The names of places like Winterfell, King’s Landing, and Dragonstone are nearly as recognizable as the families who inhabit them in Game of Thrones. The amount of history and backstory layered into the series’ history enough to confuse anyone, but even the most casual fan knows that House Stark belongs in Winterfell. Yet while House Lannister is just as famous as their wintery counterparts, their homeland of Casterly Rock has remained missing in action since the series began.
That’s all set to change in season 7, as Daenerys Targaryen is set to invade Casterly Rock as a part of her plans to take Westeros and the Iron Throne. For now, however, the stronghold remains as a mysterious as the Doom of Valyria. Yet there is enough material in George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire and elsewhere that a picture can begin to be pieced together about The Rock. And from what we know, it’s certainly a place that is worthy of a family as famous as The Lannisters.
Here are 15 Things You Didn’t Know About Casterly Rock.
15. It is Said to Resemble a Lion
The Lannisters aren’t as quite as in love with their sigil as the other Great Houses of Westeros. They don’t slap horns onto anything that is stationary like the Baratheons. They don’t refer to themselves as wolves in every other conversation like House Stark. Yet the Lannisters still never hesitate to remind us that they have possibly the most impressive animal of all on their banners: the lion.
The Lannisters have taken their affection for lions so far that they like to claim that Casterly Rock actually resembles the animal. A lion lounging at the top of the cliff. This is pretty ridiculous, of course, but who knows — maybe you’ll see it if you squint really, really hard?
Casterly Rock is certainly an impressive stronghold (and we’ll get to exactly why a little bit later in this list). It does not look much like a lion, nor was it intended to look like one. That’s because Casterly Rock didn’t even originally belong to the Lannisters.
14. It is Named After an Extinct Family
Casterly Rock does sound like the perfect home for the Lannister family. It is pompous, impressive, and pretty royal sounding when you think about it. Casterly Rock almost sounds more like a fortress for a king or queen than the actual seat of the royal family, King’s Landing. Yet the Casterly part of the name has nothing to do with the Lannisters.
The Casterlys were the original family who inhabited the cliff-side stronghold. Predating the arrival of Aegon Targaryen in Westeros by centuries, they lived and prospered on The Rock. The legend goes that the first Lord Casterly, Corlos, was a hunter. Corlos fought and killed a lion that was troubling a nearby village, but Corlos spared the lion’s cubs. As a reward for his mercy, the gods gifted Corlos The Rock and all the treasures that were hidden inside.
The gift of The Rock allowed the Casterlys to grow into one of the biggest and most wealthy families in Westeros. That was until a young blonde-haired rouge came along and took everything they held dear.
13. The Lannisters’ Descendant Stole it from House Casterly
The Lannisters trace their origins back to the semi-mythic figure of Lann the Clever. Like a lot of the history that George R.R. Martin created for Westeros, they’re several different stories about Lann and what exactly he did. Also like a lot of the history Martin created, the stories about Lann are delightfully bonkers. The basic gist is that somehow, Lann took The Rock from House Casterly, the family suddenly disappears from historical record, and House Lannister pops in its place.
The most common tale told about Lann is that he snuck into the castle late at night and whispered in all the Casterlys’ ears, stealing and moving things around until House Casterly went crazy and started killing each other. There are also versions of the story where Lann brought lions into the castle that ate everyone. Lastly (and inevitably, because this takes place in Westeros) some say that Lann raped all the female Casterlys in their sleep so that they’d give birth to golden-haired children. There was then no choice but to give Lann the stronghold, because there were no other male heirs.
12. It is Even Taller than the Wall
As any Game of Thrones fan knows from the hours and hours that were spent there in the early seasons, The Wall is pretty dang big. It is the last defense for the realms of men, it is the shield in the darkness, and all those other boring things that Jon recites in the Night’s Watch oath. However, not to be undone by any icy wall, Casterly Rock is taller — and technically bigger — than The Wall.
The difference isn’t a minor one, not a couple hundred feet or even a thousand. The rock on which Casterly Rock sits is said to be three times the size of The Wall. Although the castle can be seen on the top of the mountain, most of it is built into the cliffside. This makes Casterly Rock the biggest and most intimidating stronghold in Westeros. (Sorry, Harrenhal.)
With specs like that, it’s no wonder that Tyrion wanted the castle so bad, and why Tywin, having such disdain for his youngest and smallest child, refused to give to him. It’s also the likeliest reason for why HBO hasn’t even attempted to show Casterly Rock on screen so far.
