Game of Thrones’ Real World Equivalents

One of the best book series out there right now is in my opinion George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire series. And the by far best TV series currently broadcasted is that book series’ TV adaptation, A Game of Thrones.

I’m hardly alone in thinking so. According to IMDb’s users, Game of Thrones is (along with Breaking Bad) the best TV series ever.

The books and TV series has spawned a huge fan base. In my experience, the book readers are often quite well aware of the many parallells to the real world in “Planetos”, but the TV series fans are not. Hence, I figured I’d share a list of real world parallells in A Song of Ice and Fire/A Game of Thrones. Some of the items listed are confirmed by George R.R. Martin, others are simply my own observations.

I should point out that few of these parallells are identical. Even though events or characters might be based on true events or people, A Song of Ice and Fire is fictional. Hence, the fact that I dub real world things “equivalents” of Planetos things does not mean that they are 100 percent identical.

A word of caution: the list will contain locations, religions, royal houses and characters. The character section will inevitably have to touch upon character plot lines and story arcs, and will thus contain spoilers. That being said, I hope you enjoy the list and learn something about either the world of ice and fire or the real world!

Countries

The Seven Kingdoms (Westeros) = England + Wales + Scotland (sort of)
The Seven Kingdoms is hardly a complete copy of England, the two are very different in a number of ways. For one, Westeros is a lot bigger. But there are striking similarities in for example the geography. Westeros is essentially a mirrored version of England + Scotland. Dorne to the south is a peninsula that stretches east in the same way that Cornwall in southern England stretches west. The Stormlands stands out a little to the east, in a similar fashion to how Wales stands out the west. The North in Westeros is geographically very similar to Scotland. Also, medieval England and Scotland were feudal societies much like The Seven Kingdoms.

Image source: ezilon.com and comicvine.com
Image source: ezilon.com and comicvine.com

 

The Free Cities = Medieval merchant republics
The western part of the continent Essos (across the Narrow Sea from Westeros) in Planetos is made up of the nine so called “Free Cities”. Braavos, Pentos, Myr, Tyrosh, Lys, Volantis, Lorath, Norvos and Qohor. While they’re really states rather than cities, they are all essentially centered around their respective largest cities, after which they are all also named. The Free Cities are not kingdoms like Westeros, but rather merchant republics. The cities’ political systems vary slightly, but their highest political leader or leaders is elected from among the most prominent merchant families. They are not democracies however, since only wealthy merchants can vote and several of them allow slavery.

In medieval Europe several similar states or state-like organizations existed, primarily in and around Italy. The most powerful of these was Venice, ruled over by a Doge who was elected from the ranks of the city’s merchants. Others examples were Genoa and Pisa, structured in a similar fashion. There was also The Hansa, the one major merchant republic in northern Europe, based in Lübeck in modern-day Germany.

Braavos = Venice
The city-state of Braavos is quite clearly, in my opinion at least, inspired by the medieval city-state of Venice. Braavos is described as a city built on a multitude of islands, cut through by numerous canals, just like Venice. It is also located at the far end of a bay, much like Venice which is located the furthest north in the “bay” that is the Adriatic Sea. Braavos is described as the most powerful of the Free Cities, and for much of history Venice was the most powerful of Europe’s merchant republics. Furthermore, when depicted the Sealord’s palace – the residence of Braavos’ ruler the Sealord – tends to be depicted similarly to the Doge’s palace in Venice. Sea for yourself in the example below.

Depiction of the Sealord's Palace. Source: hawkstower.wordpress.com
Depiction of the Sealord’s Palace. Source: hawkstower.wordpress.com
The Doge's Palace in Venice. Source: greatbuildings.com
The Doge’s Palace in Venice. Source: greatbuildings.com

One thing in Braavos I belive is not inspired by something in Venice, but rather something from the Greek island Rhodes. Namely, the Titan of Rhodes, one of the nine man-made wonders of the world of Planetos. I believe that is likely inspired by the colossus of Rhodes, one of the seven wonders of the ancient world. Unfortunately the colussus no longer exists, but several artists have painted conceptions of it. Compare one of them to the Titan of Braavos from the TV series below.

