Sothoryos is the third continent in the Known World, after Westeros and Essos. It lies to the southeast of Westeros and due south of Slaver's Bay in Essos, across the Summer Sea. Sothoryos is located in the extreme south of the known world, and it is mostly unexplored. It is unknown if there are other continents.
The inhabitants of Sothoryos are ethnically quite distinct from the peoples of Westeros and Essos. In contrast to the light-skinned and blonde-haired Andals of Westeros or the Valyrians of Essos, the inhabitants of Sothoryos are notably dark-skinned - more so than the copper/light-brown appearance of the Rhoynar, Dothraki, or Ghiscari of Slaver's Bay.
Numerous islands dot the northern coast of Sothoryos. These have been mapped, and the main island chain is known as the Basilisk Isles, an infamous pirate haven. West of the Basilisk Isles is the large island of Naath, whose musically-inclined inhabitants are famed for their devotion to pacifism. These islands are frequently raided for captives by ships from Slaver's Bay, which is located just across the Summer Sea to the north.
The Summer Islands are known to lie off the northwestern coast of Sothoryos, far west of Naath, home to a flourishing civilization of sea-farers, whose merchant ships visit ports around the world from Oldtown to Qarth.
Following an assassination attempt in Vaes Dothrak, Daenerys says she thought King Robert Baratheon would leave her alone after her brother Viserys died. Jorah Mormont then explains to her that as the last Targaryen, Robert's agents will never stop hunting her no matter how far she flees, even if she goes to Asshai or the Basilisk Isles.
The far northern coast of Sothoryos appears in the title sequence once it changes to start including Qarth. Xaro Xhoan Daxos says he is originally from the Summer Islands, but rose to become a wealthy merchant leader in Qarth.
Missandei explains to the freed Unsullied commander Grey Worm that she is from the island of Naath. Grey Worm is himself from the Summer Islands, but was captured in a slaving raid as a baby and forced to be an Unsullied, with no memory of anything before his brutal training.
In the books
In the A Song of Ice and Fire novels and The World of Ice & Fire reference book, Sothoryos is loosely analogous to Africa, as Essos is to Eurasia. According to George R.R. Martin, Sothoryos is unexplored and largely unknown to the peoples living in the Seven Kingdoms and the Free Cities. What few parts they have visited on the northern coast consist of a mostly tropical climate and jungles, home to multiple tropical plagues for which outsiders have no built-up immunity. The dense jungles overgrow the ruins of forgotten lost civilizations, and are teeming with dangerous wildlife.
For men in Westeros, knowledge of mainland Sothoryos is extremely limited, as it is an unexplored land on the edge of their maps. Very little has been said about it, and of that, much and more is probably wildly inaccurate. The maesters of Westeros know only vague hearsay about lands to the far south (Sothoryos) or the far east (such as Yi Ti), comparable to how little Medieval Europe knew about sub-Saharan Africa and China. There are tales in Westeros of strange peoples east of Yi Ti such as winged men or lizard-men, so comparable tales about strange beasts and monsters in the deep jungles of Sothoryos may just be the stuff of legends or grossly exaggerated. Yandel, author of The World of Ice & Fire, gives many warnings about Sothoryos but ultimately admits that "We cannot claim to know Sothoryos well".
Sothoryos does not appear on the Game of Thrones TV series maps and supplementary materials, the reason for which is unknown - given that it already appeared in maps since the third novel (published in 2000). It is depicted in the opening title sequence, but using the older version of the maps from the third book - this was updated slightly in The Lands of Ice and Fire (2014), a companion map collection for the novels. In the older version, Sothoryos is bordered by the Summer Sea on every side. In the updated Lands of Ice and Fire maps now considered book-canon, the Summer Sea still borders its western and northern coasts, but the eastern coast is now bordered by the Jade Sea. The Jade Sea is separated from the Summer Sea by the large island of Great Moraq, wedged between Essos and Sothoryos. On the north side of the island, the two seas are connected to each other by the Straits of Qarth, while at the southern end of the island, the two seas are connected by the Cinnamon Straits. Thus, south of the Cinnamon Straits and Wyvern Point, the east coast of Sothoryos borders the Jade Sea - though it is still just as poorly explored as the northern and western coasts.
