Game of Thrones: What Real Life Event Inspired the Battle of the Bastards

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The Battle of the Bastards is the Game of Thrones episode where Jon Snow (Kit Harrington) and Sansa Stark (Sophie Turner) retake Winterfell from Ramsay Bolton (Iwan Rheon) and restore House Stark as the ruling house of the North. It’s a big moment for Jon, and a very difficult one, after Ramsay taunts him with a bad card and then turns down Jon’s request for single combat.

Not enough men have joined Jon’s cause, and the fate of the North rests on the shoulders of this outnumbered army. Jon takes Ramsay’s bait (with Rickon meeting the tragic end of him), then stoically confronts Bolton’s army, but it soon turns to chaos, blood and terror. The Boltons surround their enemies and push them back, leading to an ever-increasing pile of bodies. It turns out that Sapochnik turned to the history books for this moment.

When Miguel Sapochnik directed the most awarded Game of Thrones episode, Season 6 Episode 9, “The Battle of the Bastards,” he was inspired by a real-life battle between the Romans and the Carthaginians led by Hannibal.

The award-winning fantasy drama based on the books by George RR Martin ran for eight seasons on HBO and ended with a highly controversial season, with many viewers calling the eighth season of Game of Thrones a disappointment. However, the complex character arcs and exceptional battle scenes have been consistent throughout the entire series, with the Battle of the Bastards perhaps marking the pinnacle.

The real-life inspiration for the Battle of the Bastards was the Battle of Cannae between the Romans and the Carthaginians, led by Hannibal, in 216 BC. C., a key battle during the Second Punic War. Carthage crushed the much larger Roman army, while Hannibal’s men surrounded their enemies via double encirclement, just like Ramsay does in the Game of Thrones battle.

There’s another way that Sapochnik’s Battle of the Bastards is historically accurate: it brings the battle down to Jon’s level, showing the confusion, pain, and fear the average soldier feels during that moment. Jon is ready to take on Ramsay’s infantry, but when he catches up with him, it all happens much faster than he can comprehend; he can’t tell who is in which army and bodies are flying everywhere.