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Aldarion

Characteristics of a good ruler

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On 7/10/2019 at 10:23 PM, The Sunland Lord said:

Trajan- A conqueror, favourite of the people, and his own administration. 

But, the Iron Throne of Westeros doesn't conquer Essos. They don't need that. They also don't care too much for the smallfolk; Trajan was giving money directly to the plebs.

Perhaps, you only need to be accepted by the administration-nobility of Westeros and you're fine.

Other problem with this comparisons is that the Romans very often were adopting children which they preferred to be next Emperors. Augustus, the first Emperor, has chosen Tiberius, his adoptive son to be next. 

In Westeros, the bloodline is very important, so even in a situation when Targaryens were overthrown, it was important that Robert has a claim on the throne through his Targaryen line. Romans didn't care too much for the bloodline, if you need an heir, just adopt one.

Yes, that definitely is a problem. One of reasons why Romans could find good emperors relatively easily was precisely that: you need an heir? Just adopt somebody (even grown people could be adopted). Many of the emperors of Macedonian dynasty were generals who had married into the family, or were simply chosen to be guardians of underage Emperors.

However, if I remember it right, Welsh heirs were often brought up specifically to rule. So even if you cannot adopt an heir, you could provide education - say, let him "apprentice", first learn stuff required and once he did that, let him run a single province for a while so that he learns on smaller scale before he ever has to think about running the entire country.

On 7/11/2019 at 2:38 AM, Lord Varys said:

Rome never was a proper monarchy. It was a military dictatorship. People certainly tried and did establish dynasties, but they never got the kind of divine aura medieval royalty got in hereditary monarchies - where it was practically impossible to overthrow a dynasty. You could usurp a throne if you had royal blood yourself, of course, but you could not set up yourself as the new king if you were just some general or lowborn thug who had risen through the ranks of the legions.

The Seven Kingdoms practically worship royal blood. They have royal and noble bloodlines that go back thousands of years in - as far as we know - unbroken lines. That is ridiculous from a realistic viewpoint and entails - if we take it seriously within George's fictional world for a moment - that nobody in this world can imagine that a person who doesn't have royal blood can ever sit or steal a throne. Such people simply won't get a following.

[The exceptions to that rule would be the Riverlands in their chaotic eras and, of course, the Ironborn.]

But there is a paradox there - George portrays backstabbing and betrayal and politics very realistically - which means that if the rules we see in the main series did also apply to the kings of old it is utterly ridiculous that there are still Starks and Arryns and Lannisters. After all, most kings born to the purple should have been bad or mediocre - and such men should have been killed and overthrown by their more ambitious and competent bannermen and vassals. That this didn't happen is essentially a joke.

One can try to make sense of that by imagine the Starks, Arryns, and Lannisters as a vast clan in various periods of the history of the Seven Kingdoms, with infighting and civil wars and backstabbing eradicating various branches of the tree but it is still not really believable that there weren't any ambitious Baratheons, Lannisters, Littlefingers, successful Boltons, Freys, etc. who overthrow the old houses.

But if one thinks of how none of the old royal bloodlines was ever overthrown in thousands of years the ambitions of people like Littlefinger - if we assume he is truly after the Iron Throne - are doomed from the start. The people of Westeros would never suffer such a lowborn upstart on the Iron Throne.

Yeah, that is true. Only way a general could rule is if somehow he got married into royal family - and royal families mostly married each other, not nobility of their own country.

As for long-lasting dynasties, I explain it - in my head - that people are attached to the name. So going by that, Starks may have been overthrown/deposed one or multiple times in their history - but new ruler would adopt surname Stark to legitimize himself. Silly, maybe, but less so than extremely long-lasting dynasties of Westeros.

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2 hours ago, Aldarion said:

Yes, that definitely is a problem. One of reasons why Romans could find good emperors relatively easily was precisely that: you need an heir? Just adopt somebody (even grown people could be adopted). Many of the emperors of Macedonian dynasty were generals who had married into the family, or were simply chosen to be guardians of underage Emperors.

However, if I remember it right, Welsh heirs were often brought up specifically to rule. So even if you cannot adopt an heir, you could provide education - say, let him "apprentice", first learn stuff required and once he did that, let him run a single province for a while so that he learns on smaller scale before he ever has to think about running the entire country.

Yeah, that is true. Only way a general could rule is if somehow he got married into royal family - and royal families mostly married each other, not nobility of their own country.

As for long-lasting dynasties, I explain it - in my head - that people are attached to the name. So going by that, Starks may have been overthrown/deposed one or multiple times in their history - but new ruler would adopt surname Stark to legitimize himself. Silly, maybe, but less so than extremely long-lasting dynasties of Westeros.

