Brahms echoed furiously through the open
doors as the orchestra launched itself in a rendition of Hungarian Dance. It started like a riot, a crescendo of frenetic
instruments, that made his blood swirl faster inside his veins, eager to jump
and dance in the chambers of his heart.
adjusted his formal black tailcoats and checked his red hair – tamed by several
minutes of strenuous work with brilliantine pomade. He wasn’t that used to it,
usually allowing his hair to flow loose and tousled, hidden under his homburg
hat when he went out for his daily chores. But the occasion demanded his very
best evening attire, like a proper Edwardian gentleman, and Jamie was fairly
confident he was looking dapper.
It was a birthday celebration for the daughter
of the house, a wealthy heir of lands and titles in Oxfordshire – probably
spoilt and coquettish, fishing for a suitable match since her debutante ball at the mercy of the
Jamie had been travelling home to Scotland,
coming from a season of profitable connections in Paris, when one his best
friends, Lord John Grey – a nobleman himself from the finest breed – had asked
him to spend a short amount of time at his country house, in order to help him
with some complex business arrangement. He had later insisted that Jamie must
accompany him to the function, dangling in front of his eyes the chance of
introducing his whiskey to a couple of eager – and well-lined – pockets.
After the debauchery he had witnessed in the Parisian
cabarets, he wasn’t looking too
forward to spending another night drinking, swallowing cigars and pretending to
be interested in shallow conversations conducted by batting eyelashes or men
comparing cock lengths.
What he craved was the simplicity of the moors and lochs of the home of his heart, the painting of clouds and mist
from his bedroom window – even if for a short period of time. Soon enough, he
was meant to make the voyage across the great sea to New York, where he would
make the acquaintance of some of the wealthiest railway tycoons, caskets
rolling from Fraser’s distillery into prospering America.
Shrugging to ease off some tension, Jamie managed
to summon a pleasant smile and entered the house. It was a riveting crowd – men
gathered together in corners like wolfpacks, evaluating their prey; woman
sipped from champagne flutes, tasting beverage and gossip alike; the orchestra
played along dutifully, decided to give a concert even without listeners.
Jamie greeted a couple of acquaintances,
briefly commenting on the excellent turnout of the evening and enchantments of
the Beauchamp estate, and accepted a glass of rich Portuguese port offered by a
After a laboured hour of confraternization, with
a brief passage through the baccarat
table and multiple polite – or so he hoped – rejections of languid invitations
to dance, Jamie was wondering if it would be the supreme abruptness to leave
while the party was still at its prime.
Looking around to try to locate John – perched near
the piano player, hypnotized in conversation with his friend Hector – Jamie noticed her.
She was standing by the most secluded window,
almost hidden by the heavy drapes of the red curtains, only noticeable because
of the beckoning colour of her dress – a deep teal, that reminded him of
Scottish skies in the summertime, right before the hour of falling stars. She
had her back slightly turned, so he could only see her outline.
Her rich brown hair was styled in an elegant
and simple knot, with solitary pearls scattered amongst her trapped locks, like
drops of sea commanded by Poseidon to the most beautiful mermaid. Unlike other
women – wearing flowers or jewelled pins and combs - she had used a hair accessory that looked
like a wee dagger to keep her hair in place – it reminded him so much of a sgian dhu that Jamie almost gasped. She
had a pair of simple silver earrings and no other jewellery that he could see.
Jamie moved discreetly, trying to approach her
without being noticed. She was looking outside – her hands covered by satin
black opera gloves, bracing the marble of the windowsill -, her lips pursed in
seriousness, her eyes lost in contemplation of unseen things.
“Ye look bored out of yer mind.” He said in a
conversational tone, before he could stop himself. She startled and looked
around annoyed, noticing him – her eyes were the most astonishing shade of
amber. “Sorry to disturb ye, Madam.”
“That’s alright.” She surveyed him, head to
toe, taking him in. “You’re not from around here, are you?”
“Scotland.” Jamie confirmed, smiling. “My
estate – Lallybroch - is near a village much smaller than the backyard of this
“It is an insufferably big house.” She
shrugged. “You could easily get lost inside it.”
“Ah.” Jamie grinned, standing closer to her and
peeking through the window to the obscured garden. “Do ye think that’s what
happened to the fair lady being honoured tonight? People are commenting on her
The woman snorted, her lips quivering in
“I’m sure she’ll appear when she wants to.” She
admonished. “I hear she has a wicked temper and rude manners. Not suitable to
the title of Lady Beauchamp at all.”
