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Aldarion

Characteristics of a good ruler

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On 7/13/2019 at 5:03 AM, Br16 said:

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? 

So one idiot is rewarded above his station and you want to also be known as an idiot in order to get a similar reward?  Fascinating.

On 7/13/2019 at 5:03 AM, Br16 said:

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.

It was defended for centuries.  Over a millenia, in fact.  "Defensible" does not equal "impenetrable for all time".  Thermopylae was a wonderful "choke point" and yet was fairly easily circumvented.

And your argument that Sinai is a better choke point is literally contradicted by history.  Egypt wasn't "cut off" because it could still be supplied and reinforced by sea.  The issue is that the Sinai is not a good choke point and historically never has been.  In ancient history Sinai was never, never, never the point at which foreign invasions into Egypt were defended.  Inevitably, that occurred a bit further west, in the western edge of the delta, where supplying soldiers was easier and forts could be located on water.

On 7/13/2019 at 5:03 AM, Br16 said:

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. 

But your division does nothing to make the defense of Egypt any easier.  If you want Sinai to be your "choke point" then it... still is?  Egypt has a garrison.  That garrison will be the same regardless of the geographical orientation of your empire.  So it's the same number of men defending the same point of access.  If you think there would be more of a regional military presence, argue for that and not some nonsensical new geographic organization.  So... yeah.  You have this obsession with "choke points" as if that means something in the absence of a well-attended garrison.  Egypt fell despite having the same exact "choke point" it would have had under any other configuration of empire.  And the "land route" that gets cut off at Yarmuk?  Well, there's a reason you don't ever hear of the Romans marching forces through the Libyan desert to attack or defend Egypt.  It's a desert and not conducive to large forces of men who aren't self-sufficient.

Also, Egypt was lost and Byzantium went on to be (at times) the strongest state in the world, so clearly it wasn't so vital it "had" to be kept.  It was a valuable and rich province.  But, to reiterate AGAIN so you don't miss my point, even after losing Syria Byzantium had the same "choke point" in the Sinai that a "Southern Roman Empire" would have had, and it didn't matter.  It was equally easily reinforced as it would have been under this hypothetical SRE (e.g. only by sea), and said SRE would not have had Syria anyway, so the conditions are effectively equal.

And yet... somehow, magically, in his scenario marching through the Sinai and past Tjaru becomes equivalent to breaking through a well defend mountain pass.

On 7/13/2019 at 5:03 AM, Br16 said:

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.

Well that just isn't true.  There was plenty Europeans could have done, they just thought it cheaper and more expedient to buy them off.  We have plenty of documentary evidence to this effect.  Hell, even a newborn American Republic beat the crap out of the Barbary pirates with basically one ship.

On 7/13/2019 at 5:03 AM, Br16 said:

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. 

Again, you have this understanding of military history and tactics that seems to come from playing video games and not studying the way campaigns and military tactics play out.  Byzantium held Sicily, and in fact large parts of Southern Italy, for centuries and never effectively "swept up" the peninsula.  That isn't how war works.

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On 7/13/2019 at 1:24 AM, Aldarion said:

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.

If memory serves I think Constantine had pretty much been a wastrel since well before their regency ended.  He had no interest in ruling from the word go.

On 7/13/2019 at 1:24 AM, Aldarion said:

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

I don't think anyone views Diocletian as the first Eastern Roman Emperor, since he was indisputably in charge of the entire Empire.  Even Constantine has a better case, given his founding of the eponymous city.  

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On 7/13/2019 at 7:59 PM, 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.

I think one needs to view pre and post-Blackwater Stannis in two different lights.  After all, people can grow in response to experiences.  Pre-Blackwater Stannis is a disaster for all the reasons you've enunciated.  After the Battle of Blackwater, it's a massively different story.  Within the context of his society Stannis is remarkably egalitarian, remarkably tolerant, and is absolutely willing to listen to advice and change his mind when he hears it.

On 7/13/2019 at 7:59 PM, Lord Varys said:

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.

This is a weird opinion.  Stannis' men followed him there.  He isn't ignoring their feelings or lives.  They may be tools, but he clearly views his lowborn troops as people and not pieces.  His blanket forgiveness for the Karstark levies is remarkably lenient compared to other commanders with potentially disloyal troops.  And his "scheme" to go to the Wall is shown to be the opposite - he goes because he views himself as king, and as a king his first duty is to protect to the realm.  You can view this as cynical grandstanding all you want, but at some point, actions speak louder than words.  Stannis is fighting for the realm.  That he's doing it to win political support is secondary to the fact that he's the only contender for the throne who acts.

And why shouldn't he favor advisors whose advice brings him the best possible results?  That's a really odd comment to make.  So far, post-Blackwater Stannis may not have motives that are pure as driven snow, but his actions have been the best one could ask for.  So who cares?  It's not like any of the other characters have managed to tread the line between pure of heart and effective in action.  Stannis comes closes.

On 7/13/2019 at 7:59 PM, Lord Varys said:

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.

He did not abandon Robert and Ned.  And while killing Courtnay Penrose is not a good deed, it's also made pretty clear that he didn't have a full picture of what Melisandre was going to do to Renly and Penrose.  And Renly was a traitor anyway, so he more or less deserved it.

But as I said, pre-Blackwater, Stannis isn't a great king.  Post-Blackwater he comes into his own.

On 7/13/2019 at 7:59 PM, Lord Varys said:

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).

I mean, the first part of this is demonstrably false.  Stannis is more than adept at working within the confines of the established feudal power structure - note the prevalence, perhaps over-reliance, on Florents and other high-ranking nobles.  Stannis gets feudal politics, he just doesn't think that only high ranking lords are worth hearing out.

And I'm not sure why you think he'd allow Melisandre to "violently convert" Westeros to worship of R'hllor.  

Even at his worst, Stannis is miles better than many of the Targaryens.  He's a proven warrior, a capable administrator, and he inspires fanatical loyalty in his men.  I'm not sure what more you want.

On 7/13/2019 at 7:59 PM, Lord Varys said:

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.

Where are you getting this?  We know Dorne hates the Baratheon regime and is plotting for a Targaryen restoration, so they're not anti-Stannis as much as anti-everyone.  The Lannisters have a candidate themselves, as do the Tyrells, which have far more to do with feudal politics and scheming than "who makes the best king".  The Starks and Tullys declare for Robb before they hear about Joffrey's parentage; to the, Stannis has little to no claim until it's too late.  Who knows what the lords of the Vale wanted.  We know that there is a significant faction of Kings Landing that wants Stannis to take the throne.

However, post-Blackwater we see meaningful portions of the North declare for Stannis.  Jon Snow tells him how to woo the clans and the northern lords, and he does it.  Stannis may not be the most charismatic person in Westeros, but at the end of the day, the people that he meets and interacts with end up supporting him pretty fervently.

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57 minutes ago, cpg2016 said:

I think one needs to view pre and post-Blackwater Stannis in two different lights.  After all, people can grow in response to experiences.  Pre-Blackwater Stannis is a disaster for all the reasons you've enunciated.  After the Battle of Blackwater, it's a massively different story.  Within the context of his society Stannis is remarkably egalitarian, remarkably tolerant, and is absolutely willing to listen to advice and change his mind when he hears it.

