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Aldarion

Geographic problems of Westeros

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Inspired by dsjj.

First, real land area of Westeros is unknown. It seems that Martin did not really make a scale of Westeros - he made a pretty Tolkienesque map, but unlike Tolkien, he forgot to provide a ruler. So nobody has any clue how large Westeros is. According to Martin, Westeros is around the size of South America. But does that mean only Seven Kingdoms, or is Westeros as a whole the size of South America? Size also cannot, as author points out, be estimated from population and mobilization rates, since these can vary wildly. Sizes of battles in Westeros are akin to those fought in Wars of the Roses - which is to say, 1 000 - 10 000 troops at each side. Largest battle in WotR had 30 000 at each side. So this means that we have a Renaissance society here, with semi-professional banderial armies, or else a pseudo-Byzantine system, instead of, say, medieval "axes and pitchforks" levy army.

From the link, Westeros may have anywhere between 11 and 42 million people. Now, its centralized monarchy is closer to Byzantine Empire. In 10th century, Roman Empire had 9 million people, with Constantinople having 500 000 - 900 000 people. Seeing how it was the only major city in the Empire at the time, urbanization rate was around 5-10%. But even so, population density in 10th century was 8,18 people per square kilometer, or 21,19 people per square mile. Westeros is either 1,7, 3,6 or 6,9 million square miles. I will use middle estimate, which yields population of 76 million people. But with that population, King's Landing should have easily million people.

Further, Westeros is extremely politically stable. Larger and more diverse populations are harder to control - they automatically cause internal conflicts, civil wars etc.. Westerosi politics are those of Medieval England, but even assuming Byzantine politcs, Westeros is too large for that (Roman Empire was 1 100 000 km2 in 959, which is 1/8,5 of Westeros middle size estimate - and the empire in the setting I'm working on is 1,3 million km2). In fact, Westeros probably should not even be a single kingdom, and even if it was, you would get constant civil warfare. Now, Tang dynasty China was 10 million square kilometers or about the same size as Westeros - but dynasty only had four emperors, and two or three rebellions. And all that in a systems that was far more akin to Middle Byzantine Empire - with very much not powerful nobility and rather powerful, if decentralized, government - which is to say, exact reverse of Westerosi political system.

Urbanization rate was 2,5% in Eastern Europe in 1500. But in Central Europe, which resembles Westeros far more, it was 5%.

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@Aldarion

I think part of the problem is that you and the article you quoted are only looking at Westeros as a whole not at each of the nine provinces.

And even then, when people say Westeros, they mean the Seven Kingdoms not the entire continent. The numbers are naturally going to be inflated because people are counting the population and lands beyond the Wall. Of which are unknown...

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21 minutes ago, Jabar of House Titan said:

@Aldarion

I think part of the problem is that you and the article you quoted are only looking at Westeros as a whole not at each of the nine provinces.

And even then, when people say Westeros, they mean the Seven Kingdoms not the entire continent. The numbers are naturally going to be inflated because people are counting the population and lands beyond the Wall. Of which are unknown...

The land beyond the wall would have less that 100k inhabitants and that would be an upward estimate. 

The free folk live in a Hobbesian state of nature, their ability to produce enough food and survive the harsh winters is minimal.

I would say the land from maidenpool to Harrenhal had more living in it that the lands beyond the wall

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3 hours ago, Aldarion said:

Inspired by dsjj.

First, real land area of Westeros is unknown. It seems that Martin did not really make a scale of Westeros - he made a pretty Tolkienesque map, but unlike Tolkien, he forgot to provide a ruler. So nobody has any clue how large Westeros is

Are you being serious?  Of course we have a scale.  It's called the Wall.  It's 300 miles long.  If you can't determine the approximate size of Westeros from that than you need to go back to primary school.

4 hours ago, Aldarion said:

Sizes of battles in Westeros are akin to those fought in Wars of the Roses - which is to say, 1 000 - 10 000 troops at each side.

You mean aside from the 80,000 men marching with Renly?  Or the Battle on the Green Fork, where both sides field something closer to 20,000 men.  The Battle of the Blackwater had between 75,000-100,000 men on the field at once, not counting the naval forces.  Battles in Westeros, the Dance notwithstanding, tend to be on the large size.

