The War of Conquest is the official name for what the common Westerosi refer to as Aegon’s Conquest. Though a misnomer as Aegon was supported almost equally by his sister-wives Visenya and Rhaenys, the result was still the same, the conquest and subjugation of nearly all the continent of Westeros.
Aegon represented the last of an empire. The Valyrians were a powerful empire in everything but name. However near 100 years before Aegon’s conquest, the once powerful nation collapsed from a mysterious event known only as “The Doom”.
The Targaryens were a powerful family who had settled on a small island on the farthest west fringes of the Valyrian Freehold. When The Doom came, the cities that once made up the powerful freehold became what we know as the “free cities”. The rulers of Volantis, arguably one of the strongest of the free cities, after conquering neighboring Lys and Myr, decided to make war on Tyrosh. They sought the aide of the young Aegon and his dragons. However, as history has stated, Aegon denied Volantis and eventually sided with the Tyrosh.
After this taste of battle and seeing the strength of his dragons, Aegon decided to carve his own empire. No one really knows why he turned west instead of trying to reunite the Valyria of old in the east. More than likely he saw the West as much richer untapped Wealth instead of the blasted ruin the east had become after the war.
What is known is that before he landed on Westeros, Aegon ordered the construction of the Painted Table. This was a huge table cut into an map of Westeros. What was interesting was that this map had no borders representing the seven kingdoms, Aegon saw Westeros as a single conquest.
Though the exact order of war is unknown, certain aspects can be assumed from geography and historical record.
Aegon first landed near the mouth of Blackwater Rush in an area contested by the Stormlands and the Riverlands. Now called King’s Landing, it was here that Aegon, his sisters, his dragons, and his host of less than 1600 men started their invasion.
Aegon elected to first attack the Riverlands, the physical heart of Westeros. The Riverlands at this point were under the fealty to the Andal king Harren the Black of the Iron Islands. Near God’s Eye Lake, Harren had constructed the massive fortress known as Harrenhal. Taking near 40 years to construct, the fortress was considered impregnable. Harren had seen to the fact that it could never be taken by siege. However, Aegon changed the rules of warfare, and attacked with his dragons. An aerial assault was not planned for, and Harren the Black’s name became more than just the color of his heart as he cooked inside his tower. It’s unknown whether it was Balerion the Black Dread or kin Meraxes or Vhaegar who melted the stone towers, but the fearsome sight drove the Iron Men back to their island. Aegon pursued until they surrendered and swore fealty. It was here that Aegon granted the Riverlands to the Tullys and the Iron Men chose Vickon Greyjoy to lead them.
Seeing the decimation of Harrenhal with such a small force, the lords of the area near King’s Landing decided to bend the knee when Aegon sent his sister Visenya to them as his emissary. This area would later be known as “The Crownlands”. Interestingly enough, sources state that Visenya took them as her “own men”, much like the queens guard of Stannis’ wife.
As Visenya secured the subjugation of Crackclaw Point, Aegon chose to divide his newly enlarged army, and sent a large contingent with his half-brother Orys Baratheon. Orys was tasked with subduing the Storm Lands, which were ruled by Argilac the Arrogant. It’s unknown if his nickname came about before or after what transpired, but what is known is Argilac chose to meet Orys on open ground instead of withstanding a siege at Storm’s End. Orys met Argilac in single combat and slew him, ending resistance from the Storm Lands. It was because of his securing of the Storm Lands that Aegon granted Orys Argilac’s lands, daughters, and stag heraldry. Because of Orys’ relation to Aegon, Robert was chosen as the figurehead of the rebellion due to a better claim then either Ned Stark or Jon Arryn.
At this point the order of events is unclear, what is known is that three major events occurred that secured Aegon’s hold over Westeros.
