The recorded history of Westeros extends back over 12,500 years, according to tradition, though the accuracy of the legends and myths that recount much of this history is openly questioned by the maesters of the Citadel, amongst others.
As with real-life medieval cultures, the people that inhabit the known world that the continents of Westeros, Essos, and Sothoryos are located in do not possess objective knowledge about how their world was created. This is in contrast with J.R.R. Tolkien's Middle-earth legendarium, in which characters actually did meet their gods or angelic beings and knew the full history of their world. In the fantasy world Westeros is set in, civilization just gradually coalesced from the hunter-gatherer level, as in real-life. Many different cultures have their own theories about how the world began and how the human race came to be, usually tied to which religion they practice. Different religions offer drastically different theories on how the world was created. Even more simple "cultural traditions" and oral histories have much to say on the subject, but no hard evidence. Some of these oral traditions are known to be simply wrong: the Dothraki believe that the first man came into being one thousand years ago, when even the written histories of other continuous civilizations stretch back five to six thousand years.
The earliest written histories date back over 6,000 years, when the Andals first introduced writing to Westeros. The First Men had no writing system more advanced than runes for marking graves, thus everything before 6,000 years ago relies on oral tradition. Many of the events before 6,000 years ago in Westeros, during the Age of Heroes, are half-legendary, and some of the more fanciful tales of these times probably have little basis in reality. Still, all legends and oral histories may have some kernel of truth behind them. Written histories on Essos, from the great civilizations of Valyria and Ghis, also date back roughly to the range of five to six thousand years. Even so, this is a far longer continuous set of written histories than exist in our real-life world, the equivalent of if written history extended unbroken back to the construction of the first ziggurat in ancient Sumeria. Oral tradition extends back twice that long.
A major issue, pointed out by author George R.R. Martin himself, is that as the saying goes, history books tend to be written by the winners. Just as in real life, the inhabitants of Westeros during the time frame of the TV series do not possess an objective record of history. History tends to be more accurate the closer it is to the present, but largely in the sense that fables and half-myths tend to no longer be included. All history books display the biases of their authors to some degree. The oldest written histories in Westeros were made by the Andal invaders, and they depicted themselves in a positive light as they killed or conquered the First Men of the south. The Northerners, descended from the First Men who were never conquered by the Andals, have a decidedly negative view of the Andal invasions.
The dating system is based Aegon the Conqueror's first landing on Westeros which started the Targaryen Conquest. Thus all dates are "AL" for Aegon's Landing or "BAL" for "Before Aegon's Landing".
The Dawn AgeEdit
- Prehistory: Westeros is inhabited by non-human races: the Children of the Forest, a diminutive species of greenseers and wood-dancers, and the Giants. The Children of the Forest worshiped the gods of nature and are believed to have carved the faces into the Weirwood trees.
- c. 12,000 Before Aegon's Landing: A human ethnic group, the First Men, invades Westeros across the Arm of Dorne, bearing weapons of bronze. The Children of the Forest destroy the Arm with magic, creating the island chain known as the Stepstones, but the First Men are able to reinforce by ship. A fierce battle for control of Westeros begins.
- c.10,000 BAL - Signing of the Pact. After years of warfare, the two sides agree to a truce, signing the Pact on the Isle of Faces. The First Men take control of the open lands and the Children take control of the forested interiors. In time, the First Men adopt the worship of the Old Gods of the Forest. The signing of the Pact marked the end of the Dawn Age, and the beginning of the Age of Heroes.
The Age of HeroesEdit
- Main article: Age of Heroes
- c. 8,000 BAL - The Long Night: A great winter that lasts a generation descends on Westeros, followed by a night that goes for years. Under the cover of darkness, the White Walkers invade Westeros from the uttermost north, causing immense suffering and destruction. In the War for the Dawn, the Children and the First Men unite to defeat the Walkers, eventually throwing them back into the north. In the eastern tradition they are led by a great hero of the east, a warrior named Azhor Azhai wielding a sword of fire named Lightbringer, but Westerosi accounts do not mention him. A great leader named Brandon Stark raises the Wall with artifice and magic to bar against the Walkers' return. He also founds the castle of Winterfell, founds House Stark and the Night's Watch and, according to some, is named as the First King in the North. Despite their victory, the Children of the Forest suffered heavy losses in the war and begin to disappear from Westeros.
The Andal InvasionEdit
- Main article: Andal Invasion
- c. 6,000 BAL: A race of men from Essos, the Andals, cross the Narrow Sea in numerous ships and make landfall in the Vale of Arryn. Under the banner of the Faith of the Seven, riding horses and wielding weapons made of iron, they overrun and conquer all of Westeros south of the Neck. Their attempts to invade the North are frustrated by the North's natural defenses, namely the swamps of the Neck and the formidable fortress of Moat Cailin, so eventually they make peace with the King in the North. A shifting quilt of small kingdoms takes shape in southern Westeros. The Andals kill the few remaining Children of the Forest as they encounter them, and the survivors disappear.
- c. 4,000 BAL: By this time the Andal occupiers and native First Men of the Iron Islands have intermingled to form a distinct new group, the ironborn. The ironborn reject the worship of both the Old Gods and the Seven in favor of their own deity, the Drowned God.
