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Daario Naharis describes the history of the fighting pits of Meereen, the different types of fights that occurred, and the lives that the more-skilled fighters led.
Daario Naharis: People love blood - when it's not their own. But tavern brawls are boring, and wars never have good seating. Thus, the famed fighting pits of Meereen opened shortly after the city's own founding. I heard that originally, the combats were a blood sacrifice to the gods of Ghis, the empire the founded Meereen. Some still believe they are, but the Ghiscari Empire died a long time ago, and their gods went with them. Yet, the pits remained open, filling the city's purse with gold from the ends of the Earth. I suppose the fighting pits are a blood sacrifice after all. Only the gods changed.
In the pits, slaves fought each other to the death, for fame and glory - and gold for their Masters. A lot of god. Enough for the Masters to invest in rigorous training. Slaves were taught to fight like Dothraki screamers, Bearded Priests of Norvos, ironborn reavers, Westerosi knights, Qohorik hunters, and Lysene pirates - whatever would excite a crowd. After all, everyone wants to know who is the best, and of course, who isn't, for the crowds don't come only to see men fight well. I've seen the Masters release tigers, lions, and other exotic beasts into the arena to chase less-costly slaves, barely-trained, if at all. A whore once told me of an amusement in one of the less-prestigious pits; one boy was rolled in honey, one in blood, and one in rotting fish, and then a bear was unleashed, and the crowd wagered on which boy the bear would eat first. I never heard who won. Then again, it was obvious - the Masters.
Did such stories worry me? Of course not; I could fight, and for a good fighter, life was luxurious. Thousands of people chanted his name when he stepped into the pits. He would eat the choicest meats, drink the finest wines, and sleep on exotic furs - often not alone. Women would fling themselves at him or sneak into his chambers to wait for him after a fight. Foreign princesses, priestesses, even the wives and wayward daughters of Masters. And he never had to fear punishment, for a great fighter could be worth 300,000 honors. Another wife was always cheaper.
And when this renowned fighter fell - for all fighters will, in time - his name would be inscribed into the Gates of Fate, among the other valiant dead. I remember once trying to count all the names, but the gates opened before I finished, and another fight began.
- In the books, it is indeed described that - much like in real life ancient Roman gladiatorial games - there are a variety of different types of games in the fighting pits: apart from the main gladiatorial games there are also games of gladiators against exotic animals, or exotic animals against each other. Some of the more lurid but nonetheless popular side-attractions are the "follies" - such as pitting unarmed and untrained slaves against lions and tigers. The worst of the follies often send unarmed slave children, old women, or dwarfs up against wild animals, so they will be torn apart - for it is blood that the crowd has come to see. When Tyrion Lannister is brought into Meereen as a slave by Yezzan zo Qaggaz in the novels, he narrowly avoids being sent into one of the follies in which dwarfs are being fed to lions - Daenerys stops it at the last minute, however (not knowing Tyrion is there), because she reluctantly agreed only to gladiatorial games in which free men participated of their own free will.
- Daario's anecdote that a whore told him about three little boys that were fed to a bear actually happened in the novels: when Daenerys was in Astapor and Kraznys mo Nakloz was showing her around as a potential buyer of the Unsullied, he offered to entertain her later that evening by taking her to a show at one of the fighting pits he highly recommended: one boy is rolled in honey, another in blood, another in rotting fish, and the audience takes wagers on which one he bear will eat first. Daenerys declines the invitation. This particular arena in Astapor was known as Douquo's Pit.
- "Gold Honors" are mentioned by name, a kind of gold coins used as currency in several cities across Essos, such as Meereen (though a Volantene Gold Honor and a Meereenese Gold honor aren't worth the same value). The first time they were mentioned by name in the main TV series was in Season 5's "The Gift", when Jorah Mormont is sold at auction to Yezzan to fight in the gladiator games. Jorah is presented as a worthy purchase, as he is a seasoned warrior trained in sword and lance: the bidding starts at 12 Gold Honors, and Yezzan buys him for 20 Gold Honors. In the novels, however, a bid of 5,000 Gold Honors at auction for a pair of slaves sent to the fighting pits is actually thought to be an insultingly low offer. This video is closer to the values as presented in the novels, with Daario saying that a champion gladiator-slave can be worth 300,000 Gold Honors.
- It might be plausible that at the TV auction, the bidders were simply using clipped phrases, i.e. "I bid twenty" as short for "I bid twenty (thousand)".