“Hm.” Jamie offered her an appreciative gaze.
“At least I’d be most entertained. And maybe ye wouldna look so wistful.” He
“You do realize I am Lady Claire Beauchamp, don’t you?” She asked, her eyes
suddenly downcast, her lips contorting on a wry smile.
Jamie nodded, leaning against the wall next to the window. “I was guessing that
was the reason why ye were hidden here.” And then he whispered in a
conspiratorial tone. “I’d be too, if I were ye.”
Claire gave him a significant look, raising her
brows in a display of stupefaction.
“You look more like the type that should be
spending the night next to the gaming table, plotting with the other men about
the great determinations of Britain and choosing their next young lover.” She
“I was invited to leave the baccarat table, I’m afraid.” He smiled, tilting his head in fake mourning.
“That bad of a player?” She crossed her arms in
a very unladylike position, which made the corners of his mouth almost twitch
in supressed amusement.
“Actually,” He confided with a grimace. “I
think they were tired of me emptying their pockets. I’m verra good at cards –
“So you are a gambler.” Claire gave him a
lopsided smile, looking mildly interested. “And how did you find yourself here,
“Fraser. James Fraser” He slightly bowed down
his head and kissed the back of her hand, feeling her warmth even underneath
the satiny fabric. “Enchanté,
“French.” She commented, looking away to hide
her face as a couple passed near them, giggling in search of a vacant room
where to express their burning affections. “Do you have ties to France?”
“Very ancient connections.” Jamie admitted,
noticing how the candlelight enhanced the honey inside her eyes, the fair skin
of her neck turned almost golden. “I just arrived from Paris – made a small
detour on my way to Scotland. I have to be in Southampton soon enough, though.
I have a passage booked on the RMS
Titanic, bound to New York. I hear it’s a verra bonnie ship – a wee beast
of the seas.”
“Oh.” She said, sounding strangely
disappointed. “I see.”
They stood in silence for a while, their
previous conversation interrupted by the announcement of his impending
departure. The rooms were filled with the sounds of people gathering to dance a
classic gavotte, as the orchestra
played on without signs of wavering, flooding the senses as the bodies pulsed
with the spirits of alcohol and elation.
“I think I’ll get some air.” Claire finally
said, tilting her chin. Her eyes were serious and hardened like crystalized amber.
“It was lovely to meet you, Mister Fraser. Excuse me.”
Jamie nodded in retribution, bewildered, as
Claire quickly escaped through a nearby open door. He leaned over the window,
his eyesight adapting to the surrounding darkness, as he followed her
silhouette with his eyes.
She walked with the familiar security of
someone who knew the grounds well – a dog, honey coloured like her own eyes,
ran from somewhere outside the house and barked to greet her. Claire
immediately bent down to salute him, patting his flank with a gentle and caring
hand. Her body moved with an easy grace, the promise of her flesh immediate and
taunting like a whisper against the back of his neck, disarming him most
irrevocably. She was an unusual woman, very different from the image he had
created of the lady ruling the understairs servants with an iron fist. Nothing
about her was what it should have been - and he had been enthralled with that
realization the moment their eyes met.
There was a sadness about her – a peculiarity,
like a book misplaced in the wrong shelf, and for that reason condemned not to
be discovered. He knew nothing about what pleased her and made her laugh, but
was sure it wasn’t the sycophants surrounding them or their many pompous
He watched as she opened the metallic gate,
headed to what seemed like a private garden, and without dwelling on it any
longer, decided to follow her.
The air outside smelt of lilacs and roses, with
a hint of rain to come. He rapidly approached the gate and saw her, sitting in
a granite bench amongst a myriad of herbs and flowers.
In that moment, in her teal dress, she was all
the lights in Paris gathered together; all the things the old masters had tried
to paint, demonstrating beauty – she was the earth underneath his feet and the
sky above his head, expanding away from him, limitless.
“You’re trespassing private property.” She
announced in a soft voice, declaring her knowledge of his whereabouts.
“I’m a Scot.” Jamie smiled. “We are firm
believers in the right of way.”
“I thought you had to be going somewhere to
call that.” Claire gave him a slightly smug smile, noticing his surprise.
