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Game Of Thrones is a show about horrible things happening to good people (and sometimes also their dogs). But here's the thing: Even at its throat-gushing, skin-flaying, so-much-raping worst, Game Of Thrones can't hold a candle to the true events it borrows from. Because what's actually dark and full of terrors is the average history book. As evidenced by ...

5
The Red Wedding Really Happened (Twice)

HBO

This whole article is going to be full of spoilers for both Game Of Thrones and people who haven't yet taken History 101. The third season climaxes with the infamous Red Wedding (aka HBO's Sudden Casting Budget Reduction): Robb and Catelyn Stark journey to the Twins for the wedding of Edmure Tully and Roslin Frey. This marriage is a bit of a sore point for the Freys, as Edmure is a human participation ribbon being awarded to Roslin after Robb reneged on his promise to marry her. As payback for this insult, host Walder Frey violates the sacred tradition of guest right and murders the Starks under his own roof to the catchy tune of "The Rains of Castamere," which can apparently be played on the strings of crossbows.


Not that it would be especially zippy no matter what you played it on.

Two historical events were fodder for the Red Wedding. The first took place in 15th-Century Scotland, when two opposing factions sought to control the not-yet-of-age King James II. In 1440, William Crichton and Alexander Livingston invited the rival Douglas family to Edinburgh Castle for dinner and, as described by author George R. R. Martin, "at the end of the feast, [the hosts] started pounding on a single drum. They brought out a covered plate and put it in front of the Earl [of Douglas] and revealed it was the head of a black boar -- the symbol of death. And as soon as he saw it, he knew what it meant. They dragged them out and put them to death in the courtyard." The incident became known as "The Black Dinner," and while Martin has it mostly right, most historians agree that it was a bull's head, not a boar's. Shh, nobody tell Martin -- we can't risk him disappearing down a Wikipedia hole when he should be writing.

Via Entertainment Weekly
"Shit, it is was a bull. Well, looks like I'll need to rewrite book three."

The second inspiration for the Red Wedding was Scotland's 1692 Glencoe Massacre. Soldiers from Clan Campbell sought shelter from a blizzard, and, honoring the code of hospitality, the MacDonalds took them in. In this case, it was the guests -- not the hosts -- who broke bad. The Campbell soldiers slaughtered the MacDonalds as they slept, killing 38 and forcing the others -- mostly women and children -- out into the blizzard to freeze to death. As Martin put it, "No matter how much I make up, there's stuff in history that's just as bad, or worse."

Yeah, seriously. Stupid history keeps killing off our favorite characters.

4
At Least The Mountain Kept It Above The Belt

HBO

In the show's fourth season, Tyrion Lannister stands accused of poisoning his nephew, King Joffrey -- an act which inexplicably has him facing the death penalty rather than being awarded a largish cake. Realizing that he won't get a fair shake in court, Tyrion demands trial by combat and enlists Oberyn Martell (the "Red Viper" of Dorne) to act as his champion against Gregor Clegane (the "Mountain"). In the ensuing one-on-one battle, Oberyn easily brings Clegane down and begins taunting him while standing, in retrospect, way too close. In what is objectively the grossest scene in Game Of Thrones, the only-mostly-dead Mountain rallies his strength to grab the Viper's foot, topple him to the ground, punch his teeth out, and then use his head like a watermelon in a Gallagher routine.

HBO
Somehow, the lesson "Never underestimate an eight-foot-tall man" didn't make it into knight school.

But hey, at least the Mountain left Oberyn's balls alone. That's more than can be said for poor Guy of Steenvoorde, who died during a similar trial by combat in Belgium way back in the year of our lord 1127. Guy stood accused of being one of the conspirators in the murder of Charles, Count of Flanders. Guy submitted to single combat against Herman the Iron -- which, incidentally, is what we just renamed our cat. Much like Oberyn, the fight began in Guy's favor. Being equally matched swordsmen, the two resorted to a full-on armored WWE grudge match which saw Guy sitting atop Herman, bashing his face in with his iron gauntlets. Oh, but Herman thrived on face punches: He reached under Guy's mail coat, locked onto his balls, and with his free hand, threw Guy across the arena, "breaking open all the lower parts of his body." The newly neutered Guy screeched that "he was defeated and was going to die," which may very well go down as history's most monumental understatement.

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3
A Crucifixion Every Mile? History Can Top That!