Titan of Braavos Source: gameofthrones.wikia.com
Titan of Braavos
Source: gameofthrones.wikia.com
Colossus of Rhodes Source: listofwonders.com
Colossus of Rhodes
Source: listofwonders.com

Yi Ti = China
Yi Ti doesn’t play a very important role in the books or the series, or at least it hasn’t so far. Hence, there isn’t a lot to go on to draw conclusions as to whether it is inspired by any real civilization, or which one. But a few things points in the direction of China. Firstly, it’s located to the far east. Secondly, there are linguistic similarities. Yi Ti sounds and looks pretty Chinese to me, as does the Yitish cities Yin and Jinqi. Thirdly, in the north of Yi Ti there exists a series of defensive structures known as The Five Forts, which sounds like something that might be inspired by the Great Wall of China. In addition, Yi Ti is ruled over by an emperor, just like China used to be.

The Valyrian Empire = The Roman Empire
The Valyrian Empire or the Valyrian Freehold was an empire that used to cover most of western Essos. It was given its name by the city around which it was centered – Valyria. In its youth the empire rivalled another empire given its name by its capital city, the Ghiscari Empire. The Valyrians defeated the Ghiscari in a series of wars, and burned its capital Ghis to the ground. According to legend the lands around Ghis were then sowed with salt to prevent anything from ever growing there again. Exactly how the Valyrian Empire was governed is unknown. What is known is that it was ruled over by several (40 to be specific) powerful and wealthy families. Thus it is likely that political decisions were made in some senate-like governing body. Eventually the empire fell apart after some kind of catastrophic event that completely destroyed the entire peninsula on which the city of Valyria was located. The cause of this so called “Doom of Valyria” is unknown.

The Roman Empire used to cover much of the terrirory around the Mediterranean, and was given its name by the capital city, Rome. In its youth it rivalled another rising empire given its name by its capital city, the Carthaginian Empire, with the capital Carthage located in modern-day Tunisia. The Roman empire defeated the Carthaginian Empire in a series of wars, known as the Punic wars. In the end Carthage was destroyed, and according to legend the lands around the city were sowed with salt to prevent anything from ever growing there again. The Roman Empire was ruled from Rome, partially by a senate that in practice consisted of representatives of the wealthiest citizens, known as patricians. Eventually the empire fell apart. Historians have pointed out several different possible reasons for this, but basically it is unknown (As you probably know the Italian peninsula was not destroyed in a catastrophic event however).

I also believe that the Targaryen dynasty is an indication of the Valyrian Empire being inspired by ancient Rome. The Targaryens are descendants of the Valyrian Empire, and was once one of the 40 powerful houses ruling the empire. Almost all of the Targaryens have first names containing the letter combination ae, and a lot of them, especially the men, have names that end with either ys or on. Aegon, Daenerys, Viserys, Rhaenys, Aemon, Jaeherys and so on. My belief is that George R. R. Martin adopted the ae letter combination from Caesar, the name of Julius Caesar as well as the title adopted by the Roman emperors (and the root of the word for emperor in a bunch of modern languages, such as Tsar in Russian, Kaiser in German and Kejsare in Swedish). I also believe that the -ys and -on endings of the names are Martin’s own variations of the latin suffixes us and -um. The only Targaryen kings of Westeros that did not have a name that ended with ys or on were Maegor (the Cruel) and Maekar (the Anvil). Furthermore, the roads of the Roman Empire is still today considered a major accomplishment, given the economy and technology of the time. Likewise, the roads of the Valyrian Empire are considered one of the nine man-made wonders of the world of ice and fire.

Other locations

Oldtown = Alexandria
Oldtown is a city located in the Reach, in the south-west of Westeros. It is well-known for being the home of the Order of Maesters. The city houses the order’s library, the biggest library in the world. The city also houses the Hightower, a castle and lighthouse that is the residence and ancestral seat of House Hightower. Previously the city was also the seat of the High Septon, the ecclesiastical leader of the faith of the seven.

