From A Wiki of Ice and Fire
Slaver's Bay is a cultural and geographical region on the eastern continent. Built from the ashes of the ancient Ghiscari Empire, Slaver's Bay became a wealthy hub of the global slave trade. It flows into the Gulf of Grief.
The Ghiscari Empire
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 called the Ghiscari Empire. 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 Ghiscari 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 Ghiscari 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 rose into prominence: Astapor, Yunkai and Meereen. These cities established themselves as a hub of the global slave trade and became extremely wealthy. Their citizens lived in a state of stagnant excess until the eastern military campaigns of Daenerys Targaryen conquered all three cities.
Culture and Economy
Although very little Ghiscari culture survived the Empire's collapse, the modern people of Slaver's Bay took great pride in their Ghiscari heritage. The cities maintained Ghis's symbol of the harpy, and freeborn citizens called themselves sons of the harpy, though they replaced the thunderbolt in the her claw with open manacles. The tongue of the Ghiscari was 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 there 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 Ghis, Slaver's Bay holds itself as a continuation of Ghis's greatness centuries after the fall of its ancient rival, Valyria.
Slave trade was the dominant industry of Slaver's Bay, and the cities' slave traders formed their ruling aristocracy. The slavers of Astapor, Yunkai and Meereen called themselves as the Good, Wise and Great Masters respectively, and were taken to 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 indicated the wealth and rank of the Master wearing it. Slavers and their families lived in opulent luxury, floating on pleasure barges at dusk and hosting elaborate festivals honoring their history at night. Slaves, on the other hand, often endured brutal treatment.
The cities shared a peaceful rivalry, avoiding war at all costs, and preferring to pay the khalasars of Dothraki that passed by instead of fighting them. Due to the wealth of the average free citizen, the cities' professional armies were filled with wealthy sons of slavers who regarded 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 were ineffective fighters. Thus, the cities relied heavily on slave soldiers and mercenary companies for their protection. While most slave soldiers were relatively poor and untrained, the eunuch Unsullied soldiers of Astapor have a well-earned reputation for effectiveness.
The Cities of Slaver's Bay
The three principle cities located in Slaver's Bay are Astapor, Yunkai and Meereen, also known the as the 'Great slaver cities'.
- Main article: Astapor
Astapor was famed as the only place in the world that the Unsullied can be purchased. These slave soldiers commanded a huge investment and earned the most profitable of returns for the Good Masters of Astapor. The city itself was 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 city is dominated by massive stepped pyramids, some four hundred feet high, that line the waterfront of the bay. The Plaza of Pride served as an open air slave market, a marshaling area for the Unsullied, and a community gathering place. During the midday heat, the brick streets can become unbearably hot, making them largely deserted during the day. In the evenings, the slavers lit silk lanterns on every terrace and played soft music as they sailed on their pleasure barges.
The Good Masters of Astapor were particularly cruel to their slaves. Fighting pits featured bloodsports pitting children against animals. Unruly slaves were flayed alive. However, the Good Masters' crowning achievement was their Unsullied, created through a brutal conditioning process that systematically dehumanized young slave boys to turn them into unfeeling fighting machines. Unlike the other cities of Slaver's Bay, Astapor relied on no additional mercenaries of slave levies for its protection. The city's unsold Unsullied defended it against any threats.
The city was conquered by Daenerys Targaryen after she purchased the city's entire population of Unsullied and sent them against the helpless slavers. Daenerys set up a new government headed by a healer, a priest and a scholar. After she left, however, a former butcher named Cleon seized control of the city and reinstated slavery, only with the former slaves as the new masters. Cleon the Butcher King sent Daenerys gifts and wedding invitations, though Daenerys did not approve of his rule.
- Main article: Yunkai
The smallest of the three cities, Yunkai was known for both its fighting pits and its pleasure houses, both of which turned out slaves at a brisk pace. The city is very 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 were known as the Wise Masters. The city relied on its relatively untrained slave army and whatever mercenary companies it could buy.
After the fall of Astapor, Yunkai girded itself with a slave army of approximately 4,000 and purchased the services of the Second Sons and Stormcrows, totaling over 1,000 sellswords. Daenerys Targaryen lured the Stormcrows to her service and ambushed the Second Sons, scattering them. The Wise Masters surrendered and released all of their slaves.
- Main article: Meereen
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 a massive pyramid, named the Great Pyramid, and the Temple of Graces, which is capped by a golden dome. Meereen is unique among the Ghiscari cities in that it is filled with many temples. 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.
After the fall of Astapor and Yunkai, Meereen utilized 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, a champion challenged Daenerys's forces and was slain by Strong Belwas. In order to avoid an extended siege, Daenerys had a small group of her men infiltrate the city and free the gladiator slaves of the fighting pits. They used the ensuing chaos to open the gates and force a surrender. Daenerys had a number of the Great Masters executed, then lingered in the city to rule as its queen.
References and Notes