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Funny History

Funny History
 
 
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1. Heathens who insulted the Ark of the Covenant were doomed to be inflicted with a horrible case of hemorrhoids from God himself. The Bible is super specific on this: "He smote the men of the city, both small and great, and they had emerods in their secret parts.” People actually died.

2. At one time iron was considered more valuable than gold. Iron daggers were among the Crown Jewels buried with King Tut. The ancient Egyptians called it "black gold from heaven” in reference to its meteoric origins.
3. The Etruscans wrote from left to right, then right to left for the second line, left to right for the third line, right to left for the fourth line and so on. If that’s not weird enough, the "backward” lines were literally written in reverse with letters appearing as if it were reflected in a mirror.
4. Stephen VI may well have been the craziest Pope ever – in January 897 he ordered the decomposing body of Pope Formosus to be dug up, dressed in his Papal finery and put on trial for perjury and other crimes. The Formosus was found guilty, so his body was stripped of clothes, his three blessing fingers were cut off, his body was thrown in a grave in a cemetery for transients, then it was dug up and tossed in the Tiber River.
5. White bread was the most desirable of medieval breads because it was the most finely ground and the least likely to have dirt and other stuff in it.
6. On July 5, 1054, people of the world got to witness something people rarely do: the death of a star. The explosion from the star, which had burned up its energy, collapsed in on itself and finally burst from the pressure, was so bright it could be seen all over the world. It was also bright enough to be seen with the naked eye in the daytime for as much as a month after it was first observed and for up to two years at night. The event shows up in Chinese, Arab, Japanese, and Anasazi Indian records (they were in New Mexico and Arizona). It may also have been in Irish records, but the reference is pretty vague. More than 600 years later, scientists could still study the star’s remnants with their newly-invented telescopes – there was still a cloudy mass of gas and dust lurking around. It was eventually named the Crab nebula.
7. "The Ballet of the Chestnuts” was thrown by the son of Pope Alexander VI in 1501. It was attended by 50 prostitutes and got its name from the after-dinner activities. The prostitutes were stripped naked and then forced to crawl around on the floor to pick up chestnuts iN 1635,(a thin excuse to get them to crawl around on all fours). An orgy-game ensued in which the "players” (the rich male attendees) had their orgasms tallied by a servant, each in pursuit of the highest score.
8. In 1562, Queen Elizabeth I coated her face with vinegar and white lead to cover up her smallpox scars. She also stuffed her cheeks with rags to combat the facial wasting associated with age and disease.
9. In 1635 at the height of the tulip craze in Holland, one single bulb was sold for a bed, four oxen, 12 sheep, four pigs, four tons of wheat, eight tons of rye, two tons of butter, a silver drinking cup, a suit of clothes, two barrels of wine, four tons of beer and one thousand pounds of cheese. ONE BULB.
10. Pirates had insurance! Injured men who sailed under Captain Henry Morgan would receive 1,500 pieces of eight or 15 slaves for the loss of both legs, 1,800 pieces of eight or 18 slaves for the loss of both hands, 600 pieces of eight or six slaves for the loss of one arm or leg, and 100 pieces of eight or one slave for the loss of a finger or an eye. For the pain of a body wound that needed the insertion of a pipe, compensation was 500 pieces of eight or five slaves. For a permanently stiff arm, leg or finger, the compensation was the same as for its actual loss.
11. Was Napoleon’s penis really removed and preserved in a jar? Probably. According to Napoleon’s servant Ali, he and a priest named Vignali removed unspecified pieces of Napoleon’s body during his autopsy in 1821. Later Vignali’s descendants sold his various Napoleon souvenirs, including the Little Corporal’s little corporal, described as "one inch long and resembling a grape.” In 1977, a Columbia University urologist bought it for $3,000.
12. The Harappan civilization blossomed around 2600 BCE along the Indus River in present-day Pakistan and India. But it’s very mysterious. To this day, no one has deciphered their written language, which had about 400 characters that appeared on large public sign boards and on clay and bronze tablets. They may have worshipped bulls, they buried their dead with their heads pointing north and its major city was rebuilt six or seven times after being destroyed by floods.
