From Discworld & Terry Pratchett Wiki
Jump to navigation Jump to search
The coat of arms of Ankh-Morpork
Established -2564 UC (AM 1)
Motto Quanti canicula ille in fenestra (How Much is That Doggie in the Window) and Merus in pectum et in aquam (Pure in Heart and Water)
Neighbours The city-states of the Sto Plains
Geographical Features River Ankh, The Isle of Gods, The Tump
Population approx. 100,000 souls and ten times more inhabitants. Species include 50,000 dwarfs at the time The Fifth Elephant, trolls, werewolves, vampires, boogeymen, zombies, gargoyles, golems, gnolls, and Nobby Nobbs. Don't forget the humans, too.
Size 1 mile across (about 1.6km) (excluding suburbs outside the city walls)
Type of government Ruled by a Patrician, currently Havelock Vetinari, under the system of One Man, One Vote. Before that, a monarchy.
Notable Citizens Commander Sam Vimes of the Watch, Captain Carrot Ironfoundersson (heir to the throne), Lord Downey (head of the Assassins' Guild), Cut-Me-Own-Throat Dibbler (salesman), Lord Selachii and Lord Venturi, perpetually warring noblemen.
Imports Dwarfs, Trolls, raw materials, trouble
Exports Manufactured goods, politics, trouble
National Anthem We Can Rule You Wholesale
Books All books in the Watch Series and Ankh-Morpork Books, and Maskerade, Soul Music, Hogfather, Thief of Time The Colour of Magic The Light Fantastic Wyrd Sisters Equal Rites I Shall Wear Midnight Mort

Ankh-Morpork is the largest city on the Disc with about a million inhabitants. It is also one of the most common locations for the Discworld stories. Its Latatian name is Ankhius et Morporkia. In Moving Pictures, we learn its nickname is "the Big Wahoonie" (an ugly, smelly fruit). The city lies on the river Ankh, which resembles solid ground more than it does water. Originally two cities separated by the river, Ankh and Morpork today are governed as one (admittedly potentially schizophrenic) entity. Ankh-Morpork is a city state which governs few lands outside its perimeter, but it has a political and economic influence which "distorts the landscape for hundreds of miles".

The City

The river is semi-solid, the water has a taste, the air is smoggy (the birds cough rather than sing) and following a snowfall the streets are left a muddy slurry. Baking hot in summer, cold and snowy in winter, Ankh-Morpork has a "despotic ruler" (some say) who has succeeded in so thoroughly organizing crime that it is self-regulating. While ethnic riots and feuds are common, Ankh-Morpork is still the place where everybody wants to live. Ankh-Morpork now has the largest dwarf population outside of Überwald and is in fact the Discworld's largest dwarf city. Likewise, Ankh-Morpork is home to probably the only troll crime syndicate on the Discworld, the Breccia. Not to be undone, the undead can meet in their own taverns or support groups and have a Bloody Mary or a mug of hot cocoa, depending on individual tastes. Evangelical preachers find a huge potential flock to convert, often immigrants seeking their fortunes here or refugees who have come seeking peaceful lives free from (specific) persecution. Perhaps they have been mis-informed by a travel log written by a tourist, or maybe it just depends on the perspective.

The city of Ankh-Morpork is the first major setting to appear in the Discworld series, starring (as it were) in Part 1 of The Colour of Magic and reappearing in virtually every Discworld book in a cameo role if not as a major setting. Known to Death as a city that never sleeps, Ankh-Morpork prides itself on being a city where you can buy anything you can think of; indeed, if they don't have it, with a modicum of notice they will gladly steal it in order to sell it to you. It has been said that Ankh-Morpork's primary exports are smog and modern power politics. Indeed, a foreign ruler once likened Ankh-Morpork to a vampire; taking everything and turning other states into lesser copies of itself.

The city is divided clearly by the river. Morpork, the widdershins half of the city is home to the most of the guilds, the Unseen University and the Patrician's Palace. It also includes most of both the city's industry and grime, including the docks, the markets and The Shades - the poorest and most densly populated part of the city. The city of Ankh, the turnwise half, is mostly residential and is dominated by several large mansions and parks. The geographical centre of the city is the Opera House on Pseudopolis Yard, a circular square on the Isle of Gods and a meeting point for several important roads.

Geographically, the city is built mostly on river silt and silt deposition has increased the height of the city over many centuries. As a result, many older buildings and even streets survive perfectly intact beneath the present day city. Apart from The Tump, a large hill on the perimeter, the city is mostly flat.