Westeros doesn't have any generals outside the nobility-only nobles have men under arms. There can't be any common man who can command an army, it is not even an idea.

In Rome, the word "nobility" didn't mean much after the Kingdom collapsed and Tarquin was deposed. Being a patrician at some point was even more limited than being a pleb-a patrician couldn't run for the office Tribune of the people (plebs). During the obligatory ten years of serving in the army, anyone could rise high in the ranks by merit. 

This is exactly what led Rome to become a military junta, when the first Triumvirate was formed, and then the second. Generals usurped so much power over the Senate because of the booty gained in the conquests, it led to an inevitable change into an Empire.

So there, no one would ever care about the names such as "Starks" or "Targaryens". 

I see that you are interested in the Macedonian dynasty in Roman era. I don't know too much for the whole dynasty overall, except for Basil II, who infamously blinded Tsar Samoil's army after defeating the latter in battle. 

 

 

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11 minutes ago, The Sunland Lord said:

 Westeros doesn't have any generals outside the nobility-only nobles have men under arms. There can't be any common man who can command an army, it is not even an idea.

In Rome, the word "nobility" didn't mean much after the Kingdom collapsed and Tarquin was deposed. Being a patrician at some point was even more limited than being a pleb-a patrician couldn't run for the office Tribune of the people (plebs). During the obligatory ten years of serving in the army, anyone could rise high in the ranks by merit. 

This is exactly what led Rome to become a military junta, when the first Triumvirate was formed, and then the second. Generals usurped so much power over the Senate because of the booty gained in the conquests, it led to an inevitable change into an Empire.

So there, no one would ever care about the names such as "Starks" or "Targaryens". 

I see that you are interested in the Macedonian dynasty in Roman era. I don't know too much for the whole dynasty overall, except for Basil II, who infamously blinded Tsar Samoil's army after defeating the latter in battle. 

For the most part, yes - though we see Stannis naming Davos his Hand, and didn't Davos also command a fleet? (I know he didn't initially in the books, and it ended in catastrophe at Blackwater, but I do not recall whether he was given command afterwards) But yeah, Stannis is very much an exception.

In Middle Byzantine period of Roman Empire, it was mostly Anatolian aristocracy who held high military offices, because they were able to afford education required for it. That being said, there were quite few examples of commoners rising to high positions through ability, especially when joining Imperial Guard. So if somebody like Stannis (or Aegon, if his comment about necessary qualities of Kingsguard is anything to go by) becomes a king, we might see a more merit-based system. Could Kingsguard, or maybe Gold Cloaks, be used as a "ladder" for capable men to rise to positions they would otherwise not have been able to achieve?

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1 hour ago, Aldarion said:

For the most part, yes - though we see Stannis naming Davos his Hand, and didn't Davos also command a fleet? (I know he didn't initially in the books, and it ended in catastrophe at Blackwater, but I do not recall whether he was given command afterwards) But yeah, Stannis is very much an exception.

In Middle Byzantine period of Roman Empire, it was mostly Anatolian aristocracy who held high military offices, because they were able to afford education required for it. That being said, there were quite few examples of commoners rising to high positions through ability, especially when joining Imperial Guard. So if somebody like Stannis (or Aegon, if his comment about necessary qualities of Kingsguard is anything to go by) becomes a king, we might see a more merit-based system. Could Kingsguard, or maybe Gold Cloaks, be used as a "ladder" for capable men to rise to positions they would otherwise not have been able to achieve?

Even Davos had to become a nobleman, adding "Seaworth" as a second name. Otherwise, there is no other way for Stannis to award Davos with the many privilegies and delegate responsibilities. And this was not done because Davos did something noteworthy in the war as a skilled warrior, but because of his smuggling abilities which helped the beseiged inhabitants. 

The Golden Cloaks-yes, we saw it through Janos Slynt's example, but he was a baby-butcher for the Lannister regime. No military nor any other qualities whatsoever. And even he had to become a "nobleman" and was granted a castle. Maybe he would've commanded an army if he stayed alive-and you can imagine what a job he would do, not better than Davos.

Kingsguard is a very limited position, you serve for life and protect the king. The Praetorians became so powerful at one point-they put the Emperor's crown on an auction, when the Empire declined that low.

Perhaps Bronn is the most skilled of all the upjumped criminals/mercenaries/smugglers which we meet in the series.

So you see, in Westeros they often do it this way, but on a very individual level.

In Rome, one had to be really proven capable to be granted an Imperium-the permission to command an army, which has to be voted by the Senate. He didn't have to be "noble", or be granted a castle.

