harkening back to the age when their ancestors dwelt in the shadow of the great dwarven and elven empires. In Tehtyr, however, where elves and Tethyrians still come into regular contact, the Fair Folk are regarded with a fair degree of suspicion and hostility. Tethyrians get along well with halflings, reflecting the large number of Small Folk who dwell in Tethyrian-occupied lands and their shared history of migrating northwards along the Sword Coast to escape the grasping reach of Calimshan.
Tethyrians are indifferent with respect to gnomes, paying the Forgotten Folk little heed, even though they dwell in Tethyrian-held lands in relatively large numbers. Tethyrian reactions to tieflings and half-orcs are sharply split. Those Tethyrians who dwell north of the Cloud Peaks and have had to battle innumerable hordes and the devilspawn of Dragonspear Castle despise those with monstrous blood running in their veins, while southern Tethyrians view them in sympathy with the Calishite perspective as simply members of the lower class. Genasai are regarded with suspicion, seen as little better than genie-worshiping Calishite, but aasimar are often mistaken for elves or half-elves.
Among human cultures, Tethyrians view Illuskans as overly warlike and Chondathans as overly greedy, but they usually get along well with members of both ethnic groups if they live inc lose proximity. The Mulan are despised as slavers, although that sobriquet is more properly reserved for Thayans. True hatred is reserved for Calishite, an enmity bred from familiarity and the product of centuries of discrimination against and enslavement of the various Tethyrian tribes. Other cultures are largely unknown in Tethyrian-held lands, but human immigrants, no matter how exotic, are usually welcomed and then assimilated within a generation or two.