Throughout season 8 of Game of Thrones, Cersei is repeatedly referred to as "a tyrant", specifically by Daenerys, implying that she is making the people of King's Landing and the Seven Kingdoms "suffer" under her rule.

However, what is it exactly that Cersei has done that can be considered to have been the cause of suffering for the poor people of the realm?

Yes, she is responsible for the annihilation of the Faith Militant, but those who died in the explosion at the Sept of Baelor were probably all septons or highborns. Did the commonfolk suffer because of that?

And yes, she reneged her promise to fight against the White Walkers, but the White Walkers never reached any territory under her control, and only killed people who were, directly or through their leaders, in open rebellion against the Iron Throne. So, strictly speaking, they were not her responsibility to protect.

Also, even though she has been using the people in King's Landing has human shields, she is not harming them directly.

More in general, did she raise any taxes? Did she restrict some freedom? Did she commit any act of gratuitous cruelty? I concede that she probably does not care much about the commonfolk, but it seems to me that she also doesn't treat them harshly just for fun, like her son Joffrey did. Overall, she doesn't look to be more evil than most other rulers.

So how can Daenerys justify calling her a "tyrant"?

  • 3
    War is expensive. Money have to come from somewhere. Food has to be taken from someone else. Starvation and taxes may be enought to qualify for the lower tier of tyrany. Cut few heads, burn a Church or two and you start to have sothing solid. Commented May 15, 2019 at 11:22
  • 1
    @xdtTransform FWIW the money for the war mostly came from the Iron Bank but I'm sure she also raised taxes.
    – TheLethalCarrot
    Commented May 15, 2019 at 11:23
  • 17
    "Then she has been using the people in King's Landing has human shields; but again, she is not harming them directly." There is a reason this is a war-crime.
    – JAD
    Commented May 15, 2019 at 11:24
  • @TheLethalCarrot, Lannester is almost bankrupt. The realm is basically the only ressource left. Commented May 15, 2019 at 11:24
  • @xdtTransform I know, the Iron Bank loaned her the money in Season 7, that's my point, that's how she could afford the GC.
    – TheLethalCarrot
    Commented May 15, 2019 at 11:25

3 Answers 3


Tyrant: a cruel and oppressive ruler.

Cersei is extremely cruel, I don't think we really need to explain this or argue against it. Remember that she also tortures Septa Unella and Elia and Tyene Sand.

Oppressive: inflicting harsh and authoritarian treatment.

She very much does this, she straight up murders all of those who oppose her, as you say with the Sept of Baelor "incident".

And using the common people as human shields is a very obvious and cruel thing tot do, I don't think anyone would deny that.

As xdtTransform mentions in a comment it's also worth noting that taxes probably were raised as Cersei has a lot of bodies in King's Landing at present that need feeding and that food needs to come from somewhere and you can guarantee the common folk will be the last to receive it.

Being a tyrant doesn't necessarily mean she is doing harm in her rule or inflicting damage on those under it. However, Cersei doesn't care about the people of the King's Landing and solely about her children and maybe Jaime. She wants power for the sake of power not to make the world a better place.

  • 2
    Wanted. If at all, she wanted power for the sake of power. I'd say she was thrown into the Game of Thrones by her father and Cersei always worked under the assumption: When you play the game of thrones, you win or you die. There is no middle ground. She wanted power, because she didn't want to die. The latter are even her final words, I think. Commented May 15, 2019 at 11:47
  • 2
    I don't think the Faith Militant was just "opposing" her: they were harassing Cersei very brutally, and not based on "crimes" that she committed, but rather on "sins", i.e. acts forbidden not by the law but by religion, and that were somewhat tolerated previously, but that the High Sparrow unilaterally and retroactively decided to punish, in order to pursue his own agenda. Obviously Cersei's reaction was very extreme, but the victims were not entirely innocent.
    – lukas84
    Commented May 15, 2019 at 12:58
  • "Cersei is pretty damn cruel, I don't think we really need to explain this or argue against it." Well, that's exactly what I want to argue about with my question :D About "Using the common people as human shields is a very obvious and cruel thing to do": it wasn't done so openly, they were not tied to the walls or something like that. They were just called inside the city. The intent of putting them in danger is obvious; but still, it was a city, not a battlefield.
    – lukas84
    Commented May 15, 2019 at 12:59
  • 1
    @lukas84 The Faith Militant didn't dingle out Cersei specifically, they did that to everyone. They weren't harassing her they were punishing her under the God's orders. Religion and law blur into one in Westeros.
    – TheLethalCarrot
    Commented May 15, 2019 at 13:00
  • @TheLethalCarrot, so who did they dingle out? :)
    – Paul
    Commented May 15, 2019 at 19:53

