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Dukhasinov

Westeros; the sleepy superpower

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The Seven Kingdoms, at least during the reigns of Jahaerys I and Viserys I, was the most powerful polity in the known world since the Doom of Valyria. Either monarch could have put 150,000 swords in the field and half a dozen dragons. Hell, in the last decade of his reign, Viserys could have fielded 9 dragons. ( If this figure seems excessive, recall that the combined power of Highgarden and Storm`s End put 100,000 men together in the War of the Five Kings. King Daeron I assembled an army 50,000 strong to invade Dorne, even after the monarchy was weakened by the Dance of the Dragons. I think it`s remarkable that neither monarch considered trying again for a conquest of Dorne, or ever really tried to project their power beyond the shores of Westeros. In fact, at no point does it appear that the Iron Throne even has a coherent foreign policy. No-one seems concerned when Prince Daemon and a coalition of minor lords and mercenaries wages war against the Triarchy independently of the Iron Throne.

Part of this, I think, is because the Targaryens failed to appreciate how important and valuable their dragons were. It seems that they were valued mostly as symbols of royal prestige, rather than the weapons of mass destruction that they actually were. I find it remarkable that Viserys never claimed another dragon after Balerion died. Vermithor, Vhagar, Dreamfyre, and Silverwing were all readily available on Dragonstone. Speaking of Vhagar, I wonder if Laena Velaryon`s claiming of Vhagar raised any alarm in the Red Keep? As the last survivor of Aegon`s three, she was the most potent symbol of Targaryen legitimacy, and, being by far the largest living dragon, was the most powerful weapon in the world. That one event probably typifies Viserys` reign more than any other single event; His laxity allowed the most powerful weapon in the world to fall outside the control of the Royal House, and to a 12-year-old girl, at that.

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13 hours ago, Dukhasinov said:

The Seven Kingdoms, at least during the reigns of Jahaerys I and Viserys I, was the most powerful polity in the known world since the Doom of Valyria. Either monarch could have put 150,000 swords in the field and half a dozen dragons. Hell, in the last decade of his reign, Viserys could have fielded 9 dragons. ( If this figure seems excessive, recall that the combined power of Highgarden and Storm`s End put 100,000 men together in the War of the Five Kings. King Daeron I assembled an army 50,000 strong to invade Dorne, even after the monarchy was weakened by the Dance of the Dragons. I think it`s remarkable that neither monarch considered trying again for a conquest of Dorne, or ever really tried to project their power beyond the shores of Westeros. In fact, at no point does it appear that the Iron Throne even has a coherent foreign policy. No-one seems concerned when Prince Daemon and a coalition of minor lords and mercenaries wages war against the Triarchy independently of the Iron Throne.

Part of this, I think, is because the Targaryens failed to appreciate how important and valuable their dragons were. It seems that they were valued mostly as symbols of royal prestige, rather than the weapons of mass destruction that they actually were. I find it remarkable that Viserys never claimed another dragon after Balerion died. Vermithor, Vhagar, Dreamfyre, and Silverwing were all readily available on Dragonstone. Speaking of Vhagar, I wonder if Laena Velaryon`s claiming of Vhagar raised any alarm in the Red Keep? As the last survivor of Aegon`s three, she was the most potent symbol of Targaryen legitimacy, and, being by far the largest living dragon, was the most powerful weapon in the world. That one event probably typifies Viserys` reign more than any other single event; His laxity allowed the most powerful weapon in the world to fall outside the control of the Royal House, and to a 12-year-old girl, at that.

I have often also wondered why Westeros under the most powerful Targs never tried to colonize anywhere. Seems like they could have if they had wanted, especially while the dragons still lived like you say.

The only conclusion I can reach is fear of the Faceless Men. If some King had launched an invasion of Essos I would have thought that one or more of the Free Cities would be the most attractive target. Although they do fight each other from time to time I think a force of outsiders would call for the Faceless Men to be dispatched by Braavos.

I guess it depends on what you think happened during the Doom, whether it was Faceless Men, Dragonlords etc. etc.

If the Targs thought it was the Faceless Men who caused the Doom it would make sense if they feared returning to Essos to try to conquer.

