"The warrior-queen Nymeria crossed into Dorne from Essos, fleeing the dragonlords of Valyria."
―Prince Oberyn Martell[src]

The Rhoynish Wars were a prolonged conflict between the Rhoynar and the Valyrian Freehold, which ended about a thousand years ago when the Rhoynar were finally subdued by the Valyrians' dragons.

The Rhoynar people at the time lived in city-states along the Rhoyne River, in the region of western Essos where the present-day Free Cities are located. After defeating the old Ghiscari Empire in a series of wars that ended about 5,000 years ago, the Valyrians continued to spread their domination across the continent. Eventually their colonies in the west - the nascent Free Cities such as Volantis - came into conflict with the Rhoynar who were already living in the region.

Rhoynar resistance

Valyrians landing on Rhoyne

Valyrian arrival of the Rhoyne

The when the first Valyrians colonists arrived in the Rhoynar city-states were welcomed by its inhabitants, whose culture conceived as an attribute generosity to reward the abundance of the Mother Rhoyne. In "gratitude" Valyrians began hunting the turtles that were considered sacred by Rhoynar, and when they tried to resist were killed and enslaved and their cities began to be occupied or destroyed by the invaders.

The Rhoynar princes began to face the Valyrians separately in the following years, being constantly defeated and subjugated by the military superiority of the Dragonlords of Valyria, which began to spread colonies throughout the Rhoyne on the ruins of the destroyed Rhoynar cities.

Rhoynar shoot down dragons

The Rhoynar shoot down dragons.

Garin, one Rhoynar prince, convinced other leaders of neighboring cities to join forces under his command to face the invaders together, directing the largest army hitherto seen in Essos against an army of 100,000 Valyrians, 100 war elephants and 3 dragons. Using strategies that harness the magic of the river Rhoyne Garin managed to push back the Valyrian empire for first time and won the title of "the Great".

Fall of Garin

After his surprise victory Prince Garin succeeded in unifying all the Rhoynar city-states under his command, and led his army to Volantis in an attempt to conquer the city, but he was surprised by a display of 300 dragons which easily decimated his army, killing tens of thousands of warriors Rhoynar in a few hours.

Garin on his fallen city

Garin is left to die as his city decays.

Garin was taken prisoner and placed in a cage to witness the Valyrian punitive advancing. Valyrians destroyed all Rhoynar cities and annihilated their society, and legend has it that in the end they hung Garin's cage on top of his own city to let him see its destruction and the death of all its inhabitants.


After their armies were burned and destroyed by the Valyrian's dragons, the surviving women and children in the Rhoynar's city-states were left defenseless. Before the Valyrians' armies could arrive to enslave them all, Princess Nymeria rallied the survivors to flee by ship, in a massive refugee fleet that passed down the Rhoyne and out into the Summer Sea. Eventually Nymeria and her followers landed in Dorne, in the southeast corner of Westeros. After they arrived Nymeria had their ships burned so none would lose heart and think of fleeing back to slavery in the east. Once in Dorne, Nymeria allied with local ruler Mors Martell, leading to Nymeria's War, in which they used their combined strength to conquer and unite all of Dorne for the first time.[1]

Greyscale on Valyrian Soldiers

Valyrian soldiers infected with greyscale

It is said that the first documented cases of greyscale took place between Valyrian soldiers as they ransacked the Rhoynar cities. Legend has it that Prince Garin invokes the disease from its cage as a curse of hatred while watching his city burn, so the virus is sometimes called "Prince Garin's Curse". Westeros maesters assumed that most likely the disease started to spread through the world product Valyrian expansion by Western Essos, and hence the legend.

In the books

In the A Song of Ice and Fire novels, the conquest of the Rhoynar by the Valyrians directly caused the flight of the Rhoynar refugees to Dorne in Westeros, the third and last major ethnic group to migrate to the continent.

The World of Ice and Fire sourcebook (2014) gives more details on how the wars progressed:
Rhoynar cities

A map showing the location of the major Rhoynar cities on the continent of Essos. All of these cities were destroyed by the Valyrians.

After the defeating the Ghiscari Empire in the east 5,000 years ago, Valyrian adventurers and merchants gradually kept expanding further and further westward, where they were welcomed at first by the Rhoynar, who were not a bloodthirsty people and did not desire conflict (even though they were strong warriors who fiercely defended their homes when attacked). Volantis was the first and greatest of these Valyrian colony cities. Over the centuries, however, competition over local resources and trade inevitably led to conflict between them.

These wars and skirmishes started out very gradually: the first clash was known as the "First Turtle War" and lasted less than a month. The subsequent "Rhoynish Wars" were a 250 year period of pervasive on and off skirmishes and flareups into outright warfare. Many of these were localized and inconclusive, but the Valyrians tended to win more than they lost. Specific conflicts in this time period included the War of the Three Princes, the Second Turtle War, the Fisherman's War, the Salt War, the Third Turtle War, the War on Dagger Lake, and the First Spice War, among many others. The final phase of the Rhoynish Wars was the massive conflict known as the Second Spice War, which saw the Rhoynar defeated and Nymeria lead the survivors to Dorne.

