Whether you’re gearing up for the next season of HBO’s “House of the Dragon” prequel, waiting desperately for George R.R. Martin to publish the next “A Song of Ice and Fire” installment or rewatching the original series just to feel the pain all over again, you can never know too much about “Game of Thrones.”
Well, maybe you can. A little refresher on the history can’t hurt, though.
The drama, patricide, incest, betrayal, nudity and draconology of the “Game of Thrones” books and TV series spans more than 12,000 years. No, don’t think too hard about what “years” are in the fantasy realm of Westeros. Be thankful there’s a point of reference at all, because it’s about to get complex. (HBO shares parent company Warner Bros. Discovery with CNN.)
How the date system works:
“A Song of Ice and Fire” time is split into two eras: BC and AC, or “Before Conquest” and “After Conquest.” The conquest in question here is Aegon’s Conquest, or the moment when the famed Targaryen family, they of the platinum hair and big dragons, become a major player in Westeros, the fictional, Anglo-inspired realm where most of the “Game of Thrones” action takes place.
Pretty much everything that happens in the “Game of Thrones” and “House of the Dragon” series takes place in the AC era, so we’ll stick to that. All kinds of important lore happens before this era, and the histories in the show and the books are so thick that there are inevitably some little in-world discrepancies. Just use this timeline as a general guide, okay? There is only so much time one can devote to fantastical history before it becomes madness.
1 AC: Aegon’s Conquest is completed
The Targaryens (the ancestors of Daenerys, Jon Snow, and practically everyone on “House of the Dragon”) invade Westeros and become its ruling family, setting up the capital city of King’s Landing. (That’s where the Baratheons and Lannisters ruled from for nearly the whole “Game of Thrones” series.) 112 AC: “House of the Dragon,” Season 1
112 AC: ‘House of the Dragon,’ Season 1
The Targaryens are still in power, still marrying their sisters and cousins and whatnot.
King Viserys names his daughter Rhaenyra as his heir and then marries Alicent, her closest childhood friend. These are both extremely messy, dramatic decisions that affect the course of the entire show and, indeed, the history of Westeros.
After all that, King Viserys dies.
Rhaenyra is crowned queen and gets with her husband/uncle Daemon Targaryen. However, some Targaryens support her half brother, Aegon II, as the new ruler instead. Alicent’s other son accidentally kills Rhaenyra’s son in an ill-advised reckless dragon riding incident. Cue Season 2!
132 AC: The Dance of the Dragons
This is where “House of the Dragon” Season 1 leaves off. The Dance of the Dragons is the name for a civil war between factions of House Targaryen over who their rightful ruler should be. It is a big part of Westerosi history and is set to be the main action in “House of the Dragon” Season 2. No spoilers, but a lot of people die.
261 AC: The Reign of Aerys II, the Mad King
We still haven’t gotten to the main “Game of Thrones” action, but more than a Westerosi century after the bloody Dance of the Dragons, Targaryens are still in power, major GoT players are being born and events that influence the whole series start to play out. Aerys II was the “Mad King” who was eventually slain by Jaime Lannister, and marked the end of the unbroken centuries during which Targaryens ruled Westeros.
281 AC: Robert’s Rebellion
Another crucial moment in Westerosi history, this is when Robert Baratheon wrests power from the Targaryens. Also around this time, Rhaegar Targaryen (Daenerys’ brother) secretly marries Lyanna Stark, who gives birth to Jon Snow and then dies (RIP again), setting up one of the biggest and ickiest secrets of the series.
298 AC: ‘Game of Thrones’ Season 1 (‘ASOIAF’ Book 1: ‘A Game of Thrones’)
Finally, 186 years after “House of the Dragon” Season 1 begins, we get to the main action.
Robert Baratheon dies in a gory boar goring.
The Lannisters jockey for power.
Jamie Lannister pauses a round of incest with Cersei Lannister to push Bran Stark out a window.
Ned Stark is executed by Joffrey Baratheon because the former knows the latter isn’t the king’s actual son (it’s that darn incest again). As a result, the Starks scatter and Jon Snow, who is definitely Ned’s illegitimate son and not something far more complicated, gets sent to the Night’s Watch.
Daenerys, chilling across the narrow sea in Essos, becomes a Khaleesi and gets her dragons.
From here on out, each year roughly corresponds to a season of the show. Funny how these things happen!
299 AC: “Game of Thrones” Season 2 (“ASOIAF Book 2: “A Clash of Kings”)
299 AC: ‘Game of Thrones’ Season 2 (‘ASOIAF’ Book 2: ‘A Clash of Kings’)
The War of the Five Kings continues to pit Renly Baratheon, Stannis Baratheon, Robb Stark, Balon Greyjoy and current king Joffrey Baratheon against each other. Horrendous decisions are made by all.