Hundreds of years ago Alexandria housed the world’s largest library and was home to many of the greatest mathematicians, philophers and other scientists of the time. Alexandria was also the location of the Lighthouse of Pharos (Pharos being a small island just off the coast of Alexandria). The lighthouse was considered one of the seven wonders of the ancient world, and may have been the world’s highest structure at the time. Unfortunately it was destroyed in an earthquake hundreds of years ago. However, depictions of it that are likely to be quite accurate still exists and it looks similar to the tower depicted on the sigil of house Hightower. In ancient times Alexandria was the seat of one of the five christian ecclesiastical leaders, the pentarchs. Throughout most of christian history the church has been led by the Pope, the supposed vicar of christ on earth, and today that is uncontroversial among catholics. That was not always the case however. In the earlier christian history, five pentarchs were considered to be the highest-ranking men of the clergy, each of them equal in rank to the others. The five pentarchs were seated in Rome, Constantinople, Antioch, Jerusalem and yes, Alexandria.

One version of House Hightower's sigil. Source: twcenter.net
One version of House Hightower’s sigil. Source: twcenter.net
Depiction of the Lighthouse of Pharos
Depiction of the Lighthouse of Pharos Source: Wikipedia

The Wall = Hadrian’s wall
The Wall in the world of ice and fire is a gigantic ice structure located at the very north of The Seven Kingdoms. It was built some 8,000 years ago, after a mysterious event known as the long knight. To make a long story short, legend has it that the long night was a winter that lasted for a generation, during which “the others” (called white walkers in the TV series) invaded Westeros. These days the primary purpose of the wall is to keep the wildlings, or Free folk as they call themselves, from crossing into The Seven Kingdoms. Along the south side of the wall 19 castles are erected to man the wall’s defenses.

Hadrian’s wall was built almost 2,000 years ago, roughly along the modern border between England and Scotland. It was the northern-most frontier of the Roman Empire. The purpose of the wall was probably, at least to a certain extent, to prevent the savages to the north – these days known as Scots – from crossing into the empire. Along the south side of the wall 15-20 forts were raised, with garrisons that could defend the wall if it came under attack.

Peoples

The First Men = The Celts
I’ve already established that The Seven Kingdoms is loosely based on England, Wales and Scotland. And The Seven Kingdoms is mostly made up of three ethnic and/or cultural groups that arrived in Westeros at different times. The first group to arrive in Westeros are – for that very fact – called the First Men. They settled across the entire continent, they fought constant wars and skirmishes with the non-human people known as the children of the forest. Eventually the two peoples learned to co-exist, and the First Men adopted the religion of the children, today known as the old gods. After a few millenia Westeros was invaded by a different group of people from Essos (from a part of Essos in the outskirts of what was or would become the Valyrian Empire, the exact time is debated among maesters in Westeros). The new people, the Andals, had superior weaponry and battle tactics, and quickly drove the first men north. Today, The North is the only region in which the First Men are still a majority.

Britain can similarly be said to have been settled in three waves. The first wave of people to settle and endure long enough to develop a culture and language that survived until medieval times came to be known as Celts. They dominated Britain a few thousand years, until Britain was invaded by the Roman Empire. The Romans had superior weapons and battle tactics, and the Celts were quickly driven north. Eventually the Romans halted or were stopped around the border between modern day England and Scotland. In medieval times, the people of Scotland (and Ireland) were predominantly descended from Celts whereas the people of England were predominantly descended from other groups.

The Andals = The Romans in Britain
The Andal settling of Westeros is largely described above. Having conquered most of Westeros the Andals introduced the now dominant religion, the faith of the seven.

The Romans similarly brought the christian faith to England.

The Rhoynar = The Anglo-Saxons
The Rhoynar were a people living along the river Rhoyne in Essos that fell victim to the expansion of the Valyrian Empire. Having lost a final great battle against the Valyrians, the Rhoynish princess Nymeria led the remains of her people to Westeros. She landed in Dorne, where she married a local Andal noble. Together the two conquered all of Dorne. Since then the Rhoynar has mixed and intermingled with the Andals, resulting in the heavily Rhoyish-influenced Dornish culture.

The Anglo-Saxons migrated to England from modern-day Germany a few hundred years after the Roman occupation, and the migration increased with the decline of the Roman Empire. The Anglo-Saxons quickly conquered the southern parts of modern-day England, and introduced the basics of the modern English language and culture. Soon enough the Anglo-Saxons became the dominant people in England through both conquest and marriage.

There are obviously considerable differences between the three main groups of people in the world of ice and fire and the real world. For example, the three groups of people in Westeros are largely divided by geography, whereas the people of England, Wales and Scotland intermarried and became one to a greater extent. Even so, the similarities are striking and I believe they real world may have inspired the settling of Westeros.

