- "The greatest of Mother Rhoyne's children were the Rhoynar, a civilisation as ancient and grand of Old Ghis. Fishers, traders, scholars, workers of wood, stone and metal, the Rhoynar raised their elegant cities from the headwaters of the Rhoyne down to her mouth, each lovelier than the last."
The Rhoynar were a people from the eastern continent of Essos. Their civilization was centered on the immense Rhoyne river- from which the name "Rhoynar" is derived- and its numerous tributaries. The Rhoynar occupied this region for thousands of years and for the most part lived in peace. However, they eventually came into conflict with the rising power of the Valyrian Freehold. A series of wars ensued in which the Rhoynar were largely wiped out and their cities destroyed. A portion of the survivors - led by the famed warrior princess Nymeria of Ny Sar - fled Essos altogether and eventually settled in Dorne, the southernmost region of Westeros. There, the Rhoynar intermarried with the local population of Andals and First Men, forming a unique hybrid culture.
Present-day Dornishmen are thus descendants of the Rhoynar and still follow some of their customs and laws.
In the books
In the A Song of Ice and Fire novels, the Rhoynar are an ancient and highly advanced civilization. With a cultural record stretching back at least 8000 years, the Rhoynar emerged at roughly the same time as the Ghiscari Empire and the Golden Empire of Yi Ti. According to some sources, it was the Rhoynar who first taught the Andals how to forge iron (though in Westeros, the Faith of the Seven teaches that the Andals received this gift from The Smith in a vision). Famed as traders, fishers, scholars and craftspeople, the Rhoynar raised elegant towns and cities along the banks of the immense Rhoyne river, forming vital trade and transport links across western Essos. The World of Ice & Fire sourcebook provides a few details about these cities:
- Ghoyan Drohe: the northernmost city, filled with groves and waterfalls
- Ny Sar: contained many fountains and was filled with the sounds of music
- Ar Noy: buildings constructed of pale green marble
- Chroyane: greatest of the Rhoynish cities; a center for festivals and location of the famous Palace of Love
- Sar Mell: famous for its flowers
- Sarhoy: on the coast of the Summer Sea, famed for its canals and saltwater gardens
Rhoynish culture bore some similarities to real-life ancient Greece: although the cities were united by a common culture and shared geography, they were strongly divided politically; each major city had its own ruler, and they fiercely protected their independence from both outside peoples and fellow Rhoynar (somewhat like the independent city-states of Greece- Athens, Sparta, Corinth, etc.).
One of the most notable aspects of Rhoynish culture was its high degree of gender equality. Both men and women could rule in their own right, and were known as Princes and Princesses in the Common Tongue of Westeros. Women also served in their cities' armed forces and were said to fight as fiercely as the men. Rhoynar religion was also very distinctive: based on the worship of Mother Rhoyne - the goddess personified by the river - its pantheon also included minor deities such as King Crab and the Old Man of the River, the latter of which took the form of a giant turtle. Large turtles actually did- and still do - live in the river and were held sacred by the Rhoynar as the consorts of Mother Rhoyne.
Over a thousand years before the events of the novels, the Rhoynar lands fell under the creeping influence of the Valyrian Freehold, which had been slowly expanding across Essos. At first the Rhoynar welcomed the new arrivals, claiming that all men were welcome to share in the bounty of Mother Rhoyne. Valyrian adventurers, merchants, and settlers had been expanding into western Essos since the end of the Valyrian-Ghiscari Wars thousands of years earlier, but over time they began to exert more and more influence on the region: The Freehold had established the city of Volantis at the mouth of the Rhoyne and as the years passed they attempted to take further control of territory along the river. They also founded two other cities - Norvos and Qohor - on tributaries of the Rhoyne much further to the north. Soon the Rhoynar grew to regret the graciousness of their predecessors and by around 950 BAL ("Before Aegon's Landing") the two civilizations came into open conflict. These "Rhoynish Wars" lasted for two and a half centuries, but they were not a period of continuous warfare; rather they were a series of short, brutal wars fought over that time period. While the Valyrians won these conflicts more often than they lost, it was very slow going, as both sides had weaknesses as well as strengths: The settlers in Volantis and other colonies had few dragons at their disposal. While they could call upon dragonriders from Valyria when the conflicts turned dire, as soon as the riders left the fortunes of war turned once again. If the legends are to be believed, the Rhoynar possessed magical powers very different from those of the Valyrians, which were based on fire and blood. Instead, Rhoynar magic was based on water, and it was said that their "water-wizards" were capable of calling upon massive floods to destroy Valyrian towns, or raising water-spouts to fend off dragon-fire. Perhaps most significantly, the Valyrian colonies worked together and aided one another in these conflicts. By contrast, the individual Rhoynar city-states fiercely protected their independence and, for the most part, did not present a united front against the invaders.
The conflicts came to an end about a thousand years ago (700 BAL), when three dragonlords from Valyria joined with the settlers in Volantis to completely destroy the great Rhoynar port city of Sarhoy. In response, Prince Garin the Great, ruler of the city of Chroyane, united the five independent Rhoynar city-states still remaining into a grand alliance. By putting a weapon into the hands of every Rhoynar child old enough to hold one, he fielded the largest land army Essos had ever seen, a quarter of a million strong. Garin moved south along the Rhoyne with his army inflicting defeat after defeat, and in a massive battle at Volon Therys they slaughtered a Valyrian army 100,000 strong, killing two of the dragons they possessed and wounding the third. His victory was short lived, however, because the panicked Volantenes called upon mother Valyria to send aid, which came in the form of three hundred dragons. Against such a host, Garin's entire army was destroyed.
Following Garin's defeat, the warrior-princess Nymeria, ruler of Ny Sar, assembled an immense evacuation fleet. According to myth, she guided ten thousand ships out of the Rhoyne Delta and into the Summer Sea. After a great deal of wandering and further hardship, the fleet finally landed in Dorne, along the coast and the banks of the Greenblood River.
At that time Dorne was a patchwork of small, shifting states. Lord Mors Martell of Sunspear allied with Nymeria, marrying her, and using their combined power they were able to overrun and conquer all of Dorne.
By the time of the War of the Five Kings, the Dornishmen are ethnically mixed due to this intermingling of the Rhoynar with the local populations of First Men and Andals who already occupied Dorne. The Rhoynar impact on the gene pool of Dorne is strongest along the coasts, and up the river valleys into the central deserts, where the people have the dark olive skin and long black hair of their Rhoynar ancestors. However, the impact was least in the isolated Red Mountains of western Dorne, where hardly any Rhoynar settled, and the inhabitants resemble blond-haired Andals. A small group of Rhoynar, however, refused to assimilate with the local inhabitants or culture at all. A small, gypsy-like culture of river-folk moving up and down the major rivers of Dorne such as the Greenblood, these "Orphans of the Greenblood" are closest to the original ethnicity, culture, and religious practices of the original Rhoynar.
In the novels, the King of Westeros is styled the "King of the Andals, the Rhoynar and the First Men". In the TV series, the Rhoynar are left out of the list, probably because neither the Rhoynar nor their Dornishmen descendants have been introduced by the first three seasons. In the season four finale, however, Daenerys Targaryen is referred to as "Queen of the Andals, the Rhoynar and the First Men" by Missandei.
Cultures and Peoples of the Known World
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