 

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7 hours ago, Aldarion said:

As for long-lasting dynasties, I explain it - in my head - that people are attached to the name. So going by that, Starks may have been overthrown/deposed one or multiple times in their history - but new ruler would adopt surname Stark to legitimize himself. Silly, maybe, but less so than extremely long-lasting dynasties of Westeros.

The fact that Robert kept the Baratheon name - which is essentially the name of alleged bastard, the half-brother of Aegon the Conqueror - sort of goes against the idea - as goes the fact that Orys Baratheon back then kept his own name rather than taking the Durrandon name (which had been the name of the kings of the Stormlands since the Dawn Age).

We do have one precedent of a guy taking a royal name - Joffrey Lydden when he, as husband of a Lannister princess, became the first Andal king of the West - but that was then justified by him marrying into the Lannister family. We never have a precedent for a Northern, Western, or Vale upstart naming himself 'Stark', 'Lannister', or 'Arryn' without being related or having a marriage connection to those dynasties.

But you certainly have a point there. If we take the wildling ways as an indication how politics were done back in the ancient days of the First Men then it is quite clear that it must have taken centuries or millennia before proper noble houses and dynasties developed and before something like the right of primogeniture had any lasting effect.

Present day Starks could only be descended from Brandon the Builder if the First Men back then already worshiped royal/noble blood the same way they do today - which I don't think is very likely. This must have been a gradual process.

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On 7/10/2019 at 10:44 PM, Br16 said:

True, but that long Eastern border was just too hard to defend. A chokepoint at Pyrenees, another at Sinai, and a central fleet base on Sicily seems more feasible from a defense point of view. 

This is why people with no understand of history, geography, or how they interplay shouldn't invite themselves into discussions as if they're experts.

The Eastern Empire had a lovely defensive situation.  Eastern Anatolia is extremely rugged terrain.  Even in modern times, the Turkish government has had trouble exerting control over the restless Kurdish population out there.  In addition, the Euphrates was a natural line of defense, and indeed most Parthian/Sassanian/Rashidun/Umayyad/Abbasid and Byzantine interaction occurred through a very small number of border areas.  Syria was much more exposed, but aside from brief revivals, the Byzantines never really controlled Syria or Palestine for most of their history.  Armenia is also mountainous, and the line of the Danube in the West was the traditional border for Rome as well.

By contrast, coastal areas were extremely vulnerable.  Ask any Italian; Islamic raids on the coasts caused massive demographic shifts in Italy.  Going there today you can see the numerous castles and watch towers that existed solely to warn against attack from the sea.

And claiming that a "central fleet base on Sicily" makes more sense from a defensively minded point of view smacks of someone who has only ever played a video game.  Are you also shipping the massive number of supplies and people necessary to maintain a fleet to Sicily?  After all, wooden ships have a short shelf life, they need constant repair and constant replacement.  You also need the surplus population to man the oars, the surplus food to provision ships, you need a harbor capable of holding a bunch of ships at once, and the facilities to undertake construction/repair.  Also, of course, you need to have someone in a position to give orders.  Having a naval force be based near the person of authority makes more sense, and given the realities of Roman command, that emperors and generals were constantly in tension, with the former permitting the latter only the barest minimum to win a war, it's unlikely that any political authority would delegate the decision-making power to wage war on their own, even defensively, with a large part of the overall naval presence of the Empire.

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On 7/9/2019 at 6:24 AM, Aldarion said:

John I Tzimiskes - strenghtened the Empire and made Basil II's victories possible. A member of Anatolian military aristocracy, joined army at an early age. During service, he defended Armenia and captured 60 border cities.

Well, "city" is a debatable term.  But he also murdered the previous emperor, and it was Nikephoros who conquered those 60 cities, not John.

On 7/9/2019 at 6:24 AM, Aldarion said:

Basil II - son of a previous emperor, tutored by a general who married into the family. Became good administrator and a general.

Yes, Basil was a good general, great emperor, and phenomenal administrator.  If he had bothered to have had kids the history of Byzantium might be somewhat different.

On 7/9/2019 at 6:24 AM, Aldarion said:

Now, for the best of the rest:

Diocletian - reformed the military and administration, a competent general and excellent politician. Before becoming an emperor he was a commander of Emperor's bodyguard, and also a general.

Not "Byzantine" or even an Eastern Roman emperor.  Roman in the Classical sense.

On 7/9/2019 at 6:24 AM, Aldarion said:

Heraclius - son of a general, but I am not aware of him holding any significant command before ascension. Proved to be a good general and administrator, but his rebellion was supremely badly timed. Even so, he rebuilt an army from a scratch and defeated Sassanids.