The People

Ordinary Ankh-Morpork citizens are inordinately fond of street theatre, and have a very liberal definition of such. They will gather and watch anything occurring in the streets, while something that is actually interesting can bring the city to a complete halt. Some popular one-act productions include the Guild of Fools on fire, somebody threatening to jump off the top of a building (even though everybody knows they're doing it just to get tobacco money), overturned beer carts, public hangings and so on. Where crowds gather, Mr. Cut-Me-Own-Throat Dibbler ("cutting-me-own-throat" as in he's selling things so cheaply it's suicidal) is guaranteed to be present, selling sausages-in-a-bun and other unhygienic, possibly un-food, fast food. If there is a crowd and Dibbler is there and not selling anything, then there is something seriously wrong (really seriously wrong).

Ankh-Morpork citizens are very touchy about the reputations of things such as, the state of the River Ankh, the democracy, or the caterpillars in their imported cabbages. Ankh-Morpork also houses many noble families. Historically, Ankh-Morpork has warred against other city-states on the Sto Plains and against Klatch across the Circle Sea. Ankh-Morpork nobles typically look down upon The Kingdom of Lancre and go on tours to sneer at Überwald. Many countries owe Ankh-Morpork a lot of money. When things are peaceful, Ankh-Morpork is the boss; when somebody turns directly against Ankh-Morpork however, Ankh-Morpork finds very few allies (though it does find bill-collectors rather more useful than allies in any event).

Nobles of other countries often send their children to attend the Assassins' school (assuming they look good in black clothing; otherwise The Fools' Guild - which has swallowed up and now incorporates the formerly independent guilds of Quirm and Überwald - and Seamstresses' Guild are always welcoming new members). In short, although just about everybody who lives in Ankh-Morpork has some complaints about living there, for the most part they continue. To live. There. And more people are coming every year.

Many citizens are members of the various Guilds however some others have joined various street gangs such as the Breccia, The Shamlegger Rude Boys and the Cockbill Street Roaring Lads.


The city is formally ruled by the Patrician, the absolute tyrant elected by a one man, one vote system of democracy (he is the man and he has the vote), although the guilds and temples make many of the everyday decisions. Affairs of state and the small volume of local government are carried out from the Patrician's Palace by a select staff of Clerks under the close supervision of Patrician Havelock Vetinari. Should any situation which requires immediate attention develop, the guild leaders, nobles and various other important city dignitaries hold an emergency council meeting, which usually consists of them bickering at each other.

There is relatively little crime in Ankh-Morpork since much of it is legalized and handled by the guilds. It's up to the guilds themselves to keep criminality at a reasonable level. The Ankh-Morpork City Watch, resurrected practically only in the last few years, takes care of crimes out of the jurisdiction or sight of the Guilds, ranging from sporadic unlicensed burglaries and thefts, to major crimes or conspiracies (such as attempted assassinations of the Patrician) against the city.


The business of Ankh-Morpork is business. As a city-state, it has no natural resources. Even its river is too thick to navigate effectively and too soft to walk (though a brisk pace might do the trick). However the city owns things, makes things, buys and sells things. It imports the raw materials and the people who turn them into the tools, weapons, shoes, books and trinkets for most of the Disc from Llamedos to Genua. A steady stream of immigrants from all around the world bring skills, strength and new technologies and send home Ankh-Morpork dollars which buy Ankh-Morpork exports in turn.


Lord Vetinari often points out that tax revenues in Ankh-Morpork are insubstantial and unreliable at best. This is normal for politicians (incumbents, that is) who are always constrained by their budgets in good times and bad. However, it does appear that few in Ankh-Morpork actually pay taxes, so how does the Palace support the Watch, the Clerks or indeed its own tax-collectors?

To fully understand the state of the Ankh-Morpork city finances, the following must be considered, based on information gleaned from various sources:

Reaper Man

  • In Reaper Man, through wrangling between the Unseen University and the city government (involving the trading of petty threats, and one or two which are considerably less petty), it is established that taxes are charged based on a simple fee of AM$200 per head, payable in quarterly installments. The wizards, of course, are a sacred and laudable brotherhood that none would dream of extorting in so cruel a manner. They do, however, find it in their hearts to make a charitable donation of AM$200 per capita per annum. Charitably.

