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

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Hi guys, this is my first comment on this forum and I would like to apologise for my english in advance. Anyway, I don´t thnik the Free Cities or Qarth are so developed as I have seen some of you comment here. There, obviously, are some very, very rich people ( Illiro etc. ) but it seems to me that the general population isn´t really prosperous. With all of them living in this big citis that remind me of Constantinopole or medieval european cities I don`t think you would have anything to live on, except trade, prostitution and some small buisnesses like being a blacksmith or a baker. I allwys imagined them as dirty, overpopulated and dangerous to live in for the vast majority of it´s citizens.

As for Westeros it is obviously a more rural society that has had 300 years of stability and peace, and I think that it is actually a very nice place to live. I don`t think you could get commite some serious crime and not pay the price, at least before the War of the Five Kings. I think it is not fair to say that Westeros is backward when it has sufferd allmost 4 or 5 years of constant warring. When you look at the Vale or Dorne, which have been neutral, they seem like a nice place to live in, where your "civil rights" are respected in a manner you would expect for a society on a medieval status of development. Anyway that`s what I think. i don´t really like Essos based on Martins description of it.

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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

Illyrio implies in ADWD that the Dothraki destroy inland towns in Essos, but that's contradicted by the fact that Norvos, Qohor, and Selhorys are all large cities located inland, and by the fact that Pentos owns mines, farms, and villages in its hinterland.

Illyrio, I think, is just overly nervous. He says the lesson of the battle of Qohor is that sellswords won't stand against Dothraki. But the real lesson is that well-trained infantry are capable of defeating Dothraki.

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Hi guys, this is my first comment on this forum and I would like to apologise for my english in advance. Anyway, I don´t thnik the Free Cities or Qarth are so developed as I have seen some of you comment here. There, obviously, are some very, very rich people ( Illiro etc. ) but it seems to me that the general population isn´t really prosperous. With all of them living in this big citis that remind me of Constantinopole or medieval european cities I don`t think you would have anything to live on, except trade, prostitution and some small buisnesses like being a blacksmith or a baker. I allwys imagined them as dirty, overpopulated and dangerous to live in for the vast majority of it´s citizens.

Your English is just fine :)

We don't see much of the other Free Cities, but Braavos clearly seems to be a pretty comfortable place to live as a freeman. Economically, it's advanced enough to support both a banking and insurance industry; that requires a highly specialized economy with a skilled labor force.

We don't know much about the legal culture, bit Arya's chapters in FFC indicate Braavos has more social mobility and social equality than anyplace else we've seen. She had a better life as a blind beggar in Braavos than she did as a heavily-armed and able orphan in Flea Bottom. No one ever stole from her or threatened her life, and quite a few people actively looked after her. As Cat of the Canals, she had food, a roof, even a welcome place in the community. Street crime was rare to the point that even a young girl could walk the streets at night unmolested.

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Then again, Volantis didn't seem to be such a wonderful place and it's one of the biggest and more prosperous Free Cities.

And it's not like there isn't any crime in Braavos either. One of the first people Arya met in the House of Black and White was a mortally wounded in a street duel bravo who went there to commit a suicide so he'd die a painless death. Arya's relatively pleasant stay in Braavos might have come not from the city being a fine place to live in, but because of her status of a Faceless (Wo)Man in training; her adoptive family when she was Cat of the Canals certainly knew that. In comparison, Sam and co. didn't fare so good in Braavos when their money ran out - they were struggling to find even wood for fire and maester Aemon wasn't treated properly when he got ill.

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And it's not like there isn't any crime in Braavos either. One of the first people Arya met in the House of Black and White was a mortally wounded in a street duel bravo who went there to commit a suicide so he'd die a painless death.

But as Arya told Sam, you have to choose to duel by wearing your sword. It's actually safer to walk around at night unarmed, because they won't accost an unarmed man. There is obviously still violent crime - Svronne being the most glaring example - but all things considered, it's much, much safer than it is King's Landing.

Arya's relatively pleasant stay in Braavos might have come not from the city being a fine place to live in, but because of her status of a Faceless (Wo)Man in training; her adoptive family when she was Cat of the Canals certainly knew that. In comparison, Sam and co. didn't fare so good in Braavos when their money ran out - they were struggling to find even wood for fire and maester Aemon wasn't treated properly when he got ill.

Brusco knew she served the temple, but nobody else did. Everyone else that treated her almost as a mascot - the Happy Port, the King of Seals, the various foul-mouthed sailors & dockworkers who seemed quite protective of her - was a complete stranger. She was never robbed as Blind Beth, or ever even threatened. Sam was in desperate straits, but mostly because (1) he could barely speak Valyrian, and (2) he unsuitable for work at anything physical. I got the impression that just about any other man could have made their living as an oarsmen, or a longshoreman, and been treated pretty well for a foreigner.

