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What exactly was, or happened in the Doom of Valyria?

I'm nearing the end of the ASOIAF books and despite countless references, I'm still not clear on what exactly the doom of valyria was. If I recall correctly, there have been many different mentions of what appears to be natural disasters. For example:

In A Dance with Dragons (Chapter 33):-

Tyrion is quoted as thinking..

An empire built on blood and fire. The Valyrians reaped the seed they had sown.

The implication being that Fire was the Doom of Valyria.

Fire is mentioned often, with clear references to the 'Fourteen Flames' which I believe to be a chain of volcanoes.


Many other seemingly natural disasters are described, these including earthquakes and a tsunami(?).

This makes me wonder, are all these events chained? As in, related or even caused by each other? Was the Doom of Valyria a completely natural event?

Did magic play a part, in any form? I know from references in the books, that magic was very prevalent in Valyria.

As stated I'm nearing the end of the books now, so any 'Spoilers' which answer my question or relevant questions are very welcome.

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Seeing as there are still two books left to publish in ASOIAF and it hasn't been detailed in any of the already published material I think you'll have to wait until the series is over. – Monty129 May 13 '14 at 11:44
If any definitive answer isn't available, I'm happy to settle for spirited speculation. – Danieloplata May 13 '14 at 11:53
This isn't a site for speculation, I'm afraid, only for actual verifiable answers. – Mike Scott May 13 '14 at 11:57
@Monty129 a question-asker here isn't required to know all canon in a universe, which would be needed to know whether a question is answerable. – Kevin May 13 '14 at 13:08
@JimmyShelter I always felt Valyria was more a take on Atlantis than anything else. – Monty129 May 13 '14 at 13:12

It's pretty much clear that it was a natural disaster (Earthquake). Earthquakes can cause volcanoes to erupt and tsunamis to form.

A quote from A Wiki of Ice and Fire:

The cataclysm hit the Valyrian capital city Valyria, fragmenting the land surrounding the city into numerous smaller islands, creating the Smoking Sea between them. the Freehold was annihilated in a single night of fire and storm, with great earthquakes and volcanic eruptions laying waste to the empire.

Unless they later on explain that it was some magic or other dark event that caused it, it's pretty clear that an earthquake destroyed the land.

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Do they cite that? I don't recall reading it in the books. – Kevin May 13 '14 at 12:52
The quote is not from the books directly, but it's a 100% accurate description of the area. If you look at the map of the world you can see it has a heavily fragmented landmass in the south, which is Valyria. Tyrion describes it the best in the books, saying fire spewed from the ground and boulders came flying from the sky, which points directly to a volcano erupting (or in this case, multiple (14)). – Parrotmaster May 13 '14 at 13:18
@Parrotmaster: The Doom is clearly volcanic in nature, but I'd question whether it was entirely natural. Having a chain of 14 volcanoes all erupt at once with that degree of violence is pretty much unknown on the real Earth. Also, we have the fact that this disaster just happened to strike the greatest centre of magical power in the world. It is likely that the magic of Valyria and the Doom are connected in some way, but we won't find out until the later books (if at all). – Royal Canadian Bandit May 13 '14 at 15:24
Is this analogous to Pompeii? – Chris Tarazi May 13 '14 at 21:26
@RoyalCanadianBandit But it also mentions Tsunami's, which makes me believe it was actually an earthquake that set off the 14 volcanoes (14 volcanoes tell us that it was an area with a lot of tectonic activity.) We have places like this on earth and events like this, but in our case it's mostly underwater. – Parrotmaster May 15 '14 at 6:45

As with many other lore details, the books have been deliberately vague about the actual unfolding of the event, though from context clues we know that there was certainly some sort of natural disaster involving earthquakes, volcanoes, and tsunamis. Since the event happened several centuries before the start of the narrative, accounts of the Doom could mostly now be exagerated legends (such as the idea that the ruins are filled with demons). From the wiki as well:

Tyrion recalls that it was written that on the day of Doom every hill for 500 miles had split asunder to fill the air with ash and smoke and fire, blazes so hot and hungry that even dragons in the sky were engulfed and consumed. Great rents had opened in the earth, swallowing palaces, temples, entire towns. Lakes boiled or turned to acid, mountains burst, fiery fountains spewed molten rock a thousand feet into the air, red clouds rained down dragonglass and the black blood of demons, and to the north the ground splintered and collapsed and fell in on itself and an angry sea came rushing in.

While aboard the Iron Victory, near the Isle of Cedars, Victarion Greyjoy recalls what he knows of the day the Doom came to Valyria. It is said a wall of water 300 feet high had descended on Velos drowning hundreds of thousands of man, women, and children

It's fairly well-known that even in our world earthquakes can cause chain-reactions of tsunamis and volcanic eruptions. It's therefore plausible that the Doom was nothing more than a horrific natural disaster, and that the Valyrians were simply caught in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Whether or not it was caused by some other external force, such as magic or some malicious divine being, still remains to be seen. GRRM stated in an interview that we may get to see old Valyria, but that there wasn't a big chance, so we'll have to wait for the last two books to be sure.

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Nice answer, and thanks for the links. If indeed the Doom of Valyria was a purely natural event, is it feasible that the area would remain inaccessible? Surely the eruptions will not be ongoing after such a long time? With the amount of water existing around that area, it would seem to me the magma would have cooled and solidified. – Danieloplata May 14 '14 at 8:24
Hmmm, depends on what you mean by "inaccessible." I believe Euron claimed he explored the area to find the dragon horn, so clearly there must be some passable areas there. My guess is that all the tectonic activity opened up a ton of undersea steam vents, causing the seas to look like they are boiling. To me it seems more likely that superstition and rumors mostly keeps travellers away, rather than the physical danger of the area itself. – YonkeyDonk64 May 15 '14 at 20:34

The World of Ice and Fire, which is written from the perspective of Maester Yandel, seems to contain the best in world description of the event.

From page 26, The World of Ice and Fire:

To this day, no one knows what caused the Doom. Most say that it was a natural cataclysm-a catastrophic explosion caused bu the eruption of all Fourteen Flames [volcanoes] together. Some septons, less wise, claim that the Valyrians brought the disaster on themselves for their promiscuous belief in a hundred gods and more, and in their godlessness they delved to deep and unleashed the fires of the Seven hells on the Freehold. A handful of maesters, influenced by fragments of the work of Septon Barth, hold that Valyria had used spells to tame the Fourteen Flames for thousands of years, that their ceaseless hunger for slaves and wealth was as much to sustain these spells as to expand their power, and that when at last those spells faltered, the cataclysm became inevitable.

The chapter also lists a curse by Garin the Great and dark magic by the priests of R'hllor as other possible causes.

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Some more info has been given in the World of Ice and Fire. It still isn't mentioned what kind of natural cataclysm caused the Doom, but it is mentioned that fourteen volcanoes erupted together. It was a natural disaster that the world hadn't seen before (or since).

These fourteen volcanoes are called the Fourteen Flames and all of them were on the Valyrian peninsula.

Also, some not-so-wise septons believe that the Valyrians brought the doom to themselves because they believed in many gods

Some septons, less wise, claim that the Valyrians brought the disaster on themselves for their promiscuous belief oin a hundred gods and more, and in their golessness they delved too deep and unleashed the fires of the Seven hells on the Greehold.

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