Many thanks to Ross Wittenham for this article. Ross is the mastermind behind History Mine, a delightful website that sees the modern in the historical. Definitely check it out and please give Ross a warm welcome!
With a lot more of the new season focusing on Dorne, it’s worth having a deeper look at the principality’s background. In particular, I want to investigate the parallels between the Dornishmen and the Dorians. If you haven’t heard of them before, the Dorians were a successful tribe in Ancient Greece, whose people inhabited states including Corinth, Sparta and Argos. You may have heard of the Doric order of classical architecture.
One of the overlying themes of Dornish history is that of invasion. When the First Men first invaded Westeros, it was via the (then) isthmus of Dorne. When the Children of the Forest wanted to stem the flow, they broke the Arm of Dorne. Or, depending on your view of ancient parables, a natural disaster befell the land bridge, possibly the last part of a geological process of separation that took millions of years.
The ruling family, the Martells, was founded by an Andal adventurer. They rose to prominence following the arrival of Nymeria’s Rhoynar.
Should any other invaders cast an eye on Westeros *cough* Danaerys *cough*, Dorne would be the obvious entry point.
One of the earliest theories about the Dorians is that they invaded Greece, possibly from Macedonia and the North, but also possibly as ‘Sea Peoples’. The theory itself is in some doubt, but the idea has definitely taken root. It is certainly worth pointing out that the history of Greece starts with the Minoans, from Crete.
The Minoans fell from dominance following the eruption the Santorini volcano, a major geological event with its own mythical explanation; it could be the basis for the story of Atlantis. Whatever the case, they were replaced by the Achaeans, who were Homer’s heroes. It was the Achaeans (if anyone) who were then invaded by the Dorians.
Can’t get enough of them spears
Spears are damn popular in Dorne. Oberyn, the Red Viper, picked one for his showdown with the Mountain, and they are equally popular with his daughters. They were on Martell banners even before they teamed up with Nymeria’s Rhoynar, and their capital city, Sunspear, is named after the merged sigils.
Likewise, the spear was unquestionably the principal weapon of ancient Greece. Hell, even Hollywood has picked up on this, with fight scenes in ‘Troy’ and ‘300’ revolving around the weapon. These ranged from javelins to long pikes, but the real star was the ‘doru’, a single-handed spear with a flat head that was wielded by hoplite phalanxes.
Two major technologies introduced by the Andals were iron working (taught to them by the Rhoynar) and superior writing. Both may have been significant in the conquest of Westeros.
These are also major themes of ancient Greek history. The Acheans introduced a script called ‘Linear B’, which rendered the Minoan ‘Linear A’ obsolete. Iron also marked a major cultural change in ancient Greece. Since iron was much more widely available than bronze, entire armies could be armoured, rather than just the heroes of Homer.
So the Dornish are Dorians?
Because we’re drawing parallels between cultures, rather than individuals, it is harder for us to make a decisive conclusion. Nevertheless, I think we can safely say that Doran, prince of Dorne (and his niece, Dorea) owe something to the Dorians and their dorus. And remember: wearing a helmet could save your life.