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Aldarion

How do dynasties last so long?

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This is an excerpt from my work-in-progress about monarchies in fantasy:

Ruling family is a symbol of the nation, and something people can unify around. The monarch is essentially a patriarch of the family, but on the scale of the whole country. He is the father, the personification of the nation and its foundation. This effect is much stronger in fantasy. Longest-ruling dynasty in real life is Yamato dynasty of Japan, which lasted from at least 509 AD (earliest verifiable Emperor) but might be as old as 660 BC; it thus lasted anywhere between 1 511 and 2 680 years. Pandyan dynasty in India ruled from 6th century BC to 1345 AD, or over 1 800 years. Chola Dynasty in India lasted from 3rd century BC to 1279 AD, or 1 500 years, before being brought down by Pandyans. In Europe, longest lasting in Bagrationi Dynasty of Georgia, which lasted from 780 to 1810, or 1 030 years, all in the main branch. In Western Europe, France's Capetians ruled from 987 to 1328 in the main branch, but several junior branches still survive, with king Felipe VI Bourbon reigning in Spain. This gives them timeframe of 1 033 years, of which 341 year for the main branch. Habsburgs lasted from 1273 to 1780, or 507 years, in the main branch; but in cognatic line they reigned until 1918, or 645 years. But dynasty of Numenorean kings lasted for 3 287 years. Kings of Arnor reigned for 2 000 years, but House of Isildur lasted for well over 3 000 years, while House of Anarion was only around 2 000 years old when it was extinguished. This makes them significantly longer lasting than any real life dynasty, though not to the extent often thought, and longetivity of Numenoreans means that these dynasties only really saw about as many generations of rulers as particularly long-lasting European dynasties. Assuming 25 years between generations, Yamato dynasty will have seen 60 generations of rulers, and Bagrationi will have seen 41 generation. For comparison, Kings of Numenor only saw 25 rulers, and there were likewise 25 Kings of Arnor. While this is actually realistic, same cannot be said for dynasties of Westeros: House Stark has lasted for 8 000 years, which will have meant 320 generations: over five times as many as those of the Yamato dynasty.

 

Is there any explanation given for how exactly did dynasties of Westeros (remember, Lannisters too have ancestors going back to the Age of Heroes) manage to last so long? And at what point exactly do legends actually start transitioning into history?

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Martin wants it that way.  He has said that much several times. That's why people's wear costumes in battle and so on.

And in universe explanation... It's likely that cousins and enemies and friends alike took for themselves a mythical name and then changed the history. Given that we know for a fact that the writing was brought by the Andals. It's not unlikely that an enemy of Brandon's the Builder great grandson claimed to be his descendant too, then killed said great grandson and style himself Stark. That goes with every other Great ancient royal house

The events surrounding the coming of the Andals should be our hallmark, not what happened two or four thousands years prior.

 

But given that this is Martin we're talking about, it's likely that simply lesser branches have been carrying the Main name.

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 A couple of thoughts,

 

Historical time keeping in Westeros is very vague and unreliable. Unlike high-fantasy works  such as LoTR where the histories of ancient civilization are presented factually by an omniscient third person,  and which  feature still-living characters who were present during ancient events , ASoIaF limits us to knowing what the characters in the narrative present know. Unfortunately these characters knowledge of ancient history is limited to  what they read in books, hear in old stories, or see in dreams , meditative trances, hallucinations , and the like.  

Even with supernatural influences like Green Dreams , Weirnet access, fire visions, shade of the evening, etc these glimpses into the past are vague and often largely symbolic.  
 

Samwell Tarly himself cast doubt on the notion that there had been nearly 1000 Lords Commander of the Night’s Watch based on available records at Castle Black.  
 

Ancient history recorded by maesters is actually not recorded by first person account  but by writing down other stories and compiling earlier works.

I guess what I am saying here is that I would take the whole 8,000 year claim with a big grain of salt.  
 

Another thing is that even though the idea of unbroken dynasty for millenia is claimed to be the issue there is also the fact that we don’t really know if ‘Stark’ meant in the deep past what it means in the narrative present, where it means a member of a certain northern family. Some cultural clues from the first-men derived cultures of the Northerners and the Free Folk suggest it may also have a dimension of  being a social title or perhaps a description related to an ability, genetic trait, place of settlement , or even place of origin.     

I’m not able to post references for text right now but I’ll try to after work. 