The rise and fall of ValyriaEdit
- Main article: Valyria
- c. 5,000 BAL: On the eastern continent of Essos, the peaceful sheep-herding folk of the peninsula of Valyria find dragons lairing in the Fourteen Fires, an immense chain of volcanoes extending across the neck of the peninsula. The Valyrians tame the dragons with magic and begin expanding their influence. They fight five great wars against the Ghiscari Empire before finally throwing them down in defeat, expanding the Valyrian Freehold to include all of Slaver's Bay.
- c. 700 BAL: The Valyrian Freehold begins settling the region of the modern Free Cities. Their expansion brings them into conflict with the native inhabitants of the region surrounding the River Rhoyne. Nymeria, the warrior-queen of the Rhoynar, realizes that they cannot stand against dragons and they flee to Dorne, in southern Westeros. There Nymeria marries Lord Mors Martell and helps House Martell conquer the rest of Dorne, finally unifying the region as one kingdom.
- c. 500 BAL: A religious sect, the Moonsingers, leads refugees from the Valyrian-controlled areas of western Essos to a secretive lagoon protected by mountains and narrow access channels. Here they found the Secret City of Braavos.
- c. 200 BAL: The Valyrians annex Dragonstone, an island in the Narrow Sea just off the eastern coast of Westeros. The Targaryen family takes control of the island, which is used as a trading post with the Seven Kingdoms. According to legend, Aenar Targaryen had a vision of impending catastrophe and arranged to have his family removed from the Freehold.
- c. 100 BAL - the Doom of Valyria: The Fourteen Fires erupt in a titanic explosion that obliterates the heartland of the Valyrian Freehold. Most of the Valyrian dragons, who lair in the volcanoes when not needed, are killed outright. The City of Valyria is partially buried under vast amounts of ash. The Valyrian Peninsula fractures and breaks apart. A large part of it is torn away from the mainland, low-lying areas are flooded and many offshore islands are formed. The waters around Valyria remain poisonous until the present day. In the aftermath of the Doom, many of the colony-states begin breaking away and asserting their independence, triggering a period known as the Bleeding Years. The Ghiscari empire begins a slow return to power. The Free Cities become free in truth. Braavos reveals itself to the outside world. The horselords of the interior plains, the Dothraki begin raiding surrounding lands at will, no longer constrained by the power of Valyria.
Westeros: the Age of a Hundred KingdomsEdit
- Main article: Westeros
- c. 6,000 - 700 BAL: Over the centuries following the Andal Invasion, hundreds of petty kingdoms form across Westeros, eventually aggregating into several larger powerful nations, and ultimately, seven large kingdoms.
- c. 700 BAL - the Rhoynar migrate to Dorne. House Manderly is exiled from the Reach but given safe haven in the North, where House Stark rewards them with rule over White Harbor. House Bolton is finally subdued by House Stark in the North.
- c. 400 BAL - House Bolton rises again in rebellion against House Stark, but is subdued once again. Due to his actions in suppressing the Bolton rebellion the younger son of the King in the North, Karlon Stark, is awarded lands confiscated from the north of the Bolton's former possessions, founding the cadet branch of House Stark which comes to be known as House Karstark.
- c. 360 BAL - When the Stormlands successfully invades and conquers the Riverlands, this reduces the number of nations to seven: the Kingdom of the North, the Kingdom of the Vale, the Kingdom of the Isles and Rivers, the Kingdom of the Rock, the Kingdom of the Reach, the Storm Kingdom and the Kingdom of Dorne.
- Some three generations before Aegon's Landing, the Iron Islands conquers the territory of the Riverlands from the Stormlands. The ironborn invasion is led by King Harwyn of House Hoare, and the Iron Islands continue to rule the Riverlands until the time of Harwyn's grandson, Harren Hoare, also called Harren the Black. Wishing to demonstrate his wealth and power, King Harren spends years and vast resources constructing a castle far vaster and more formidable than any other in all of Westeros on the north shore of Gods Eye lake: Harrenhal, a fortress almost completely impregnable to ground attack.
The Targaryen ConquestEdit
- Main article: War of Conquest
- 2 BAL - 0 AL: Despite pleas to intervene in the Free Cities, Aegon the Conqueror, the ruler of House Targaryen, decides to invade Westeros, along with his sister-wives Rhaenys and Visenya. With only a small number of soldiers, his forces make landfall at the mouth of the Blackwater Rush. On a tall hill overlooking the bay, he builds a wooden redoubt on the site of what is now the Red Keep. He then begins his military campaign using his secret weapon: the only three dragons known to have survived the Doom. The construction of Harrenhal castle finishes the same day that Aegon lands in Westeros. When King Harren the Black refuses to surrender, Aegon uses his dragons to overcome Harrenhal's defenses and burns Harren alive in what is later called Kingspyre Tower. The remaining ironborn flee back to the isles and capitulate to Aegon, naming Vickon Greyjoy of Pyke to rule over them. Aegon is joined by Lord Edmyn Tully of Riverrun, who leads a popular rebellion of the rivermen against the ironborn. Aegon rewards Tully by naming him overlord of the Riverlands. Aegon's army then defeats the allied forces of King Mern IX Gardner of the Reach and King Loren Lannister of the Rock on what becomes known as the Field of Fire, as more than 4,000 men are burned alive by the dragons. House Gardner is extinguished, so Aegon names the stewards of Highgarden, House Tyrell, as overlords of the Reach. King Loren surrenders to Aegon, who names him overload of the Westerlands and allows House Lannister to continue its rule. Aegon's bastard half-brother, Orys Baratheon, kills the Storm King, Argilac the Arrogant, and seizes his castle of Storm's End, along with his daughter whom he takes to wife. Aegon rewards Orys by naming him overlord of the Stormlands and allowing him to found House Baratheon. Aegon is then legitimised when he enters the city of Oldtown and his war is blessed by the High Septon of the Faith of the Seven. King Torrhen Stark of the North also bows the knee, as does King Arryn of the Vale, but Aegon's attempt to conquer Dorne is thwarted by the Dornish refusal to give battle openly, preferring guerrilla warfare. Aegon decides to allow Dorne to remain independent and returns to the site of his landing to found the city of King's Landing.
