Why are the great houses of Westeros so long lived? For example, the Starks have been kings and later Wardens of the North for nearly 8,000 since Bran the Builder. Again, the Arryns of the Vale and the Tyrrells of the Reach have long been lords of their domain.

In comparable societies in Europe for example, the Habsburgs ruled for only several centuries. And in China the Qing? ruled for at least 4. Is there a precedent for houses to last this long in out time, and to what do the Great Houses of Westeros owe this longevity?

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    I don't think this question is answerable. May 30, 2015 at 4:38
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    I agree with @LightnessRacesinOrbit: this question isn't answerable from what is currently known about the world of A Song of Ice and Fire. GRRM has hinted that the nature of the long seasons is magical (not astronomical), and that they will be explained in due course. For all we know, the world of ASoIaF is permanently stuck in a feudal society. (Something similar seems to happen to Tolkien's Middle-earth, by the way. So little societal and technological progress in thousands of years!)
    – Andres F.
    May 30, 2015 at 5:49
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    what about real world Yamato dynasty? Almost 27 centuries old. As for the Ice and Fire world, not all houses were founded during the Age of heroes. As far as I remember Starks, Lannisters, Brackens, Blackwoods and Boltons are the only surviving houses that date their foundation back to age of heroes.
    – Nika G.
    May 30, 2015 at 6:47
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    To further @AndresF.'s point: the inevitable TVTropes link [WARNING! FOLLOW AT YOUR OWN RISK] tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/MedievalStasis
    – BMWurm
    May 30, 2015 at 14:33

1 Answer 1


Of the eight Great Houses only three have been lords of their domain for a long time: The Starks, the Lannisters and the Arryns. On the other hand, the Baratheons, the Tyrells, the Tullys and the Greyjoys owe their rise in station to the Targaryen conquests (barely 300 years old) that extinguished the Durrandons, the Gardeners and the Hoares. Similarly, the Martells only rose to prominence when they allied themselves with the Rhoynar 500-1000 years ago.

House Stark's reign does indeed date to at least 8000 years (although some Measters dispute those numbers due to the lack of sources) but those were far from being undisputed. The Boltons have been a constant thorn, and at least one cadet branch (the Graystarks) have attempted coupes. The fact that the Starks have remained in power is possibly due to the power sustained by the massive holdings surrounding Winterfell, and the seemingly undying loyalty of the Northmen to the Starks.

On a similar vein, the Lannisters massive ancestral gold mines have kept them rich enough to stay on top, while the impregnable Eyrie has kept the Arryns safe from all aggressors until the Targaryen dragons arrived.

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    Also, Tradition plays a huge role in these things.
    – Möoz
    May 31, 2015 at 22:10
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    The North remembers what really matters - The Wall.
    – Luaan
    Jun 27, 2016 at 16:44
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    If you overthrow Winterfell, you get to be responsible for The Wall. It's a thankless task and nobody else wants the job.
    – bp.
    Sep 14, 2017 at 10:56

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