HBO

One of the most gut-wrenching scenes in Game Of Thrones comes when Daenerys and her followers approach the city of Meereen. The Great Masters of the city, having heard that Daenerys freed slaves in Astapor and Yunkai, have decided on a preemptive psychological strike: They've crucified a slave child at every milepost -- all 163 of them -- so Dany would see what she was up against during the long march. Not to be one-upped, history not only did the same thing, but it did it 50 times over.

Fyodor Andreyevich Bronnikov
Turns out the ancient Romans knew how to make a point.

You're no doubt familiar with Spartacus, the Thracian gladiator who famously led an army of freed slaves against the Roman Republic in 71 BC. In case Starz didn't make it clear, that uprising had a spectacularly bad ending. The entire slave army was virtually annihilated, and Spartacus himself went missing, presumed dead. About 6,000 survivors attempted to flee, but were captured by Roman general Marcus Licinius Crassus. Determined that this would be the last such revolt, Crassus had all 6,000 of them crucified along the Appian Way, which went from Rome to Capua. The distance from Rome to Capua was only about 120 miles, so that works out to about 50 crucifixions per goddamned mile. Go ahead and get your hate on good and strong for Crassus, because he makes a second appearance in this article ...

Diagram Lajard/Wikimedia Commons
Who could've guessed that a man willing to turn half the population of Branson, Missouri into signposts would be frowning.

2
People Really Were Executed Via Molten Gold

HBO

After spending most of the first season listening to Viserys constantly bitch about the golden crown that's owed him, Khal Drogo, the world's sexiest caveman, finally hits his limit. Forbidden from shedding blood in the sacred city of Vaes Dothrak, Drogo instead pours molten gold over Viserys' head, thereby giving him the "crown" he so badly wanted. We're not sure which hurt more, the irony or the molten metal bowl cut.

On second thought, it was probably the metal.

HBO
"AAAHHHHH! THE POETIC JUSTICE!"

As for reality: In 88 BC, Roman consul Manius Aquillius kicked off the First Mithridatic War by advising the king of Bithynia that the kingdom of Pontus was practically aching for some deep plundering. The king of Pontus, Mithridates, responded by not only turning back the resulting invasion, but also taking Bithynia and Cappadocia, to boot.

Aquillius tried to flee, but was captured and handed over to Mithridates, who had the greedy bastard executed by pouring molten gold straight down his throat. And this wasn't a singular incident -- other wealthy Romans rumored to have been executed in this manner are general Marcus Licinius Crassus and Emperor Valerian the Elder.

Diagram Lajard/Wikimedia Commons
See, told you he'd be back.

So how bad is it to die that way? Luckily, morbid scientists who don't get invited to a lot of parties conducted a study to see exactly what happens when one is force-fed molten gold. They found out something incredible: It's exactly as awful as it sounds! The metal hardens within seconds, blocking your windpipe, while steam pressure-cooks your insides. On the bright side, you're getting one of the most expensive last meals in history.

Pierre Cousteau
It contains no vitamins and exactly one mineral.

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1
Jaime's Golden Hand Could Have Been Way Cooler

HBO

In the third season, Jaime Lannister runs afoul of a mercenary named Locke, who lops off the renowned warrior's sword hand. Luckily, Jaime's family is as rich as they are impractical, and so he's soon outfitted with a shiny gold-plated replacement. Though he didn't end up with a golden Cersei-diddler, a German knight of the late Middle Ages shared a similar fate. In 1504, Gotz von Berlichingen got his sword hand blown clean off by cannon fire during the Siege of Landshut. Like Jaime, Gotz got himself a replacement. Unlike Jaime, his was made of iron and looked like part of a steampunk Ash Williams cosplay.

Via Wikimedia Commons

Chris L Lesley
It could be that Martin didn't want two characters with the same gimmick.

While Jaime's hand is a decorative piece, only good for the occasional gilded pimp slap, Gotz's was a surprisingly advanced feat of engineering. It featured articulated fingers controlled by internal gears, allowing Gotz to do things like wield a sword, write with a quill pen, and maybe even slap the ol' salami (with the aid of a sufficiently thick codpiece).

Giovanni Battista Moroni
Luckily, a piece of clothing the 1500s knew how to fucking deliver.

That's right: Gotz of the Iron Hand was the world's first (but hopefully not last) Cyborg Knight. With his iron fist, he spent the next 40 years pillaging merchants, kidnapping nobles for ransom, and generally ruling with an ... uh ...

Ruling with ... well, shoot. If only there was an expression that fit this scenario.

For more ways history is much more frightening than anything fictional, check out 6 Horrifying Facts That Get Left Out Of History and 6 True Stories From History Creepier Than Any Horror Movie.

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