- The naming of the "After Aegon's Landing" dating system is inherently a misnomer, as Aegon I himself counted the years of his reign as starting from the end of his conquest, when he entered Oldtown and was blessed by the High Septon, which occurred two years after Aegon and his army first landed on the mainland at the mouth of the Blackwater Rush.
- Apparently, the inherent discrepancy in the name of the "After Landing" dating system became something of an annoyance in-universe for the maesters of the Citadel. In later books, such as the prequel novella The Princess and the Queen, George R.R. Martin presents several maesters who have switched to the name "After Conquest", abbreviated "AC". This is not a new dating system, simply updating the name of the existing system to more accurately reflect historical events. The date "130 AC" is the exact same year as "130 AL". That being said, the few written documents seen on-screen during the first seasons of the TV series have used the "AL" notation.
- In some ways this reflects modern attempts to update the Anno Domini system of the Gregorian calendar. The AD/BC dating system was only developed by the medieval monk Dionysius Exiguus some five hundred years after Jesus was crucified, retroactively piecing together previous dates based on the individual reign of rulers or who was consul in Rome at the time, which ultimately produced several errors. Modern scholarship generally agrees that Jesus was probably born closer to the year 6 BC rather than at 1 BC (there was no year zero). Rather than go through the administrative chaos of revising all dated records, attempts have been made to introduce an alternative name for the system: "Common Era" (CE) replaces "Anno domini" (AD), and "Before the Common Era" (BCE) replaces "Before Christ" (BC). The alternative names (apart from being religiously neutral) are more accurate, as the "AD" system did not itself provide an accurate count from the date of Jesus's actual birth).
- As with the Anno Domini system, the After Landing (or After Conquest) dating system does not have a year zero. It uses as its starting point the crowning of Aegon by the High Septon in Oldtown. The instant that the High Septon set the crown upon his head, the year "1 BC" changed into "1 AC" (the entire first year After Conquest was "1 AC", and the day after the coronation was thus one day into "1 AC" even though a full year had not elapsed).
The Reign of the Targaryen DynastyEdit
- 37-48 AL: Upon Aegon I's death, his son Aenys, born of incest, takes the throne. The Faith of the Seven rejects his legitimacy to rule and the Faith Militant lead a popular uprising against the Targaryens. The weak and indecisive Aenys makes his half-brother Maegor the Hand of the King and gives him authority to deal with the crisis. Maegor's response is bloody and ferocious, resulting in the deaths of thousands in battle, slaughter and dragonfire. The slaughter lasts all of Aenys and Maegor's reigns.
- 48 AL: Aenys's son, Jaehaerys, becomes king. Jaeharys declares a truce and agrees to end the slaughter in return for the Faith Militant disbanding and accepting (but not approving) the Targaryen practices of incest and polygamy. They agree, and the Faith and the Throne are reconciled. Jaeharys I becomes known as the Conciliator for his ability solve crises without the need for violence.
- 129-131 AL: The first major civil war in the history of the unified Seven Kingdoms. Upon the death of King Viserys I Targaryen, the Lord Commander of the Kingsguard, Ser Criston Cole, names Viserys's son Aegon II as King, despite Viserys's command that the crown be passed to his eldest child, his daughter Rhaenyra. The resulting war pits brother against sister and dragon against dragon in the war known as the Dance of Dragons. Aegon II's dragon consumes Rhaenyra, but the war continues in the name of her son, Aegon III. The death of Aegon II resolves the war, since Aegon III is the only heir to both of the combatants. The conflict is costly, with most of the Targaryen dragons being killed in the fighting. The last surviving Targaryen dragon, a sickly green runt, dies during Aegon III's reign, earning him the nickname "Dragonbane".
- 157-161 AL: The reign of the Young Dragon, King Daeron I, who takes the throne at the age of fourteen and almost immediately launches an invasion of Dorne. Daeron's military genius is notable and he eventually forces the Submission of Sunspear. Unfortunately, he leaves a Tyrell of Highgarden, who have warred with the Martells for a thousand years, in charge. Tyrell's tyranny triggers an uprising against the Iron Throne. When Daeron I returns with a fresh army, he is killed, his cousin Prince Aemon the Dragonknight is captured and his army defeated. Daeron's brother and the new king, Baelor I, forges a peace treaty with Dorne (including the marriage of his second cousin Daeron to Princess Myriah Martell).
- 161-171 AL: The reign of King Baelor the Blessed, the Septon King. Baelor is pious and holy, keeping the realm at peace. Upon his death, a huge new sept he is building in King's Landing is named the Great Sept of Baelor in his name.
