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Catastrophe

How large/powerful/advanced is Westeros compared to the rest of the world?

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This is a question I've been wondering about for a while. When I first started reading AGoT, I was under the impression that Westeros was basically the center of the ASoIaF world. I thought that Westeros was bigger (in terms of both physical and population size), more powerful (politically and militarily), and more advanced (culturally and technologically) than any other nation on the planet.

However, later books prove this isn't the case, and the impression I've gotten from these forums is that it's actually the exact opposite of what I thought: I've seen a lot of people here imply that Westeros is simply a small, primitive, backwater nation that pales in comparison to the Free Cities, Slaver's Bay, and Qarth.

It's widely agreed that most- if not all- of the Free Cities are significantly larger than King's Landing, as is Meereen and most likely the other Slaver cities. The same goes double for Qarth, which is described as being the largest city in the world. After seeing the recently released map of the world, it's become clear that this is true in terms of geography as well as population size: The city-states of Essos cover a massive amount of land, rivalling or dwarfing most of the Seven Kingdoms. The Dothraki are even more expansive, controlling such a truly vast area that you could probably fit the entirety of Westeros inside it and have room left over.

The Free Cities and Qarth also seem to be much more cultured than Westeros, and more technologically advanced (with the possible exception of the Maesters, who have scientific knowledge far beyond the norm for a medieval society). They seem to be much more economically prosperous as well, to the point that Braavos alone has the financial clout to completely change the outcome of a Westerosi civil war via the Iron Bank. The Slaver cities- barbaric as they are- had booming economies that probably would've put the Westerlands to shame, at least before Daenerys showed up. In terms of military might, Braavos is known for having the most powerful naval fleet in the world, and the other Free Cities and Qarth probably aren't far behind.

So, is Westeros really that much smaller, weaker, and less advanced than the civilizations of Essos? If so, how is it that they've never faced a single foreign invasion since Aegon's Conquest? It could be because the city-states of Essos lack the unity of the Seven Kingdoms, but why wouldn't the Valyrians have taken over Westeros centuries ago, back when they still had the might of the Free Cities and Slaver's Bay combined, and the Seven Kingdoms were still fighting amongst themselves?

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So, is Westeros really that much smaller, weaker, and less advanced than the civilizations of Essos? If so, how is it that they've never faced a single foreign invasion since Aegon's Conquest? It could be because the city-states of Essos lack the unity of the Seven Kingdoms, but why wouldn't the Valyrians have taken over Westeros centuries ago, back when they still had the might of the Free Cities and Slaver's Bay combined, and the Seven Kingdoms were still fighting amongst themselves?

There are theories that the Valyrians might have feared the greenseers could warg their dragons... and turn them against them.

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In terms of geography, Westeros is actually pretty big compared to Essos. The original comparison (by GRRM) was that if Westeros was South America, than Essos was Eurasia. However, Essos-as-revealed-so-far is nowhere near that big, unless there's a massive amount of further territory beyond the Jade Sea. Essos-as-revealed-so-far seems to be roughly comparable in size to Westeros, just oriented east to west rather than north to south. There's a bit more area (Essos isn't nearly as indented along its coastlines as Westeros) but nothing too notable. The Dothraki Sea, for example, would just about contain the North but not the entire continent (although note that GRRM has expanded the size of Western Essos from the HBO map, so the Dothraki Sea is now larger).

In fact, the new information from the maps doesn't really explain the backwards regard Westeros is held in amongst people in Essos, given that it is more unified and more powerful than any Essosi state west of the Jade Sea (Yi Ti and Asshai may be different stories, but outside of Lhazar and maybe the growing Ghiscari sphere of infleunce there don't even seem to be nations in Essos, only city-states). The Seven Kingdoms form, by far, the largest nation-state in the known world. Its stability must have also resulted in a very large population as well. Based on these things, I'm not sure how or why places like Braavos or Volantis are so superior in wealth and population to anything in Westeros.

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Westeros is much bigger and probably has a bigger army than any other country, but it´s also quite rural and economically backward, Qarth and the Free Cities are richer, more urban and more economically advanced.

Think of say, Brazil, China or India when compared to Japan. The three of them are a lot bigger than Japan, and have a greater population (a bit greater for Brazil, but more than tenfold for China or India), but Japan is more modern, richer and more economically developed.

