The Age of Valyria
During the Age of Heroes, the empire of Old Ghis was the chief power of the east (the continent of Essos). Their fall would be legendary, the result of the Valyrians … and their dragons. The Freehold of Valyria rose as a power to be reckoned with, nearly 6,000 years ago. The Freehold was a republic whose leaders were chosen by the vote of all freeborn, male land owners.
The Valyrians fought five wars with Old Ghis, and won every one. 5,000 years before the War of the Usurper, Valyria conquered Old Ghis and expanded their territory outwards. The westernmost point of their empire was the series of islands surrounding Dragonstone, where they erected a great citadel of the same name.
Magic is said to have been a known wonder in that era. It is rumoured the Valyrians were able to use magic and fire to rework stone as they saw fit; it was from the Freehold that the famed Valyrian steel originated. Their ironsmiths were said to work with spells as well as hammers, creating the enchanted blades that can still be found today. Thousands of these blades still exist, though only 200 or so are known to be scattered throughout Westeros.