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

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Westeros is pretty politically backwards. Not only is the class system ossified and static, but the whole feudal system prevents any true projection of power. That little bit added into the show where Cersei explains how there can't be a centralized army in Westeros is crucial. The king depends on feudal levies, and feudal levies can only be used seasonally or in smaller numbers lest agricultural yields collapse. That the Free Cities have standing armies and can afford mercenaries shows that they're leagues ahead in development.

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it's basically a mirror image of Europe vs Asia during the late middle ages. the Asian cultures seemed to have all this exotic technology and trade goods, but weren't as stable as the European nations and couldn't stand up to them in terms of shear military might. Jorah points out that the Dothraki are dangerous because of their speed but would be destroyed in a stand up fight against the armored knights of Westeros.

Also, Essos is basically a giant desert so people can only live in certain places. This means that they are all concentrated into a few dozen large cities where it is easier for organizations, like the iron bank, to amass wealth. Westeros by contrast has a much more temperate climate which leads to a much more spread out and rural culture.

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it's basically a mirror image of Europe vs Asia during the late middle ages. the Asian cultures seemed to have all this exotic technology and trade goods, but weren't as stable as the European nations and couldn't stand up to them in terms of shear military might. Jorah points out that the Dothraki are dangerous because of their speed but would be destroyed in a stand up fight against the armored knights of Westeros.

Also, Essos is basically a giant desert so people can only live in certain places. This means that they are all concentrated into a few dozen large cities where it is easier for organizations, like the iron bank, to amass wealth. Westeros by contrast has a much more temperate climate which leads to a much more spread out and rural culture.

Well, I don't think Essos resembles Asia so much (the Free Cities have an italian/bizantine vibe, and the dothraki are quite lame when compared to the huns, mongols, tartars and turks) but the asians managed to hold quite well against the europeans. The mongols crushed the european knights when they invaded during the XIII century, and the muslims kicked the crusaders out of the Holy Land.

I've read a lot about the tactics the arabs and turks used to counter the european heavy cavalry: The put their best proffesional infantry in the rear (usually spearmen backed by archers) and their worst infantry in the vanguard (usually fedayim voluteers who were eager to fight the jihad, or conscripted militias or even slaves), while their cavalry formed the wings. The european knights charged and crushed the vanguard, but lost its momentum and were stopped by the proffesional soldiers of the rear, and then the muslim cavalry enveloped the knights and destroyed them.

The spanish christians countered that putting their own cavalry in the rear and sending their own footmen against the muslim vanguard, and once the men-at-arms had slaughtered the poor quality infantry of the muslim vanguard, the muslim cavalry usually enveloped those men-at-arms. but were attacked in turn by the christian heavy horse.

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The Muslims' best counter against knights was their numbers. The crusader states could never field as much heavy cavalry, and were forced to rely on militiamen to make up the numbers. When a knightly charge did connect, it was devastating. Many times the Muslims lost a battle because they got careless and let the knights get among them.

Either way, you can't call Essos an Asia, because Venice... I mean, Braavos has nothing to do in Asia. Also, this is slightly more advanced than the crusades. A ripoff Asian power should be the Ottomans. Which we know aren't present.

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The Muslims' best counter against knights was their numbers. The crusader states could never field as much heavy cavalry, and were forced to rely on militiamen to make up the numbers. When a knightly charge did connect, it was devastating. Many times the Muslims lost a battle because they got careless and let the knights get among them.

The knightly charges were devastating at the beginning, but eventually the muslims developed tactics to counter the european heavy cavalry, like the one I described.

And yes, the muslims had numbers on their side, but they managed to hold their own even when the christians received reinforcements that helped close the numeric gap a bit, like Richard Lionheart's or Louis the Saint's armies.

Either way, you can't call Essos an Asia, because Venice... I mean, Braavos has nothing to do in Asia. Also, this is slightly more advanced than the crusades. A ripoff Asian power should be the Ottomans. Which we know aren't present.

That's what I said: Braavos is like Venetia, Volantis like Bizantium, Tyrosh is similar to Genua, Pentos a bit like Florenzia...etc.

