It's no secret that George R.R. Martin's fantasy epic borrows heavily from European history. I mean, if you make Ireland a little bigger, flip it around, and stick it to the bottom of England... you've got a pretty spot on map of Westeros. Maester Martin isn't hiding this, either: he's said that "fantasy and historical novels are twins," in his opinion. He believes that all fantasy is historical fantasy, to some extent, and most of the major arcs in A Song of Ice and Fire are pulled straight from English history. Martin just cranks them up to eleven and adds dragons. So here are just a few of the bloody, true stories from history that went into the making of the Game of Thrones books.
Much like in real life, Martin's world is full of complex politics and family drama, against a backdrop of ancient myth and legend. The only real difference is that in his world, all those ancient myths about fair folk and fire-breathing lizards turn out to be true (and also the seasons are weird and some people have purple eyes). But if you strip away all of the ice zombies, and the off-brand hobbits and the baby dragons and the prophecies and blood magic, you get a pretty clear mash-up of some pretty wild history: