The Black Martians (more commonly referred to as the "First Born") are one of the oldest of the humanoid races on Mars. They live near the south pole. The main city lies on the shore of the underground Omean Sea. There is also a city called Kamtol, with a population of 200,000, located in the Rift, the region between Horz and Gathol.
Biology and Attire
Physically, they are similar to the other humanoids in most respects, but John Carter noted that their eyes were slightly narrower than the eyes of most other Martians, in addition apparently having black irises. Their most distinguishing feature is their skin, which is the color of polished ebony, and like most Martians they have black hair. They wear accouterments and harnesses similar to other Martians, but typically their harnesses are thick with jewels and precious metals.
A popular and incorrect rumor says that the First Born originated on Thuria, the nearer moon. The First Born themselves claim that they are descendants of the first martians born from the Tree of Life. Although their origins are not entirely clear, it is known that members of their race allied with white and yellow Martians during Barsoom's decline and the intermingling of these races created the red Martians. It is also known that at some point in the past they came into conflict with the yellow Martians, and these conflicts were the inspiration for the game of Jetan. For many many years the first born functioned as pirates, relying on raiding and pillaging to sustain themselves. When John Carter was captured by the first born he caused major change in their society.
Religion & Culture
The First Born consider themselves holier, likening themselves to gods, than all other Barsoomian races and absolutely superior. The leader of the First Born (until she was overthrown) Issus was believed by the First Born and all of Barsoom to be a god. The sense of superiority made the First Born think nothing of consuming Barsoomian flesh.
Through complex means, the black Martians controlled the entirety of Martian religion for a long time. They controlled the Therns and the Therns controlled all other Barsoomian religion. The Holy Therns are as ignorant of Issus' true self as are the Barsoomians of the outer world. Her decrees are borne to the Therns written in blood upon a strange parchment. They think that they are receiving the revelations of a goddess through some supernatural agency, since they find these messages upon their guarded altars to which none could have access without detection. The messages are carried by the First Born through a long tunnel from the Temple of Issus to the principal temple of Matai Shang.
There are no workers amongst the First Born, keeping slaves to perform tasks save for fighting which they consider a sacred duty. For all menial tasks slaves of Therns and reds are kept. In their above ground lands in the Valley Dor near the Temple of Issus they mysteriously move amongst the vile plant men and white apes unmolested; these horrible creatures appear to fear the First Born.
During the reign of Issus, in a great amphitheater an event called the "Rites of Issus" took place every month. During this event, supposedly the sins are washed from the souls of the black men through killing captive men of the outer world. If he survives the rites, he is held acquitted of the charge that forced the sentence of the rights. If a black is killed, it is evidence of his disloyalty to Issus, which is an unpardonable sin. The forms of combat vary. The number of prisoners may be pitted together against an equal number, or twice the number of blacks; or singly they may be sent forth to face wild beasts, or a famous First Born warrior.