In the last A Game of Thrones History Lesson we discussed the nine regions of Westeros and their state of affairs in the events leading up to Aegon I Targaryen‘s Conquest, which took place roughly 300 years before the events of the HBO series.
This week, we go over Aegon’s Conquest itself. As the Game of Thrones Wiki summarizes it: “When he was of age, Aegon, his two sister-wives and his three dragons led a scant few thousand troops in invading the entire continent of Westeros. Despite being vastly outnumbered, Aegon was able to secure victory after victory using his dragons.” Here’s the approach Aegon took:
Battle of Gulltown
Aegon’s first major move was against the Vale of Arryn. After being crowned, he sent his fleet (commanded by Daemon Velaryon, a surviving Valyrian noble) to take Gulltown with his sister Visenya and her dragon Vhagar. In the battle, the Arryn fleet was able to defeat the Targaryen fleet, and Daemon Velaryon was killed. Visenya, on her dragon, durned the Arryn fleet in response.
After losing his initial battle, Aegon looked towards the Ironborn King Harren the Black, who had conquered the Riverlands and made the gigantic behemoth of a castle, Harrenhal, to be his new seat. Harrenhal was a monstrous fortress (I literally cannot stress how amazing it was when first built). It was considered impregnable against siege or storm, an impressive feat for a castle with no natural defenses (cough cough, Eyrie and Moat Cailin).
When King Harren refused to bend the knee, Aegon used his dragon (Balerion the Black Dread) to overcome Harrenhal’s defenses. The castle wasn’t meant to defend from the sky, so Aegon ended up burning Harren and his sons alive in what would later be known as the Kingspyre Tower in Harrenhal. The remaining Ironborn fled to the Iron Islands, though Aegon pursued with the help of the Riverlords who didn’t particularly like their Ironborn conquerors.
The Ironborn would eventually swear fealty to Aegon, fearing his dragon. They would elect Lord Vickon Greyjoy of Pyke to lead them, and the Greyjoys swore fealty to Aegon. They were made Lord Paramount of the Iron Islands.
The first Riverlord to abandon the Ironborn and swear fealty to Aegon Targaryen was Edwyn Tully, who was later made the Lord Parramount of the Trident. Since then, the Tullys were the overlords of the Riverlands, making all other Riverlords swear them fealty.
Creation of the Crownlands
If you look at the map at the top of the article, right above King’s Landing and Dragonstone is a small peninsula known as Crackclaw Point. After the death of Harren the Black, Aegon sent Visenya to demand the submission of the lords of Crackclaw Point. The lords understood that they stood no chance, and so they bent their knees.
To this day, there is no overlord or Lord Paramount of the Crownlands. They have no Starks or Tullys or Greyjoys to serve, they are direct vassals of the Targaryens and would answer directly to the Iron Throne and King’s Landing. This area would also include smaller castles such as Rosby and Duskendale, Massey’s Hook (the peninsula south of Dragonstone) and the islands in the Blackwater Bay.
The Last Storm
In the east, Aegon’s alleged bastard half-brother Orys Baratheon led an army against Storm’s End with the aid of Rhaenys and her dragon Meraxes. King Argilac the Arrogant (known as the Storm King), would prove that his name was justly given. Rather than stay behind in Storm’s End (which, as you could assume from the name, would be the ideal place to ride out the storm), Argilac decided to meet the Targaryen army in the field, confident of his victory.
It was a huge mistake. In single combat, Orys Baratheon slew Argilac. His daughter, Argella Durrendon, declared herself Storm Queen and continued to hold Storm’s End. However, the garrison of the castle knew that resistance was futile. They took Argella and brought her to Orys naked and in chains, surrendering the castle. Orys clothed her at once (how gallant). Aegon would give Orys the castle and lands, as well as Argella to wed. House Baratheon was formed, and Orys took the sigil and words of the Storm Kings of old. The Stormlands now joined the Crownlands, Riverlands, and Iron Islands in Aegon’s Kingdom.
The Field of Fire
After separate engagements, Aegon and his sisters met with their dragons and army at Stoney Sept (for those looking at the map, Stoney Sept is near the Blackwater Rush in the Riverlands by the Westerlands.
The union between Lannister and Tyrell with Joffrey and Margaery are not the first times the Westerlands and Reach united against a common enemy. King Lorren Lannister of the Rock and King Mern IX Gardener of the Reach made an alliance, startled by the Targaryens’ rampant success. They assembled their armies, which would be later dubbed by historians as “The Host of the Two Kings,” and it numbered 55,000. The Targaryens only had 10,000 men, many of uncertain loyalty and reliability. Oh, and did I mention the Host of Two Kings had 5,000 mounted knights?
