Table of contents:
- 1. Eunuchs make excellent fighters
- 2. Any decent castle should be lit with torches
- 3. "Scorpion" shoots like an anti-aircraft gun
- 4. A thousand ships is a necessary minimum for a self-respecting navigator
- 5. A good castle should be gloomy and uncomfortable
- 6. The savage horde is a strong army
- 7. Torture and severed heads are a common sight in the Middle Ages
- 8. The castle needs walls to look epic
2023 Author: Malcolm Clapton | [email protected]. Last modified: 2023-05-22 06:26
Just because there are dragons and White Walkers in fantasy doesn't mean he can be forgiven for everything else.
1. Eunuchs make excellent fighters
In the series, Queen Daenerys Stormborn of House Targaryen has an army of 8,000 Unsullied. These are slave warriors who have been subjected to brutal training and humiliating treatment since childhood and raised incredibly harshly.
But the main distinguishing feature of the Unsullied is that they are all castrated. This is done so that the warriors do not show emotions and are more obedient, and also do not need female attention.
However, in reality there were no examples of armies recruited from eunuchs. Unless they sometimes served as staff commanders.
Castrated people are deprived of a source of testosterone Mooradian AD, Morley JE, Korenman SG. Biological actions of androgens, and this is a hormone that is necessary for the normal development of the skeleton, muscles and the nervous system. In real life, the Flawless would be nervous, have squeaky voices and suffer from excess weight, immune problems, and also quickly overwork. They would have difficulties with discipline and self-control.
The complete and slow intriguer Varys is much better than the Gray Worm at showing who real eunuchs were.
Considering that the Unsullied were subjected to atrocious treatment and various humiliations from childhood, it is surprising how loyal they are to their owners. For example, real Mamelukes and Janissaries were also slaves, but they did not tolerate such bullying.
Moreover, many people even paid money for the right to send a child to the janissary, since the sultans took good care of their warrior slaves and educated them Balfour, Patrick; Kinross, Baron. The Ottoman Centuries: The Rise and Fall of the Turkish Empire. They studied calligraphy, law, theology, literature and languages. And the janissaries who had aged or lost their combat capability were paid pensions.
They clearly had more reason to be loyal to the Sultan than the Impeccable to their masters. It’s amazing why the warrior eunuchs didn’t riot.
2. Any decent castle should be lit with torches
The creators of fantasy films and TV series absolutely love torches. In any castle - no matter whether in a tower or a dungeon - they burn at every turn. Torches stick out in stands on the walls, the heroes carry torches in their hands.
In the real Middle Ages, torches were not very often used to illuminate houses. There are two reasons. First, they do not burn for long, only about an hour. And secondly, there is too much smoke from them, making it difficult to breathe.
This is a very wasteful and inconvenient light source.
Instead of torches, lanterns were used in which reeds soaked in fat burned, oil lamps, torches or tallow candles (the latter, however, were dear and accessible only to the rich). Metal or clay lamps are much more durable than torches and pose less fire hazard. They were used by Europeans in the Middle Ages, and even earlier by the Egyptians and Romans.
Torches were burned en masse only during processions at Catholic services. Therefore, the characters of "Game of Thrones", grabbing the torch every time they descend into the dark basement, look somewhat ridiculous.
3. "Scorpion" shoots like an anti-aircraft gun
Remember how Euron Greyjoy famously shot down the dragon Rhaegal in the final season of the series? Daenerys calmly flew on Drogon, Reagal hovered nearby, and then an unexpected arrow from the "Scorpion" knocked out the unfortunate reptile. The dragon queen, frozen in horror and surprise, watched her pierced pet fall into the sea when the huge fleet of Euron suddenly floated out from behind the rocks.
Only the real arrows were much less impressive.
They threw their shells about 200 meters, which is not bad when trying to breach the line of advancing infantry with shields, but clearly not enough for knocking down dragons.
Stone-throwing ballistae also fired at about 300 meters and were not very accurate without prolonged zeroing. But the siege crossbows beat further, but for sinking ships, as Euron did, their power was clearly not enough. And it took a long time to reload them, since pulling the string is harder than the creators of the series imagine.
It took from 15 minutes to an hour to prepare a shot from a typical ballista or catapult, plus the bowstring had to be changed approximately every 10-15 shots.
In general, neither Euron nor Bronn with their "Scorpions" would do the dragon any harm. And the Bard from the movie "The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies" chances against Smaug were more than dubious.