Stannis is only surrounded by men of not exactly the noblest of births at this point because he is a doomed pretender. He has limited human resources. The Blackwater threw Stannis into a black depression - he learned little to nothing from that. Instead, he had his wife's uncle burned alive for imagined treason which the man could only 'commit' because he, Stannis, was too occupied moping around (or fucking his mistress) to actually talk to his Hand. The Hand has the authority to speak with the King's Voice, and when the king is indisposed or incapacitated decisions have to be made. Stannis certainly could cancel the negotiations with Tywin after he learned of them - but those were not even remotely betrayal enough to have Lord Alester burned alive.

57 minutes ago, cpg2016 said:

This is a weird opinion.  Stannis' men followed him there.  He isn't ignoring their feelings or lives.  They may be tools, but he clearly views his lowborn troops as people and not pieces.  His blanket forgiveness for the Karstark levies is remarkably lenient compared to other commanders with potentially disloyal troops. 

I actually meant how he deals with his own lieutenants - men like Horpe, Massey, Suggs, etc. With Theon essentially in Stannis' audience room we see cold and distant he is even with the men closest to him. He does nothing to inspire their love, nothing to reward or even thank them that they are still with him. He just takes that all as a given. Killing all the Karstark levies would be both a waste of resources as well as a risk to throw the entire camp in disarray. It could essentially cause them fight each other while the Boltons attack them.

57 minutes ago, cpg2016 said:

And his "scheme" to go to the Wall is shown to be the opposite - he goes because he views himself as king, and as a king his first duty is to protect to the realm.  You can view this as cynical grandstanding all you want, but at some point, actions speak louder than words.  Stannis is fighting for the realm.  That he's doing it to win political support is secondary to the fact that he's the only contender for the throne who acts.

He makes it clear to Jon, for instance, that he does what he does to win the Iron Throne. That's his ultimate goal, and that's what his men are supposed to do for his daughter should he fail. I agree that doing what he did is the right thing, but you can do the right thing for the wrong reason - and saving Westeros so you can become its king is not necessarily the best or right motivation.

We will have to wait and see how Stannis reacts when Westeros spits into his face - again - after he has defeated the Boltons. There are many people who believe the Northmen will reject him as their king (I don't think so) but we can be pretty sure that most lords and people of Westeros will look to Aegon as their savior, not Stannis. What do you think he is going to do when his letters and envoys informing/warning the Realm about the threat of the Others are treated the same way his letters about Cersei's children were? Can you imagine that he is going to calmly accept such a development? I don't think so.

Stannis wants to be loved for the person he is. He wants everything Robert had without being like Robert. He wants that people see what he did for them and then join him. But they want, and then he will show his true colors yet again.

57 minutes ago, cpg2016 said:

And why shouldn't he favor advisors whose advice brings him the best possible results?  That's a really odd comment to make.  So far, post-Blackwater Stannis may not have motives that are pure as driven snow, but his actions have been the best one could ask for.  So who cares?  It's not like any of the other characters have managed to tread the line between pure of heart and effective in action.  Stannis comes closes.

The symbolism in ACoK is quite clear that aligning with Melisandre and using her methods is, ultimately, wrong. I agree that her methods and magics could certainly help with the Others to a point but it is quite clear that fake Lightbringers which bring false hope will, in the end, only make matters worse.

57 minutes ago, cpg2016 said:

He did not abandon Robert and Ned. 

Sure he did. That's pretty much obvious. He believed Jon Arryn was poisoned by Cersei, he believed Cersei's children were not Robert's, and he did nothing to inform either Robert or Ned. Ned wrote Stannis multiple letters during his term as Hand - Stannis did not bother to reply. He either wanted Cersei to kill his brother and Ned, or he didn't care whether she killed them or not. He didn't really care what happened at court at all. Instead he prepared for war and the point when he could proclaim himself king.

I'm not saying the character of Stannis is aware of all those traits. He might not be. But that doesn't change the fact that he operates like that. And this perfectly fits with him distancing himself from people before killing them - or allowing others to kill them for him. First Cressen, then the various people Selyse and Mel eventually burned (for which neither Mel nor Selyse were punished), nearly Davos (whom he allowed to be imprisoned before actually talking to him), and then Lord Alester.

Stannis is very much modeled on the Tiberius from the I, Claudius TV show, and this guy also has a lot of trouble with his own dark tendencies, has the same kind of tendency to distance himself from the people he is going to kill, and the same kind of willingness to admit to a murder/plot once he is confronted with the truth.

57 minutes ago, cpg2016 said:

And while killing Courtnay Penrose is not a good deed, it's also made pretty clear that he didn't have a full picture of what Melisandre was going to do to Renly and Penrose.  And Renly was a traitor anyway, so he more or less deserved it.

He certainly knew what would happen to Penrose. And he knew Mel and his seed were doing it. He gave Davos the command to get Mel inside the castle, after all. Renly may have been a traitor, but he was Stannis' brother all the same. This is not the kind of thing you do to your own brother. And there wasn't even a good reason to turn against Renly first. Had he first attacked KL things may have turned out differently between him and Renly. Instead, Stannis was following Melisandre's advice to prevent the vision of Renly crushing Stannis at the Blackwater - and thus caused this future himself.

57 minutes ago, cpg2016 said:

I mean, the first part of this is demonstrably false.  Stannis is more than adept at working within the confines of the established feudal power structure - note the prevalence, perhaps over-reliance, on Florents and other high-ranking nobles.  Stannis gets feudal politics, he just doesn't think that only high ranking lords are worth hearing out.

He works with them in the middle of war, yes, when they finally came to him. But he still cannot really work with them in day-to-day politics - or rather is unwilling to do so. If he could do that then half of Westeros or more would have gladly sworn their swords to Stannis Baratheon the moment Robert closed his eyes - because neither Cersei nor Tywin are loved in the Realm. But they are still much more popular than Stannis.

57 minutes ago, cpg2016 said:

And I'm not sure why you think he'd allow Melisandre to "violently convert" Westeros to worship of R'hllor.

Because that's what he does. He allows her to despoils septs and burn godswoods.

57 minutes ago, cpg2016 said:

Even at his worst, Stannis is miles better than many of the Targaryens.  He's a proven warrior, a capable administrator, and he inspires fanatical loyalty in his men.  I'm not sure what more you want.

Not sure we ever saw Stannis do anything with his sword besides threaten to execute his Hand with it. He does some administrating, yes, but he does not inspire fanatical loyalty in his men. The men he has now are, for the overwhelming part, queen's men. They are not loyal to him, they are loyal to Melisandre of Asshai and her god. And there is a reason why this fact has been hammered into our heads since, well, ACoK. If push comes to shove eventually the queen's men will gladly sacrifice Stannis himself to please Mel and/or R'hllor. Not sure if it ever comes to that, but that's certainly a possibility that is not all that unlikely or outlandish. This is also reflected in the change to Stannis' personal sigil which has the Baratheon stag being devoured by R'hllor's fiery heart, or his own dreams which have him wear a burning crown.