13. The earliest evidence of wine-making comes from the Zagros Mountains of northern Iran, where archaeologists excavated a kitchen with six clay jars that were being used to make some sort of wine between 5400 and 5000 BCE. One 2.5-gallon jar contained a yellow residue they believe is the remains of white wine made from green grapes.
14. The Chinese creation myth says that the formless chaos of the universe slowly congealed into a black egg containing a human-like creature, Pangu, generally pictured with horns and fur (resembling the Greek God Pan). When Pangu hatched, he separated the two halves of the egg with a giant axe, creating earth and heaven, which correspond to the two principal energies, yin and yang. When Pangu died, his breath became the sky, his eyes the sun and moon, his blood the rivers and his body the land itself.
15. Born around 3300 BCE and preserved in an Alpine glacier, Oetzi looked like just another poor bastard to modern observers. The body, discovered by hikers in 1991, was first thought to be a recent murder victim by Austrian authorities; actually he was murdered ages ago. The Austrians damaged Oetzi as they pried him out of the ice with a jackhammer, letter passersby carry off various objects as souvenirs. Later, crowds touched the mummified body at the inquest, damaging it permanently with bacteria. The icing on the wake? It turns out the body was actually discovered on Italian soil, precipitating a not-so-minor diplomatic dispute. Oetzi is now on display at the South Tyrol Museum of Archaeology in Bolzano, Italy.
16. A gladiator invented cold cream. Galen of Pergamum started practice at gladiator school in what is now Bergama, Turkey. To soothe tired sword arms, he mixed olive oil, beeswax, and rose petals. The resulting glop’s water content evaporated on the skin, leaving a cool, soothing feeling. Galen called it ceratum humidum. We call it cold cream.
17. According to Jewish historians, a fanatical group of German peasants decided in 1096 that a goose had been "blessed by God”. They followed it around for a while, and along the way attacked and killed any Jews they encountered.
18. There are a bunch of theories on how cards spread from China, but they likely came from the Islamic dynasty of the Mamelukes of Egypt in the 1370s. Early decks were hand-painted and very expensive. But advances in woodcut techniques allowed mass production in the 14th century. While the Mamelukes’ 52 card deck had suits of swords, polo sticks, cups and coins, it was the French who gave us the modern quartet of hearts, spades, diamonds and clubs in the 15th century. Americans added the joker to the deck in the 18th century.
19. Queen Elizabeth outlawed potatoes after her cooks prepared the vegetables wrong. THey cooked the eyes of the potato instead of the actual veggie, and it made the whole royal family sick. She banned them for 100 years as retaliation, but as they grew more popular in Spain, France and Italy, the potato made its way back into the hearts of the Brits.
20. When Zhang He’s Chinese fleet visited Thailand in the mid-15th century, it was common for men of the Siamese upper classes to insert small silver beads into their scrotums between the skin and the testes. When done correctly, it beads produced a jingling sound when the men walked.
21. Historians thing $1-$2 billion in pirate treasure may still be buried on Cocos Island, a pirate hideout located 300 miles south of Costa Rica in the Pacific Ocean.
22. In 1848 a rival of Brigham Young named James Strang led several thousand Mormon dissenters to Beaver Island in Lake Michigan where he declared himself King in 1850. After being elected to the Michigan legislature in 1853, Strang used his office to annex neighboring island into Manitou County, a sort of Mormon island empire. But his tactics alienated his followers: in 1856, two disgruntled followers assassinated him. His sect still has several hundred adherents, mostly in the midwest.
23. The Palace of Versailles used to be a little hunting lodge, but then Louis XVI transformed it into 550,000 sq. feet, 700 rooms, 2,000 windows, 1,250 fireplaces, 6,000 paintings, 2,100 sculptures, 50 fountains, 12 miles of roads, 20 miles of trellises – all sitting on about 2,000 acres.
