Jump to content
Aldarion

Geographic problems of Westeros

Recommended Posts

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%.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

@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...

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
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

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
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.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
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.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
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

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
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.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
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.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

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.

 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
On 7/12/2019 at 12:03 PM, 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.

the length of the wall itself being 345 miles and not 300 is in and of itself a large enough discrepancy . A league is 3.45 miles, not 3 miles.

This means the entire measurement of the North is off too, 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
10 hours ago, dsjj251 said:

the length of the wall itself being 345 miles and not 300 is in and of itself a large enough discrepancy . A league is 3.45 miles, not 3 miles.

This means the entire measurement of the North is off too, 

Also realize that Martin has said that the maps in the books are about as accurate as the maps that were available in the medieval period, which is to say, not accurate at all. But this is all part of the fun because it gives wide latitude (sorry) for endless speculation.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Braavos seems to parallel the Boughrara Gulf and the Sarne seems to parallel the Nile. 

Which may suggest the Wall is essentially in what would be France, along where the Allies advanced in WW2.  

Perhaps also indicating that the current length of the Wall is closer to 200 miles long and that something like what happened in the show has already happened at least once before. 

So using the Wall as a ruler may be making the world seem bigger than it actually is.

Edited by Narsil4

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
49 minutes ago, Narsil4 said:

Braavos seems to parallel the Boughrara Gulf and the Sarne seems to parallel the Nile.

There is ice in Braavos's archipelago in this particularly cold winter. It is not a parallel to a Tunisian gulf. 

49 minutes ago, Narsil4 said:

Which may suggest the Wall is essentially in what would be France, along where the Allies advanced in WW2.  

The Wall is only a few hundred miles south of the the equivalent of the Arctic tree line.

 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
15 minutes ago, Ran said:

There is ice in Braavos's archipelago in this particularly cold winter. It is not a parallel to a Tunisian gulf. 

The Wall is only a few hundred miles south of the the equivalent of the Arctic tree line.

The climate of the Known World seems to be broken in comparison to Earth. 
So I don't think one can use it to accurately determine latitude. 

The Others seemed to be able to bring the ice as far south as Oldtown/5Forts during the Long Night. With Beyond the Wall seemingly being the territory of the Others, they may be making it much colder than it would be on Earth. 

Edited by Narsil4

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
2 minutes ago, Narsil4 said:

The climate of the Known World seems to be broken in comparison to Earth. 

The only significant difference outside of the Long Night are randomly long seasons. The actual temperature extremes in those seasons are within the norms of our own world, on the other hand, so it doesn't really make much difference. The only thing that can really change where things are is George's suggestion that the world of Westeros is a bit larger than our world.

GRRM has been pretty consistent in indicating things like distances, which all match up to his map featuring a Wall whose length matched about 300 miles. Later maps, made by other artists, have varied this, but the basic principle remains that distances that George gives in the books are consistently matchable to his getting a ruler, putting it to his maps, and using the same scale he always has.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
1 hour ago, Ran said:

The only significant difference outside of the Long Night are randomly long seasons.

The cause of the randomized seasons may have been from the destruction of a moon.

Quote

Once there were two moons in the sky, but one wandered too close to the sun and cracked from the heat. A thousand thousand dragons poured forth, and drank the fire of the sun.

Which could affect the axial tilt of the planet. 

1 hour ago, Ran said:

The actual temperature extremes in those seasons are within the norms of our own world,

So it might be that the seasonal temperatures could be fairly normal.
Just ending up being at different latitudes than we would see on Earth. 

Though there is also a good possibility that the Heart of Winter and the Others are responsible. 
Perhaps shifting the normal climates we would see on Earth south. 

1 hour ago, Ran said:

The only thing that can really change where things are is George's suggestion that the world of Westeros is a bit larger than our world.

I suspect that he just rounded up, possibly to make calculations easier. 

1 hour ago, Ran said:

GRRM has been pretty consistent in indicating things like distances, which all match up to his map featuring a Wall whose length matched about 300 miles.

Sure, but that may just be what the characters calculate as the distance, based on that same 300 mile belief. If the Wall is currently shorter, it may have originally extended out to where Skagos is now. 

Edited by Narsil4

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

As good of a job as GRRM has done in building this world, I think this is one of those things that won’t make sense if you look into it too deeply. Which is fine by me. The contradictions are not big enough to effect the story, for me at least. 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Take a look at the map. The Wall is repeatedly stated to be 300 miles long.

Now look at the straight line distance between Deepwood Motte and Winterfell. This is also repeatedly stated to be 300 miles in distance

Compare the two distances on the map and you will find they are remarkably consistent for medieval level map technology. So there you have your verified map scale. The rest can be extrapolated fairly easily from that.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
1 hour ago, Free Northman Reborn said:

Compare the two distances on the map and you will find they are remarkably consistent for medieval level map technology.

I think the characters have been using the Wall as a ruler just as the reader is expected to. 
So the length of the Wall is the same as the distance between Deepwood Motte and Winterfell, it just wouldn't be what we consider 300 miles on Earth. 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now

×