Septon Barth as depicted in Game of Thrones: Histories & Lore.
|In or before 37 AC
|In 98 AC[N 1], Red Keep
Barth is considered by historians to have been King Jaehaerys I Targaryen's greatest friend. Barth was plainspoken but brilliant. He was considered a man of great ability. Archmaester Gyldayn has described him as "the wisest man ever to serve as the Hand of the King." However, Barth's enemies claimed he was more sorcerer than septon.
Barth was a blacksmith's son. He was given to the Faith of the Seven when he was young, and eventually took a septon's vows. Barth served at first at Highgarden. Thanks to his brilliance, in 50 AC Barth was sent to King's Landing to see to the library of the Red Keep. According to legend, Barth traveled on his own on a donkey.
In 51 AC, Barth officiated the second marriage of King Jaehaerys I Targaryen and Queen Alysanne Targaryen, and along with Septon Oswyck he aided the king in writing the Doctrine of Exceptionalism. After Oswyck died in early 54 AC, Barth took over his duties. By 54 AC, Barth had become one of Jaehaerys's most trusted advisors. When the High Septon died that year, Jaehaerys entertained the idea of trying to persuade the Most Devout to name Barth to the office; Barth personally persuaded him not to do so. Barth was horrified by the suggestions of influencing the choosing with gold, force of arms, and secret assassinations, and wrote down an account on how King Jaehaerys managed to influence the choosing by traveling to Oldtown, expressing regret about the corruption among the Most Devout.
When Lord Daemon Velaryon resigned as Hand of the King, King Jaehaerys at first looked at Barth, among others, to fill the office. However, due to his low birth, and due to the fact that it was suspected that Barth was more loyal to the Faith than to the Iron Throne, he was not chosen.
In 55 AC, Barth, King Jaehaerys, Queen Alysanne, Grand Maester Benifer, and Lord Albin Massey began creating the first unified code of law for the entire Seven Kingdoms. It would take them decades, and Barth alone contributed three times more than any other on his Great Code.
When the severely-ill Princess Aerea Targaryen returned to King's Landing in 56 AC on Balerion after having been missing for more than a year, Barth helped Benifer care for her. He announced to Jaehaerys and Alysanne, who waited outside the Grand Maester's chambers, when Aerea had died. Barth wrote two accounts on Aerea's death, which speak about the horrors that came forth from the girl, and in which he speculates about what had happened to her. They were kept in Barth's private papers, and were only discovered a hundred years later. The incident with Aerea left a strong impression on Barth, and afterwards he began research that eventually led to his book Dragons, Wyrms, and Wyverns: Their Unnatural History.
Hand of the King
After Lord Myles Smallwood resigned as Hand of the King in 57 AC, King Jaehaerys I Targaryen appointed Barth to the office. He would hold the office for forty-one years, during which time he proved himself worthy of the position.
Barth's first task as the King's Hand was a diplomatic journey to Braavos, to treat with the Sealord over the three dragon eggs stolen by Elissa Farman. It was suspected that Elissa had sold them to the Sealord to pay for the construction of her ship, Sun Chaser, but when Barth confronted the Sealord, the man denied having the eggs. Barth returned to King's Landing without the eggs, causing some lords to claim that he had failed at his first task. However, Barth instead struck a deal with the Sealord, removing the Crown's loans to the Iron Bank of Braavos, and thereby reducing the Iron Throne's debt by half.
Thanks to the reduction in debt, King Jaehaerys began making improvements to the living conditions of King's Landing. Barth argued in favor of constructing wells, both within the city and without, pipes and tunnels to bring the water within the city's walls, and four cisterns to store the water in. This way, the drinking water available for the smallfolk of the city would be improved. Barth's proposals were supported by Queen Alysanne Targaryen, and eventually King Jaehaerys and his master of coin, Rego Draz, approved the plan, after Alysanne presented them each with a tankard of foul water from the Blackwater Rush and dared them to drink it.
In 58 AC, Barth supported Queen Alysanne when she assembled the small council to request them to outlaw the right to the first night. Following a short speech by Barth, in which he explained how the first night collided with the views of the Faith, insisting that the High Septon would no doubt support the plan, Jaehaerys agreed to outlaw the ancient custom.
In 60 AC, Barth suggested Lord Martyn Tyrell for the office of master of coin, a position which had been empty since the murder of Rego the year before. Although Barth could not praise Martyn's wits, he mentioned that Martyn's wife, Lady Florence Fossoway, had been keeping the accounts at Highgarden for years and had increased the incomes by a third. Insisting that Barth had never let him wrong, Jaehaerys appointed Martyn as his new master of coin.