The Ironborn = The Vikings
The inhabitants of the Iron Islands are commonly referred to as Ironborn, originally descended from the First Men. Having lived in virtual isolation for centuries however, they have developed their own culture and their own religion. The Iron Islands is a harsch and largely barren land. Thus the people there have not been able to make a living off farming or forestry to the same extent as the people of the mainland, known to the Ironborn as the green lands. Therefore the Ironborn largely became plunderers, using long, narrow ships with shallow hulls to reach far-off lands and pillage the locals for loot and thralls. This has impacted the Ironborn culture heavily, making them “hard” according to themselves. These voyages were known as reavings. The reavings, at least along the Westerosi coasts, came to an end when the Ironborn were subdued by the Targaryens.

The Vikings were sea-faring warriors from Scandinavia. Like the Ironborn they lived in an environment much less favourable for farming than the rest of the continent. The were excellent boat craftsmen though, and manufactured long, slender and fast ships. These were used to plunder cities and monasteries along coasts both far and near. Vikings voyages reached as far as North America in the west, and the Black Sea in the south east. Truthfully though, not all Vikings were plunderers, and hardly any had plunder as their primary occupation. Most were farmers, in spite of the harsh conditions and long winters they had to endure in Scandinavia. They were also traders. But the mythic image of them, as berserkers wearing horned helmets (they never did, sorry to disappoint you) plundering and raping for a living are most likely the inspiration for the Ironborn culture.

The Dothraki = The Mongols
The Dothraki are a nomadic people that lives on the great grass steppes (known as the Dothraki sea) of central Essos. They virtually grow up, live, and die atop their horses. They move from location to location, plundering the cities of neighboring peoples. The Dothraki live in large groups known as khalasars, each of them led by a khal. The khal is the strongest and/or most skilled warrior of the group, and he basically reigns as khal until he is either killed in battle or challanged and killed by one of his men wanting to become khal. Upon the death of a khal his khalasar is either taken over by a new khal or broken up into smaller khalasars. Over the centuries the Dothraki have conquered and laid waste to several kingdoms.

The Mongols were a nomadic people living on great grass steppes as well. In their case the steppes of central Asia. Like their fictive counterparts their culture were largely centered around horses, and they learned to ride at a very young age. The Mongol civilization was organized in a more state-like way than the Dothraki, but it also shared the trait of being unstable, having unclear and disputed successions, and breaking apart at the time of a rulers death. The rulers were known as khans, the most famous ones being Genghis Khan and Kublai Khan. In about one century, the Mongol “hordes” conquered most of Asia and parts of eastern Europe, conquering many kingdoms and peoples. Like the Dothraki in Essos, the Mongols were largely considered savages by neighboring peoples.

Characters [Spoiler alert!]

Jon Snow = Jesus
Now, I realize calling Jesus a real world equivalent of a fictional character might be stretching the term “real world” somewhat. But real or not, the Jesus of christian mythology has had a large impact on the world as we know it, and Jon Snow shares a lot of features with him. For one thing, he is not actually the son of both of the people who raised him (he’s definately not Catelyn’s son, and most likely not Ned’s either). Secondly, the two of them live their lives largely among outcasts of society. In Jon’s case The Night’s Watch, and in Jesus’ case thieves, prostitutes and lepers. Thirdly, they both become leaders of sorts of their respective “sub-societys”, and they are both betrayed by people close to them and consequently dies.

Jesus was selected by god, and rose again from the dead. While it is not 100% certain, it is commonly theorized and highly probable that Jon Snow will also 1) return from the dead, and that he is 2) chosen by a god to lead in a war against the darkness, and the legendary hero Azor Ahai come again.

Eddard “Ned” Stark = Richard of York
At the beginning of A Game of Thrones Eddard Stark is Lord Paramount of The North, Lord of Winterfell and Warden of the north. The story basically begins when he is visited by his old friend King Robert Baratheon, and appointed Hand of the King, the king’s closest advisor. He criticized the king for how he handled matters overseas (the assasination of Daenerys Targaryen), and got expelled from court. However, when king Robert died he appointed Eddard Protector of the Realm. However, he was killed by men loyal to the queen soon after.