Renly Baratheon is slain by a shadow demon birthed from the loins of the Red Priestess Melisandre.
The Lannisters and Tyrells beat Baratheon forces in the Battle of Blackwater Bay, Tyrion gets his cool-looking scar.
Jon mopes in the North, Daenerys fiddles around in Essos.
300 AC: ‘Game of Thrones’ Season 3 (‘ASOIAF’ Book 3: ‘A Storm of Swords’)
Catelyn Stark, Robb Stark, Robb Stark’s wife Talisa, and our last remaining shred of show-related innocence are slaughtered at the Red Wedding.
Bran and Arya Stark continue on their respective hero’s journeys.
Daenerys slays her first big dragon moment and secures an army for her eventual takeover of Westeros.
The White Walkers become a major part of the action.
301 AC: “Game of Thrones” Season 4 (“ASOIAF” Book 3: “A Storm of Swords”)
301 AC: ‘Game of Thrones’ Season 4 (‘ASOIAF’ Book 3: ‘A Storm of Swords’)
No, that is not a typo. Starting this season, the timing of the show starts to pull away significantly from the timing of the books. Some events from different books overlap in the same season, and some events in the same book are more spread out. Take it up with George R.R. Martin.
The Purple Wedding takes the beloved angel Joffrey Baratheon, RIP.
Tyrion, who is Joffrey’s uncle, is put to trial for Joffrey’s death.
Sansa and Littlefinger form a creepy alliance after he kills her aunt Lysa Arryn.
Daenerys is still bopping around over there too, freeing slaves and mothering dragons.
302 AC: ‘Game of Thrones’ Season 5 (‘ASOIAF’ Book 4: ‘A Feast for Crows’ and Book 5: ‘A Dance of Dragons’)
Arya trains to be an assassin in Braavos. Bran is in a tree.
Current King Tommen Baratheon marries Margaery Tyrell and Sansa Stark is married off to Ramsay Bolton, marking the show’s romantic nadir.
Stannis Baratheon burns his daughter alive to win a battle marking the nadir of, well, everything else. (And he doesn’t even win the battle!)
Religious fervor strikes King’s Landing to the detriment of the Tyrells and Cersei Lannister, who does her infamous “Shame” walk.
The White Walkers show off their true CGI budget potential at the Battle of Hardhome.
Jon Snow is “stabbed” and “killed.”
303 AC: ‘Game of Thrones’ Season 6
The action of this season supposedly aligns with the sixth “ASOIAF” book, “The Winds of Winter.” Hard to tell, since we are still waiting for its release.
No way, Jon is alive!
Tyrion, who has fled Westeros, meets Daenerys, who is still doing whatever across the Narrow Sea.
Cersei blows up the Sept of Baelor, incinerating most of the Tyrells and countless others. Her son Tommen jumps out of a window in grief, and Cersei becomes Queen of the Seven Kingdoms.
Bran Stark, the tree boy, becomes the Three-Eyed Raven.
Sansa kills Ramsay Bolton and is later reunited with her brother, Jon Snow. These are equally heartwarming events.
Daenerys, Tyrion, the dragons, et al FINALLY sail for Westeros!
304 AC: ‘Game of Thrones’ Season 7
Daenerys and Jon Snow finally meet! She wants to secure the Iron Throne, he wants to stop an army of the dead from destroying all humanity. Can they make a deal?
Aryan and Bran come back to Winterfell. Sansa and Arya Stark execute Littlefinger. The Starks are back, baby!
Jon and Daenerys go north to capture a wight (ice zombie) to show Cersei Lannister, who wants nothing to do with either of them. One of Daenerys’ dragons is killed and turned into a big ice zombie dragon.
Daenerys and Jon Snow make love in a tender scene overlaid with Tyrion’s revelation that the two are, in fact, aunt and nephew.
305 AC: ‘Game of Thrones’ Season 8
A bunch of characters converge at Winterfell for the final battle against the White Walkers and their unstoppable Army of the Dead.
The unstoppable Army of the Dead is promptly stopped by Arya Stark wielding a large steak knife.
Main characters and supporting characters alike drop like flies.
Daenerys is finally pushed over the edge and obliterates King’s Landing, adding untold numbers to the season’s overall death toll.
Seeing his girlfraunt (girlfriend aunt) has turned full evil, Jon Snow kills Daenerys with another steak knife. The final, tragic verse of the Song of Ice and Fire comes to a close.
Bran wins the Game of Thrones in double overtime.
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