What real historical events inspired Game of Thrones?

Warning: This answer contains Game of Thrones spoilers.

While Game of Thrones isn't exactly a historical drama--it features dragons, zombies, mages, and various other supernatural elements--many of its story points were inspired by historical events. Like many fantasy novelists, writer George R.R. Martin uses real-life parallels to give his stories some extra weight, and judging by Game of Thrones' ratings and book sales, it's an effective technique.

One of the most infamous moments from the show is the Red Wedding, in which Rob and Catelyn Stark are brutally murdered by a treacherous lord (hey, we warned you about the spoilers). The Starks are under the misguided impression that they're safe from an ambush because they've been given gifts of hospitality; unfortunately for them (and to the great dismay of Game of Thrones fans who didn't bother reading the books), they're wrong.

It makes for great drama, and it was likely inspired a distinct event from Scottish history: the Black Dinner.

The Black Dinner (which you'll notice sounds an awful lot like the Red Wedding) occurred around 1440. 10-year-old King James II of Scotland invited 16-year-old William Douglas to Edinburgh Castle. William was the Earl of powerful Douglas clan, which was becoming a threat to James' kingdom.

To the young king and his advisors, that wasn't acceptable. James' Lord Chancellor, Sir William Crichton, arranged for a black bull's head to be brought into the hall and dropped on the table as a symbol of death. William Douglas and his brother were beheaded after a mock trial. Substitute some chamber music for the bull's head, and that's basically exactly what happened to Rob Stark.

For the show's Battle of Blackwater, Martin likely took inspiration from the real-life siege of Constantinople in 718 A.D. Here's a very basic overview: Byzantine defenders were facing heavy attacks from Arab invaders, so they used a dangerous secret weapon to break the siege. That weapon was Greek fire, an explosive that seemed to defy the laws of physics by burning on water.

In Game of Thrones, Tyrion Lannister defends his bay by using wildfire, a magical substance with similar properties. He also uses a large chain to stop ships from making their way into the bay, and--you guessed it--that's exactly what the Byzantine defenders did.

Those two events are probably the best examples of Game of Thrones drawing inspiration from real history. Some critics have also noted that the overarching plot of Game of Thrones roughly mirrors the War of Roses, and various characters seem similar to major figures from that conflict.

However, we should note that Martin's plot points don't always have real-life counterparts, and he's adamant that he created most of the world of Westeros from his own imagination.