The city is known as the first daughter of Valyria, as it was one of the first colonies established by the Valyrian Freehold. Established to protect the borders of the Valyrian Freehold, Volantis became a crucial route in the transportation of goods, growing from an ordinary outpost into a great city that excelled in trade. After the destruction of Old Valyria by the Fourteen Fires, Volantis tried conquering its neighbors and putting them under its rule. It tried controlling Lys and Myr, and though it succeeded at first, Pentos joined Lys and Myr, and an uprising led to Volantis’s defeat. After its defeat, the city dived into trading with its neighbors.
Key Details about Volantis
- Location: Essos, Free Cities, Mouth of Rhoyne.
- Rulers: Triarchs.
- Year Founded: 700 BC by the Valyrian Freehold.
- Notable Religions: R’hllor the Lord of Light.
- Culture: Valyria.
- Political Organizations: Tiger Party, Elephant Party.
- Allegiances: The Nine Free Cities.
Volantis is one of the nine Free Cities of Essos located southern coast of Essos, East of Westeros. As the oldest and southernmost part of Essos, it got founded where the mighty Rhoyne River meets the Summer Sea. Originally founded as a colony of Valyria, the city broke free from its old masters after their destruction.
Volantis got founded in 700 BC, sometime after the fall of the Old Empire of Ghis. After the Ghiscari Empire fell to the Valyrians, the Valyrians became the dominant power on the continent of Essos. To expand and protect its borders, the government of the Valyrians created colonies that it used to project its strength on the rest of the continent. Among such colonies was Volantis, a garrison outpost made to defend the borders of the Freehold. The garrison created was protected by the Black Walls, and the protection lasted for more than a century.
When Volantis was a military outpost, wealthy Valyrians started using its proximity to the great River of Rhyone to propel their trade. As trade along the Rhyone increased, Volantis grew, and after the construction of the Long Bridge, which facilitated crossing the Rhoyne, it exploded into a settlement.
After Volantis grew into a city, it started trading with Valyria and Rhoynar. However, its growing influence on the region led to opposition from the Rhoynish states leading to the Rhoynish Wars. During the conflict, the city of Sarhoy went to war with Volantis, but with three dragonlords, it got defeated.
After Sarhoy’s defeat, Prince Garin of Chroyane declared war on Volantis and amassed an army mightier than any in Esssos. With his army, he defeated many enemies and conquered many cities of Volantis.
Garin’s conquest made him destroy the advances of the Volantene troops, and even with their dragonlords, he almost defeated everything in sight. However, the city asked for help from the Freehold, and an alliance led to the destruction of Garin’s army. The blood of the Rhoynar turned the Great Harbor of Volantis so red that it could get seen from as far as the eyes could see.
Century of Blood
After the Rhoynish Wars, Volantis grew in magnitude as its relationship with the Freehold prospered. However, the Doom of Valyria led to the destruction of the Freehold. With Old Valyria gone, Volantis tried to become the dominant power in Essos and continue the legacy of its founders. It sent some troops to the Valyrian Peninsula, but they never returned. Believing in the conquest mindset of Old Valyria, Volantis tried to subdue its neighbors, the Free Cities; this began the century of blood.
The first cities Volantis marched against were Lys and Myr, and though it successfully conquered them, an uprising backed by Pentos led to Lys and Myr’s rebellion. After the cities rebelled, they got supported by the rest of the Free Cities. With aid from the Sealord of Braavos, the Westerosi Storm King, and Argilac Durrandon, Volantis got defeated and expelled from Lys and Myr.
During the conflict, Pentos and Tyrosh allied with Aegon Targaryen, the Conqueror and Lord of Dragonstone, who flew to Lys and burned down the Volantene fleet. Norvos and Qohor joined the war, destroying the Volantene fleet on the Rhoyne. Intensely weakened, the Dothraki entered the conflict and further destabilized Volantis. With most of its fleet and troops gone, it decided to settle with its neighbors and end the conflict by trading in the most popular commodity; slaves.
