Dorne was the only kingdom left unconquered at the end of Aegon’s Conquest and survived the Targaryen invasion. Queen Rhaenys Targaryen was the one sent to Conquer Dorne. Still, she found the castles of the kingdom mostly abandoned, expected for the ageing Princess Meria Martell, who was waiting at Sunspear. When Meria refused to bend the knee or fight, Rhaenys warned she would return with fire and blood. The princess was unmoved and told the queen, “You may burn us, my lady, but you will no bend us, break us or make us bow/ This is Dorne. You are not wanted here. Return at your peril.” The Targaryens returned many times, but as the princess had stated, Dorne remained “unbent”, “unbowed”, and “unbroken”.
Their independence lay in their strategy. Dorne never directly challenged the Targaryens, keeping to themselves as much as possible and refusing to engage in combat. The Dragons would torch different cities, but they would receive no response from the Dornish besides the rocks, arrows and spears, with which they often pelted the Targaryen armies.
Castles were often abandoned when the Targaryen’s arrived, and Aegon would see this as a victory, leaving someone in charge of the abandoned castle and returning home. After the Targaryen’s retreat, the Dornish would come out of hiding, kill those left behind to rule and seize power of their home once again.
This hit-and-run tactic carried them through many Targaryen attacks.
Following the death of Queen Rhaenys were two years referred to as Dragon’s Wroth, during which Aegon and Visenya burned every Dornish stronghold, except Sunspear, in their grief. While some suspected that Sunspear remained untouched because the Targaryens feared Princess Meria had a dragon-killing weapon, most believed that Aegon hoped it would cause the Dornish lords and smallfolk to turn against their princess.
The Dornish remained loyal despite the repeated destruction of their home, and it was only after the death of Princess Meria that Dorne finally knew peace. King Nymor sent his daughter to negotiate peace, sending the skull of Meraxes with her, which angered many in the royal court.
Nymor’s daughter was allowed to explain that Dorne wanted peace but would not submit to the Iron Throne. Aegon would have probably denied this request and continued to lay waste to Dornish land had it not been for Nymor’s letter.
The letter’s contents remain unknown, as Aegon burned it as soon as he’d finished reading it, and Dorne was allowed to exist independently from the rest of Westeros. Though Daeron I Targaryen briefly conquered Dorne, it wasn’t until Daenerys Targaryen’s marriage to Prince Maron Martell that Dorne came under Targaryen rule.
Much of Dorne’s success in resisting the Targaryen’s relied on their unconventional tactics and the loyalty of their people, despite the ruin that was being brought down on them.