- Hizdahr zo Loraq: "They ask for the reopening of the fighting pits."
- Daenerys Targaryen: "Where slaves fought slaves to the death?"
- Hizdahr zo Loraq: "In the new world you've brought us, free men would fight free men. The pit fighters you liberated plead for this opportunity...opening them would show the people of Yunkai and Meereen that you respect their traditions."
- — Hizdahr zo Loraq requests that Daenerys Targaryen reopen the fighting pits in Meereen.[src]
Fighting pits are establishments, usually huge arenas, where men and women, usually slaves, fight to the death against other pit fighters or wild animals in gladiatorial combat, for the entertainment of patrons.
The cities of Slaver's Bay are well known for their fighting pits.
Fighting pits abound in the cities of Slaver's Bay, in which they are a steady source of entertainment for the Masters and slaves alike, as well as the rich and poor free men. Large cities such as Meereen can have multiple smaller fighting pits in different districts. The most distinguished gladiatorial games in the region, however, are the Great Games held in Meereen at the Great Pit of Daznak. The Graces of the city's temple grant their blessings to the games.
Just before the trial by combat between Oberyn Martell and Gregor Clegane, Oberyn drinks a cup of wine (to loosen up his muscles a little bit). Tyrion advises that this is probably not wise right before a fight, to which Oberyn jokes by sarcastically asking if Tyrion learned this during years he spent in the fighting pits.
During Daenerys Targaryen's liberation of Slaver's Bay, she defeats Yunkai before marching on Meereen, where she establishes herself as Queen. The fighting pits are abolished along with slavery itself, as the pit fighters are all slaves. However, the Wise Masters of Yunkai return to power and enslave all their freedmen, so Daenerys sends a Great Master at her service, Hizdahr zo Loraq, to negotiate with the Wise Masters, and Daario Naharis and his Second Sons to serve as a threat. When Hizdahr and Daario return they report that their negotiations were successful: the Wise Masters will comply with her abolition of slavery and set up a ruling council of former slaveholders and freedman, as long as Daenerys reopens the fighting pits in Meereen. At first, Daenerys cannot tolerate this concession, even though Hizdahr insists that free men would fight free men willingly - as many of the former pit fighters were left without work, and eagerly want the gladiatorial games to be reopened. Hizdahr also insists that fighting pits are important to the local traditions of Yunkai and Meereen, but Daenerys still says no.
Later at night when Daenerys is in bed with Daario, he also says that she should reopen the fighting pits. He explains that he was sold into slavery when he was twelve, and ended up in Tolos, where he was trained as a pit fighter and entered the combat when he was sixteen. He did so well that he was eventually freed, and used his combat training to become a high-ranking officer in the Second Sons. As he says, the fighting pits give the gladiators opportunities to rise above their positions at the bottom of society.
An escalation of the attacks by the local insurgent group of the Sons of the Harpy, which results in the death of Ser Barristan Selmy, makes Daenerys reconsider her position and decide to reopen the fighting pits, as well as betrothing herself to Hizdahr zo Loraq.
Just outside Meereen, Tyrion Lannister and Jorah Mormont are sold into indentured servitude —actually a thinly veiled form of slavery— and their new master Yezzan brings them and his other servants to the lower fighting pits in order to test them, telling them those who survive will get to fight at the Great Pit of Daznak in front of the Queen.
On the first day of the Great Games at Daznak's Pit, the Sons of the Harpy come out of hiding and stage an attack against Daenerys and those loyal to her. They are unsuccessful in the attempt on her life as Daenerys escapes atop her dragon Drogon. However, her betrothed Hizdahr zo Loraq dies in the attack.
In the books
In the A Song of Ice and Fire novels, there are several fighting pits in Slaver's Bay. Hizdahr says that the combats are profoundly religious in nature, a blood sacrifice to the gods of Old Ghis, and thus deeply rooted in the traditions of Slaver's Bay and the Ghiscari religion. In theory, they are not mere butchery but a display of courage, skill, and strength for the gods. Though of course, the fighting pits also bring in a large amount of coin from spectators, and those who gamble on the gladiatorial fights. As a result the games are quite popular with both the rich and poor, and many gladiators willingly participate in the games because it is their chance to achieve wealth and glory.
The combatants wear no armor in the fighting pits as it is blood the crowds have come to see. Usually, fighting pits feature gladiators against gladiators, gladiators against beasts, or beast against beasts. But there are also pits in which slave children are forced to fight beasts, and "follies" in which children, cripples, dwarfs, or old people are placed with mock weapons against wild animals for the mockery of spectators. There are even pits in which slave children are covered in different foods so that patrons may bet on which child a given beast will devour first.
The "Histories & Lore" animated featurette on "The Fighting Pits of Meereen" confirms that these sorts of follies do exist in the TV continuity, as Daario recalls he heard about the one in which three children were smeared with food, then a bear was unleashed on them, and the crowd wagered on which boy it would eat first. When Daenerys reopened the fighting pits, however, the follies probably remained closed, given her decree that free men fight free men only.
A few different fighting pits are named in the novels. In Meereen, apart from the great colosseum known as Daznak's Pit, other local arenas are the Pit of Ghrazz and the Golden Pit. In Astapor, Douquor's Pit is the one in which three boys are fed to a bear. Another arena in Astapor is Jothiel's Pit, where at one point slave children were sent against wild bulls - though Kraznys notes that three days before, a nine year old slave girl somehow managed to kill a bull in the arena.
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