Richard of York was likewise the king’s closest advisor. He was expelled from court after criticizing how the king handled matters overseas (a war with France). Eventually he returned to court and was made protector of the realm, and even appointed the king’s successor (they both have rivalling claims to the throne). Soon after he was killed in battle by men loyal to the queen.

Cersei Lannister = Margaret of Anjou
Cersei Lannister is the daughter of Tywin Lannister, Lord Paramount of The Westerlands, at the beginning of A Game of Thrones. She is the wife and queen of King Robert Baratheon. She is both beautiful and manipulative. Behind the scenes she uses the information her spies throughout the capital provides her with to promote the interests of herself and House Lannister rather than the king or the realm. She distrusts Hand of the King Eddard Stark. After King Robert’s death she defies his last will and testament, proclaiming him protector of the realm and her father Hand of the King. She decides to expel Eddard Stark from court (however, her son Joffrey has him beheaded instead). She has a secret relationship with her brother, who is the actual father of her children.

Margaret of Anjou was the wife and queen of Henry VI of England. She is described as beautiful as well as cunning and manipulative. She deeply mistrusted her husbands closest advisor Richard of York. Her husband Henry VI was an incompetent ruler, so Margaret ran the kingdom behind his back, appointing people loyal to her rather than the king or the realm to all important positions. Eventually she managed to get Richard of York expelled from court, and he was later killed by men loyal to her when he tried to seize the throne for himself. Her son was rumored to not be the king’s son, but rather some lover’s bastard.

Joffrey Baratheon/Lannister = Edward of Westminster
Joffrey is Prince of the Seven Kingdoms, being the son of King Robert Baratheon and Queen Cersei Lannister. Or so it would seem, in fact he is the son of the queen from her adulterous relationship with her brother and lover Jaime Lannister. He is a cruel, malicious little bastard (quite literally), torturing fiances and whores for fun and enjoying watching heads being cut off. He eventually got what he deserved.

Edward of Westminster was the Prince of England and son of King Henry VI and Margaret of Anjou. Some claim he was a bastard of one of the queens lovers. He is described as a cruel boy. When asked what to do with a couple of men loyal to him that had failed with a task given them, the 7 year old Edward hastily replied “Off with their heads!” Eventually he got what he deserved.

Robb Stark = Edward IV
Robb Stark is the eldest son of Eddard Stark. Upon Eddard’s death he styles himself king in The North and takes up arms against the Iron Throne and the Lannisters, loyal to the crown. Initially he enjoys great military success against the Lannisters, defeating them in several battles and capturing Jaime Lannister, Lord Commander of the King’s Guard and uncle/father of the king. He agreed to marry a daughter of Lord Walder Frey, in order to gain his support in the war. However, he married another woman instead. As retaliation Lord Walder did not just withdraw his support, but allied himself with the Lannisters and had his men kill Robb and several of his men.

Edward of York was the eldest son of Richard of York. Upon Richard’s death he claimed the English crown for himself and took up arms against the Lancasters, the current ruling dynasty. He enjoyed great military success and captured the king, and eventually he managed to take the throne and crown himself Edward IV. He had also agreed to marry a daughter of King Louis XI in order to gain his support in a potential rebellion against his rule. The marriage was negotiated by Richard Neville, Duke of Warwick. However, King Edward married another woman instead. When Duke Richard found out he abandoned Edwards cause and gave his support to the Lancasters instead. The Lancasters rebelled along with the Nevilles and overthrew king Edward.

Stannis Baratheon = Richard III
Stannis Baratheon is the younger brother of the King Robert Baratheon. Shortly before the death of King Robert he returned to Dragonstone, of which he reigns as lord. Upon the death of the king he declared his nephews illegitimate on account of the queen being an adulteress, and claimed the throne for himself. He had some successes, among other things he managed to sway his younger brother’s bannermen to his cause and defended the kingdom from a wildling invasion. He does have some success, but on the whole he fails. In the books he is still alive, but in the TV series he died in battle.

Richard III was the younger brother of King Edward IV. Upon the death of Edward IV he was appointed Protector of the Realm until his young nephew Edward V came of age. However, Richard declared the king and his younger brother Richard illegitimate and progeny of an invalid marriage, due to his brother’s agreement to marry a French princess. Richard consequently crowned himself king in his nephews place. Richard’s reign became short however, as he died in battle against an invading army just two years after seizing the throne.