His rebellion was fine.  His debilitating war with the Sassanids could honestly be considered one of the defining moments for world history, since it was the mutual exhaustion of both empires from useless squabbling and raiding which allowed the Muslim Arabs to conquer most of the Mediterranean Basin.

On 7/9/2019 at 6:24 AM, Aldarion said:

Now, what are their characteristics:

  • may have been highborn or lowborn
  • may or may not have received good education
  • had command experience - both battle command and administrative
  • served under / was mentored by a capable commander and administrator before acceeding to the throne

This is... I mean, what is this?  These aren't characteristics.  These are binary options being quoted as references.  The first two cover every human being who has ever or will ever live.  The third isn't much better; the only instance I can think of off the top of my head where someone with no experience at all was chosen for any position of authority is Pope Celestine V.  In order to become emperor you had to either command troops, have a high position within the imperial household or be born (and thus trained) to the purple.

And the fourth is just a rehash of the third.  If you served under a general or administrator, you have experience in those things.

On 7/9/2019 at 6:24 AM, Aldarion said:

What can also be seen from Roman history is that practice does not, in fact, make perfect. Quite a few rulers were thrown into ruling without preparation, either from high or low class. These may or may not have performed well. That being said, age was not necessarily a factor: Severus Alexander performed well, and Elagabalus also may not have been a bad ruler. Experience only helps if one is able to understand lessons, however.

It's debatable how much of Severus Alexander's policy was his own.  Elagabalus reigned for four years and even if we dismiss most of the invective as fabricated, it's clear that he tried to impose meaningful (and unnecessary) reforms on traditional Roman religion, and didn't do much else that was positive during that time.  The lack of outcry at his assassination is proof positive that he wasn't particularly effective.

On 7/9/2019 at 6:24 AM, Aldarion said:

So, from the above, best option among candidates for the Iron Throne would be

Robert wasn't a bad choice at the time of his acclamation.  He was a proven warrior in a martial society, was apparently the most charismatic person on the planet, and was capable of having kids.  And as a teenager with older counselors, that isn't a bad combo.  

At the moment the best option among the major players is Stannis, hands down.  Post-Blackwater Stannis is the easiest possible choice.  A more-than-competent administrator and general, who inspires near-fanatical loyalty in his men, who actually gives a shit about the realm, about proto-egalitarianism, who cares about efficient and honest governance... from a modern standpoint he'd be the best at the actual business of governing, and from an in-universe perspective he checks all the boxes that a Westerosi/medieval monarch has to hit.  He'd be Viserys II mixed with Maekar.  Not flashy, but effective both in war and peace.  Once he ditches the aggrieved sense of entitlement he has, and the accompanying rigidness of thought and ethic, that he displays pre-Blackwater, he becomes a nearly-ideal king.

At the moment Dany lacks the experience to be an effective monarch.  And Aegon VI.... well, there is a reason for his being in the story in the first place, and the point of it is that he won't be a perfect prince.  Not bad, necessarily, and certainly better than a Joffrey or Aerys. 

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Apparently it’s a magical boy who can see the past and pick and choose all the successful policy’s throughout history.

GRRM’s solution to “what was Aragorn’s tax policy?” is magic boy googles the most effective one from history.

He can also see what’s happening currently so nobody can ever plot against him. 

Oh, and he’s a cripple so he can never be seduced or “do stupid things for love” like his dumbass father and brothers....and aunt, uncle, grandfather....and most of his mother’s side too.

Who’s ready for 10k years (or however many thousands Damphair said) of the best ruler ever?

Such a cop out lol. 

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11 hours ago, cpg2016 said:

 Well, "city" is a debatable term.  But he also murdered the previous emperor, and it was Nikephoros who conquered those 60 cities, not John.

Right, thanks.

Quote

Yes, Basil was a good general, great emperor, and phenomenal administrator.  If he had bothered to have had kids the history of Byzantium might be somewhat different.

Or even if he had treated his brother differently. If I remember it correctly, he deliberately excluded Constantine from anything to do with governance - guy was basically forced to spend his life having fun because Basil wouldn't let him do anything useful. Though that might not have solved the succession problem.

Quote

Not "Byzantine" or even an Eastern Roman emperor.  Roman in the Classical sense.

Eh, depends. Some people see Diocletian as first Byzantine emperor, some see Justinian, and some see Heraclius. Depends on how you define Byzantine Empire.

Quote

 His rebellion was fine.  His debilitating war with the Sassanids could honestly be considered one of the defining moments for world history, since it was the mutual exhaustion of both empires from useless squabbling and raiding which allowed the Muslim Arabs to conquer most of the Mediterranean Basin.

Right. But even then, he wasn't one who started the war, or made it into what it was, so yeah.

