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How big is Qarth supposed to be?

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While Dany was amazed by its immense size, how big was it really? It was big compared to the free cities, but what about King's Landing?

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While Dany was amazed by its immense size, how big was it really? It was big compared to the free cities, but what about King's Landing?

Well, taking into account that Daenerys has visited Braavos, Pentos, Myr, Tyrosh, Lys and Volantis, that are considered enormous for westerosi standards (Tyrion says Volantis is gigantic, and also says that volantene towns are as big as westerosi cities), and she still thinks that Qarth is amazingly big...I would say Qarth is f****g big, and certainly bigger than King´s Landing.

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Qarth is a good candidate for largest city in the explored world (Asshai might be larger, but we don't have enough info on that). Most, if not all, of the Free Cities are bigger than King's Landing and Oldtown. The only candidate versus Qarth might be Meereen (which is bigger than Astapor and Yunkai combined, and they are quite large cities). I don't recall if Dany describes the size of Meereen versus that of Qarth.

Something that would be nice to know is how Qarth feeds itself. With the Red Waste to the north and the straits on the other sides of the city, it's unclear how exactly it survives, unless it has farmlands on the other side of the straits or it has a fishing fleet in the hundreds which has been busily depopulating the Summer and Jade seas for centuries. Meereen's large hinterland and supporting settlements and farms are at least mentioned in ADWD.

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Something that would be nice to know is how Qarth feeds itself. With the Red Waste to the north and the straits on the other sides of the city, it's unclear how exactly it survives, unless it has farmlands on the other side of the straits or it has a fishing fleet in the hundreds which has been busily depopulating the Summer and Jade seas for centuries. Meereen's large hinterland and supporting settlements and farms are at least mentioned in ADWD.

This was exactly what got me asking. It's an oversight by the author, IMO. A typical fantasy city in the middle of nowhere.

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I think Meereen might be bigger, but Qarth is one of the larger cities.

BTW do we have population estimates for these cities. I know Tyrion mentions KL as having 500k inhabitants. Do some of them exceed the million mark?

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KL and Oldtown are about 500,000. I imagine some of the eastern cities will be considerably larger. Volantis, Meereen, Qarth and maybe Asshai are the leading candidates to have more than a million people in them, possibly Braavos as well.

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That is, ignoring the fact that there's no way Qarth can support a million people. If any, only Volantis can.

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Qarth is the biggest city in the world. The gateway between east and west. The Constantinople of the Ice and Fire world.

Qarth is a good candidate for largest city in the explored world (Asshai might be larger, but we don't have enough info on that). Most, if not all, of the Free Cities are bigger than King's Landing and Oldtown. The only candidate versus Qarth might be Meereen (which is bigger than Astapor and Yunkai combined, and they are quite large cities). I don't recall if Dany describes the size of Meereen versus that of Qarth.

I reckon King's Landing would fall more or less in the middle - size wise - of the Nine Free Cities.

Volantis and Braavos are certainly larger, but Lorath my well be the size of Lannisport or smaller.

I reckon Myr, Norvos, Qohor and Tyrosh are more or less similar to Oldtown or King's Landing in size. Lys is probably the third largest of the Free Cities.

Please note I am referring to population size here, not to GDP. I would say that the per capita economies of the Free cities are all greater than the primitive, feudal Westerosi cities. Hence a Free city with 500,000 people would have a far more developed economy than King's Landing, with it's 500,000 people.

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Qarth is the biggest city in the world. The gateway between east and west. The Constantinople of the Ice and Fire world.

Indeed. But Constantinople was only ever the largest city in Europe. Pretty much throughout its existence, and certainly during the Medieval period, it was outsized quite notably by several cities in China.

So Qarth may well be larger than anywhere else we've seen on the maps, but we shouldn't rule out Yi Ti, Asshai and possibly other far eastern cities being larger still. It is also likely only a fraction of the size of Valyria at its height.

We also know that Constantinople was fed by lots of farms and wasn't located on the edge of a massive desert, so that doesn't really help with an understanding of how the city feeds itself.

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Indeed. But Constantinople was only ever the largest city in Europe. Pretty much throughout its existence, and certainly during the Medieval period, it was outsized quite notably by several cities in China.

So Qarth may well be larger than anywhere else we've seen on the maps, but we shouldn't rule out Yi Ti, Asshai and possibly other far eastern cities being larger still. It is also likely only a fraction of the size of Valyria at its height.

We also know that Constantinople was fed by lots of farms and wasn't located on the edge of a massive desert, so that doesn't really help with an understanding of how the city feeds itself.

I don't get this ''Oriental bias" that seems to filter through into the Ice and Fire world.

China was the biggest civilization of the ancient world, but that isn't a given on any other world. Are we then saying there must also be a Meso American civilization in Martinworld numbering about 40 million people? Of course not.

In the same way, there is no reason why civilizations located in the Far East HAVE to have larger populations than civilizations in the near east or the west.

Just because that was the case in our world, does not mean that it would be the case in the Ice and Fire world.

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China was the biggest civilization of the ancient world, but that isn't a given on any other world.

China was never the largest civilization during the antiquity. It only ever bypassed Middle East/Europe for a short time in the 11th-13th century. Also, please accept that the Middle East and Europe have always been too closely connected for them to be viewed as separate civilizations.

Sorry, history nerd rant.

But really, I think that only Volantis of the cities we know can plausibly sustain a million inhabitants - and that's because it rules over a huge, fertile area. Qarth is located between a desert (which, being heavy in iron oxide, is probably death to any attempts of establishing agriculture near it) and a sea. The only remotely realistic way for Qarth to exist, and be large, is to have them rule massive colonies in Sothyros, and the general Jade Sea area - kind of like when Rome required Egypt to supply its million, and even Athens, with 250-300k, needed its Black Sea colonies.

