Pentos and Dorne have a very rich history in the books by George R. R. Martin. There are innumerable mentions of both of them in A Song of Ice and Fire books. These cities also have a very strong influence on the events of HBO’s A Game of Thrones (GOT). With their recent appearance in one of the latest episodes of House of the Dragons (HOTD), the buzz and curiosities among fans have re-emerged about these cities. So, let’s dive into their histories and significance.
One of the Nine Free Cities (others being – Braavos, Lorath, Lys, Tyrosh, Myr, Volantis, Norvor, and Qohor) of the Western Essos, the Pentos is located on the eastern coast of the Bay of Pentos. Out of all the free cities, it is located nearest to King’s Landing in Westeros, directly across the Narrow Sea. It is basically a large, rich city-state of merchant lords. It is surrounded by fertile coastal plains known as the Flatlands. The citizens of Pentos prefer to call themselves Pentoshi. They mainly speak Bastard Velyrian. They worship many Gods, including R’hilor.
It is normally ruled by a Prince who is chosen by the city’s Magisters from various Pentoshi noble families. This Prince will eventually be in charge of all things related to trade, justice, and even war. The book even has a disturbing detail related to the Pentoshi Prince. However, the Prince’s power is only limited, as the real rulers are the Council of Magisters (the wealthy merchant-princes) of the city. It states that every new year he is compelled to ‘deflower’ two of his maidens (called – the Maid of the Field and the Maid of the Seas) to bring good fortune to the city. However, if a crop fails or war is lost, the Magisters slit the Prince’s throat and choose another.
The Pentoshi consider themselves to be descended from the Andals, Velaryians, slaves, and ancient peoples. The city was founded by many merchants, traders, seafarers, and farmers from the Valyrian Freehold mainly as a trading outpost. Their main product of trade and commerce of products is cheese. As a result, Pentoshi traders are often referred to derogatorily as “cheese-mongers”. These people were smallfolk who bred with local Andals, hence the Pentoshi are less protective of Valyrian blood than other Free Cities. However, after the Doom of Valyria, it became an independent city-state during the ensuing Century of Blood.
…a toast to Aegon the Conqueror, your exalted forebear, who joined our cause against Volantis in the Century of Blood. On the great dragon Balerion, he flew to our aid in Lys and burned a fleet of enemy ships, thus turning the tide. – Prince Reggio Heratis (HOTD S1E6)
During the House of the Dragon episode 6, Daemon Targaryen and his wife Laena Velaryon along with their two daughters (Baela and Rhaena Targaryen), seem to have been living in Pentos. There they are hosted by Prince Reggio Heratis who offers them a permanent residence in Pentos, even offering to gift them the manse they are currently staying in, as well as its farms, lands, vineyard, and wood, in exchange for an alliance against the Triarchy with the help of their dragons.
The Dorne is one of the nine constituent regions of the Seven Kingdoms. It is the southernmost part of Westeros, located thousands of miles from Winterfell and the North. It thus has a very harsh desert climate. However, it is considered the only part of Westeros where citrus fruits and spices grow. It is surrounded by water on three sides. According to the books, the legend has it that once there was a land bridge (called Arm of Dorne) that linked Westeros to Essos. However, to halt the advance of the First Men in Westeros, the then inhabitants, Children of the Forest, destroyed this bridge. A large portion of it sank into the Narrow Sea, with the remaining coming to be known as the Stepstones.
Thus Dorne is bordered by the Sea of Dorne to the north, the islands known as the Stepstones to the east, the Summer Sea to the south, and the Red Mountains to the west and northwest. Notably, the rulers of Dorne are allowed to style themselves as “Prince” rather than “Lord”, and their inheritance always passes to the eldest child regardless of their gender. The Dorne is famous for its wine across the seven kingdoms (called Dornish Reds). They are considered as dark as blood, with a sweet taste. Other exotic products from the region include – olives, lemons, pomegranates, plums, cloth, spices, and oranges. Even their horses (called sand steeds) are considered the most beautiful. It is also famous for its bazaars.
Martin had said that his idea of Dorne is mainly inspired by Spain and Wales. According to the books, roughly a thousand years ago, Dorne had no ruler strong enough to seize control of its entire region. It was just one of many Andal states. However, a few years later, the Rhoynars (from east of Essos) eventually landed in Dorne under the command of Princess Nymeria. Rhoynars were looking for a home to settle in after their homeland was destroyed by Valyrians. Nymeria then married Lord Mors Martell of Sunspear, and eventually conquered the entire peninsula with his support. She then destroyed her ten thousand ships and decide to forever turn her back upon the sea.
Even centuries later, the Dornish kept on thwarting continuous attempts of King Aegon I Targaryen of the Peninsula. Thus, keeping Dorne free from any Targaryen rule. King Daeron I was successful in subduing the kingdom, but he too (along with forty thousand soldiers) was later killed by the Dornish rebellion. Finally, King Baelor ended up making peace with Dorne. Fifty years on, Princess Myria Martell married Prince Daeron II, and Dorne joined the seven kingdoms through a peaceful alliance.
During the reign of King Viserys I Targaryen (as during the events of HOTD), the Dorne was ruled by Prince Qoren Martell. Viserys, according to the books, even once thought of marrying his daughter – Rhaenyra, to the Dornish Prince. During the Targaryen civil war (called Dance of the Dragons), Dorne remained neutral, refusing to choose any side.