The rebellion took place nine years before the beginning of the series and was an attempt by House Greyjoy of the Iron Islands to break away and secure independence from the Iron Throne and revive the Old Way. Balon Greyjoy declared himself King of the Iron Islands, forged the Kingdom of the Iron Islands, and led the rebellion, supported by his vassals. The rebellion began eight years after King Robert I Baratheon seized the Iron Throne in the civil war known as Robert's Rebellion.
During the rebellion, House Greyjoy secured several early victories, including the burning of the Lannister fleet at anchor in Lannisport in a raid led by Euron Greyjoy. They raided all along the western coast of Westeros, as far north as Sea Dragon Point. Their first major defeat came in an attempted attack on the coastal castle of Seagard. Balon's first son and heir, Rodrik, was killed in the failed assault.
However, the superiority of numbers and resources saw the Iron Throne crush the rebellion. The Greyjoy fleet was destroyed by Lord Stannis Baratheon. King Robert and his warden of the North Lord Eddard Stark besieged the Greyjoy stronghold of Pyke. The Iron Islands were outnumbered ten to one. During the final assault on Pyke, a battle-crazed warrior priest of the Lord of Light named Thoros of Myr led the way through a breach in the wall with his flaming sword, Jorah Mormont of Bear Island not far behind him. Eddard Stark and Jaime Lannister were also key fighters for the Iron Throne during the battle. Balon's second son, Maron Greyjoy, was killed in the fighting at Pyke. Maron's death was due to a collapsing tower during the battle.
The rebellion was crushed and Balon was forced to surrender. He was accepted back into the king's peace, keeping his lordship and titles, but only on the condition that his last surviving son Theon be made a ward of House Stark as hostage for his good behavior. Theon was just 8 years old at the time. Robert's victory cemented his hold on the throne, after having overthrown the Targaryens a few years before. King Robert knighted Jorah Mormont for his valor in the battle. Jory Cassel also fought in the Greyjoy Rebellion.
In retrospect, the whole idea of the rebellion has been extremely half-baked: Balon focused only on the short-term achievements, overestimating his forces and underestimating his opponents; apparently, he hadn't taken into consideration that Robert might eventually rally forces and launch a counterattack. As Tyrion correctly points out, the balance of forces alone should have made Balon drop the whole idea.
As things turned to be, Balon has not learned any lesson from the failed rebellion, for his poorly planned invasion of the North, about one decade later, happened similarly: an initial success, followed by a series of defeats and heavy losses.
As he is leaving Winterfell, Tyrion Lannister tells Theon how he remembers watching the Raid on Lannisport from Casterly Rock, recalling that Theon's uncles were responsible. When Theon tries to defend his people, Tyrion calls the war "a stupid rebellion."
Jory Cassel and Ser Jaime Lannister reminisce about the Siege of Pyke, in which they were both fighting against the Greyjoys. Within this conversation they mention clearly remembering Thoros of Myr leading the way with a flaming sword. Also, Jory confirms that the scar on his face was obtained while fighting in the rebellion.
Robert states that the Seven Kingdoms "haven't had a real fight in nine years", referring to the Greyjoy Rebellion.
Theon advises Robb to form an alliance with his father Balon. Robb initially disapproves of the idea, reminding Theon that the ironborn fought against his father. Catelyn, too, is against the idea, reminding Robb that his father had to go to war to end the Greyjoy Rebellion.
Theon angrily reminds his father how he bent his knee to Robert, after the latter crushed him.
Yara attempts to convince her father that the invasion to the North is fruitless, pointing out that the last time they provoked the mainlanders too far, they were crushed, referring to the Greyjoy Rebellion.
When Euron Greyjoy is invited to King's Landing to treat with Cersei Lannister, Ser Jaime Lannister recalls that it was Euron who started the first Greyjoy Rebellion when he burnt the Lannister fleet at Lannisport, referring to the Raid on Lannisport. Jaime congratulates Euron, but says that it didn't matter since the royalist forces made it to the Iron Islands anyway to quell Balon Greyjoy's rebellion. Euron surprisingly thanks him for it, saying how he loved watching Jaime kill the ironborn, calling his swordsmanship at the breach glorious and "like a dance." He goes on to note that had the royalists not made it to the Iron Islands, he would not have been sent into exile and become the greatest captain of the fourteen seas. Jaime is taken aback by this, but says that he likes killing Greyjoys, to which Euron replies that this is a trait he needs in an alliance given that he is now opposed by Balon's children, Yara and Theon, who have joined forces with Cersei's enemy, Daenerys Targaryen.
In the books
In the A Song of Ice and Fire novels, the Greyjoy Rebellion took place five years after Robert Baratheon seized the Iron Throne and nine years before the events of the books. Lord Balon Greyjoy of the Iron Islands calculated that Robert's rule was as yet insecure and that many families would not go to war for a usurper. Balon declared independence from the control of the King on the Iron Throne. When Robert mobilized his armies, the ironborn launched several preemptive strikes, destroying the Lannister navy at anchor in the harbor of Lannisport and raiding the castle of Seagard, as well as many smaller attacks along the coast.
Victarion Greyjoy was the one who destroyed the Lannister fleet, although the plan was devised by Euron.
However, Stannis Baratheon and Paxter Redwyne, with their fleets from Dragonstone, Storm's End and the Arbor, defeated the ironborn fleet in a significant battle off Fair Isle. A large army assaulted the Greyjoy castle of Pyke, with the Red Priest Thoros of Myr and a brave Northman knight named Ser Jorah Mormont the first through the breach, both surviving to win high honor. Pyke was severely damaged and Lord Greyjoy's eldest two sons were killed before he finally surrendered and bent the knee. King Robert agreed to forgive Balon and restore him to the king's peace as long as his surviving son and heir Theon was given up to Lord Eddard Stark as hostage and a ward.
There is no mentioning in the books about any actions performed by Jaime Lannister and Jory Cassel during the rebellion.
Years later, when Cersei Lannister receives a report about the raiding of Shield Islands, she regards her late husband's treatment of the Greyjoys as too lenient; she believes that her father's response to the rebellion would have been to give the ironborn a new island, made of their skulls.
- ↑ 1.0 1.1 "The Wolf and the Lion"
- ↑ 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 HBO viewers guide, season 2 appendices, Greyjoy Rebellion entry
- ↑ 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 3.4 "Cripples, Bastards and Broken Things"
- ↑ Royland Degore - Game Codex Entry
- ↑ 5.0 5.1 "You Win or You Die"
- ↑ 6.0 6.1 6.2 HBO viewers guide, season 2 special features, Battleground Westeros - Siege of Pyke entry
- ↑ "The North Remembers"
- ↑ "What Is Dead May Never Die"
- ↑ "Home"
- ↑ "Dragonstone"