Brand0n & Rickon Stark = Edward V & Richard of Shrewsbury
When Robb Stark went to war in the south, his younger brothers Brandon and Rickon was left behind. Brandon was Robb’s heir, and in spite of being just 7-8 years old he became the acting lord of Winterfell, aided by Maester Luwin. Some time after Robb’s departure Winterfell is seized by soldiers from the Iron Islands, led by Theon Greyjoy. Brandon and Rickon are locked up. Eventually they make their escape, and are never found by Theon and his men. In order to hide the truth he kills two peasant boys of approximately the same age, burns them beyond recognition and claims that they are the two princes.

When Richard III became Lord Protector of England in 1483 he sent his nephew Edward V (at the time 12 years old) to the Tower of London. This was customary for rulers prior to their coronation. However, in Edwards abscence Richard proclaimed himself king and Edward became a prisoner rather than a king in waiting. Edwards’ younger brother was imprisoned with him, but the two princes eventually disappeared. What happened to them is still unknown, but it has been theorized both that they were murdered and that they escaped.

Daenerys Targaryen = Henry VII
Daenerys is the daughter of King Aerys II, “The Mad King”, and his wife and sister Rhaella Targaryen. At the time of her birth aboard a ship headed for Essos her father had been slain during the sack of King’s Landing and her dynasty dethroned in a civil war. She grows up across the narrow sea, and when civil war ensues in Westeros she raises an army and fleet in Essos to cross The Narrow Sea once more and claim her birthright. Being a Targaryen, her coat of arms displays a red dragon. To be continued…

When Henry VII, Henry Tudor prior to his accession to the throne, was born his father had already died. He was born in England, but grew up partly in exile across the narrow sea (the English Channel that is). There he raised an army which he used to claim the English throne. Once he had seized the throne he married Elizabeth of York, the elder sister of the two disappeared York princes. Being a Lancaster himself he thus united the two houses and ended the Wars of the Roses. Part of Henry’s royal coat of arms was a red dragon.

Religions

The Old Gods = Animism/paganism
The Old Gods, worshipped by the First Men and Children of the Forest, are quite clearly inspired by old pagan and animistic religions. These religion sees the world and nature as divine. Trees, rivers, mountains and so on is inhabited by gods in one way or another. If the gods, that is the nature, is treated with respect and care they can grant you boons such as strength, wisdom or clarity.

Faith of the seven = Catholicism
The organizations of the two faiths is similarly built. One person serves as head of the organization and the communicative channel between god and mankind. The Pope in catholicism and the High Septon in the Faith of the Seven. The faithful of both religions also submit to a single divine being, but with several different aspect. Christian mythology has the holy trinity with the father, the son and the holy ghost. While I haven’t read of an equivalent term to this in the Faith of the Seven, if there is one, I bet its septinity (trinity comes from latin tribus, meaning three, septinity would of course be derived from latin septem, meaning seven). The seven aspects of the deity worshipped by most people of Westeros are the father, the mother, the warrior, the maid, the blacksmith, the crone and the stranger. People prays to the mother for mercy, the blacksmith for success in craftsmanship, the father for justice and so on.

R’hllor = Catharism
R’hllor is also known as the Lord of Light, the Heart of Fire and the Red God. The R’hllor faith is a true dual faith, according to which the world is a battlefield for two equally matched divine beings. R’hllor’s rival is called “the great other”, and its true name is never spoken by the faithful. Mankind plays a pivotal role in the war between the two, and may sway the war to either side depending on how well they follow the faith. R’hllor represents light, warmth and goodness, whereas the great other represents darkness, cold and terror. The R’hllor followers are furthermore obsessed with fire, which they consider purifying and use for both ritual and magical purposes.

This is very similar to catharism, a catholic heresy originating in southern France in the 12th century. Contrary to the catholic view that the devil is powerful but no match for god, the cathars believed that the two were of equal strength and mankind was one aspect of many through which the two waged war on one another. According to them the soul was the creation of god, whereas the physical world, full of sin and suffering as it is, was the creation of the devil. Like the followers of R’hllor, and the followers of catholicism, the cathars believed that “their god” represented light and virtue, whereas “the other” represented darkness and sin. The cathars also viewed fire as purifying, and used it in their baptism ceremonies. Water was of the physical world they argued, and therefore sinful.

