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How do the Ironborn still have such a strong military?

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Even if the Iron Islanders are able to sustain themselves on fishing, which shouldn't be possible in the middle ages but whatever, that still doesn't account for how only 9 years after a major and disastrous defeat they are able to be a credible threat again.  It wasn't like Robert brought them to the negotiating table and they laid down their arms. . . . he crushed them, at sea and then on land.

For my own head canon, I just assume that the Westeros map is about as accurate as any other middle ages map.  Numbers and demographics aren't really GRRM's strong suit.

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14 hours ago, argonak said:

Even if the Iron Islanders are able to sustain themselves on fishing, which shouldn't be possible in the middle ages but whatever, that still doesn't account for how only 9 years after a major and disastrous defeat they are able to be a credible threat again.  It wasn't like Robert brought them to the negotiating table and they laid down their arms. . . . he crushed them, at sea and then on land.

For my own head canon, I just assume that the Westeros map is about as accurate as any other middle ages map.  Numbers and demographics aren't really GRRM's strong suit.

They were defeated, but it wasn’t a genocide. I’m sure thousands of innocents were killed by the invaders, but thousands more would have survived. The children at the time grew up and became soldiers themselves like Asha and Theon.

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On 9/17/2020 at 2:12 AM, argonak said:

he crushed them, at sea and then on land

He razed the docks of Lordsport, and all the ships in her harbour. The Botley's castle was also razed, the sod-roofed cottages, the sept.

Part of Pyke's curtain wall was damaged, the South tower fell, but the Bloody Keep seems to remain exactly the same as it was when it got its name,  the sea tower was untouched, and there is no noticable damage to the great keep or the kitchen keep. The stables, kennels, pig and sheep pens may well have been built anew.

There is no sign Robert's war touched Harlaw, Old Wyk remains unchanged, we are not told of any fighting on Great Wyk, or any Iron Island but Pyke. 

A decisive naval victory does not necessarily mean many, or even any ships were destroyed. We know Aeron's ship was rammed and sunk by Stannis, and we know Stannis won the battle with his much larger ships. We know neither Victarion nor Euron nor Balon joined battle with him, that they all kept thier ships. We know that Roderick was at Seaguard, and Dagmar was also not in the straights off Fair Isle. It seems to me that if Stannis had fought the greater part of the Iron Fleet, he would have accepted a surrender from Victarion or Balon, not Aeron. It seems to me that the Iron fleet was more scattered than shattered, Stannis had battled only a portion of it (if a fleet is very large, and has been harrying from the Stepstones to Bear Island, it would be odd if it all went to battle against Stannis. At Trafalgar, Nelson had less than a tenth of the strength of the British fleet. And the most senior commanders, and the largest ships were nowhere near Stannis.)

Chances are very good that most of the ships that took part in the battle off Fair Isle were not destroyed, and most were repaired. Unlike Nelson's navy, the Royal Navy of Westeros does not seem to have captured ships and co-opted their crews. The Iron fleet does, and like the English Navy, can therefore grow fast at little expense to themselves, and for the Iron price enjoy the technology of their enemies (and traders and anyone else that sails the sea.) 

It looks like both Stannis and Robert accepted surrenders on just if not positively generous terms. It looks like most of the Iron fleet melted into merchant shipping and fishing boats, maintained by the various lords of the Iron Isles, and by individual captains. Stannis won the battle, and Robert accepted Balon's surrender, without ever sighting the majority of the Iron fleet, never mind crushing it.

Robert let it be so, and Stannis grit his teeth and bore it, or set fire to every fishing boat and impounded Braavosi merchant in Lordsport, and convinced himself that that was the same thing..

It is clear that Robert never really put a dent in the Iron fleet, and most of the Lords of the Iron Islands were not especially scarred - because they were willing to prosper peacefully under Robert, rather than side with Balon and be hammered by Robert like Balon was.

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On 9/7/2020 at 10:32 PM, FictionIsntReal said:

The term "genocide" wasn't even invented until the 20th century. Yet it happened repeatedly throughout history (and prior to written history). Nobody had to explicitly "consider" it or have a distinct concept of it. Instead it was after it was defined as a concept that it became taboo, in a very different context than the more warlike medieval era of these novels.