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I allways thought that Braavos was a littlle different because it was founded by former slaves. Advancing in social status would be easier there than in other Free Cities, and it´s obvious that they are, or at least were before, superior to other Free Cities because they forced the end of slavery, at least nominaly, in Pentos for example. But it still seems to me as a very harsh society. You have to remember that Arya is a very inteligent girl, and that she no doubt knew how to take care of herself, as she has proven many times, and Sam, even though I like him, is not so clever, he is informed and well red, but still he is allways scared and in doubt of himself. A society that does not take care of it´s weak individuals can not be very nice to live in. Nobody did anything to Arya during her blind fase because she was of no improtance, a blind, littlle and skinny girl who nobody knows, why would anyone even notice her. In Westeros, on the other hand, exists the code of chivalry, and the Faith of the Seven appeares as a fairly pacifistic religion that is primarily focused on the weak. Of course, no place in whatever part of Martins world would be very nice to live in by our standards, but I still think that Westeros is by far more peacefull, not recently, and "friendly" than any other that Martin had imagined.

Essos is just to barbaric for my taste, even with it´s big cities and everything, any place where slavery is normal can´t be a place where anyone would like to live or consider advanced.

One exception I have to add, I would love to ride across the Dothraki Sea... not as a Dothraki, but I would love to ride across it anyway, as Martin described it it seems like a wonderfull voayage.

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Illyrio implies in ADWD that the Dothraki destroy inland towns in Essos, but that's contradicted by the fact that Norvos, Qohor, and Selhorys are all large cities located inland, and by the fact that Pentos owns mines, farms, and villages in its hinterland.

Illyrio, I think, is just overly nervous. He says the lesson of the battle of Qohor is that sellswords won't stand against Dothraki. But the real lesson is that well-trained infantry are capable of defeating Dothraki.

That isn't a contradiction.

The Dothraki destroying inland towns does not mean that they destroy all inland towns - just the ones that can't/won't pay tribute or protect themselves by force.

The free cities have the wealth to pay tribute and presumbly enough military strength to hold off one Dothraki horde.

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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.

Nation states? Seriously? You are speaking in terms of nation states? :bang: Westeros is feudal, not a nation state, and the kingdom doesn't cover the whole continent.

As for the Dothraki laying waste to inland areas, that's called raiding. A very common thing historically. Just because you have raiders in the general area doesn't mean people abandon it.

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Nation states? Seriously? You are speaking in terms of nation states? :bang: Westeros is feudal, not a nation state, and the kingdom doesn't cover the whole continent.

The Seven Kingdoms covers most of the mapped area of Westeros. The area beyond the Wall is negligible in size on world maps. The area south of the Wall is comparable in size to Essos west of the Jade Sea as shown on the HBO maps. However, and this is something that has come to light only recently, the new GRRM-redrawn maps of Essos now show it to be considerably larger, which makes more sense in terms of the relationship between the two landmasses in the books.

Westeros is also, at the time of the books, showing some early signs of beginning a transition to eventual nation-statehood in the distant future (Westeros being far more unified than medieval/renaissance Europe, not that that's saying much). It was incorrect in the precise definition of the term to say that Westeros is a nation-state right now in the books, nor will it be for centuries, most likely.

However, I think that correct assessment could have been made with less condescension and sarcasm.

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The Seven Kingdoms covers most of the mapped area of Westeros. The area beyond the Wall is negligible in size on world maps. The area south of the Wall is comparable in size to Essos west of the Jade Sea as shown on the HBO maps. However, and this is something that has come to light only recently, the new GRRM-redrawn maps of Essos now show it to be considerably larger, which makes more sense in terms of the relationship between the two landmasses in the books.

Westeros is also, at the time of the books, showing some early signs of beginning a transition to eventual nation-statehood in the distant future (Westeros being far more unified than medieval/renaissance Europe, not that that's saying much). It was incorrect in the precise definition of the term to say that Westeros is a nation-state right now in the books, nor will it be for centuries, most likely.

However, I think that correct assessment could have been made with less condescension and sarcasm.

Given the autonomy that each of the 'Great Lords' has as well as some of the lesser Lords like Bolton and Frey I don't think the Iron Throne is much stronger than the HRE - plus it doesn't even have the cultural binds that the HRE had.