- 172-184 AL: The reign of King Aegon IV, Aegon the Unworthy, held to be the worst king in the history of Westeros. A glutton and a cruel, petty man, Aegon has a total of nine mistresses he keeps at court, to the dismay of his sister-wife Naerys. He holds his son and heir, Daeron, in disfavor due to his Dornish wife and peaceful ways, and gives a Valyrian steel blade of House Targaryen, Blackfyre, to his bastard son Daemon, whom he thinks is more martial and worthy of it. Upon his death, Daeron II succeeds to the Iron Throne.
- 195-196 AL: Claiming that Daeron II is actually the product of an illegitimate relationship between Queen Naerys and her other brother, Prince Aemon the Dragonknight, Daemon Blackfyre claims the Iron Throne. Half the realm declares for him and the resulting civil war is known as the First Blackfyre Rebellion. This is a brutal and bitter conflict that kills many tens of thousands. Eventually, Daemon amasses enough strength to march on King's Landing, allied to the forces of his bastard half-brother Aegor "Bittersteel" Rivers. Daeron II's sons, Baelor and Maekar, lead an army to stop him, assisted by another of Aegon IV's bastards, Brynden "Bloodraven" Rivers. The resulting engagement, the Battle of the Redgrass Field, is one of the largest battles fought in Westerosi history. Bloodraven slays Daemon Blackfyre with arrows and then fights Bittersteel in single combat. The arrival of a Dornish army in support of the King routs the Blackfyre forces. Bittersteel flees the field with Daemon's surviving sons, taking them to safety in the Free Cities.
- 197 AL: In thanks for the Dornish assistance on the Redgras Field, Daeron II marries his younger sister Daenerys to Prince Maron Martell, formally bringing Dorne into the Seven Kingdoms. Due to the peaceable union, Dorne is allowed to maintain a number of its own customs, including allowing women equal inheritance rights and the ruler of Dorne is allowed to retain the title "Prince".
- 209 AL: The Great Spring Sickness tears through Westeros, killing King Daeron and most of his heirs. Aerys I Targaryen becomes king. He names Bloodraven as his Hand.
- 211 AL: Blackfyre loyalists attempt to launch a Second Blackfyre Rebellion, but Bloodraven exposes the plan, captures one of Daemon Blackfyre's sons and executes many of the conspirators before a battle needs to be fought.
- 221 AL: Maekar I becomes King of the Seven Kingdoms.
- 233 AL: Maekar I dies fighting an outlaw knight. With his eldest two sons dead (one from a pox and one from drinking wildfire in a fit of madness), the council offers the crown to Maekar's third son, a maester of the Citadel. He refuses and removes himself to the Wall. Maeker's fourth son takes the throne, becoming Aegon V Targaryen, Aegon the Unlikely, the fourth son of a fourth son. During his reign Bloodraven is exiled to the Wall for reasons unclear to history.
- 233-259 AL: The rule of Aegon V. This is a period of peace and plenty for the Seven Kingdoms. During the last year of Aegon V's reign, Pycelle is named as Grand Maester.
- ca. 257-259 AL: The War of the Ninepenny Kings (also known as the "Fifth Blackfyre Rebellion") erupts in the last years of Aegon V's reign. A group of mercenaries, fortune-seekers, and ne'er do-wells known as the Band of Nine combines their strength to carve out their own territories: among them is Maelys the Monstrous, the last of the Blackfyre Pretenders. After taking over the Disputed Lands and Tyrosh, they conquer the Stepstones as the opening move of an invasion meant to claim the Seven Kingdoms in the name of House Blackfyre. Ser Barristan Selmy kills Maelys in single combat, ending the Blackfyre line, and the Band of Nine are soon dispersed.
- 259 AL: King Aegon and his son Prince Duncan are killed in a great fire at Summerhall, the Targaryen summer palace, apparently during an attempt to hatch the last three dragon eggs left in the west. Aegon's son, Aerys II Targaryen, becomes king. The eggs are assumed destroyed in the fire.
The Reign of the Mad KingEdit
- Main article: Aerys II Targaryen
- 259 AL: King Aerys's reign begins with great promise. He sweeps aside the old men of his father and grandfather's courts and replaces them with young, vigorous replacements.
- 260 AL: Maelys Blackfyre, the last of the Blackfyre Pretenders, plans to invade Westeros from a base in the Stepstones but Aerys sends an army against him in a preemptive attack. In the resulting War of the Ninepenny Kings, Maelys is killed by a promising young knight named Barristan Selmy. During the war Hoster Tully of Riverrun makes the acquaintance of a Baelish of the Fingers, later accepting his son Petyr as a ward at Riverrun.
- ~270 AL: Young Tywin Lannister puts down the Reyne Rebellion to restore Lannister dominance over the Westerlands, and has any surviving Reynes - man, woman, and child - put to the sword, as an example to any vassal who would dare challenge Casterly Rock again. The eradication of House Reyne is the first major step in the return to glory of House Lannister, in which Tywin almost singlehandedly rebuilt the fortunes and strength of his House. Impressed with Tywin's ruthlessness, King Aerys Targaryen appoints him as his new Hand. Tywin continues to ably serve in this position for twenty years, during which the Seven Kingdoms and the Lannisters in particular enjoy peace and prosperity.