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What are you basing Tyrosh = Genoa and such? We don't know enough. I'd just say it's a random caricature of an Italian state and some eastern exoticism, just like the other FCS, except for Braavos and Volantis.

But unlike Braavos, which is almost carbon copy of Venice down to some insignificant details, Volantis is a caricature.

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What are you basing Tyrosh = Genoa and such? We don't know enough. I'd just say it's a random caricature of an Italian state and some eastern exoticism, just like the other FCS, except for Braavos and Volantis.

But unlike Braavos, which is almost carbon copy of Venice down to some insignificant details, Volantis is a caricature.

The tyroshi are portrayed as sailors, merchants, bankers and mercenaries, and those features fit Genoa better that any other italian state. The similarities pretty much stop there, but then again, we don't know very much about Tyrosh. I think they may have a dash of ancient phoenicians too.

Volantis is pretty unrealistic, with this whole "five slaves per free person", but it's relation to Valyria is a bit like Bizantium's relation to Rome.

Braavos seems to be a mix of Venice, Amsterdam (Low Countries) and Rhodes, with Venice being the most important in the mix.

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The tyroshi are portrayed as sailors, merchants, bankers and mercenaries, and those features fit Genoa better that any other italian state.

Sailors, merchants, bankers and mercenaries were characteristically Italian. ITALIAN. Not Genoan. You could find countless such men everywhere.

I think they may have a dash of ancient phoenicians too.

No. You are just making stuff up.

Volantis is pretty unrealistic, with this whole "five slaves per free person", but it's relation to Valyria is a bit like Bizantium's relation to Rome.

I know.

Braavos seems to be a mix of Venice, Amsterdam (Low Countries) and Rhodes, with Venice being the most important in the mix.

Ehh, those other two are redundant. Venice has parallels with pretty much everything Braavos-related. They did fight the Ottomans, HRE and France - because I am sure it's the anti-empire thing you base Rhodes on.

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Sailors, merchants, bankers and mercenaries were characteristically Italian. ITALIAN. Not Genoan. You could find countless such men everywhere.

But:

1.-Not every italian city-state had ALL of those; Genoa had all those.

Sailors: Cristobal Columbus, Andrea Doria...etc. The genoan sailors had a reputation on par with the venetian ones, and were called to work as captains and pilots by kings and princes of many european countries.

Merchants: Genoa was the second mediterranean merchantile power after Venice for a lot of time.

Bankers: During the height of the Spanish Empire, after the spanish crown managed to get the german bankers bankrupt (by not paying their debts), genoese bankers like the Spinolas became they main bankers of the Spanish Empire, which basically mean they were the greatest bankers of the world. Other european people took to call the bankers "lombards", meaning "north-italians", mostly Genoans and Florentians.

Mercenaries: Andrea Doria, Guglielmo Embriaco, the crossbowmen at Crècy...etc.

2.-Not all italian city-states were a mediterranean power (only a few were really powerful, and only a few of those had any real naval dominion over areas of the Mediterranean Sea). The two most important ones were Genoa and Venice, and we already know which one is Venice.

No. You are just making stuff up.

Come man, a city-state of greedy merchants and great sailors called Tyrosh? Doesn't sound too much like, you know, Tyre? Which is written Tiro in both spanish and italian?

Ehh, those other two are redundant. Venice has parallels with pretty much everything Braavos-related. They did fight the Ottomans, HRE and France - because I am sure it's the anti-empire thing you base Rhodes on.

Well, that and being a maritime, commercial, economic and cultural center with freaking big statue at their port that became known as their symbol.

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Westerosi are just hard as hell. The knights of Westeros are in my opinion, comparitively better than anybody, you can see with how Barristan and Jorah just cant be hurt by people out there

I also think westerosi are hardened, and better leaders for conflict due to always playing the game of thrones

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It's been my opinion that Westeros is simply considered too far away to be of any bother. I know the Narrow Sea is just that, narrow, but it seems that the two continents leave each other alone to much extent. A lot of Essos people don't even understand the concepts of "Maesters" and "Sers" which gives credit to the theory that not a lot of contact occurs between the two continents. Sure, some trade exists, but with that exception there are no relations between Westerosi and Essos. Varys seems to be the only person with multiple contacts/friends outside of his own continent.