11. It Has Never Been Invaded
The massiveness of Casterly Rock does a lot to explain one of its most impressive fun facts. Except for Lann the Clever, the castle has never been taken or invaded by anyone. This makes Casterly Rock incredibly unique, as nearly every stronghold, whether inside the events of the show or books or before them, has been conquered. Even The Eyrie, which is set up similarly to Casterly Rock, was taken over (in a non-violent manner) by Littlefinger when he married and then murdered Lysa Arryn.
It’s not any big secret why Casterly Rock is so defensible, either. Surrounded on three sides by water and being so incredibly high up, no army is even going to be able to get to it easily, let alone take it over. Really, only a dragon stands a chance of attacking the castle.
It is true that when Aegon the Conqueror invaded Westeros with his dragons, he did easily defeat the Lannisters of the time. Yet the battle where House Lannister was conquered occurred on an open plain that was later named the Field of Fire (for obvious reasons). If they had stayed in Casterly Rock, things could have gone very differently. But probably not. Because dragons.
10. The Lannisters Used to be Kings
Speaking of the Lannisters of Aegon’s Conquest, like many Great Houses before the Targaryens came to Westeros, the Lannisters were royalty. Though the power and wealth of Casterly Rock legitimized House Lannister’s right to rule and gave them the firepower to back up their claims, it wasn’t all might equals right for them.
Yes, despite how Cersei came to power decades later, House Lannister set up their royal line cleverly. The Lannisters built alliances and formed connections to ensure they always remained on their own throne. Unlike Cersei, the royal Lannisters made friends with their previous enemies. When the Andals invaded Westeros, The Lannister fought them off, but they eventually intermarried with their rivals, securing peace.
House Lannister even teamed up with House Gardner (House Tyrell’s predecessor) to take on Aegon’s forces. No amount of alliances and strong bonds could defeat an army of dragons, however, and both House Gardner and Lannister lost their tussle with Aegon — thus ending their reign as royals.
9. It Sits on a Goldmine
The Lannisters’ big claim to fame on Game of Thrones, besides the fact that they get hot for their siblings, is their money. “A Lannister always pays their debts” is one of the catchphrases from the series that has popped off the screen and into the collective consciousness. It turns out that there is a very reasonable explanation as to why the Lannisters are so rich: Casterly Rock sits on a literal goldmine.
The gold under Casterly Rock is said to be Corlos Casterly’s reward from the gods. Whether this is true or not, it doesn’t stop it from being an incredible stroke of good luck that whoever controls the castle basically controls the economy of Westeros. The mines under Casterly Rock have been used for thousands of years, ensuring the Lannisters’ long-held place as the richest of the rich. (Though Tywin’s talk of the mines running dry back in season 4 certainly raises some questions.)
8. It Inspired the Building of the Eyrie
While Game of Thrones fans might not have seen Casterly Rock just yet, another mountainside fortress has been glimpsed more than a few times. The Eyrie is easily one of the most interesting looking buildings in Westeros, and it should give fans an idea of what Casterly Rock would look like in live-action. This is because the Eyrie was inspired by the design of the Lannisters’ ancestral seat.
For a long time, the stronghold of House Arryn was just the small fort known as the Gates of the Moon. The Gates (which by time of Game of Thrones are really just the entrance to Eyrie) used to be the total sum of the House’s defenses. After seeing Casterly Rock, however, Roland Arryn, was inspired to move the main castle just a bit farther back — and into an actual mountain.
It is therefore Casterly Rock’s fault that Tyrion had to spend that harrowing night in season 1 in a sky cell. The Eyrie’s design as an acrophobic’s worst nightmare is all thanks to someone being impressed by the whole castle in a cliff aspect of Casterly Rock.
7. Tywin Brought Back The Glory of Casterly Rock
Despite all their wealth and power, House Lannister hasn’t always been the biggest bully on the block. It is only really thanks to Tywin that the family and Casterly Rock are as powerful as they were when Game of Thrones began. Tywin’s father, Tytos, was a nice guy, but an absolutely dreadful ruler. He lent out money to everyone and never really bothered to seek out a return on it. It wasn’t until Tytos died and Tywin took over that things really began to change for Casterly Rock.
Tywin made people pay for the loans that his father had let go, while using the vast wealth of the castle wisely and sparingly. It is because of Tywin’s commanding rule of The Rock that he gained the attention of the Mad King and became his Hand, leading to House Lannister’s real rise to power.
Before Tywin, Casterly Rock was large, impressive, but an empty shell of a castle. Tywin filled the stronghold back up with glory and honor. It’s just up to Cersei and/or Jaime to maintain that glory.
6. Theon’s Youngest Uncle Was Imprisoned There
House Greyjoy is no Game of Thrones fan’s favorite house, but they are a relatively important people in Westeros. One of the biggest events involving the Ironborn is their rebellion (which happened after Robert’s Rebellion, but before the events of Game of Thrones. During that war, the black sheep of the family, Aeron Greyjoy ended up being imprisoned in Casterly Rock.