“Who says I’m not?” He said in a hoarse voice,
their eyes locking. Thankfully, the coming clouds still left the moon untouched
– he could see her, her outline like a dream half-remembered, and sense the
light shivers of her skin, exposed to the night’s breeze and to his unnerving
presence. “Do ye want to dance? It’s yer birthday after all – seems unfair ye
dinna even dance.”
“Dance?” She raised her brows, her eyes
glowing. “We don’t have music.”
“Aye.” Jamie brushed his clean shaven chin with
his fingers, in a pretence of deep thought. “We dinna have an orchestra here in
the garden or a gramophone – amazing wee things, those – but I’d dance with ye
She gave him an undecided look, stalling by
brushing her skirt for inexistent leaves.
“In Paris I saw this dance – different from
everything, really, brought on by Argentinians – it’s called tango.” Jamie licked his lips and
offered her his hand. “I’ll show ye.”
Claire slowly took off her black gloves and
reached out to touch his hand with hers – their fingers coming together with a
disconcerting ease. Always looking into her eyes, steadying and reassuring her,
Jamie brought their bodies to full contact and guided them in a few steps of
the exotic dance, which soon would become the art of lovers, the rhythm of
passion capable of shocking every matron and hostess.
“This is interesting.”
Claire almost panted, as Jamie lightly squeezed her thin waist with his
fingers. “You must have been in someextraordinaryplaces in Paris, Jamie. Must have
partnered with lots of girls there, leaving a trail of crushed hearts in your
“No.” He replied, his voice husky. “I didn’t
understand it, then. What it takes to be able to dance like this – but now,
perhaps, I finally do.”
“Jamie, I…” She gulped. “I have more money and
lands than I can count. I have servants, jewels and dresses. But I haven’t been
happy in a long time. You’ve talked to me like a person – not a godforsaken
title – and for that alone I am grateful. But…”
“What?” He whispered, his fingers brushing her
cheek, with heartbreaking tenderness and desire.
“Don’t dance with me unless you mean it.” Claire
whispered back. “I know it’s too much to ask, but – please, don’t go to
America. Stay here…” She ended softly, her unfinished sentence spiralling
between their pressed bodies. Stay here -
“I think I couldna leave even if I wanted to,
Claire.” Jamie breathed, hugging her against him. It was still dark - and yet
he was seeing explosions of light all around him, fast stars created by two
souls meeting in the night, strangers on the verge of becoming one. “Ye have
set my soul alight, mo nighean donn.
I seem to be blind – but now I can see.”
Teres’ son and heir, Sitalces, expanded its borders north to the Danube River, west to the Strymon River (Struma) and southwest to the rich Greek trade port colony of Abdera by the northern Aegean Sea. The Greek colonies within the borders of his kingdom paid the Odrysians tribute as well as the occasional gifts of “gold and silver equal in value to the tribute, besides stuffs embroidered or plain and other articles” (Thucydides, 97.3).
“By these means the kingdom became very powerful, and in revenue and general prosperity exceeded all the nations of Europe which lie between the Ionian Sea and the Euxine; in the size and strength of their army being second only, though far inferior, to the Scythians.” – The Peloponnesian War by Thucydides, 97.5.
An early threat faced by Sitalces came in the form of a nephew named Octamasades who was of mixed Thracian and Scythian descent. This Octamasades usurped the Scythian throne from Scyles, his half-brother, who was disliked for the fact that he was half Greek, could read and speak Greek, married a Greek woman, built a house in the Greek trade colony of Olbia (north Black Sea coast), as well as publicly practicing the Greek Dionysian sacred rites. Scyles fled into Thrace seeking refuge. Octamasades chased after him but was met at the Danube River by Sitalces of Odrysia who sent Octamasades a message:
“Why should we try each other’s strength? You are my sister’s son, and you have my brother with you; give him back to me, and I will give up your Scyles to you; and let us not endanger our armies.” – The Histories by Herodotus, 4.80.3. Both sides agreed and Octamasades beheaded Scylas.
Peloponnesian War (431–404 BCE):
The Athenian-led Delian League succeeded in expelling the Persians from Europe and claimed the coastal regions of the northern Aegean Sea (the Hellespont, Thrace, Amphipolis and the Chalkidikian Peninsula) where they continued establishing colonies. Colonies were even founded deeper into Thrace, Amphipolis for example. One reason for their interest in Thrace was its rich and abundant gold and silver mines. With the Greek triumph over Persia, the Athenians and their allies effectively held dominion over the majority of the Aegean Sea, its coastlines and its islands. We refer to this grand Athenian hegemony as the Athenian Empire.
