Dragons fly above the Freehold
|Founded||At least five thousand years ago|
|Destroyed||114 BC, during the Doom of Valyria|
The Valyrian Freehold was a great territory that spanned much of the continent of Essos, but has since fallen to ruin, approximately one hundred years before Aegon's Conquest, when it was brought down by a cataclysmic event known as the Doom of Valyria.
At its prime, the Valyrian Freehold encompassed most of the eastern continent and reached as far as the current Free Cities and the island of Dragonstone off the coast of Westeros. The Freehold was technically never an empire, however for ease of reference it tends to be referred to as one.
The Freehold was an advanced civilization, and the dominant military and cultural power of the known world. Its capital was the city Valyria. The Freehold was ruled by the lords freeholder, powerful noble families. The most powerful of these were the dragonlords.
- 1 History
- 2 Legacy
- 3 People and Culture
- 4 Books and Scrolls about Valyria
- 5 Quotes
- 6 Influences
- 7 References
According to a semi-canon source, ancient Valyria was a civilization of humble shepherds who discovered dragons in the Fourteen Flames, a ring of volcanoes on the Valyrian peninsula. Valyrian stories claim that dragons originated in their lands, although tales from Asshai claim the beasts were brought to Valyria from the Shadow Lands. The Valyrians tamed the dragons with magic—taught by a vanished people according to the Asshai'i—and mastered the technique of raising and training the dragons into devastating weapons of war.
They began expanding their influence, establishing the Freehold with the city of Valyria as its capital. Magic flowered, topless towers rose toward the heavens where dragons soared, stone Valyrian sphinxes gazed down through eyes of garnet, and smiths used spells to forge Valyrian steel weapons of legendary strength and sharpness.
Rise to Power and the Fall of Ghis
Some five thousand years ago, in the early days of Valyria, the Old Empire of Ghis dominated and controlled much of Essos. The Ghiscari attempted to stop Valyria's expansion and the burgeoning freehold was involved in a series of great wars against the Old Empire. The Ghiscari lockstep legions attacked Valyria five times, but they could never defeat them - with the help of dragons, Valyria was able to defend and emerge victorious each time.
Finally, in the last of the Ghiscari wars, the Valyrians marched on their capital, Old Ghis, razed it to the ground, and sowed its fields with salt, sulfur, and skulls, obliterating it and thereby destroying the Old Empire of Ghis. Adopting slavery from Ghis, Valyria expanded its influence over the surviving Ghiscari colonies of Slaver's Bay, and continued to conquer and colonize further.
The Valyrian Freehold continued to expand and conquer further west, capturing many slaves from conquered lands and using them to mine great wealth from the Fourteen Flames, as well as build great cities and roadways that led to Valyria.
For many years the Valyrians were at peace with the Rhoynar civilization of the Rhoyne, west of the Valyrian peninsula. From the colonial freehold of Volantis, the Valyrians instead crossed the Rhoyne and marched west to wage war on the Andals of Andalos. Rather than be enslaved by Valyria, the Andals crossed the narrow sea and invaded Westeros. The Valyrians overwhelmed the remaining Andals of western Essos and established colonies west of their peninsula.
The Valyrians are believed to have travelled as far as Oldtown, predating the arrival of the First Men and trading with the elder races, according to Jellicoe. Septon Barth also claimed Valyrians came to Westeros because their priests prophesied that the Doom of Man would come out of the land beyond the narrow sea.. Archmaester Perestan speculates some tragedy or mishap fell upon them and led them to shun Westeros ever after.
The Rhoynish Wars were a series of wars fought between the city-states of the Rhoynar and colonies of the Valyrian Freehold between ~950 BC and 700 BC. They are described in Beldecar's History of the Rhoynish Wars.