Aeron is a minor character in the books and even more minor character in the show. Yet the story of his imprisonment by House Lannister is so laughably pathetic it must be highlighted. On the sea, Aeron was caught in a trap by Stannis Baratheon. Aeron’s ship crashed, and he landed just outside Casterly Rock. Aeron was quickly imprisoned inside the castle, and spent most of the war surrounded by the animals that House Lannister kept in their lowest levels. No one ever bothered to rescue Aeron, and he was quietly released after the rebellion ended.
5. The Mad King Lived There for a Year
Aeron Greyjoy isn’t the only one outside House Lannister to live at Casterly Rock for an extended period. Shortly after Tytos died, Aerys Targaryen, who had recently been crowned as king but was not yet “mad,” spent some time there. At the time, he was actually quite friendly with Tywin. The two were childhood friends, and their relationship only become closer when Tywin rose in esteem after his father died.
Interestingly, Aerys lived at Casterly Rock shortly after Cersei and Jaime were born. According to some of the extra source material outside of the mainline book series, Aerys harbored a not-so-secret affection for Tywin’s wife, Johanna. Aerys even expressed a desire to sleep with Johanna during her wedding to Tywin. This has led to some speculation that Aerys is Jaime and Cersei’s father, and this might have been the true reason for his stay at Casterly Rock.
Being secret Targaryens might explain Jaime and Cersei’s attraction to one another, but it is a far-fetched theory. There is more to suggest that Tyrion is actually Aerys’ secret love child, not the twins.
4. It is the Seat of One of the Four Wardens of Westeros
The Warden of the West is one of those titles that is thrown around in Game of Thrones but never really explained. In reality, the Warden of the West (along with the other directions) is a title given to someone who is the military leader of that part of the country. A Warden is mean to lead their region in the event of a grand conflict, like, for example, ice zombies coming down from the North and killing everyone.
Casterly Rock is one of four seats for the various Wardens of Westeros. The other four seats are the Warden of the North in Winterfell, Warden of the East in the Eyrie, and Warden of the South in Highgarden.
3. The City Around It Does Not Belong to the Lannisters
Despite their title of Warden of the West and their wealth, House Lannister’s control doesn’t extend too far outside of Casterly Rock. The immediate town surrounding Casterly Rock, known as Lannisport, has very little to do with House Lannister despite the obvious similarities to their name. It’s actually the province of House Lannister of Lannisport, which is a complete separate branch.
To revisit Lann the Clever, in addition to stealing castles, he was well known for being very free about spreading his DNA around. Lann had so many children — reportedly a hundred sons and a hundred daughters — that they could not all be held in Casterly Rock. The descendants of Lann that didn’t make into the castle ended up in Lannisport, forming another family just vaguely related to House Lannister.
2. The Castle’s True Power is Its Wealth
Even though the castle is massive and House Lannister has made a serious name for themselves, Casterly Rock would be nothing without its wealth. The power of Casterly Rock is based almost solely on its wealth, which has allowed the family to have such a large army under their control, form powerful alliances, and keep themselves on top. If the money that is underneath Casterly Rock is all used up, there is no back-up plan for the castle or the House.
House Stark is easy to ridicule because they are, by and large, enormous idiots. Yet they still gain their power out of genuine respect and adoration from the houses that serve them. House Stark is powerful because the North believes in them and what they represent. Casterly Rock is only a reliable source of strength because of its cash flow. Better recheck those mines, Cersei.
1. Tywin Stayed There as an apparently neutral party for most of Robert’s Rebellion
Of course, the ability to just camp out in Casterly Rock and wait out whatever storm is going on can’t be discounted. During Robert’s Rebellion, Tywin did nothing but sit inside Casterly Rock and bide his time. When Westeros was in chaos, the Warden of the West did nothing to command his armies. Tywin refused to lift a hand to help his childhood friend Aerys, yet he didn’t assist Robert until the very last second, either.
No one bothered Tywin during Robert’s Rebellion because they simply couldn’t get to them. Tywin was unwilling to gamble with his wealth and power, and he responded to neither side’s pleas for help. It is only when it became clear that Aerys would lose that Tywin marched out of Casterly Rock and sacked King’s Landing for Robert’s side.
It may not have been a noble move, but it did ensure the family’s survival — as well as make the Lannisters more powerful than they’d ever been. Thanks a lot, Casterly Rock!
What is your favorite tidbit about Casterly Rock in Game of Thrones? Will it have a new ruling family in short order? Sound off in the comments!
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