I'd still agree with you that Stannis is actually the best king Westeros had up until ADwD - Aegon might be a better alternative (or not, we have to wait and see). He is definitely better than Tommen, Euron (of course), Myrcella, Bran or Rickon Stark, or some pawn (Sansa) Littlefinger might prop up. I'm just saying he wouldn't be a particularly great king if he ever ruled. Better than the above mentioned, most likely, but not great. And not a guy who could likely bring lasting peace to the Realm - unless it was the peace of the graveyard if he were to rebuilt a largely depopulated Westeros in his image after he had somehow won the War for the Dawn.

57 minutes ago, cpg2016 said:

Where are you getting this?  We know Dorne hates the Baratheon regime and is plotting for a Targaryen restoration, so they're not anti-Stannis as much as anti-everyone.  The Lannisters have a candidate themselves, as do the Tyrells, which have far more to do with feudal politics and scheming than "who makes the best king".  The Starks and Tullys declare for Robb before they hear about Joffrey's parentage; to the, Stannis has little to no claim until it's too late.  Who knows what the lords of the Vale wanted.  We know that there is a significant faction of Kings Landing that wants Stannis to take the throne.

The fact that the Reach and the Stormlands stand with Renly - and then Joffrey - even after the story of the twincest is out tells us all we need to know. As does the fact that no Northman or Riverlander does so much as suggest Robb should bent the knee to Stannis after they learn about the twincest. This shows how unpopular the man is. Nobody even thinks about asking Stannis for help or support before the twincest story is out.

57 minutes ago, cpg2016 said:

However, post-Blackwater we see meaningful portions of the North declare for Stannis.  Jon Snow tells him how to woo the clans and the northern lords, and he does it.  Stannis may not be the most charismatic person in Westeros, but at the end of the day, the people that he meets and interacts with end up supporting him pretty fervently.

Sure, but even after he saved their asses and their lands from tens of thousands of wildling raiders they still only grudgingly join him. And in a scenario where they can use him for what they want - revenge against the Boltons and Freys. But there are people who dream about the Northmen actually just using and then discarding Stannis to do homage to a King Rickon or a King Jon. I don't buy that but one can certainly see Stannis pushing them down such a road if he doesn't start to compromise in the religious department.

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8 hours ago, Lord Varys said:

(snip)

So all and all, Stannis is a good administrator but not a good leader.

BTW, do you think Stannis and Aegon will come to blows? IIRC, Aegon has shown himself to be rather willing to forgive past transgressions against his family, but I am not convinced that Stannis had learned that lesson. And there is the fact that Aegon may not believe some mythical threat from beyond the wall - and even if he does, I do not see either JonCon or Golden Company - or Southron lords, for that matter - being willing to go campaigning in the North. So they may never meet, yet with initial targets of Aegon's invasion being Stormlands, and Storm's End in particular, it seems to suggest that they may yet meet.

It also seems to me that Stannis is in similar position to Robb Stark after Theon's foray - he has had major successes away from home (South / North), but in his absence his home had been captured from under him (Theon's capture of Winterfell / Loras' capture of Dragonstone + Aegon's capture of Storm's End). So that does not suggest a good outcome for him.

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8 hours ago, Aldarion said:

So all and all, Stannis is a good administrator but not a good leader.

Insofar as he seems to have been no bad job with Dragonstone and was able to rebuild and enlarge the royal fleet while he was Master of Ships.

8 hours ago, Aldarion said:

BTW, do you think Stannis and Aegon will come to blows? IIRC, Aegon has shown himself to be rather willing to forgive past transgressions against his family, but I am not convinced that Stannis had learned that lesson. And there is the fact that Aegon may not believe some mythical threat from beyond the wall - and even if he does, I do not see either JonCon or Golden Company - or Southron lords, for that matter - being willing to go campaigning in the North. So they may never meet, yet with initial targets of Aegon's invasion being Stormlands, and Storm's End in particular, it seems to suggest that they may yet meet.

It would really depend how things work out both in the North and the with Aegon. I don't see Stannis marching down south now that he has made it clear his top priority is to hold the Wall. It also doesn't seem likely that taking the North is going to be Aegon's top priority after he has taken the Iron Throne. He has Euron to deal with, and he might also be forced to campaign in the West.

However, there are hints that Stannis will intervene in the south in future books. If he gets his 20,000 sellswords he will have the manpower to harass or even attack Aegon or Euron without actually moving south himself - or taking his northern army down there. This would work even better if Braavos itself enters the war on Stannis' side after the contract with the Iron Bank is ratified. In addition or aside from that the Iron Bank could make use of the House of Black and White to remove Stannis' main obstacles - i.e. the pretenders to the Iron Throne who oppose him. If an attempt were to be made on Aegon this certainly could motivate him to make Stannis a top priority.

And as I said - I don't expect Stannis to react kindly or understandingly if, after he has defeated the Boltons, the rest of the Realm still ignores or ridicules him.

As for Aegon's role as savior: Rhaegar believed he is the promised prince, so he could actually conclude it was his job to defeat the Others if he ever learns/believes they are a thing. And whoever declares for him should also support him in that. We have Aegon's role as another false savior hinted at in Sam's last chapter when he explicitly mentions that Prince Rhaegar's infant son who was killed is not the savior (meaning some people are likely going to believe Aegon is the savior since he wasn't killed after all), in the vision of the House of the Undying (which declared Aegon to be the promised prince) and in Tyrion thinking that another Targaryen pretender would confuse the followers of R'hllor in Volantis (it is likely not going to confuse the Westerosi - it will be clarity to them).

8 hours ago, Aldarion said:

It also seems to me that Stannis is in similar position to Robb Stark after Theon's foray - he has had major successes away from home (South / North), but in his absence his home had been captured from under him (Theon's capture of Winterfell / Loras' capture of Dragonstone + Aegon's capture of Storm's End). So that does not suggest a good outcome for him.

Not sure his victory over the wildlings can count as a major success. Mance didn't expect him to come and he clearly had the superior force.

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1 hour ago, Lord Varys said:

It would really depend how things work out both in the North and the with Aegon. I don't see Stannis marching down south now that he has made it clear his top priority is to hold the Wall. It also doesn't seem likely that taking the North is going to be Aegon's top priority after he has taken the Iron Throne. He has Euron to deal with, and he might also be forced to campaign in the West.

However, there are hints that Stannis will intervene in the south in future books. If he gets his 20,000 sellswords he will have the manpower to harass or even attack Aegon or Euron without actually moving south himself - or taking his northern army down there. This would work even better if Braavos itself enters the war on Stannis' side after the contract with the Iron Bank is ratified. In addition or aside from that the Iron Bank could make use of the House of Black and White to remove Stannis' main obstacles - i.e. the pretenders to the Iron Throne who oppose him. If an attempt were to be made on Aegon this certainly could motivate him to make Stannis a top priority.

And as I said - I don't expect Stannis to react kindly or understandingly if, after he has defeated the Boltons, the rest of the Realm still ignores or ridicules him.

