The Ghiscari wars were a series of five wars fought between the Old Empire of Ghis and the rising new power of the Valyrian Freehold, in which the lockstep legions of Ghis faced the fire of the Valyrian dragonlords. The Valyrians ultimately won each of the wars, though they did lose some battles, and the degree of each victory may have varied. At the end of the Fifth Ghiscari War, the Valyrians completely destroyed Old Ghis, ensuring that there would be no sixth war.
The conflicts between the Valyrians and Ghiscari at the dawn of recorded history have become almost the stuff of legends. Popular memory can confuse the details from one war with another, and other details have been added, and biased histories were written by the victors - which also contradict themselves, as rival families of dragonlords tried to attribute greater deeds to their ancestors. The maesters of the Citadel have made extensive efforts to sort out the facts as best as possible.
First Ghiscari War
The Old Empire of Ghis was the first great civilization in the known world. Ghiscari written records confirm their empire was already in its earliest stages before the Long Night began, roughly 8,000 years ago. Other civilizations existed in Essos during the Dawn Age, such as the Realm of the Fisher Queens and the forebears of the Kingdom of Sarnor, but they kept no written records. Yi Ti and Asshai also claim that their civilizations extend back before the Long Night, but their written records do not extend far back enough to confirm this.
While the Old Empire was expanding and building great pyramids, across the Gulf of Grief, humble Valyrian shepherds were tending their flocks. The Valyrians discovered dragons in the Fourteen Flames near their home, and learned to ride the beasts to war. The new power of the Valyrian Freehold began to expand into the rest of Essos, inevitably coming into conflict with the Old Empire for dominance.
Exactly when the First Ghiscari War occurred is unclear, except that it was after the Long Night and the initial rise of Valyria.
Second Ghiscari War
The Kingdom of Sarnor, a collection of independent city-states, existed in the western plains of central Essos, before the Doom of Valyria thousands of years later. Their cities stretched across the plains on the northern side of the Painted Mountains, along the northern borders of the Valyrians in the west and Ghiscari to the east.
The Sarnori were close enough to the two rivals that they eventually became drawn into their conflicts. In the Second Ghiscari War, the Sarnori fought as allies of young Valyria against the might of the Ghiscari legions.
Third Ghiscari War
The Sarnori again fought as allies of the Valyrians in the Third Ghiscari War. By this time, the conflict between Valyria and Ghis spread to their far-flung colonies across the Summer Sea, in the Basilisk Isles and Sothoryos. The Ghiscari had founded the colony Gorgai on the Isle of Tears, the largest of the Basilisk Isles. Gorgai stood for some two to four centuries (there is dispute over the dating), but the Valyrian dragonlords captured the city in the Third Ghiscari War and renamed it Gogossos.
Fourth Ghiscari War
The Sarnori have rarely been politically unified, though they fought as Valyrian allies in the Second and Third Ghiscari Wars. In the Fourth Ghiscari War, however, rival Sarnori kings fought on both sides.
Following the capture of Gogossos in the Basilisk Isles during the Third Ghiscari War, in the fourth war the Valyrians captured the Ghiscari colony Zamettar, the only major city on the coast of Sothoryos.
Fifth Ghiscari War
The last of the Ghiscari wars took place around 4700 BC. At the end of the fifth and final war, the Ghiscari Empire was utterly defeated. The ancient brick walls of Old Ghis, erected by Grazdan the Great, were razed. The Valyrian dragonlords burned the city to ashes, and the Ghiscari pyramids, temples, and homes were razed by dragonflame. The Valyrians sowed the fields with salt, lime, and skulls so that nothing would grow again.
The Fifth Ghiscari War saw that many Ghiscari were slain, and many others were enslaved where they died laboring for their Valyrian captors. The old domains of Ghis were incorporated into the Valyrian Freehold, and the Ghiscari were assimilated into the empire.
The surviving Ghiscari cities were reduced to colonies of Valyria, and the original Ghiscari made into slaves. As a result, Ghiscari culture and religion went extinct, and the language of Old Ghis survived only in words that entered the High Valyrian spoken in cities such as Astapor, Yunkai, and Meereen.
—thoughts of Daenerys Targaryen
- A Storm of Swords, Chapter 27, Daenerys III.
- A Dance with Dragons, Chapter 67, The Kingbreaker.
- The World of Ice & Fire, Ancient History: The Rise of Valyria.
- The World of Ice & Fire, Beyond the Free Cities: The Grasslands.
- The World of Ice & Fire, Beyond the Free Cities: The Basilisk Isles.
- The World of Ice & Fire, Beyond the Free Cities: Sothoryos.
- A Storm of Swords, Chapter 23, Daenerys II.