History and Legends of Game of Thrones: The Unsullied

WARNING: SPOILERS!

Today we are talking about another incredibly capable and deadly organization in the Game of Thrones universe, one that has had a definite impact on the events in the world and commands the fear and respect of men and women across the world: the Unsullied.

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The Unsullied are warrior slaves from the now ruined city of Astapoor and are trained in the traditions of the Ghiscari Empire.  At the age of five, and sometimes younger, a slave boy is chosen to become an Unsullied warrior and is castrated (according to sources everything goes, it’s not a pleasant picture).  At that point they are constantly trained from dusk to dawn to use three types of spear, a shield, and a short sword until they have mastered all of them.  The training is incredibly brutal and only about a quarter of all recruits survive and it culminates in a final test where they must kill their own mothers in order to become full Unsullied warriors.

While the training regimen is brutal it is incredibly effective.  The combination of no testicles and harsh training means that each soldier will not act on the violent and often uncontrollable impulses that many commanders have to worry about when dealing with their soldiers.  An Unsullied soldier will not rape, plunder, break formation, or lose himself to a battle frenzy and will always follow the orders of his commander, a habit that everyone’s favorite Khaleesi has taken advantage of.

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We’ve briefly touch upon how the Unsullied were also used to halt the advance of the Dothraki hundreds of years before the books started and the stories of their exploits have only furthered their reputation as one of the deadliest and most competent fighting forces in the entire Game of Thrones universe.

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The idea of taking young boy slaves and turning them into a disciplined fighting force is an old one and an idea that came into its own during the 9th century during the reign of the Abbasid Caliphate which controlled most of what we know of today as the Middle East.

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In order to help guard, patrol, and expand their empire the Abbasid rulers created entire armies of slaves that they would recruit from various regions, usually ethnic Turks from Central Asia, and move them around and sell them to regional governors in different parts of the empire.  These were the feared Mamluk soldiers and they were just as effective and as brutal as the Unsullied.

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A Mamluk was taken from his home around the age of 13 and trained to be a soldier loyal only to his master.  As a rule they were kept separate from the general population, were not allowed to have children, and could not inherit or pass on any property or land they might come to possess.  The idea worked for a while, soldiers who are not fighting for plunder, glory, or homeland tend to be more loyal to their commanders and more loyal to each other, and the Mamluk slave armies played a vital role in fighting off the European Crusaders and Mongol invaders.  However, it turns out that depending on an entire class of slave soldiers who aren’t being paid is a bad idea and eventually the slaves realized they could call the shots.  The ensuing rebellions and dynasties that were established are a topic for another day but it is important to recognize that the need for a unified disciplined fighting force resulted in large numbers of slave boys to be captured and raised as soldiers in a similar manner to the famed and deadly Unsullied of Game of Thrones.

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