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Well other than the Starks, we know that some lines went through the female line. In our world the dynasty changes after that like Capeto> Valois> Burbon, but in Westeros they seems to adopt the name of the big family

Joffrey Lannister was born Joffrey Lydden, but adopted his wife's name and the name was passed foward.

Garth X only had daughters and the line continued through a distand cousin that probably had to adopt the name.

When the northem ask to resolve the hornwood sucession, Hellmart offered to change his hame to Hornwood and become it's lord. We also Harry the heir being born with another family name, but it's more than willing to change his name to Arryn and is using the simbols of the house.

The exception to this seems to be House Baratheon.

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The plot required it to happen.

The longest running ruling bloodline in Europe was the Capetian dynasty that only ruled for 800 years, only a tenth of what House Stark is supposed to have ruled for, and that's forgetting that the Capetian line changed quite a bit first with the Valois and then the Bourbons.

And as you said, the Yamato is only slightly ahead, with 1300 years (and counting).

It just doesn't make any sense, especially with how thin the lines are. During Robert's Rebellion house Stark had just 2 male members, and there are no off branch cousins. The likelihood of the Starks dying off at some point is almost 100%.

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3 hours ago, frenin said:

It's likely that cousins and enemies and friends alike took for themselves a mythical name and then changed the history. Given that we know for a fact that the writing was brought by the Andals. It's not unlikely that an enemy of Brandon's the Builder great grandson claimed to be his descendant too, then killed said great grandson and style himself Stark. That goes with every other Great ancient royal house

I think there's a lot of this in the long-lasting Westerosi dynastyes. It probably came to a point when the name Stark had become a synonym for "King of the North", and any ruler of the North claimed the name regardless of blood ties. Just as in our world Caesar became a synonym for "King of the Romans", and it was used by hundreds of subsequent emperors with no relation to the Julii House or the Caesar cognomen, including usurpers and foreigners (and it even continued to be used by German Kaisers and Russian Tsars until the 20th century).

Although, to be honest, I miss an in-world explanation of why this practice seem to have been abandoned in recent times: the Baratheons renounced to the much more prestigious Dundarron name, and similarly the Tyrells weren't renamed Gardeners, Phillip Foot didn't take the Caron name, and Roose is still a Bolton after having taken Winterfell.

Edited by The hairy bear

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17 minutes ago, The hairy bear said:

Although, to be honest, I miss an in-world explanation of why this practice seem to have been abandoned in recent times: the Baratheons renounced to the much more prestigious Dundarron name, and similarly the Tyrells weren't renamed Gardeners, Phillip Foot didn't take the Caron name, and Roose is still a Bolton after having taken Winterfell.

That likely means that there wasn't any such practices. The Arryns, Starks, and Lannisters simply are supposed to have ruled since their first became kings. And those are supposed to be unbroken lines - and not only for them but also for the Darklyns and Mootons and all the other families which rule since the Age of Heroes (or even the Dawn Age).

If any other family - even a family with royal ancestors through the female line or obscure bastard connections - had ever usurped the throne of those realms then they would have gone either with their own names - which they would have been proud of - or they would have given themselves new names - like Benedict Justman did.

After all, noble names are important throughout all of Westeros, not just with royal houses. Such people wouldn't give up their own names. Only fakes and impostors and usurpers with no actual family connection would steal a name ... because they either don't have a name of their own or cannot use it.

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1 hour ago, Lord Varys said:

 After all, noble names are important throughout all of Westeros, not just with royal houses. Such people wouldn't give up their own names.

We know there are some who did, such as Joffrey Lydden. There's also maester Luwin suggesting that Beren Tallhart changes his name to Hornwood to claim the family lands.

Precisely because noble names are important throughout all of Westeros, ambitious men would be eager to change theirs if the new one serves them to consolidate their grasp on a territory. :p

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2 minutes ago, The hairy bear said:

We know there are some who did, such as Joffrey Lydden. There's also maester Luwin suggesting that Beren Tallhart changes his name to Hornwood to claim the family lands.

Precisely because noble names are important throughout all of Westeros, ambitious men would be eager to change theirs if the new one serves them to consolidate their grasp on a territory. :p

Yeah, okay, but those are cases where a succession is settled peacefully - Lydden became King of the Rock as the consort of a Lannister princess per the decision of a council, the Hornwood succession is something that's discussed (and not decided upon) by the Winterfell court. There this kind of thing can make sense - but only in the cases where people feel a need that the new guy use a specific name.