The wars were concluded in the Second Spice War, when the Valyrian colony Volantis turned its eyes to the ancient and high civilization of the Rhoynar. Prince Garin of Chroyane led an army of a 250,000 men and defeated the Valyrian armies at Selhorys, Valysar, and Volon Therys, where they won their greatest victory by defeating an army of a hundred thousand men and killing two dragons in the process.
However, the Valyrians responded with an overwhelming force of three hundred dragons, capturing Garin the Great and burning the Rhoynish armies. Princess Nymeria of Ny Sar led the exodus of the remaining Rhoynar out of Essos, eventually arriving in Dorne. The singers say her ten thousand ships were filled with women and children, suggesting most of the men of fighting age had died in the conflict with the Freehold.
The Free Cities, the self-ruling daughters of Valyria, are spread throughout western Essos. Volantis and Tyrosh began as military outposts, while Myr and Pentos were founded by merchants in Andal territory. Dragonlords established Lys as a pleasure retreat. Religious refugees founded Lorath, Norvos, and Qohor. Essaria was founded as a colony near the Kingdom of Sarnor. Braavos was founded by slaves who rebelled against a Valyrian slaving fleet, and this Secret City did not accept the rule of Valyria.
Other cities and towns founded or conquered by the Freehold were governed by archons from Valyria. The Valyrian peninsula contained Oros and Tyria. Near Volantis were built Selhorys, Volon Therys, and Valysar. South of the Painted Mountains were Bhorash, Mantarys, and Tolos, while located in Slaver's Bay were Velos on the Isle of Cedars and Elyria.
The greatest remnants of the Old Empire of Ghis were Astapor, Meereen, and Yunkai. Other Ghiscari settlements were Ghozai on the Isle of Cedars, Ghardaq, and what are now Vaes Efe and Vaes Mejhah. It is unknown if New Ghis, located south of ruined Old Ghis, owed allegiance to Valyria.
Valyrian cities of unknown location included Aquos Dhaen, Draconys, Mhysa Faer, and Rhyos. Among the ruined cities of the Rhoynar were Ar Noy, Chroyane, Ghoyan Drohe, Ny Sar, Sar Mell, and Sarhoy.
Some two centuries before the Doom, the Valyrian Freehold colonized the island of Dragonstone in the narrow sea and established a citadel there, with ineffective resistance from the local lords of Blackwater Bay. The island was the westernmost outpost of the Freehold.
In 126 BC, Daenys Targaryen, the maiden daughter of Aenar Targaryen, had a vision of the destruction of Valyria. House Targaryen abandoned their homeland for Dragonstone, an act seen by other dragonlords as cowardice. Nearby Driftmark had already been settled by House Velaryon, a lesser Valyrian family, and Claw Isle became ruled by the Valyrian Celtigars.
Doom of Valyria
The Doom of Valyria was a cataclysmic event in 114 BC, after which the city Valyria was utterly destroyed and the Valyrian Freehold crumbled and was no more. The Doom fragmented the land surrounding the city itself into numerous smaller islands, creating the Smoking Sea between them. The area is now described as "demon-haunted", and most people are afraid to go there, as all known expeditions to the shattered peninsula has ended up in failure. Hence the quote, "The Doom still rules in Valyria."
With Valyrian leadership destroyed, the lands outside of the peninsula fell into chaos in the ensuing Century of Blood, which saw the rise of the Free Cities. Essaria, the "Lost Free City", was reduced to ruins by the Dothraki, while Gorgossos, the "Tenth Free City", was abandoned after the Red Death plague.
At its apex, the Freehold's capital, Valyria, was the greatest city in the known world, the center of civilization. Most of Valyria's culture, language, and craft was lost in the Doom, which was followed by the Century of Blood. Valyrian descendants scattered across the world, many across the surviving Valyrian colonies, the Free Cities, and across the cities of Slaver's Bay. Many of the surviving Valyrians intermarried and became mixed with other peoples. Their descendants speak in various local dialects of Valyrian.