But, there are other places that could be colonized other than Essos, so IDK.

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Fortunately for mankind, not every ruler is a megalomaniac bloodthirsty conqueror whose main goal is to submit the maximum number of people under his feet.

It is true that Jaehaerys (at the end of his reign) and Viserys had a formidable army at their orders. But bringing war and murder to the Dornishmen or to any of the Free Cities is not the most constructive endeavor. Their efforts were put to much better use in maintaining peace, promoting trade and prosperity, building roads, establishing an homogenized code of laws,...

 

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The reason is that GRRM wanted to portray Jaehaerys as a good king, and to be a good king in GRRM's eyes, you need to bring about peace. This means no conquest. So GRRM has sacrificed realism in the name of making a political statement.

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I'm not sure it's a realism issue. Jaehaerys had to consolidate things after Maegor, and there was clearly a lot of projects within Westeros that were needed to better unify the realm. Going after people who didn't want to be ruled by the Targaryens was a waste of energy that invited more trouble than it ameliorated. It's not unlike the Pax Augusta, where Augustus steered Rome away from constant conquest and conflict.

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I assume that the Lady Laena had not yet bonded with Vhagar at the time of the Great Council of 101 AC. Else the Velaryon position would have been much stronger.

Once she had her, that fact certainly would have contributed to the suggestion that the king take her as his second wife. It would have also been a main reason why Daemon 'fell in love with her'. With Caraxes and Vhagar Daemon and Laena would remain powers in their own right, never mind who succeeded Viserys I.

In relation to Viserys I not taking another dragon - one can see that as a sign of stupidity, but it could also be a reflection of his power. He was the most powerful Targaryen king in history, and really had no reason to fly around on a dragon to show it. Outside of war, dragons are just mounts to ride on. And while some people think flying is great, it should be a pretty tedious business at times, and not very pleasant. So why should he do it if he doesn't have to?

If there had been some rebellion or great war he could have claimed one of the riderless dragons.

But in any case - I'd have preferred it if he had had a dragon. It could have been a dragon who died shortly before his own death, or it could have been a dragon outliving him who was then free to be claimed by a dragonless Green or Black later on.

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On 9/19/2018 at 8:52 PM, Dukhasinov said:

I think it`s remarkable that neither monarch considered trying again for a conquest of Dorne

I don't think it's that remarkable.

Before Aegon I had even landed in Westeros, Princess Meria Martell sent a raven to Dragonstone offering to join him against Argilac, but as an equal and ally, not a subject. It may have even been Meria that commanded the Dornish raiding parties that "came boiling out of the Red Mountains to sweep across the marches" of Argilac's Stormlands. But Aegon insisted on the submission of all the rulers and regions of Westeros to his rule.

After Aegon dispatched Rhaenys and her dragon to secure the submission of Dorne, she found castle after castle abandoned, and met no resistance from any Dornish forces. And when she finally landed in Sunspear, she found Meria waiting in her abandoned castle, where she reiterated, "I will not fight you, nor will I kneel to you. Dorne has no king. Tell your brother that." To which Rhaenys threatened that they will come again, with fire and blood.

Yet, after the death of Rhaenys and her dragon, and all the war and death that followed, it was Aegon himself that Dorne persuaded to make peace. "Peace of two kingdoms no longer at war, not the peace between a vassal and a lord." Not unlike the terms Princess Meria had offered from the start. And though we are told that sporadic attempts to bring Dorne into the realm continued all through the rest of Aegon's reign of 24 or so more years, those must have been efforts other than war. 

Why should Jaehaerys I or Viserys I have wanted to break the decades or over a century of peace with Dorne, just to sacrifice the lives of a realm that was now more loyal to them and House Targaryen than they had ever been to Aegon the Conqueror? Dorne would still be a nightmare to conquer, and wasn't possible without the loss of a lot of royalist lives. And Dorne had already succeeded in killing one of the three dragons of Aegon and his sisters.

Though I think Daeron I's war was ill advised, I do think there is a lot of sense to the fact that the first major attempt to conquer Dorne didn't occur until after the death of the last dragons. Dorne was never going to be conquered by dragons. But can you imagine a Targaryen king that still had dragons, like Jaehaerys or Viserys, trying to convince the lords of the realm to embark on a war of conquest of Dorne without using the greatest weapon at their disposal?