But a successful usurper or victor in a succession/civil war in any of the pre-Conquest kingdoms would (predominantly) do what Robert Baratheon or Benedict Rivers-Justman or Aegon Targaryen did ... use his own name or create a new one.

After all, victory and conquest mean you call the shots, not the people you conquered. Meaning you would do as you please, not what your subjects want.

If we assume that, say, in the North there were a lot of succession wars in the past where different male and female branches of House Stark fought for supremacy, then the need for a, say, victorious Stark-Bolton descendant (whose last male Stark ancestor was a great-grandfather or great-great-grandfather) to actually go by the Stark name if he lived and ruled and won his war as a Bolton wouldn't be that high.

And you can imagine similar scenarios for the other kingdoms or the North with different houses involved.

A very interesting example could be a scenario were the Yronwoods would oust the Martells as rulers of Dorne. Even if they ruled their new kingdom then from Sunspear to maintain continuity, they would most likely style themselves kings rather than princes - because that's the title they used when they had a kingdom of their own - and they would *never* use the Martell name despite the fact that they must have a lot of Martell blood.

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10 hours ago, Lord Varys said:

Yeah, okay, but those are cases where a succession is settled peacefully - Lydden became King of the Rock as the consort of a Lannister princess per the decision of a council, the Hornwood succession is something that's discussed (and not decided upon) by the Winterfell court. There this kind of thing can make sense - but only in the cases where people feel a need that the new guy use a specific name.

Well, I mentioned those examples to counter your claim that Westerosi noblemen wouldn't "steal a name" because they are too attached to their ones.

The fact that a learned maester casually suggests that if Beren Tallhart is chosen as the Hornwood name he should change his name proves that it's something that it's not exceptional or unheard of.

So, as I see it, the lack of precedent or the attachment to the previous names can't be the reason why the Tyrells didn't take the Gardener name, or Orys' descendans aren't known as Durrandons. If I were to make up an in world explanation, I'd guess that they didn't change their names because Aegon the Conqueror didn't allow it (as he would prefer the new houses ruling with a name without kingly associations)

10 hours ago, Lord Varys said:

But a successful usurper or victor in a succession/civil war in any of the pre-Conquest kingdoms would (predominantly) do what Robert Baratheon or Benedict Rivers-Justman or Aegon Targaryen did ... use his own name or create a new one.

After all, victory and conquest mean you call the shots, not the people you conquered. Meaning you would do as you please, not what your subjects want.

I'm not convinced at all that this would always be the case. Aegon and Benedict were not replacing one ruler, they were forging a new realm out of smaller kingdoms. There wasn't any previous prestigious kingly name that they could have taken. And a claimant who hadn't passionately hated the Targaryens as much as Robert did could have taken their name (he was a quarter Targ himself).

 

A conqueror would do as he pleased, but a successful one would be wise enough to embrace the local trappings of power in order to ensure some stability and consolidate his power. This has been done in our real world in multiple occasions. Egypt had dozens of dynasties, across thousands of years, and even the usurping or the foreign pharaohs attached to their names the title/proto-surname Sa-Rê (Son of Ra).

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In real life, it's all a bit arbitrary.  A nephew or cousin inherits the throne when the main family dies out in the direct line, and either takes the name of the outgoing dynasty, or choices his own.

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2 hours ago, The hairy bear said:

Well, I mentioned those examples to counter your claim that Westerosi noblemen wouldn't "steal a name" because they are too attached to their ones.

To be sure, Lydden could have been forced to bear the Lannister name by his wife and that council ... and there is no indication that Beren Tallhart himself would be fine with changing his name, either.

An obscure heir suddenly asked or pushed to take over some lordship would likely have little problems with changing a name if that meant he gained something he never dreamed of, but that is the scenario where the person in question doesn't really decide himself that he wants a lordship or throne and doesn't take it because he seizes it.

2 hours ago, The hairy bear said:

The fact that a learned maester casually suggests that if Beren Tallhart is chosen as the Hornwood name he should change his name proves that it's something that it's not exceptional or unheard of.

Name changes are not unheard of, no. But you can also think about the fear the Lannister have in AFfC - that Brynden Tully ends up claiming Riverrun in the name of Robert Arryn ... and that would then most likely not include a name change of the Lord of the Vale and the Riverlands.

Bottom line is - the idea that a majority of people feel a need that their lord or king bears the name of his predecessor(s) is just not well-established.

