Essos is the largest of the three known continents in the world it lies east of Westeros and north of Sothoryos. It shelters many different people and has a vast and varied geography. Contrary to the continent of Westeros, it seems to present a greater longitudinal extension than in latitude. it's also detached from the lands of the Lands of Always Winter. The name 'Essos' is not used in the series but was mentioned by George R.R. Martin in an interview.
Being roughly the size of Eurasia, the continent's geography and climate vary greatly. The western coastline is characterized by green rolling hills, the massive Forest of Qohor, and extensive island chains such as Braavos and Lys. The middle of the continent is covered by the flat grasslands of the Dothraki Sea and the arid wastes known as the Red Lands to the east. Beyond the Red Lands, the city of Qarth sits beside the straits that lead to the Jade Sea. The south is dominated by dry rolling hills and has a Mediterranean climate, with a coastline along the Summer Sea and Slaver's Bay.
The north coast of the mainland is separated from the polar cap by the Shivering Sea. To the south, across the Summer Sea, lies the uncharted continent of Sothoryos. In the extreme east, across the Jade Sea, sit Asshai, Yi Ti, and the mysterious region called the Shadow Lands.
The Free Cities
The Free Cities, lay in the western area of the continent, from the coastline to the mountains in the east separating them from the Dothraki plains. It's controlled by the , The nine city-states located on the coastline and the islands along side it, a remanent of ancient Valyria.
The nine Free Cities are Lys, Myr, Pentos, Braavos, Lorath, Norvos, Qohor, Volantis, and Tyrosh. They are independent city-states that, with the exception of Braavos, were all originally founded as colonies of Valyria. The Free Cities are located on the western edge of Essos: along the coast, further inland, or on islands in the Narrow Sea. Citizens of the Free Cities speak a distinct form of Valyrian, though the Common Tongue of Westeros is also used.
The Dothraki Sea
The Dothraki Sea is a vast, flat grassland inhabited by the Dothraki people, a copper-skinned race of warlike nomads with their own language and unique equestrian culture.
South of the Dothraki Sea is Slaver's Bay, which holds three port city-states called Yunkai, Meereen, and Astapor. The cities were built from the rubble of Old Ghis, an ancient rival of Valyria that was crushed by that nation thousands of years before the events of A Song of Ice and Fire. Present inhabitants of the bay are a mongrel race that speak a bastardized version of High Valyrian. The economies of the cities are largely based on slave labor and the slave trade. Treatment of slaves is often harsh, while citizens live in relative luxury. The city of New Ghis sits on an island in the Bay, but little has been revealed about it.
A long-dead city of wonderment, Valyria was once the capital of a great empire called the Valyrian Freehold, but has since fallen into ruin. Valyria was the only nation to field trained dragons in war, and also invented a magical alloy called Valyrian steel. After the Doom of Valyria, Valyria shattered into a smoking ruin, and the Freehold collapsed.
The Disputed Lands
An area on the mainland of Essos, located between the Free Cities of Tyrosh, Myr and Volantis, with Lys sitting just off the coast. The River Rhoyne marks its eastern border. Myr and Lys fight constantly over control of the territory, frequently drawing Tyrosh and Volantis into the struggle as well. The war over the Disputed Lands is often lumped in with the similar struggle over control of the Stepstones.
Lhazar is a land to the south of the Dothraki Sea inhabited by the Lhazareen, a peaceful people with bronze skin, flat faces, and almond eyes. They are predominantly shepherds, called the Lamb Men by the Dothraki, who frequently prey on them. They worship a god called the Great Shepherd and believe that all of humanity is part of a single flock.
A vastly rich city, home to warlocks and merchant princes. Situated in a central location within Essos, Qarth is a gateway of commerce and culture between the east and west, and the north and south. Brimming with wealth, and priding themselves on their sophistication, the Qartheen engage in unending intrigue bewteen the many powerful factions of their society.
Biology and Anthropology
Dothraki people, a copper-skinned race of warlike nomads with their own Dothraki language and unique culture.
References and Notes
- The Citadel. "Asshai.com Forum Chat" (July 27, 2008) So Spake Martin
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