Trantor; The Capital Planet of the Galactic Empire

Trantor is a planet in the Foundation Saga novels by science fiction writer Isaac Asimov. Trantor is the capital of the Galactic Empire. Subsequently, after the fall of the Empire, Trantor is cut off from all technological splendour, undergoing a process of involution in which its inhabitants, mostly agrarian, come to call the planet Hame, which according to Asimov is a distortion of the word.

Situation in the novels

Trantor first appears in the short stories of the Foundation Saga. In its first appearance Asimov places it at the centre of the Milky Way, later correcting itself as a planet close enough to the Galactic Centre to allow human life. Trantor first appears in the novel Pebble in the Sky.

The year is 12,020 G.E. and Emperor Cleon I sits on the imperial throne of Trantor. Here in the great multifaceted capital of the Galactic Empire, forty billion people have created a civilisation of unimaginable cultural and technological complexity. Yet Cleon knows that there are those who would see him fall, whom he would destroy if he could read the future. In the same year 12,020 G.E. Hari Seldon arrives on Trantor to play his part in psychohistory, his great Theory of Historical Prediction. Hari possesses the prophetic force that makes him the most sought after man in the Empire…the man who holds the key to the future, an apocalyptic power to be known forever as the Foundation.

Prelude to the Foundation

Geography and History

The early history of Trantor is recounted in the novel The Currents of Space, where the conversion of the five worlds of the Trantorian Republic into the Trantorian Confederacy, and eventually into the Trantorian Empire (evidently modelled on the Roman Republic, which originally developed in the centre of the Italian peninsula, into the vast Roman Empire) is mentioned.

At the time of the novel, Trantor controls half of the worlds in the galaxy, while the other half is divided into countless independent worlds and small empires, making the Trantorian ambassador a very important person on these worlds.

Soon after, the conquest of the entire galaxy, with Trantor as the capital of the new Galactic Empire is a reality; the planet no longer sends ambassadors, but the royal governors exist. This situation is the setting for A Pebble in the Sky, which a few hundred years later continues the saga’s chronology.

Trantor is the capital of the first Galactic Empire. Its surface covers 194,000,000 km² (130% of the Earth’s surface). The whole planet is a huge built-up city, 100% covered by the titanium of its buildings, except for the gardens of the Imperial Palace, which are the only forested spot on the entire planet. It is an enormous Metropolis, (an ecumenopolis that, given the obvious lack of space on the surface, also reaches a great depth of the ground, but another of the reasons why it is built at such shallow depths is also with the aim of using the thermal energy given off by the planet’s core to power the city’s generators. At the height of the Empire, its total population was 45 billion people.

It is interesting to cite the urban planning theory called Ekistics, Konstantinos Apostolos Doxiadis predicted in 1968 that the human race on Earth would reach zero population growth by 2100 when it reached 50,000,000. 000,000 people in a global ecumenopolis based on fusion energy (although Second Foundation mentions a figure ten times that of the administrators alone), a population density of 232 people per square kilometre (by comparison, real-life New York City has an estimated 10,604 people per square kilometre). Its population is almost entirely devoted to the administration of the Empire or the maintenance of the planet itself, it is the administrative and bureaucratic centre. As a consequence of being entirely built-up, it is dependent on outside supplies for its survival. Trantor illustrates the mentality of human beings beginning in The Steel Vaults, where human technology completely encloses the population, isolating them from the outside, both from space and from the open air.

Another prominent building is the Library of Trantor (also referred to as the Imperial Library, Trantor University Library or Galactic Library), where librarians are dedicated to storing and cataloguing the knowledge of humanity, making it accessible from computer terminals. It described Trantor as “the centre of the Imperial Government for countless generations, and being situated in the central regions of the galaxy between the most densely populated and industrially advanced worlds, it is the richest and densest population nucleus humanity has ever known”. One Trantorian day equals 1.08 Galactic Standard Days.

Subsequently, the Empire begins to crumble and around 260 EF, a rebel leader known as Gilmer attempts to become emperor, and in the process sacks Trantor, forcing the Imperial family to flee to the nearby world of Delicass, which would be renamed New Trantor. After the sack the population drops drastically from 40 billion to less than 100 million. Most of the buildings and domes are destroyed, and over the next two centuries the metal of Trantor is sold, and farmers reclaim more and more fertile land for their farms. A dialect of the galactic language even develops, and the people rename the planet hame, similar in English to home.

As is revealed to the reader in Second Foundation, not all of these farmers are what they seem, for Trantor is the headquarters of the Second Foundation, which resides in the well-preserved Galactic Library compound (one of the few buildings to survive looting); the peasants deeply respect the members of the organisation, even without actually knowing what they are: the psychic powers of the Second Foundation’s members compensate for the problem of lack of technology, especially with their mind-control abilities. The planet in the Runaway saga responds with the same name as an homage.




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