Valar Morghulis & Memento Mori

One of the most powerful and often quoted catch phrases from Game of Thrones has to be “valar morghulis” – a mantra that closely resembles a memento mori. In the Middle Ages, art depicted reminders of our mortality – skulls and other symbols of death. Artists intended these symbols to remind their audience of the fleeting vanities of wealth and other earthly pursuits. A Latin phrase – memento mori, or “remember that you have to die” – came to encapsulate this mortal reflection….

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Arya, the Hound, and Men of the Hundred Years War

While rewatching the near gang rape of Brienne, it is striking how Jaime knew that Locke’s men would try to rape Brienne. Jaime knew because, for many soldiers in the periods on which the novels are based, rape was the standard behavior for many soldiers. At a six-hundred year remove, it is easy for the level of violence of these men to escape us. Historians assume and, consequently, neglect to elaborate on the “standard operating procedure” of medieval soldiers. In Medieval Warfare…

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Mikken’s Mark: The Brand of the Middle Ages?

When Ned Stark finds Arya’s sword “Needle,” he quickly realizes the sword wasn’t some castoff from one of his men. Ned knows the sword was superb quality and custom-made for his daughter. Luckily for Arya, Ned accepts her interest in learning to fight. But, how does Ned know the sword was superior? He found “Mikken’s mark” on the blade. That is, a symbol indicating Mikken, the best blacksmith in Winterfell, created the blade. But, what is a blacksmith’s mark? And, what is the significance of…

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