Events

Battle of the Blackwater = Second Arab Siege of Constantinople
In the second book of the series, A Clash of Kings, as well as the second season of the TV series, King’s Landing is attacked by Stannis Baratheon, intent on taking the throne. The battle goes down a bit different in the books compared to the TV series, the following is the main features of the battle as stated in the book. At the beginning of the battle part of Stannis’ army came on ships while the main host waited on the southern shores of the river Blackwater Rush. Stannis, having naval supremacy, intended to destroy the royal navy, land his men aboard the ships and then ferry across the majority of his men on the other side of the river. Initially the battle goes well for Stannis, much of the royal fleet is defeated and his men makes good progress on the northern shore. One of the royal ships drifting towards Stannis’ fleet is then set ablaze by wildfire. At the same time a long chain is drawn up between the shores of the river, preventing Stannis navy from retreating back into the bay. One by one Stannis ships are set ablaze. At approximately the same time, Stannis’ main host on the south side of the river, demoralized by witnessing their fleet burning, is attacked from the rear by a joint Lannister and Tyrell army. The attack fails, and most of Stannis’ men are either dead or deserted by the end of the battle.

The Battle of the Blackwater Source: gameofthrones.wikia.com

The second arab siege of Constantinople was an attempt by the Umayyad Caliphate to conquer the Byzantine capital Constantinople in 717-718. As Constantinople is located at the Bosphorus Strait and surrounded by water, a naval blockade is necessary to besiege the city effectively. When the arab army had established its siege lines around the city, arab ships started blockading the city. As they came close enough to the city however, they were set ablaze and destroyed with greek fire. In addition, the bay known as The Golden Horn, was sealed off by a large chain. Towards the end of the siege the arabs were attacked from the rear by Bulgars, allied with the Byzantines in the city. The siege failed, and the Umayyad Caliphate lost thousands of men and sailors, as well as hundreds of ships.

The Red Wedding = The Black Dinner
The Red Wedding is the fan name for the Stark-Tully massacre in The Twins. Robb Stark, King in The North, had promised Lord Walder to marry one of his daughters in order to gain his support against the Lannister. However, he married Jeyne Westerling (in the TV series she is replaced by Talisa Maegyr) instead during his campaign in The Westerlands. To make amends King Robb offers Lord Walder to marry one of his daughter to Edmure Tully, Robb’s uncle and Lord of Riverrun, instead. Lord Walder accepts and invites them along with their closest men into his castle The Twins. He feasts their bannermen just outside. After Edmure’s marriage and the celebratory feast Lord Walder’s men murder Robb and those of his men invited into the castle.

The Black Dinner was an event in which King James II of Scotland invited the William, Earl of Douglas, and his younger brother David to dine with him. The 10 year old king seemingly had a great time with the 16 year old Earl and his brother. Towards the end of the dinner however, a black bulls head was dropped in front of the earl and his brother. The two were thereafter taken outside and beheaded.

Artefacts

Valyrian Steel = Damascus Steel
Valyrian steel is a type of steel invented and manufactured in the old Valyrian Empire. When Valyria was destryoed during the Doom of Valyria the art of making Valyrian steel was lost to the world. But it is steel of such high quality that a sword made from it never needs honing.

Damascus steel is a real world kind of steel that was world renowned for its quality. These days steel of even better quality can be made, but in medieval times Damascus steel was a marvel. The art of its making has been lostfor almost 300 years. Why the art died out is unknown.

Wildfire = Greek Fire
Wildfire is a partly chemical and partly magical liquid substance. It is a liquid that burns with immense heat and that cant be extinguished once it is lit. In addition, it floats on water. It burns with a bright green flame. In the books and TV series it has only been used once, during the battle of the Blackwater. The secrets of its making is guarded by the Alchemists guild in King’s Landing.

Greek fire being used by a Byzantine warship. Source: weaponsandwarfare.com

Greek fire is the western name for an incendiary weapon developed by the Byzantine Empire. The Byzantines called it liquid fire, or war fire, and used it primarily for naval battles. The components of it, as well as how it was made, is unknown. It was a military secret closely guarded by the Empire. So closely in fact, that eventually even they forgot the art of its making. Essentially it was a kind of ancient napalm, a liquid that stuck to things and people, burnt on water, and wasn’t extinguished like normal fire.

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