Miguel Sapochnik, who directed the episode, told Entertainment Weekly that he looked to history for inspiration on how to best have Jon Snow and Ramsay Bolton face off—specifically, the Battle of Cannae between the Romans and the Hannibal-led Carthaginians in 216 BCE.
In that ancient battle, Carthage beat the giant Roman army in a crushing defeat in part by circling their enemies through a double envelopment. Showrunner D.B. Weiss said that aspect was used as a model in the elaborate “Battle of the Bastards” fight sequence, according to IGN.
But what were the Romans actually fighting about back then?
The significant battle during the Second Punic War was fought near the ancient village of Cannae, which was about 300 miles south of Rome. The village controlled the approaches to southern Italy and had a granary key to supplying food to Romans, according to Dickinson College Commentaries.
The Ancient Greek historian Polybius described what happened:
The battle is still credited by many as one of military history’s most significant strategic moments.