7 Historical Parallels to 'Game of Thrones'

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When creating his highly detailed fantasy world, George R.R. Martin based much of Game of Thrones on medieval European history. In particular, Martin drew heavily from the War of the Roses, which pitted the honorable North against the cunning South. We've written about how The Red Wedding was based on two historical events. Here are seven more possible historical connections.

(We don't know how far you've made it into the show/books, so assume there are spoilers ahead.)

1. King Joffrey is Edward of Lancaster.

As evil as he is, King Joffrey's vicious personality seems to be rooted in history. Edward of Lancaster was the son of King Henry VI and Margaret of Anjou—and, like Joffrey, he was rumored to be of illegitimate birth. Also like Joffrey, Edward had a touch of madness, and he shared Joffrey’s affinity for lopping off the heads of his enemies. The Ambassador of Milan once wrote, "This boy, though only 13 years of age, already talks of nothing but of cutting off heads or making war, as if he had everything in his hands or was the god of battle or the peaceful occupant of that throne." History also gave Edward his comeuppance: he was stabbed to death by Edward IV of York, the real-life equivalent of Robb Stark.

2. Theon Greyjoy is George Plantagenet, 1st Duke of Clarence.

Theon grew up in Winterfell as a ward to Lord Eddard Stark and a surrogate brother to Robb. Following the outbreak of the War of the Five Kings, Theon was one of Robb’s most trusted advisors. After Robb sent Theon to meet with his father, Balon Greyjoy, Theon turned on his friend and invaded the North. 

Theon's historical counterpart, George Plantagenet, was brother to Edward IV of York and, like Theon, began the War of the Roses as a staunch York defender. Much like Theon, George Plantagenet turned on his brother during the War of the Roses and defected to the Lancasters. After Edward won the war, George was drowned in a butt of wine for his treason, which is a much kinder punishment than the many atrocities that Theon has endured.

3. The Red Faith is Zoroastrianism.

In the show, Stannis follows the advice of the “Red Woman,” Melisandre, who worships a foreign lord of light, R’hllor. The faith of the R’hllor appears to be based on the ancient Persian religion Zoroastrianism. In Zoroastrianism, fire is considered a medium for spiritual awareness and wisdom, with worshipers often praying in the presence of fire or in fire temples. Like the followers of The Lord of Light, Zoroastrianism also stresses a great struggle and the duality between good and evil (in the series it is referred to as “The Lord of Light” and “The Great Other”). As of right now, there is no evidence to suggest that demon shadow babies actually existed.

4. Jaime Lannister is Gottfried von Berlichingen.

In Game of Thrones' season four premiere, Jaime Lannister received a shiny new gold hand to replace the one that was hacked off. The Kingslayer, however, follows in the footsteps of Gottfried von Berlichingen, or as he was known, "Gotz of the Iron Hand." Like Jaime, Gotz was born to a noble family before serving as an Imperial Knight. During battle, Gotz's hand was blown off by a cannon. Not easily deterred, Gotz designed a prosthetic iron hand and returned to combat. He's well known for his catchphrase, "er kann mich am Arsche lecken" ("he can lick my arse"), which also makes him a precursor to Futurama's Bender.

5. Lyanna Stark is Lucretia.

Lyanna Stark was the sister of Eddard Stark and the one true love of Robert Baratheon. While never depicted in the television show, her alleged kidnapping by Rhaegar Targaryen and the events that followed sparked Robert's Rebellion, which landed him on the Iron Throne. Lucretia is a Roman figure who committed suicide after being raped by the Etruscan king's son, a tragedy that sparked the revolution to overthrow the monarchy and establish the Roman Republic. Her last words, "Pledge me your solemn word that the adulterer shall not go unpunished," also seem to mimic Lyanna's famous final words, "Promise me, Ned..."

6. The Battle of Blackwater Bay is The Second Arab Siege of Constantinople.

The Battle of Blackwater Bay—when Stannis Baratheon attempted to siege the capital of King’s Landing—was the focus of the penultimate episode of season two. Stannis was defeated after Tyrion attacked his navy with wildfire, a chemical that burns on water. Tyrion might have gotten this idea from The Second Arab Siege of Constantinople, where Greek Fire, a similar substance, was used to repel invaders. Additionally, in the books, Tyrion employed a giant chain to cut through Stannis’ navy, which is clearly inspired by the Great Chain of Constantinople, also used in The Second Arab Siege.

7. The Red Wedding is from the Kojiki.


Game of Thrones' "Red Wedding" is one of the most shocking moments in TV history. In one move, Tywin Lannister (in collusion with the Roose Bolton and Walder Frey) kills Robb Stark and ends the northern rebellion with "The Rains of Castamere." The Red Wedding is said to be based on two British massacres, but it also draws parallels to an ancient Japanese event: the Kojiki, a half-historical, half-mythological text that chronicles the rise of Japan's first ruler, Emperor Jimmu. The second part of the Kojiki describes how Jimmu consolidated his power: by murdering all of his political rivals at a feast. Like the Red Wedding, the start of the massacre was a song, this one sung by Jimmu himself.

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May 9, 2014 - 5:00pm
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