Braavos

Braavos is the wealthiest and most powerful of the Free Cities of Essos, as it houses institutions like the Iron Bank and Faceless Men.

The Definitive Glossary for Game of Thrones

Braavos got referred to as the bastard daughter of the Valyrian Freehold because it got formed by slaves who escaped captivity. After the Doom of Valyria, it came to the limelight and faced conflict with other Free Cities like Volantis. Also called the Secret City or Braavos of the Hundred Isles, it spans across one hundred islands in a lagoon. It is home to the famed Faceless Men, an assassin order with a perfect killing rate. Due to their ancestry, slavery is forbidden in the city.

Braavos Details

  • Name: Braavos.
  • Year Founded: Between 400 and 1436 BC.
  • Region: Essos.
  • Government: Sealord.
  • Religion: Multiple Religions.
  • Notable Organizations: Moonsingers, Iron Bank, Faceless Men.
  • Important Places: Drowned Town, Titan of Braavos, House of Black and White, Purple Harbor, Temple of the Moonsingers, Ragman’s Harbor, Stones of the Silent God, Sweetwater River, Patternmaker’s Maze.


Setting

Braavos is in a massive lagoon where the Shivering Sea meets the Narrow Sea. To the nearby mainland of the city are marshlands, while to the seaside are towering mountainous islands which offer natural protection from enemies. Besides the mountains, the islands also have pine trees which serve as windbreaks to protect the harbors; this makes it illegal to cut them for firewood. 

To enter Braavos, one must pass through the Titan of Braavos, a massive fortress carved in the form of a warrior. The Titan roars when foreign ships get spotted coming. Beyond the Titan is the Arsenal, where gigantic warships can get built in a single day. The Coastlands to the south, the western coast of Lorath Bay, and the seas northwest of Essos also belong to the city.

Structure

Braavos is a unique city with numerous architectural wonders. There are canals, ports, and abandoned towns in the city. However, vegetation is scarce; this is due to the stone architecture. Because of the lack of trees, firewood is one of the most expensive commodities. Its water is unsuitable for drinking. However, the Braavosi built the Sweetwater River, which supplies fresh water to the population. The rich piped the water directly to their homes, while others fetched it from fountains.

Canals

Because of its connection with many islands, there is an extensive canal system in Braavos. The canal system spans throughout the city, and construction takes place on top of it, with many houses getting built. The canals include the Green Canal, which leads from the Palace of Truth to the east of the lagoon, the Black Canal, and the Canal of heroes, which is the closest to the Titan of Braavos, the Arsenal, and the Chequy Port.

The Canal of Heroes leads to the Isles of the Gods at the city’s center. Another canal is the Long Canal, the broadest. It spans from the city’s center to the south of the lagoon. Engraved on a stone on an arch spanning the canal is the first law of Braavos.

Abandoned Towns

Being an ancient city, Braavos is home to some abandoned settlements. The most prominent of them is the Drowned Town. It is in the northwest region of the city. The town was once a part of the city but fell into the lagoon. Though destroyed, some people live there. The Spotted Cellar is close to the town’s gate, and their eel fights happen.

Ports

As Braavos is in a lagoon, there are many landings where fishermen dock. However, three primary ports feed the city. The first is the Chequy Port which is behind the Arsenal. It is for non-Braavosi ships who submit to an inspection. The Purple Port is a port for natives only. The last primary port, Ragman’s Harbor, is where foreign ships dock.

Religion

As all gods are honored in Braavos, many temples got scattered throughout the city. The biggest of the temples is that of the Moonsingers. It got built by the first refugees who arrived on the island. The temple is made from white marble and has a silver dome.

Other prominent temples are the Temple of the Father of Waters, which gets rebuilt; the Temple of the Lord of Light; and the Sept-Beyond-the-Sea, for the Westerosi’s Faith of the Seven. Another prominent temple is the House of Black and White, where the Faceless Men serve the Many-Faced God.

Culture

The people of Braavos are kind and love music. The wealthy dress in dark colors of purple and charcoal grey, while sword wielders dress in flashy colors. The Braavosi speak a bastardized High Valyrian. While in the city, a person wielding a sword at night can get openly challenged to a fight.

As a city with one of the best courtesans in the known world, there are many disputes concerning who the prettiest women are. The Black Pearl is considered by many to be the finest courtesan. Unique to the Braavosi is the Water Dance style of a sword fight. It is a skill that involves one wielding a slim blade and standing sideways.

The ruler of Braavos is known as the Sealord. He resides in the Sealord’s Palace and gets chosen by the Magisters and Keyholders. The Sealord serves for life. The leader of the Sealord’s guards is the First Sword.

Economy

Braavos is the wealthiest of the cities in Essos because of the Iron Bank, a financial institution that lends money to cities, and the Iron Throne of the Seven Kingdoms. The Iron Bank’s existence is crucial for transactions between Essos and Westeros. It also gains wealth from trading oysters, eels, crabs, clams, and other fish. Its port is also crucial for trade between cities, and everyone, except slavers, is welcome to trade.

History

Origin

Braavos got founded by slaves of the Valyrian Freehold who rebelled and escaped captivity. As they journeyed to a new colony in the continent of Sothoryos, the slaves overtook the ships and instead sailed as far north as they could. On getting to a lagoon, the freed slaves vowed to create a city where everyone would be free.