Valyria is remembered for its ability to raise and command dragons and using them as weapons of war. This was demonstrated by the Targaryens, the last of the known Valyrian dragonlords, who used that knowledge to conquer and rule the Seven Kingdoms. Valyria is also remembered for forging weapons made of Valyrian steel, a magical alloy used to make weapons of unparalleled quality. The secret of forging such metal was apparently lost with Valyria, making those remaining weapons highly treasured and extremely rare.
People and Culture
Valyrians are famous for having silver-gold hair and violet-purple eyes, characteristics not found amongst any other peoples of the world. This can vary from white to silver-gold to blond hair, and from lilac, to deep purple, and pale blue eyes. The most noble of Valyrians were considered strikingly, some say inhumanly, beautiful.
The Valyrian nobility valued purity of blood. Therefore, the practice of incest was common in old Valyria, as the Valyrians would customarily wed brother to sister. These practices were not limited to the Freehold; on Dragonstone the Targaryens continued to practice incestuous marriage and polygamy to keep the dragon bloodline pure.
The language Valyrians spoke was High Valyrian.
According to some scholars, the dragonlords regarded all faiths as equally false, and looked down on clergy and temples as relics of more primitive times but useful to placate the lower classes with promises of a better life to come after death. Thus, they promoted religious tolerance in order to keep their subjects divided, and prevent them from unifying under the banner of a single god.
The people of Valyria were very strong in magic, and they would use their powerful wizards and their dragons in conjunction with their armies to conquer most of Essos west of the Bone Mountains. Dragons were controlled by whips, magic horns, and sorcery.
The Freehold of Valyria at the zenith of its power was neither a kingdom nor an empire, or at least it had neither a king nor an emperor. Instead, all freeholders, or freeborn landowners, had a say in its governance.
In practice, however, the Freehold was ruled by the lords freeholder, powerful noble families. They were forty families of great wealth, high birth, and strong sorcerous ability, those families which controlled and rode dragons in battle, who came to dominate, were known as dragonlords. The Targaryens were one of these dragon houses.
The Valyrians had great skill in shaping stone. It is often said that the old wizards of Valyria did not cut and chisel stone, but worked it with fire and magic as a potter might work clay, although much of their knowledge is now lost. Valyrians had a powerful magic which could liquefy stone and shape it how they wanted. Valyrian roads, known as dragon roads, still exist as monuments to their work as do the castle of Dragonstone, and the Black Wall and Long Bridge of Volantis.
One practice the Valyrians adopted from their wars with the Old Empire of Ghis was slavery. The Valyrians used thousands of slaves from across the continent in the blisteringly hot mines underneath the Fourteen Flames to find gold and silver. Slave revolts were common in the mines, but the Valyrians were strong in sorcery and were able to put them down. When there was war, the Valyrians took thousands of slaves, and when there was peace they bred them. As the power of the Freehold grew, so did its hunger for ore, and the dragonlords led many conquests to keep the mines full with slaves. It is said so many perished, toiling in the Valyrian mines, that the number was so large as to surely defy comprehension.
Books and Scrolls about Valyria
All Valyrian sorcery was rooted in blood or fire. The sorcerers of the Freehold could see across mountains, seas, and deserts with one of these glass candles. They could enter a man's dreams and give him visions, and speak to one another half a world apart, seated before their candles.
The proudest city in all the world was gone in an instant, its fabled empire vanished in a day, the Lands of the Long Summer scorched and drowned and blighted. An empire built on blood and fire. The Valyrians reaped the seed they had sown.}—thoughts of Tyrion Lannister
It is possible that the titanic clashes between Valyria and Old Empire of Ghis are inspired by the Punic Wars between Rome and Carthage over control of the Mediterranean. Valyria's advanced technology and magic, as well as the Doom, may be inspired by the legends of Atlantis.
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- So Spake Martin: SF, Targaryens, Valyria, Sansa, Martells, and More (June 26, 2001)
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- The World of Ice & Fire, The Free Cities: Norvos.
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