Triarch of Volantis
The triarchs are chosen from amongst the noble families who can prove unbroken descent from old Valyria, and will serve for a year, until the first day of the new year. The triarchs of Volantis are considered so elevated that they are not allowed to have their feet touch the ground during their year of service.
The elections last ten days, with much campaigning and bribery. Volantis becomes filled with torchlight marches, speeches, mummers and minstrels and dancers, bravos fighting duels for the honor of their candidates, elephants with the names of would-be triarchs painted on their sides. Some candidates have slave girls and boys lay with voters to win votes. A former triarch can be re-elected.
There has never been a child triarch, in contrast to the child kings in Westeros. As the three triarchs rule together, two triarchs can restrict the influence of the third triarch until the end of his term, should that be necessary.
The triarchs belong to one of two political parties: the tigers and the elephants. The elephants are the party of the merchants and moneylenders, while the tigers are old aristocracy and warriors. The elephants advocate trade and the tigers advocate conquest. Since the rise of the elephants at the end of the Century of Blood, at no time has more than one tiger has been named triarch.
- See also History of Volantis
After the Doom of Valyria, during the Century of Blood, the Volantenese considered themselves the heirs to the Valyrian Freehold and rightful rulers of the world. Those of the Old Blood, later known as the tigers, favored war, whilst the moneylenders and merchants, later known as the elephants, favored to achieve dominion by trade. In the end, the tigers held sway for almost a century, and led Volantis into a conflict with the other Free Cities. This conflict would eventually involve all of the Free Cities except for (as far as is known) Lorath. At first, Volantis succeeded in their conquest. But an alliance of Tyrosh and Pentos resisted Volantis, and Myr and Lys rebelled. Volantis was further defeated by an alliance of Qohor and Norvos, by Dothraki, by Storm King Argilac Durrandon, and by Lord Aegon Targaryen of Dragonstone. In the end, the Volantene faction favoring peace, the elephants, took power from the tigers, and the fighting was at an end.
For the last three centuries, since taking power from the tigers, at least two of the three triarchs in power have been elephants. Some of the first elephants had been women, and female triarch Trianna was even chosen for four years.
The three triarchs of Volantis are chosen from amongst two political parties:
- Tigers: The tigers originate from those of the Old Blood who favored conquest at the start of the Century of Blood. Some years the tigers elect a triarch, other years there is no member of the tiger party elected triarch. The tiger cloaks, the Volantene guards, are presumably named after the militant tiger party. The tiger party has not held power for the last three hundred years.
- Elephants: The elephants are the party of the merchants and moneylenders, advocating trade. Some of the first elephants were women. When the elephants came to power, their followers went on a rampage, knocking the heads from the statues of those they blamed for all the wars and deaths. The elephant party has held power for the last three hundred years, during which at least two of the three triarchs in power have been elephants.
- Belicho, a tiger; a book has been written about Belicho, called The Life of the Triarch Belicho
- Horonno, a tiger, returned every year for forty years, put to death when he declared himself triarch for life
- Marqelo Tagaros, Triarch during the Century of Blood
- Trianna, an elephant, Triarch during the Century of Blood, returned four times
- Vhalaso, the Munificent
- Vogarro, an elephant, seven times elected
A Dance of Dragons
The city's incumbent triarchs are:
- Malaquo Maegyr, a tiger
- Doniphos Paenymion, an elephant
- Nyessos Vhassar, an elephant
While the elections have ended, the results of the new elections have not yet been revealed. With the city thirsty for war against Daenerys Targaryen,  speculation is that, no matter who is elected triarch, Volantis will go to war against Daenerys Targaryen.
While sailing toward Meereen, Victarion Greyjoy recalls stopping briefly in Volantis and having seen galleys heading to Slaver's Bay taking on provisions. The whole city had seemed drunk. Sailors and soldiers and tinkers had been observed dancing in the streets with nobles and fat merchants, and in every inn and winesink cups were being raised to the new triarchs.
—Ser Gerris Drinkwater
- The World of Ice & Fire, The Free Cities: Volantis.
- A Dance with Dragons, Chapter 6, The Merchant's Man.
- A Dance with Dragons, Chapter 27, Tyrion VII.
- A Dance with Dragons, Chapter 33, Tyrion VIII.
- The World of Ice & Fire, Ancient History: The Doom of Valyria.
- A Dance with Dragons, Chapter 14, Tyrion IV.
- A Dance with Dragons, Chapter 8, Tyrion III.
- A Dance with Dragons, Chapter 22, Tyrion VI.
- The World of Ice & Fire, The Westerlands.
- A Dance with Dragons, Chapter 18, Tyrion V.
- A Dance with Dragons, Appendix.
- A Dance with Dragons, Chapter 56, The Iron Suitor.
- A Dance with Dragons, Chapter 63, Victarion I.
- A Dance with Dragons, Chapter 55, The Queensguard.