There are many similarities between A Song Of Ice And Fire and real historical events I couldn't help but notice. Mainly:

  1. The War of the Roses. This one is way too complicated for me to explain it. Here's a video explaining it:

  2. Byzantium and most notably the Sieges of Constantinople. Constantinople was sieged numerous times, with only 2 of them ending with the opposite side winning. That was because of the excellent defence the city had. The two defence tactics that caught my attention were:

    1. The Chain that was raised whenever enemy ships arrived, closing The Golden Horn, the primary water inlet to the city.

    2. The Greek Fire, an incredibly flammable fire, as it would continue burning while floating on water.

    These are way too similar to the tactics used by Tyrion in The Battle of the Blackwater in Clash of Kings (though the chain part doesn't appear in the show).

So has Martin admitted that he was influenced by History? And are there other historical similarities I missed?

  • 13
    he's been very open and up front about the historical influences, especially the War of Roses...
    – KutuluMike
    Commented Oct 21, 2016 at 12:26
  • 4
    "Admitted" it? You make it sound like it's some sort of secret he should be ashamed of. If know your history, the influences are blatant, if twisted/exaggerated. Eg. The wall in the north of the country, with scary wildings on the other side? Sounds like Hadrian's Wall. Commented Oct 21, 2016 at 16:38
  • I was just asking for more information. I'm not saying he should be ashamed of it, but he should be ashamed if he didn't admit it. I just wanted to know what he was saying about this subject.
    – user73036
    Commented Oct 21, 2016 at 16:52
  • 2
    There's nothing to "admit", so therefore nothing to be ashamed of. That's my point. He didn't steal anything. He took common, high school history as inspiration for a fantasy story. Commented Oct 21, 2016 at 17:24
  • 1
    I get your point. I just wanted to know Martin's opinion on the subject, and more historical similarities. I didn't say it's something he should be ashamed of. When you think about it, every storyteller has driven inspiration from real events and history.
    – user73036
    Commented Oct 21, 2016 at 19:26

2 Answers 2


George R.R. Martin has explained his historical influences in a rather long correspondence with a fan.

From Citadel SSM Entry "Historical Influences":

Q: Firstly I'd like to apologize for wasting your time, reading this email; and I often think that you must be St. Job reborn... Where do you find the patience to read and answer to all your fans?

George: Patience is not the problem. There's just too few hours in the day. Try as I might, I do find myself falling further and further behind. I still have letters in my box from 1998. Sigh. But I plug away when I can...

Q: [Edited for clarity after this point. Ser Loras's (Ser Loras is the nickname of the fan) question concerning whether GRRM borrows from history, particularly Spanish history, received the reply below.]

George: Well, yes and no. I have drawn on a great many influences for these books. I do use incidents from history, yes, although I try not to do a straight one-for-one transposition of fact into fiction. I prefer to mix and match, and to add in some imaginative elements as well.

Most of my borrowings, however, come from English and French medieval history, simply because I am more familiar with those than with the heroes, legends, and traditions of other countries. The Wars of the Roses, the Crusades, and the Hundred Years War have been my biggest influences... oh, and some Scottish history as well, such as the infamous Black Dinner that inspired my own Red Wedding. This isn't a matter of choice so much as it is one of necessity. I don't have any other language besides English, and there's a paucity of good popular English language histories about medieval Spain, medieval Germany, and the like. I was in Germany last fall, and looked everywhere for good reference books about the medieval Holy Roman Empire, which would be treasure trove, I suspect. There are a ton of them that looked likely... but all in German.

And in about a week I will be travelling to Spain, coincidentally enough, where I plan to search for some good popular histories as well. Whether I will find any I can read, however... well, it's doubtful.

As to your specific question, I have seen the film version of EL CID, of course, and the Osprey book about the Reconquest is on my sheld. Good, but not nearly detailed enough.

Q: Also, the fight between the Baratheon brothers for the throne is similar to the one held by the Trastamaras: Pedro el Cruel (Peter the Cruel), King of Castile and León and his brother Enrique (Henry). Again, am I close?

George: I know a little more about that one since it impinged on the Hundred Years War, and there are plenty of references for that in English. As a matter of fact, I collect miniature lead and pewter knights in 54mm scale, and I have figures of both Pedro the Cruel and Enrique the Bastard in my collection.

Q: More... I see a lot of Henry IV of Castile in Robert Baratheon, if I am right, you will now what I mean...

George: Sorry, Henry IV is not a fellow I know much about. If Robert is modelled on anyone, it is more Edward IV of England... though as usual, I rang in some changes.

Q: Also, could Don Beltrán de la Cueva be similar to Ser Loras Tyrell. I mean, their histories do not fit perfectly but Don Beltrán (First Duke of Alburquerque) was reputed to be the best knight of Castile by then, and his sexuality raised many questions.

George: Again, don't know him. Wish I did. If I could find a good book...

Q: and lastly, there could be a parallelism between Aegon the Conqueror, and the spanish "conquistadores". Let me explain: Hernán Cortés for example, with less than a hundred men conquered the Aztec Empire... (Dragons=gunpowder?)