Men at Arms and Feet of Clay

  • Near the end of Men at Arms, we found Captain Carrot interviewing a group of dwarf bakers who have failed to pay their taxes.
  • We also learn in Feet of Clay that Mr. Setha Ironcrust, who at the time owned a single bakery, has avoided his taxes.
  • Neither does Mr. Maxilotte, owner of a butchery in the Shambles, pay his taxes.

Of course in these cases, they could simply have forgotten to - what with them being honest merchants who work hard all year round, it's easy to overlook financial affairs. If so, Captain Carrot Ironfoundersson, who has read the roll of taxpayers and knows who pays their taxes and who doesn't, will be happy to oblige by bringing around the proper documentation and visiting every single week after work to see if the papers have been filled out...


  • During an important meeting on the issue of the island of Leshp in the Patrician's Palace, Samuel Vimes, Commander of the Ankh-Morpork City Watch, is the only one in a room full of important (and extremely wealthy) Guild leaders and nobles to declare to have paid his taxes in full.
  • In the same scene, the Assassins' Guild is shown to have a collective income of about AM$13,207,408 the year before. Despite this, they have paid less than 0.0004% of it in taxes through an arrangement with the Guild of Accountants.
  • Speaking of which, the Guild of Accountants earned AM$7,999,011 the year before, but paid nothing in taxes. In fact, they have applied for a rebate of AM$200,000 instead, which means insofar taxation is concerned, they have a net gain.

Making Money

  • We finally return to the issue of taxation in Making Money, where Topsy Lavish, former Manager of the Royal Bank of Ankh-Morpork gives the statistic that the majority of Ankh-Morpork citizens live on AM$150 or less.
  • Based on the tax rate of AM$200 as established in Reaper Man, this means that the average citizen is required to pay a tax that totals up to far more than they can actually conceivably and legally earn in the same period. On the other hand, this could mean that the average citizen lives on a net after-tax income of $150, meaning that the effective tax rate is about 57%.
  • At the end of Making Money, we learn about the current post-holder, Creaser, whose methods of collection were mainly physical and personalized.

So it is clear that the current system of taxation is in desperate need of revision. Besides typical Ankh-Morporkian sensibilities, ordinary citizens are incapable of paying their taxes altogether simply because the amount they have to pay exceeds their income. The wealthy on the other hand, pay negligible amounts or avoid paying entirely thanks to the Guild of Accountants. From the comments of Lord Vetinari in Making Money we can also assume that the inefficiency of tax collection is also due to the ineptitude of the gatherers themselves.

However there are other revenues available to government besides income, sales and property taxes. Duties and excise, user fees and tolls, and license fees can be levied. These tend to be more politically acceptable, as they are often charged to someone else. Duties, tolls and docking fees applied to foreigners are especially popular, since they're not immediately associated with increased prices for imported goods. As the largest city and trading port on the Disc, Ankh-Morpork has considerable capacity for this sort of "hidden" taxation.

Another revenue stream would be fines and the appropriation of the proceeds of criminal operations. Even unconvicted criminals are likely to flee the Patrician's rather rough justice, leaving behind some unaccounted valuables. William de Worde managed to scoop a rather large bag of rubies, but much of this will fall into the hands of the City Watch, and so the City. In addition, the City may also lay claim to discovery of certain resources that may prove useful, such as a large chest of gold unearthed by Moist von Lipwig, an army of golems, or an array of Devices.

In addition, as Vetinari himself belongs to an extremely powerful and wealthy noble family, he may actually support the city treasury out of his own pocket, and so very much unlike his predecessors who saw Patricianship as a cash cow for their drinking buddies and themselves. The latter point is more or less borne out by the excessive rate of taxation imposed on the average citizen, and the crude methods of Creaser, the current Taxmaster who has been part of the several preceding (incompetent and corrupt) regimes.

Apparently such devices have sustained the system so far, and allowed it to tolerate the inept management of the revenue office, but for grand schemes underground a lot of money must be raised. And so new blood is needed. Perhaps it will be Moist von Lipwig, the same man who revived the Post Office, and reformed the Royal Bank and Mint of Ankh-Morpork? Regardless, the next Taxmaster will have his hands full dealing with the Ankh-Morpork citizenry, who are renowned for their stinginess in matters regarding the flow of money out of their own pockets. It is likely though, that whoever it will be, he would have the whole-hearted support of Commander Samuel Vimes, Captain Carrot Ironfoundersson, as well as the remainder of the City Watch in any matters regarding tax collection.

Notable places