19

From the show we are not really told much about "The Thirteen". They seem to be very rich and powerful, and also seem to have control of the City Qarth. We are told a few back stories about members of "The Thirteen" such as 'Xaro Xhoan Daxos' and how he went from rags to riches through his persistence and willingness to do what ever needed to be done.

There is also the "Spice King" whose name we are not told:

Oh, my name is quite long and quite impossible for foreigners to pronounce. I am simply a trader of spices.

Again, we are told very little other than that it seems that he comes from a family whose business is dealing in spices, which must have been built up over the generations starting with his Grandfather:

However, there is not much on how "The Thirteen" came to be in power? What is the back story to Qarth and its rulers?

Note: I do say rulers, even though the "Spice King" says he is a mere merchant, "The Thirteen" do have control over the city.

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    Is there a particular reason that "Game of Thrones" is actually in the title? This is clear from the tags, and people who are familiar with the story will likely recognize it anyway. – jpmc26 Feb 23 '17 at 22:33
  • @jpmc26, meta.scifi.stackexchange.com/questions/2749/… – KyloRen Feb 23 '17 at 22:36
  • @jpmc26, You forgetting those people who may use google and stuble upon the question in the future who may not know about the question. Having what it is in the title makes it instantly identifiable and is better for the site IMHO. – KyloRen Feb 23 '17 at 22:39
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    Your title seems to fall into the "unnatural" category; it's just randomly tacked onto the end. Additionally, the answer says, "it's already covered by tagging (and that should be the preferred place for specifying which work(s) the question applies to)." – jpmc26 Feb 23 '17 at 22:39
  • I have a hard time imagining a Googler "stumbling" on this question without inputting the specific terms "thirteen" and "qarth." And I'm not sure why they would skip over it if it came up ina search just because "Game of Thrones" wasn't in the title. (Although, it would likely be truncated off the title Google shows due to length, anyway.) If they're just randomly browsing SE, they probably know how to see tags. – jpmc26 Feb 23 '17 at 22:44
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Books

The de-jure rulers of Qarth are the Pureborn, not the Thirteen or any other merchant faction.

Factions in Qarth

Following factions vie for dominance over Qarth:

  1. the Pureborn
  2. The Thirteen
  3. Ancient Guild of Spicers
  4. The Tourmaline Brotherhood

The actual de-jure authority of Qarth is the Pureborn. They are descendants of the ancient Kings and Queens of Qarth.

Descendants of the ancient kings and queens of Qarth, the Pureborn commanded the Civic Guard and the fleet of ornate galleys that ruled the straits between the seas

ACOK- Daenerys III

It was the pureborn that Daenerys had turned to, to plea for aid against Robert Baratheon.

The Pureborn heard her pleas from the great wooden seats of their ancestors, rising in curved tiers from a marble floor to a high-domed ceiling painted with scenes of Qarth's vanished glory. The chairs were immense, fantastically carved, bright with goldwork and studded with amber, onyx, lapis, and jade, each one different from all the others, and each striving to be the most fabulous. Yet the men who sat in them seemed so listless and world-weary that they might have been asleep. They listened, but they did not hear, or care, she thought. They are Milk Men indeed. They never meant to help me. They came because they were curious. They came because they were bored, and the dragon on my shoulder interested them more than I did.

ACOK- Daenerys III

However, being a merchant city, Merchants do wield a lot of influence on politics of the city.

The merchant princes, grown vastly rich off the trade between the seas, were divided into three jealous factions: the Ancient Guild of Spicers, the Tourmaline Brotherhood, and the Thirteen, to which Xaro belonged.

ACOK- Daenerys III

History of Qarth

Qarth was founded by Qaathi people who originated in the Dothraki sea region in the earliest days of humanity.

What can be said is that the Qaathi arose in the grasslands and established towns there, coming into contact and occasional conflict with the Sarnori. They would oft have the worse of these wars, and so began to drift farther south, creating new city-states. One such, Qarth, was founded on the coast of the Summer Sea. Yet the lands in the south of Essos proved more inhospitable than those the Qaathi had vacated, turning to desert even as they established their foothold there. The Qaathi people were already well on their way to collapse when the Doom struck, and any hopes of using the chaos in the Summer Sea to their advantage vanished when the Dothraki attacked, destroying all the remaining Qaathi cities save for Qarth itself.

TWOIAF- Beyond the Free Cities: The Grasslands

Most of the Qaathi cities were destroyed due to Dothraki invasions after fall of Valyria and ensuing century of blood save for Qarth.

In the south, other khals led their hordes into the Red Waste, destroying the Qaathi towns and cities that once dotted that desert, until only the great city of Qarth remained, protected by its towering triple wall. Despite their long history, little can be said with any certainty of the Qaathi—a people now gone from the world save for a remnant in Qarth.

.

.

.

Most of these peoples are gone now, their cities burned and buried, their gods and heroes all but forgotten. Of the Qaathi cities, only Qarth remains, dreaming of past glories beside the jealously guarded Jade Gates, which link the Summer and Jade seas. The others were extinguished, driven into exile, or conquered and assimilated by the people who succeeded them.

TWOIAF- Beyond the Free Cities: The Grasslands

Due to the city's strategic position on the eastern sea lanes, it soon turned into a trade hub which expanded when the Valyrian seapower vanished and Volantis became too occupied with its own ambitions west-wards during century of blood era.

Yet in a way, the Dothraki destruction led to a resurgence for Qarth. Forced to look instead to the sea, the Pureborn who ruled Qarth swiftly constructed a fleet and took control of the Jade Gates—the strait between Qarth and Great Moraq, which joins the Summer Sea to the Jade Sea. With the Valyrian fleet destroyed, and Volantis's attention turned west, there were none to oppose them as they established control over the most direct route between east and west, and so gained immeasurably in both trade and levied tolls for safe passage.

TWOIAF- Beyond the Free Cities: The Grasslands


Show

In the Show however, it is implied that its the thirteen who rule the city and other rival factions and the pureborn are not mentioned as separate entities.

It seems to be one of the many changes show-runners made to limit the scope of events and things they had to film as it must have seemed inconsequential to the eventual planned story-arc they took in the show. The titles Spice-King, Silk-King and Copper-King are also their own invention, not adapted from the books. Although Westerosi nobles do use "Spice Lords" or "Cheese Kings" to refer to Essosi merchant quasi-aristocrat-class in a derogatory fashion. "Merchant Prince" has however been used in the books, a title Xaro Xhoan Daxos introduced himself with.

In any case, there is no mention of political history of Qarth in GoT so it is unknown how did they come to rule Qarth in the show.

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