Quote

At the moment the best option among the major players is Stannis, hands down.  Post-Blackwater Stannis is the easiest possible choice.  A more-than-competent administrator and general, who inspires near-fanatical loyalty in his men, who actually gives a shit about the realm, about proto-egalitarianism, who cares about efficient and honest governance... from a modern standpoint he'd be the best at the actual business of governing, and from an in-universe perspective he checks all the boxes that a Westerosi/medieval monarch has to hit.  He'd be Viserys II mixed with Maekar.  Not flashy, but effective both in war and peace.  Once he ditches the aggrieved sense of entitlement he has, and the accompanying rigidness of thought and ethic, that he displays pre-Blackwater, he becomes a nearly-ideal king.

At the moment Dany lacks the experience to be an effective monarch.  And Aegon VI.... well, there is a reason for his being in the story in the first place, and the point of it is that he won't be a perfect prince.  Not bad, necessarily, and certainly better than a Joffrey or Aerys. 

Agreed.

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Posted (edited)
15 hours ago, cpg2016 said:

This is why people with no understand of history, geography, or how they interplay shouldn't invite themselves into discussions as if they're experts.

You're lucky. Remember this guy: Cyril Radcliffe, 1st Viscount Radcliffe? He drew that messy India partition border, and was made Law Lord, Knighted and later raised to Peerage. Thus, it seems I am over qualified, so where's my Lordship? 

15 hours ago, cpg2016 said:

The Eastern Empire had a lovely defensive situation. 

Hmm, No.  defending the levant was a nightmare. The fact that Anatolia was lost shows its defensive position wasn't good enough once the theme system decayed, despite your spirited but inferior analysis. A choke point at Sinai would be much better. Byzantine Syria Prima was once one of its most important regions and the land link to Egypt, and when it was lost, Egypt was cut off and lost too.

Plus, the breadbasket of Egypt was so valuable it must be kept. With my division of Spain, North Africa, Egypt and Sicily as Southern Empire, it would be better defensive position based on two concentrated chokepoints at Pyrenees and Sinai. Investment into strong naval forces would protect the long coastline, and they'll have that money because of the shorter land defensive lines. 

15 hours ago, cpg2016 said:

By contrast, coastal areas were extremely vulnerable. 

The coastal areas you mention were vulnerable precisely because they lost North Africa. The Barbary Corsairs raided with impunity for a long time and there was little the Europeans could do about it. But if under hypothetical Southern Roman Empire hands, that wouldn't be a problem.

15 hours ago, cpg2016 said:

And claiming that a "central fleet base on Sicily" makes more sense from a defensively minded point of view smacks of someone who has only ever played a video game.  Are you also shipping the massive number of supplies and people necessary to maintain a fleet to Sicily?  After all, wooden ships have a short shelf life, they need constant repair and constant replacement.  You also need the surplus population to man the oars, the surplus food to provision ships, you need a harbor capable of holding a bunch of ships at once, and the facilities to undertake construction/repair.

I am aware, and it's worth paying for. You cannot let someone else's have Sicily, especially given it's proximity to the core of the valuable North African province. Moreover, with Sicily, you could sweep up the peninsula when strong enough. 

Edited by Br16

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Posted (edited)
On 7/9/2019 at 6:24 AM, Aldarion said:

Now, what are their characteristics:

  • may have been highborn or lowborn
  • may or may not have received good education
  • had command experience - both battle command and administrative
  • served under / was mentored by a capable commander and administrator before acceeding to the throne

Highborn vs. Lowborn is not all that important.  A revolution could put a lowborn in power.  It doesn't mean they will do well but it doesn't mean a highborn will do better.  Good leadership is important for the lowborn because that person won't have tradition on their side.  For a good leader, I look at Lech Walesa for some characteristics.  

Education is a relative notion.  An intellectual who does nothing but philosophises and doesn't get out on the battlefield is not one I will follow.  All kinds of ideas to make the world a better place exist but unless the philosopher has the courage and the guts to make it happen, it is worthless.  

Experience is a good instructor.  Good cabinet is also good.  The idea here is "one person alone cannot rule but needs the help of a diverse talented advisers."  A single person doesn't have all of the required skills, knowledge, and abilities.  The young leader/ruler who comes the closest to having all of these needed skills is Daenerys Targaryen.  Stannis has them too but he is too rigid.  There is a reason why the people don't want Stannis ruling over them.  

EDIT:  Stannis has the harshness and commands respect.  But he doesn't earn affection.  Davos is just a simple minded guy who was given a ticket away from execution.  It's normal to expect one such to have loyalty for Stannis.  