What probably occurred first was known as “The Field of Fire”. King Loren Lannister of the Rock and King Mern IX of the Reach made an alliance and assembled their armies to face Aegon and a fraction of his men. Aegon was noted as only having a conservative 10,000 troops at his disposal. This was more than likely due to Aegon fracturing his force and allowing a splinter force to Orys in the Storm Lands. The Targaryen army was also made up of survivors of Harrenhal and probably levies from the newly created Crownlands leaving much to desire in reliability and effectiveness. Lannister and Mern’s combined force numbered 55,000 including five thousand mounted knights.
Initially the battle did not go well for the Targaryens, outnumbered and on unfamiliar ground with unreliable troops, they were in danger of being routed and the invasion quashed. Aegon and his sisters decided to deploy all three dragons at once. It is worth noting that this is the only time this happened in the war. The three dragons strafed the battlefield sowing fear and destruction amongst the enemy ranks as they raked their lines with flame. A full 4,000 men including King Mern roasted alive before King Loren surrendered and bent the knee. The terrifying visage of the charred landscape gave way to the historical nickname “The Field of Fire”.
For surrendering and his fealty, Loren was allowed to remain Lord of Casterly Rock. Aegon accepted the surrender of Harlen Tyrell, Mern’s steward, in lieu of the now roasted Mern. Tyrell was appointed overlord of the Reach for this act upsetting House Florent who had a better claim to Highgarden.
Also unknown when it occured was the surrender of Oldtown which was then one of the largest cities in Westeros and also its religious epicenter. This author makes an assumption that due to Oldtowns’ location in the Reach, it felt safe, however after the Field of Fire they decided to be ruled is better than roasted. However, according to sources that when news arrived in Oldtown of Aegon’s landing at the Blackwater, the High Septon fasted and prayed for seven days and nights under the dome of the Starry Sept. He then announced that the Faith would not have them oppose the Targaryens, because the Crone had shown him that to do so would mean the destruction of Oldtown in dragonflame. The ruler of Oldtown, House Hightower, has/had one of the largest forces in the Reach and kept those forces at Oldtown. When Aegon marched south towards Oldtown (either before or after The Field of Fire), Lord Hightower freely open his gates and bent the knee. The High Septon then anointed Aegon and acknowledged his place as King.
Assuming that Aegon was able to combine the remaining armies of The Riverlands, the Iron Islands, the Crownlands, Stormlands, Westerlands, and Reach, he decided to meet the armies of the North led by Torrhen Stark. The host of northmen marched south towards the Riverlands and Aegon mustered his troops and dragons to meet him on the banks of the Red Fork of the Trident, east of Riverrun. The King in the North intended to engage Aegon in battle, but viewing Aegon’s now massive host and his dragons made Torrhen bend the knee in submission. On a side note, an inn was built on that site, it is known as the Inn of the Kneeling Man.
Though never explicitly stated at some point before or after The Field of Fire, House Arryn swore fealty to Aegon and were named the Lords of the Vale.
Though Aegon was in control of six of the Seven Kingdoms, he attempted, but was never able to successfully subdue House Martell in Dorne. The Dornishmen had learned from Harrenhal that attempting to stave off a siege would not work, and “The Field of Fire” showed that pitched battle was futile. There was also lessons learned from the Dornishmen’s Rhoynar ancestors who also fought Valyrian Dragons and lost. They instead struck at the Targaryan supply lines and engaged in guerilla warfare. Sensing a death by a thousand cuts, Aegon abandoned the south, eventually leaving an ancestor, Daeron II to bring Dorne into the realm.
From his new capital in King’s Landing Aegon had his new throne created from the swords of his vanquished foes. The War of Conquest was at an end. Aegon had now won his new empire, the difficulty of course was in running it.
All Maps were created off the base maps of SerMountainGoat
Previously on Game of Thrones
Read Joe’s other articles:
Game of Thrones: Casting Roundup 1 and 2, Game of Thrones Primer II, Game of Thrones Primer I, Inn at the Crossroads Interview, Season 1 recap, The Greyjoy Rebellion, Robert’s Rebellion Pt.1, Robert’s Rebellion Pt.2, Robert’s Rebellion Pt. 3, The Religions of Westeros, The Races of Westeros