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In terms of technological development, while the Free Cities like Myr have more industry like glass, carpets and lace; and Qohor with its metalworking such as coloring the metal without paint; but Westeros has shown some technological ability of its own. Plus, Westeros isn't small and weak compared to the Free Cities; it is the largest country in the world, the size of South America with a combined military strength greater than any of the Free Cities.

Winterfell has water from hot springs flowing through its Walls to keep the castle warm that could date the Brandon the Builder and the castle also had a greenhouse for growing fruit, vegetables and even flowers year-round even in the depths of winter; and watermills are important as well, being used for more than just grinding grain, but for powering saws for cutting lumber. The Red Keep also has passages that have, possibly mechanical, stone doors that are revealed using a lever.

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It seems Westeros have superior fighting forces.

From what we've seen, Westerosi Knights wipe the floor with Dothraki and from the descriptions we've had of Essos' warriors, I doubt any could stand toe-to-toe with a skilled Westerosi Knight.

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It seems Westeros have superior fighting forces.

From what we've seen, Westerosi Knights wipe the floor with Dothraki and from the descriptions we've had of Essos' warriors, I doubt any could stand toe-to-toe with a skilled Westerosi Knight.

Westerosi knights are better with their armor, and know how to manage it.

But as the duel with Barristan in ADWD shows it, Essosi warriors can beat them in a fair game.

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Westerosi knights are better with their armor, and know how to manage it.

But as the duel with Barristan in ADWD shows it, Essosi warriors can beat them in a fair game.

Yeah, but Westerosi knights fight with armor, so they wouldn't have that option. And that was a fight against a top-tier Essos fighter in his 20s against a 62 year old, even if that 62 year old is incredibly badass.

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There's a lot of Essos that we haven't seen and will never see, but there's going to be some magical reason why Westeros was never conquered. Also, -if no magical reasons exist places like Qarth were decadent and soft, a bit like Rocky in Rocky II. They grew fat in their wealth and relied on mercenaries to do their fighting. Mercenaries are a sign of weakness and are no replacement to people fighting for their own soil/King.

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I have always thought of Westeros as a sort of Britain/France/Spain around the 1200s, while the city states of Essos are Genoa, Venice, Florence or Milan around the same time: although the latter Italian states were small and often warring against each other, people like Dante and Boccaccio were writing down some of the finest pieces of literature to ever escape the pen of an human being, and the banks of Florence and Genoa were so powerful that they could make any king in Europe go bankrupt almost at will, when the British were, for the most part, still ******* sheep. So, Westeros is actually a backwards hole if compared to Essos (with the exception of Dorne/Andalusia, that has been heavily influenced by the more advanced Rhoynar/Moors). But, if fictional history will mirror real history, Essos will soon pay the price of its state of constant warfare and fall prey of other powers, despite its superior culture. Maybe, Aegon VI will extend the rule of the Seven Kingdoms as far as Meereen?

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There's a lot of Essos that we haven't seen and will never see, but there's going to be some magical reason why Westeros was never conquered. Also, -if no magical reasons exist places like Qarth were decadent and soft, a bit like Rocky in Rocky II. They grew fat in their wealth and relied on mercenaries to do their fighting. Mercenaries are a sign of weakness and are no replacement to people fighting for their own soil/King.

I think you're falling prey to typical Westerosi ethnocentrism, which sees everything through the prism of martial culture and denigrates trade and economic production. Mercenaries are a sign of a specialized economy that can afford to pay for professional soldiers without disrupting the rest of their society. The overwhelming majority of the 'people fighting for their own soil/king' are not knights, but peasant militias conscripted into battle; only 10-15% are true warriors. We see very little of the wars in the disputed lands between Lys, Tyrosh, and Myr, but I imagine it to be very, very different from what we witness in Slaver's Bay.

We know Braavos can build an entire war galley in a single day, Myr can produce telescopes, and the Summer Islanders have mastered navigation. Westeros is a barbaric, impoverished backwater compared to Essos.

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I have always thought of Westeros as a sort of Britain/France/Spain around the 1200s, while the city states of Essos are Genoa, Venice, Florence or Milan around the same time: although the latter Italian states were small and often warring against each other, people like Dante and Boccaccio were writing down some of the finest pieces of literature to ever escape the pen of an human being, and the banks of Florence and Genoa were so powerful that they could make any king in Europe go bankrupt almost at will, when the British were, for the most part, still ******* sheep. So, Westeros is actually a backwards hole if compared to Essos (with the exception of Dorne/Andalusia, that has been heavily influenced by the more advanced Rhoynar/Moors). But, if fictional history will mirror real history, Essos will soon pay the price of its state of constant warfare and fall prey of other powers, despite its superior culture. Maybe, Aegon VI will extend the rule of the Seven Kingdoms as far as Meereen?