- 270s AL: Cracks begin to appear in Aerys's demeanor. He refuses to marry his son Rhaegar to Tywin's daughter Cersei, instead having Rhaegar marry Princess Elia Martell of Dorne. Aerys becomes paranoid over talk in the castle that Tywin is the true ruler of the Seven Kingdoms. When Lord Darklyn of Duskendale refuses to pay his taxes, Aerys resolves to crush the problem himself without Tywin's aid. Unfortunately, the situation gets out of control and Aerys is imprisoned for several months in Duskendale before Tywin and Barristan Selmy assault the castle and rescue him. The Darklyns are burned alive for their treachery. Later historians claim that the Defiance of Duskendale marked the beginning of the end for Aerys's sanity.
- c.270s - c.290 AL: According to Tyrion Lannister, Westeros has experienced nine winters during his lifetime, the last ending around 290 AL. Tyrion states that the winter during which he was born was the longest of these, lasting three years.
- c. 280 AL: In a year of false spring, a great tournament is held by Lord Whent at Harrenhal. King Aerys and Prince Rhaegar attend, as do many lords from across the Seven Kingdoms. Prince Rhaegar wins the tournament, but names Lyanna Stark of Winterfell as the Queen of Love and Beauty rather than his own wife Elia. Lord Tywin Lannister is enraged when Aerys names his son Jaime to the Kingsguard, disinheriting him as Tywin's heir in favor of his ugly, misshapen younger brother Tyrion. Furious, Tywin resigns the Handship and returns to Casterly Rock. A few years later, Rhaegar allegedly kidnaps Lyanna against her will and disappears with her. Lyanna's brother Brandon and father Lord Rickard demand justice from King Aerys, but he has Rickard burned alive and Brandon strangled to death for daring to question what the Targaryens would choose to do.
- Main article: Robert's Rebellion
- 280-281 AL: In response to the king's murder of Rickard and Brandon Stark, the new Lord of Winterfell, Eddard Stark, raises the banners of the North. Robert Baratheon, Lord of Storm's End and betrothed to Lyanna, joins the rebellion, raising the banners of the Stormlands. Lord Jon Arryn of the Vale, a mentor to both Robert and Eddard, does the same. Lord Hoster Tully of Riverrun, who had planned to marry his daughter Catelyn to Brandon Stark, instead agrees to marry her to Eddard in exchange for his support in war. In addition, he marries his second daughter Lysa to Jon Arryn to shore up the alliance. The Stark, Tully and Arryn armies begin gathering north of the Trident, but Robert's forces are cut off far to the south. Leaving his brother Stannis to hold Storm's End, Robert marches his army north-west through enemy territory. He is defeated at the Battle of Ashford by Tyrell forces loyal to the king, but manages to cross the Trident and link up with the other rebels. Whilst Lord Mace Tyrell besieges Storm's End for a year, Prince Rhaegar leads a royalist army to directly engage the rebels, but is defeated at the Battle of the Trident and killed in battle by Robert. Lord Tywin's army arrives at King's Landing to defend the city, but once the gates are opened the Lannisters sack the city brutally. Aerys II is killed by Jaime Lannister, whilst Targaryen loyalists smuggle his surviving children Viserys and Daenerys to safety in the Free Cities. Robert Baratheon, due to a blood relationship with House Targaryen, is proclaimed King of the Seven Kingdoms. With Lyanna dead from a fever, Robert instead marries Cersei Lannister to shore up the alliance that brought down the Targaryens.
King Robert's ReignEdit
- Main article: Robert Baratheon
- 289 AL: The Greyjoy Rebellion - Lord Balon Greyjoy leads a rebellion against King Robert's reign, attempting to secede the Iron Islands from the rest of the realm. After several months of furious fighting in the Westerlands and Riverlands, King Robert's forces push the ironborn back to Pyke and storm the castle. Balon capitulates and surrenders his only surviving son, Theon, as hostage and ward for his good behavior. Robert instructs Eddard Stark to take Theon under his wing.
- 297 AL: Magister Illyrio Mopatis of Pentos invites Viserys and Daenerys Targaryen to stay in his manse and offers to help them reclaim their throne.
In the TV seriesEdit
- 298 AL: The events of Game of Thrones begin, seventeen years after the end of Robert's Rebellion.
- Jon Arryn is poisoned. Eddard Stark is appointed to replace him as Hand of the King. At King's Landing, Stark discovers the secret Jon Arryn learned: none of Queen Cersei Lannister's three children are Robert's, but are all bastard products of incest with her own twin brother, Ser Jaime Lannister. King Robert Baratheon is killed in a boar hunt, secretly assassinated at the order of Queen Cersei Lannister by slipping him overly strong wine during the hunt, so he would not live to learn of Cersei's betrayal from Stark. Cersei's eldest son Joffrey Baratheon is crowned king as Robert's alleged heir. Eddard Stark attempts a counter-coup in support of Robert's lawful heir Stannis Baratheon, but he is betrayed to the Lannisters by Petyr "Littlefinger" Baelish and Janos Slynt. Lannister plans to manipulate Lord Stark into declaring support for Joffrey in exchange for being allowed to leave with his life by joining the Night's Watch go horribly awry when, on the steps of the Great Sept of Baelor, the crazed King Joffrey instead orders Eddard Stark to be immediately beheaded.