As one of the mightiest cities in Essos, Volantis was known for its massive economy and power. It got rich from trading slaves throughout Essos. As a crucial player in the slave market, Volantis was filled with many slaves and regularly traded with Slaver’s Bay. It got famous for having five slaves for every freeman. After the Doom of Valyria, Braavos became its rival in power and wealth.
The Volantene have a culture that is rooted in the practices of Old Valyria. They believe wealthy people should get separated from ordinary people, and a high-status person should never travel afoot. The pride of the Volantene goes beyond riches and is rooted deep in their culture and identity.
Among themselves, some are special and get referred to as the Old Blood. In Volantene culture, those of Old Blood are noble families who can prove their unbroken descent from Old Valyria. They are given special treatment and are the only ones who can live within the Black Walls created by the Freehold.
The Volantene also have a slave culture. As it is the center of slavery in Essos, many practices get carried out. One such is tattooing slaves to mark their status. There are many tattoos made for slaves. Some include:
- Flames across the chin, cheeks, and forehead – represent Red Priests and Priestesses of the red temple R’hllor.
- A single tear beneath the right eye – represents prostitutes.
- A horsehead on the cheek – represents workers in stables.
- Flames across the cheeks – represent members of the Fiery Hand.
- Squares of Motley – represent fools and jesters.
Volantis is a politically active mercantile city-state ruled by the three triarchs, who get chosen annually. Though three triarchs govern the city, only two political parties are in power, the Elephants and the Tigers. The Elephants are made of merchants and moneylenders and propose more trade between others, while the Tigers are aristocrats and warriors interested in war and conquest. A 10-day election takes place annually, and new leaders get chosen to govern. On getting elected into office, the leaders’ feet do not touch the ground throughout their tenure.
Relevance in A Song of Ice and Fire
A Storm of Swords
After Lord Guncer, the Lord of Sunglass approaches Stannis and tells him he can no longer support his claim to the throne. He gets imprisoned and burned by Melisandre, the Red Priestess, at the order of Stannis’s wife, Queen Selyse. After getting killed, his son and brother flee to the city of Volantis. Meanwhile, the Wise Masters of Yunkai send an Envoy to Volantis asking for help against Daenerys Targaryen, the new queen of Meereen, who has been freeing slaves and destroying the slave trade in Slaver’s Bay.
A Dance with Dragons
After the Shy Maid docks in the Volantene town of Selhorys, Tyrion learns from Qavo Nogarys that a red priest has been preaching that the city will burn if it goes to war with Daenerys. Tyrion visits a brothel and gets captured by Jorah Mormont, who takes him to the city of Volantis. On reaching the city, Tyrion meets Penny, a dwarf woman who tries to kill him for her brother’s death. He becomes friends with her, and together they take a ship heading for Meereen.
After Victarion Greyjoy stops in Volantis, he notices galleys are sailing for Meereen, and there is a celebration. He discovers that the people are celebrating the future defeat of Meereen and the death of the dragon queen, Daenerys.
In Meereen, Skahaz mo Kandaq informs Ser Barristan Selmy that Volantis has released its fleet against Daenerys and Meereen. He then tells Barristan that Hizdahr zo Loraq plans on opening the gates for them.
How big is Volantis’s long bridge?
The Long Bridge of Volantis is the longest in existence. It is so large that it can fit two large carts with ease. On either side of the long bridge are buildings ranging from shops to temples, inns, and brothels.
How big is the red temple in Volantis?
The Red Temple is so big that it is three times the size of the Great Sept of Baelor in King’s Landing.
Why were foreigners restricted from the Black Walls of Volantis?
Volantis is a place with a rich history and proud people. Among the city’s history are those of the Old Blood, people who have traced their ancestry to Old Valyria. According to custom, only those of the Old Blood could reside in the Black Walls. They were the only people who could invite anyone. Hence, ordinary people and foreigners got restricted from entering.
Did the Volantene practice incest?
Yes, they did. To keep their Old Valyrian blood pure, many of the nobles in Volantis practiced incest and never married or mingled with people of the lower class.