The Century of Blood

After the Doom of Valyria, Volantis, one of the largest colonies of the Valyrian Freehold, attempted to conquer the neighboring cities. It began a campaign and captured Lys and Myr. However, when it tried capturing Tyrosh, a rebellion occurred. During the revolt, the Sealord sent a hundred ships to help Lys. When Aegon Targaryen landed in Westeros and began his conquest, the city-state sent a dozen warships to help. However, Aegon the Conqueror dethroned all the Kings and became Lord of the Seven Kingdoms.

The Era of the Targaryens

In 49 AC, the Sealord sent his son to attend the wedding of Lord Rogar Baratheon, the Hand of the King, to Queen Regent Alyssa Velaryon of House Velaryon.

After the Golden Wedding, Rego, the master of coin, took a loan from the Iron Bank of Braavos. In 54 AC, Lady Elissa Farman stole three dragon eggs from Dragonstone and traveled to Braavos, where she sold them to the Sealord. The Sealord eventually asked her to leave to prevent any trouble with the Valyrians.

Two years later, King Jaehaerys asked the Iron Bank’s envoy if they knew about the Sun Chaser, the ship Alyssa constructed with the money for the dragon eggs. Though the envoy denied it, Septon Barth traveled to Braavos to inquire about the stolen dragon eggs. After lying about the missing eggs, the King’s envoy threatened the Sealord.

In retaliation, the Sealord warned he would employ the Faceless Men to target prominent people in Westeros. Eventually, the Sealord made a deal and convinced the Iron Bank to cancel the debts of the Iron Throne as long as the eggs did not get hatched.

Daughter’s War

When the Daughter’s War began, Braavos joined Pentos and Lorath against Lys, Myr, and Tyrosh. The alliance led to the victory of the Pentoshi and Braavosi forces. During the war, the Iron Throne tried to gain control over the Step Stones, a region under Pentos’s control; this led to a dispute with Westeros. In the end, an agreement got reached, and the Step Stones went under Dorne’s control.

Recent History

In 276 AC, King Aerys II Targaryen had a dispute with Braavos. Though he declared he would bring the Titan to its knees, The Hand of the King, Tywin Lannister, settled the dispute by repaying the loans owed to the Iron Bank. After House Targaryen fell during Robert’s Rebellion, King Aerys’s children, Viserys and Daenerys, were taken to Braavos by Ser Willem Darry. Unfortunately, the knight died, and the Targaryen children began wandering the Free Cities.

Relevance in A Song of Ice and Fire

A Clash of Kings

After Stannis Baratheon declares himself King of the Sven Kingdoms, he plans to send letters to Braavos and the Free Cities stating his claim. Meanwhile, a moneylender from Braavos travels to King’s Landing on a diplomatic mission to see King Joffrey about the payment of some loans. He gets taken to meet Lord Petyr Baelish.

On securing an alliance with Dorne, Tyrion Lannister sends his niece from Braavos to Dorne. After Arya Stark helps free the Northmen in Harrenhal, Jaqen H’gar gives her a coin and tells her to show it to any Braavosi man and say the phrase: ‘Valar Morghulis.’

A Storm of Swords

After getting forced to marry, Tyrion tries to calm his bride, Sansa Stark, down. He contemplates taking her to Braavos, but she goes missing as Lord Petyr Baelish takes her to the Vale. When Catelyn learns her sons got killed in Winterfell, she frees Jaime leading to a chain of events ending in Robb stark’s death. After watching her brother and mother get killed, Arya boards the Titan’s Daughter and sails to Braavos.

A Feast for Crows

On reaching Braavos, Arya joins the Faceless Man and begins residing at the House of Black and White. She meets a Kindly Man and waif and learns many things, including the Braavosi tongue.

Meanwhile, Samwell Tarly arrives in the city after getting sent to the Citadel by Lord Commander Jon Snow. On staying in Braavos for a while, one of the Night’s Watch, Dareon, decides to leave the Watch. However, Arya kills him. For her actions, she gets blinded.

In King’s Landing, Tycho Nestoris, an emissary of the Iron Bank, travels to ask for repayment of the loans taken by the Iron Throne. However, Cersei refuses to pay until the wars are over; this causes the Iron Bank to withhold further loans.

A Dance with Dragons

Tycho Nestoris travels to Castle Black, where he meets Jon Snow and agrees to loan the Watch. He then gets sent to Stannis. Meanwhile, in Braavos, Arya assumes the identity of a blind girl, beth. After impressing the Kindly Man with her information-gathering skills, her eyesight gets restored. She gets asked to kill a man, and after succeeding, she gets sent to meet Izembaro.

Braavos: The Mighty City

Braavos is one of the largest cities in A Song of Ice and Fire. Though it was on another continent, it had a massive influence on the events in Westeros. Its existence completes George R. R. Martin’s perspective on politics and inter-continental relations. Also, because Braavos’s existence got caused by slavery, it outlawed everything related to the practice while the rest of Essos thrived on slavery; this shows that history shapes not just people’s minds but empires.

FAQs

Why is slavery banned in Braavos?

Braavos outlawed slavery because the city got formed by a group of slaves who escaped captivity. The founders envisioned a place where everyone would be free, regardless of who they were.

Is Braavos stronger than Volantis?

Yes. Braavos won four of the six wars it fought with Volantis. After showings its strength over the Volantene forces, it outlawed slavery in the city.

Where is Braavos?

Braavos is in a lagoon on the northwestern end of Essos. It is the wealthiest of the Nine Free Cities of Essos and boasts the best financial institution known to humanity, the Iron Bank.

Is Braavos the most powerful city in the known world? 

As it is the wealthiest of the Free Cities, Braavos may be the most powerful city in the known world; this is because of the Iron Bank and the Faceless Men.

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