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The Dragon Demands

Epidemics & Quarantine in "Fire & Blood"

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There were 3 major epidemics in Westeros since the Targaryen Conquest: The Shivers (59 AC), the Winter Fever (121 AC), and the Great Spring Sickness (209 AC).

What's confusing is that the quarantine responses differed for each, and I wonder if GRRM did this on purpose.

Why aren't any quarantine attempts described in response to the outbreak of the Shivers?

My interpretation....is that Westeros never had widespread epidemics like this before the Targaryen unification, due to lower travel rates and population.  They didn't have major highways like the Kingsroad, trade between ports in rival kingdoms was probably lower (Oldtown-Lannisport), etc. etc. On top of this, Fire & Blood states that due to the Targaryen peace, by the middle of Jaehaerys's reign around 59 AC, the population of Westeros had DOUBLED compared to before the Conquest.  

So Martin's intent was that they were caught off-guard by how bad the Shivers spread, they had no experience with epidemics of that size (it even says there had been outbreaks of diseases like the Shivers a century before, but they were never this bad).

By the Winter Fever, they at least tried to quarantine King's Landing.  By the Great Spring Sickness, the Vale and Dorne managed to isolate themselves by closing their borders (curiously, neither of those is mentioned during the other outbreaks).  So is this specifically because they learned from the failed response to the Shivers?

Reinforcing my belief in this scenario is that these three epidemics were written in reverse order.

The Great Spring Sickness is from the Tales of Dunk & Egg, written in the late 1990s.  Martin wrote the Dance of the Dragons novella outlines for the World book, around 2012? So he came up with Winter Fever around then.  Lastly, it's confirmed that Martin wrote the new Jaehaerys chapters for Fire & Blood LAST, AFTER the World of Ice & Fire was published, and it's only in Fire & Blood that we hear mention of the Shivers.

So the three outbreaks were WRITTEN about, invented by GRRM, in reverse order.

Why would GRRM describe quarantines in Dunk & Egg and even in the World book novellas (quarantined King's Landing for Winter Fever), but NO QUARANTINE ATTEMPTS for the third epidemic he wrote about? (which chronologically happened first)?

So...did he do this on purpose? That a Westeros-wide pandemic was a new thing due to the Targaryen unification, so they botched the response to the Shivers, but later learned from that failure in later epidemics?

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(well I gave the start dates)

….not really sure when the Winter Fever "ended" actually, just when it ended in King's Landing, Fire & Blood briefly mentions that even as it was burning itself out in King's Landing, it had just started to spread to Barrowton - surprising to them, given that it rarely went that far inland, but it seemed to be more potent in colder weather of the North

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Posted (edited)
Quote

“Across the width of Westeros, another struggle for succession broke out late in the year 134, when Lady Jeyne Arryn, the Maiden of the Vale, died at Gulltown of a cold that had settled in her chest. Forty years of age, she perished in the Motherhouse of Maris on its stony island in the harbor of Gulltown, wrapped in the arms of Jessamyn Redfort, her “dear companion.”

Ah it was 134 AC

Edited by The Dragon Demands

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Posted (edited)

I don't think we can say the Shivers was the first great pandemic that hit Westeros - it is merely the first Gyldayn tells us about. There might have been similar plagues during the reign of Aegon I and, of course, before the Conquest. Closing borders, etc. could slow down the plague in such cases, but there would have still been trade, especially per ship. Only places with very clear geographical borders like Dorne and the Vale would have been able to really cut themselves off - especially in winter when both the Mountains of the Moon and the Red Mountains should be difficult/impossible to pass.

You make a good point that the roads and trade of the united Seven Kingdoms under Jaehaerys I would spread a plague much faster, but the Shivers didn't profit from much of that considering that Jaehaerys I only started to build his reigns later and his reign (and they were only finished by Viserys I). The Shivers was spread throughout the Seven Kingdoms on the primitive dirt roads they had before Jaehaerys' roads.

Also, the population north of Dorne doubled during the reign of the Old King, not during the years from the Conquest to the Shivers - one can assume that Aegon's reign also led to a population increase but we are not given any numbers on that. Despite the devastating effects of the winter and the Shivers the population still doubled in the years from 48-103 AC, and the population in the big cities quadrupled.

Edited by Lord Varys

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@Lord Varys

North of Dorne. 

Anyway, the population doubling under Jaehaerys I is problematic.

1. Fifty-five years isn't long enough for that to make reasonable sense. In RL Europe that took centuries (before the Black Death came along).

2. The army numbers in the Dance and later conflicts don't indicate a general population increase or decrease took place.

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4 minutes ago, The Grey Wolf said:

1. Fifty-five years isn't long enough for that to make reasonable sense. In RL Europe that took centuries (before the Black Death came along).

Well, I guess the idea is that peace and prosperity and, perhaps, a series of very short winters (even the cruel one of the Shivers wasn't all that long) saw to it that it did.

The Old King ruled for nearly three generations (if we put the length of a generation at twenty years) and if during his reign the average woman saw, say, triple the number of children grow to adulthood than she did back before the Conquest the total population could have doubled in 55 years.