Sorry for a very late reply.

That it has happened across world history does not mean its equally spread out or as common or uncommon in every place and time. As for pre-history that would be possible but we simply don't know. The "cultural change equals conquest by a new group" hasn't to my knowledge been very fashionable in history and archeology for a long time. As far as I know, which could of course be wrong, theories of peaceful changes in culture are far more common to explain pre-historic changes in material culture.

Also I'd like to point out that just because something isn't a consciouss taboo does not mean it isn't acceptable to do or is a viable option from a social and cultural perspective. Some things what we consider to be genocide has been pretty common but at other times pretty uncommon in the same geographic area.

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@Walda, Vic was in the Straits.

AFfC, The Iron Captain.

Spoiler

"Would you lesson me in warfare? I was fighting battles when you were sucking mother's milk."

"And losing battles too." Asha took a drink of wine.

Victarion did not like to be reminded of Fair Isle. "Every man should lose a battle in his youth, so he does not lose a war when he is old. You have not come to make a claim, I hope."

ADwD, Victarion I.

Spoiler

When the cliffs of Yaros appeared off their larboard bows, he found his three lost ships waiting for him, just as Moqorro had promised. Victarion gave the priest a golden torque as a reward.

Now he had a choice to make: should he risk the straits, or take the Iron Fleet around the island? The memory of Fair Isle still rankled in the iron captain's memory. Stannis Baratheon had descended on the Iron Fleet from both north and south whilst they were trapped in the channel between the island and the mainland, dealing Victarion his most crushing defeat. But sailing around Yaros would cost him precious days. With Yunkai so near, shipping in the straits was like to be heavy, but he did not expect to encounter Yunkish warships until they were closer to Meereen.

What would the Crow's Eye do? He brooded on that for a time, then signaled to his captains. "We sail the straits."

TWoIaF, The Iron Islands: The Old Way and The New.

Spoiler

In 289 AC Lord Balon struck, declaring himself the King of the Iron Islands and dispatching his brothers Euron and Victarion to Lannisport to burn the Lannister fleet. "The sea shall be my moat," he declared, as Lord Tywin's ships went up in flames, "and woe to any man who dares to cross it."

King Robert dared. Robert Baratheon, the First of His Name, had won everlasting glory on the Trident. Swift to respond, the young king called his banners and sent his brother Stannis, Lord of Dragonstone, around Dorne with the royal fleet. Warships from Oldtown and the Arbor and the Reach joined their strength to his. Balon Greyjoy sent his own brother Victarion to meet them, but in the Straits of Fair Isle, Lord Stannis lured the ironborn into a trap and smashed the Iron Fleet.

With Balon's "moat" now undefended, King Robert had no difficulty bringing his host across Ironman's Bay from Seagard and Lannisport. With his Wardens of the West and North beside him, Robert forced landings on Pyke, Great Wyk, Harlaw, and Orkmont, and cut his way across the isles with steel and fire. Balon was forced to fall back to his stronghold at Pyke, but when Robert brought down his curtain wall and sent his knights storming through the breech, all resistance collapsed.

The reborn Kingdom of the Iron Isles had lasted less than a year. Yet when Balon Greyjoy was brought before King Robert in chains, the ironman remained defiant. "You may take my head," he told the king, "but you cannot name me traitor. No Greyjoy ever swore an oath to a Baratheon." Robert Baratheon, ever merciful, is said to have laughed at that, for he liked spirit in a man, even in his foes. "Swear one now," he replied, "or lose that stubborn head of yours." And so Balon Greyjoy bent his knee and was allowed to live, after giving up his last surviving son as a hostage to his loyalty.

Note also the landing on Harlaw and the belligerent language used for the isles in plural.

More on the plural note, here's Cersei on the subject. AFfC, Cersei VII.

Spoiler

Robert should have scoured the isles after Balon Greyjoy rose against him, Cersei thought. He smashed their fleet, burned their towns, and broke their castles, but when he had them on their knees he let them up again. He should have made another island of their skulls. That was what her father would have done, but Robert never had the stomach that a king requires if he hopes to keep peace in the realm. "The ironmen have not dared raid the Reach since Dagon Greyjoy sat the Seastone Chair," she said. "Why would they do so now? What has emboldened them?"

