The world of Game of Thrones is so consumed with war, plight, and existential threats that the humble work of the teachers, record keepers, healers and researchers often goes unacknowledged. Maesters have been present throughout the show and books, offering their services and counsel to the lords of locations all over the realm, from Winterfell to King’s Landing.
We haven’t really gotten a look at the lives of these learned servants. However, now in season 7, with the curious and altruistic Samwell Tarly, we are getting an inside look at the lives of maesters and maesters in training. Sam’s training comes with a bit more urgency than most maesters. He’s escaped from White Walkers and is on a mission from his friend Jon Snow to learn all he can to help prepare the realm for the coming Winter.
What else can Sam expect at the Citadel? How does the Order of Maesters operate and pursue knowledge? How have they applied themselves to their duties while we’ve been distracted by battles, dragons, and sexposition? There is a lot to learn about this learned order of Westeros.
Here are the 15 Things You Didn’t Know About The Maesters.
15. THEY WERE PRECEDED BY THE ALCHEMISTS GUILD
Before the Order of Maesters was the foremost intelligentsia in Westeros, there was the Alchemist Guild. As their name would imply, they claimed to be able to transmute metals and create great creatures of living flame.
The height of their power was during the reign of King Aerys II Targaryen, the Mad King. Various Targaryen kings had employed the services of the Alchemist Guild before, but the Mad King took much greater advantage of it.
The Mad King used wildfire made by the Alchemists Guild to punish perceived traitors and rebels in his kingdom. Ned Stark’s father and brother met this fate. When Robert was looking to be victorious in his rebellion, the Mad King ordered the Alchemists to lace King’s Landing with wildfire and be prepared to incinerate the city at his command.
After the Targaryens fell, the Alchemists Guild diminished in membership and prestige. Despite falling out of royal favor, Tyrion did consult with Alchemist Guild master Wisdom Hallyne to lay a wildfire trap for Stannis Baratheon’s fleet.
14. THEY ARE SOMETIMES CALLED THE KNIGHTS OF THE MIND
The maesters are definitely less archaic compared to the Alchemists Guild. Their pursuits are mostly in more verifiable, academic subjects like mathematics, medicine, ravenry, and letters.
Since Westeros is still a medieval society, knights are one of the most esteemed roles in society as masters of warfare. Thus, as maesters are the foremost learned men in Westeros, their order is sometimes referred to as the Knights of the Mind.
We haven’t actually heard this phrase used in the show yet, but early on in the books, Bran asks Maester Luwin at Winterfell about magic. In that conversation he says:
“There are some who call my order the knights of the mind … Have you ever thought that you might wear a maester’s chain? There is no limit to what you might learn … I can teach you history, healing, herblore. I can teach you the speech of ravens, and how to build a castle, and the way a sailor steers his ship by the stars. I can teach you to measure the days and mark the seasons, and at the Citadel in Oldtown they can teach you a thousand things more. But, Bran, no man can teach you magic.”