So I just think they had every reason not to attempt to conquer Dorne. If anything, I'm more surprised that Jaehaerys and Viserys didn't make more of an attempt to bring Dorne into the realm through marriage. Jaehaerys especially, who had a ton of children and grandchildren. Viserys is more understandable, since I am not sure the lords of the realm, and especially the other Targaryens and Velaryons, would have been willing to accept a Martell as king consort to Rhaenyra. 

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5 minutes ago, The Grey Wolf said:

@Bael's Bastard

Meria sent the offer during the Conquest, not before it.

Aegon I was a nobody prior to 2 BC.

Meria's message was sent to Dragonstone in response to the ravens that flew from Aegon before he left for Westeros. That she sent the message is described after the description of Aegon landing and taking a dozen castles, but who knows if her message was actually sent after that, or if she was aware of any of that when she sent it. I am sure Aegon was known to the rulers of Westeros, especially 80 year old 60 year princess Meria, considering his close proximity, and his involvement on the same side as the Storm King in the Free City was against Volantis. It seems likely that Argilac and Meria had a history, and that she would have been involved in the Dornish invasion Argilac turned back when he was a boy.

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On 9/20/2018 at 10:57 AM, The hairy bear said:

It is true that Jaehaerys (at the end of his reign) and Viserys had a formidable army at their orders. But bringing war and murder to the Dornishmen or to any of the Free Cities is not the most constructive endeavor. Their efforts were put to much better use in maintaining peace, promoting trade and prosperity, building roads, establishing an homogenized code of laws,...

 

With the kind of power that the Iron Throne could wield in that age, actually bringing war to Dorne or the Free Cities would mostly have been unnecessary. A "Great White Fleet" approach to demonstrate the power of the Seven Kingdoms would have been effective in creating conditions favorable to the Iron Throne. Remember how Queen Rhaenys brought the Vale over to Aegon`s cause. Jahaerys could have offered military support to Braavos or Pentos in exchange for favorable trade deals.

 

I think the reason that the Seven Kingdoms lacked a solid foreign policy is that they didn`t even have a solid domestic policy. While Westeros is technologically somewhere in the early Rennaisance, (minus the gunpowder) politically, they`re way back in Carolingian times. The Iron Throne doesn`t have any real bureaucracy, and, despite it being mentioned that Jaehaerys I unified the realm`s laws, we haven`t really seen any example of those laws. The rule seems to be that you can do whatever you want as long as you`re rich and powerful enough to get away with it.

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The Valyrians had hundreds, maybe thousands of dragons.  My surprise is that Aegon was able to conquer Westeros with only 3, but that seemingly had much more to do with the fractured politics and territories of Westeros and Aegon himself as political and Battle strategist rather than his dragons.  We see dragons killed a number of times merely with arrows.  

So I don't see 9 dragons as enough to mount an invasion of Essos when your family is still trying to consolidate and build on power in Westeros.  Essos people hated the Valyrians as well for their brutality and slavery that the Westerosis haven't experienced.  If the Dance and other events hadn't happened and dragons died out, I expect it would only be a matter of time before some Targ or another turned their eyes to the east, but they would want more dragons if they wanted to take the continent, not just a city here or there like Dany's been doing.

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Posted (edited)
On 9/20/2018 at 2:52 AM, Dukhasinov said:

The Seven Kingdoms, at least during the reigns of Jahaerys I and Viserys I, was the most powerful polity in the known world since the Doom of Valyria. Either monarch could have put 150,000 swords in the field and half a dozen dragons

I'm not sure this qualifies Seven Kingdoms as the most powerful polity in the known world.

150000 swords come with a huge footnotes. First, those are not King's swords, but the swords of King's vassals - the very vassals who raised Jahaerys as King. The very same vassals whose support means life and death for the monarch on the Iron Throne. Literally - Maegor I had the biggest dragon around and lived through pruning of his own family as well as decade-long revolt of underclasses. Once he lost the support of major Houses however... the time has come for his horrific suicide. This is highly unstable, complex arrangement that can cease to function at any moment. Not necessarily in the form of revolt - Lord Paramount simply delaying and refusing support can be just as problematic.

