Nerd School: Touring Slaver’s Bay

by Joe on May 10, 2013


Daenerys Stormborm was reborn as she burned along with her beloved Drogo. She gathered what was left of her khalasar and, after Qarth, traveled to Slaver’s Bay to acquire a new army. Slaver’s Bay is a daunting area to navigate as a reader, as the names are unlike anything on Westeros, and the culture is as unique as the terrifying harpy that adorns their flags. Filled with step pyramids like the ziggurats of Babylon and massive slave markets, the cities of Slaver’s Bay are wholly new to us.

In Essos, Slaver’s Bay is more than just a body of water, in fact it’s a geographical region built from the ashes of the ancient Ghiscari Empire.

Just as the nine free cities formed from the fall of Valyria, the cities of Slaver’s bay formed from the fall of Ghis. Older than Valyria2 by thousands of years, the city was the center of a military, economic, and cultural powerhouse called the Ghiscari Empire. Representative of the empire was its architecture made up of massive brick towers and pyramids. Also symbolic of the Ghiscari was its massive supply of slaves and slave labor. Its symbol was the harpy, a fanged woman with leathery wings for arms, the legs of an eagle, and the tail of scorpion, clutching a thunderbolt in her talons.

The Ghiscari Empire eventually fell after warring with Valyria. Five thousand years ago Ghis lost a series of five wars, and despite its wealth legions of troops, Ghis could not stand against Valyria’s dragons. The Empire fell, and Ghis toppled into ruins

Out of the ruins, Astapor, Yunkai and Meereen, grew and established themselves as a hub of the global slave trade and became extremely wealthy. These cities became the place where the Dothraki and Pirates of the seas would sell their slaves. The slavers of Astapor, Yunkai and Meereen called themselves as the Good, Wise and Great Masters respectively. Though as the wealth of the slave traders grew, the cities reliance on slaves also grew, and soon, all of the economy and military was based on slavery. The cities shared a peaceful rivalry, avoiding war at all costs, and preferring to pay the khalasars of Dothraki that passed by instead of fighting them. The military of the cities were led by ineffectual commanders whose ability were never tested. The  cities’ professional armies were filled with wealthy sons of slavers wearing colorful cloth armor and having their hair teased into large outlandish shapes. the cities rely heavily on slave soldiers and mercenary companies for their protection. While most slave soldiers were relatively poor and untrained, the eunuch Unsullied soldiers of Astapor have a well-earned reputation for effectiveness.

4The harpy remained the symbol of the region, but the ancient language of Ghis became replaced by High Valyrian, though it was tinged with the accents of the region.

The cities of Slaver’s Bay are relatively similar, but there are some differences worth noting.

Astapor is renowned for the special slaves that it produces, called the Unsullied. Astapor was famed as the only place in the world that the Unsullied can be purchased. These slave soldiers commanded a huge investment and earned the most profitable of returns for the Good Masters. Unsullied are all former male slaves chosen young, for their size, speed and strength. Their training starts at age 5 and is from dawn to dusk. It is brutal, designed not only to teach them how to fight, but to strip away all individuality, empathy, and self-worth. Only one in three survive, and those that fail at any stage are killed. They are fully castrated – penis and testicles cut – and their manhoods burned at the altar of the Lady of Spears.


They regularly consume an elixir called the Wine of Courage to deaden their sensitivity to pain. They drink it with every meal. Every day they choose new names at random by drawing tokens from a bucket, each consisting of a color and a type of vermin. Only a third of the slaves to enter training survive to become Unsullied. When one of the initiates is cut, he is given a puppy to take care of. At the end of the first year, the boy is made to strangle the puppy, and if he fail to do so, he is killed and fed to the surviving dogs. Finally to become an unsullied they must take a silver coin, go to the slave markets and buy a newborn slave child, and kill it before its mother. The coin pays the slave’s owner for his loss.

3Yunkai, dubbed the Yellow City, is a city on the eastern coast of Slaver’s Bay.  Just as Astapor is filled with Red Brick, Yunkai’s are yellow. Yunkai can field an army of roughly five thousand men, all slaves. The smallest of the three cities, Yunkai was known for both its fighting pits and its pleasure houses. The city is very similar to Astapor in architecture except for its smaller size. The slavers of Yunkai were known as the Wise Masters.

Meereen is the northernmost and the largest of the three great slaver cities of Slaver’s Bay. It is ruled by the Great Masters. Meereen lies on the northeast coast of Slaver’s Bay at the mouth of the Skahazadhan, where it flows from its origins in Lhazar through the range of sandstone mountains separating Meereen and the rest of Slaver’s Bay from the Red Waste.

Copper is plentiful in the Ghiscari hills, but the metal is not as valuable as slaves. Cedars once grew tall along the coast but they  were felled by the axes of the Old Empire or consumed by dragonfire when Ghis made war against Valyria. Once the trees had gone, the soil baked beneath the hot sun and blew away in thick red clouds. It was these calamities that transformed the Meerinese people into slavers. Without slaves Meereen has little to offer. Meereen is as large as Astapor and Yunkai combined, and like them it is made of bricks, though theirs is many colored. The city is dominated by a monstrous pyramid, called the Great Pyramid.

Thus we have the cities of Slaver’s Bay. Judging by Daenerys’ actions at Astapor, the future of these cities are intertwined with our stories future as well.


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Game of Thrones:

Battles and Wars of Westeros

The War of Conquest                                    The Blackfyre Rebellion                   The Greyjoy Rebellion

Robert’s Rebellion Pt.1,                              Robert’s Rebellion Pt.2                     Robert’s Rebellion Pt. 3

The Reynes of Castamere

The People and Places of Westeros

The Religions of Westeros                         The Races of Westeros                       Tyrion and Richard

The Targaryen Curse                                  How to Become a Knight

Game of Thrones (TV and other Media)

Casting Roundup 1 and 2                             Inn at the Crossroads Interview

Game of Thrones Primer I                           Season 1 recap

Game of Thrones Primer II                         Game of Throne Boardgames

S1E1, S1E2, S1E3, S1E4, S1E5, S1E6, S1E7, S1E8, S1E9, S1E10

S2E1, S2E2, S2E3, S2E4, S2E5, S2E6, S2E7, S2E8, S2E9, S2E10


Read Joe’s other articles:

Doctor Who: Doctor Who Season 6 Round Up, An Alternate History of the DoctorDoctor Who Season 6 primer, Psychology, and Regeneration, The Pitfalls of Paradoxical Storytelling, The Missing Episodes

Star Trek: Evening the OddsStar Trek Blu-rays 1 and 2 Trek in your Queue 1 and 2, Obama TrekStar Trek: A Different Generation, Failed Star Trek Spinoffs

Misc: Sci-Fi ComposersThieving Sci-Fi, Paranormal Activi3The Walking Dead Primer, The Genre Problem, Conan Primer, Mutant Fatigue, Sci-Fi A-Team, A Love Letter to Natalie PortmanThor Primer

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