Given that Game of Thrones is a TV show full of dragons, the fact that it’s full of historical inaccuracies shouldn’t be surprising. But since much of the show and accompanying books are based on actual historical events, surely there’s an air of truth to some of it, right? Well, yes and no, as we’re about to explain. Be forewarned that this article might contain spoilers, but you should probably read it to make sure.
10. England Wasn’t Full of Drab Stone
As people smarter than us have noted, the Game of Thrones universe draws inspiration from a number of historical events. In particular, the War of the Roses, which was fought between the houses of York and Lancaster, served as the primary influence for the Stark and Lannister families. On a lesser site this is where they’d say something like “MIND BLOWN,” which is silly, so we’ll just say that Lannister and Stark are way cooler names.
Moving on, it’s only reasonable to assume that a lot of the universe is similarly inspired by this real period in time. However, if that were the case, the awful drab stone walls that seem to form the background to every other scene wouldn’t be there. According to historians. medieval stone work was positively fabulous, as it was often painted with vibrant murals or even decorated with different colored stones.
We’re not saying that every random wall was like the Sistine Chapel. But just like today, walls, especially in the less respectable parts of town where like half of Thrones is set, were often covered in hastily scrawled art and graffiti. So there’s really no excuse to set so many scenes against boring stone when it would be historically accurate to put a few crudely drawn penises behind the actors.
9. All Of the Animals Were Tiny
Animals play an important role in Thrones, and like seemingly every character they can be killed at any moment. Now, it’s common knowledge that animals, especially domesticated ones, have gotten a lot bigger over the last few hundred years thanks to things like steroids and selective breeding, but exactly how much bigger may surprise you. Horses, which are a staple of the show, were considerably smaller back then compared to their contemporary counterparts. Experts analyzing horse armor have concluded that even the largest horses from history would only be considered average by today’s standards. While this doesn’t mean much for average characters, the larger characters like the Hound and Brienne would be unable to find a horse large enough to support their frame. So the next time you see one of them in a scene, imagine them riding a tiny little pony and try not to giggle.
8. Women Weren’t Totally Helpless
Thrones features so much sex that reviewers came up with a new word, “sexposition,” which describes the seemingly endless amount of scenes in which major plot discussions take place when one character is inside another. The show also features quite a bit of sexual violence, mostly aimed at women, which has drawn a fair amount of criticism.
The author of the series, George R.R Martin, has always defended the inclusion of such scenes by stating that “history is written in blood,” and that not including this kind of violence would be dishonest to viewers and readers by not representing history as it actually happened. But while it’s certainly true that sexual violence was common in the Middle Ages, women weren’t entirely helpless.
Contrary to popular belief, rape was indeed a crime that could be punished with castration, whipping or even death. It should also be pointed out that in the Middles Ages, men and women were surprisingly equal to one another, at least in the case of peasants, which Thrones is just full of. There was no perceived difference between the genders, because they both did the same awful, awful work.
7. The Mountain and Viper Duel Would Have Never Happened
The duel between Oberyn Martell and Gregor Clegane is arguably one of the show’s most memorable scenes, so it’s with a heavy heart that we tell you it’s in no way realistic. Although duels and trials by combat were indeed a thing during the Middle Ages, combatants had to conform to a host of rules, including that they had to be of relatively equal skill and have roughly the same equipment. While Oberyn and Gregor are skilled fighters, experts have concluded that there’s no way they’d have been allowed to fight with such different weapons and armor, especially when Oberyn’s weapon basically amounted to a stick dipped in poison.
Historically, duels stressed the “Parity of Combatants,” which basically meant that both duelists were required to fight using the same weapons and armor so the only thing that would set them apart would be their skill. But it’s not all bad news, as scientists have concluded that the Mountain probably would have been able to crush Oberyn’s head like a melon. Yay?
6. Not Everyone Was Filthy
If you’re filming a show like Thrones, the easiest way to convey to the audience that the show is set hundreds of years ago is to push everyone into a muddy puddle before each take. But although waste disposal in the Middle Ages was poor, personal hygiene was a lot better than most people would assume. In fact, people had access to soap and even rudimentary toothpaste, which they used as often as they could. Back then, having a rotten tooth meant you’d need to have it pulled out without anaesthetic, which we’re guessing was a pretty good motivator to keep them clean.
