The nine city-states composing the Free Cities lie across the narrow sea, east of Westeros, on the western side of the eastern continent. Braavos, Lorath, Lys, and Tyrosh are located on islands, Myr, Pentos, and Volantis are located on the coasts, and Norvos and Qohor lie inland. There are significant differences between the geography of the various cities, from the thick forests around Qohor, to the rolling hills of Norvos, to the tiny islands of Braavos. To the east of the Free Cities lies the Dothraki sea, to the south Slaver's Bay. North of the Free Cities lie the Shivering Sea and the islands of Ibben.
The Nine Free Cities
With the exception of Braavos, the Nine Free Cities are all colonies founded by the Valyrian Freehold for various reasons. Because they are "daughters of Valyria", all speak different dialects of the Valyrian language. The Free Cities are all self-governed, though during the time of the Valyrian Freehold, they would look to their "mother" for aid in times of crisis.
When Valyria was destroyed during the Doom, the eldest of the Free Cities, Volantis, attempted to seize power over the others, but eventually lost the war that ensued during the Century of Blood. Some called the city of Gogossos on the Basilisk Isles the "Tenth Free City" when it grew rich and powerful during the Century of Blood, until it was destroyed by plague. Essaria, near the grasslands, has sometimes been considered the "Lost Free City", as the colony was reduced to ruins by the Dothraki.
While other Valyrian settlements can be found across Essos, such as Mantarys, Selhorys, and Tyria, none of these cities or towns were independent, but instead were ruled directly by archons sent from Valyria.
Braavos, also known as the Bastard Son of Valyria, or Secret City, is the wealthiest and most powerful of the Free Cities. The youngest of the nine cities, Braavos was founded by slaves fleeing the grasp of the Valyrian Freehold. The ancestry of the founders of Braavos was highly diverse, although it's still more Valyrian than Andal, and thus temples can be found in Braavos for all gods, even for the Moonsingers of the Jogos Nhai of the Further East. A seafaring city composed of many tiny islands, Braavos is known for its ships with purple hulls and sails, the powerful Iron Bank, the guild of assassins known as the Faceless Men, and the Titan of Braavos, the fortified statue and lighthouse that straddles the entrance channel to the city. Braavos is ruled by the Sealord, who is elected by the city's magisters and keyholders of the Iron Bank.
Located on the largest of three islands at the mouth of Lorath Bay, Lorath is one of the northernmost of the Free Cities. It is also the smallest, poorest, and least populous of the Nine Free Cities, as well as the most isolated. While the islands were originally inhabited by the Mazemakers, Lorath was founded when the followers of the god Boash settled on the main isle in 1436 BC.
Notable Lorathi include Jaqen H'ghar.
Lys is located on an island near the southern coast. The blood of Old Valyria still runs strong in this Free City, and as such, the Lyseni often have the coloring of the dragonlords of old. Lys is well known for its pleasure houses, training slaves in the arts of love and selling them as concubines and bed-slaves. Having once formed a kingdom together with Tyrosh and Myr, Lys now frequently fights with them over the control of the Disputed Lands.
Notable Lyseni include Varys, a eunuch and spymaster for several Westerosi kings; Salladhor Saan, a pirate and sellsail; Doreah, a handmaid to Daenerys Targaryen; Lysono Maar, a member of the Golden Company; and Tregar Ormollen, a merchant prince.
Myr is a coastal city renowned for their master glasscrafters, intricate lace, and fine carpets. It is considered to be among the most advanced of the Free Cities, and famed for its arts and learning. While Myr once formed the Kingdom of the Three Daughters with Tyrosh and Lys, they now frequently fight over control of the Disputed Lands.
Norvos sits on the main continent in two parts, one atop a high hill and the other beside a low river. The surrounding area is a land of rolling hills, terraced farms, and white-stucco villages. The city has three large bells, each with its own name and distinctive voice, that are rung to govern every aspect of city life. Norvoshi men can be recognized by their dyed and upswept mustaches. The city is run by a council of magisters, chosen by the bearded priests.
