Valyria was the capital city of the once-great civilization known because the Valyrian Freehold. Town of Valyria is located on the eastern continent of Essos, southeast of the Free Cities, on the Valyrian Peninsula, a large peninsula extending southwards into the Summer Sea.
After its fall, the city is usually known as “Old Valyria”.
Valyria’s power was based on the taming and use of dragons in warfare, which they discovered in the chain of volcanoes known as the Fourteen Fires which were located around their homeland. Using dragons, Valyria destroyed the armies of opposing nations and conquered a considerable amount of territory in Essos. Its empire, the Valyrian Freehold, extended through much of the fashionable Free Cities and even onto the island of Dragonstone in the Narrow Sea. However, Valyria never attempted an invasion of Westeros, which was considered a poor backwater. For over 5,000 years, Valyria was the capital of the greatest civilization mankind had ever seen, the center of an empire that ruled half the known world.
Valyria practiced some unusual customs outlawed in much of the rest of the world, including permitting incest and polygamy.
Valyria was destroyed four centuries ago in a catastrophic volcanic event known as the Doom of Valyria, which shattered the Valyrian Peninsula, wiped out almost all the dragons on this planet and created the much-feared Smoking Sea. The only major family of Valyrian dragonlords to survive the Doom were the Targaryens, who were living on Dragonstone on the time. The Targaryen dragons on their island were the one ones in your complete world to survive the cataclysm. A century after the Doom, Aegon I Targaryen invaded Westeros and conquered almost the complete continent, establishing a dynasty that was to last for 3 centuries.
The title sequence depicts the Doom of Valyria, with a rearing dragon against the backdrop of a volcano and a burning city.
The name “Valyria” is applied to several different locations and is used interchangeably, which might risk confusion. For clarity the word is utilized in the next ways:
The Valyrian Freehold: the formal name of the nice Valyrian realm, which at its height stretched from Pentos to Meereen. Valyria was neither a kingdom nor an empire: theoretically, all of the freeborn landholders (“free-holders”) had equal say in government. In practice, this meant that it was essentially an oligarchy run by the wealthy noble families (there was no single emperor or king).
The Valyrian Peninsula: the large, wide headland extending south from Essos into the Summer Sea, the heartland of the Valyrian Freehold and the situation of the city of Valyria. Partially destroyed in the Doom, with many islands formed and low-lying areas flooded.
The town of Valyria: the previous capital city of the Valyrian Freehold, located in the midst of the Valyrian Peninsula. Often called “Old Valyria” after its destruction within the Doom.
The Doom of Valyria: the volcanic catastrophe which destroyed Old Valyria four centuries ago, and devastated much of the encompassing territory. A lot of the Valyrian Peninsula has never recovered.
Viserys Targaryen tells Doreah about how the Targaryens flew from Valyria to conquer Westeros. He describes Valyria as the greatest civilization in the history of the world. At Khal Drogo’s funeral pyre, as Daenerys Targaryen prepares to walk into the fires to attempt to hatch her dragon eggs, she proclaims to her followers that, “I am Daenerys Stormborn, of the House Targaryen, of the blood of Old Valyria. I’m the dragon’s daughter.”
Quaithe paints designs of protection on a sailor in “A Man Without Honor”.
When Ser Jorah Mormont visits Quaithe in Qarth, she is inking tattoos onto a sailor’s back. She says they may protect him as his ship must sail near the Valyrian coastline, where the Doom still holds sway.
Upon receiving a fresh-forged Valyrian steel sword from his father, Jaime Lannister remarks that a new Valyrian steel hasn’t been produced because the Doom of Valyria. Tywin explains that the sword (Oathkeeper) was actually reforged from a pre-existing Valyrian steel sword (Ice).
“What number of centuries before we find out how to build cities like this again?”
– Tyrion Lannister
Stannis Baratheon mentions the colony of Stone Men dwelling in Valyria, where he was advised to send his daughter, Shireen, when she was infected with greyscale as a baby. However, he refused and instructed every single Maester and healer he could find to avoid wasting his daughter to spare her such a fate.