This means that one of the most realistic aspects of Thrones is that every character, regardless of social standing, has a perfect Hollywood smile. It’s just a shame they didn’t go the distance and make some of them wash their face sometimes.
5. Grey Worm Would Be a Terrible Soldier
If you need a refresher, Grey Worm is the commander of the Unsullied, an elite band of soldiers famed throughout the Thrones universe for being stone-cold badasses who will straight up thank you for cutting their nipple off. Like all Unsullied, Grey Worm is a eunuch. Within the confines of the Thrones universe, not packing genitals supposedly makes the Unsullied better soldiers, because it means they’re immune to “bloodthirsty or sexual urges in the midst of battle,” which keeps them from being distracted from kicking all of the ass all of the time, forever.
Though an army of soldiers who are immune to being kicked in the nuts seems like a good idea, scientists disagree that eunuchs would make effective soldiers. The lack of testosterone production would make them unable to build muscle mass as effectively as an average man, making them weaker by default. A lifetime of ruthless training is nice, but at a certain point you just need some raw strength.
4. Dothraki Swords Just Wouldn’t Work
The Dothraki are the undisputed throat punching, head lopping badasses of the Thrones universe. Which is weird, because according to weapon experts, the chief head lopping weapon of the Dothraki is kind of terrible.
The Dothraki arakh is a curved blade loosely based on the Ancient Egyptian khopesh. Though the weapon did indeed have a place on the battlefield, it was normally found in the hands of foot soldiers who could use it to reach around an opponent’s shield and stab him right in the liver. However, since the Dothraki fight mainly on horseback, the curve in the blade is practically useless. In fact, the curve “goes the wrong way for mounted use,” meaning it’s actually a hindrance. Although, to be fair…
3. The Sword Fighting Isn’t Realistic Either
Sword fighting is one of those things that almost nobody pictures correctly, because it’s spent so long being bastardized by pop culture. The idea of two opponents smashing their swords into each other until one sees his chance to deliver an awesome one liner and a coup de grâce to the balls is laughably out of step with how things actually went down.
For starters, one of the first rules of sword fighting was to avoid clanging your swords together, because all it did was tire you out and dull your weapon, two things you generally want to avoid when someone is trying to stab you to death. Another rule was to not waste time — while parrying and defending were important, the key principle was to end the fight as quickly as possible and always be closing ground with your opponent.
According to John Clements, a leading expert on medieval fighting arts, almost everything we see in the media related to weapon-based combat is wildly unrepresentative of actual history. So we guess Thrones gets a free pass on this one, because at least the fight scenes are entertaining.
2. The Lannisters Aren’t the Richest People in Westoros
One of the defining traits of the Lannisters is that their family is rich as all hell. They own a giant gold mine which is regarded as one of the most productive in the world, which of course means they’re considered to be quite wealthy. However, although gold is certainly a good indicator of wealth, it isn’t the only indicator. Experts aren’t convinced that the Lannisters are as rich as people tend to believe. As nice as gold is, it has no value beyond the fact that it can be traded for other things. Farmland is more valuable in the long run, because it can produce a constantly in demand resource forever, meaning its value is technically infinite. To paraphrase this Slate article, what would you rather own — all of the gold on Earth, or all of the farms?
In terms of actual resources, the richest family in Westoros would be the Tyrells, the guys who own all the farms. This is because, as anyone who’s played Age of Empires II will tell you, having a lot of gold and no other resources just means that your neighbors will charge you through the nose when you eventually go hungry. Speaking of gold…
1. That Gold Crown Scene Is Impossible
Viserys Targaryen, who you most likely remember from the first season as the guy who looks a bad Legolas cosplayer, was the character who demonstrated to viewers that anyone can die at any time when he was killed by having an entire bucket of molten gold poured onto his face.
As metal as that sounds, the actual plausibility of the scene has been called into question by skeptics, because the temperatures required to melt gold would be almost impossible to reach with the tiny campfire shown in the episode. Gold requires a temperature of around 1064 degrees Celsius to melt, and though a campfire can theoretically reach temperatures in excess of this, it’s not a likely scenario.
That’s probably why, when asked about how the gold that killed his character melted in the first place, the actor who played Viserys reasoned that it was probably a kind of special “Dothraki hybrid gold.” Which we can’t really argue with, because like 95% of the people who like the show, we haven’t read the books so we have no idea if it’s true or not.