In 84 AC, Barth stood as one of the witnesses when King Jaehaerys and Queen Alysanne confronted their daughter Saera with recent events involving her favorites. When Alysanne, following the death of Princess Viserra Targaryen in 87 AC, pleaded with Jaehaerys to allow the exiled Saera to return home, she brought Barth with her for support. They could not convince Jaehaerys, however, to bring Saera home.
Writings and beliefs
Barth is the author of Dragons, Wyrms, and Wyverns: Their Unnatural History, and he left many accounts on the reign of King Jaehaerys I Targaryen. Barth's writings were ordered destroyed by King Baelor I Targaryen when he came to the Iron Throne, although some fragments have survived. According to Tyrion Lannister, however, it is unlikely that any of Barth's work has found its way across the narrow sea.
Although some parts of Barth's Unnatural History is considered controversial and wicked, most parts are not.
Barth claimed that dragons were neither male nor female. Barth, Munkun, and Thomax hold markedly divergent views on the mating habits of dragons. Barth further ruled out that dragons are vulnerable through their mouths, writing that "Death comes out of the dragon's mouth, but death does not go in that way." Barth further speculated that the bloodmages of Valyria used wyvern stock to create dragons.
Lady Alicent Hightower was reading from Barth's Unnatural History to King Jaehaerys I when he died abed in 103 AC. Barth has argued, in a fragmentary treatise, that the inconsistent length of the seasons is due to some magical art.
A Storm of Swords
When Davos Seaworth feels insecure about his new position as Hand of the King to Stannis Baratheon due to his low birth, Maester Pylos reassures him by explaining the prosperous and peaceful tenures of the humbly-born Septon Barth and his time as Hand to illustrate that high birth does not equal ability.
A Feast for Crows
In Braavos, the dying Maester Aemon hears the talk of Daenerys Targaryen and her dragons emanating from Qarth. He tells Samwell Tarly that Daenerys is the one, born amidst salt and smoke and that her dragons prove it. Aemon explains to Sam that no one ever looked for a girl, as it was a prince that was promised, not a princess. Aemon says Barth was correct in believing that dragons are neither male nor female, instead being as changeable as flame.
A Dance with Dragons
Aboard the Shy Maid while writing his dragonlore, Tyrion Lannister thinks of the various books about dragons he would like to get his hands on. He is not hopeful concerning Septon Barth's Dragons, Wyrms, and Wyverns: Their Unnatural History. He recalls that King Baelor I Targaryen had ordered all Barth's writings destroyed when he came to the Iron Throne. Tyrion had read a surviving fragment of Unnatural History ten years ago, but he doubts that any of the septon's work found its way across the narrow sea.
Later, outside of Meereen on his way to the camp of the Second Sons, the escaped slave Tyrion sees that the Yunkai'i besiegers are making preparations in case Drogon should return. He knows how hard dragons are to kill and is scornful of these would-be dragonslayers, remembering Barth's writings in Unnatural History.
Quotes by Barth
—writings of Barth
The Father made men curious, some say to test our faith. It is my own abiding sin that whenever I come upon a door I must needs see what lies upon the farther side, but certain doors are best left unopened.—Barth in his account on the death of Aerea Targaryen
Quotes about Barth
As for birth, the dragonkings oft chose Hands from their own blood, with results as various as Baelor Breakspear and Maegor the Cruel. Against this you have, Septon Barth, the blacksmith's son the Old King plucked from the Red Keep's library, who gave the realm forty years of peace and plenty.
What fools we were, who thought ourselves so wise! The error crept in from the translation. Dragons are neither male nor female, Barth saw the truth of that, but now one and now the other, as changeable as flame. The language misled us all for a thousand years.
- See the Barth calculation.
- Fire & Blood, The Long Reign - Jaehaerys and Alysanne: Policy, Progeny, and Pain.
- Fire & Blood, Heirs of the Dragon - A Question of Succession.
- The World of Ice & Fire, The Targaryen Kings: Jaehaerys I.
- Fire & Blood, Birth, Death, and Betrayal Under King Jaehaerys I.
- Fire & Blood, A Surfeit of Rulers.
- A Dance with Dragons, Chapter 14, Tyrion IV.
- A Storm of Swords, Chapter 54, Davos V.
- Fire & Blood, A Time of Testing - The Realm Remade.
- Fire & Blood, Jaehaerys and Alysanne - Their Triumphs and Tragedies.
- The World of Ice & Fire, The Targaryen Kings: Baelor I.
- A Feast for Crows, Chapter 35, Samwell IV.
- A Dance with Dragons, Chapter 57, Tyrion XI.
- The World of Ice & Fire, Beyond the Free Cities: Sothoryos.
- The World of Ice & Fire, Ancient History: The Long Night.