The Summer Islands, Naath, and even the nearby Basilisk Isles are not technically considered part of Sothoryos, unlike the way that the Iron Islands are considered "part" of Westeros despite being an island group separated from the main continent. The inhabitants of all of these regions touched by the Summer Sea are notably dark-skinned and ethnically distinct from the peoples living in Westeros. They have been targeted by slavers from Essos for centuries, however, it is not unusual to see dark-skinned peoples in Essos, either as slaves in Slaver's Bay, or those who won their freedom and went on to become merchants, pirates, mercenaries, etc.
According to The World of Ice & Fire (2014), Sothoryos is a massive continent that is at least as long north-south as Essos is east-west, and possibly larger. A dragon-rider from Valyria once flew her dragon south explicitly to attempt to find the southern end of the continent, but she returned three years later reporting that there was no end in sight when she turned around.
The explored, northern coast of Sothoryos lies a few hundred miles south of Slaver's Bay and Valyria. Almost all of this territory is only known along the coasts themselves, with anything even a few miles beyond the shore totally unexplored jungle. If other peoples such as the Valyrians, Qartheen, or Summer Islanders have better knowledge of the internal geography of Sothoryos they have not shared it with men from Westeros.
The center of the explored northern regions of Sothoryos is dominated by the large delta of the Zamoyos River, which is infested with large crocodiles. The Zamoyos delta is roughly located directly south from Meereen and New Ghis in Slaver's Bay. The western edge of Sothoryos's explored coast ends in the peninsula Basilisk Point, while the eastern explored coast ends in the peninsula Wyvern Point. Basilisk Point is roughly located directly south of the eastern coast of the Valyrian Peninsula, while Wyveryn Point is located roughly halfway between the longitudes of New Ghis and Qarth. The coast runs from southwest to northeast, so Wyvern Point is located a little closer to Qarth, while Basilisk Point is located further away from the Valyrian Peninsula.
The ruins of Zamettar are located at the mouth of the Zamoyos, while the ruins of Gogossos are located on the Isle of Tears to the west. Far up river from Zamettar, in the deep jungle, are the mysterious and ancient ruins of Yeen. Much of the unmapped jungles in Sothoryos are also said to be filled with overgrown, ruined cities from various vanished civilizations.
There were apparently once thriving civilizations in northern Sothoryos during the Dawn Age, given the large number of ruined cities which can be found in its jungles. However, all of them seem to have collapsed long before the rise of ancient empires in Essos to the north, so that none of their histories or even identities are remembered. The northern regions of ancient Sothoryos may not always have been densely overgrown jungles, but they certainly became that way, swallowing up the old ruins.
The most infamous and feared set of ruins stands apart from all the others: far up the Zamoyos River in the deep jungle, the extremely ancient ruined city known as Yeen. Those who have studied its stones believe that it is impossibly ancient, perhaps even older than Asshai. Nothing is known about the people who built Yeen. The city is constructed out of a mysterious "oily black stone", which has been found in other ancient ruins scattered from the Iron Islands to the wastes east of Yi Ti. Its name inspires great terror, and all efforts to recolonize it have met with disaster, with every settler simply disappearing without a trace. Even the jungle itself seems to fear Yeen: the ruins are strangely not overgrown, and instead the forest seems to shrink away from its presence.
Scramble for Sothoryos
Millennia after any local civilizations collapsed, various attempts were made by outside adventurers to brave the dangers of the deep jungles to obtain the riches within. Sothoryos does have a wealth of raw resources, including gold, gems, spices, valuable hardwoods used in shipbuilding (such as teak), and exotic animals. Slavers also carried off people from local tribes to sell in the markets of Essos. Any attempts at establishing long-term outposts, however, always met with frustration, overwhelmed by the hazards of the surrounding jungles: dangerous wildlife, hostile native tribes (particularly the savage, non-human "Brindled Men"), and tropical plagues. Disease alone wiped out many of them: it is said that nine out of ten men from other lands who travel to the jungles of Sothoryos will fall ill with disease or parasites, and about half of those die.
