- "An event that came to be known only as 'the Doom' laid waste to the Valyrians, their capital city, and its surrounding lands. The peninsula itself was shattered, becoming what is now the Smoking Sea. Every dragon was thought to be lost... as were the Valyrians' spells, knowledge, and recorded history. Thus, the mighty empire collapsed."
- ―Viserys Targaryen
The Doom of Valyria was a catastrophic event that took place nearly four hundred years before the War of the Five Kings. It destroyed the city of Old Valyria and devastated most of the surrounding Valyrian Peninsula. The destruction of its capital city in a single day in turn caused the fall of the entire Valyrian Freehold, which for thousands of years had ruled most of Essos.
It is often referred to simply as "The Doom" - due to its massive destruction and historical impact, most people across the world understand that this specifically refers to the disaster which struck Valyria.
- "They held each other close and turned their backs upon the end.
The hills that split asunder and the black that ate the skies;
The flames that shot so high and hot that even dragons burned;
Would never be the final sights that fell upon their eyes.
A fly upon a wall, the waves the sea wind whipped and churned —
The city of a thousand years, and all that men had learned;
The Doom consumed it all alike, and neither of them turned"
- ―Tyrion Lannister and Jorah Mormont, quoting a poem about the Doom
With the heartland of the Freehold destroyed, its surviving colonies to the west and east re-asserted their independence, politically fracturing the continent and initiating a series of savage wars for dominance known as the "Century of Blood", during which Volantis attempted to reform the Valyrian empire under their rule. Several of these colonies formed into the Free Cities in the west, and the cities of Slaver's Bay in the east.Meanwhile, without the Valyrians and their dragons to keep them in check, the Dothraki mounted hordes swept across the continent from the central plains of the Dothraki Sea, plundering and carving out new domains from surrounding areas - from the Dothraki point of view, the Doom started their own golden age of conquest and expansion. In the far northwest of Essos, the hidden city of Braavos, founded by escaped slaves who fled Valyria, now revealed itself to the world. While the other Valyrian colonies were left in chaos, Braavos was an island of stability because it had no political or economic ties with the Freehold, and quickly rose to become the most powerful of the Free Cities.
Valyria has remained a smoking ruin in the four centuries since the Doom. Even attempts to pass through it, much less resettle it, end in disaster - to the point that even pirates are too afraid to sail through the Smoking Sea. Ships rounding the Valyrian Peninsula make sure to stay a long distance away from the mainland, due to the belief that demons and other dangers still haunt the region. The Free Cities exile some victims of advanced greyscale disease, called "Stone Men", in the Valyrian peninsula, and a few manage to survive in the shadows of the ruins.
References in Game of Thrones
In Qarth, Jorah Mormont meets with Quaithe as she paints a sailor preparing to sail the Smoking Sea past Old Valyria. She explains that the tattoo is a protective ward against the Doom, which still rules in Valyria.
- "No one's made a new Valyrian steel sword since the Doom of Valyria."
- ―Jaime Lannister
Upon receiving a fresh-forged Valyrian steel sword from his father, Jaime Lannister remarks that a new Valyrian steel hasn't been produced since the Doom of Valyria. Tywin explains that the sword (Oathkeeper) was actually reforged from a pre-existing Valyrian steel sword (Ice).
- "You know what they say, 'The Doom still rules Valyria'...How many centuries before we learn how to build cities like this again?"
- ―Tyrion Lannister, on seeing the massive ruins of Valyria
While sailing from Volantis to Meereen with his captive Tyrion Lannister, Ser Jorah Mormont goes through the overgrown ruins of old Valyria, partially flooded by the waters of the Smoking Sea, to avoid pirates and slavers. They recite a poem about the Doom and observe Drogon flying overhead, when their boat is suddenly attacked by Stone Men.
In the books
In the A Song of Ice and Fire novels, the Doom of Valyria was an epochal event which dramatically changed the course of world history. Massive tidal waves caused by the eruptions and earthquakes resulted in giant tsunamis which struck many far away coasts. The three major cities of Slaver's Bay were shielded from the tsunamis by the Isle of Cedars, a large island between the bay and Valyria; however cities on the Isle of Cedars were swept away by the waves, and the island has been uninhabited ever since.
The Doom occurred in exactly the year 114 BC, 112 years before the Targaryen conquest of Westeros began in 2 BC. Twelve years before the Doom, in 126 BC, Aenar Targaryen relocated his entire household to Dragonstone, a small volcanic island off the east coast of Westeros. The Targaryens were one of the forty major families of dragonlords in the Valyrian Freehold, though they were not one of the more powerful ones. Aenar was encouraged to flee Valyria by the prophetic dreams of his daughter, which warned of the coming disaster. Along with them the Targaryens took five dragons, who became the only dragons to survive the Doom. Balerion was one of these, but the other four later died through unrevealed circumstances. They did leave eggs behind, however, and from these hatched Vhagar and Meraxes.
The Doom is partially inspired by ancient disasters such as the destruction of Pompeii by the volcanic eruption of Mount Vesuvius; author George R.R. Martin has said that the Valyrian Freehold itself is loosely analogous to the Roman Republic in his fantasy world. It is also partially inspired by myths about the fall of Atlantis.