Edited by Quoth the raven,

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4 minutes ago, Quoth the raven, said:

Highborn vs. Lowborn is not all that important.  A revolution could put a lowborn in power.  It doesn't mean they will do well but it doesn't mean a highborn will do better.  Good leadership is important for the lowborn because that person won't have tradition on their side.  For a good leader, I look at Lech Walesa for some characteristics.  

Education is a relative notion.  An intellectual who does nothing but philosophises and doesn't get out on the battlefield is not one I will follow.  All kinds of ideas to make the world a better place exist but unless the philosopher has the courage and the guts to make it happen, it is worthless.  

 Experience is a good instructor.  Good cabinet is also good.  The idea here is "one person alone cannot rule but needs the help of a diverse talented advisers."  A single person doesn't have all of the required skills, knowledge, and abilities.  The future leader who comes the closest to having all of these needed skills is Daenerys Targaryen.  Stannis has them too but he is too rigid.  There is a reason why the people don't want Stannis ruling over them.  

 

That is actually what I wrote - neither birth nor education were good predictors of success. Sorry if I was unclear.

Reason why people do not want Stannis ruling over them is that he has no social skills, they do not know him, and he is unlikely to tolerate bull**** of people such as Littlefinger and Varys. But Stannis has, in fact, shown himself to be much more willing to accept advice and opinions he does not like, and to look past birth, than just about any other candidate for the throne. He declared Davos as his Hand despite the scorn it earned him from his lords; in multiple instances he changed his plans after considering input from his advisors. He valued advice given to him by Jon Snow despite latter's youth and the scorn Stannis' lords had shown him. Stannis used to be rigid, but as series progressed he has become much more flexible.

And I just remembered that Brynden Blackfish explored Stannis' flexibility in much more detail than I ever could. Do give it a look; it is a very good read.

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9 hours ago, Aldarion said:

That is actually what I wrote - neither birth nor education were good predictors of success. Sorry if I was unclear.

Reason why people do not want Stannis ruling over them is that he has no social skills, they do not know him, and he is unlikely to tolerate bull**** of people such as Littlefinger and Varys. But Stannis has, in fact, shown himself to be much more willing to accept advice and opinions he does not like, and to look past birth, than just about any other candidate for the throne. He declared Davos as his Hand despite the scorn it earned him from his lords; in multiple instances he changed his plans after considering input from his advisors. He valued advice given to him by Jon Snow despite latter's youth and the scorn Stannis' lords had shown him. Stannis used to be rigid, but as series progressed he has become much more flexible.

And I just remembered that Brynden Blackfish explored Stannis' flexibility in much more detail than I ever could. Do give it a look; it is a very good read.

Stannis tolerates mad nutcases like Melisandre. He tolerates religious prosecution for no other reason than to please Melisandre.

The fact that he is no total failure at listening to advice doesn't mean he enjoys being surrounded by people he does not agree with. He only surrounds himself with people he thinks he can use. If you are no longer useful you are discarded like poor Cressen (or Davos nearly was after he came back to try to kill Mel). Melisandre herself says as much to Jon - don't fear the king's words, fear the king's silences.

And how shitty Stannis actually treats his men we finally see in Theon 1. He doesn't give a damn about their feelings, goals, ambitions, or state of mind. They are just tools he wants to exploit - just as his grand scheme to go to the Wall was just another way to get what he wants. He wants the people to see him as the true king because he is defending them now. He doesn't do the right thing because it is right, he does it because he think it will have some payoff for him - just as he realized that favoring Mel over his other advisers will give him some advantage.

Stannis has some good qualities but there is a poison in his mind and heart. He abandoned Robert and Ned to their deaths, he had Renly and Penrose killed, he willingly used sorcery against two boys (one of them his legal nephew), he considered to sacrifice his other nephew.

The Seven Kingdoms Stannis would built had he truly royal power would be a horrible place. And he would be a failure as king because he cannot really bring himself to work with the established power structure (i.e. the lords and their ambitions a king has to accept and deal with up to a point). Stannis would quickly become a tyrant and he would be put down as such - even if he didn't allow Melisandre to (violently) convert the Westerosi to her faith (which is of course what he would do after he had won the Iron Throne).

And the basic fact that essentially nobody in Westeros wants Stannis Baratheon for their king - despite the strength of his claim - is a strong confirmation that most people know what kind of person he is.

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On 7/14/2019 at 1:59 AM, Lord Varys said:

Stannis tolerates mad nutcases like Melisandre. He tolerates religious prosecution for no other reason than to please Melisandre.

 The fact that he is no total failure at listening to advice doesn't mean he enjoys being surrounded by people he does not agree with. He only surrounds himself with people he thinks he can use. If you are no longer useful you are discarded like poor Cressen (or Davos nearly was after he came back to try to kill Mel). Melisandre herself says as much to Jon - don't fear the king's words, fear the king's silences.