As for Aegon's role as savior: Rhaegar believed he is the promised prince, so he could actually conclude it was his job to defeat the Others if he ever learns/believes they are a thing. And whoever declares for him should also support him in that. We have Aegon's role as another false savior hinted at in Sam's last chapter when he explicitly mentions that Prince Rhaegar's infant son who was killed is not the savior (meaning some people are likely going to believe Aegon is the savior since he wasn't killed after all), in the vision of the House of the Undying (which declared Aegon to be the promised prince) and in Tyrion thinking that another Targaryen pretender would confuse the followers of R'hllor in Volantis (it is likely not going to confuse the Westerosi - it will be clarity to them).

So there is a possibility of Stannis and Aegon meeting: Stannis will not like another "pretender", while Aegon may conclude he has to fight the Others. Problem is, with Ironborn being down south, it is unlikely Aegon will move north unless he manages to somehow suppress the Ironborn. But if Aurane Waters joins him, that may not be impossible.

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21 hours ago, Lord Varys said:

Stannis is only surrounded by men of not exactly the noblest of births at this point because he is a doomed pretender. He has limited human resources. The Blackwater threw Stannis into a black depression - he learned little to nothing from that. Instead, he had his wife's uncle burned alive for imagined treason which the man could only 'commit' because he, Stannis, was too occupied moping around (or fucking his mistress) to actually talk to his Hand. The Hand has the authority to speak with the King's Voice, and when the king is indisposed or incapacitated decisions have to be made. Stannis certainly could cancel the negotiations with Tywin after he learned of them - but those were not even remotely betrayal enough to have Lord Alester burned alive.

Davos is one of his advisers from well before the beginning of the story.  Like her or not, Melisandre isn't of noble birth either.

And for what it's worth, Stannis is surrounded by many men of noble birth at this point, but he values the advice of the commoner above all of them.  Several times.  He takes Jon Snow's advice, a bastard, over those of his sworn lords.  His record of listening to good counsel despite it's source couldn't be better, post-Blackwater.

21 hours ago, Lord Varys said:

I actually meant how he deals with his own lieutenants - men like Horpe, Massey, Suggs, etc. With Theon essentially in Stannis' audience room we see cold and distant he is even with the men closest to him. He does nothing to inspire their love, nothing to reward or even thank them that they are still with him. He just takes that all as a given. Killing all the Karstark levies would be both a waste of resources as well as a risk to throw the entire camp in disarray. It could essentially cause them fight each other while the Boltons attack them.

And yet they do follow him.  They could have bent the knee, and didn't.  And at Storms End during Robert's Rebellion, his knights and lords and whoever else was in the garrison held on to the point of near-cannibalism rather than betray him.  That is fanatical loyalty.  We have evidence, that men are willing to follow Stannis into the teeth of howling blizzards and past the edge of the known world and past the point where most men would give up and die or surrender, and then we have your psychological analysis.

Yes, some of those lords are now following because that's their only chance to regain lost lands and honors.  But look at the Blackfyres; these guys could have fled overseas and joined the Golden Company, but don't.  The choose to follow Stannis.

21 hours ago, Lord Varys said:

He makes it clear to Jon, for instance, that he does what he does to win the Iron Throne. That's his ultimate goal, and that's what his men are supposed to do for his daughter should he fail. I agree that doing what he did is the right thing, but you can do the right thing for the wrong reason - and saving Westeros so you can become its king is not necessarily the best or right motivation.

Actually, he makes it clear that he's doing it for the good of the realm, on several occasions.  He's explicit that he doesn't particularly desire the throne, but that it's both his right and his responsibility.  And as he then says, he is out there saving the kingdom to prove he's worthy of ruling it.

And look, we can go back and forth on whether his motivation is "good".  We can say for certain that it's better than anyone else's, at this point, up to and including Daenerys.  Stannis has a meaningful reform program to wipe out the injustice of his brother's rule and manage the Seven Kingdoms better.  Neither he nor his motivations are perfect, but they're leaps and bounds better than anyone else.

21 hours ago, Lord Varys said:

We will have to wait and see how Stannis reacts when Westeros spits into his face - again - after he has defeated the Boltons. There are many people who believe the Northmen will reject him as their king (I don't think so) but we can be pretty sure that most lords and people of Westeros will look to Aegon as their savior, not Stannis. What do you think he is going to do when his letters and envoys informing/warning the Realm about the threat of the Others are treated the same way his letters about Cersei's children were? Can you imagine that he is going to calmly accept such a development? I don't think so.

Actually, I do.  I think he's going to fight the Others regardless, because he realizes that the good of the many outweigh the needs of the few.  In fact, I think the central tragedy of his arc is that he is going to kill his own daughter, his Nissa Nissa, to save the world, only to realize he isn't the savior and that it was all for nothing.  But as heinous as that as and as futile as it may be, it won't take away from his motivations, which are fundamentally geared towards offering protection to those under his aegis.

21 hours ago, Lord Varys said:

Stannis wants to be loved for the person he is. He wants everything Robert had without being like Robert. He wants that people see what he did for them and then join him. But they want, and then he will show his true colors yet again.

Every shred of evidence we have says this is wrong.  Stannis has been rejected and Westeros has chosen other leaders... and yet there he is, toiling away, fighting for (reasonably) good and ethical reasons.  It's overly cynical to claim that just because his end goal is to rule, means that any other motivation besides complete self-interest must be a false front.  They can be both, and as we see, his "desire" to be king stems from multiple sources, some of which are actually excellent ethical reformist reasons.

21 hours ago, Lord Varys said:

The symbolism in ACoK is quite clear that aligning with Melisandre and using her methods is, ultimately, wrong. I agree that her methods and magics could certainly help with the Others to a point but it is quite clear that fake Lightbringers which bring false hope will, in the end, only make matters worse.

OK.  We as readers know that.  Stannis as a character only knows that Melisandre has magic that works.  And when humanity and the world itself are on the line, she may be the lesser of two evils.  Assuming her magic was actually working, the burning of Alester Florent is the only reason the wildlings didn't breach the Wall.

21 hours ago, Lord Varys said:

Sure he did. That's pretty much obvious. He believed Jon Arryn was poisoned by Cersei, he believed Cersei's children were not Robert's, and he did nothing to inform either Robert or Ned. Ned wrote Stannis multiple letters during his term as Hand - Stannis did not bother to reply. He either wanted Cersei to kill his brother and Ned, or he didn't care whether she killed them or not. He didn't really care what happened at court at all. Instead he prepared for war and the point when he could proclaim himself king.

You don't actually know that.  That's your headcanon.  Which is equally as valid as saying that he was on Dragonstone preparing for a civil war with the Lannisters to fight on behalf of his brother.

He gives an excellent reason for why he didn't inform Robert, one that rings pretty true.  Robert was blind enough to not notice years of infidelity on Cersei's part, he's obviously very good at not noticing things he doesn't want to, and with Stannis is the heir-apparent in that case, it looks pretty damn suspicious on Stannis' part.  You know what refutes your view?  He went to Jon Arryn.  If all he was doing was waiting for Cersei to off Robert, why bother telling anyone?

21 hours ago, Lord Varys said:

I'm not saying the character of Stannis is aware of all those traits. He might not be. But that doesn't change the fact that he operates like that. And this perfectly fits with him distancing himself from people before killing them - or allowing others to kill them for him. First Cressen, then the various people Selyse and Mel eventually burned (for which neither Mel nor Selyse were punished), nearly Davos (whom he allowed to be imprisoned before actually talking to him), and then Lord Alester.