After the Long Night, around eight to five thousand years ago, it seems various powers from surrounding lands tried to establish outposts on the parts of Sothoryos closest to them: Qartheen adventurers established outposts on Wyvern Point, and the Summer Islanders claim that in ancient times their explorers made outposts on the western shores below Basilisk Point. The early Valyrians tried to establish a few towns on Basilisk Point itself. None of their outposts lasted more than a generation, and most met with disaster from the hazards of the jungles.
The ancient civilization that expended the most wide-scale effort into planting colonies in Sothoryos was the Ghiscari Empire, then at the height of its power and glory. Chief among these colonies was Zamettar, a full-sized port city located at the mouth of the Zamoyos River. Being located on a large island of the river delta apparently gave it some protection from the hazards of the deep jungle; this wouldn't have kept out crocodiles, but it is described as a "walled" city to keep out any potential hazards.
The Ghiscari also established multiple other outposts and colonies: to the east, on the north coast of Wyveryn Point, they built the city of Gorosh as a penal colony. They also colonized the nearby Basilisk Isles, which have slightly better conditions than on the mainland: no significant native presence or dangerous wildlife, though the tropical diseases are only somewhat less prevalent. On the largest of the Basilisk Isles, the Isle of Tears, they built the city of Gorgai - not too far away from Zamettar itself. Without the dangers of the mainland, Gorgai also grew and thrived.
The Ghiscari Wars
Eventually, about 5,000 years ago the Ghiscari Empire came into conflict with the rising power of the Valyrian Freehold to their west, an upstart realm of former shepherds whose fortunes changed when they discovered and tamed dragons living in the volcanoes around their homeland. The two vied to be the dominant power in Essos, and clashed in a series of five great wars.
In the Third Ghiscari War, the conflict spread to the Ghiscari overseas colonies, when the Valyrian dragon-lords captured Gorgai in the Basilisk Isles and renamed the city "Gogossos". It is unclear how long exactly the Ghiscari held Zamettar and Gorgai before their war with the Valyrians: some sources say Gorgai was two centuries old at the time of its capture, while others say four centuries.
In the Fourth Ghiscari War, the Valyrians even succeeded in capturing the great city of Zamettar on mainland Sothoryos. In the fifth and final Ghiscari War, the Valyrians totally destroyed Old Ghis, burning it to ash and sowing its fields with salt so nothing would grow again. The Valyrian Freehold subsequently absorbed all of Ghis's former colonies, from Meereen to Sothoryos.
Even before the Ghiscari Wars, the Valyrians had thrice attempted to make their own colony on Basilisk Point, west of Zamettar. The first time, it was wiped out by a plague. The second time, the colony was destroyed by an attack of the "Brindled Men" of the interior. They rebuilt the colony yet again, but later after the Valyrians captured Zamettar, they simply abandoned the earlier colony. It is unclear if it was ever rebuilt - Basilisk Point seems slightly more habitable than Wyvern Point, due to the more frequent attempts to colonize it, though all of these attempts have ended in failure.
Since the Ghiscari Wars
The old Ghiscari colonies in Sothoryos, now Valyrian colonies, apparently continued on for some centuries - but their exact history between the Ghiscari Wars 5,000 years ago and the time of the War of the Five Kings is unclear. Some of them may have collapsed after the Doom of Valyria, about 400 years ago. In the present day, all of them are left in ruins, and even hardened pirates and raiders such as the ironborn are afraid to approach the ruins of Zamettar.
The exact history of Zamettar has not been given. About one thousand years ago (600 years before the Doom), the Valyrians finally defeated the Rhoynar people to their west, after which Princess Nymeria led the survivors to flee by ship. Nymeria and the Rhoynar attempted to settle on mainland Sothoryos, along Basilisk Point and the Zamoyos - with Nymeria herself staying with the ships at the ruins of Zamettar. The text doesn't explain how Zamettar came to be in ruins at this time, only that it had been abandoned for "a thousand years". So little information has been given that it is possible that the Valyrians had to rebuild Zamettar several times over the millennia (due to plagues and other hazards periodically wiping it out, etc.). Gorosh is also simply listed as currently being in ruins.