I don't know whether the statements by Daenerys and others in the televison series Game of Thrones are based on statements in the novel series A Song of Ice and Fire that Cersei is a tyrant. I don't know which writer(s) are responsible for those statements and what they meant by them.

But it is possible that the writer or writers who describe Cersei as a tyrant might be aware of the history of the word tyrant.

The English noun tyrant appears in Middle English use, via Old French, from the 1290s. The word derives from Latin tyrannus, meaning "illegitimate ruler", and this in turn from the Greek τύραννος tyrannos "monarch, ruler of a polis"; tyrannos in its turn has a Pre-Greek origin, perhaps from Lydian.[6][7] The final -t arises in Old French by association with the present participles in -ant.[8]

"The word 'tyranny' is used with many meanings, not only by the Greeks, but throughout the tradition of the great books."[9] The Oxford English Dictionary offers alternative definitions: a ruler, an illegitimate ruler (a usurper), an absolute ruler (despot) or an oppressive, unjust or cruel ruler. The term is usually applied to vicious autocrats who achieve their goals by unjust and harsh means. The definition of a tyrant is cursed by subjectivity. Oppression, injustice and cruelty do not have standardized measurements or thresholds.

in ancient Greece, tyrants were influential opportunists that came to power by securing the support of different factions of a deme. The word tyrannos, possibly pre-Greek, Pelasgian or eastern in origin,[16] then carried no ethical censure; it simply referred to anyone, good or bad, who obtained executive power in a polis by unconventional means. Support for the tyrants came from the growing middle class and from the peasants who had no land or were in debt to the wealthy landowners. It is true that they had no legal right to rule, but the people preferred them over kings or the aristocracy.


So by the original Greek definition, the leaders of the French Revolution were tyrants, no matter how good or how evil one thinks that they were. And the founding fathers of the USA were tyrants by that definition.

In late antiquity the word tyrant meant an Roman usurper who claimed to be emperor but didn't succeed enough to go on the lists of emperors.


For example, the reign of Gallienus (260-268) was full of attempts to usurp the throne, though the claim that there were thirty tyrants during his reign is a bit exaggerated.

Famous successful Roman usurpers or tyrants by that definition include Vespasian, Septimius Severus, Diocletian, St. Constantine I the Great (the first Christian emperor) etc.

Roman usurpers or tyrants in Britain or associated with Britain included Carausius (286-292, Allectus (293-296), Magnentius (350-353), Magnus Maximus (383-388), Marcus (406-407), Gratian (407), and Constantine III (407-411). It is no wonder that Gildas writing sometime about 480 to 580 wrote that Britain was a province fertile in tyrants. Gildas also described the invitation to the Saxon mercenaries as coming from the entire council and "the proud tyrant" implying that there was at least one self proclaimed emperor in post Roman Britain. Procopius also wrote that since Constantine III to his own time Britain had been ruled by tyrants, implying that there was a whole line of emperors in post Roman Britain.

So it seems possible that when Daenerys said Cersei was a tyrant, she didn't necessarily mean that Cersei ruled in a harsh and cruel manner, but possibly meant that Cersei had illegally usurped the rule from people with a better right to rule, like for example Daenerys herself in her own opinion.


Google dictionary gives three definitions for the word "tyrant":

  • a cruel and oppressive ruler.
  • a person exercising power or control in a cruel, unreasonable, or arbitrary way.
  • a ruler who seized absolute power without legal right.

(emphasis mine.)

I believe the latter definition, though less well known nowadays, is the original meaning of the word, and very probably what Daenerys means - although the fact that the word has also become associated with cruelty and oppression is politically useful so may have also influenced her choice of words. Still, if challenged to justify the label, she would just have to point to the original definition.

  • She also killed her husband Robert Baratheon. Not to mention, she didn't respect the will of Robert.
    – user931
    Commented May 15, 2019 at 20:31

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.