He distances himself from Cressen because he has a new adviser.  Absolutely nothing wrong with that.  Cressen himself takes this poorly and tries to kill Melisandre.  I'm not sure where any of this becomes Stannis' fault, even remotely or by proxy.  That Cressen may have relatable motives seems immaterial.

21 hours ago, Lord Varys said:

Stannis is very much modeled on the Tiberius from the I, Claudius TV show, and this guy also has a lot of trouble with his own dark tendencies, has the same kind of tendency to distance himself from the people he is going to kill, and the same kind of willingness to admit to a murder/plot once he is confronted with the truth.

As long as you're bringing it up, we may as well actually quote GRRM:

And it is important that the individual books refer to the civil wars, but the series title reminds us constantly that the real issue lies in the North beyond the Wall. Stannis becomes one of the few characters fully to understand that, which is why in spite of everything he is a righteous man, and not just a version of Henry VII, Tiberius or Louis XI.

You'll note that the author himself refers to Stannis as a "righteous" man.  That's an extremely loaded term and pretty much rebuts every point you're making about Stannis' inherent selfishness.

21 hours ago, Lord Varys said:

He works with them in the middle of war, yes, when they finally came to him. But he still cannot really work with them in day-to-day politics - or rather is unwilling to do so. If he could do that then half of Westeros or more would have gladly sworn their swords to Stannis Baratheon the moment Robert closed his eyes - because neither Cersei nor Tywin are loved in the Realm. But they are still much more popular than Stannis.

Actually, he went to them.  He charmed them.  Not the other way around.  Stannis is unwilling to compromise on his core principles, but that doesn't mean he's incapable of playing feudal politics.  Again... he's got a fair number of lords and knights still following him.  If he's the incapable, rigid fool you make him out to be, there is no explaining that.

21 hours ago, Lord Varys said:

Because that's what he does. He allows her to despoils septs and burn godswoods.

So?  She burns a couple statues and some trees, and this is the grand evil Stannis is perpetrating?  He conspicuously does not persecute followers of the Seven or the old gods.  When it comes to respect for religion and/or religious tolerance, Stannis is pretty much at the forefront of the ranks of "good guys" on this one.

21 hours ago, Lord Varys said:

Not sure we ever saw Stannis do anything with his sword besides threaten to execute his Hand with it. He does some administrating, yes, but he does not inspire fanatical loyalty in his men. The men he has now are, for the overwhelming part, queen's men. They are not loyal to him, they are loyal to Melisandre of Asshai and her god. And there is a reason why this fact has been hammered into our heads since, well, ACoK. If push comes to shove eventually the queen's men will gladly sacrifice Stannis himself to please Mel and/or R'hllor. Not sure if it ever comes to that, but that's certainly a possibility that is not all that unlikely or outlandish. This is also reflected in the change to Stannis' personal sigil which has the Baratheon stag being devoured by R'hllor's fiery heart, or his own dreams which have him wear a burning crown.

But that also implies there are a bunch of Kings Men.  And again, long before he meets Melisandre he's inspiring that same fanatical loyalty.

21 hours ago, Lord Varys said:

I'd still agree with you that Stannis is actually the best king Westeros had up until ADwD - Aegon might be a better alternative (or not, we have to wait and see). He is definitely better than Tommen, Euron (of course), Myrcella, Bran or Rickon Stark, or some pawn (Sansa) Littlefinger might prop up. I'm just saying he wouldn't be a particularly great king if he ever ruled. Better than the above mentioned, most likely, but not great. And not a guy who could likely bring lasting peace to the Realm - unless it was the peace of the graveyard if he were to rebuilt a largely depopulated Westeros in his image after he had somehow won the War for the Dawn.

I mean, Stannis has a real agenda.  He's a reformist, out to sweep corrupt courtiers out of the capital.  He has a real egalitarian streak, promising to promote on merit rather than ancestry ("then we will make new lords").  His view of kingship, especially post Blackwater, is that he is a servant of the realm and not the reverse.  For all Aegon's upbringing, he still has the instinctive sense that the kingship belongs to him; he hasn't even conceived of anything else prior to meeting Tyrion.  Stannis had that as well, but we see him get over it.  Aegon hasn't had that come to Jesus moment and I don't think we can just blithely assume he will.

21 hours ago, Lord Varys said:

The fact that the Reach and the Stormlands stand with Renly - and then Joffrey - even after the story of the twincest is out tells us all we need to know. As does the fact that no Northman or Riverlander does so much as suggest Robb should bent the knee to Stannis after they learn about the twincest. This shows how unpopular the man is. Nobody even thinks about asking Stannis for help or support before the twincest story is out.

Pretty sure Robb has already been declared King in the North before they learn about the twincest.  Kind of a tough thing to walk back.

21 hours ago, Lord Varys said:

Sure, but even after he saved their asses and their lands from tens of thousands of wildling raiders they still only grudgingly join him. And in a scenario where they can use him for what they want - revenge against the Boltons and Freys. But there are people who dream about the Northmen actually just using and then discarding Stannis to do homage to a King Rickon or a King Jon. I don't buy that but one can certainly see Stannis pushing them down such a road if he doesn't start to compromise in the religious department.

Grudgingly?  Where do you get that?  And again, Stannis isn't exactly a guy on the make, you know?  That the hill clans and others he very obviously rescues from adverse circumstances (such as the Glovers) willingly join him.  And again, just because they have other motives beyond love of Stannis doesn't make their acceptance of his leadership any less real.  Stannis is acting as a king - he's working over political allies, he's protecting potential vassals, he's showing that he's worthy of fealty.  And he gets it.  You can complain and moan about his perceived motives all you want, but at the end of the day the proof is in the pudding, and Stannis has people following him for more than just purely opportunistic motives.

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13 hours ago, Aldarion said:

So all and all, Stannis is a good administrator but not a good leader.

He's a good enough leader that his men were willing to starve to death at Storms End rather than betray him.  He's a good enough leader that significant numbers of lords and knights are willing to travel to the literal end of the earth rather than seek clemency from Joffrey or make their fortune in Essos (as tons of other defeated rebels have done).  He's a good enough leader that his men are faithfully following him through the teeth of a howling blizzard, fully confident he can win.  And in all those cases they're doing it without much hope of material reward.  There isn't a single other leader we see in the series, save maybe Robb Stark and Daenerys, who can claim that.

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I'd like to mention that Ned was only mentioned to write letters to Stannis once, it wasn't multiple times. And Stannis didn't receive it because the communication was controlled by Pycelle.

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2 hours ago, cpg2016 said:

Davos is one of his advisers from well before the beginning of the story.  Like her or not, Melisandre isn't of noble birth either.

Davos is the exception that proves the rule. And nobody at Stannis' court is (necessarily) aware of Mel's humble origins, are they? I'd give you the point if Stannis had other former commoners and criminals among his advisers and courtiers. But I don't recall such people.

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And for what it's worth, Stannis is surrounded by many men of noble birth at this point, but he values the advice of the commoner above all of them.  Several times.  He takes Jon Snow's advice, a bastard, over those of his sworn lords.  His record of listening to good counsel despite it's source couldn't be better, post-Blackwater.