^ The expanse of the Athenian-led Delian League in 431 BCE, before the Peloponnesian War.
The Athenian empire was now tyrannically imposing their control over allied Greek city states and the rich trade networks of the Aegean Sea but was plagued by rebellions. Sitalces allied himself with the Athenians, promising them aid in Thrace if they helped him conquer the Chalkidikian peninsula (which had recently left the Athenian-led Delian League) which was to the east of Macedon. To this end Sitalces assembled an army of “more than one hundred and twenty thousand infantry and fifty thousand cavalry” (Diodorus, 12.50.3).
“many of the independent Thracian tribes followed him of their own accord in hopes of plunder. The whole number of his forces was estimated at a hundred and fifty thousand, of which about two-thirds were infantry and the rest cavalry.” – The Peloponnesian War by Thucydides, 98.3.
Macedon under King Perdiccas II, which impelled the Chalkidikians into rebelling against Athens, was at odds with Athens so Sitalces invaded Macedon in 429 BCE. Sitalces was also spurred to invade Macedon with the purpose of placing Amyntas (Perdiccas’ nephew) on the Macedonian throne; Amyntas and his father were previously driven out from Macedon and sought refuge with Sitalces’ court.
“And since he was at the same time on bad terms with Perdiccas, the king of the Macedonians, he decided to bring back Amyntas, the son of Philip, and place him upon the Macedonian throne.” – The Library of History by Diodorus Siculus, 12.50.4.
Sitalces ravaged the lands of both the Chalkidikians and the Macedonians, the latter feared to face this great army so some submitted to the Thracians while others gathered their crops and hid within their strongholds. The momentum waned as Sitalces saw that the Athenians had failed to fulfill their promise to aid the Odrysians with ships and an army, that the harsh winter was wearing down his men and that the Greeks (Thessalians, Achaeans, Magnesians, etc.) were assembling a vast army to repel them. Sitalces and Perdiccas II of Macedon came to terms, the Odrysians retreated and Perdiccas’ gave his sister’s (named Stratonice) hand in marriage to Sitalces’s nephew (Seuthes I). Sitalces, just like his father, died while trying to unify the Thracians (the Triballi killed Seuthes, the Thyni killed his father Teres).
^ Osprey – ‘Men-at-Arms’ series, issue 360 – The Thracians, 700 BC-AD 46 by Christopher Webber and Angus McBride (Illustrator). Plate A: The Invasion of Macedonia. A1: King Sitalces – “The Thracian king is based on archaeological evidence and wears a bronze bell cuirass, bronze Chalkidian helmet, bronze greaves, and a Thracian cloak. He carries two javelins and a kopis. His breast plate is decorated with dragons’ heads, and his helmet with a griffin and palmettos. The helmet comes from an unknown site in Bulgaria and is dated to the second half of the 5th century. The silver harness ornaments come from Binova tumulus in Bulgaria”. A2: Early Odrysian light cavalryman – “This horseman is based on a painting on a 5th century pelike from Apollonia. He carries two javelins, and a pelta is slung on his back. Greek vase paintings show Thracian light cavalry dressed the same as the peltasts, in patterned tunic, foxskin cap, fawnskin boots and long cloak. Other less sophisticated cavalry dressed very simply in a pointed hat and long flowing tunic, and they are indistinguishable from Skythian cavalry. Some 4th century Thracian metalwork shows the cavalrymen bareheaded and with bare feet, a medium-length flowing cloak and simple tunic.” A3: Macedonian infantryman – “The Stricken Macedonian infantryman comes from the early 3rd century Kazanluk tomb paintings. He is thought to be Macedonian because of his location on the frieze, and his peculiar hat resembling the kausia of the Macedonian warrior nobility; but he may be Thracian, because the Macedonians do not use oval shields, and because of his similarity to the Thracian warriors on the same painting. He wears a blue cloak and carries a kopis and two javelins. His shield is oval with the top and bottom cut square, like the later Celtic thureos. A 5th century Macedonian infantryman would be carrying a circular wicker shield, animal-skin cloak and wearing sandals (or going barefoot) instead of shoes.”