As to cultural differences, Westeros is under a feudalistic society. If you understand what that means, Westeros is not a single entity. It is really nothing more than a bunch of independent lords and castles. The only beacons of civilization are in Oldtown and King's Landing. Two cities compared to dozens of city-states in Essos. Each city-state has more power, money, and in some cases people as a great house in Westeros. There are 8 great houses if you include Greyjoy. How many city-states are in Essos?

The king on the Iron Throne is more like the Pope in medieval Europe. He's supposedly in power over all Christian kingdoms. However, those kingdoms usually only played lip service to the Pope in return for his "blessing" for ruling. Sometimes those European kingdoms controlled the Pope (similar to when Tywin ruled the kingdom as the Hand), and sometimes the Pope had enough power to change borders and replace monarchs.

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I think that framing the discussion as Westeros v Essos gets a little cloudy.

Each culture developed in a way that was appropriate for its environment. Dothraki can't lay seige to a castle, yet Westerosi knights can't cross the Red Waste. How can we define one as being better than the other?

Valyria was the most highly advanced society. Its influence extended to the free cities before Aegon the Conqeror landed on Westeros. If you count Valyria and its influence as being part of Essos, then it would give Essos a huge boost. But can you count that since Valyria is gone?

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Westeros is pretty politically backwards. Not only is the class system ossified and static, but the whole feudal system prevents any true projection of power. That little bit added into the show where Cersei explains how there can't be a centralized army in Westeros is crucial. The king depends on feudal levies, and feudal levies can only be used seasonally or in smaller numbers lest agricultural yields collapse. That the Free Cities have standing armies and can afford mercenaries shows that they're leagues ahead in development.

That's exactly what I thought, the feudal system holds Westeros back and I think the Free Cities have big advantage there.

However I think the most advanced cultures are those of Qarth and possibly Asshai and Yi Ti in the far east. Just reading about the city of Qarth makes me think that they're way ahead of Westeros and even the Free Cities.

I think that just like in the real medieval ages the East is more advanced than the West. Although it's pretty hard to say for sure since we know so little about Asshai and Yi Ti...

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First of all, this is a great thread!

As some of the posts already stated, I am also of the opinion that the description of Essos is quite skewed due to it being only told through Westerosi eyes and POVs. Of course our heroes always prevail against their Essos couterparts, because in this story, our guys have the plot armor. But that doesn't make a convincing argument that these knights are invincible.

It also seems very hard to discuss this topic without thinking about medieval feudal Europe vs (Mediterranean plus Asia) and this topic is almost never discussed without bias, as it feels much like "us" vs. "them" and we usually know where to side in that. Martin unfortunately brought a bit of that thinking into ASOIAF, in my opinion.

One thing to say about military strength of the Dothraki is that in the discussion between Ned and King Robert, at least one of them seems quite concerned with the prospect of 40,000 of them roaming through the kingdoms. Maybe we should just take their word for it that Dothraki, even though described as a lot weaker than the actual Mongols, are still a conisderable threat. I also disagree strongly that Essos wouldn't have great and battle-hardened commanders. On a side, Robb wasn't battle hardened and seemed to do quite well as a commander, who says we don't find yet undiscovered military genius across the Narrow Sea as well? Just because the Yunkish seem to have a thing for comic-style incompetent and decadent supreme commanders doesn't mean that's a standard.

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Honestly, considering that simply standing your ground and sticking your spears out in front of you as the Unsullied did is considered an amazing feat should tell one about the military situation in Essos. You have to be utterly incompetent at land warfare, as many city states were, to not figure out that much. Even after it was shown how effective it was, no one acts on it and continues to do their silly thing.

Essos feels like a strange caricature of The Orient. On the one hand we have the free cities, which act like Italian city states, talk like some sort of strange Spaniard-Arabian hybrids, and war like headless chickens, apparently. The cities of Slavers' bay are just as bad, if not worse. It sounds like the worst parts of the Omani slave trade combined with ancient Mesopotamian imagery with some old fashioned debauchery thrown in.

