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"Oldtown" is part of the Histories & Lore, a special feature in the Blu-ray of Season 6 of Game of Thrones. It is narrated by Julian Glover as Grand Maester Pycelle and Anton Lesser as Qyburn.

Synopsis

Grand Maester Pycelle and Qyburn each give their own perspective of Oldtown and its foundation.

Narration

Pycelle: Without question, Oldtown is the oldest, wealthiest and greatest city in Westeros.

Qyburn: Though King's Landing is more populous, and arguably, more powerful.

Pycelle: Ah. The city straddles the mouth of the Honeywine River. And the bounty of the entire Reach flows beneath its stone bridges. To ports that are renowned throughout the world.

Qyburn: Thus we needn't speak more of them. More interesting is the history of the city. For none can say when it was founded. Many centuries ago, a few bold maesters sought out the Children of the Forest. Who claimed that men have lived at the mouth of the Honeywine since the Dawn Age.

Pycelle: Nonsense. Maester Jellicoe proved that the city began as a trading post. Where ships from Valyria, Old Ghis and the Summer Isles put in to replenish their provisions and make repairs. Hence, the most famous feature of the city, the Hightower. Raised even before the city walls as a beacon through the fog-covered waters. Originally built of wood and standing a mere 50 feet above the ancient fortress of its foundation, it is now thick stone and rises even taller than the Wall. Those born and raised in Oldtown can tell the time of day by where its shadow falls.

Qyburn: But no maester can tell why. Even in our oldest records, the island on which it stands is called Battle Isle. What battle was fought there? And when? As for the ancient fortress that forms the tower's base, its walls and interiors are all of solid black stone with no hints of joints. Or mortar. And no chisel marks of any kind. We know it predates the tower itself by thousands of years. But who built it? How? And against what?

Pycelle: The maesters who have studied it declare it to be of Valyrian construction, akin to Dragonstone and the Black Walls of Volantis. As is well-known, the dragonlords of Valyria could turn stone to liquid with dragonflame to shape it as they wished.

Qyburn: Didn't one Archmaester link the fortress to the vanished mazemakers of Lorath? And another maester, to the legendary Deep Ones who inhabited the Iron Islands before the Ironborn?

Pycelle: Urgh, both marginal opinions without common support. But of more importance than the origin of the tower is the family to which it gave its name. House Hightower. The ancient ruling family of Oldtown. Known for their prudence and love of peace.

Qyburn: And pieces of gold.

Pycelle: During the Age of Heroes, when Lymond Hightower saw the Gardener kings conquering the Reach, he didn't meet them on the battlefield, but in the godswood. He bound his house to theirs by marriage. And transformed House Hightower from wealthy but relatively minor kings to the greatest lords of the Reach. Thanks to Lord Lymond's foresight, Highgarden has always defended Oldtown. Allowing the Hightowers to focus on higher pursuits such as learning and trade.

Qyburn: On that we agree. When the Andals invaded Westeros, Lord Dorian Hightower told his wife of twenty years that wars are bad for trade. And to make his point, traded her for a young Andal princess. When Aegon the Conqueror was earning his name, House Hightower traded its loyalty to the Gardeners for his confirmation of their rights, welcoming him with open arms and open... gates.

Pycelle: House Hightower bent the knee to Aegon to spare the city from his dragons. Hah. I would think such insinuations and insults beneath even you, Qyburn. Ah, then again, mockery of one's betters is the trade of fools.

Qyburn: I wouldn't know. Perhaps if I'd studied at the Citadel as long as you, Grand Maester.

Pycelle: The Citadel is the greatest seat of learning in the Known World. Without it, and the maesters it trains, Westeros would be a land of superstition and ignorance.

Qyburn: Like the ignorance that shrouds the Citadel's own birth?

Pycelle: Even without records, we have more than enough reason to believe that the Citadel began as a court of scholars and priests. Assembled by a second son of House Hightower. When he died, his elder brother raised the Citadel so that wise men would always have a home in Westeros and could continue the enquiries and debates that had given such joy to his younger brother.

Qyburn: His little brother's pets, as legend has it he called them. And so the maesters have remained. Only their masters have changed. Now they serve every lord with a castle. For a fee, of course. Whilst the Citadel serves its own importance.