 And how shitty Stannis actually treats his men we finally see in Theon 1. He doesn't give a damn about their feelings, goals, ambitions, or state of mind. They are just tools he wants to exploit - just as his grand scheme to go to the Wall was just another way to get what he wants. He wants the people to see him as the true king because he is defending them now. He doesn't do the right thing because it is right, he does it because he think it will have some payoff for him - just as he realized that favoring Mel over his other advisers will give him some advantage.

 Stannis has some good qualities but there is a poison in his mind and heart. He abandoned Robert and Ned to their deaths, he had Renly and Penrose killed, he willingly used sorcery against two boys (one of them his legal nephew), he considered to sacrifice his other nephew.

The Seven Kingdoms Stannis would built had he truly royal power would be a horrible place. And he would be a failure as king because he cannot really bring himself to work with the established power structure (i.e. the lords and their ambitions a king has to accept and deal with up to a point). Stannis would quickly become a tyrant and he would be put down as such - even if he didn't allow Melisandre to (violently) convert the Westerosi to her faith (which is of course what he would do after he had won the Iron Throne).

And the basic fact that essentially nobody in Westeros wants Stannis Baratheon for their king - despite the strength of his claim - is a strong confirmation that most people know what kind of person he is.

To be fair, Renly was a rebel, as was Penrose IIRC. I have not read Theon 1 yet so I cannot comment on that. And Stannis does actually work with lords who support him, if only unwillingly; and frankly, having read on crap that Byzantine dynatoi and Hungarian 15th century magnates caused, I cannot really blame him for not being willing to work with lords and their ambitions. Rest, I actually agree with.

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25 minutes ago, Aldarion said:

To be fair, Renly was a rebel, as was Penrose IIRC.

Penrose just didn't want to hand over Edric Storm - and he was right on that. Stannis could not be trusted with his nephew.

25 minutes ago, Aldarion said:

I have not read Theon 1 yet so I cannot comment on that. And Stannis does actually work with lords who support him, if only unwillingly; and frankly, having read on crap that Byzantine dynatoi and Hungarian 15th century magnates caused, I cannot really blame him for not being willing to work with lords and their ambitions. Rest, I actually agree with.

Sure, Stannis knows the world he lives in. If he couldn't compromise at all he would have had no success whatsoever. But he doesn't like or literally can't (for lack of charisma) play the game as it should be played if you fight a civil war against other pretenders. You have to be willing to make a lot of concessions, give up power and wealth, etc. to get your crown in the end. That's nothing he can do.

His deal with Mel is symptomatic for his tendency to not make the right choice when the situation is dire. He could have tried to win his throne conventionally, but instead he decided to use sorcery and black magic to try to utterly destroy his (would-be) enemies.

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7 minutes ago, Lord Varys said:

Penrose just didn't want to hand over Edric Storm - and he was right on that. Stannis could not be trusted with his nephew.

Sure, Stannis knows the world he lives in. If he couldn't compromise at all he would have had no success whatsoever. But he doesn't like or literally can't (for lack of charisma) play the game as it should be played if you fight a civil war against other pretenders. You have to be willing to make a lot of concessions, give up power and wealth, etc. to get your crown in the end. That's nothing he can do.

His deal with Mel is symptomatic for his tendency to not make the right choice when the situation is dire. He could have tried to win his throne conventionally, but instead he decided to use sorcery and black magic to try to utterly destroy his (would-be) enemies.

How do you propose he could have won the throne conventionally? North had declared independence, and Riverlands had thrown in with the North. Stannis' younger brother - who should have supported him - had decided to claim the throne for himself, and married Margaery, so there go Stormlands and the Reach. Dorne is sitting it out, so is the Vale, and Lannisters hold the Iron Throne and Westerlands. Stannis only has Storm's End and sellswords. Who can he ally with?

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4 hours ago, Aldarion said:

How do you propose he could have won the throne conventionally? North had declared independence, and Riverlands had thrown in with the North. Stannis' younger brother - who should have supported him - had decided to claim the throne for himself, and married Margaery, so there go Stormlands and the Reach. Dorne is sitting it out, so is the Vale, and Lannisters hold the Iron Throne and Westerlands. Stannis only has Storm's End and sellswords. Who can he ally with?

He could have tried to come to an agreement with Robb/the Riverlands/the North and he could have tried to make a deal with the Vale. Even if Robb were to honor his deal with the Freys, offering Shireen's hand to either Bran or Rickon certainly could have been an incentive for the deal, as could have been a marriage between her and Edmure or her and Robert Arryn (the latter was suggested by Cressen).

