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

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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).

True, technological progress shouldn't be confused with human progress.

Many of the attitudes the Essosi have towards Westeros as being a barbaric backwater have never been to Westeros, or bothered to study much about the Seven Kingdoms.

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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.

I always had the impression that this was not always been so, I suspect that they become a center of knowledge only after the Doom(~Medieval time, with Westeros being the east), which lends to the fact that Westeros remained in very similar technological state for thousands of years ...

In terms of social progress (such as the outlawing of slavery), Westeros also seems to be ahead of most of the Essosi civilisations

As I noted before, Westeros outlawed slavery not because of some scholarly debate and social progress, but because their gods said so, if tomorrow the high septon will say its fine, it would be fine.

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

bar only Braavos and - arguably - Volantis (where this some kind of republic-based system).

I dont know about Essosi snobs, but from the description in the books, Westeros is not only urban with no real infrastructure and cesspit for a great city, but also best of quality of almost everything seem to come from Essos, what do expect when they breed "robots" todo every job possible pleasure, warfare, production etc...

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

Personally, I dont see it, while we have some case of social mobility(for example spider and LF) overall you will die whoever and where ever you was born. Beside its more about the difference between Slave and serf, which is mostly theoretical, it was the acknowledgement that they have rights etc but practically the lords could do with them as they wish just like with slaves, similarly here, while we have few ned starks, in practice you can let your whole guardhouse rape a peasant girl and no one will say a thing.

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As I noted before, Westeros outlawed slavery not because of some scholarly debate and social progress, but because their gods said so, if tomorrow the high septon will say its fine, it would be fine.

Personally, I dont see it, while we have some case of social mobility(for example spider and LF) overall you will die whoever and where ever you was born. Beside its more about the difference between Slave and serf, which is mostly theoretical, it was the acknowledgement that they have rights etc but practically the lords could do with them as they wish just like with slaves, similarly here, while we have few ned starks, in practice you can let your whole guardhouse rape a peasant girl and no one will say a thing.

Since religion reflects the values of a society, doesn't the ban on slavery count as social progress regardless if the religions oppose it.

You forgot Davos in terms of social mobility. Also with the exception of some Lord Paramounts, lords can't do anything they wish with their smallfolk, just ask Jorah Mormont.

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The Essos sense of superiority probably comes from the fact that until 300 years earlier, Westeros was an impoverished, chaotic backwater of feuding kingdoms. There were a few bright points (such as Oldtown and the Maesters), but precious little else to recommend them, particularly when Valyria was still active and the center of the "Old 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.

With the Free Cities, I'd put it down to geography, institutions, and a technological head-start due to being remnants of the Roman Empire Valyrian Freehold. Most of the Free Cities are located along the coast of Essos, relatively close to each other and to potential trading partners in Westeros and Essos. That is a huge advantage, since the costs of shipping goods by sea would be much, much cheaper than sending them over land as in RL. That type of economic integration spawns wealth and institutional innovation to handle it, and that's what we see in the Free Cities (banks, populations that dwarf any Westerosi city, apparently higher living standards). I wouldn't be surprised if trade between the cities dwarfed trade with other regions - think of the possibilities for specialization in trade!

In fact, I think they might be unrealistically low in terms of prosperity. The Narrow Sea is small enough that importing raw materials and goods from eastern Westeros (such as wool, grain, and mined products) might very well be profitable for them.

Compare that to Westeros, where the geography is less friendly than it appears. Sailing from the ports in western Westeros to eastern Westeros and vice versa seems to entail some serious risks, since the Reader thought that Euron Greyjoy would lose a significant chunk of his fleet during the transit south and east around the "boot" of Westeros. Many of the seven kingdoms are fragmented into separate units by geography:

1. The Westlands are separated from the Riverlands (and the valuable Trident Rivers) by mountains.

2. The Vale is separated from everyone else by mountains.

3. The North is large with no navigable rivers that we can see.

4. The Reach has no water connection with other areas except by sea.

5. Dorne is separated by mountains and desert.

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3. The North is large with no navigable rivers that we can see.

Doesn't Wyman Manderly state that he has many warships up the White Knife?

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Doesn't Wyman Manderly state that he has many warships up the White Knife?

Indeed. Both the White Knife and the Fevre seem navigable for quite a lot of their length (the ironborn came up the Fevre to take Moat Cailin). And the Last River, Weeping Water and Broken Branch all seem pretty big as well.

However, a major problem in the North is that the rivers will freeze over during the long winters, which (along with travel overall slowing to a crawl due to the snows) will negatively impact the development of the North.

4. The Reach has no water connection with other areas except by sea.

The Mander is navigable by large ships as far north as Bitterbridge, which is not too far from the border with the Crownlands, whilst the Cockleswent and Blueburn extend quite close to the border with the Stormlands. You can't move things 100% of distances by water, but the rivers do speed travel quite a lot in the Reach.