24. On December 2, 1942, on a racquet court under a football stadium at the University of Chicago, scientists fired up the world’s first artificial nuclear reactor for 33 minutes. The lead scientist, Enrico Fermi, had fled Italy because his wife was Jewish.
25. When towns were forced to host the Persian army, they had to provide dinner for everyone. King Xerxes dined with about 15,000 soldiers (give or take) and an entourage. Feeding everyone cost about $100 million in today’s money. It included the silver and gold cups and bowls made just for the occasion, plus a large pavilion for the king to lounge around on. When the Persians moved on the next day, they took ALL of that gold and silver tableware with them.
26. At the Akitu festival marking the New Year, the kings of Babylon had a special responsibility: getting slapped so hard their mommas felt it. According to protocol, the king would enter the temple of Marduk, Babylon’s chief god, and tell the god that he hadn’t done anything wrong in the last year (like slap any of his subjects). Then the high priest slapped the king but good; if the king teared up, he was telling the truth, and Marduk let him rule for another year.
27. The first Egyptian god of death was Anubis, depicted with a human body and the head of a jackal. He was the chief god of funerals and would weigh the hearts of the dead to determine if they had behaved justly while alive.
28. After a rival god killed Osiris (god of death #2) and chopped him into pieces, Osiris’ sister/wife reassembled him, minus the penis. She had it replaced with a wooden one. The Egyptians then worshipped Osiris, wooden package and all.
29. What did ancient people really eat? Wheat and barley turned into porridge, bread similar to modern-day pita bread, beer, butter, beets, cucumbers, sweet onions, radishes, garlic, turnips, chickpeas, beans, leeks, lentils, lettuce, figs, dates, pomegranates, grapes and watermelon. The rich ate beef, mutton, antelope, gazelle, ibex and hyena (NOT pork). The poor ate duck, goose, heron, quail, pelican, crane and LOTS of fish, because it was plentiful and cheap.
30. To this day, no one has deciphered the Harappan written language, which had about 400 characters that appeared on large public "sign boards”.
31. In China, priests used "oracle bones” bearing inscriptions to learn the will of the spirits. They would write a question on a bone, then heat the bones in a fire until they cracked, providing a "yes” or "no” answer (the world’s first Magic 8 Ball??). The inscriptions on the oracle bones are the first evidence of written language in China.
32. About 99 million years ago, Australia began drifting away from supercontinent Gondwanaland (Antarctica, India and Africa) and was completely isolated about 39 million years ago.
33. Because Australia’s animals evolved in isolation for millions of years, they evolved some bizarre characteristics. We all know koalas and kangaroos gestate their young in an external pouch. The duckbill platypus is a bird’s bill + a beaver’s body with a sharp spur behind each leg that is tipped with poison. And the kiwi, native to NZ, is a small, flightless bird. Plus, in ancient times, Australia was home to the "megafauna”, HUGE animals related to our rather common ones today. There was a 10-foot-tall kangaroo with vicious claws, a "marsupial lion” and a 6,000 lb "super wombat”. They became extinct around the same time humans showed up in the area – about 50,000 BCE.
34. Because Hitler hated the Russians, he said Aryans must have come from Thule, a mythical island near Iceland. There’s no real way to know what the Aryans looked like since there were no human remains. And they probably weren’t racially superior; they just got around faster because they had horses.
35. In 7000 BCE, a wall of water 10 stories high moving at 450 miles an hour struck the coastlines of Europe, Asia and Africa. The death toll could have been in the millions. Geologists believe the tidal wave was caused by a volcanic eruption of Mount Etna that dumped 6 cubic miles of rock into the sea at more than 200 miles an hour. The force of this impact liquefied the seabed and triggered a giant mudslide. The resulting 130-foot-tall waves reached the farthest parts of the Mediterranean in about 3.5 hours. Archaeologists have found the remains of a fishing village on the eastern shore of the Mediterranean that was abandoned in a hurry – half-gutted fish were buried under a mountain of mud, which preserved them for thousands of years.