- The Seven Kingdoms become engulfed in the massive civil war known as the War of the Five Kings. Robb Stark is declared King in the North by his bannermen, seeking vengeance for his father's murder. He is joined by the lords of Riverlands, sworn to his mother's family, House Tully, and attempts to secede from the Iron Throne. Both of the younger Baratheon brothers, Stannis and Renly declare themselves king, challenging Joffrey's legitimacy. Stannis initially only controls the islands of Blackwater Bay ruled from Dragonstone, as well as much of the Royal Fleet. Renly enters into a marriage-alliance with House Tyrell, and is supported by the combined might of the Stormlands and the Reach. House Arryn of the Vale and House Martell of Dorne declare their neutrality.
- Daenerys Targaryen marries Khal Drogo in Pentos, securing the Targaryen exiles their first real chance of gaining an army with which to reconquer the Seven Kingdoms. Viserys Targaryen is executed by Khal Drogo in Vaes Dothrak. Drogo succumbs to an infected wound and betrayal by Mirri Maz Duur. At the edge of the Dothraki Sea and Lhazar, at Drogo's funeral pyre, Daenerys uses "fire and blood" successfully hatch three live dragons.
- Rumors begin to reach the Night's Watch that demonic forces are stirring beyond the Wall, with wildlings and even some of their own Rangers giving crazed reports of seeing the White Walkers. Jon Snow and Samwell Tarly join the Night's Watch. A wight attacks Lord Commander Jeor Mormont at Castle Black, prompting him to decide to lead an expedition of three hundred men north of the Wall.
- 299 AL: By the time of the death of King Renly Baratheon, it has been eighteen years since Robert's Rebellion, indicating a year or more has passed since the events of the series began.
- The War of the Five Kings drags on. King Robb Stark invades the Westerlands to further bleed the Lannisters. The Baratheon brothers parley in the Stormlands but refuse to combine their strength. Heavily outnumbered, Stannis has his ally the Red Priestess Melisandre summon a magical shadow-creature to assassinate Renly in his tent the night before their armies would have clashed. The lords of the Stormlands rally to Stannis as the sole remaining Baratheon heir, but the Tyrells and their vassals withdraw back to the Reach. Balon Greyjoy decides to opportunistically use the war as a chance to secede the Iron Islands from the Iron Throne, but instead of allying against the Lannisters, House Greyjoy goes for the low-hanging fruit by attacking the North while Robb's army is in the south (in the hope that the Lannisters will reward them by confirming their independence). Winterfell is sacked and later burned. Stannis uses his newfound army from the Stormlands to mount a massive direct assault on King's Landing in the Battle of Blackwater Bay; ultimately due to Tyrion's wildfire trap and the arrival of reinforcements under Lord Tywin Lannister, Stannis' fleet is crushed and his army all but destroyed, yet he barely manages to escape back to Dragonstone with his life. Baelish brokers an alliance between House Tyrell and House Lannister, sealed by the betrothal of Margaery Tyrell to King Joffrey. Further marriage alliances are made of Myrcella Baratheon with Trystane Martell, and Baelish with Lysa Arryn, which also bring Dorne and the Vale back into the Lannister fold (though they do not send troops to march in battle). Robb Stark breaks his promised marriage-alliance with House Frey by marrying Talisa Maegyr.
- Daenerys Targaryen crosses the Red Waste and arrives in Qarth. She later flees the Warlocks of Qarth who desire control of her dragons, and takes a ship bound west.
- Lord Commander Mormont's Great Ranging north of the Wall reaches the Fist of the First Men. Jon Snow joins Qhorin Halfhand in scouting out the main wildling camp of King-Beyond-the-Wall Mance Rayder in the Frostfang Mountains. Jon encounters the wildling spearwife Ygritte, but he and Qhorin are later captured. Qhorin convinces Jon to kill him to convince the wildlings that he intends to defect, so Jon can infiltrate Mance Rayder's army from within.
- 300 AL: Talisa states in Robb Stark's army camp as he leaves Riverrun for the Twins that the War of the Five Kings has lasted two years now (reinforcing the general principle that one TV season equals one year within the story continuity).
- King Robb Stark withdraws from the Westerlands and returns to the Riverlands, his strategic objectives having failed. Robb's grandfather Lord Hoster Tully dies after a long illness, and Robb returns with much of his army to Riverrun. Having secured the south through their victory at the Battle of the Blackwater and through various marriage alliances, for a time the Lannisters focus on consolidating their now very strong position in the war. This leads to a lull in major operations in the war, as Robb's strategic plans have failed and Tywin is content to patiently strengthen his position. The Lannisters switch to a new strategy of offering no battle to Robb's army, as they can afford to wait him out, and it would be a pointless waste to give Robb another opportunity for a disproportionate tactical victory like at Whispering Wood and Oxcross.
- Lord Rickard Karstark kills two unarmed Lannister squires held at Riverrun, Tywin's own nephews Martyn and Willem Lannister, as petty vengeance for the loss of his own sons in the war. In response Robb Stark personally beheads Lord Karstark for treason, against the advice of his counselors, resulting in the forces of House Karstark abandoning his already dwindling and outnumbered army. King Robb decides that his only remaining option is to make an all-or-nothing assault against Casterly Rock in the west, as the bulk of Lannister-Tyrell forces are deployed in the east to defend King's Landing. However, this will require winning back the support of House Frey after breaking his promise to enter into a marriage-alliance with one of Walder Frey's daughters. As a replacement, the Freys insist that Robb's uncle Edmure Tully marry Lord Walder's daughter Roslin Frey.