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I forgot about the White Knife. The North does have navigable rivers, then. I'll chalk their poverty up to the Winters, which are much more brutal than in the South.

The Mander is navigable by large ships as far north as Bitterbridge, which is not too far from the border with the Crownlands, whilst the Cockleswent and Blueburn extend quite close to the border with the Stormlands. You can't move things 100% of distances by water, but the rivers do speed travel quite a lot in the Reach.

I'd put Bitterbridge a bit more than "not too far". It's on the Rose Road, but that still looks like several hundred miles from King's Landing (or even the sea). The Cockleswent and Blueburn are separated from the Stormlands by hills and forest, and there's no major road either. Even distances like 100 miles over land are very costly with Westerosi-level of technology, particularly without a major road to use. Compare that to the Free Cities, seven of which are on the sea directly.

I agree that the Mander greatly speeds travel in the Reach, and the Reach seems to be the most prosperous area in terms of food and population (the Lannisters are only wealthier because they have gold mines). It's a pity they're on the "wrong" side of the continent, though - they'd be much more prosperous if the Mander was oriented to empty into the Narrow Sea.

EDIT: This is slightly tangential, but there is now a Google Maps-based set-up that plots out the cities of ancient Rome, and lets you calculate the costs and travel times of traveling between two of them (including the fastest route, the cheapest route, etc). Here is the link.

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Danny managed to take a good number of major cities in essos with a rag tag bunch of sellswords, some eunuchs and three baby dragons. Does anyone believe she could have managed this at Winterfell? Or Stormsend? Or any walled city in westeros??

I would certainly agree that most of essos is more cultured, however their military tactics, prowess, and technology is far behind that of westeros, and in medieval times nothing but how good you are in a scrap really mattered.

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The biggest signs that Westeros is less advanced is the status of the Stepstones and the lack of Western invasions of Essos.

The biggest sign that Westeros is more advanced is that an Ironborn armada sailed uncontested to Slavers Bay.

It is important to remember that Martin's world experienced a massive paradigm shift 400 years before the current story. The great Valryian Empire collapsed and created a power vacuum in Essos. Aegon the Conqueror did intervene to prevent Volantus's attempt at unifying the Free Cities into a powerful nation-state. At roughly the same time, Aegon unified Westeros (minus Dorne). The fact that a Valryian TRADE OUTPOST was able to both quell Volantus AND conquer 90% of Westeros speaks volumes as to just how powerful Old Valyria really was.

Yes, Aegon had dragons, but is that really that different than Iron Age Andals slaughtering Bronze Age First Men, horse-riding Bronze Age First Men overwhelming Stone Age Children of the Forest or a Europeans with horses, armor, swords, a few guns and cannons destroying the Mayans, Aztecs and Incas?

Also, the question of the superiority of Westerosi knights over Dothraki depends on how much Dothraki are based on 11th Century Mongols. European knights were no match for the Mongols of that era.

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The biggest signs that Westeros is less advanced is the status of the Stepstones and the lack of Western invasions of Essos.

The biggest sign that Westeros is more advanced is that an Ironborn armada sailed uncontested to Slavers Bay.

It is important to remember that Martin's world experienced a massive paradigm shift 400 years before the current story. The great Valryian Empire collapsed and created a power vacuum in Essos. Aegon the Conqueror did intervene to prevent Volantus's attempt at unifying the Free Cities into a powerful nation-state. At roughly the same time, Aegon unified Westeros (minus Dorne). The fact that a Valryian TRADE OUTPOST was able to both quell Volantus AND conquer 90% of Westeros speaks volumes as to just how powerful Old Valyria really was.

Yes, Aegon had dragons, but is that really that different than Iron Age Andals slaughtering Bronze Age First Men, horse-riding Bronze Age First Men overwhelming Stone Age Children of the Forest or a Europeans with horses, armor, swords, a few guns and cannons destroying the Mayans, Aztecs and Incas?

Also, the question of the superiority of Westerosi knights over Dothraki depends on how much Dothraki are based on 11th Century Mongols. European knights were no match for the Mongols of that era.

The Mongols didn't reach Western Europe and certainly would have been no match for European armies in the forests.

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Also, the Mongols wore armor. In fact, even their horses had armor. They were also very good tacticians for their time, whereas the Dothraki seem to charge into battle without a moment's thought. The Westerosi may be comparable to medieval Europeans, but the Dothraki are much less advanced than the Mongols were, despite their surface similarities. It seems pretty clear that a Westerosi army would utterly slaughter the Dothraki.

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The Free Cities seem to be more populous and powerful and advanced than any city in the Seven Kingdoms. But, they're cities. Not nations. Westeros is more powerful because it's united; Essos is fragmented. Sothorys... we don't know.