4 hours ago, Aldarion said:

Now, its centralized monarchy is closer to Byzantine Empire.

Not sure where this is coming from but it doesn't seem very true at all.  Byzantium was far, far more centralized than the Westerosi monarchy is.

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35 minutes ago, cpg2016 said:

 Are you being serious?  Of course we have a scale.  It's called the Wall.  It's 300 miles long.  If you can't determine the approximate size of Westeros from that than you need to go back to primary school.

Problem is that GRRM himself has provided a lot of contradictory statements about the size of Westeros. Look at the link for details. That being said, I had forgotten about the Wall thing.

38 minutes ago, cpg2016 said:

Not sure where this is coming from but it doesn't seem very true at all.  Byzantium was far, far more centralized than the Westerosi monarchy is.

Depends on the era, but yeah.

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Posted (edited)
11 hours ago, Aldarion said:

Problem is that GRRM himself has provided a lot of contradictory statements about the size of Westeros. Look at the link for details. That being said, I had forgotten about the Wall thing.

Depends on the era, but yeah.

 

 

first off, nice thread title. LOL

As for the bold; Not only has GRRM contradicted himself, he has said point blank that his characters can and are wrong at times. 

I wouldnt take measurements by any character as fact unless a maester said it. 

 

Edited by dsjj251

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10 hours ago, dsjj251 said:

first off, nice thread title. LOL

As for the bold; Not only has GRRM contradicted himself, he has said point blank that his characters can and are wrong at times. 

I wouldnt take measurements by any character as fact unless a maester said it. 

Yes but this isn't an instance where we can reasonably assume characters are wrong.  If you've got a character making an off the cuff remark about how far it is to the next castle, or something like that, then sure.  When you are discussing a thousands of years old structure which happens to be the most impressive feat of magical engineering in the world, I think we can assume it's been studied, measured, and discussed enough to have a determined set of dimensions.

And if you want to make the case that GRRM has made contradictory statements, fine.  Why are we even talking about it, then?  If we cannot determine the approximate size of Westeros then choose whatever suits your fancy.  Personally, I am taking the one set measurement we're given and applying it to the world at large.  Obviously an exact land mass is impossible but we can come close enough for government work.

Besides, just an ethnographical analysis gets you close.  The Reach is medieval Aquitaine.  Dorne is Moorish Spain (all these in rough terms, obviously, they're amalgamations).  The North is pagan Scandinavia.  The forests of the Stormlands have always struck me as being similar to German forests (for no particular reason, I admit).  But taking all that you basically get the idea that Central and Western Europe are roughly analogous to Westeros.

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23 hours ago, cpg2016 said:

Yes but this isn't an instance where we can reasonably assume characters are wrong.  If you've got a character making an off the cuff remark about how far it is to the next castle, or something like that, then sure.  When you are discussing a thousands of years old structure which happens to be the most impressive feat of magical engineering in the world, I think we can assume it's been studied, measured, and discussed enough to have a determined set of dimensions.

And if you want to make the case that GRRM has made contradictory statements, fine.  Why are we even talking about it, then?  If we cannot determine the approximate size of Westeros then choose whatever suits your fancy.  Personally, I am taking the one set measurement we're given and applying it to the world at large.  Obviously an exact land mass is impossible but we can come close enough for government work.

Besides, just an ethnographical analysis gets you close.  The Reach is medieval Aquitaine.  Dorne is Moorish Spain (all these in rough terms, obviously, they're amalgamations).  The North is pagan Scandinavia.  The forests of the Stormlands have always struck me as being similar to German forests (for no particular reason, I admit).  But taking all that you basically get the idea that Central and Western Europe are roughly analogous to Westeros.

That was my thought as well - climate may be used to estimate size of the continent, assuming Planetos is about the same size as Earth.

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We know how large the Seven Kingdoms is because GRRM has a scale that he uses consistently. Ignore the "about South America size" because it's not like George exactly knows how big South America is! He was thinking more of "long continent" when he made that remark.

Numerous statements of distance in the novels bear out that the Wall serves as a usable scale to measure 300 miles. That's been used to get very accurate areas and distances for the novels.

 

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