Gogossos, separate from the mainland, explicitly survived until and beyond the Doom of Valyria, for a time. The Valyrians used it as a major hub for their slaver raids into the mainland, and sent their absolute worst criminals there to serve hard labor. In the city's flesh pits, the Valyrian blood mages had the opportunity to practice the darkest arts, allegedly mating female slaves with beasts to produce twisted half-human children. Gogossos survived the Doom and under its own rule, came to dominate much of the slave trade, until it grew just as powerful as any of the Free Cities. Gogossos may have been safe from the Doom and the treats of the mainland, but in the end even it could not hide from the tropical diseases. About seventy-seven years after the Doom (almost forty years before the Targaryen Conquest of Westeros), a terrible plague spread out from the city's slave pens. Known as the Red Death, is caused flesh to shed from bone like wet parchment, and killed nine out of ten persons - first in Gogossos and then throughout the Basilisks. The few survivors fled, leaving the entire area abandoned for a century. Pirates eventually returned to the Basilisks to make their dens, but Gogossos was never rebuilt.
Even if the Valyrians periodically had to re-settle Zamettar (as it was ruined in Nymeria's time), it is unclear if it was finally destroyed by the Doom of Valyria itself. Several of Valyria's other nearby colony cities such as on the Isle of Cedars to its east were not hit by the explosion of the Doom itself, but were swept away by massive tsunamis that it triggered in the surrounding oceans. However, other cities which were actually closer to Valyria than Zamettar, such as Volantis itself, were not destroyed by tsunamis from the Doom. Even relatively nearby Gogossos survived the Doom (though it is at the southern end of the Isle of Tears and several other northerly isles in the chain could have acted as a break for the waves).
What exactly happened to Zamettar in its history after the Ghiscari Wars 5,000 years ago remains unknown from the current novels. The only point in the books when Zamettar is directly mentioned is in the fifth novel, when Victarion Greyjoy is taking the Iron Fleet east to Meereen (condensed with Yara Greyjoy in the TV series). Victarion instructs his ironborn crews to raid for supplies on the Basilisk Isles, but even he wants to avoid sending his men to the feared ruins of Zamettar on the mainland itself.
Ships from Slaver's Bay continue to raid local settlements for captives, but no structured settlements tend to last there for long. What settlements that can be found on Sothoryos's coasts are trading stations built by adventurers braving the dangers of the jungles for the resources hidden within, but most often include the worst sorts of pirates and slavers.
The names "Sothoryos" and "Sothoros" have been used somewhat inconsistently in the books. A problem is that the continent as a whole is rarely referred to by name, because almost none of the narrative takes place there. Characters from regions of the continent most often simply refer to specifically what region they are from. In the fourth novel, for example, the name "Sothoryos" is only used in-text four or five times. The few text references have alternated between "Sothoryos" and "Sothoros" (leaving out the "y"). Meanwhile, all maps have consistently used the spelling "Sothoryos" (in A Feast for Crows, A Dance with Dragons, and The Lands of Ice and Fire), though past maps have been known to include spelling errors. Moreover, on two separate occasions George R.R. Martin has answered Q&A about the continent (in 2002 and 2012), and in these cases Martin himself used the spelling "Sothoryos".
Elio Garcia (aka "Ran"), the founder of Westeros.org and co-author of The Worlds of Ice and Fire book with George R.R. Martin, weighed in on the issue: "Sothoryos" is indeed the correct spelling, and as of 2012 this is the spelling that Martin uses in all of his correspondence and maps. "Sothoros" only appeared a few times because either Martin wavered on the spelling earlier in the series, or it was an error in the editing process, but Martin has officially settled on "Sothoryos" as the proper spelling. The World of Ice and Fire (2014) also consistently uses the spelling "Sothoryos".
The known world
|Islands of the Summer Sea:|