Jon Snow is the Lord Commander of the Night's Watch and the son of a great lord. Davos is, again, a very special case.

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And yet they do follow him.  They could have bent the knee, and didn't.  And at Storms End during Robert's Rebellion, his knights and lords and whoever else was in the garrison held on to the point of near-cannibalism rather than betray him.  That is fanatical loyalty.  We have evidence, that men are willing to follow Stannis into the teeth of howling blizzards and past the edge of the known world and past the point where most men would give up and die or surrender, and then we have your psychological analysis.

Sorry, but what do you think justifies your claim that Stannis, personally, inspired fanatical loyalty in the men who withstood the siege of Storm's End? Is there any textual evidence indicating that the reason they did that had to do with Stannis' personality or character? I don't recall any such information.

Stannis was never the Lord of Storm's End. He was Robert's castellan, and acting on his behalf. And Robert was the hero of the Rebellion, the man everybody in the Stormlands loved. Isn't it (much) more likely that they all did that for Robert, not for Stannis? Sort of like the men fighting under Rodrik Cassel did all what they did for the Young Wolf and not Rodrik Cassel, personally?

It is also remarkable that Stannis apparently has forged no bond with any of the men who were with him at Storm's End. None of those veterans seems to be with him right now. Not even Renly seems to have bonded with his brother in those troubled times.

And just to be clear: I don't argue against the fact that Stannis still has followers. But they are all queen's men now. They are not with Stannis because they love or worship or adore him but because they have converted to Melisandre's faith and fear and worship her.

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Yes, some of those lords are now following because that's their only chance to regain lost lands and honors.  But look at the Blackfyres; these guys could have fled overseas and joined the Golden Company, but don't.  The choose to follow Stannis.

What choosing means in this context. Fleeing/retreating with your king in the thick of battle sort of glues you to him, no? Especially if you retreat by ship and are later stuck with him on an island. I don't doubt that there are still men among Stannis' men who believe in him and actually want to be loyal to him. But those are not all that many people - even if we were to count all the queen's men as fanatical Stannis fan boys (which they are not).

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Actually, he makes it clear that he's doing it for the good of the realm, on several occasions.  He's explicit that he doesn't particularly desire the throne, but that it's both his right and his responsibility.  And as he then says, he is out there saving the kingdom to prove he's worthy of ruling it.

But that's a point where he is either lying to himself or to us. He does covet the throne - if he didn't do that he could have given up his claim the moment he heard Renly had declared himself king, too. He could have done him homage as his king to live out his life as King Renly's weirdo older brother who doesn't really get along with people all that well. 

And I don't think him using the northern campaign as another means to convince the people that he should be their king is that bad a motivation. Just that he shouldn't use that as a reason or pretext why he should be king. Because everybody should do what he does, because the survival of mankind is at stake.

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And look, we can go back and forth on whether his motivation is "good".  We can say for certain that it's better than anyone else's, at this point, up to and including Daenerys.  Stannis has a meaningful reform program to wipe out the injustice of his brother's rule and manage the Seven Kingdoms better.  Neither he nor his motivations are perfect, but they're leaps and bounds better than anyone else.

Daenerys doesn't figure into all that, since she doesn't even know the Others are a thing yet. But Stannis doesn't have a reform program, he has a list of people he wants either to dismiss or execute.

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Actually, I do.  I think he's going to fight the Others regardless, because he realizes that the good of the many outweigh the needs of the few.  In fact, I think the central tragedy of his arc is that he is going to kill his own daughter, his Nissa Nissa, to save the world, only to realize he isn't the savior and that it was all for nothing.  But as heinous as that as and as futile as it may be, it won't take away from his motivations, which are fundamentally geared towards offering protection to those under his aegis.

I don't think Shireen can be Stannis' Nissa Nissa because, at this point, there is no sign that he loves her or has a meaningful connection with her. And it seems too late to introduce or establish something like that in the books. If Stannis has a Nissa Nissa it would be Melisandre, because it seems he actually does love her.

I'm not saying Stannis will abandon fighting the Others when he realizes that nobody appreciates what he has done so far, but I think that could throw him into another black depression and cause him to make decisions that make things work. Like the Shireen sacrifice or possibly the insistence to do something very risky or stupid because he feels he has no other choice.

If he is going to survive the campaign against the Boltons he definitely has to make some sort of move to inform Westeros - and possibly even the world - what's going on in the North.

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Every shred of evidence we have says this is wrong.  Stannis has been rejected and Westeros has chosen other leaders... and yet there he is, toiling away, fighting for (reasonably) good and ethical reasons.  It's overly cynical to claim that just because his end goal is to rule, means that any other motivation besides complete self-interest must be a false front.  They can be both, and as we see, his "desire" to be king stems from multiple sources, some of which are actually excellent ethical reformist reasons.

You really have to reread the stuff from Cressen's Prologue, Stannis' own words about the red falcon, how he reacts when Robert's heroics are mentioned in ADwD, how Cersei recalls his behavior whenever he complained about Storm's End. Stannis has severe self-worth issues. He was always overshadowed by Robert, he loathes Ned because he was the brother to Robert he wanted to be, etc. The man has psychological issues that are hidden behind his 'I only care about the law' routine.

This doesn't make him very bad - Stannis is actually one of my favorite characters, but precisely because he is as fucked up as he is, not because he is a hero or a likable person.

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OK.  We as readers know that.  Stannis as a character only knows that Melisandre has magic that works.  And when humanity and the world itself are on the line, she may be the lesser of two evils.  Assuming her magic was actually working, the burning of Alester Florent is the only reason the wildlings didn't breach the Wall.

Sure, but that's a post hoc rationalization of a murder, right? Or at least an unwarranted execution because Lord Alester was less guilty than, you know, Davos - who actually wanted to kill Melisandre. Lord Alester wanted to kill no one. He just tried to make peace with King Joffrey and save the life and property of Stannis and his family.

You can pretend you are the law guy and then make exceptions when it is convenient. And that's what Stannis does. And he usually makes exceptions for himself or - when he sacrifices or executes people - for people he doesn't like or feels he no longer needs. He chose Robert over Aerys II, his rightful king, but does not consider himself a traitor.

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You don't actually know that.  That's your headcanon.  Which is equally as valid as saying that he was on Dragonstone preparing for a civil war with the Lannisters to fight on behalf of his brother.

Some of it I only speculate. We do know Ned wrote multiple letters. We do know Stannis - allegedly - feared for his own life because he knew about the twincest, yet you want to tell me he thought Robert was perfectly safe from Cersei after she had, in Stannis' mind, just poisoned Jon Arryn? You tell me Stannis immediately concluded Cersei was behind Robert's death but think it is okay he made no attempt to warn him?

Sorry, that just doesn't fly.

Stannis is a very evil uncle in all that. He does nothing to peacefully resolve the problem of Robert's children, he helps to create a situation where he can actually safely kill them all. That is a very ugly thing to do. Because, you know, the children are innocent, right?