2 hours ago, The hairy bear said:

So, as I see it, the lack of precedent or the attachment to the previous names can't be the reason why the Tyrells didn't take the Gardener name, or Orys' descendans aren't known as Durrandons. If I were to make up an in world explanation, I'd guess that they didn't change their names because Aegon the Conqueror didn't allow it (as he would prefer the new houses ruling with a name without kingly associations)

I don't think Harlan Tyrell or Orys Baratheon wanted to change their names ... just as Robert Baratheon didn't want to change his name, either, when he took the Iron Throne. Especially in the case of Orys Baratheon such a name change would have been easily done considering Aegon and he were close friends. Orys' children by Argella would have the royal Durrandon blood in any case, so if Aegon was afraid that those people might one day make themselves into kings again he shouldn't have given Orys Argella's hand. Not bearing a specific name doesn't make you less royal if you have the blood. And the Baratheons themselves are proof of that.

In the Tyrell case the entire thing is preposterous since they have essentially no Gardener blood compared to the closer descendants and kin of the last Gardener king. If the Tyrells could steal that name then the Florents and other Reach houses with more (recent) marriages with the Gardeners could go by that name, too.

2 hours ago, The hairy bear said:

I'm not convinced at all that this would always be the case. Aegon and Benedict were not replacing one ruler, they were forging a new realm out of smaller kingdoms. There wasn't any previous prestigious kingly name that they could have taken. And a claimant who hadn't passionately hated the Targaryens as much as Robert did could have taken their name (he was a quarter Targ himself).

Aegon the Conqueror didn't really forge a new realm when he conquered the his kingdoms. He just became the king of the kingdoms he conquered. He didn't unify the laws or customs. In a sense, he is like a Hapsburg, being king of Hungary and Spain and Austria, etc. He could have called himself Stark in the North and Lannister in the West if he wanted to do that and it would have helped with his kingship ... sort of like Alexander the Great also was a pharaoh in Egypt, a Persian king in Babylon, Hellenistic king in Macedonia and Greece, etc.

And the Justman example is not limited to Benedict - all the River Kings went by their own names, not just the Hoare and Durrandon kings of the Riverlands, but also the Teagues and the Blackwoods and Brackens and Mudds. Nobody there felt the need to decide to name himself after a previous dynasty, never mind that most of them actually ruled for a long time.

2 hours ago, The hairy bear said:

A conqueror would do as he pleased, but a successful one would be wise enough to embrace the local trappings of power in order to ensure some stability and consolidate his power. This has been done in our real world in multiple occasions. Egypt had dozens of dynasties, across thousands of years, and even the usurping or the foreign pharaohs attached to their names the title/proto-surname Sa-Rê (Son of Ra).

Exactly, but this is clearly not necessary in Westeros for the Targaryens. And neither for the Baratheons in the Stormlands, the Tyrells and Tullys in the Riverlands, or the Arryns and Graftons in the Vale.

Aegon certainly capered to the whims of his subjects by styling himself 'king' - a title he and his ancestors did not use on Dragonstone (and which seems to have been not used in Valyria, either).

The idea that kingship/power is nearly or completely fused with a specific family name is just not supported by the text ... if it were then, for instance, 'Targaryen' and 'king' would basically the same words - one would talk about the Targaryen in KL when one meant the king, and so forth.

Overall I see no reason why, say, the Florents taking over Highgarden or the Manderlys or Reynes or Royces taking over the respective great seat in their regions would abandon their own names. The powerful message you want to send when you seize power is that you and your family did that ... and not that you disappear or hide behind an extinct family or some corpses you yourself might have created. That would mean that, in the end, the people you vanquished actually won.

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On 11/19/2020 at 1:14 PM, Alyn Oakenfist said:

The plot required it to happen.

The longest running ruling bloodline in Europe was the Capetian dynasty that only ruled for 800 years, only a tenth of what House Stark is supposed to have ruled for, and that's forgetting that the Capetian line changed quite a bit first with the Valois and then the Bourbons.

And as you said, the Yamato is only slightly ahead, with 1300 years (and counting).

It just doesn't make any sense, especially with how thin the lines are. During Robert's Rebellion house Stark had just 2 male members, and there are no off branch cousins. The likelihood of the Starks dying off at some point is almost 100%.

The Karstarks would be the Orleans to the Capets/Starks. 

 

The Karstarks are direct male line Starks so they wouldnt die out, and then of course you have the female lines. 

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Your two choices are basically Martin thinks multiple dynasties lasting centuries is a common thing despite the violent setting he's put them in or the Maesters record keeping leaves a lot to be desired.

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