4. A thousand ships is a necessary minimum for a self-respecting navigator
By the way, since we remembered about the dragon fighter Euron Greyjoy, it would be useful to mention his fleet. In the series, when the hero is elected king at the veche, he orders the first order to cut down all the trees on the Iron Islands and build a thousand ships. It is on them that he attacks the ships of Yara and Daenerys and defends King's Landing.
A thousand ships sounds great. But there is one small problem.
The Vikings, who served as the prototype of the Ironborn, took an average of 300 oak trunks to create a 30-meter long drakkar, not counting 7,000 iron nails and rivets, 600 liters of resin and 2 kilometers of ropes. And then these are the minimum numbers, since Euron's ships with double decks look larger than drakkars.
Martin has repeatedly mentioned in books that the iron-born are not robbing because of a good life, because in their homeland there is stony soil on which nothing useful grows. Where did they get 3,000,000 trees there? In the north of Europe, where the Vikings lived, there was complete order with the forests, but the iron-born obviously have a certain shortage of wood. By the way, Euron himself admits this.
You don't care about the Iron Islands. There is nothing there but stones, bird shit and a bunch of very ugly people.
Euron Greyjoy "Game of Thrones"
And yes, a thousand ships is somehow too much for a medieval lord who is only called a king. For example, the Spanish invincible armada numbered about 130 ships, and the British fleet that fought with it numbered 227 ships.
In the books, by the way, the Iron Fleet, commanded by Euron's brother Victarion Greyjoy, consisted of only 99 ships. And many of them were captured merchant ships converted for battle.
5. A good castle should be gloomy and uncomfortable
See the castles of the Seven Kingdoms Winterfell Starks, Lannister's Casterly Cliff, Targaryen Dragonstone - all these are gloomy and harsh structures that do not dispose to settle in them for a long time. More or less bright and pleasant can only be called the Red Castle in the Royal Harbor and the Martell residence in Dorn.
But the real Middle Ages were not at all as dull and gray as its counterpart in the supposedly realistic dark fantasy. People then, as now, sought to decorate their homes and make them more comfortable.
Medieval lords preferred bright colors and varied patterns. The mishmash of gray and black in the houses of the Starks, Targaryens, Boltons and Freys, they would probably find gloomy and depressing.
The walls of rooms in real medieval castles were covered with murals, tapestries, and sometimes fabric wallpaper. The walls and ceilings were whitewashed with lime, because the whiter the room was, the better it was illuminated by natural light from the window. Electricity was tense then, so we had to go for such tricks.
Compare the interior of Winterfell with Edward I's chambers in the Tower of London, St Thomas.
This is the bedroom of a little girl Arya Stark from Winterfell. Shot from the series "Game of Thrones"
This is the bedroom of a tough man who had his own kingdom. The most accurately reconstructed chambers of Edward I the Long-Legs in the Tower, the Tower of St. Thomas above the Gate of the Traitors. Image: Wikimedia Commons / Bernard Gagnon
In fact, in the series, castles are shown gray and uncomfortable because the viewer expects to see them like that. In real fortresses, abandoned by people, over the centuries, tapestries and wallpapers have decayed, paintings on the walls have faded, and plaster has crumbled.
Therefore, if you go on an excursion to the unrestored fort, you will see the rooms in it just so gloomy, dark and uninhabited. But this does not mean that they looked like that when people lived in them.
6. The savage horde is a strong army
The Dothraki, nomadic warriors from the East, are not the most pleasant personalities. They have no laws and no social organization, submitting only to the strong. They have no writing, no crafts, no agriculture (except for horse breeding). They despise science and get everything they need by robbery. They do not have such feelings as gratitude and appreciation, so there is not even the word "thank you" in their language.
In the series, as in the books, the Dothraki are considered incredibly strong warriors who are capable of conquering the Seven Kingdoms. It is in order to get their help that Viserys makes an alliance with Drogo and marries his sister Daenerys to him. However, if such a people existed in our world, it is unlikely that they could enslave anyone. The Dothraki are strong against the peaceful sheep people, but they would be in trouble when faced with a real army.
The cavalry passes through the infantry like piss through the snow.
Tormund the Giant Death "Game of Thrones"
The Dothraki do not wear armor, considering it a garment for cowards, and therefore are excellent targets for bows and spears of the enemy. They have discipline problems and lack of a military organization.
Their horde has no commanders, with the exception of the khal and a few of his blood horsemen, but such a command is clearly not enough to effectively manage tens of thousands of riders. The Dothraki often quarrel among themselves and do not have laws limiting murder: they are bored without bloodshed.
