Prior to Aegon’s Conquest, the Iron Islands was one of the Seven Kingdoms, ruled by House Hoare. After Aegon’s Conquest, the Iron Islands became one of the nine regions of Westeros, ruled by House Greyjoy from the castle of Pyke. Similar to the the North, the Iron Islands’ history is largely defined by its isolation from the rest of Westeros. The Iron Islands are composed of seven major islands located off the western coast of Westeros. The Iron Islands are very small and have smaller populations compared to the other regions of Westeros. The Iron Islands are home to the ironborn, a name the islanders have given to themselves; they are a fierce and sometimes savage people who lead a way of life different from all the other regions of Westeros.
The ironborn are people of the sea; for thousands of years their naval supremacy was unrivaled and they sustained their way of life by raiding and plundering cities on the western coast of Westeros, generally the Riverlands. After pillaging and looting these cities, they would often rape or steal the women and burn whatever was left. They refer to this way of life as “the Iron Way,” and frown upon the more civil lifestyle led by those on the mainland of Westeros.
Historically, the Iron Islands were strongest under House Hoare, bringing much of the western coast of Westeros, namely the Riverlands, under its rule. However, after Aegon Targaryen burned down Harrenhal during Aegon’s Conquest, House Hoare was completely wiped out and the people of the Riverlands, led by House Tully, reclaimed most of their land. The ironborn were forced to retreat to the Iron Islands and selected House Greyjoy as their overlords, after pledging fealty to the Iron Throne.
Forced to live in peace under Targaryen rule, the ironborn had no choice but to abandon their practices of raiding and pillaging. However, in 289AL, six years after Robert Baratheon had taken the Iron Throne, Balon Greyjoy declared himself King of the Iron Islands and launched the Greyjoy Rebellion. Wanting to break away from the rule of the Iron Throne and return the Iron Islands to their old way of life, Balon led a naval attack against King Robert Baratheon. The Greyjoy Rebellion was crushed and Balon was forced to bend the knee to King Robert. To ensure that Balon would not attempt another rebellion, King Robert ordered House Stark to hold captive Balon’s only son, Theon. Many years later, during the War of the Five Kings, Theon would return to Pyke in an effort to convince his father to join forces with Robb Stark who had declared himself King in the North, in an effort to remove King Joffrey from the Iron Throne. However, Balon would scorn his son upon return; he resented that Theon had been raised by the Starks of Winterfell and believed he was no longer a true ironborn. Though, in reality, it was ultimately Balon’s decision to rebel against the Iron Throne, and the failure of his rebellion, that caused Theon to be captured and raised in Winterfell by the Starks.
Pyke is one of the eight islands that compose the Iron Islands; it is also the name of the castle located on the island. It is the seat of House Greyjoy, overlords of the Iron Islands. It is from the ancient castle of Pyke that House Greyjoy has presided over the Iron Islands since Aegon’s Conquest. The castle itself is ancient and surrounded by water. Due to its location, it has been involved in battle less so than many other great castles.