36. The earliest evidence of wine-making comes from the Zagros Mountains of northern Iran, where archaeologists excavated a kitchen with six clay jars that were being used to make some sort of a wine between 5400 and 5000 BCE. One 2.5-gallon jar contained a yellow residue they believe is the remains of white wine made from green grapes.
37. The Polynesians regularly traveled back and forth between islands for long-distance trade. To navigate these huge distances, they created detailed maps of twigs, seashells, and stones that showed the positions of islands, currents and stars.
38. George Washington advised farmers to "make the most of the hemp seed and sow it everywhere”. Obviously American farmers are still being locked up for growing the plant!
39. Mummies used to be ground up to "cure” disease. From the 12th to 19th centuries CE, wealthy Europeans paid big bucks for "mummia” to make tea of or eat straight up. Mummy bits were supposed to cure ailments such as epilepsy, paralysis, bruises and migraines.
40. Neolithic shamans used to drill holes the size of half dollars in people’s heads to treat various ailments. It was performed using a sharp rock and no anesthetic. For some disorders including hematomas, relieving the intense pressure probably did feel really good. Some skulls have been found with multiple bore holes, so the procedure was performed many times on the same person.
41. Egyptian pharaohs had no problems marrying and impregnating their sisters and daughters. The daughters weren’t allowed to marry beneath their position, which eliminated almost everyone other than dad. Ramesses II married four of his own daughters and had a child by at least one of them.
42. Around 1550 BCE on a Greek Island called Thera, there was a huge eruption. Thera was blown out of existence by an explosion that threw more than 16 cubic miles of debris into the air, triggering a massive tidal wave at least 120 feet tall and killing hundreds of thousands of people. This catastrophe may be the basis for the legend of Atlantis.
43. Spartan boys entered military school at the age of seven. Their first task was to weave a mat of coarse river reeds that they would sleep on for the rest of their lives. They were forced to run for miles while older boys flogged them. Sometimes they died of exhaustion. At age 20, after 13 years of training, the young men who survived became soldiers. They served in the Spartan army until age 60, living in communal barracks and sharing meals.
44. Bantu-derived languages are incredibly complicated. Like most European languages, each word has a "gender”. But instead of the traditional three (masculine, feminine and neuter), Bantu languages have 10-15. That means 10-15 different rules for modifying a noun depending on its place in a sentence! Nonetheless, English managed to pick up some Bantu words, including banjo, bongos, jumbo, mambo, marimba, safari, samba and zombie.
45. The Queen of Sheba visited Solomon because she heard about his great wisdom and wanted to test it. She gifted him with spices, gems, valuable hardwoods and 4.5 tons of gold. Solomon showered her with a bunch of bling, too, when she converted to Judaism. They ended up getting intimate and had a son, Menelik I, the first emperor of Ethiopia. At least, according to their legend.
46. In Plato’s Dialogues, Socrates talks to his friend about the best way to seduce a "good-looking boy” named Lysis. His friend is head over heels for Lysis and is boring his friends with long poems praising the boy and his ancestors. Socrates tells his friend to drop the flattery, which will swell Lysis’ head, and instead engage him in philosophical dialogue.
47. Qin Shi Huang’s burial included an army of 8,099 life-size terracotta soldiers, horses and chariots to fight for him in the afterlife. The army was considered to be nothing but a legendary story until 1974, when a Chinese farmer digging a well discovered it. The soldiers range in height from 5’8″ to 6’2″. Every face was sculpted individually, possibly using real soldiers as models. The clay soldiers were probably substitutes for human sacrifices common during earlier periods.
48. Indian surgeons invented plastic surgery around 600 BCE, beginning with the reconstruction of noses, which were cut off as a punishment for adultery. Sushruta was "the father of plastic surgery” and invested a nose-reconstruction technique that included slicing off a patch of skin from the cheek and grafting it to the nose, then creating nostrils with two small pipes. Another Indian technique involved taking skin from the butt. The techniques were apparently perfected by the fourth century.