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The Iron Throne had Dragons until Aegon III, but I think even before the last dragon died the Targaryens allowed the great houses freedom enough. It's impossible to talk about a nation state.

I guess Westeros already had some unity, cultural unity (except for the North, Dorne and the Iron Islands), even before the Targaryen conquest, based upon the Common Tongue, the Faith of the Seven and the Order of Maesters. Those three factors helped the maintenance of the Realm, under the Dragons. Consider, exempli gratia, that Dorne is unlike any other place in Westeros, and it was the hardest kingdom to subdue (and they also employed guerrilla warfare, of course).

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I think that politics and the state as subjects of study require some defined parameters. This thread is brilliant in terms of coming up with strengths and weaknesses of Westeros and Essos, but there is no way of drawing conclusions if the definitions are not agreed upon. Technological development, economic development and warfare need to be examined separately. Same goes for human and civil rights. I want to make a few points on human rights, which seem to have been discussed a bit less, in case anyone finds them of interest.

I do think there is a lot of ethnocentrism when it comes to thinking about Westeros, because they are well, Western, white and fairly patriarchal. And their medieval traits are just like the societies Western readers are used to in their histories. Also, all of the characters whose POV we read through are Westerosi. Clearly that is reflected on the information we have of Essos, and the way it is presented (usually in a negative light).

In terms of patriarchal values especially, it seems like Westeros and Essos are fairly similar: women are largely treated as property, either prostitutes or wives (to be sold and to pop out children regardless of their wishes), all around GRRM's world... except for the wildlings! We have a wonderful cast of women in the stories who live fascinating adventures and make their own lives, but they are clearly exceptions to the world that surrounds them. Women aren't protected from rape or slavery (whether in name like in Essos, or in practice like prostitutes and women married off by their families in Westeros) anywhere that we can see. They are not trained to attack nor defend themselves, and they don't have access to positions of power (military, political or intellectual, like the maesters).

The depiction and attitudes to homosexuality are quite interesting too. It seems that homosexuality exists (socially) between men (people make insinuations of Loras and Renly, people talk about boys being used as prostitutes for powerful men, and male rape occurring in military camps). Lesbian relationships are never, ever mentioned: we know of a few (Dany, Cersei) because we have the characters' POV, but they are not talked about socially (not even in a demeaning way). I think these two attitudes reflect historical approaches to male homosexuality in diverse cultures (e.g. rape of powerful man on boys accepted in ancient Greece, Inquisition persecution for sodomy) as opposed to practically total silence across the ages on the subject of lesbian relationships (with the famous exception of Sappho). My point is, in terms of LGBT rights, Essos and Westeros seem both to fail miserably. This includes general attitudes of dismissal of female sexuality and desire, which seems to be largely irrelevant in society (again, distinguish this from POVs).

On the subject of 'broader' human rights, slaves in Essos and serfs/peasants/the poor in the cities in Westeros seems to be equally miserable. Somebody before said that there seems to be little to none social mobility in Westeros: I think this point is very important when looking at human rights. The deeply entrenched class system that is the feudal system makes it impossible for most people to ever aspire to any sort of change. Both Westeros and the varied societies in Essos, with the possible exception of Braavos, seem to have a rigid class system with serfs/peasants or slaves at the bottom, doing the majority of the hard labour and enabling the ruling classes to live comfortably and entertain themselves with grabs for power. In this sense, I do not see much difference in terms of development between West and East either.

Now some of the Free Cities seem to have merchant classes and skilled guilds which in socio economic terms usually mean there is a bit more social mobility. The elite life is still out of reach for most, though. So this would be a detail, rather than an important trait of difference.

Finally, there are no civil or human rights neither in Westeros nor in Essos. There is no democratic system, no political grassroots interest organisations, no civil rights whatsoever. There is no separate system of justice in any of the societies we know (please correct me if I'm wrong, I've only read the books once) - when you are 'judged', you are judged by your lord or whoever is in power in your immediate vicinity. You are subject to their whims whatever you do; there is no law to protect civilians.

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I sense a little "United States of Westeros" vibe, but maybe it's a product of my own ethnocentrism. Not in terms of direct historical analogy, but moreso in its potential and place in the world. It feels kind of like GRRM transplanted feudal Europe in America and stretched out the timeline. Westeros is old, but it's the New World of the fictional universe. It's poor but strong. Uncultured but powerful. Provincial but egalitarian. Populated but rural. You can smell the stench of death creeping up from Qarth, slithering around of Slaver's Bay and the remains of Old Ghis, and bleeding out onto the Dothraki Sea. Essos feels like a bunch of isolated city states either living off a slowly dwindling pile of past riches or fighting petty wars between mercantile interests. The only potential for true empire lies in Westeros at this point.