"Their new king." Qyburn stood with his hands hidden up his sleeves. "Lord Balon's brother. The Crow's Eye, he is called."

 

Edited by TsarGrey

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7 hours ago, Lion of the West said:

That it has happened across world history does not mean its equally spread out

It's less common now, AFTER the term "genocide" was coined.

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As for pre-history that would be possible but we simply don't know.

We DO know from ancient DNA. That's what the euphemism "population replacement" means.

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The "cultural change equals conquest by a new group" hasn't to my knowledge been very fashionable in history and archeology for a long time.

The "pots not people" theory in archaeology has been falsified by ancient DNA.

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As far as I know

I don't think you know much about the topic.

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Also I'd like to point out that just because something isn't a consciouss taboo does not mean it isn't acceptable to do or is a viable option from a social and cultural perspective. Some things what we consider to be genocide has been pretty common but at other times pretty uncommon in the same geographic area.

GRRM isn't good at math and has dynasties lasting a far longer amount of time than any known dynasty in our actual history has (kind of like how the Wall is much taller than any real building was prior to the invention of skyscrapers). With variation over a long period of time, the Iron Islands would have gotten wiped out at some point in time.

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6 hours ago, FictionIsntReal said:

It's less common now, AFTER the term "genocide" was coined.

On that I agree partially. However you will also notice that genocide is less common outside of the 19th century just as for example religious intolerance existed, but was less common, in polytheistic than in Abrahamitic majority populations.

6 hours ago, FictionIsntReal said:

We DO know from ancient DNA. That's what the euphemism "population replacement" means.

It means that yes.

6 hours ago, FictionIsntReal said:

The "pots not people" theory in archaeology has been falsified by ancient DNA.

Given how the author lashes out at the majority in the field I dare say that this is a minority position within the field.

6 hours ago, FictionIsntReal said:

I don't think you know much about the topic.

Neither do I.

6 hours ago, FictionIsntReal said:

GRRM isn't good at math and has dynasties lasting a far longer amount of time than any known dynasty in our actual history has (kind of like how the Wall is much taller than any real building was prior to the invention of skyscrapers). With variation over a long period of time, the Iron Islands would have gotten wiped out at some point in time.

Entirely possible it would have, but it didn't happen.

Just like the Continental Saxons were never invaded by the Franks on a campaign of genocide despite the long and bloody history and different religion and culture between the Saxons and the Franks. Genocide is not a very common method to use against your enemies in world history overall. Beating the enemy into submission or conquest is far more common.

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13 hours ago, Lion of the West said:

you will also notice that genocide is less common outside of the 19th century

I don't notice that. The 19th century is better documented than the prehistoric period, but that doesn't suffice to show it was more genocidal.

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just as for example religious intolerance existed, but was less common, in polytheistic than in Abrahamitic majority populations

Citation needed. The Shintoists of the Tokugawa Shogunate certainly weren't religiously tolerant, but I suppose you'd argue Shintoism is an animist rather than polytheist religion (and Muslims and some Jews & Isaac Newton would argue the trinity is polytheist).

Quote

Given how the author lashes out at the majority in the field I dare say that this is a minority position within the field.

The author has published on population genetics, which is the sort of new evidence being complained about by some archaeologists & cultural anthropologists in one of those linked post. A large number of the latter consider themselves to be activists rather than scientists, and actually voted to declare that officially, though they were opposed by physical anthropologists (such as John Hawks, who has published with the author). Similarly, there was recently a lot of blowback by historians at the work of Joseph Henrich because he's applying science to the field, and they think it should remain in the realm of the humanities. As for archaeologists, a commenter at one of the posts defends the profession by noting that most of them don't work for universities and thus don't have to believe silly things contradicted by the data. So what is the "majority" opinion may depend on who you survey. Of course, the "pots not people" theory never actually had any actual evidence in favor of it. There was simply an assumption that if something bad happened in the recent past (WW2), then it COULDN'T have happened even further in the past.

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Just like the Continental Saxons were never invaded by the Franks on a campaign of genocide despite the long and bloody history and different religion and culture between the Saxons and the Franks.

Were the Franks capable of carrying that out? The Iron Islands can't support a large enough population to rival the greeenlanders.