49. Mayan kings pierced their foreskins with a stingray spine. The blood from the wound symbolized procreation. Meanwhile, piercing the ears meant they could hear divine wisdom and piercing the tongue meant they could speak with divine authority.
50. Greek thinker Anaxagoras believed that everything was made up of smaller pieces, which themselves were made up of smaller pieces, and so on, until it got down to infinitesimally small pieces which he called "seeds”. For example, because it helps us grow, food must contain the "Seeds” of skin, bones, hair, and so on.
51. The ancient Celts of Northern England and Scotland liked to fight in nothing but blue war paint. The sight of naked, blue warriors apparently really freaked out the Romans, according to Julius Caesar, who wrote that it made them look "Very dreadful in battle”. They also spiked their hair with lime and clay, which turned it red, and covered themselves with tattoos.
52. The Romans really did make themselves puke so they could eat more. Roman philosopher Seneca wrote, "While we recline at a banquet, one slave wipes up the spittle, as another, beneath the table, collects the leavings of the drunks.” Cicero once attacked Julius Caesar for wanting to vomit after dinner. The notion that Romans had a vomitorium for this purpose is wrong – a vomitorium was actually just a lobby where audiences exited a theater. No puke involved.
53. Roman Emperor Gaius Caesar was nicknamed "Little Boots” because he was brought up in army camps and sometimes dressed up like a mini soldier. The nickname stuck and the world now remembers him by the Latin translation of that nickname: Caligula.
54. Roman husbands kissed their wives on the mouth at the end of the day, but only to see if they had been sitting around drinking wine all day.
55. Attila the Hun died on his wedding night… of a nosebleed.
56. According to legend the Huns were really secretive about where Attila was buried. After they put him in a triple-layered coffin of iron, gold and silver, they buried him in an unmarked grave and killed all of the members of the burial party.
57. The Kama Sutra is more than just sex positions. It also includes four chapters on love in general, two chapters on how to treat a wife, five chapters on how to get a wife, six chapters on how to seduce someone else’s wife, six chapters on mistresses and two chapters on how to attract people in general.
58. The Chinese city Chang’an had a thoroughfare as wide as a 45-lane highway. It had striking temples and pagodas and one of the largest statues of Buddha in the world.
59. Historians think that the Chinese were roasting bamboo to hear it pop as early as the third century. One version of the invention of gunpowder is that a Chinese cook inadvertently mixed it up the right proportions – sulfur was used for intensifying a fire, saltpeter was used for preserving food, and charcoal was used as fuel. The idea of confining the substance to a bamboo tube is generally credited to a monk named Li Tian, who used them to drive spirits from the city of Liu Yang. True or not, Liu Yang is now one of the world’s biggest producers of fireworks.
60. The Chinese didn’t want anyone to get their hands on their silk-making secrets and guarded the trade very well for centuries. But according to the Byzantine historian Procopius, two Indian monks eventually smuggled the mulberry silk moth’s eggs out of China in their hollow walking sticks and covered them with dung to keep them alive.
61. The first sighting of Nessie was in 565, by Irish monk and missionary St. Columba.
62. Vikings were only pillaging and plundering part-time. They farmed in the spring and fall, plundered in the summer and partied in the winter.
63. Berserkers (of RPG-game fame) were real. A group of Viking warriors called Berserkers would go into battle without armor and sometimes without clothes at all. They were so pumped full of rage, though, that they were thought to take on the spirit of a bear or a wolf and had superhuman strength. Even after receiving horrible wounds, they would keep fighting like nothing had happened. Historians think this might be because they took a pre-fight hallucinogen mixed with mead; others think the culprit was psychedelic mushrooms, and still others think they just had a pre-fight sort of a pep rally.
64. The Mayan Long Count calendar goes from August 13, 3114 BCE, to December 21, 2012. Some people think that the Mayans knew that December 21, 2012, was the end of the world and didn’t bother to count dates after that. Guess we’ll find out in a few years.