During the Peloponnesian War, thirteen thousand javelin-wielding swordsmen from the Dii tribe (Thracians) were hired by the Athenians to act join in the Sicilian expedition but they arrived too late. The Athenians sent them back to Thrace since they did not wish to be burdened into paying mercenaries they couldn’t make use of. This changed, however, when a series of failures befell them which pressured them into hiring the Thracian mercenaries once again as coastal raiders. When these Dii (Thracian) mercenaries arrived at the Boeotian city of Mycalessus:
“ The Thracians, bursting into Mycalessus, sacked the houses and temples and butchered the inhabitants, sparing neither youth nor age, but killing all they fell in with, one after the other, children and women, and even beasts of burden, and whatever other living creatures they saw; the Thracian race, like the bloodiest of the barbarians, being ever most so when it has nothing to fear.  Everywhere confusion reigned and death in all its shapes; and in particular they attacked a boys’ school, the largest that there was in the place, into which the children had just gone, and massacred them all. In short, the disaster falling upon the whole town was unsurpassed in magnitude, and unapproached by any in suddenness and in horror.” – The Peloponnesian War by Thucydides, 7.29.4-5.
Their victory was short-lived however since the Thebans (Boeotians from the city of Thebes) rushed to the aid of the pillaged city and utterly slaughtered the Dii (Thracians) mercenaries. The Thebans took back the looted goods and pursued the fleeing Thracians back to their ships where the “greatest slaughtertook place while they (the Thracians) were embarking, as they did not know how to swim” (Thucydides, 7.30.2).
“those in the vessels on seeing what was going on onshore moored them out of bow-shot: in the rest of the retreat the Thracians made a very respectable defence against the Theban horse, by which they were first attacked, dashing out and closing their ranks according to the tactics of their country, and lost only a few men in that part of the affair. A good number who were after plunder were actually caught in the town and put to death.” – The Peloponnesian War by Thucydides, 7.30.2.
Battle of Sphacteria, 425 BCE:
The famed Athenian politician and general Cleon rallied support from his countrymen by conveying his lack of fear against the Spartans, boasting that he could overcome the Sparta’s within twenty days’ time and declaring that he would achieve this without risking the life of a single Athenian by instead employing foreigners like Thracians peltasts from Aenisas. These Thracians took part in one of the greatest triumphs over the famed Spartans. After the Athenian naval victory over the Spartans (Battle of Pylos, 425 BCE) and its succeeding skirmishes, the remnants of the Spartan forces became stranded on the nearby island of Sphacteria.
^ Osprey – ‘Campaign’ series, issue 261 – Pylos and Sphacteria 425 BC by William Shepherd and Peter Dennis (illustrator). (pg. 78-79).
Here the Spartans were besieged into starvation, dehydration and exhaustion then constantly pursued by Athenian hoplites while being harassed by enemy archers, javelinmen and slingers until they were forced to surrender.
^ Osprey – ‘Campaign’ series, issue 261 – Pylos and Sphacteria 425 BC by William Shepherd and Peter Dennis (illustrator). The Battle on the island: the Spartan last stand (pp. 82–83). “After a fighting retreat over more than half the length of the Island the main Spartan force, depleted by casualties, joined the small garrison in their naturally defended and partly walled stronghold on the highest point at the north end, overlooking the Athenian position across the narrow channel separating Pylos from the Island. For most of the rest of the day they defeated all Athenian attempts to dislodge them. They were much less vulnerable to missile attack and were at last able to do what they did best to beat off efforts to force the position with spear and shield, but they now had little or no water. However, the Athenians could not afford to wait for them to collapse from dehydration because they too had supply problems with their much larger force. Then Comon the Messenian and his mixed, non-hoplite force, managed to work their way round to the rear and scale the cliffs without being seen. They crossed the dead ground in the saddle behind the peak in the centre of the Spartan position and occupied it (1). This is the moment when the small force of about 40 archers, slingers and javelin men attack the defenders from above and behind at a range of 20–30m. ‘The Spartans were now under attack from front and rear and were in the same dire situation, to compare small things with great, as the men at Thermopylae. Just as those men were annihilated when the Persians outflanked them by taking that path, so these Spartans could not hold out any longer now, caught as they were between two fires. They were few fighting many and weakened by lack of food, and they began to fall back with the Athenians controlling every approach to their position’ (IV.37). The Spartans’ weakness would actually have been due to lack of water and probably sheer exhaustion. They may well have had nothing to eat all day but they were not actually starving; Thucydides later mentions that the Athenians discovered a stockpile of food on the Island. In the southern sector the thin Spartan line combining Spartiates (2), perioikoi (3) and Helot attendants (4) is holding firm on the natural and manmade defensive perimeter while the more numerous Athenians hang back as the first missiles find their target. The Harbour with the captured Spartan ships at anchor (5) and the Messenian mainland (6) are in the background to the east.”