I'd say George image is that the constant warfare and the rudimentary trade between the kingdoms before the Conquest prevented Westeros from making use of its full potential. One really sees that illustrated in the paragraphs describing how new lands were made fertile, how fish started to become a common food even further inland, etc.

4 minutes ago, The Grey Wolf said:

2. The army numbers in the Dance and later conflicts don't indicate a general population increase or decrease took place.

That can be dealt with by them really not giving a damn/being reluctant to commit themselves fully to one side or the other. Throughout most of the war any sane lord from Oldtown to the Wall must have feared that his decision to severely piss off one side could and would result in a dragon burning down his city, town, castle, and people. This kind of thing would have resulted in a massive reduction of men being willing to fight.

If you look at, for instance, Lord Ormund's commitment to the Green cause the man was half-mad after what Maegor and Visenya nearly did to Oldtown. If I had been Rhaenyra or dragonfire would have consumed Oldtown if my demands hadn't been met. The same with Lannisport. The way to undermine Aegon II would have been to target his support base first. They had no defense against dragonfire and dragons are first and foremost weapons of terror. First you make an ultimatum. Then you show you mean business by burning the fields and keeps outside the city, and then you burn the Hightower and the Starry Sept and the Citadel and everything else.

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@Lord Varys

Re 1: Still would make more sense if the population doubled over the course of Aegon I, Jaehaerys I, and Viserys I's reigns.

Re 2: The issue for me is that the Dance just doesn't appear to be as awful as the Faith Militant Uprising or the War of the Five Kings in terms of casaulties and the wider politics are iffy because Heirs of the Dragon doesn't bother discussing what Westeros made of Viserys I's decisions. For example, what did Boremund Baratheon think of Viserys I championing Rhaenyra when he won the Great Council in part because he was the male male-line claimant? 

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10 minutes ago, The Grey Wolf said:

@Lord Varys

Re 1: Still would make more sense if the population doubled over the course of Aegon I, Jaehaerys I, and Viserys I's reigns.

I'd expect that there was a similar increase during the reign of Aegon - especially in the Vale, the Westerlands, the Riverlands and, most of all, in the Crownlands (KL's growth alone during the reign of the Conqueror shows this) which all wouldn't have been affected by the First Dornish War in a meaningful sense - and Viserys I (whose reign saw no wars or crises of note on Westerosi soil at all).

10 minutes ago, The Grey Wolf said:

Re 2: The issue for me is that the Dance just doesn't appear to be as awful as the Faith Militant Uprising or the War of the Five Kings in terms of casaulties and the wider politics are iffy because Heirs of the Dragon doesn't bother discussing what Westeros made of Viserys I's decisions. For example, what did Boremund Baratheon think of Viserys I championing Rhaenyra when he won the Great Council in part because he was the male male-line claimant? 

The Faith Militant Uprising seems to have been a pretty small affair, if you look at it. There were two big battles, and then it was over, basically. And the Faith never had many professional warriors of note in their ranks, anyway. The rest was outlaws attacking people in the woods, etc.

The War of the Five Kings is a broader conflict because there are more factions and more scores to settle. The Dance was just a war between two factions and most of the lords were smart enough to not fall over themselves in their attempts to die in a silly succession war.

I don't think that this was an issue to anyone - politics are pragmatic. Viserys I had a presumptive heir in his brother Daemon who was seen as unsuited to ever sit the Iron Throne of Aegon the Conqueror by a majority of the king's court and, one assumes, the Realm at large, too. If that is so you have to install an alternative. It is like saying Robb should have swallowed his pride and confirmed Sansa Lannister as his heir never mind what that could and likely would mean for his new kingdom and the continuation of his war.

The idea that a king has use the way he himself won the throne as a guiding principle how to settle his own succession is a modern idea. And thus I don't think there is any reason to assume that Boremund Baratheon had any deep insight to offer on Viserys I's decision to name Rhaenyra his heir.

It wasn't Viserys I's fault that the Great Council chose him. He put forth his claim but that doesn't mean he has to agree with the lords who made him king when settling his own succession. Rhaenyra was his daughter, and if the Jaehaerys I and the Realm loved Rhaenys and Laenor less than he loved Rhaenyra then this is their loss, not his.

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There was also Grey Plague in Oldtown as recounted by Pycelle. The city was placed under quarantine. Maybe someone can add more details.

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12 minutes ago, rotting sea cow said:

There was also Grey Plague in Oldtown as recounted by Pycelle. The city was placed under quarantine. Maybe someone can add more details.

Yeah, that was the one enforced by Lord Quenton Hightower who was later killed by an Oldtown mob along with his son.

He enforced drastic measures, closing the ports and gates and killing everybody who tried to flee.

I'd expect that there were quarantine measures implemented during the Shivers in some places, but Gyldayn's story focuses on the victims and not so much on the spread of the disease and how the authorities reacted to it. Could very well be that, say, Dorne closed the borders and ports and avoided that one.

It also seems that Blackwater Bay was hit in a matter of days, explaining why trying to implement quarantine measures didn't really have an effect. Especially since we have really no clue how long the incubation time was.

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