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He gives an excellent reason for why he didn't inform Robert, one that rings pretty true.  Robert was blind enough to not notice years of infidelity on Cersei's part, he's obviously very good at not noticing things he doesn't want to, and with Stannis is the heir-apparent in that case, it looks pretty damn suspicious on Stannis' part.  You know what refutes your view?  He went to Jon Arryn.  If all he was doing was waiting for Cersei to off Robert, why bother telling anyone?

And after the Jon Arryn thing didn't work it would have been his duty to inform Robert himself - or by means of Ned or an envoy or a letter or some other means.

You cannot really defend something like that. You really look ridiculous doing that (and not you personally, any person doing that).

It is also quite clear that Stannis is hurt when Robert chooses Ned as his new Hand. He wanted that job. He basically behaves like Maekar when King Aerys I chose Bloodraven instead of him, but unlike Maekar Stannis never reconciled with his royal brother and new Hand. Unlike in Stannis' case Queen Aelinor was also not plotting to off her king and his Hand should they figure out she had an affair with her twin brother.

I'm not saying Stannis abandoned Robert before Robert decided to name Ned his Hand. I say he did it thereafter.

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He distances himself from Cressen because he has a new adviser.  Absolutely nothing wrong with that.  Cressen himself takes this poorly and tries to kill Melisandre.  I'm not sure where any of this becomes Stannis' fault, even remotely or by proxy.  That Cressen may have relatable motives seems immaterial.

It is just his modus operandi. I'm not the greatest Cressen fan, I just point out Stannis treated him like shit in the end, by allowing others at his court to treat him like shit. And just like Stannis did not punish Selyse and Mel for burning the faithful, he did nothing to punish Melisandre for killing Cressen - which she did.

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As long as you're bringing it up, we may as well actually quote GRRM:

And it is important that the individual books refer to the civil wars, but the series title reminds us constantly that the real issue lies in the North beyond the Wall. Stannis becomes one of the few characters fully to understand that, which is why in spite of everything he is a righteous man, and not just a version of Henry VII, Tiberius or Louis XI.

You'll note that the author himself refers to Stannis as a "righteous" man.  That's an extremely loaded term and pretty much rebuts every point you're making about Stannis' inherent selfishness.

I don't contradict this since I sure never said Stannis was evil or wrong for going to the Wall. That was a great thing to do.

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Actually, he went to them.  He charmed them.  Not the other way around.  Stannis is unwilling to compromise on his core principles, but that doesn't mean he's incapable of playing feudal politics.  Again... he's got a fair number of lords and knights still following him.  If he's the incapable, rigid fool you make him out to be, there is no explaining that.

I really would have liked to see how Stannis charmed the clansmen. And that's not irony. But we have to keep in mind those men never saw a king since before the Conquest. It would have been a huge honor that Stannis searched them out in person.

My point is that with Theon 1 we actually see why Stannis is as unpopular and little loved as he is. I mean, say it out loud: Stannis is King Robert's brother. He is basically a prince. He was originally Robert's presumptive heir and then he (likely) came immediately after Tommen in the line of succession. He is a member of the royal family.

And yet nobody likes him. He doesn't have a coterie of followers, no friends, no lickspittles, no drinking buddies, retainers, clients, etc. That is very remarkable in and of itself. If we take a man like Maekar, the fourth son of a king with a worse claim to the throne in 211 AC - he is seen as Aerys I likely successor because the other princes are not warriors. Prince Maekar is an influential and powerful man as the king's youngest brother, in part likely also due to his accomplishments on the Redgrass Field.

There is no doubt that a quarter or even half the Realm would have followed Maekar in a rebellion against a King Rhaegel or Aelor had Bloodraven tried to install them as puppet kings after the death of Aerys I (one could also play that game with Maegor vs Aenys, Daemon vs. Viserys I, Viserys II vs. Aegon III, the Dragonknight vs. the Unworthy or Egg vs. a King Aerion - in all those cases the younger brothers should have been able to gain a significant following). But Stannis can only marshal the men of the islands after his brother's death, and his younger brother can marshal about 50 times more men than he can.

This illustrates how popular Stannis truly is.

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So?  She burns a couple statues and some trees, and this is the grand evil Stannis is perpetrating?  He conspicuously does not persecute followers of the Seven or the old gods.  When it comes to respect for religion and/or religious tolerance, Stannis is pretty much at the forefront of the ranks of "good guys" on this one.

Considering how he eventually relents and gives Melisandre what she wants or does what she wants him to do it is not that hard to assume what Stannis will give Melisandre once the Iron Throne is his.

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But that also implies there are a bunch of Kings Men.  And again, long before he meets Melisandre he's inspiring that same fanatical loyalty.

See above on the fanatical loyalty thing. He severs the ties with his remaining king's men when they help to get Edric Storm to safety. What king's men were left after the Blackwater apparently remained on Dragonstone. There is no king's man of note (i.e. one we know by name) among Stannis' men at the Wall.

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I mean, Stannis has a real agenda.  He's a reformist, out to sweep corrupt courtiers out of the capital.  He has a real egalitarian streak, promising to promote on merit rather than ancestry ("then we will make new lords").  His view of kingship, especially post Blackwater, is that he is a servant of the realm and not the reverse.  For all Aegon's upbringing, he still has the instinctive sense that the kingship belongs to him; he hasn't even conceived of anything else prior to meeting Tyrion.  Stannis had that as well, but we see him get over it.  Aegon hasn't had that come to Jesus moment and I don't think we can just blithely assume he will.

He doesn't have a reformist agenda, and he does allow corruption to go on. Axell Florent has been his castellan for years - either he doesn't know what kind of guy that man is, or he doesn't care. He did threaten to kill Davos back in ASoS if he didn't tell Stannis what he wanted him to say. I say this is pretty corrupt.

You are pushing Stannis as 'servant to the people' too far. He realizes that a king also has a duty, but this is not a duty to the realm, but to himself - as king. Stannis is king, he wants to be king, and thus he has to act like a king. But that doesn't mean the realm or its people are entitled that their king act in this or that manner - it is up to the king to decide what's right. 

Thus there is no difference in Aegon's or Stannis' view of kingship - both think they inherited their claim to the crown from a relative - Aegon from his father, Stannis from his brother. Stannis never implies that a crown can be earned if you don't already own it.

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Pretty sure Robb has already been declared King in the North before they learn about the twincest.  Kind of a tough thing to walk back.

Sure it would be hard, but not impossible. And if Stannis had had followers or friends among the Riverlords or Northmen these men would have suggested or asked whether King Robb might now not better bend the knee to Stannis. But nobody does even make this suggestion.

And it was, in the end, quite clear Robb would have to give up his crown anyway if Renly or Stannis won the Iron Throne and the Lannisters were defeated. Neither of them would accept Robb's secessionist kingdom.

In that sense Robb's kingdom is more an expression of the extent of the anti-Lannister rebellion of his movement, not so much their desire to truly become and remain independent. They raised the stakes so high that peace with Joffrey was basically impossible. But since there were other Baratheon pretenders this was a trap of their own making.