George: I know about Cortez, but Aegon the Conquerer derives more from William the Conquerer.

I would love to become more familiar with Spanish history. Can you recommend any good English language popular histories? I stress "popular." I am not looking for academic tomes about changing patterns of land use, but anecdotal history rich in details of battles, betrayals, love affairs, murders, and similar juicy stuff.

Q: Thank you very much for your time, and I await with illusion for a reply.

George: I hope you didn't wait too long. Here 'tis.

Keep reading.

As you can see, here George has listed almost all that has influenced him:

  1. War of Roses
  2. Crusades
  3. 100 Years war
  4. Black Dinner
  5. Edward VI
  6. William the Conqueror
  7. General English and French medieval history

George has also listed other influences which are following.

Hadrian's Wall has inspired The Wall. From a 2000 Interview:

Well, some of it will be revealed later so I won't talk about that aspect of it, but certainly the Wall comes from Hadrian's Wall, which I saw while visiting Scotland. I stood on Hadrian's Wall and tried to imagine what it would be like to be a Roman soldier sent here from Italy or Antioch. To stand here, to gaze off into the distance, not knowing what might emerge from the forest. Of course fantasy is the stuff of bright colors and being larger than real life, so my Wall is bigger and considerably longer and more magical. And, of course, what lies beyond it has to be more than just Scots.

George maintains however that there is no any Character to Character correspondence between his characters and historical characters. From Citadel SSM 950:

The Wars of the Roses have always fascinated me, and certainly did influence A SONG OF ICE AND FIRE, but there's really no one-for-one character-for-character correspondence. I like to use history to flavor my fantasy, to add texture and versimillitude, but simply rewriting history with the names changed has no appeal for me. I prefer to reimagine it all, and take it in new and unexpected directions.

Other influences cited are Albigensian Crusades and A civil war labelled the Anarchy from English-Norman History for the prequel Princess and the Queen.

As for the question if GRRM was inspired by Byzantium, I can't find any mention of it from George's correspondence with fans or media. However, the point stands, there are many similarities to be seen between the two.

  • 1
    So we can't just say York <-> Stark, Lancaster <-> Lannister, etc...
    – GEdgar
    Commented Oct 21, 2016 at 13:12
  • 2
    @CEdgar, Apparently we can't since George says he doesn't create one-for-one correspondence and doesn't rewrite history
    – Aegon
    Commented Oct 21, 2016 at 13:18
  • 5
    "in a rather long correspondence with a fan" - this man never breaks character, does he?
    – corsiKa
    Commented Oct 21, 2016 at 14:56
  • 4
    @corsiKa as far as we know, the correspondence ended without either side dying...
    – KutuluMike
    Commented Oct 21, 2016 at 16:15
  • Worth noting, that is pretty clear that his inspirations were not all historical. The Aeneid describes the after effects of the Trojan war from the Trojan point of view. (The Trojan War, aka the Illiad, is also possibly inspirational for Reygar's war, as he parallels Paris). But the escaped Anius goes to Carthage (Which sounds like...), then he forms his own country (Rome). Which is pretty much what Daenerys does. Tyrion mirrors Richard III, a shakespeare play about a cripple who gains the throne by (possibly) killing his relatives. The list goes on, but the characters left does is only 6. fin Commented Oct 21, 2016 at 17:02

Yes, Martin has spoken openly about the historical influences in his work. He draws on a lot of sources for inspiration: real history, real-world religions, historical fiction, fantasy fiction, etc. On the real history side, there are three key aspects of the novels that are based on actual events:

  • The War Of The Roses: Martin has admitted that the the War of the Five Kings was based on the War of Roses:

The Wars of the Roses have always fascinated me, and certainly did influence A SONG OF ICE AND FIRE.

However, he also claims that many of the parallels that people find between history and his works are unintended:

there's really no one-for-one character-for-character correspondence. I like to use history to flavor my fantasy, [...] I prefer to reimagine it all, and take it in new and unexpected directions.

  • Hadrian's Wall: This (the wall that marked the northern end of the Roman Empire) was the key influence behind The Wall:

Well some of it will be revealed later so I won't talk about that aspect of it, but certainly the Wall comes from Hadrian's Wall, which I saw while visiting Scotland.

  • The Black Dinner & The Glencoe Massacre: These are two real-life betrayals (both from Scottish history) of one clan inviting another to stay under their roof, promising hospitality, only to slaughter their enemies anyway. This, obviously was the source for the idea of the Red Wedding.

The Red Wedding is based on a couple real events from Scottish history. One was a case called The Black Dinner. [...] The larger instance was the Glencoe Massacre. [...] No matter how much I make up, there’s stuff in history that’s just as bad, or worse.

In addition, Martin drew on historical culture for a lot of the elements of his cultures; for example, many of the highly controversial sex and marriage elements in his book - incest, marrying minors, forced arrange marriages - were common practice among the upper classes in various historical cultures.

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