Pentos is a major trading port on a bay of the western coast, at approximately the latitude of the Westerosi city King's Landing. The city is ruled by a Prince who is chosen by the de facto rulers of the city, known as Magisters. Dothraki Khalasars occasionally make their way this far from the Dothraki sea, but the Pentoshi are spared much of the raiding and invasions by paying tribute to their khals. Slavery is outlawed in Pentos, but the Pentoshi flout these laws by keeping servants who, in essence, are slaves.
Situated on the main continent, Qohor lies in the vast Forest of Qohor. It is known for its fine tapestries and its smiths, who have the rare ability to reforge Valyrian steel. The Black Goat is a prominent god in the city. The city guard is comprised solely of Unsullied eunuch slave soldiers, and has been ever since three thousand Unsullied soldiers successfully defended the city against a Dothraki khalasar.
A coastal city, Tyrosh is ruled by an archon. The Tyroshi are known for their greed. Traders deal extensively in slaves and Tyroshi pear brandy, and Tyroshi master armorsmiths make intricate armor in fantastic shapes. The city is often involved in conflicts over the Disputed Lands and the Stepstones with Lys and Myr.
The southernmost of the Free Cities, Volantis is situated nearest Slaver's Bay, and does extensive trade in slaves, glassware and wines. The city is the oldest and proudest of the Free Cities, and only the Old Blood, those who can trace their lineage back to Valyria, may dwell within the part of the city behind the Black Wall. Volantis is ruled by an elected triarchy. Volantene sellswords are often recognizable by their fierce tattoos. It is not uncommon for the Volantene to mark the faces of their slaves and servants with tattoos as well. Volantis is sometimes drawn into conflicts over the Disputed Lands.
In the Free Cities of the west, towers and manses and hovels and bridges and shops and halls all crowded in on one another.
- Daenerys Targaryen's thoughts
– Tyrion Lannister's thoughts
References and Notes
- The Lands of Ice and Fire, The Known World.
- The World of Ice & Fire, Ancient History: Valyria's Children.
- The World of Ice & Fire, Beyond the Free Cities: The Basilisk Isles.
- The World of Ice & Fire, Beyond the Free Cities: The Grasslands.
- The World of Ice & Fire, The Free Cities: Braavos.
- A Feast for Crows, Chapter 6, Arya I.
- A Game of Thrones, Chapter 33, Eddard VIII.
- The Lands of Ice and Fire, The Free Cities.
- The World of Ice & Fire, The Free Cities: Lorath.
- A Game of Thrones, Chapter 54, Daenerys VI.
- The World of Ice & Fire, The Free Cities: The Quarrelsome Daughters: Myr, Lys, and Tyrosh.
- A Game of Thrones, Chapter 25, Eddard V.
- A Game of Thrones, Chapter 6, Catelyn II.
- A Dance with Dragons, Chapter 35, Jon VII.
- A Dance with Dragons, Chapter 5, Tyrion II.
- The World of Ice & Fire, The Free Cities: Norvos.
- A Feast for Crows, Chapter 2, The Captain Of Guards.
- A Game of Thrones, Chapter 3, Daenerys I.
- The World of Ice & Fire, The Free Cities: Pentos.
- The World of Ice & Fire, The Free Cities: Qohor.
- A Storm of Swords, Chapter 8, Daenerys I.
- A Storm of Swords, Chapter 72, Jaime IX.
- A Game of Thrones, Chapter 18, Catelyn IV.
- The Hedge Knight.
- The Rogue Prince.
- A Storm of Swords, Chapter 39, Arya VII.
- A Dance with Dragons, Chapter 6, The Merchant's Man.
- A Dance with Dragons, Chapter 27, Tyrion VII.
- The World of Ice & Fire, The Free Cities: Volantis.
- A Dance with Dragons, Chapter 14, Tyrion IV.
- A Game of Thrones, Chapter 36, Daenerys IV.
- A Feast for Crows, Chapter 34, Cat Of The Canals.
- A Dance with Dragons, Chapter 1, Tyrion I.