Guest Post on Tower of the Hand: Laboratory of Politics, Part IV!


This one took a while to finish, and you’ll see why when you check it out: Pentos, Myr, Tyrosh, Lys, Norvos, and Qohor, all in one go, their historical counterparts, how they operate as a political unit, and much much more!



23 thoughts on “Guest Post on Tower of the Hand: Laboratory of Politics, Part IV!

  1. Winnie says:

    Hey Steve- don’t know if you’ve seen it yet but Amanda Marcotte of Pandagon has a great piece up about Game of Thrones and the “free rider” problem I thought you might enjoy.

    Hope to see some more chapters from you soon!

  2. Kuruharan says:

    I think Novgorod makes a possible comparison for Norvos, especially considering the importance of the Archbishop of Novgorod in the functioning of the Republic when compared to the Bearded Priests.

    Qohor also has the similarity of the forested environment.

    Will you revisit this topic after the World book comes out later this month, which presumably will have some more information on the politics of Essos?

    • Tom says:

      Agreed – I think Steven is focusing too much on linking everything to Italy when the massive geography, plus the precedent of Westeros, suggests the parallels are more diverse. Norvos and Qohor in particular seem pretty damn Eastern European/Russian to me. I mean, Kiev, Novogord etc were all city states too

      • Except that Kiev and Novgorod didn’t exactly go to war with Florence and Milan.

        • Amestria says:

          Well, Huns and Mongols didn’t regularly extort tribute from Florence and Milan either.

        • Tom says:

          GRRM rarely does a totally direct rip though, he mixes it up. You’ve talked about that in other essays so I’m kinda confused why you’re focusing on finding the perfect match now?

          Just to be clear I’m not ragging in you, the essay was fucking great as always.

          • Yes, it’s clearly not a one-to-one thing, but I was looking for comparisons that had the same kind of political interaction as the Free Cities did, and the Italian city-states work better.

    • It’s a fair comparison, although I’m not sure the geographic comparison works – isn’t that area rather flat as opposed to hilly?

      And yes, I intend to do an in-depth review of the world book.

  3. Abbey Battle says:

    Maester Steven, please allow me to salute you on once again producing a remarkable article; if I might suggest another plausible inspiration for the Free Cities (over and above the City-States of Italy as the Borgia would have known them), it strikes me that the Hellenic City-States of Ionia (such as Ephesus and Miletus) could present some valid points of comparison.

    In particular the geography of the Free Cities strongly resembles the Western Coast of Anatolia (albeit not EXACTLY); for example Chios, Lesbos and Rhodes all seem closer to the likes of Tyrosh, Lorath and Lys in terms of geography than any Italian City-State.

    Please forgive me for not posting a link, but the Wikipedia page on ‘Ionia’ has an illustration subtitled ‘Greek Settlements in Asia Minor’ which will do a fine job of showing the parallels I mean.

    Maester Steven I hope that you remain well, throughly enjoyed reading your article and look forward to seeing how THE WORLD OF ICE AND FIRE will illuminate our understanding of the eponymous setting.

    • Kuruharan says:

      I’ve also always picked up a bit of flavor of Ionia from the Free Cities as well, especially Pentos.

    • That’s a good point. I think they’re there in the mix, but more as background notes. The level of technology, the nature of fashion, etc. is pretty much all Renaissance.

      • Amestria says:

        Doesn’t the fashion also have something of an Oriental flavor in the subtropical cities? LIke the really fancy robes and stuff?

  4. Winnie says:

    Kind of OT but I’m reading “The Sleepwalkers” right now about how the various parties got into World War I and its chilling to see how easily those same patterns could and perhaps already are repeating themselves.

    But while the early 20th century of Europe was very different from Westeros a lot of the psychology of the players remains the same as to helping you understand how things went so far.

    • Grant says:

      There’s also the example of the Thirty Year’s War to consider which, though often seen as a religious war, actually involved a great deal of Europe’s powers increasingly using force for national, secular interests and never intending to create the extended international conflict that they did.

  5. illrede says:

    Yeah, Venice’s conduct on Cyprus is a particular horror story; with the marker being that before they got at them the Cyprots were a fairly standard mix of outremer Christians. After the Venetians got their hands on it, a generation afterwards when Venice decided to raise funds quick by offering a Cyprot serfdom buyout, there was one guy on the island that could afford it.

  6. Amestria says:

    Anyway, really like this series ^^

  7. Abbey Battle says:

    Out of curiosity Maester Steven, do you intend to conclude your series with an entry on Old Volantis? (I’m rather looking forward to seeing you lambast the EVIL Opposites of Braavos, your favourite place on The World of Ice and Fire!).

    I must admit that I’m interested in seeing whether you’ll draw any parallels between the Braavos-Volantis antipathy and the antagonistic feelings towards Constantinople, Queen of Cities, that led a certain unscrupulous leader of La Serenissima to unleash the full force of the Fourth Crusade on THE Christian Metropolis of the Middle Ages.

    (To my embarrassment the comparison between the Second Rome and Old Volantis only recently occurred to me, despite the parallels between the Tiger Wars and the Reconquests under Justinian, not to mention between the Black Wall and the Theodosian Walls).

  8. ecr56 says:

    Hi, I have a question. I kind of understand Orson Welles’ quote, but I find it rather harsh. After all, I think Leonhard Euler is being sadly ignored. And I guess someone more familiar with Swiss’ history would find more people worthy of mention. Is there something I’m not getting from the quote?

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