Even if provided, the swords themselves are hardly an army to make the world tremble. They take long time to mobilize, many of them are poorly trained and armed, and keeping them in the field for long can cause economic problems back at home. Notice how Westerosi regularly hire mercenaries in Essos and the reverse happens what... once? With this great general at the helm?

Similarly, 6 dragons may be a game breaker in Westeros - Aegon makes entire kingdoms collapse with one or two blows - but it speaks more of fragile nature of Seven Kingdoms. Everything depends on one guy. Put a knife to the throat of one boy and the Vale kneels. Put the knife to the throat of Pentoshi magister and his compatriots will elect another.

Not to mention the fact that while Westerosi armies quickly fold and break when attacked by dragons, nothing of the sort happens in Essoss. Augmented with Braavosi ships, Vale fleet successfully repels Velaryon fleet attempting to seize Gulltown. Myrish pirates seize Tarth and give Westerosi such hell that Jahaerys' own heir died in the fighting. Triarchy's pirates successfully contest Daemon's attempts to seize Stepstones and are ultimately victorious. During the Dance Triarchy sends a task force to Westeros. The results are a complete disaster for Westerosi: they kidnap one prince, kill another, kill two dragons, fend off another four, inflict substantial losses on Velaryon fleet and sack High tide for good measure. Such feat is simply beyond anything Westeros has ever produced.

Even later, Westeros has this epic war against the last Blackfyre pretender. The fighting is fierce - the Hand dies, Lannister rep dies, a bunch of people become heroes... which is all well and good until you remember that the entire continent of Westeros fights against the resources of one (as in 1) Free City. One Free City has enough resources to support enough fighters to give entire Westeros - Westeros without any major issues and quite accommodating LPs - a bloody nose.

On 9/20/2018 at 2:52 AM, Dukhasinov said:

I think it`s remarkable that neither monarch considered trying again for a conquest of Dorne, or ever really tried to project their power beyond the shores of Westeros. In fact, at no point does it appear that the Iron Throne even has a coherent foreign policy.

Conquest of Dorne is a white elephant - a task without purpose or meaning. Dorne is not the richest Kingdom and its people are notorious independent. Both conquest attempts ended up a horrific kitchen sink of losses for the Iron Throne. There is simply nothing in Dorne to justify expense of blood and treasure.

As for projecting power... where is Targaryen Kingdom supposed to project power, exactly? To Free Cities? See above - Free Cities are simply to powerful for that. One wrong step and Iron Throne will be projected right back under the bench. Everything else is simply too far away.

 

TL;DR: Seven Kingdoms are a paper tiger. Their position in the center of narrative obscures its position in-universe - one at the periphery, both in terms of economy and overall development. Westeros never was a superpower and is not going to become one in the foreseeable future.

Edited by Myrish Lace

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Hard to say having dragons doesnt necessarily guarantee easy  victory (look at dorne) and essos is awash with dangerous military assets and assasins ...pkus theres the unkown

Maybe the shaddowbinders, facelessmen etc get involved and who knows what other horrors and magic is far east , or what assets yi ti could field

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If a King on the Iron Throne put his resources to build a vast navy and raise a grand army to conquer the Free Cities, he certainly could do so. There might have been setbacks on the way, depending how the naval battles go, especially with the Braavosi, the Three Daughters, and the Volantenes, but once sufficiently large armies have landed in Essos and on the islands, they would eventually triumph if the enterprise was continued and maintained for the time needed to subdue them all.

And considering the size of Westeros a king wouldn't need all the resources his kingdoms can offer him. The Velaryons alone are powerful enough to challenge and defeat three out of nine Free Cities in the days of Viserys I and during the Dance. It is pretty obvious what would happen if the Ironborn, Lannisters, Hightowers, Redwynes, and Arryns added their strengths to theirs - or only some of them.

One assumes that the uncertain/primitive political system of Westeros would make it difficult to keep the conquered Free Cities in line, who have very stable and effective political systems in place. Despotism is not likely to be accepted there for long.

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