65. Turkish ruler Justinian started life as a peasant and ended up making a former prostitute his queen. Theodora gave up her trick-turning ways and ended up helping Justinian build 25 churches. She is also credited with many reforms that benefited women, including expanding the rights of divorced women, protecting and sheltering ex-prostitutes and ending the legal killing of women who committed adultery.
66. In 802, the Abbasid caliph Harun al-Rashid sent Charlemagne an albino elephant as a gift. Charlemagne absolutely adored the elephant and so did the rest of Europe. It only lived until 810, though.
67. Medieval people thought that incubi and succubi (male and female demons, respectively) could visit sleeping people and have sex with them. It was thought that repeated visits could cause ill health and even death.
68. One Norse saga credits Freydis Eiriksdottir with giving birth to the first European born on American soil. It is also said that she thwarted an Indian attack by ripping open her bodice, baring her breasts and slapping them with her sword. The Indians were confused and a little freaked and retreated. On another trip to North America, her male companions killed a rival camp after she said the men raped her. They refused to kill the women, to Freydis did it herself with an axe.
69. The Cyrillic Alphabet is named after Constantine – for reasons unknown, people apparently started calling him Cyril just before his death.
70. In 610, a monk-baker in northern Italy wanted to reward local children for learning their prayers. So he twisted unleavened dough so it looked like arms crossing the breast in supplication. He baked it and named it "pretiola,” Latin for "little reward”. Voila… the pretzel was born.
71. The Byzantine Navy was the first to use a terrifying liquid in battles. The liquid was pumped onto enemy ships and troops through large siphons mounted on the Byzantine ships’ prows. The liquid would ignite on contact with seawater and was really hard to put out. The ingredients of "greek fire” were closely guarded, but historians think it was a mixture of naphtha, pitch, sulfur, lithium, potassium, metallic sodium, calcium phosphide and a petroleum base. Other nations eventually came up with similar version of the stuff, but the fact that it was really dangerous to their own troops made it go out of military fashion by the mid-15th century.
72. In 1040, a Scottish lord murdered the incumbent king and assumed the throne. He held it until 1057 when the dead king’s son avenged his pop. The usurper’s name was Macbeth, which some dude eventually made into a little-known play.
73. Leofric, the Earl of Mercia in England, agreed to remit a heavy tax if his wife rode naked through the town. The Lady Godoifv, AKA Godiva, agreed. And the earl kept his word.
74. Arab military leader Saladin and King Richard the Lionhearted of England were BFF. Sort of. At least, they really respected each other, despite differing views. According to contemporary accounts, Saladin once offered Richard the use of his personal physician when Richard was wounded, and gave him a horse after the English king lost his mount. In 1192, after the Crusaders had taken back some territory but failed to retake Jerusalem, Saladin and Richard agreed to an armistice. Under it, the city remained in Muslim hands, but Christian pilgrims were free to visit.
75. Cahokia, Missouri, used to be the biggest city in North America. It had trading routes that extended as far west as the Rockies and as far east as the Atlantic. By 1300, though, it was totally abandoned… scientists aren’t really sure why, although theories include political instability and depletion of local natural resources.
76. Eleanor of Aquitaine was the queen consort of France, and then of England. She bore three Kings of England and two daughters who married and/or bore kings and emperors. She was personally involved in the Second Crusade before divorcing her first husband, King Louis VII of France, and then got remarried to King Henry II of England just two months later (that’s who she had eight kids with). For her troubles, Henry had her placed under house arrest for 16 years. When her son Richard took the throne in 1189, he freed her and put her in charge of the country while he went off to fight in the Third Crusade.
77. Henry IV and Pope Gregory VII haaated each other. Henry had his bishops call for the Pope to step down; Gregory excommunicated Henry. Henry was forced to apologize to the Pope by getting down in the snow outside of the Pope’s castle and kissing the papal toe. Henry was humiliated and eventually withdrew his apology, getting him excommunicated again. No love lost there, I guess.
78. Heloise (of Heloise and Abelard fame) named her son Astrolabe, after the ancient astronomical device that is sort of like a computer for solving time/sun/star problems. Nowadays, it would be sort of like naming your kid "GPS”.