Let’s just say things weren’t looking that pretty for the Targaryens. But they realized this, and so Aegon and his sisters deployed ALL. THREE. DRAGONS. It was the only time all three took the skies at once. Their combined fires scoured the battlefield, immolating more than 4,000 men, including King Mern and his heirs. The Battle would be given the name The Field of Fire.
After being captured, King Loren Lannister bent the knee and was allowed to remain Lord of Casterly Rock. He became the Warden of the West and Lord Paramount of the Westerlands. With Mern Gardener and his heir dead, Aegon accepted the surrender of Harlen Tyrell, Mern’s steward, and appointed him the Lord Paramount of the Reach. The Tyrells were given Highgarden, and the rest, as they say, was history.
This appointment infuriated House Florent, who had a claim through a distant relation to House Gardener. Aegon ignored their claim. We’ve already met two Florents in the show: Sam Tarly is the first son of Randall Tarly and Melessa Florent. Stannis’ wife Selyse (fetus jars) is also a Florent. The Florents are the most significant house of the Reach to stay with Stannis after Blackwater (though they were initially with Renly). The House didn’t even garner enough notoriety to make the HBO series.
The King Who Knelt
Now Aegon had all but three kingdoms (Dorne, the Vale of Arryn, and the North). After subduing the Reach and the Rock, he set his sights North.
A host of northmen under the leadership of the King in the North, Torrhen Stark, marched south towards the Riverlands, and Aegon mustered his troops and dragons to meet him on the banks of the Red Fork of the Trident, east of Riverrun. Torrhen intended to engage Aegon in battle, but upon seeing Aegon’s vast host and dragons, Torrhen realized he couldn’t win.
Instead of wasting the lives of his vassals, Torrhen Stark bent the knee in submission. He was named Lord of Winterfell, Warden of the North, and Lord Paramount of the North. Stark would go down in history as the King Who Knelt, the last King in the North until Robb Stark, “The Young Wolf” rose in rebellion against the Iron Throne nearly 300 years later. In later years, an inn known as the Inn of the Kneeling Man was built on the site of Torrhen’s surrender.
The Cute Conquest of the Vale
Recall if you will, King Ronnel Arryn of the Vale. He was but a boy, very young, and his mother Sharra Arryn ruled as his regent. The penultimate kingdom that Aegon wished to subdue would eventually fall under his rule without bloodshed.
Sharra sent a massive army to the Bloody Gate, which stood to protect the Eyrie and the Vale. She herself returned to the Eyrie with Ronnel for safety. Visenya Targaryen simply rode Vhagar up the side of the mountain. Sharra rushed outside to see the young King Ronnel seated on the dragon begging for a ride. The regent acknowledged Aegon’s supremacy, and the young king got his ride.
Rhaenys led an invasion of Dorne in an attempt to secure the southernmost lands as well. The army was taken through the Red Mountains, but the Dornish refused to give open battles (learning from the Field of Fire) or hide in their castles (learning from Harrenhal). Instead, the Dornish struck at supply lines and engaged in guerilla warfare. Before they could be attacked by dragons, they would have already melted away.
Rhaenys captured holdfasts to no avail, as their people had already fled, leaving only those who could not fight. Frustrated, Rhaenys flew to Sunspear to demand Princess Mariya Martell’s surrender. Mariya instead informed her:
This is Dorne. You are not wanted here. Return at your peril.
Rhaenys replied that she would return with “Fire and Blood”, the words of House Targaryen.
Mariya simply replied “Unbowed, Unbent, Unbroken”, the words of House Martell.
The Targaryen army withdrew, leaving the country untaken. The Dornish managed to stay independent from the Conquest, something that no other King could do. Aegon chose to withdraw and leave Dorne as an independent nation.
Crowned in the Light of the Faith
Oldtown is the southwesternmost city in Westeros, home to the Maesters of the Citadel. When news arrived of Aegon and his sisters, the High Septon (of the Faith of the Seven) fasted and prayed for seven days and nights under the dome of the Starry Sept. He then announced that the Faith would not have them oppose the Tags because the Crone had shown him that to do so would mean the destruction of Oldtown.
A pious man, Lord Hightower of Oldtown kept his forces at Oldtown, and when Aegon marched south, he opened his gates to submit to Aegon’s authority. The High Septon anointed Aegon and acknowledged his place as King of Westeros, destroying much of the remaining opposition of the Westerosi people.
As always, if you have any questions/comments/corrections, please let us know in the comments.
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