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That isn't a contradiction.

The Dothraki destroying inland towns does not mean that they destroy all inland towns - just the ones that can't/won't pay tribute or protect themselves by force.

The free cities have the wealth to pay tribute and presumbly enough military strength to hold off one Dothraki horde.

However, Pentos does buy them off, and maintains substantial armed forces. Illyrio seems to imply that the Dothraki would destroy inland towns regardless, but that doesn't seem to square with other evidence.

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Finally, there are no civil or human rights neither in Westeros nor in Essos. There is no democratic system, no political grassroots interest organisations, no civil rights whatsoever. There is no separate system of justice in any of the societies we know (please correct me if I'm wrong, I've only read the books once) - when you are 'judged', you are judged by your lord or whoever is in power in your immediate vicinity. You are subject to their whims whatever you do; there is no law to protect civilians.

Its true there are no demoracies that fits the 21th century Western world view of it, but there are places where some form of people's power is used. In Volantis for example the freeborn landholds are allowed to vote on the Triarchs. Maybe not democratic as we know it but far more democratic than Westeros where birth decides who is in power. The other cities seems to favor some kind of oligarchy and while we wouldn't approve of it, its more people allowed to take a part than in some other places.

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Your English is just fine :)

We don't see much of the other Free Cities, but Braavos clearly seems to be a pretty comfortable place to live as a freeman. Economically, it's advanced enough to support both a banking and insurance industry; that requires a highly specialized economy with a skilled labor force.

We don't know much about the legal culture, bit Arya's chapters in FFC indicate Braavos has more social mobility and social equality than anyplace else we've seen. She had a better life as a blind beggar in Braavos than she did as a heavily-armed and able orphan in Flea Bottom. No one ever stole from her or threatened her life, and quite a few people actively looked after her. As Cat of the Canals, she had food, a roof, even a welcome place in the community. Street crime was rare to the point that even a young girl could walk the streets at night unmolested.

I dont think its fair to compare arya´s hard life in flea bottom with cat of cannal´s or blind beggars´s in order to say Braavos is a better place to live than Westeros.

In Flea Botton, she was scared little girl (stupid as she says) with no money, friends, flleing from queen´s soldiers, And she had no great skill.

In Bravoos, she was trained, had some food, and was endured by her past. And she had some hard time getting well at night and I think it were flea bottom´s arya, she would have goten in trouble.

I think that Westeros looks like a better place to live than essos for the common men altough the free cities seems to be more technonoligical advances.

Besides that, everything considered, I think westeros combned power is greater , even military, Its a more stable, it has more land, natural resources, and its population is much bigger .

Most of westerosi army may be light armed peasents, but their number would be much greater and they still would have the best warrior avaiable, the full plated kinght.

Maybe westeros couldnt invade the Free Cities. Their navy seems to be much smaller.

But i cant see the free cities or any other esses nation conquering westeros.

Even Dany´s unsulied army alone would have little chance, the way i see it. To conquer westeros, u need westerosi men.

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I don't think the idea of human rights as we understand the term in the Western world has even occured to the peoples of Westeros or Essos.

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Unless you're wealthy, most of Westeros and Essos seems a pretty unpleasant place to live in (and even having money doesn't necessarily ensure you'll live well). But, I'd agree with Independent George that Braavos is probably the best place to live in, both in terms of living standards, and in terms of personal freedom.

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

The Mongols already proved in Eastern Europe that knights were no match for them whatsoever. They'd also proven throughout Asia that they could fight in almost any terrain. And it doesn't help at all when many of the Western European nations were constantly at war or fragmented.

However, the Dothraki are just poor rip offs of the Mongols. Dothraki don't wear armour, Mongols did. Dothraki can't really penetrate heavy armour, Mongols could. The Dothraki were rarely unified into huge hordes, the Mongols were unified for the majority of the 13th century.

The Dothraki would get slaughtered by the Westerosi.

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But as Arya told Sam, you have to choose to duel by wearing your sword. It's actually safer to walk around at night unarmed, because they won't accost an unarmed man. There is obviously still violent crime - Svronne being the most glaring example - but all things considered, it's much, much safer than it is King's Landing.

i tottaly agree with this - not only that but Sam is wearing black witch in bravos means he has status.

Dareon is no help at all , Aemon is sick and old , and Gilly keeps crying about that stupid Crasters kid.

And on top off all he runs out of money witch he spend on healer for Aemon .

i think Sam run out luck here so comparing his situation isnt fair.

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