At the end of this so-called Battle of Sphacteria, 292 Lacedaemonians (Greeks living under the Spartan state) were taken captive, 120 of which were Elite Spartiates (“Spartans”, full citizens of the Sparta) and the rest being either perioikoi (non-Spartan inhabitants of Lacedaemonia) or Helot attendants (serfs). Athens threatened to kill the captives if the Spartans were to set foot in Attica (region around Athens), holding this over their heads until a series of military setbacks and deaths of high leading commanders on both sides (Sparta’s Brasidas and Athens’ Cleon) opened the path to peace in 421 BCE (Peace of Nicias).
^ Osprey – ‘Men-at-Arms’ series, issue 360 – The Thracians, 700 BC-AD 46 by Christopher Webber and Angus McBride (Illustrator). Plate C – Attack on the Triballi Hill Fort, 424 BC. CI: Triballi peltast – “In 424 Sitalkes attacked the Triballi, and died fighting them. Thracians retreat to their hill forts when attacked; Tacitus (Annals, XLVII) later described the bolder warriors singing and dancing in from of their ramparts. Here a Triballi peltast armed with a long spear wears an unusual dappled cow-hide outfit that only partially covered his body, this is taken from an example of Greek illustrated pottery.” C2: Odrysian archer – “The costumes on this plate are partially based on a scene on a 6th century Attic amphora showing peltasts, an archer, and a cavalryman in combat. This figure is also based on a 4th century silver belt plaque from north-western Thrace showing an archer with beard, plain conical cap, composite bow, and pattern-edged tunic. He would also have a quiver hanging from the waist belt, and possibly a dagger. The quiver would have held around 100 arrows, and would probably have been made from leather. The decomposed remains of quivers made of some organic material, probably leather, have been found at a tomb near Vratsa.” C3: Dii peltasts – “This warrior is armed with a machaira. Many types of curved swords have been found in Thrace, and this example is based on a weapon now on display in a Bulgarian museum. He also carries a circular pelte – as discussed in the text, not all peltai were crescent shaped.”
over to my post, ‘THRACIANS,
REAPERS OF THE BALKANS’, to learn about their culture, religion, weaponry,
armors, battle tactics, and their influence on the ancient world. Their history
as well, from the tales in the Iliad to the era of the Greco-Persian Wars, the
rise of Macedon under Philip II and his son Alexander the Great, and the Roman
conquests of the Balkans.
This is my attempt at linking the fictional world with ours. Note: there are two versions of this list here, as one can imagine Westeros as just Britain itself or as Europe.
Westeros: Britain/Europe. Like Westoros, England has nine regions (Westeros has seven kingdoms and two other regions.) The shape is very similar too. However, it’s a large enough continent that it’s comparable to Europe too.
Essos: Asia. A much larger landmass with a large number of empires, some of which are virtually unknown to people in the west.
Sothoros: Africa. Wild and said to have mythic beasts. Only the coasts are well-explored.
Ulthos: Australia. A small landmass to the southeast of Sothoros.
Land of Always Winter: Greenland. Virtually inhospitable to humans with legends and myths surrounding it, and it’s always winter.
North of the Wall: Scotland. Wild, rugged, independent, and full of fierce warriors. Gripped by the cold.
Wildlings: Picts. Ethnically they were likely Celtic, like many of their brethren to the south, they became distance due to their isolation and their independence. Known as warriors and raiders.
First men: Celtics. Even though the Celts were not the first group of people in England, they were the first highly influential group, and their influence stands today even though the preceding invading groups to follow took over much of the land a few strands on the mainland today remains Celtic. Celts are related ethnically with a shared (ancient) core language and a set of beliefs that transformed over time.
