Old Empire of Ghis

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Old Empire of Ghis
The harpy, the symbol of the Old Empire
Location Ghiscar, Slaver's Bay
Capital Old Ghis
Religion mixed
Destroyed Fifth Ghiscari War
Succeeded by Valyrian Freehold (conqueror)
Notable places Meereen | Yunkai | Astapor
Old Ghis | Zamettar

The Old Empire of Ghis[1][2] was one of the oldest known nations and cultures in the world. It reigned supreme over much of Essos. Its founding and golden age predate that of its successor, the Valyrian Freehold, by thousands of years.


The Old Empire used the harpy emblem of Old Ghis. It depicted a fanged woman with leathery wings for arms, the legs of an eagle, and the tail of scorpion, clutching a thunderbolt in her talons.[3]



The Old Empire rose from the ancient Old Ghis in Ghiscar, a city founded by Grazdan the Great. Old Ghis fielded highly-disciplined lockstep legions of free soldiers reputed to have been nearly unbeatable on the battlefield. The architecture of Old Ghis was dominated by massive brick towers and pyramids built using slave labor.[3] Since the Ghiscari hills were rich in copper, the Old Empire used bronze weapons.[4]

After colonizing nearby land, Old Ghis began subjugating its neighbors.[2] The Ghiscari expanded south to Sothoryos and the Basilisk Isles, building Gorosh as a penal colony at Wyvern Point, Zamettar at the mouth of the Zamoyos, and Gorgai on the Isle of Tears.[5]

Ghiscari Wars

Five great wars were fought between Ghiscar and the Valyrian Freehold, screenshot from Game of Thrones

After the Valyrians discovered dragons and quickly rose to power, the Ghiscari wanted dragons for their own. Five great wars were fought between Ghiscar and the Valyrian Freehold,[6] with the Tall Men of the Kingdom of Sarnor participating in three of the conflicts.[7] The Ghiscari won some battles, as there is a large ancient tapestry in the heart of the Great Pyramid in Meereen showing the last survivors of a defeated Valyrian army passing beneath the yoke and being chained.[1] However, the Ghiscari eventually lost each war.[6]

The Old Empire fell five thousand years ago.[3] In the Fifth Ghiscari War the Valyrians smashed the Ghiscari legions and used their dragons to burn Old Ghis and its pyramids to the ground. The Valyrians sowed the fields with salt and sulfur to prevent any surviving inhabitants from returning.[3]


With the destruction of Old Ghis, the Old Empire collapsed and was conquered by the Valyrian Freehold. The Valyrians learned slavery from the Ghiscari and applied it to other lands.[8]

After the Doom of Valyria, the Slaver Cities of Slaver's Bay and New Ghis overthrew their Valyrian overlords and reestablished control of the slave trade.[2] During the Century of Blood, the Dothraki destroyed northern Ghiscari colonies, whose ruins are now called Krazaaj Has,[9] Vaes Efe,[10] Vaes Diaf,[11] and Vaes Mejhah.[12]


The ruling structure of the Old Empire is unknown. Five thousand years after the empire's fall,[3] Hizdahr zo Loraq's list of titles includes those of "Scion of Old Ghis" and "Octarch of the Old Empire".[13] This may imply that the empire was ruled by a council of eight, that it had eight regional governors underneath an emperor, or that octarch was a military title or rank. It is uncertain if Hizdahr's title has any basis in the Old Empire's practices.


The modern Ghiscari people are mongrels of a dozen races and peoples driven together by the empire and its fall. They are spread over a large area around Slaver's Bay, west of the Gulf of Grief.

Ghiscari have dense, dark amber skin and wiry hair with red highlights. Men of the Slaver Cities are known to wear their hairs teased, oiled, and twisted into fantastic shapes. They have wear cloaks of yellow with copper disks sewn on. Their tunics are embroidered linen. Below the waist they wear pleated linen skirts and sandals. The richest classes, who are primarily made up of slavers, wear the tokar, and are fond of rich foods, such as dogs, octopus stew, and duck eggs.[3]


The harpy is a Ghiscari symbol

The Old Ghiscari language, culture, and gods were largely forgotten over time, and the Ghiscari adopted the language of their Valyrian conquerors. Today, most speak a dialect of High Valyrian.[3] The crumbling walls, stepped pyramids, and harpy statues are all that remain of the Old Empire's glory days.

The Unsullied tactics are considered a remnant of Old Ghis. They are trained to fight in the same disciplined lock-step manner and are considered the legions of Old Ghis come again, but are slaves instead of free men. The free iron legions of New Ghis are also inspired by the lockstep legions of old.[2]

The harpy was adopted as a symbol by all the Slaver Cities and their silver coins are stamped with a harpy. The Good Masters of Astapor, the Wise Masters of Yunkai, and the Great Masters of Meereen have been training slaves for generations, much as their predecessors did, and are experts at it.[3]

Known Cities


What now remains of the once-proud empire of Old Ghis is a paltry thing—a few cities clinging like sores to Slaver's Bay and another that pretends to be Old Ghis come again.[2]

—writings of Yandel

Old Ghis ruled an empire when the Valyrians were still fucking sheep, and we are the sons of the harpy.[3]

Ours is the blood of ancient Ghis, whose empire was old when Valyria was yet a squalling child.[14]