I'll give points to George for making the Dothraki unique, though only because of their sheer incompetence. They wear almost no clothing, use curved swords more often than bows and lances (which is an awful thing to do as a horseman who likes to run down infantry) and are saved from getting pummeled by everyone else solely because of how incompetent they are.

Then we go east and we have Qarth, which seems like George tried to do an Eastern Constantinople and turned it into a parody of Oriental indecency and evil. It reminds me more of how the Romans described Palmyra than anything else. It's all decadent and evil and so on but it fails to capture some of the interesting parts of what actual Oriental history had to offer.

Now, I know we're going at this through westerosi lens, but I'm not sure how George would go at crafting a viewpoint that justifies flaying slaves alive for the smallest mistakes, something which even the bloody Romans did. There's punishment and then there's sociopathy.

He really failed to capture some of the more positive parts of Oriental culture and society. There seems to be no Islam analogue or anything of the sort, so they act more like Pre-Christian pagans than anything (at least east of the Free Cities). If that is true, where are the great gates of Ishtar, the wondrous library of Alexandria, the Fire Temples of Fars and Istrakhr? The Free cities have been fleshed out enough that we see some good and interesting parts in them. Braavos especially is quite fascinating. Yet east of the Rhoyne things break down into this ridiculous parade of increasingly silly examples of Eastern decadence.

Essos is not a static entity. It seems clear that areas like Slavers' bay and Qarth are at different levels of development from the Free cities. They seem on the cusp of the renaissance, though one must wonder if the return of magic will sterilize any advances they have made considering that it will also herald a new element to warfare, and when that happens, you have war.

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But:

1.-Not every italian city-state had ALL of those; Genoa had all those.

Sailors: Cristobal Columbus, Andrea Doria...etc. The genoan sailors had a reputation on par with the venetian ones, and were called to work as captains and pilots by kings and princes of many european countries.

Merchants: Genoa was the second mediterranean merchantile power after Venice for a lot of time.

Bankers: During the height of the Spanish Empire, after the spanish crown managed to get the german bankers bankrupt (by not paying their debts), genoese bankers like the Spinolas became they main bankers of the Spanish Empire, which basically mean they were the greatest bankers of the world. Other european people took to call the bankers "lombards", meaning "north-italians", mostly Genoans and Florentians.

Mercenaries: Andrea Doria, Guglielmo Embriaco, the crossbowmen at Crècy...etc.

2.-Not all italian city-states were a mediterranean power (only a few were really powerful, and only a few of those had any real naval dominion over areas of the Mediterranean Sea). The two most important ones were Genoa and Venice, and we already know which one is Venice.

The fact that Genoa had them doesn't mean that Florence and Venice and Siena and the Pope didn't have them as well; Genoa was the best at sea, and indeed, few Free States had the power at sea that Lys, Braavos and Volantis do. So Braavos would be Venice, Lys Pisa and Volantis Genoa.

And AFAIK it is not specified whether the other Free Cities are actually a naval power (If I am correct, then the Redwynes and the Ironmen could perfectly destroy all other Free fleets) so you'd have Lorath as Milan, Myr as Florence, and then Tyrosh as Naples or the Pope, which would do rather nicely given the fact that those three states also often warred.

Come man, a city-state of greedy merchants and great sailors called Tyrosh? Doesn't sound too much like, you know, Tyre? Which is written Tiro in both spanish and italian?

Yes, that's a possibility too, but that would only cover Tyre, and you'd have no analogy for Braavos or Lorath or Myr or Lys.

Well, that and being a maritime, commercial, economic and cultural center with freaking big statue at their port that became known as their symbol.

So you have Rhodes and Tyre, but who else?

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The fact that Genoa had them doesn't mean that Florence and Venice and Siena and the Pope didn't have them as well; Genoa was the best at sea, and indeed, few Free States had the power at sea that Lys, Braavos and Volantis do. So Braavos would be Venice, Lys Pisa and Volantis Genoa.

And AFAIK it is not specified whether the other Free Cities are actually a naval power (If I am correct, then the Redwynes and the Ironmen could perfectly destroy all other Free fleets) so you'd have Lorath as Milan, Myr as Florence, and then Tyrosh as Naples or the Pope, which would do rather nicely given the fact that those three states also often warred.

