All The Crazy Sh*t In This Season Of 'GOT' Actually Happened In History
Warning: There are spoilers throughout this article.
Like millions of people across the globe, Snoop Dogg, legendary hip-hop artist and proud marijuana enthusiast, is a massive fan of "Game of Thrones."
He doesn't just like it for entertainment, he actually finds the show very informative. During a recent interview with the New York Post, he stated:
I watch it for historic reasons, to try to understand what this world was based on before I got here. I like to know how we got from there, to here, and the similarities between then and now.
This gives you the impression Snoop Dogg believes the show is based on fact and that all the ganja has finally gone to his head.
After all, the fictitious show is full of magic, fire-breathing dragons and apocalyptic zombie-like snow creatures -- you'd have to be high to believe any of these things ever really existed.
But to the rapper's credit, there are many parallels between "Game of Thrones" and actual history.
In fact, "GoT" author George R.R. Martin has said the endless feud for the Iron Throne was largely inspired by the War of Roses, a lengthy, complex and bloody conflict fought in England during the 15th century.
Much like "Game of Thrones," the war was fueled by noble families vying for power, involved numerous players and took many twists and turns.
Season five of the show came to a painful and bloody conclusion on Sunday night, and it's apparent a number of major plot points from this season are analogous with historic events beyond the War on Roses.
In other words, Snoop Dogg was right: You can actually learn a fair amount of history from "Game of Thrones."
Sons of the Harpy = Klu Klux Klan
The Sons of the Harpy arose as one of the most sinister elements of this season and a major challenge to the stability and safety of Meereen, the city-state conquered and ruled by Daenerys Targaryen.
Before Daenerys, Meereen was ruled by a wealthy class of people who owned numerous slaves. When Daenerys took over, she freed all of the city-state's slaves and outlawed slavery.
This didn't sit very well with the wealthy families who'd ruled for thousands of years. Their anger fostered the formation of the Sons of the Harpy, a masked group of insurrectionists.
These elites had failed to defeat Daenerys in traditional battle and sought to undermine and terrorize her in other ways.
Over the course of season five, this resistance movement violently attacked freed slaves, Daenerys' soldiers and even the queen herself.
There are a lot of similarities between the Sons of the Harpy and the Klu Klux Klan, as highlighted by Vulture.
The KKK was founded in Tennessee in 1866 as a response to the cessation of the American Civil War and the abolishment of slavery.
The initial branch was comprised primarily of Confederate veterans, who, much like the Sons of the Harpy, were furious the status quo had been disrupted (slavery was over).
The KKK spread across the Southern states over the next couple of years, terrorizing freed slaves and those who supported them, among others.
Like with the Sons of the Harpy, members of the KKK often hid their faces with masks, typically in the form of the now-infamous white hoods.
Unfortunately, the KKK still exists today.
Faith Militant (The Sparrows) = Protestant Reformation
Religion is a continuous theme in "Game of Thrones" and played a particularly significant role this season, as the cultish Faith Militant rose to prominence in the capital, King's Landing.
The Faith Militant, or the Sparrows, is a religious group obsessed with eradicating sin and unabashedly uses violence to achieve its goals.
According to George R.R. Martin, the overzealous faith is a mixture of the medieval Catholic Church and the Protestant Reformation.
The Sparrows are my version of the medieval Catholic Church, with its own fantasy twist. If you look at the history of the church in the Middle Ages, you had periods where you had very worldly and corrupt popes and bishops. People who were not spiritual, but were politicians. They were playing their own version of the game of thrones, and they were in bed with the kings and the lords. But you also had periods of religious revival or reform — the greatest of them being the Protestant Reformation, which led to the splitting of the church... That's what you're seeing here in Westeros.
The Protestant Reformation occurred during the 16th century. At the time, the Catholic Church was incredibly powerful and had a great deal of political influence, but was widely considered corrupt.
Consequently, reformers appeared across Europe, challenging the Church's authority and structure while professing a desire to purify it. This led to a tumultuous period characterized by political upheaval, religious persecution and violent conflict.
In "Game of Thrones," the Faith Militant represents a combination of the medieval Catholic Church's power and the more extreme sentiments and practices of the Reformation.
Stannis' sacrifice of Princess Shireen = Aztec human sacrifices
One of the most painful and gruesome moments on "Game of Thrones" this season was the sacrificial burning of Princess Shireen by her father, Stannis. Anyone who watched the episode in which this occurs is likely still haunted by her screams.
Stannis was convinced by a priestess burning his daughter alive would please the god R'hllor, the Lord of Light, and help lead his army to victory in an impending battle. (It didn't help, he still lost.)
