Game of Thrones Lore: What is the Dragonpit?


Image: Game of Thrones Season 5 Blu-ray boxset/Screencap

George R.R. Martin created an incredibly detailed world for his Song of Ice and Fire novels, and Game of Thrones has only been able to show us a fraction of it. As we wait for Season 7, let’s take a closer look at some of the people, places, and things the show has left largely untouched, starting with the Dragonpit in King’s Landing.

In the books, the Dragonpit sits atop Rhaenys’ Hill. Together with the Red Keep and the Sept of Baelor, it’s one of the most prominent buildings in the city. (Well, that was true before Cersei leveled the Sept.) A large, dome-shaped structure, it was originally used as a stable for the royal dragons of House Targaryen. But since they died out, no one has had much use for it.

The Dragonpit was built over the remains of Sept of Remembrance, previously the biggest Sept in King’s Landing. King Maegor Targaryen I incinerated the Sept of Remembrance during his conflict with the Faith Millitant, who were first active during his reign. He mounted Balerion, the largest of the Targaryen dragons, and burned it to the ground. Obviously, he and Cersei would have gotten along great.

Afterwards, King Maegor decreed that the ruins of the Sept be cleared away and the Dragonpit constructed in its place. Maegor, who also completed construction on the Red Keep, forced prisoners to build the place. He would have used free workers, but few volunteered for the job after he killed everyone who worked on the Red Keep in order to preserve its secrets. Did we mention Maegor was nicknamed Maegor the Cruel?

Naturally, the Dragonpit is large. Here’s how Ser Barristan Selmy described it in A Storm of Swords:

"That is where the royal dragons dwelt in days of yore, and a cavernous dwelling it was, with iron doors so wide that thirty knights could ride through them abreast."

At the height of their power, the Targaryens kept 20 dragons in the Pit. But like many things they built, it didn’t last. During the Targaryen civil war known as the Dance of the Dragons, a mob of starving smallfolk assaulted the Pit during a riot. They followed a mad prophet known as the Shepherd, who preached that dragons were evil beings and that only their destruction could save the city. After a year of war, the smallfolk were ready to listen.

As Daenerys would later chain Viserion and Rhaegal in the pits of Meereen, the dragons in the Pit were chained to prevent their escape. This made the mob’s task easier. Although thousands of them died in the process, the smallfolk killed all four dragons chained up in the Pit at the time: Shrykos, Morghul, Tyraxes, and Dreamfyre. (Later, another dragon, Syrax, flew to the scene. The smallfolk killed him as well.) Dreamfyre actually managed to escape her bonds and take flight. However, half-blind and crazed, she flew into the ceiling. It collapsed, crushing her and leaving the structure in ruins.

Soon enough, the dragons died out for good. With no reason to repair it, the Dragonpit remained in ruins for the next 150-odd years. Both in the books and in the show, characters have noted that the dragons kept there never grew to the size of Balerion the Black Dread, Aegon the Conqueror’s dragon. Some have drawn the conclusion that confining them stunted their growth, and led to their eventual extinction.

We have yet to see the Dragonpit on the show, although rumors suggest that may soon change. And now, when and if it turns up, you’ll be ready. Is it 2017 yet?