Old Empire of Ghis

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Ghiscari Empire
Location Slaver's Bay
Capital Ghis
Religion Mixed
Destroyed Fifth Ghiscari War
Succeeded by Valyrian Freehold (conqueror)
Notable places Old Ghis
The harpy is a Ghiscari symbol
Five great wars were fought between Ghiscar and the Freehold

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 took the harpy emblem of 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 reigned supreme over much of Essos while the Valyrian Freehold was still young and savage. It rose from the ancient city of Ghis in Ghiscar and grew into a military, economic and cultural powerhouse.

At its height Ghis fielded highly-disciplined lockstep legions of free soldiers reputed to have been nearly unbeatable on the battlefield. The architecture of Ghis was dominated by massive brick towers and pyramids built using slave labor. Its symbol was the harpy. 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.[4]

The Old Empire fell five thousand years ago.[3] 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 Freehold, which Valyria won with its dragons.[5] The Ghiscari won some skirmishes 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] In the last great war the Valyrians smashed the Ghiscari legions and used their dragons to burn Ghis and its pyramids to the ground. After Ghis was burned, the Valyrians sowed the fields with salt and sulfur to prevent any surviving inhabitants from returning.

With the destruction of Ghis, the Old Empire collapsed and most of the original Ghiscari bloodline was wiped out. The surviving populations of the empire rebuilt what they could from the wreckage. The outlying colonies of Slaver's Bay rose to prominence: Astapor, Yunkai, and Meereen. These cities established themselves as a hub of the global slave trade and became extremely wealthy. The island city of New Ghis was also founded.[3]

During the Century of Blood after the Doom of Valyria, the Dothraki destroyed northern Ghiscari colonies, whose ruins are now called Krazaaj Has, Vaes Mejhah, and Vaes Efe.[6]


It is unclear if the Ghiscari Empire was in truth an "empire", as no emperors have ever been mentioned. Thousands of years later, Hizdahr zo Loraq's grandiose list of titles includes the phrase "Scion of Old Ghis, Octarch of the Old Empire". This may imply that the empire was actually ruled by a council of eight people - or it could simply refer to something such as eight regional governors underneath an emperor, or it could also be a military title or rank. Moreover, given how far removed in time Hizdahr is from the actual Ghiscari Empire from 5,000 years in the past, it is uncertain if this title has any substantial basis in the old empire's actual practices.[7]

Known Ghiscari cities

The symbol of the Old Ghiscari Empire


The 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 Old Ghiscari language, culture, and gods were largely forgotten over time and the Ghiscari adopted the language of their Valyrian conquerors. Today they 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]

References and Notes