Braavos is the greatest and most powerful of the Free Cities, located in a lagoon on the northwestern end of Essos, where the narrow sea and the Shivering Sea meet. There is a stretch of land to the southwest called the Braavosian Coastland that is claimed by Braavos. The ruler of Braavos is known as the Sealord and it is from the sea the city’s power and wealth flows.
Unlike the other Free Cities, Braavos was never part of the Valyrian Freehold, but was instead founded 500 years before Aegon's Landing by refugees fleeing Valyrian expansion. They were led by the Moonsingers, who found the lagoon in an effort to find a place that the Valyrian dragons could not find them. For centuries it was called the Secret City and remained relatively unknown to the rest of the world. It became publicly revealed after the Doom of Valyria, roughly 400 years after its founding. The city is sometimes called the Bastard Son of Valyria.
The city sprawls across a hundred islands in a vast lagoon. The nearby mainland is mostly marshland, whilst the seaward sides of the city are protected by tall, mountainous islands which form a semi-circle around the city. There is only one channel large and deep enough to accommodate ocean-going ships. This channel is defended by a massive statue called the Titan of Braavos, which serves as landmark, lighthouse and defensive fortification. Just beyond the Titan lies the citadel and the vast shipyard called the Arsenal. The city proper lies beyond, a great sprawl of domes and towers and bridges in hues of grey, gold, and red.
The city itself consists a hundred islands linked together by small stone bridges spanning the many canals throughout the city. There are no trees to be found within the city, making Braavos a city of stone architecture and granite monuments. The streets are lined with houses made of grey stone, built so close that they lean upon one another. Some houses are built above waterways. They are usually four to five stories tall slim houses with peaked tile roofs. Above the houses and canals there is an aqueduct, called the sweetwater river, that brings fresh water from the mainland as the water from the lagoon is brackish and briny and unfit for drinking.
The city is served by two main harbors. The Purple Harbor, in the north, used by the locals only and the Ragman's Harbor in the west is were foreign ships are mooring, Braavosi. All ships have to submit to inspection from Sealord's customs officers at the Chequy Port. Scattered throughout the city were small wharves and landings for the fishermen and ferries.
All gods are honored in Braavos, most of the temples are located on the isle in the center of the city, known as the 'Isle of the Gods'. Among them are the Temple of the Moonsingers who led the original Braavosi refugees to the islands, Another temple of note is the temple to the Father of Waters is rebuilt whenever he takes a new bride, as well as Temple to the Many-Faced God, Temples of R'hllor, sept for the Seven, named the Sept-Beyond-the-Sea and even gods that have no more followers are honored in a temple called the Warrens.
The Drowned Town is an area of Braavos where the town has fallen into the lagoon and only the domes and towers of the old buildings are visible above the surface of the water.
Below the Drowned Town, there is a series of wharves. Among the areas where one can pause in Braavos is the Moon Pool. The bravos usually duel at the Moon Pool by night. Healers for hire are found at the House of the Red Hands. The best inns and brothels lie near the Purple Harbor or the Moon Pool. Nearer to the Ragman's Harbor, one can find the Inn of the Green Eel, the Black Bargeman, Moroggo's, the Outcast Inn, the House of Seven Lamps and the brothel called the Cattery. Beneath the second arch of Nabbo's Bridge lies the Foghouse, a small, cramped, dirty establishment with space barely large enough to fit ten people. Among other establishments are the Mummer's Ship and the Happy Port. There are eel fights in the Spotted Cellar, which lies near the gates to the Drowned Town.
Statues of former Sealords stand along the main canal. They mostly wore long bronze robes and hold various items in their hands, books, daggers and hammers for example. One holds a golden star and another was upending a stone flagon from which water flowed.
A broad waterway known as the Long Canal. leads south to the fishmarket. Along the Long Canal sits the Palace of Truth, a building with green copper domes. The tall square towers of the Prestayns and the Antaryons also sit along the canal. After those towers, one must pass beneath the large grey aqueduct of the sweetwater river that demarcates the beginning of the district known as the Silty Town. In the Silty Town, the buildings are smaller and less grand. The Long Canal is a main thoroughfare that is usually full of barge and serpent boat traffic.
- Aqueduct, Towards or beyond the heart of the city, is a massive aqueduct like a grey stone roadway supported by three tiers of arches travelling southwards. It looms above the canals and houses. Called the sweetwater river, it brings fresh water from the mainland across the mudflats and the briny shallows. Rich men pipe it directly into their homes, while the poor fill buckets at public fountains. The water from the canals is not drinkable without safely boiling it.
- Purple Harbor, serves only the locals, it's located on the north side of Braavos, beneath the domes and towers of the Sealord's Palace.
- Ragman's Harbor, is open to all foreign ships. It's located in the west. it is poorer, dirtier, and and noisier than the Purple Harbor.Many people make their living around Ragman's Harbor, including porters, mummers, ropemakers, sailmenders, taverners, brewers, bakers, beggars, and whores.
- Chequy Harbor, is where the Sealord's customs officers board merchant galleys to inspect their holds. The inspection can take as much as half a day.
- Relegion - Isle of the Gods
- Moonsingers Temple, is the largest and most popular temple, built of white marble capped with a silvered dome and milk glass windows that show all the phases of the moon. A pair of marble maidens flank their gates.
- House of Black and White, temple to the Many-Faced God and the headquarters of the Faceless Men.
- Temple of R'hllor, is made of red stone. It has a great square tower with a fire in an iron brazier twenty feet across located atop it. Each door is flanked by a fire.
Braavos has a seafaring trade culture, Braavosi ships paint their hulls purple and their merchant ships sail to many distant lands and bring their trade and wealth back home. Braavos has many moneylenders and the Iron Bank of Braavos lends money to foreign nations, including the Seven Kingdoms. The city is also renown for its courtesans, which are famed throughout the world. Every courtesan has her own barge and servants to work them. Every courtesan is very beautiful of which the singers sing of. They are showered with gifts from goldsmiths and craftsmen beg for their custom. Nobility and rich merchants pay the courtesans large amounts of money to appear alongside them at events, and bravos are known to kill each other in their names.
Braavosi culture has created a unique form of sword fighting, called Water Dancing, that is suitable for shipboard conflicts. The style is a refined form of fencing in which the practitioner stands sideways and wields a slender blade. Pugnacious bravos fill the city, frequently dueling to display their skill.
Bravos dress in flashy colors while the very rich and powerful dress in clothes that blues that are almost black and blacks. Officials of Braavos, called keyholders and justiciars, wear drab coats of brown or grey.
In the Braavosi lagoon water is a plethora of fish and shellfish which constitute the main diet of the Braavosi. their islands are devoid of trees, Firewood is brought in by barge, while pines on the islands surrounding the city are left to act as windbreaks and are illegal to cut down.
References and Notes
- A Clash of Kings, Chapter 41, Tyrion IX.
- A Dance with Dragons, Map of the Free Cities
- A Feast for Crows, Chapter 6, Arya I.
- A Feast for Crows, Chapter 34, Cat Of The Canals.
- A Game of Thrones, Chapter 41, Jon V.
- A Feast for Crows, Chapter 26, Samwell III.
- A Feast for Crows, Chapter 22, Arya
- A Game of Thrones, Chapter 20, Eddard IV.
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