- Robb Stark, Catelyn Stark, and almost the entire Northern army is massacred at the Twins at the wedding feast of Edmure and Roslin, which becomes known as the Red Wedding. Robb and his army are betrayed by his own bannermen, House Frey and House Bolton. Lord Walder Frey directly violates guest right in the betrayal, killing men who were officially guests in his home and ate at his own table, breaking the most sacred laws of gods and men. Lord Roose Bolton personally kills the wounded Robb Stark, driving a sword through his heart. As a final insult, the Freys and Boltons horrifically desecrate Robb Stark's corpse by decapitating it and then sewing the head of his direwolf Grey Wind onto his body in its place. Lord Tywin Lannister was a secret accomplice in the massacre, as Walder Frey and Roose Bolton would never have dared to violate guest right unless they were promised protection and rewards. The Lannisters install House Bolton as the new rulers of the North to replace House Stark, while the Freys will displace the Tullys in the Riverlands.
- Daenerys Targaryen arrives at Astapor in Slaver's Bay in search of an army with which to reclaim the Seven Kingdoms. She tricks the slavers and with the aid of her growing dragons, seizes control of an army of 8,000 Unsullied warrior-eunuchs. Daenerys frees the elite slave-soldiers but they all agree to fight for her. After sacking Astapor, the new Targaryen army advances on Yunkai.
- The Night's Watch faces the White Walkers in combat for the first time in 8,000 years at the disastrous Battle of the Fist of the First Men, where their main base camp is ambushed by White Walkers leading their hordes of undead wights. Out of three hundred men, consisting of most of the Watch's high-ranking officers and best fighters, only a few dozen men led by Lord Commander Mormont are able to fight their way out, and retreat back to Craster's Keep. Deteriorating conditions there lead to the Mutiny at Craster's Keep in which Mormont himself is killed by his own men, while loyalists and betrayers turn on each other in the confusion. Samwell Tarly escapes the carnage with Craster's daughter-wife Gilly, and attempts to flee with her back to Castle Black. On the way Sam is confronted by a White Walker, but becomes the first man in thousands of years to kill one of the demonic beings when he stabs it with a dragonglass dagger he found at the Fist of the First Men, in the process discovering their vital weakness to the substance. Jon Snow meets Mance Rayder and gains his trust, and is sent with a scouting party led by Tormund to scale the Wall. They successfully pass over to the south side, and intend to attack Castle Black from its undefended rear to distract its small garrison while Mance's main army assaults the Wall directly.
Differences from the booksEdit
Aging up the cast by adding two years between Robert's Rebellion and Season 1Edit
The timeline of the books is broadly similar to that of the TV series, with several minor differences. Several younger characters - most notably Jon Snow, all of the Stark children and Daenerys Targaryen - are two to three years older than their book equivalents, which has required the date of Robert's Rebellion to be pushed back from fifteen to seventeen years before the events of the series begin.
Other characters are older (Eddard Stark and Robert Baratheon are ten years older than their book counterparts) or younger (Ser Vardis Egen is decades younger than in the book, whilst Theon is two years younger), though for the most part this has no bearing on the timeline.
In the book chronology, roughly two years pass between the beginning of A Game of Thrones and the end of the third novel, A Storm of Swords. Less than a full year actually passes in each novel. The child actors in the TV series, however, still age at a normal rate during production, so in order to keep consistent, the TV series generally follows the rule that one TV season equals one year in the storyline. This made them gain a full year by the end of Season 3, as the Red Wedding occurred only two years after Jon Arryn died.
Moreover, the third novel is so long that the TV series producers have announced that they will split it into two separate seasons of ten episodes each, for a total of twenty episodes to adapt the story. Due to practical considerations, the cast & crew of the HBO TV series physically cannot film more than one ten episode season in a single year. Writers Benioff & Weiss have repeatedly insisted that they are adapting Martin's books as a whole, and don't think of each season as a specific unit adapting each book one at a time. Nonetheless, due to using the child actors and the one TV season equals one story year rule, this means that another extra year was added as a result of splitting the third novel into two TV seasons.
Arya Stark is 9 years old in the first novel, but due to aging up all of the characters by two years in the TV continuity, she directly states that she is 11 years old in Season 1. In the books, Arya was 11 years old at the time of the Red Wedding, and remained 11 years old for the rest of the third novel (which will correspond to the end of Season 4). In the TV continuity, however, Arya was closer to 13 at the time of the Red Wedding. Ultimately, Arya will be 15 years old in the TV continuity by the end of Season 4: one year gained from expanding a two year storyline into three years, and another gained from splitting the third novel in half. In contrast, book-Arya was only 11 years old at the end of the third novel (corresponding to the end of Season 4).
Ideas abandoned by George R.R. Martin during the writing of the novels were including longer, multi-month gaps between chapters in A Game of Thrones and also jumping forwards five years after the events of A Storm of Swords. In both cases, the need to continue addressing in-progress storylines meant that these time jumps could not be carried out. Whether the TV series employs such devices in the future remains to be seen.
A key point is that it isn't actually certain what calendar year it is supposed to be in the TV continuity. Two extra years were added between Robert's Rebellion and the death of Jon Arryn, but it isn't certain exactly how this was achieved: either that Robert's Rebellion occurred two years earlier than it did in the books, or that Jon Arryn died two years later than his book counterpart. There has been no on-screen statement about what the exact date is. In the books, the Red Wedding occurred slightly before the calendar year changed over into 300 AL (Joffrey and the Lannisters gloated that the defeat of the Starks would usher in a glorious new Lannister century).