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Danny managed to take a good number of major cities in essos with a rag tag bunch of sellswords, some eunuchs and three baby dragons. Does anyone believe she could have managed this at Winterfell? Or Stormsend? Or any walled city in westeros??

Well, Theon captured Winterfell with about twenty guys. Stannis took Storm's End by remote control.

Daenerys's army is rather more than a rag-tag band of sellswords. At its core is a large unit of the most feared soldiers in Essos - at eight thousand of them, plus at least five thousand who have undergone most of the same training. In elite infantry numbers alone, that's comparable to Stannis's army, which nearly took King's Landing, or Robb Stark's army with which he won all his various victories. That's before taking into account the additional sellsword companies she's engaged, or the civilians, or the remnants of the Dothraki.

How these troops measure up against Westerosi ones is questionable, mind. As we've seen a couple of times, troops from Essos can suffer against Westerosi knights due to their lack of, and lack of experience of facing, armoured men. But knights are only a relatively small portion of Westerosi armies: I suspect the Unsullied would fare well against the men-at-arms who make up the rest.

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The Free Cities seem to be more populous and powerful and advanced than any city in the Seven Kingdoms. But, they're cities. Not nations. Westeros is more powerful because it's united; Essos is fragmented. Sothorys... we don't know.

There is quite a lot of evidence that the cities (in particular Volantis) do control large areas of land.

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Volantis certianly controls quite a bit of land. It controls the Rhoyne all the way up to the sarrows. Pentos and Myr probably do as well. I'm not so sure the same is true for Braavos, Tyrosh, Lorath or Lys as they are all situated on islands.

Also, while the Westerosi may be technologically inferior in many ways, they seem to be to be quite advanced as far as warfare goes. The Free Cities rely on sellswords to do their fighting. The Unsullied are a fearsome infantry, likely the best in the world, but how well does infantry stand up to fully armored, mounted knights? The Dorthraki are fearsome light cavalry, but could they ever take a Westerosi castle like Storms End, Winterfell, or Casterly Rock? Not to mention, the Westerosi have wildfire. It is not said wether or not this substance is known in the East (it almost assuredly is), but we have not seen it used in the East.

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Volantis certianly controls quite a bit of land. It controls the Rhoyne all the way up to the sarrows. Pentos and Myr probably do as well. I'm not so sure the same is true for Braavos, Tyrosh, Lorath or Lys as they are all situated on islands.

Also, while the Westerosi may be technologically inferior in many ways, they seem to be to be quite advanced as far as warfare goes. The Free Cities rely on sellswords to do their fighting. t.

Whilst the Westerosi rely on peasant levies.

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I think the Free Cities hire sellsword companies to beef up their army, but they're not the main fighting force. I recall it being mentioned in one of Catelyn's AGOT chapters that the Free Cities have standing armies of their own.

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Yeah, the Free Cities do control surrounding lands. Braavos controls all the coastlands to the south halfway to Pentos. Lorath, Lys and Tyrosh presumably control all of the islands they are located on and some of the nearby ones (possibly parts of the mainland coast as well; Tyrosh and Lys likely have mainland ports in the Disputed Lands and Lorath on the Bay of Lorath, possibly at the end of that road that cuts across the Braavos peninsular). Norvos and Qohor both control their rivers as far south as Dagger Lake. Myr has interests in the Disputed Lands as well.

They're not so much city-states as either principalities or even proper - but small, by Westerosi standards - nations

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Yeah, the Free Cities do control surrounding lands. Braavos controls all the coastlands to the south halfway to Pentos. Lorath, Lys and Tyrosh presumably control all of the islands they are located on and some of the nearby ones (possibly parts of the mainland coast as well; Tyrosh and Lys likely have mainland ports in the Disputed Lands and Lorath on the Bay of Lorath, possibly at the end of that road that cuts across the Braavos peninsular). Norvos and Qohor both control their rivers as far south as Dagger Lake. Myr has interests in the Disputed Lands as well.

They're not so much city-states as either principalities or even proper - but small, by Westerosi standards - nations

Well a comparison to ancient cities like Carthage comes to mind. (Braavos in particular sounds like a good comparison to Carthage).

It was a city, but also an empire. It obviously controlled lots of land in North Africa, and eventually in Spain and parts of the central Mediteranean as well, but ultimately it was based around the city that gave it its name, and its naval power.

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Well a comparison to ancient cities like Carthage comes to mind. (Braavos in particular sounds like a good comparison to Carthage).

It was a city, but also an empire. It obviously controlled lots of land in North Africa, and eventually in Spain and parts of the central Mediteranean as well, but ultimately it was based around the city that gave it its name, and its naval power.

Hell, Rome was a city that became an empire.

To go a bit further, France itself is derived from the Ile-de-France region around Paris.

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