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The Garden of Bones business is not canon. Nothing says that Qarth's immediate surrounding is desert, I think. I tend to assume that the waste ends somewhere north of Qarth, and that the area around it is fertile enough.

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China was never the largest civilization during the antiquity. It only ever bypassed Middle East/Europe for a short time in the 11th-13th century. Also, please accept that the Middle East and Europe have always been too closely connected for them to be viewed as separate civilizations.

Sorry, history nerd rant.

But really, I think that only Volantis of the cities we know can plausibly sustain a million inhabitants - and that's because it rules over a huge, fertile area. Qarth is located between a desert (which, being heavy in iron oxide, is probably death to any attempts of establishing agriculture near it) and a sea. The only remotely realistic way for Qarth to exist, and be large, is to have them rule massive colonies in Sothyros, and the general Jade Sea area - kind of like when Rome required Egypt to supply its million, and even Athens, with 250-300k, needed its Black Sea colonies.

Fair point. I checked the largest city in the world list throughout antiquity, and it was only in the Middle Ages that China had a city on that list, and even then, it was very close to Constantinople in size, and didn't reach the former size of Rome.

So that just further bolsters my belief that Qarth is indeed the biggest city in the world.

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Quarth imports it's food, obviously, and has enough wealth and manpower to bully people who want to cut off it's supply.

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Just because that was the case in our world, does not mean that it would be the case in the Ice and Fire world.

True. But given that Martinworld has close analogues to European and Middle-Eastern nation-states and that it also looks a lot like our world (Essos = Eurasia, Sothoroys = Africa), it's also not an outrageous conclusion to reach that there may indeed be Asian and Amero-Indian analogues elsewhere. We don't have enough data, aside from Asshai and Yi Ti being frequently-mentioned powers of the far east.

Nothing says that Qarth's immediate surrounding is desert, I think. I tend to assume that the waste ends somewhere north of Qarth, and that the area around it is fertile enough.

That makes logical sense, although if so I'd have thought that Qarth's hinterland and supporting towns might have been mentioned, given that the supporting infrastructure for Volantis, Norvos, Pentos and Meereen are all mentioned. Hopefully the maps will reveal how close the Red Waste comes to Qarth.

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The hinterlands of Slaver's Bay play some strategic role in the novels, we see Tyrion journey past Pentos's outlying regions, and are told of Dany's journey past Norvos... while Qarth doesn't give us anything like that. In fact, nothing outside of Qarth is really mentioned when Dany is there. Which I think is entirely deliberate -- Qarth is a kind of mortal fairyland that tries to seduce and entrap Dany, and the sense of its otherworldliness is enhanced by its seeming isolation from anything around it.

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The hinterlands of Slaver's Bay play some strategic role in the novels, we see Tyrion journey past Pentos's outlying regions, and are told of Dany's journey past Norvos... while Qarth doesn't give us anything like that. In fact, nothing outside of Qarth is really mentioned when Dany is there. Which I think is entirely deliberate -- Qarth is a kind of mortal fairyland that tries to seduce and entrap Dany, and the sense of its otherworldliness is enhanced by its seeming isolation from anything around it.

Qarth's location is akin to Constantinople, strategically located at straits between the east and west with ships always passing through; they can be suppllied with food from abroad. Otherwise, the red desert provides little to no sustenance, and if the straits were effectively blockaded, Qarth would undoubtedly starve.

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Sure. What I'm saying is that George doesn't go into any kind of detail about those things so as to raise a certain effect and impression of Qarth on the reader, as filtered through Dany -- Qarth is otherworldly, surreal, detached from things around it in terms of its presence.

It's this fabulous,fairytale city in "the middle of nowhere" (but not really) because it feels like that in the narrative, and that's on purpose.

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Qarth's location is akin to Constantinople, strategically located at straits between the east and west with ships always passing through; they can be suppllied with food from abroad. Otherwise, the red desert provides little to no sustenance, and if they straits were effectively blockaded, Qarth would undoubtedly starve.

Which brings us to the logical conclusion that Qarth must have an empire to sustain itself.

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The Garden of Bones business is not canon. Nothing says that Qarth's immediate surrounding is desert, I think. I tend to assume that the waste ends somewhere north of Qarth, and that the area around it is fertile enough.

If the Straits of Qarth are as small as the Bosphorus, it’s entirely possible that the Qarthians control lands at the other side which could also be fertile.

That makes logical sense, although if so I'd have thought that Qarth's hinterland and supporting towns might have been mentioned, given that the supporting infrastructure for Volantis, Norvos, Pentos and Meereen are all mentioned.

I think that discrepancy can be attributed to the Point of View structure of the narrative. We approached Qarth and saw it thru Daenerys’s eyes, while we saw the hinterlands of Pentos and Volantis thru Tyrion’s eyes. Dany’s chapters in Qarth didn’t mention the layout and characteristics of the lands surrounding Qarth because those are not things a 14 year old worried about the survival of her children and people would worry about noticing. We didn’t get any details about the hinterlands of Meereen until those details became important for Dany. Qarth could’ve been surrounded by the Garden of Eden and Daenerys woulnd’t have noticed, so fixated was she with the city and getting into it. Just because Daenerys doesn’t notice or acknowledge that something exists in her POV chapters, it’s no reason to assume that it doesn’t exist.

Tyrion on the other hand is far more observant, and even while he was just passing thru, he took notice of particular details on information that helped to inform the readers about the lands he visited.

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