Ancient History

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…

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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…

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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,…

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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…

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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,…

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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?…

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The Romans are Coming, “Tyrion” Purple

The Romans are coming to History Behind Game of Thrones, but they’ve been marching very slowly. (We have a couple of articles prepared but we’re waiting on something very special before we publish them.) Many people have written in noting the parallels between the Western and Eastern Roman Empires (aka the Byzantine Empire) and Game of Thrones. This is very helpful – thank you! (I definitely will be noting you explicitly as the series continues.) Superficially, people often compare Game of Thrones with the Wars…

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George RR Martin Reveals History Behind Purple Wedding!

Yesterday was what could only be described as a day of national rejoicing. Jubilant people tweeted about the #PurpleWedding over 23,000 times. One of my favorites was Stephen King’s tweet: Around the same time, George RR Martin revealed that the Purple Wedding is partially based on the death of King Stephen’s heir, who was one of the principal combatants in the Anarchy. (Think: the Pillars of the Earth war that began with the sinking of the White Ship.) Martin’s exact words…

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House-Bolton-heraldry

Skinning the Reputation of House Bolton

This article looks at one aspect of House Bolton: their fearsome reputation, which derives from flaying. Note: This article contains some extremely violent and potentially disturbing descriptions. In the books, Roose Bolton evokes fear. His voice is low and small. You have to get closer to hear him. His eyes are pale and lifeless. He is a man with “cold cunning.” Roose Bolton, like his son and ancestors, gives people the chills. In the books, Robb Stark is afraid of…

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The Unsullied and the Battle of Thermopylae

Recently, somebody posted a compelling comment that maybe the Unsullied weren’t based on the Spartans but were based on the Mamluks.  He wrote: I enjoy reading your posts. I’m not sure that I agree with you that the Unsullied are based on the Spartans. Would a better comparison perhaps be the Mamluks, the great medieval slave army that defeated the Mongols and the Crusaders? It would seem to make more sense, especially as the Spartans took great pride in themselves…

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