Not the best historical analogy (in between ******* sheep, the British were writing the Magna Carta, inventing parliament and building common law), but that's pretty much it. The cities of Essos are divided and weak, whereas Westeros is basically a superpower - indeed, only Braavos is mentioned as being a match for Westeros, and their strength is mainly at sea.

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Sea power is all they need to hold Westeros at bay, beside Westeros ability to project its power across the sea is doubtful, especially now when it's ravaged by war and winter has come... In either case, military power aside, I agree with the rest that Westeros is lagging behind Essos(especially pre Doom)

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I think you're falling prey to typical Westerosi ethnocentrism, which sees everything through the prism of martial culture and denigrates trade and economic production. Mercenaries are a sign of a specialized economy that can afford to pay for professional soldiers without disrupting the rest of their society. The overwhelming majority of the 'people fighting for their own soil/king' are not knights, but peasant militias conscripted into battle; only 10-15% are true warriors. We see very little of the wars in the disputed lands between Lys, Tyrosh, and Myr, but I imagine it to be very, very different from what we witness in Slaver's Bay.

We know Braavos can build an entire war galley in a single day, Myr can produce telescopes, and the Summer Islanders have mastered navigation. Westeros is a barbaric, impoverished backwater compared to Essos.

The Free Cities with the exception of Braavos mainly rely on mercenary companies like the Golden Company, the Company of the Cat, etc.

As for barbaric backwater compared to Essos, does Essos include the Dothraki?

The port cities of White Harbor, Oldtown, lannisport and KIng's Landing have shipbuilders as well as Braavos. It appears in Winterfell, the Westerosi have mastered home heating systems.

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yes winterfell(and Dreadfort) has a heating system, but much like most of Westrosi achievements it date back to the age of heroes(which probably means it was all built with help of the children magic, because the First men suppose to be barbarians), iirc the only monument they manged to produce since was Harrenhall and the Kings road?

I am not sure what is your point was regarding the Dothraki, but Westeros has its own hill tribes. However, All the major cities in Essos seem to be at least the size of Kings landing(the largest city in Westeros) and they dont seem to be huge cesspits like it and maintaining such cities is not something given.

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The Westerosi outlawed slavery and were deatly serious about it. That seems out of character for a barbaric backwater.

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The "outlawed" Slavery not because they advocate human/civil right, but because the Andals invaders, brought their religious favor with them and their relegion condemn Salvery, if their relegion also said that they should burn gay, drape women in curtains and wear silly hats they would... as evident by the Ironborn and the Wldlings who do not follow the seven using thrals, besides the seven kingdoms has a serfdom system which is not very far from slavery. (Also see Neoteros post from before).

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The "outlawed" Slavery not because they advocate human/civil right, but because the Andals invaders, brought their religious favor with them and their relegion condemn Salvery, if their relegion also said that they should burn gay, drape women in curtains and wear silly hats they would... as evident by the Ironborn and the Wldlings who do not follow the seven using thrals, besides the seven kingdoms has a serfdom system which is not very far from slavery. (Also see Neoteros post from before).

There is little evidence of serfdom in Westeros: http://asoiaf.wester.../32991-serfdom/

The Old Gods also banned slavery. My point about the Dothraki was not all of Essos was more advanced than Westeros.

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Yup, the analogy between Britain and Westeros falters because Westeros is much, much larger, has a much more cohesive culture and is more unified. Whilst some of the sciences in Essos are more advanced (like Myrish lenscrafters), the maesters of Westeros are held to be the most advanced scientific order in the world. Even red priests and shadowbinders are impressed by their knowledge.

Westeros is held to be a barbarian backwater because many of the Essosi are cultural and ignorant snobs and also because Westeros is overwhelming a rural-based society, not an urban one, and that gives the impression of primitivism. In terms of social progress (such as the outlawing of slavery), Westeros also seems to be ahead of most of the Essosi civilisations bar only Braavos and - arguably - Volantis (where this some kind of republic-based system).

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