7 Historical Parallels to 'Game of Thrones'

Wikimedia Commons / HBO

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 pit the honorable North against the cunning South. As we've pointed out before, even 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 in the show/books, so assume there are spoilers ahead.)

1. King Joffrey is Edward of Lancaster.

As evil as he his, 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 thirteen 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 had a much more satisfying ending: Edward was stabbed to death after being slapped by Edward IV of York, the real-life equivalent to Robb Stark.

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

Wikimedia Commons / HBO

Theon grew up in Winterfell as a ward to Eddard Stark and a surrogate brother to Robb. Once the War of the Five Kings started, 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 what Theon has endured.

3. The Red Faith is Zoroastrianism

Wikimedia Commons / HBO

In the show, Stannis follows the advice of the “Red Lady,” 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 through which spiritual insight and wisdom is gained," and worshipers often pray 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.

Wikimedia Commons / HBO

In the season 4 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.

Tarquinius and Lucretia by Titian

Lyanna Stark was the sister of Eddard Stark and the beloved 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 placed him on the Iron Throne. Lucretia is a Roman figure whose "rape by the Etruscan king's son and consequent suicide were the immediate cause of the revolution that overthrew the monarchy and established 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.

Wikimedia Commons

The Battle of Blackwater Bay—when Stannis Baratheon attempted to siege the capital of King’s Landing—was the climax of season two. Stannis was defeated after Tyrion burnt 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

HBO

The Red Wedding on Game of Thrones 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 Rob Stark and ends the northern rebellion with the "Rains of Castamere." As we've mention before, the Red Wedding is said to be based on two British massacres, but it also draws parallels to an ancient Japanese event. The Kojiki is 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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