Quote

Genocide is not a very common method to use against your enemies in world history overall. Beating the enemy into submission or conquest is far more common.

That depends on how much there is to gain from taxing the defeated. Genghis Khan was going to just kill all the Chinese in his path and turn the land to pasture (Archer Jones even used the term "Turko-Mongolian strategy" for completely killing everyone, noting that it was revived on the eastern front of WW2) but he was convinced by an advisor to tax them instead. There's not much to be gained from taxing the Iron Islands compared to the grief they give. And as noted in that linked post, Mongols whom the Manchu found troublesome were subject to genocide, all without any "ideology" of genocide.

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presumably they rebuilt their milatry after balons rebellion  it had been ten years hence by the time theon returns, or is this a general statement? 

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13 hours ago, FictionIsntReal said:

I don't notice that. The 19th century is better documented than the prehistoric period, but that doesn't suffice to show it was more genocidal.

I do. What we have is speculation and conjecture for how violent things were in badly documented phases of history compared to documented instances of genocide in the 19th century.

13 hours ago, FictionIsntReal said:

Citation needed. The Shintoists of the Tokugawa Shogunate certainly weren't religiously tolerant, but I suppose you'd argue Shintoism is an animist rather than polytheist religion (and Muslims and some Jews & Isaac Newton would argue the trinity is polytheist).

I didn't say that religious intolerance didn't exist in polytheistic socities, only that it was more common in Abrahamitic ones. ;)

13 hours ago, FictionIsntReal said:

The author has published on population genetics, which is the sort of new evidence being complained about by some archaeologists & cultural anthropologists in one of those linked post. A large number of the latter consider themselves to be activists rather than scientists, and actually voted to declare that officially, though they were opposed by physical anthropologists (such as John Hawks, who has published with the author). Similarly, there was recently a lot of blowback by historians at the work of Joseph Henrich because he's applying science to the field, and they think it should remain in the realm of the humanities. As for archaeologists, a commenter at one of the posts defends the profession by noting that most of them don't work for universities and thus don't have to believe silly things contradicted by the data. So what is the "majority" opinion may depend on who you survey. Of course, the "pots not people" theory never actually had any actual evidence in favor of it. There was simply an assumption that if something bad happened in the recent past (WW2), then it COULDN'T have happened even further in the past.

And since I am not well-read in the discourse within the mentioned historical and archaeloigcal communities of scholars I can't know if what you link to is serious or lunacy. But since I can't tell this on my own I will stick with the conventional standard which seems to be different from what you argue.

13 hours ago, FictionIsntReal said:

Were the Franks capable of carrying that out? The Iron Islands can't support a large enough population to rival the greeenlanders.

If they had wanted to I think they could have. But they didn't want to and so didn't even though the Franks were vastly superior in terms of resources and numbersr.

13 hours ago, FictionIsntReal said:

That depends on how much there is to gain from taxing the defeated. Genghis Khan was going to just kill all the Chinese in his path and turn the land to pasture (Archer Jones even used the term "Turko-Mongolian strategy" for completely killing everyone, noting that it was revived on the eastern front of WW2) but he was convinced by an advisor to tax them instead. There's not much to be gained from taxing the Iron Islands compared to the grief they give. And as noted in that linked post, Mongols whom the Manchu found troublesome were subject to genocide, all without any "ideology" of genocide.

Calling genocide "Turko-Mongolian strategy" sounds incredibly racist. That's enough for me to reject this.

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5 hours ago, Lion of the West said:

Calling genocide "Turko-Mongolian strategy" sounds incredibly racist. That's enough for me to reject this.

It may be racist, but it is not wrong. Croatia lost 80% of its population during Ottoman Wars.

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12 hours ago, Lion of the West said:

I do. What we have is speculation and conjecture for how violent things were in badly documented phases of history compared to documented instances of genocide in the 19th century.

I brought up the distinction between a time period actually being more genocidal vs more documented and you countered by... noting that it's more documented. Surely you've heard the joke about the drunk looking for his keys under the streetlight. The ancient DNA results showing population replacement aren't "speculation and conjecture". They are, however, limited by the availability of ancient DNA itself. Early 20th century linguists & archaeologists were able to guess with their weaker evidence what the population geneticists later figured out in a way impossible to argue with. It was "speculation and conjecture" that led the pots-not-people theorists to declare those old linguists & archaeologists to be wrong.