The North: Northeast and Yorkshire/Russia. One of the least populated and educated areas of England, it also contains Yorkshire, as the Yorks are the real-world equivalent to the Starks (e.g. war of the roses.) During the medieval age, the area was often opposed to the primary ruling class, like the Normans. Note that Northumberland is mostly beyond Hadrian’s Wall and would therefore not be part of this “north.” Russia is pretty simple: it’s huge, untameable, and the people had pagan beliefs for a long time into the middle ages.
The Riverlands: East of England/Rhinelands. Much of East Anglia is flat, low-laying and (was) covered by marshes and crossed by rivers. Often the site of many battles in the middle ages and changed hands frequently. Then there are the Rhinelands, which are dominated by the great Rhine river, and while it’s a fertile land the area has been marked by warfare and has changed hands often. There was also a long period during the middle ages where the region was largely divided.
Iron Islands: Scandinavia. Notorious raiders and skilled naval navigators who had little fertile land of their own but still managed to subjugate much of England and other lands.
Westerlands: Northwest England (Lancashire)/England. To clear up the confusion, the Westerlands are Lancashire in the version where Westeros is Britain, while it’s England in the version that Westeros is Europe as a whole. Lancashire was ruled by the family that inspired the Lannisters of A Song of Ice and Fire, while England is a good analogue for the Westerlands, as the Romans had several gold mines in the area and there are lots of rolling hillsides.
The Reach southwest and southeast England/France. Both areas are known for their farmlands and their traditions of chivalry, from the tales of King Arthur to the French knights of the middle ages. Both can hold large populations and wield a lot of power.
The Vale: West midlands and the black country/Switzerland. The black country has the highest mountains in Britain outside of Scotland, while the midlands are hilly too. Switzerland has the mountainous terrain too, as well as a history of a tough army while simultaneously staying out of major conflicts.
Crownlands and King’s Landing: greater London area. This one is obvious, as London is a major city and capital of a powerful empire. England even designates the area in and around London as its own region.
Stormlands: East midlands/Italy. The stormiest part of England covered with forests and a few small mountains. Famous for some of its battles and its rebels, such as Robin Hood. Italy is stormy too, and it’s surrounded by mountains and waters like the Stormlands.
Dorne: Wales/Spain. Wales is famously distinct from the west of Britain with its own culture and customs. Spain is often chosen to represent Dorne, due to its climate and how its Moorish influence separates it from the rest of Europe.
Braavos: Amsterdam/Venice. Both were powerful merchant cities during the middle ages. Amsterdam’s climate makes sense for Braavos, while Venice was founded by a group of people seeking shelter in marshes from a powerful enemy.
Other free cities: Italian city-states of the middle ages such as Genoa, Milan, and Florence. These cities were usually rich due to their ports, and some participated in slave trades just like some Essos cities did.
Valyria: Ancient Greece. A powerful and advanced civilization that conquered much of the known world. Its influence lasted centuries after its demise, and the people of the middle ages were still catching up to their innovations. The geography makes sense too, as Greece juts out from the whole of Europe and has a number of islands and there were a number of volcanoes, some of which destroyed entire cities. And Greece was partly consumed by infighting between powerful city-states, much like how Valyria was often damaged by powerful families fighting. Rome, by the way, makes less sense for Valyria, as it was a relatively recent empire at the time of the middle ages and some parts of the old republic were still active.
Summer isles: Canary islands. An archipelago off of Africa known for their beauty and relative isolation; also close to Europe.
Slaver’s Bay: North African cities with powerful slave trades.
Ghis: Carthaginian civilization. An ancient civilization wiped out by a competing one, whose capital, Carthage, was completely destroyed. Ancient Egypt is also an analogue, as they used slaves and were one of the few empires older than Greece.
Old Ghis: Carthage. Both cities had their lands razed and salted, and don’t exist to this day.
Dothraki: Asian steppe peoples, like the Huns, who were notoriously proficient in warfare using horses. These peoples were almost always weak in naval warfare. The Mongols, by the way, aren’t perfect analogues because of how advanced their warfare was, using powerful siege engines.
Qarth: Constantinople. The gateway to the west and the east, and a large, rich city.
Yi-Ti: China. An ancient and powerful civilization that has lasted continuously for thousands of years. Built a strong line of defense to defend mysterious invaders from the north.
Asshai: Tibet. A mysterious and near-mythical place in a desolate land surrounded by high mountains in the far east of the word.