|"You once laid siege to [Ba Sing Se] for 600 days, but it would not yield to you."|
|— The earthbender captain mentioning the siege to Iroh.|
The six hundred-day Siege of Ba Sing Se was an unsuccessful assault by the Fire Nation on the Earth Kingdom capital six years before the end of the Hundred Year War. It was one of the largest and most legendary battles of the latter stages of the century-long war. The siege had a major impact on history, as it resulted in the fall from power of Crown Prince Iroh and the rise of Fire Lord Ozai.
For centuries, Ba Sing Se was believed unassailable due to its extensive fortifications. Regardless, the military of the Fire Nation prepared for a possible war with the Earth Kingdom as early as the 4th century BG. This included a contingency plan for an assault of Ba Sing Se. Avatar Kyoshi's firebending teacher Rangi was informed of this plan, and considered it feasible, though also stated that she would "pity the troops who carried it out."
The Hundred Year War between the Fire Nation and the rest of the world eventually erupted in 0 AG. Over the course of several decades, the Fire Nation's armies gradually conquered much of the Earth Kingdom, and eventually launched a campaign to capture Ba Sing Se under General Iroh, Crown Prince of the Fire Nation. His hope was that, by conquering the mightiest city in the Earth Kingdom, he could finally secure victory for the Fire Nation. At the time, Iroh was driven by his belief that he was fated to conquer the city due to a vision he had in his youth.
Around 94 AG, General Iroh and several armies under his command besieged the Earth Kingdom capital of Ba Sing Se. The siege was initiated after Fire Nation infantry began attacking the Outer Wall of the city, hoping to breach the walls in order to secure a path for an invasion. The defending earthbenders of Ba Sing Se fought back, managing to hold them off for a long period of time. The turning point of the siege came when General Iroh finally breached the Outer Wall during a massive artillery bombardment of trebuchets. After a long period of battle, the Fire Nation secured the foothold that they desired. The breach in the wall paved the way for invasion, and after Iroh's victory at the Outer Wall, the general defending it surrendered.
The Fire Army advanced into the Agrarian Zone and continued their onslaught. The troops set up a camp, and began to secure the breach. Unbeknownst to General Iroh, his son, Lu Ten, had been mortally wounded around the time that the Fire Army had breached the Outer Wall. When the commander was finally informed of this event, Lu Ten was already dead. General Iroh's morale was crushed upon learning of his son's demise. Heartbroken and demoralized, Iroh lost his will to fight. He realized that there was no end in sight for the siege, while his armies had taken very heavy losses and their morale was wavering. He consequently withdrew from the battle, thus ending the six hundred-day siege. With Iroh's force on the retreat, the Earth Kingdom military counter-attacked and retook the lost territory. The Outer Wall was repaired. The siege had thus failed, but the Fire Nation unsuccessfully attempted to recapture the city in many future assaults.
The Siege of Ba Sing Se resulted in victory for the Earth Kingdom, and the Outer Wall was eventually repaired. Despite this victory, the long siege left many bitter feelings toward the Fire Nation and Iroh, specifically. These feelings were displayed when an earthbender captain captured Iroh, longing for vengeance for the chaos and violence he and his nation had wrought during the siege. Iroh was derided by his people for letting his own emotions interfere with the outcome of the battle. However, many in the Fire Nation who served under his command, despite the ultimate failure of Iroh's siege and even after his overt treachery later in the war, praised him as "a great leader and a great man."
While his nephew Prince Zuko, sister-in-law Princess Ursa, and even his father, Fire Lord Azulon, sympathized with Iroh's loss, his niece Princess Azula and younger brother Prince Ozai were disgusted by Iroh's decisions. Ozai intended to take advantage of his brother's losses and the failure of the siege. He requested that Azulon let him succeed the throne in Iroh's place, arguing that Lu Ten's death had left Iroh without a proper heir. Azulon was infuriated by this proposal and swore to punish Ozai. However, before this could be done, Azulon died suddenly and Ursa disappeared. Iroh, emotionally wrecked, did not fight for his throne, and therefore Ozai became Fire Lord on Azulon's alleged dying wish. Iroh lost his birthright and his son as a result of the siege, and Ba Sing Se did not fall until Dai Li agents, along with Zuko, Azula, Mai, and Ty Lee, overthrew the Earth King six years later. By this point, Iroh's campaign had become known as the "first siege" of Ba Sing Se.
Avatar: The Last Airbender
Book Two: Earth (土)
- 207. "Zuko Alone" (flashback)
- In The Last Airbender, the Siege of Ba Sing Se was shortened to only one hundred days instead of six hundred.
- Under Iroh's command, the Ba Sing Se wall has been destroyed twice: the first time was during this siege, when he intended to conquer the city in name of the Fire Nation, and the second time was during the passing of Sozin's Comet in 100 AG, when he aimed to liberate the city from the Fire Nation.
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- The Lost Scrolls: Fire, Section "Uncle Iroh", in The Lost Scrolls Collection.
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