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I didn't say that religious intolerance didn't exist in polytheistic socities, only that it was more common in Abrahamitic ones.

And can you back up that claim?

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And since I am not well-read in the discourse within the mentioned historical and archaeloigcal communities of scholars I can't know if what you link to is serious or lunacy.

David Reich is not a lunatic, he's about as establishment as it gets. Which is why he gets NYT coverage warning about "Falling Into Old Traps". You can read his "Who We Are and How We Got Here", which isn't nearly as blunt & disrespectful toward people arguing wrong things as Cochran's blog.

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But since I can't tell this on my own I will stick with the conventional standard which seems to be different from what you argue.

How confident can you be that most archaeologists today accept what you think of as the "conventional standard"? Does that "standard" take into account genetic evidence?

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If they had wanted to I think they could have. But they didn't want to and so didn't even though the Franks were vastly superior in terms of resources and numbersr.

The Saxons weren't relegated to unproductive land like the Ironborn, so this was a story of two comparable Germanic tribes (with one having converted to Christianity while the other remained pagan) rather than a polity based on farming vs a small culture of pirates. And they were able to fight Charlemagne for years before eventually they converted. The Ironborn get crushed within a year of war, and then just decide to do the same thing again under a different king because they think of themselves as eternal pirates.

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Calling genocide "Turko-Mongolian strategy" sounds incredibly racist. That's enough for me to reject this.

Archer Jones is a military historian mainstream enough that I was assigned one of his works as a textbook in highschool. And the strategy isn't conceived in terms of genocide: the idea is that if any place is causing trouble, just kill everybody and then "no man, no problem". It doesn't need to extend to the entirety of an ethnic group, killing everyone in one town will tend to scare their neighbors into not trying the same thing (if they do anyway, then yes the end result could wind up being genocide). And I cited him noting that it was used in the eastern front of WW2, which was not fought by Genghis Khan or Tamerlane. Rejecting history because you dislike the term an historian used (which accurately referred to people who used said strategy) just means remaining ignorant.

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12 hours ago, FictionIsntReal said:

The Saxons weren't relegated to unproductive land like the Ironborn, so this was a story of two comparable Germanic tribes (with one having converted to Christianity while the other remained pagan) rather than a polity based on farming vs a small culture of pirates. And they were able to fight Charlemagne for years before eventually they converted. The Ironborn get crushed within a year of war, and then just decide to do the same thing again under a different king because they think of themselves as eternal pirates.

Well, I think we shouldn't extraggerate how good their land was for productive use in the form associated with settle communities. Most of the wetland and deep forests were not really drained or relatively cleared until they were incorporated into the Carolingian society. The Franks at the same time did have some pretty undeveloped lands as but also the bounty of Gaul where the Romans had already much of the hard work to allow for cultivation and development. Same with access to the Mediterannaean trade networks, the benefits to trade which being part of the Christian world included and so on. The Saxons on the other hand was as far as I know very poor by comparison and with a far smaller population.

Without me being an expert I am pretty interested in the Continental Saxons and they generally come out short against the Franks in actual fighting. Most of the time the Saxons were either raiding when the Franks looks another way, followed by Frankish punitive expeditions travelling into the Saxons woodlands and either not resulting in much or beating the Saxons into submission with tributary payment. And to simply things a bit, for centuries this went on and on.

That the Saxons were able to fight Charlemagne for a whole generation has more to do with the conditions of Old Saxony than with the strength of the Saxons. As far as I know the Franks pretty much crushed the Saxons, and their allies in the Frisians, at almost every turn with only the single major Saxon victory in 782.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_Süntel

But otherwise the Franks just walked all over the Saxons and putting down one attempt after another to resist them. The bravery and commitment of the Saxons to fight and keep fighting for a generation is certainly commendable and worthy of a song, but in the end all the bravery and commitment in the world can't compensate for the massive material advange of the Franks. Thus after about a generation of being wrecked by war and pretty much losing at every turn and everything they try go south, there's no shame in my eyes in giving up an impossible fight.

Edited by Lion of the West

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