Ancient History

All that Glitters is Not Gold: The Lannisters, Gold, and their Empty Mines

The Lannisters are broke, and the Iron Bank of Braavos will get its due one way or another. The Lannister wealth originally came from its gold mines, but the vein ran dry over three years ago. This article looks at some of the Lannister’s golden goods and their relationship to history. The Lannister Gold Mines Casterly Rock© HBO, via Wikia Map of Roman Britain showing the Dolaucothi mine in what is modern-day Wales. Image: Via Wikimedia Commons.   On the Westeros…

Read More

The Wall – by Historian John Henry Clay

This week we are delighted and honored to have an article by historian and novelist John Henry Clay. Dr. Clay is a lecturer in medieval history at Durham University and the author of The Lion and the Lamb, an epic novel of Roman Britain. When it comes to real-world inspirations behind Game of Thrones, they don’t come much more obvious than Hadrian’s Wall. The Romans called it uallum Aelii, ‘the frontier of Aelius’, using Emperor Hadrian’s family name. In interviews…

Read More

Sam Tarley, Bull Sacrifice: Rituals too hot for Rome (Pagan Part 2)

This article continues from here and discusses the history behind Sam Tarley’s ritual bath in a bull aurochs’ blood, which is likely based on the Roman taurobolium ritual. In the real world, bull sacrifices occurred first in modern-day Turkey (Asia Minor), Greece, and eventually Rome. From the first century until Pagan worship sputtered out, the Romans sacrificed bulls – in a highly ritualized way  – and dedicated those sacrifices to the Great Mother (also known as Cybele). It’s easy to…

Read More

The 1500 Year Old Murder Mystery: An Interview with Historian Michael Babcock

Recently History Behind Game of Thrones ran a series of articles speculating about the real historical basis behind Game of Thrones‘ Purple Wedding (in which Joffrey dies). Although George RR Martin has stated the wedding is based on the Anarchy-era death of Prince Eustace, thanks to this theory by Emily Yoshida, we suspect there are other historical influences he is not mentioning. There are far too many parallels between Joffrey’s death and Attila the Hun’s murder for it to be a coincidence. Is the…

Read More

Pagan Sacrifice: A Glimpse of an Ancient Religion in Game of Thrones

The beating of drums, gushing blood, and acts of courage – is this another Red Wedding or a pagan ritual buried deep in the pages of Game of Thrones? George RR Martin may have based the Faith of the Seven – the new gods that the southern Westerosi worship – on the pagan religion of Ancient Rome. One clue is a throwaway line about Samwell Tarly in the first A Song of Ice and Fire novel that alludes to an ancient…

Read More

Who Killed Attila the Hun? Who Killed Joffrey?

Does the murder of Attila the Hun offer any clues about who killed Joffrey? After reading Dr. Michael Babcock’s truly amazing book The Night Attila Died, I decided it might be fun to compare the suspects in Attila’s murder to the suspects in Joffrey’s murder. While Michael Babcock’s highly compelling analysis provides evidence that Attila may have been killed as part of a conspiracy, George RR Martin wouldn’t have known that so if Attila’s murder inspired him, he could have chosen any…

Read More

Drunk at a Wedding? How Attila & Joffrey Died – Attila Part 3

Drunk and staggering, a bloody death from esophageal cancer, poison, murder – how Attila the Hun died is a 1500-year old murder mystery and may be the historical basis of Joffrey Baratheon’s murder – despite George RR Martin’s fishy story about it being based on Prince Eustace’s death. This article looks at Attila’s death, especially in light of Dr. Michael Babcock’s remarkable book, The Night Attila Died, and shows the similarities to Joffrey’s death. According to various legends and historians,…

Read More

Attila the Hun, Part 2

When Attila and his brother Bleda became kings, the Romans met with them, hoping to renegotiate their tribute. If the Romans had expected the young men to reduce the annual gold payment, they must have received a rude awakening. [This article is continued from here...] The meeting was brief. The Huns did not get off their horses, and, the befuddled Romans followed suit. The Huns had four demands — all of which the Romans immediately agreed to. Double the gold…

Read More

Attila the Hun: A Motive for Murder?

Series introduction: Did a 1500 year old murder mystery inspire George RR Martin’s Purple Wedding? Sure, he’s admitted that Prince Eustace’s death during the Anarchy inspired him, but there are way too many parallels between Joffrey’s death and Attila the Hun’s death for it to be a coincidence. The vicious barbarian raider Attila the Hun died of a massive nosebleed at his wedding in 453AD. However, not everyone is convinced that Attila died of natural causes. Some historians suspect poison. And,…

Read More

The Hunger Games and Joan of Arc

In The Hunger Games series, Suzanne Collins uses history from Ancient Rome and the Hundred Years’ War. Like George RR Martin, Suzanne “meditates” on the effect of war throughout The Hunger Games series. Similar to Martin, Suzanne uses counterfactual (what-if) versions of history and, as far as I can tell, she did not create an historical “allegory.” We’re thinking of maybe doing a series of articles on The Hunger Games this summer. So, we are wondering, do you like The Hunger Games?…

Read More