The Rhoynar lasted for as long as they did in no small part because the Valyrians simply didn't turn their full attention to the frontiers, instead more focused on the constant feuds between rival dragonlords in the core territories of the Valyrian Peninsula itself. For the same reason, the Valyrians hadn't simply exploded across all of Essos after defeating the Ghiscari Empire. The Rhoynar were not fighting the core forces of the Valyrians, but the forces of its colony-states such as Volantis - and the colonists did not possess any dragons (which is why they had struck out on their own in the first place, as without dragons they had little power in the Freehold). Every now and again, when the tide of the wars turned badly enough against the colony-cities and it seemed like they were in serious danger of destruction, they would call for help from the dragonlords living in Old Valyria itself. They would arrive and turn back the Rhoynar with their dragons, but because wars are expensive and they were more concerned with affairs and feuds back home, they would return as soon as they had succeeded in defending the colony-cities but not stay to continue an offensive against the Rhoynar. Nor did the Rhoynar present a united front, as their city-states were fiercely independent and had no overall government to coordinate their responses. During periods when the Valyrian colonists were weak and not a pressing threat, the Rhoynar cities would even continue their own petty conflicts with each other. As a result the wars see-sawed back and forth for generations. The definitive history text on these conflicts is held to be Beldecar's History of the Rhoynish Wars.

The conflicts came to an end about a thousand years ago (700 BC), when three dragonlords from Valyria joined with the settlers in Volantis to completely destroy the great Rhoynar port city of Sarhoy, at the westernmost of the four mouths of the Rhoyne River (Volantis is on the easternmost mouth). In response, Prince Garin the Great of Chroyane united all five of the remaining independent Rhoynar city-states along the Rhoyne River into a grand alliance: Chroyane, Sar Mell, Ny Sar, Ar Noy, and Ghoyan Drohe. By putting a weapon in the hand of every Rhoynar boy old enough to hold one, he fielded the largest land army Essos had ever seen, a quarter of a million strong. Princess Nymeria, ruler of Ny Sar, was their only leader who spoke against the war, saying that it was ultimately unwinnable, yet she had no choice but to join in because her warriors were so eager that she couldn't stop them.

The Rhoynar forces were split in three: one on the east bank, one on the west, and a fleet on the river itself, as they made their way south from Chroyane. The Rhoynar had magical power of their own, not based on "fire and blood" like the Valyrians, but on the waters of Mother Rhoyne. Their "water-wizards" called up floods and water-spouts which devastated Valyrian towns and armies. Garin inflicted defeat after defeat, and in a massive battle at Volon Therys slaughtered a Valyrian army 100,000 strong, killing two of the dragons they possessed and wounding the third. The Rhoynar were only a short distance from Volantis itself, whose inhabitants retreated behind the city's massive walls. Garin's victory was short lived, however, because the panicked Volantenes called upon mother Valyria to send aid. Briefly, the Valyrian dragonlords in Old Valyria itself knew real fear for the first time in four thousand years, since their defeat of the Ghiscari Empire. As Nymeria had warned, they now turned their full attention and resources to defeating the Rhoynar: they arrived at Volantis with a force of three hundred dragons. Against such a host, Garin's entire army was destroyed.

Garin himself was captured and tormented by being left alive to see the destruction of his city, where he later died. According to legend, as Garin was suspended in a golden cage and mocked by his Valyrian captors while his city burned around them, he called upon the magic of the river goddess herself to curse them. That night, the Rhoyne River flooded out of season, drowning many Valyrians and covering all of the now half-flooded ruins of the burned-out city in a dense, unnatural fog. The surviving Valyrians caught "Garin's curse" from the fog - Greyscale, a horrific and highly infectious disease which turns the flesh hard like stone, leading to a slow death after years in torment. Centuries later, the fog-shrouded ruins of Chroyane are still stalked by Stone Men - victims of advanced greyscale, exiled from the different Free Cities to the ruined city to live out their lives in quarantine.

Subsequently, Princess Nymeria gathered the Rhoynar survivors and assembled an immense evacuation fleet using every ship that could sail on the river. Most of their men had died in battle, so most of the refugees were women and children (though Rhoynar women were frequently also warriors). They passed down the Rhoyne and passed into the Summer Sea - avoiding the Valyrians at Volantis to the east by taking the westernmost mouth of the river, near the ruins of Sarhoy. According to legend, her fleet consisted of "Ten Thousand Ships", though there is no way of knowing the exact number, and many were simple skiffs or rafts. The Rhoynar traveled across the Summer Sea for several years, wandering through several unsuitable landing sites before finally landing in Dorne, the southeastern peninsula of Westeros. Nymeria then had all of the Rhoynar's ships burned on the coasts, so none would lose heart and think of fleeing back east to certain defeat and enslavement at the hands of the Valyrians.

See also