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Grudgingly?  Where do you get that?  And again, Stannis isn't exactly a guy on the make, you know?  That the hill clans and others he very obviously rescues from adverse circumstances (such as the Glovers) willingly join him.  And again, just because they have other motives beyond love of Stannis doesn't make their acceptance of his leadership any less real.  Stannis is acting as a king - he's working over political allies, he's protecting potential vassals, he's showing that he's worthy of fealty.  And he gets it.  You can complain and moan about his perceived motives all you want, but at the end of the day the proof is in the pudding, and Stannis has people following him for more than just purely opportunistic motives.

I'd say the Umbers, Karstarks (those who he has now, at least), Mormonts and Manderlys (if they come round) all follow his grudgingly. The clansmen seem to basically use him to attack Winterfell and bathe in Bolton blood - we have to wait and see how their relationship with him will be. The Glovers are his now, I agree. Anything else would be ridiculous now that he freed their castle.

I mean, I've gone on record repeating that it would essentially a vile betrayal if Manderly and Robett Glover would betray Davos now that Stannis freed Deepwood Motte.

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8 hours ago, cpg2016 said:

He's a good enough leader that his men were willing to starve to death at Storms End rather than betray him.  He's a good enough leader that significant numbers of lords and knights are willing to travel to the literal end of the earth rather than seek clemency from Joffrey or make their fortune in Essos (as tons of other defeated rebels have done).  He's a good enough leader that his men are faithfully following him through the teeth of a howling blizzard, fully confident he can win.  And in all those cases they're doing it without much hope of material reward.  There isn't a single other leader we see in the series, save maybe Robb Stark and Daenerys, who can claim that.

I was summing up Lord Varys' position. Now, I do think he is a good leader, but he has a massive PR problem. Basically, you have to get to know him - really know him - to have any respect for him. People who served with him in war support him, but those are the only people who are willing to support him. Meanwhile, Daenerys - who you mention - has extremely good PR; albeit that is largely because she happened to be the only powerful person in Essos opposed to slavery; I guess I'll have to reread her chapters.

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

Ok, you seem to be advocating that a good leader is mentored by someone who is a good leader, and has already been tested as a leader.

 

I think enough time has passed for my point to not be perceived as too political, something more recent than the Romans/Byzantiens: I raise the example of George W. Bush. He was mentored by his father, a President with a long history of experience from Businessman to Congressman to RNC Chair to Chinese Ambassador to UN Ambassador to CIA Director to Vice President. George W Bush also went to Yale, was in the National Guard, worked in business, worked as a campaign advisor and media liaison for his father's presidential runs, and became Governor of Texas. Despite this, his presidency is largely seen as a failure by both Republicans and Democrats. He was mentored by a good leader, his father. He had good leadership experience. Yet he still failed.

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Posted (edited)
9 minutes ago, Ghost7272 said:

Ok, you seem to be advocating that a good leader is mentored by someone who is a good leader, and has already been tested as a leader.

 

I think enough time has passed for my point to not be perceived as too political, something more recent than the Romans/Byzantiens: I raise the example of George W. Bush. He was mentored by his father, a President with a long history of experience from Businessman to Congressman to RNC Chair to Chinese Ambassador to UN Ambassador to CIA Director to Vice President. George W Bush also went to Yale, was in the National Guard, worked in business, worked as a campaign advisor and media liaison for his father's presidential runs, and became Governor of Texas. Despite this, his presidency is largely seen as a failure by both Republicans and Democrats. He was mentored by a good leader, his father. He had good leadership experience. Yet he still failed.

I am not sure you can compare a democratic system - even presidental one - with monarchical system. Besides, all presidents - and not just US ones - whose careers I had followed so far had been failures. So I think there must be something in a democracy to make presidents failures. Is it parliament? Is it the fact that they are term-limited, and so more focused on getting reelected than actually doing what is good for the country? Monarchical system has a lot of disadvantages, but it has advantages as well - you do not want to leave a f***ed up country to your children.

Edited by Aldarion

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2 hours ago, Aldarion said:

I am not sure you can compare a democratic system - even presidental one - with monarchical system. Besides, all presidents - and not just US ones - whose careers I had followed so far had been failures. So I think there must be something in a democracy to make presidents failures. Is it parliament? Is it the fact that they are term-limited, and so more focused on getting reelected than actually doing what is good for the country? Monarchical system has a lot of disadvantages, but it has advantages as well - you do not want to leave a f***ed up country to your children.

I highly disagree.

1. You are asking about what makes a good ruler.

2.  I disagree that every president in every country has been a failure.

Your own criticism isn't logical: term limits don't make someone more focused on re-election. Kings and queens also have constraints, such as the nobility and the military. No one in a democracy wants to leave a messed up country for their children either.

You can't rationally say that democracy only has disadvantages, but monarchy has disadvantages but also advantages. Especially not on these grounds.

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8 hours ago, Ghost7272 said:

 I highly disagree.

1. You are asking about what makes a good ruler.

2.  I disagree that every president in every country has been a failure.

Your own criticism isn't logical: term limits don't make someone more focused on re-election. Kings and queens also have constraints, such as the nobility and the military. No one in a democracy wants to leave a messed up country for their children either.

You can't rationally say that democracy only has disadvantages, but monarchy has disadvantages but also advantages. Especially not on these grounds.

I didn't say that democracy has only disadvantages - it has a lot of advantages as well - but what I have mentioned is one of democracy's disadvantages, and the primary reason why I believe that you cannot compare medieval ruler to a modern-day President.

I didn't think I needed to specify I was talking about medieval rulers.

And yes, term limits do make somebody more focused on reelection. Being elected is literally the most important thing in career politician's life - or second most important in case of Croatian politicians nowadays, most important being getting appointments into EU or UN bureocracy, or else getting elected to EU Parliament. Hereditary ruler OTOH only has to worry about being overthrown, meaning that there is not so much pressure to steal as much as possible in as little time as possible. Now, you are correct that kings have constraints such as nobility and the military - and nobility in particular could act as a bunch of assholes, especially when it came to taxation - but modern-day democratic governments also have constraints, such as rich people financing their election campaigns, supranational institutions of questionable democratic legitimacy and so on.

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25 minutes ago, Ghost7272 said:

Term limits mean no more re-elections...

I was talking about 4/5 year limit, not limit on reelections.

On 7/24/2019 at 4:40 PM, cpg2016 said:

 Also, Egypt was lost and Byzantium went on to be (at times) the strongest state in the world, so clearly it wasn't so vital it "had" to be kept.  It was a valuable and rich province.  But, to reiterate AGAIN so you don't miss my point, even after losing Syria Byzantium had the same "choke point" in the Sinai that a "Southern Roman Empire" would have had, and it didn't matter.  It was equally easily reinforced as it would have been under this hypothetical SRE (e.g. only by sea), and said SRE would not have had Syria anyway, so the conditions are effectively equal.

 

To just mention this, I don't think Byzantine Empire ever was the strongest state in the world. Roman Empire before the loss of the West was, occasionally, but ERE simply didn't have the population or economic basis. China held the honour, for the most part.

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Term Limit, it's in the word, that's what term limit means. You're just talking about having a democratically-elected term.

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On 7/12/2019 at 10:40 PM, King Wyman said:

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. 

Doesn't it feels like the biggest "Fuck you" from the author, though....

Well, our expectations are certainly subverted: a 7yrs kid who barely learnt to read most likely, but fuck it, it's MAGIC!

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