George RR Martin, author of the series of novels adapted for the screen for the American television network HBO since 2011, admits that the history of the Roman Empire was one of his sources of inspiration.
So, he said, it is the 117 kilometer long wall that the Emperor Hadrian had built in the north of Englandin the 120s AD, which gave him the idea for the Wall.
Martin recounts his visit to the site one autumn evening: the sun was setting and it was starting to get cold. After the departure of the last tourist coaches, the novelist feels the loneliness and the change of scenery of the Roman legionnaires posted there to guard it 2,000 years ago.
Obviously, the author’s imagination has transfigured the historic wall, which becomes the immense separation of ice built in the saga: from the top of its 200 meters, Martin’s Wall far outweighs the fortification of Hadrian. Its function nevertheless remains the same as in antiquity: to protect the civilized world from a formidable external threat.
It is also indirectly that he was able to draw inspiration from Imperial Rome, through the series I, Emperor Claudius (I, ClaudiusBBC, 1976) and Rome (2005-2007). The latter, produced for HBO as Game Of Thronesalready staged violence and cruelty intimately linked to the political universeto the personal ambitions of the leaders and their thirst for domination.
Jon Snow and Julius Caesar
In 60 BC, three powerful men form a secret alliance to share the Roman Empire: the wealthy Crasus, Pumped, crowned with military glory, and the very ambitious Julius Caesar, who dreams of transforming the Republic into a monarchy. The three members of this triumvirate will each experience a violent and atrocious death.
Crassus, who thought he could measure himself against the Parthians, enemy people of the Roman Empire in the East, is captured after his defeat at the battle of Carrhes in 53 BC. According to a tradition reported by Dio Cassius (roman history, 40, 27), his conqueror would have executed him by burning him with molten gold. Viserys Targaryen will suffer a similar punishment.
In 48 BC, Pompey died beheaded, as Eddard Stark.
Four years later, Julius Caesar was stabbed twenty times by a group of traitors including Brutus, his adopted son. “You too my son” would have been Caesar’s last words. In the same way, Jon Snow will be the victim of a conspiracy hatched by his entourage, the young Olly replaying the role of Brutus by delivering the coup de grace.
After his death, Julius Caesar, idol of the plebs, was deified and honored by the erection of a temple dedicated to him in the Roman Forum.
Jon Snow, he is resurrected, this time following the model of Jesus, another historical figure of the Roman era. By his physical appearance, Jon Snow is clearly part of the tradition of Christian iconography.
Its politico-military dimension nevertheless remains Caesarist: Snow has the charisma and the virtues of the ideal leader, who puts himself at the head and at the service of his people.
Caligula and Joffrey Baratheon
Also found in Game Of Thrones several adaptations of political figures from imperial Rome. Unlike Julius Caesar, a very positive figure, caligulathird Roman emperor, represents the delirious Caesar.
Suetonius, author of Lives of the twelve Caesars, depicts a tyrant as violent as he is unpredictable. Caligula has three major characteristics: he is young, cruel and crazy. The resemblance to Joffrey Baratheon is striking.
It is also physical: actor Jack Gleeson has his hair done in the same way as the emperor in his official portraits.
In addition, Caligula had already been played on screen by Malcolm McDowell in 1979, in caligula by Tinto Brass. This film, which renewed the peplum by its both erotic and cruel dimension, announces the series Rome and Game Of Thrones produced by HBO.
Claudius, uncle of Caligula, was despised in his youth because of his physical handicaps. He limped and stuttered; they took him for an idiot. His own mother called him an unfinished man by nature. However, he proved to be of great political finesse, like Tyrion Lannister.
Caligula-Joffrey and Claude-Tyrion, the nephew and the uncle, form a contradictory binomial: on the one hand the cruel young sovereign, on the other the intelligent man, unfairly denigrated because of his physique. Do not be fooled by appearances.
Boudicca and Daenerys
Boudicca or Boadicea (circa 30-61 AD) was a queen of the Icenians, a Celtic people of ancient Britain, in present-day Norfolk.
Since the Roman conquest and the transformation of the south of the island into a province of the Empire, the local peoples, dominated, were treated as slaves by the Roman colonists. Boudicca herself had been beaten and her two daughters raped by legionnaires.
In 61 AD, she managed to gather a powerful army and raises the humiliated populations against their foreign masters.
The ancient historian Dio Cassius evokes the queen in her Roman history (62, 2): “She let her thick blond hair fall down to her lower back.” A warrior, she was armed with a spear and addressed her troops to exalt them in battle.
The figure of Boudicca became very popular in England from the 19th century.e century: a statue representing her standing on her chariot was erected in London, near Westminster Bridge.
Statue of Bouddica in London | A. Brady via Wikimedia Commons
The ancient queen is the heroine of novels and films, including Legions: Warriors of Rome (2003). You can also buy some figurines which represent it in a more or less fantasized way. Any resemblance to Daenerys…