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If you’re a hardcore fan of Game of Thrones, you might know that the series draws on many historical people and events for inspiration. But do you know which ones? And how they tie into the series?
Binge-watching the show isn’t a great way to learn world history, but there are some really fascinating connections you might not be aware of. Here are five to get you started (and a bonus sixth about what GoT gets wrong about history).
These videos contain details about what has happened on the show, so if you’re trying to avoid Game of Thrones spoilers, you may want to bookmark this article for a later date.
The Wars of the Roses
The Wars of the Roses were fought between the English houses of York and Lancaster in the 15th century for control of the English throne after the death of Henry V. Claims of legitimacy, battles, executions, murders, and betrayals abound in the story of the Roses.
There are a lot of similarities between these wars and the plot of Game of Thrones; even the names of the primary warring houses (Lannister and Stark) are close parallels to those in the Wars of the Roses (Lancaster and York). This TED ED video shows Alex Gendler revealing a history of these wars along with some annotations pointing out similarities to GoT.
5 Things Game of Thrones Stole from History
Drunk History is an Internet sensation, and it’s likely that Short-Lived Heroes is trying to ride in its wake to fame, but it doesn’t quite succeed. However, despite the annoying (and likely faked) drunkenness, this video brings up a lot of fantastic points about Game of Thrones and its parallels in history.
You’ll learn a number of historical facts that you probably weren’t aware of from this video; GoT-like legends of dragon-riding conquerors in ancient China, parallels between religious conflicts, and even some similarities between Astapor and the Ottoman Empire.
10 Other Things Game of Thrones Stole from History
They’re back at it again, drunk — or maybe not — and adding some interesting details to the Wars of the Roses-like plot-lines. There’s even a mention of Wales’ red dragon as a parallel of House Targaryen… which is pretty cool.
Short-Lived Heroes also adds an interesting prediction about who will win the titular “game of thrones” when it’s all said and done based on how the Wars of the Roses ended. So if you don’t want to know who might come out on top, you may want to skip this one.
Old Valyria and Ancient Rome
The Game of Thrones Academy videos exist to make connections between GoT and history, so they’re a great resource for history buffs or hardcore series fans. While the videos aren’t super engaging, they’re packed with a lot of interesting speculation and connections. They also have really cool covers of the GoT theme song.
The video embedded below discusses the links between the mystical time of Old Valyria and the actual time of Ancient Rome, even down to their practice of salting fields to prevent the regrowth of valuable crops. Rome’s legacy extends throughout Europe and the world in writing systems, political systems, and architecture, much like Old Valyria left a legacy in Westeros. Coincidence? Probably not.
The Ironborn and The Vikings
The Iron Islands are one of the most interesting places in the Game of Thrones universe, as they’re very different from the rest of Westeros. This video explores a number of links between the Ironborn and the Vikings (fittingly, this one opens with a metal cover of the theme song).
Both are violent, seafaring cultures that need to raid and pillage to survive, who take slaves, place a strong emphasis on battle, and worship different gods from those on the continent. One of the hosts also makes a very interesting prediction about the future actions of the Ironborn in the series based on Viking history.
Bonus: The Least Historically Accurate Things About Game of Thrones
And lest you think that Game of Thrones is completely made up of a mishmash of historical figures and events, here’s a video to set you straight. You may think that you’re learning a lot about medieval history, but there are some things that might be giving you the wrong idea (number 8 being especially relevant at the time of writing).
The inaccuracies range from historical — the lack of large horses in medieval times — to biological — eunuchs probably wouldn’t make very good soldiers — to mechanical — Dothraki swords probably wouldn’t work very well.
Game of Thrones Is History
Finding the links between Game of Thrones and history is a fascinating exercise. If you’re interested in learning more about it, check out the History Behind Game of Thrones website, a great resource for fans of the series. There’s an especially good article about the connections between the real-life Black Dinner and the fictional Red Wedding.
And be sure not to miss the intriguing fan theories about Game of Thrones, including some that are way weirder than anything you’ll find in history.
Did you already know Game of Thrones has these ties to historical events? Which connections do you find most interesting? Please share your thoughts and favorite links with us in the comments below!