Tyrion and Jorah glimpse the ruins of Valyria in the fog.
Jorah Mormont and Tyrion Lannister cross the ruins on their method to Meereen to see Daenerys. After a time contemplating the best way the Valyrians, once the best civilization in the world, failed because of the Doom, they see Drogon, one of many three remaining dragons flying over them, one of many last remnants of the once mighty Valyrian culture. They’re then attacked by the Stone Men and, although Jorah manages to fight them off and save Tyrion, he is touched and infected with greyscale.
Behind the scenes
– Based on the Season 5 Blu-ray commentary, the visual appearance of Valyria’s ruins was inspired by the actual-life ruins of Angkor Wat in Cambodia. Actually, Gemma Jackson used a visit she made to Angkor Wat as the inspiration for the looks of Harrenhal back in Season 2. Jackson left the show after Season 3 ended, though the overall point she made seems to have stuck with the rest of the production team: people might be very surprised at just how quickly nature will reclaim ruined buildings and leave them overgrown with vegetation if they’re left undisturbed by further human action. This principle would hold true for both a half-ruined castle complex in Westeros or a ruined city in Essos. Therefore, the ruins of Valyria have also become overgrown and subsumed by the jungle, to an excellent greater extent than Harrenhal.
Within the books
In the A Song of Ice and Fire novels, this empire began its rise to power over five thousand years ago when the humble shepherd communities of Valyria found dragon lairs in nearby volcanoes, the Fourteen Fires. Finding a way of binding the dragons to their will, the Lords Freeholder of Valyria overran the neighboring empire of Ghis, throwing it down in defeat five times before annexing it fully. Eventually Valyria’s empire stretched for thousands of miles along the coasts of Essos and far inland, expanding into the far western coastal regions where it overran the lands watered by the Rhoyne River (displacing the native Rhoynar people to Westeros, where they settled in Dorne) and annexed or established eight powerful colony-states. Refugees from these states founded town of Braavos as a secret refuge from the Valyrians. The Valyrians also established a stronghold on the island of Dragonstone, possibly to facilitate trade with the then-independent Seven Kingdoms.
Valyria was utterly destroyed in a cataclysmic volcanic event known because the Doom approximately four centuries ago. The Fourteen Fires erupted simultaneously, while lava cracked and poured from hills. This event shattered the Valyrian Peninsula, leaving it a storm-wracked chain of islands surrounded by boiling seas emitting poisonous fumes, and wiped out almost every dragon within the western world (bar only the dragons of the Targaryens on Dragonstone). In the aftermath of the Doom the eight colony-states threw off their Valyrian overlords and became the Free Cities, eventually joining each other in trade and commerce links, together with the secret City of Braavos to the far north. The Targaryens survived and launched a devastating invasion of Westeros almost three centuries ago, eventually uniting your entire continent under their control.
Another key remnant of the time of Valyria are artifacts, particularly weapons product of Valyrian steel. Weapons of Valyrian steel are incredibly sharp, never need maintenance and have unusual dark colors flowing along the blade. There are over 200 such weapons in Westeros, mostly serving as family heirlooms, such as the Stark greatsword, Ice, and the Mormont longsword, Longclaw.
Author George R.R. Martin has stated that the Valyrian Freehold is essentially his medieval world’s equivalent of the Roman Republic: an unlimited, now-fallen empire on such a grand scale and possessed of such advanced technologies (relative to their time) that peoples living at midnight age following its collapse view it as awesome and the stuff of legends. High Valyrian, their language, is treated as a lore-language essentially like Latin. Similarly, the Free Cities which can be descended from Valyria’s colonies and conquests are like medieval France, Italy, or Spain: their languages are stated to be “bastard Valyrian”, within the strategy of mutating into separate Romance languages (i.e. as French and Italian mutated and diverged from Latin). Unlike Rome, Valyria never was an Empire even up to the time of the Doom, and was more just like the sooner Roman Republic: a set of powerful and wealthy aristocratic families (one among which were the Targaryens) jointly shared power.