Stannis did not fail at conventional means - he never even tried. At least not with the North, the Riverlands, the Vale, or Dorne. He didn't even try to sweeten the deal for the Stormlords he had Davos to visit - he was demanding fealty, not asking for support.

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On 7/9/2019 at 6:24 AM, Aldarion said:

I have been thinking about what would good ruler be like, and went back to thinking about Byzantine Emperors. Now, Macedonian dynasty is the apegee of Middle Byzantine power, but I will also look outside it.

So, what were good Emperors, and their characteristics?

First, for Macedonian dynasty:

Jon I Tzimiskes - strenghtened the Empire and made Basil II's victories possible. A member of Anatolian military aristocracy, joined army at an early age. During service, he defended Armenia and captured 60 border cities.

Basil II - son of a previous emperor, tutored by a general who married into the family. Became good administrator and a general.

Now, for the best of the rest:

Diocletian - reformed the military and administration, a competent general and excellent politician. Before becoming an emperor he was a commander of Emperor's bodyguard, and also a general.

Heraclius - son of a general, but I am not aware of him holding any significant command before ascension. Proved to be a good general and administrator, but his rebellion was supremely badly timed. Even so, he rebuilt an army from a scratch and defeated Sassanids.

Leo III Isaurian - As Emperor, ended Twenty Years of Anarchy, defended the Empire against Umayyads. While in service to Justinian II he was dispatched on a diplomatic mission to Alania and Lazica, and was eventually appointed strategos of the Anatolic theme - the most important theme of all.

Constantine V - consolidated Byzantine security against external threats. Was appointed co-Emperor at two years of age.

Michail VII Paliologos - (temporarily) recovered Byzantine power. Son of megas domestikos. Served as governor of Thracian towns Melnik and Serres under command of his father Andronikos. He later served as a mercenary commander.

Alexios I Komnenos - served with distinction against Turks under Romanos IV Diogenes, subdued mercenary rebellion, before ascending to the throne.

Now, what are their characteristics:

  • may have been highborn or lowborn
  • may or may not have received good education
  • had command experience - both battle command and administrative
  • served under / was mentored by a capable commander and administrator before acceeding to the throne

What can also be seen from Roman history is that practice does not, in fact, make perfect. Quite a few rulers were thrown into ruling without preparation, either from high or low class. These may or may not have performed well. That being said, age was not necessarily a factor: Severus Alexander performed well, and Elagabalus also may not have been a bad ruler. Experience only helps if one is able to understand lessons, however.

So, from the above, best option among candidates for the Iron Throne would be

  Reveal hidden contents

Stannis Baratheon

Robert OTOH was a terrible choice - impression (which may be wrong) I got of him during Rebellion is that he went around caving in people's skulls, and left actual management to Ned Stark and Jon Arryn.

That being said, actual Renaissance ruler I am most interested in - Matthias Corvinus - was very far from the above characteristics. He was extremely well-educated and well-read, but had absolutely no experience in anything before his election for a king. He did have a very capable regent in Michael Szilagy, but Corvinus was also very headstrong and often did not listen to advice. Even so, Matthias Corvinus became possibly the best ruler in history of Hungarian-Croatian kingdom. Going by this, both Aegon and Daenerys have a chance of becoming capable rulers.

Thoughts?

Yes they do.  Ah the advantages of youth.  They both could do with more experience and they are getting it.  Petyr Baelish and Tyrion Lannister are smart men but neither would make for a fine ruler.  It's the right combination of abilities and the experience.  

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11 hours ago, Lord Varys said:

He could have tried to come to an agreement with Robb/the Riverlands/the North and he could have tried to make a deal with the Vale. Even if Robb were to honor his deal with the Freys, offering Shireen's hand to either Bran or Rickon certainly could have been an incentive for the deal, as could have been a marriage between her and Edmure or her and Robert Arryn (the latter was suggested by Cressen).

Stannis did not fail at conventional means - he never even tried. At least not with the North, the Riverlands, the Vale, or Dorne. He didn't even try to sweeten the deal for the Stormlords he had Davos to visit - he was demanding fealty, not asking for support.

True. But my impression of Stannis now is that he does at least try diplomacy. It appears that he followed Jon Snow's advice of not demanding fealty of Northern clans, so man appears to be capable of learning from his mistakes.

8 hours ago, 300 H&H Magnum said:

Yes they do.  Ah the advantages of youth.  They both could do with more experience and they are getting it.  Petyr Baelish and Tyrion Lannister are smart men but neither would make for a fine ruler.  It's the right combination of abilities and the experience.  

Agreed.

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