As Slate notes, this is reminiscent of Greek mythology and the tragic story of Agamemnon and his daughter, Iphigenia, who was also sacrificed.
But beyond mythology, there are numerous examples of humans being sacrificed throughout history to appease various deities, from ancient Egypt to the Vikings. The Aztecs stand out particularly in this regard.
Human sacrifice was a very common practice for the Aztecs and fundamental to their religion as they believed Huitzilopochtli, the god of the sun, required human blood for sustenance.
To them, such ceremonial sacrifices were imperative to keeping the sun in the sky.
Similarly, Shireen was sacrificed because she had the blood of kings (she was related to royalty), which would please the Lord of Light (sounds pretty similar to the god of the sun).
With that said, perhaps the most disconcerting aspect of her fictional death is humans have actually committed similar acts at different points in time.
Cersei's walk of shame = Medieval punishment for adultery
Cersei is one of the cruelest and most universally despised characters on "Game of Thrones," but that didn't make what happened to her on the finale any easier to watch.
After confessing to committing adultury with her cousin, she had her hair chopped off and was forced to march naked through the streets of the capital as people flung food and insults at her.
It was the epitome of cruel and unusual punishment. Lena Headey, the actress who plays Cersei, told Entertainment Weekly,
I don't think anyone deserves that treatment.
It's difficult to disagree with her, but during the medieval era in France and England, women actually received this exact treatment if they were found guilty of adultery.
For other transgressions, women and men alike were often paraded in public in their undergarments. Fully naked walks of shame were reserved for adulterers.
Speaking with Time on this subject, Larissa Tracy, author of "Torture and Brutality in Medieval Literature," noted the naked walk of shame was typically reserved for women and designed to destroy their reputations.
The punishment often led to more repercussions and negatively impacted their legal standing, potentially opening them up to harsher forms of punishment (torture) in the long run.
This historical precedent is actually what inspired George R.R. Martin.
During a 2011 interview, he stated:
That was an interesting chapter to write, and based on actual medieval events. Jane Shore, mistress of King Edward IV, was punished that way after Edward died. It wasn't a punishment ever inflicted on men. It was a punishment directed at women to break their pride. And Cersei is defined by her pride.
Therefore, Cersei's walk of shame, albeit difficult to watch, not only fit into her character's narrative, but was also drawn from a specific historical event.
Jon Snow's death = Julius Caesar's assassination
Anyone with half a heart was likely deeply saddened by the final moments of this season's finale.
After luring him into a trap under the pretense of good news about a missing family member, Jon Snow's brothers-in-arms stabbed him repeatedly. In a very Shakespearean moment, Snow's protégé, Olly, delivers the final blow.
Snow had recently been elected leader of these men, but made controversial decisions that ultimately led to the mutiny and tragic assassination.
In the end, the audience was left to watch Snow bleed out alone on the cold snow-covered grounds of Castle Black.
There are already a lot of theories about whether or not Snow is really dead, but that could just be a case of extreme shock and denial. Only time will tell.
Regardless, there's a very clear parallel between Snow's death and the infamous assassination of Julius Caesar.
Like Snow, Caesar was in a position of leadership as dictator for life of the Roman Empire and made decisions that alienated him from those under him.
On March 15, 44 BC, he was killed by his own senators and, like Snow, one of the individuals involved was his protégé, Marcus Brutus.
After Julius Caesar's death, his adopted son, Octavian, eventually took over. He would become known as Augustus, and his rule would lead to the Pax Romana, one of the Roman Empire's longest periods of peace.
The ultimate consequences of Snow's death remain to be seen. For now, it's safe to say the immediate outcome is widespread heartbreak and depression among the show's fans.
Citations: Dont Be So Shocked by the Deaths on Game of Thrones The Show Is a Classical Tragedy (Slate), Game of Thrones George RR Martin reveals which religion inspired the Faith Militant (EW), Who Are the Sons of the Harpy and Why Do They Hate Daenerys (Vulture ), Klu Klux Klan (History), The Most Disturbing Thing About Game of Thrones Most Disturbing Scene (The Atlantic ), Snoop Dogg Thinks Game Of Thrones is based on real history (NYP), This Video Explains the Real Life History Behind Game of Thrones (Time ), The Reformation (History), Did the Aztecs really practice human sacrifice (History), Game of Thrones star on her brutal Walk of Shame (EW), George RR Martin on Dance With Dragons shocking twist (EW), The Ides of March (History), New evidence shows that human sacrifice helped populate the royal city of the dead (National Geographic ), Human sacrifice a female angel of death and why the Vikings were even more savage than you thought (Daily Mail UK), The True History Behind Cerseis Game of Thrones Walk of Shame (Time)