But the main problem is their military tactics. In all episodes of the series, they demonstrated the same thing: they attacked the enemy on horseback in a crowd and fought hand-to-hand with him, trying to crush them with numbers.
This move would not help against pike-bristling infantry. The pikemen fought quite effectively against the horsemen. It was they, and not firearms, as many believe, who put an end to the era of equestrian knights. And if the infantry put slingshots in front of their formation and longbow arrows join the battle, the chances of victory for the Dothraki will fall even lower.
The cavalry kills the infantry. Shot from the series "Game of Thrones"
The infantry is cracking down on the cavalry. Batalla de Rocroi (1643), Augusto Ferrer-Dalmau. Image: Wikimedia Commons / Soerfm
Daenerys should have left the horsemen in Essos and fought using dragons alone: the costs are less, the benefits are more. By the way, George Martin clearly heard something about the capabilities of the infantry. He mentions that 3,000 Unsullied once stopped 20,000 riders in a tough fight.
And the Dothraki have nothing to do with the Mongols who have conquered half of the world, except for a nomadic way of life. After all, the latter had excellent organization, training and discipline. Their army was divided by S. E. Malov. Monuments of ancient Turkic writing in Mongolia and Kyrgyzstan into arbans (tens), jaguns (hundreds), mingans (thousands) and tumens (ten thousand) with their commanders and strict subordination.
It would not have occurred to them to launch suicidal attacks like the Dothraki do.
Instead, the Mongols fired bows at the enemy for hours, exhausting him, and actively maneuvering.
The Mongols also had military scouts and siege weapons. Army commands were given with the help of lanterns and flags. Unlike the half-naked herdsmen from Game of Thrones, they had armor, logistics, crafts, legislation, writing, currency, and even mail.
It is unlikely that the Dothraki would have created something even remotely reminiscent of the Mongol Empire. So it would be better for the savages to continue to stay in the Sea of Grass and plunder the sheep.
7. Torture and severed heads are a common sight in the Middle Ages
Since the "Game of Thrones" and other works in the genre of "dark" fantasy are full of bloody and violent scenes, many believe that in the real Middle Ages torture and execution were used for any reason. Any crime - from bickering with the royal guards to stealing a chicken - was allegedly punishable by death or injury. Yes, such that Ramsay Bolton himself would not feel well.
But in fact, the death penalty in city squares was not that widespread in those days. She was sentenced only for the most serious crimes: murder, high treason or arson.
The most common form of the death penalty was the banal hanging.
The reason is simple: it's cheap. Burning at the stake was a rarity until the 15th century - this was how they dealt mainly with heretics.
Minor offenses were usually sentenced to public humiliation at the pillory or a monetary fine. Fines and confiscations were perhaps the most frequent punishment. A repeat offender who did not understand from the first time that violation of the law has consequences could be expelled from the community.
In Game of Thrones, the courts are handled by the lords and sometimes the king himself, but in the present Middle Ages there were judges for these purposes, so that noble persons would not bother once again. Law and jurisprudence were important disciplines in the universities of that time.
Decapitation was mainly applied to noble persons, which is rightly reflected in the series. But the executioners did not wear black masks like Ilene Payne, and neither did the stereotypical red hoods. If you look at medieval images of executioners, you will notice that they did not hide their faces.
And, by the way, it was not always possible to chop off a person's head even with a large sword the first time. If the executioner failed to kill the condemned with three blows, the victim was left to bleed to death. Consider Eddard Stark lucky.
8. The castle needs walls to look epic
In Game of Thrones, locks are mostly useless. They are needed as decorations so that the heroes, walking along the towers, galleries and walls, can speculate about the fate of the Seven Kingdoms. And when the time comes to fight, the characters will come out from behind the gates and fight the enemy in an open field. The castle will stand modestly in the background.
Real medieval castles, although they did not look as impressive as the buildings in the series, were much more useful. The buildings surrounded by walls with loopholes were practically inaccessible until the invention of gunpowder artillery. Even a small garrison could repel attacks for months, enough supplies. It is not surprising that most of the castles of the Middle Ages were taken not by head-on assault, but by starvation.
In Game of Thrones, locks are not used for their intended purpose.
John and Daenerys, in battle with the King of the Night, deployed troops in an open field instead of placing them on the walls of Winterfell. In the Battle of the Bastards, Ramsay Bolton made exactly the same mistake by not taking advantage of the castle's fortifications. And the Unsullied took Casterly Cliff by simply running up to the walls and climbing the ladders. No rain of arrows, no boiling resin and stones, not to mention the need to force the ditches.
If fortresses were so easy to take, would medieval masons spend years and decades building them?