The major datable event from King Robert's reign in the TV continuity is that the Greyjoy Rebellion is still consistently stated to have occurred 9 years before the beginning of the story, i.e. Balon remarks that it has been nine years since he saw Theon when he returns to Pyke in early Season 2 (not quite 10 years yet because it is still early in Season 2 and this is spillover dating from Season 1; other references also give it as 9 years). In the books, the Greyjoy Rebellion also occurred 9 years before the story begins - to necessitate just how long Theon was functionally raised in the Stark household as Ned's ward. In the book continuity, with a 15 year gap since Robert's Rebellion, the Greyjoy Rebellion occurred 6 years after Robert was crowned. In the TV series, the 17 year gap since Robert's Rebellion means that the Greyjoy Rebellion occurred 8 years into Robert's reign (and in both continuities, it was 9 years before Jon Arryn died). Even so, the Greyjoy Rebellion isn't a useful dating point, because we only know of its date relative to Robert's Rebellion. It doesn't necessarily mean that the extra two years were inserted earlier in Robert's reign or that Robert's Rebellion started two years earlier - the Greyjoy Rebellion is not a fixed point, and Balon might simply have decided to wait an extra two years before attempting his rebellion in the TV continuity.
Removing King Jaehaerys IIEdit
Other notable changes include the removal of King Jaehaerys II from the Targaryen dynasty for the TV series. This change makes King Aegon V - Maester Aemon's brother - the direct father of the Mad King and grandfather of Daenerys and Viserys. This was presumably done to make Aemon's explanation of his genealogy to Jon Snow more concise and less convoluted.
When directly asked about this, writer Bryan Cogman confirmed that Jaehaerys II has been officially removed from the TV continuity: "Yes, he’s officially out of show canon. In the Game of Thrones (TV series) canon, Egg is the Mad King’s father." "Egg" is the nickname of King Aegon V Targaryen in the "Tales of Dunk and Egg" prequel novellas. This has wider implications for the potential live-action adaptation of the prequels that HBO has been discussing with George R.R. Martin.
Other dating issuesEdit
The TV series also introduced some inconsistencies with the ages of Cersei Lannister, and her son Joffrey. The TV series has Cersei state in "Blackwater" that she was four years old when her mother died (giving birth to her younger brother Tyrion), but in the books she was roughly eight years old at the time. Moreover, in "Second Sons" Cersei tells Margaery Tyrell that she remembers the Reyne Rebellion: in the books, Cersei was born in roughly 266 AL, after the Reyne-Tarbeck rebellion which occurred in roughly 260 AL. The numbers simply don't match up: Tywin was made Hand of the King to Aerys II Targaryen because Aerys was impressed with how he ruthlessly crushed House Reyne, Tywin then served as Hand of the King for twenty years, resigned soon before Robert's Rebellion, then another 17 years passed (in the TV continuity). Thus in order for Cersei to be able to remember the Reyne Rebellion she would have to be in at least her mid-forties, but both Cersei the character and actress Lena Headey were in their mid-thirties in Season 3.
In Season 2's "The Prince of Winterfell", Tyrion makes an off-hand remark that Joffrey is seventeen years old, contrasting this with how his "uncle" Jaime was already a highly skilled warrior at seventeen but Joffrey is not. Joffrey is actually only thirteen years old in the second novel: his nameday tournament in the Season 2 premiere was explicitly stated to be for his thirteenth nameday in the books, but the TV series avoided giving a number at the time. While many of the younger characters have been aged-up by about two years (generally), this would make Joffrey four years older than his book counterpart. It is possible that this was simply a stray line in "The Prince of Winterfell" meant by the writers to contrast Joffrey with Jaime, but which didn't take the timeline into account. Yet this strains the limits of the timeline: if Joffrey is seventeen in Season 2, that makes him sixteen in Season 1 - which in the TV continuity takes place seventeen years after Robert's Rebellion. Robert and Cersei married at the end of the rebellion, so Cersei would have to have become immediately pregnant with Joffrey (well, pregnant by Jaime, but enough time had to transpire that she could plausibly pass off Joffrey as Robert's son, i.e. if she gave birth to Joffrey only four months into their marriage even Robert may have become suspicious). Even so, the TV series has not kept good track of this relative to other changes they introduced: possibly to make Cersei more sympathetic, the TV continuity introduced that Cersei actually did have a child by Robert in the first year of their marriage, when she held out false hope that she might be able to make it work out. She states that the boy died of a fever in infancy - which means it was not stillborn but carried for a full nine month term. Because Joffrey's age was already pushed back too far they end up overlapping: if Joffrey was 17 in Season 2, eighteen years after Robert's Rebellion, Cersei would have had to gone through two separate nine month pregnancies within only a twelve month period after she married Robert at the end of the war.
Further, Sansa Stark prominently states in the first episode of Season 1 that she is thirteen years old - following the rule that younger characters have been aged-up by two years as she was only eleven at this point in the books. Generally the TV series has followed a rule that "one TV season = one year", which the first three books also loosely followed. Yet on her wedding knight in Season 3's "Second Sons", Sansa tells Tyrion that she is fourteen, not fifteen as expected. This is not quite as big of an inconsistency, as Sansa might just be "on the verge" of turning fifteen but her exact nameday hasn't passed yet (plus she is so afraid of having sex with Tyrion that she might just be emphasizing how young she is to deter him).