Pycelle: Hah. Every word you speak merely validates your own expulsion from our ranks.

Qyburn: Knowledge is validation enough. I assume the world's greatest minds would agree. And perhaps they would if I'd met them. Oldtown is a city for old men and old beliefs. But the world is changing. No matter how high the tower, the clouds will not hold it up if the ground shifts beneath it.

Notes

  • The video mentions that trading and fishing ships from Valyria, Old Ghis, and the Summer Isles made port there to resupply, but not who built it. In the novels, the loose general consensus is indeed that Oldtown probably started out as some sort of trading post - though who exactly built it is unknown. Some think that the local First Men built it to trade with these foreign ships. Others suspect that it was an outpost built by the merchant fleets of Valyria, or even the Summer Islanders, which was later either abandoned and resettled, or which was simply absorbed over time by the local First Men. Even then, the ancient ruin of black stone on Battle Isle which the Hightower is built over is clearly from some prior, vanished civilization. Oldtown is built at an excellent port site at the mouth of the river, so presumably one or several past civilizations may have built over the ruins of prior settlements without even realizing they were there.
  • A slight error occurs in the video: Qyburn says that some maesters who visited the Children of the Forest before the Andal Invasion said that it was always inhabited by men, but Pycellee dismisses this as nonsense, countering that Maester Jellicoe determined that it began as a trading post. Actually, in The World of Ice and Fire, Jellicoe was himself among the maesters who visited the Children of the Forest, and the story the Children told was that men had always lived there as a trading post since the Dawn Age. The exact wording may have been confusing - it reads: "We can state with certainty, however, that men have lived at the mouth of the Honeywine since the Dawn Age. The oldest runic records confirm this, as do certain fragmentary accounts that have come down to us from maesters who lived amongst the children of the forest. One such, Maester Jellicoe, suggests that the settlement at the top of Whispering Sound began as a trading post..."
  • The video notes that King's Landing is more populous than Oldtown. The novels state that Oldtown is only slightly smaller than King's Landing, perhaps only by a few thousand, while King's Landing has approximately 500,000 inhabitants. The Targaryens quickly erected King's Landing only three centuries ago, however, compared to the well over 6,000 years that Oldtown has stood. Because King's Landing was rapidly constructed as a boom-town, little organized "urban planning" went into its construction, resulting in slum districts like Flea Bottom. In contrast, Oldtown was carefully built and revised over many centuries, so overall it is much cleaner, beautiful, and on average wealthier than King's Landing.
  • Even in the long centuries after the Andal Invasion, the Reach was divided for a very long time between the half north of the Mander River centered around Highgarden (ruled by House Gardener), and the southern half centered around Oldtown ruled by House Hightower. This continued until, as the video shows, the Gardeners simply absorbed the Hightowers through marriage-alliance. Even so, there has long been a cultural/historical divide between the northern and southern halves of the Reach - somewhat comparable to the real life divide between northern and southern France (the Reach as a whole is loosely inspired by France, both being "the heartland of chivalry"). House Tyrell descends from the Gardeners and ruled Highgarden after they were wiped out in the Targaryen Conquest - and thus the Tyrells are from the northern Reach. In Season 6 itself, characters from the southern Reach were introduced for the first time, when House Tarly was shown - and notably, their costume designs didn't match the Tyrells at all, accurately reflecting this north/south divide in the Reach.
  • No one knows who built the mysterious "oily black stone" ruins scattered across all three known continents. The ancient base of the Hightower in Westeros is made of it, and so are ruins at the Free City of Lorath (as the video notes). Similar oily black stone is found in ruins from Asshai to eastern Yi Ti, to the jungles of Sothoryos. Whether this was one incomparably ancient (and perhaps non-human) world-spanning civilization, or perhaps several civilizations, is utterly unknown. Each of these ruins has an ill repute and fills men with dread.
    • In the video, Pycelle compares it to the stonemasonry of the Valyrians: a similar comparison is drawn in the novels but is dismissed. The Valyrians often melted stone with dragonflame and enjoyed teasing it out into odd shapes and spires, and it was incredibly strong as a result, and was black in color. While Valyrian dragon-stone is similar this these ruins, however, there are major differences: Valyrian dragon-stone is quite dry to the touch, lacking the eerie "oily" texture of this mysterious black stone.

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