Slaver's Bay is a cultural and geographical region of Essos. Built from the ashes of the Old Empire of Ghis, Slaver's Bay became a wealthy hub of the global slave trade. It flows into the Gulf of Grief.
The ancient city of Ghis is one of the oldest known cultures and nations in the world. Its founding and golden age predate that of its successor, Valyria, by thousands of years. The city grew into a military, economic and cultural powerhouse, the Old Empire of Ghis. At its height, Ghis fielded highly disciplined legions of lockstep soldiers that were reputed to be nearly unbeatable on the battlefield. The architecture of Ghis was dominated by massive brick towers and pyramids built on the back of slave labor. Its symbol was the harpy, a fanged woman with leathery wings for arms, the legs of an eagle, and the tail of scorpion, clutching a thunderbolt in her talons.
The Old Empire fell over 5,000 years ago after warring with the upstart city of Valyria, losing a series of five wars with Valyria before toppling. Despite its wealth and nearly invincible legions, Ghis could not stand against Valyria's ultimate weapon, dragons.
After the Fall
As the Old Empire collapsed, the city of Ghis itself toppled into ruin. Though the fall extinguished most of the original Ghiscari bloodline, the surviving populations of the empire rebuilt the area from the wreckage.
Three major cities, which were once lowly colonies along Slaver's Bay, rose into prominence and thrived: Astapor, Yunkai, and Meereen. These cities established themselves as a hub of the global slave trade and became extremely wealthy.
Culture and Economy
Although little Ghiscari culture survived the Old Empire's collapse, the modern people of Slaver's Bay take great pride in their Ghiscari heritage. The cities maintain Old Ghis's symbol of the harpy, and freeborn citizens call themselves sons of the harpy, though they replaced the thunderbolt in the her claw with open manacles. The tongue of the Ghiscari has been largely forgotten. Most modern Ghiscari speak in the language of their conquerors, High Valyrian, twisted by a growling accent and peppered with slaver's argot. However, modern Ghiscari continue to write with their unique glyphs.
Ethnically, modern Ghiscari are a mongrel breed with very little of the original Ghiscari blood. Due to their pampered lifestyles they tend to be broad and fleshy, with amber skin and dark hair and eyes. They often have a mixture of wiry red and black hair, a feature unique to the region. In spite of the weakness of their connection to Old Ghis, Slaver's Bay holds itself as a continuation of Ghis's greatness centuries after the fall of its ancient rival, the Freehold of Valyria.
Slavery is the dominant industry of Slaver's Bay, and the cities' slave traders form their ruling aristocracy. The slavers of Astapor, Yunkai, and Meereen call themselves the Good, Wise, and Great Masters respectively, and dress in tokars, a toga-like garment that only the freeborn may wear. The value of the material used to make a tokar's fringes indicate the wealth and rank of the Master wearing it. Slavers and their families live in opulent luxury, floating on pleasure barges at dusk and hosting elaborate festivals honoring their history at night. Slaves, on the other hand, often endure brutal treatment.
The cities share a peaceful rivalry, avoiding war at all costs, and prefer to pay Dothraki khalasars which pass by instead of fighting them. Due to the wealth of the average free citizen, the cities' professional armies are filled with wealthy sons of slavers who regard their posts as little more than an opportunity for theatrics. Wearing colorful cloth armor and hair teased into large, outlandish shapes, the citizen soldiers of Slaver's Bay are ineffective fighters. Thus, the cities rely heavily on slave soldiers and mercenary companies for their protection. While most slave soldiers are relatively poor and untrained, the eunuch Unsullied soldiers of Astapor have a well-earned reputation for effectiveness.
Astapor is famed as the only place in the Known World where the Unsullied can be purchased. The city itself is ancient and dilapidated, built from crumbling red bricks that are said to be colored by the slaves that died laying them. The ubiquitous brick dust can sting the eyes, causing freeborn women to wear veils. The Good Masters of Astapor are particularly cruel to their slaves.
The smallest of the three cities, Yunkai is known for both its fighting pits and its pleasure houses, both of which turn out slaves at a brisk pace. The city is similar to Astapor in architecture except for its smaller size and its use of yellow brick in its buildings instead of red. The slavers of Yunkai are known as the Wise Masters. The city relies on its relatively untrained slave army and whatever mercenary companies it can buy.
The largest of the three slaver cities, Meereen has a population equaling Astapor and Yunkai combined. The city is constructed with similar architecture to its neighbors, but built in bricks of many different colors. Its landscape is dominated by the Great Pyramid and the Temple of the Graces. The slavers of Meereen are known as the Great Masters. They field a force of lancers equipped in traditionally extravagant Ghiscari fashion with scales of copper and lances as long as fourteen feet.
A Storm of Swords
Astapor is conquered by Daenerys Targaryen after she purchases the city's entire population of Unsullied and sends them against the helpless Good Masters. Daenerys sets up a new government headed by a healer, a priest and a scholar. After she leaves, however, a former butcher named Cleon seizes control of the city and reinstates slavery, only with the former slaves as the new masters. Cleon the Butcher King sends Daenerys gifts and wedding invitations, though shes does not approve of his rule.
After the fall of Astapor, Yunkai girds itself with a slave army of approximately 4,000 and purchases the services of the Second Sons and Stormcrows, totaling over 1,000 sellswords. Daenerys lures the Stormcrows to her service and ambushes the Second Sons, scattering them. The Wise Masters surrender and release all of their slaves.
After the fall of Astapor and Yunkai, Meereen utilizes a scorched earth defense against Daenerys, razing the land surrounding the city and nailing slave children onto posts with their fingers pointing to the city. Outside the city's gates, Oznak zo Pahl challenges Daenerys's forces but is slain by Strong Belwas. In order to avoid an extended siege, Daenerys has a small group infiltrate the city and free the gladiator slaves of the fighting pits. They use the ensuing chaos to open the gates and force a surrender. Daenerys has a number of the Great Masters executed, then linger in the city to rule as its queen.
A Dance with Dragons
References and Notes