- This article is about the Valyrian people and culture. For other related topics see Valyria (disambiguation).
- "Wielding these weapons, astride their dragons, the Valyrians conquered the surrounding lands and slowly expanded west."
- ―Viserys Targaryen
The Valyrians are a people and culture native to the Valyrian Peninsula, in the continent of Essos. For thousands of years, their empire was the dominant civilization in Essos, until a cataclysmic event known as "the Doom" shattered their capital city and all but obliterated them.
Originally a community of shepherds, the Valyrians rose to prominence after discovering dragons in the volcanic area known as the Fourteen Fires. After taming the mighty beasts, they established the city of Valyria and became skilled in both magic and metallurgy - creating a unique type of steel.
With their dragons and weapons, the Valyrians conquered their surrounding lands and began their westward expansion. However, they came into conflict with the Rhoynar as well as the Ghiscari peoples. The Ghiscari Empire fought five wars against the Valyrian Freehold and was eventually defeated, their capital destroyed, and its people enslaved.
For nearly five thousand years, Valyrian hegemony was uncontested, until "the Doom" destroyed much of the Valyrian peninsula. Not only dragons, but also the Valyrians' spells, knowledge and recorded history, were lost.
The cause of the Doom remains unknown, with some believing the Valyrians themselves caused it with their reckless use of magic. In any event, the power of the Valyrians was broken, the ruling dragonlords dead, and soon their colonies throughout Essos declared their independence and a period of constant warfare began: the Century of Blood.
Some traces of the Valyrian people and culture survived the Doom. Their language, High Valyrian, gave birth to a number of dialects spoken in the former colonies of Valyria. Their blood and practices also survived in the Free Cities - colonies established by the Freehold. However, after four hundred years the surviving Valyrian colonists in the Free Cities intermingled with the local populations to such an extent that they largely ceased to exist as a distinct group. A few aristocratic families in the Free Cities still retain classic Valyrian features, to greater or lesser degrees, having light blonde hair and colorful eyes, and are said to have "the blood of Old Valyria".
A few Valyrian noble families, however, had survived the Doom on Dragonstone, off the east coast of Westeros, at the extreme western edge of Valyrian expansion. They were led by House Targaryen, the last possessors of live dragons, as well as some of their vassals who settled on neighboring islands such as House Velaryon and House Celtigar. A few noble families were later founded by their servants, such as House Qoherys (which went extinct within three generations). On the whole, however, the Targaryens and their few followers had almost no impact upon the ethnic composition of Westeros as a whole - particularly because they continued to "keep the bloodline pure" by engaging in incestuous marriages whenever possible, instead of intermingling with local noble families.
Features and practicesEdit
Valyrians are known for being very fair-skinned and having silver hair along with violet or deep blue eyes. To keep their traits "pure", Valyrian nobles often practiced incest, wedding brother to sister, cousin to cousin, uncle to niece and aunt to nephew.
In the booksEdit
In the A Song of Ice and Fire novels, the Valyrians are famous for having silver-gold (platinum blonde) hair, very pale skin, and violet-purple eyes. This can vary from white to silver to gold hair, and from lilac to deep purple eyes, or sometimes blue. The TV series originally attempted to portray Daenerys and Viserys with purple irises using colored contacts, in the unaired pilot episode. However, the producers soon decided that it detracted from the actors' performances, because "actors act with their eyes", and was therefore much too distracting. Therefore in the TV continuity it seems more like ethnic Valyrians tend more towards having brightly colored eyes such as blue. The inhabitants of Lys descend from Valyrian colonists, who didn't intermingle very much with other peoples, so they are said to retain classic Valyrian features: some Lysene aristocratic families still have silver hair and purple eyes, though the more "classic" Lysene look is gold hair with blue eyes - so Daenerys and Viserys having blue eyes isn't too far removed from possibilities in the books.
The "Valyrians", as an ethnic group, were largely destroyed by the Doom. The survivors that lived in the colonies such as the Free Cities generally intermingled with the local population so much that they ceased to exist as a distinct group. A few aristocratic families here and there in the Free Cities are famous for maintaining pure Valyrian lineages - those with "the blood of Old Valyria" retain strong Valyrian features of pale hair and purple irises.
The major exceptions to the above are Lys and Volantis, in which large segments of the population can still be said to exhibit classic Valyrian features. Lys was founded as a direct colony of Valyria, built from scratch and settled by pure-blooded Valyrian colonists, so Valyrian bloodlines are still very strong there. In Volantis, the ruling aristocracy became obsessed with their identity as the first colony of Valyria, and thus believed that they were the direct heirs of the Valyrian Freehold, destined to reconquer all of the other Free Cities. As a result the Volantene nobility is obsessed with blood purity, and practices extreme (apartheid-like) separation between the free aristocratic families (with pure Valyrian lineages) and the non-aristocrats and slaves (though Volantis is not only the most populous of the Free Cities but also has the most disproportionately large ratio of slaves in that population, about five slaves to each free man).
In Westeros, the only major surviving Valyrian families were the Targaryens, and their vassals, the Velaryons and Celtigars. While they generally retained classic Valyrian features, they acculturated to Westeros, adopting the Common Tongue and converting to the local Faith of the Seven. The Targaryen family still considered itself "the blood of Old Valyria", but not to be a full "ethnic group" anymore. In contrast with the real-life Norman Conquest of England, unlike the Normans, the Targaryens had such small numbers that their Valyrian bloodlines had a negligible impact on the continent's ethnic makeup. In addition to their initially very small numbers compared to the Normans in England, of course, the Targaryens and their vassals frowned upon intermarriage and continued to try to keep the bloodline as pure as possible by incestuously marrying brother to sister (or at least cousin to cousin), significantly limiting their already small impact on the ethnic makeup of Westeros.
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