Yes, that's a possibility too, but that would only cover Tyre, and you'd have no analogy for Braavos or Lorath or Myr or Lys.

So you have Rhodes and Tyre, but who else?

I don't think every Free Citie is a copycat of a real-life city-state, I think each of them is inspired on several places. For example, Braavos has elements of Venice, Low Countries and Rhodes, Volantis has elements of Bizantium and of Rome itself, Myr and Tyrosh have elements of Renaissance Italy, with Tyrosh resembling Genoa a bit more (and the phoenicians, and it maybe has a bit of Greece, because of the "Archon" thing) and Myr resembling Florenzia a bit more (because of the whole exporting textile industry, but Myr also resembles Genoa). Lys resembles Sybaris, Corinth and the later decadent Venice for the whole "maritime city-state of hedonistic rich merchants"...etc.

I'm not sure which real-life country would Norvos, Qohor, Lorath and Pentos resemble. We know very little about Norvos, Qohor and Lorath, and I don't think Pentos has a strong personality besides the whole "killable princes" thing.

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Westerosi armies are actually made up mostly of farmers and fishers who can barely swing a sword, while the Essosi armies are profession soldiers and mercenaries. While a Westerosi knight is in fact a formidable opponent, there doesn't exist an army in Westeros made up completely of knights .

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Westerosi armies are actually made up mostly of farmers and fishers who can barely swing a sword, while the Essosi armies are profession soldiers and mercenaries. While a Westerosi knight is in fact a formidable opponent, there doesn't exist an army in Westeros made up completely of knights .

Spoken like a true expert... lol.

Anyway, Westeros is easily the most powerful state in the regions we have seen. Even if its powers are somewhat decentralized, we are still talking about a kingdom the size of an entire freaking continent here. Regarding area and population it is probably almost the size the old Valyrian empire was, which you can see by looking at a world map. Regions like Vale and the Crownlands alone are probably militarily stronger than most Free cities, and Ghis is just a joke.

Technologically they seem to be about average, all told. Their military is definately leagues ahead of everybody elses, save perhaps the Braavosi (with the Ghiscari as the absolute low). But they seem to lag behind a bit when it comes to trade, urbanisation and government efficiency. Socially speaking they are quite advanced, having completely banned slavery as well as given their common people pretty decent rights and living standards (relative to the times of course), once again I'd say they are only superceded by Braavos in this regard. Braavos is way smaller than the combined seven kingdoms, though.

So Westeros is basically similar to how medieval Europe was in comparison to the Middle East and North Africa, if medieval Europe had also been an unified kingdom.

That is, easily the most powerful state in the region, if not the entire world. We don't really know any details about the lands east of Qarth, however, so this last claim can't be verified.

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I disagree completely. The living standards in Westeros are terrible compared to those of the free cities, literally nobody cares about the peasants when the lords wage war against each other, and knights frequently burn down villages and rape villagers they were supposed to be protecting. And slavery shouldn't not be relevant when talking about society, in our world the USA had slavery far into the 1850s yet it was one of the most advanced nations and one with the highest standards of living - compared to others which had abolished slavery.

Also it can be debated that being an unified kingdom actually ends up stagnating it, as there is lack of competition between them. Examples in our world can be seen with China, that althought it was an unified kingdom for centuries, and it was very much stable most of that time, it lagged behind fragmented Europe technologically and militarily .

Each of the Free Cities are probably bigger than King's Landing. I wouldn't be surprised at all if any of them could conquer one of the weaker Seven Kingdoms by themselves without much casualties; though that's impossible to know for sure. We'd have to see how well the Golden Company does in TWOW. Or how exactly the Bravos bank could act against the Iron Throne - they seemed confident.

IIRC even Jorah (or someone) comments how had the Dothraki horde arrived in Westeros, the Westerosi armies would try to fight them in the fields, and the Dothraki would have massacred them - the only chance for the Westeros lords would have been hiding in their castles, and leaving the peasants to their own fate.

The Qarth fleet by itself could also probably strangle and cripple Westeros' commerce.

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