79. The supernova of 1054 was so bright, it was recorded in Chinese, Arab, Japanese, Irish, and Anasazi Indian records. More than 600 years later, scientists started using the then-brand-new telescope to check out the star’s remnants – a cloudy mass of gas and dust about 7,000 light years from Earth. In 1774, it was named the Crab Nebula because someone thought it looked like a crustacean.
80. People in the middle east were apparently using forks sometime in the 11th century, but it was more for pinning down meat so they could cut it. Then they would pick up the small chunk with their fingers and eat it that way.
81. The Clergy thought forks were terrible – God-provided food should enter the mouth only by God-provided means, AKA the fingers.
82. If you were accused of a crime in Europe during the Middle Ages, you might as well pack it in. To determine if you were innocent or not, you would be forced to carry a piece of red-hot metal for a certain distance. If the hand became infected within three days, you were guilty and then executed. Even if your hand didn’t get infected, chances are pretty good that you would be terribly disfigured.
83. A full suit of combat armor in the early Middle Ages could easily weigh between 45 and 80 pounds.
84. Although everyone romanticizes chastity belts in tales like Robin Hood, they didn’t really exist then. The earliest such devices found date from the 16th century, well after the Crusades and the Age of Chivalry. More common and less romantic was the brank, an iron cage with a tongue depressor. It was fitting on women who were deemed nags or gossips.
85. The Renaissance thinker Petrarch was truly a Renaissance man – not only was he known for his thinking, poetry and essays, he’s also credited as being the inventor of mountain climbing. He turned his ascent of Mount Ventoux into an engaging mini-adventure story that is still read today.
86. Four Popes were vying for power in 1409. The French and pro-Italian faction agreed to withdraw their claimants to the papal throne and elect just one Pope, but that whole plan fell apart. A new Pope (Alexander V) was elected, who was supposed to replace the two current Popes, Gregory XII and Benedict III. But those two guys backed out at the last minute, leaving the world with three Popes and different factions answering to each one. The situation continued until 1417, when a new council elected another new Pope to replace the three Popes currently in power – Martin V. Before the three Popes finally abdicated, there were officially four Popes in power. Yikes.
87. Popes probably got away with most of their debauchery – but there were times when it just couldn’t be covered up. Specifically, when they died "in the act”. In 939, Pope Leo VII died of heart attack in bed with his mistress; in 964, an enraged husband found his wife in bed with Pope John XII and bludgeoned him to death while he was still naked in bed; incredibly, the exact same thing happened to Pope John XIII in 972; and in 1471, Pope Paul II died of a heart attack… while being sodomized by a page boy.
88.The walls of the Court of Gold in Cuzco, an astronomical observatory housing about 4,000 Inca priests, were hung with thin sheets of gold; a solid gold disc representing the Sun God reflected sunlight on the sheets to illuminate the building’s interior.
89. To make up for the shortage of copper coins, Hongwu introduced paper money in the late 14th century in China. He soon discovered that he could print as much of it as he wanted… but it also made it almost valueless. It fell to about 1/70th of its previous value and copper coins had to be reintroduced in 1425. Although it was a failure, China was still the first state in history to try using paper money on a large scale.
90. Timur was lame in one leg from a battlefield injury, but he was still a badass. His soldiers massacred 20,000 civilians in Baghdad; 100,000 captive and unarmed Indians; 80,000 peple in Aleppo and 20,000 people in Damascus. He also buried 4,000 Armenian prisoners alive. He also had a habit of building pyramids of skulls around the devastated cities.
91. Apparently black pepper used to be in incredible demand. Vasco de Gama once brought back a hold full of black pepper and earned a profit margin of 6,000 percent. Over the next 20 years, 95 percent of the cargo from India unloaded in Portugal was black pepper.
92. In the Renaissance period, beer was safer to drink than water – the beer’s fermentation process cooked the bacteria that caused diseases such as cholera and dysentery.
93. In the early medieval period, beer probably had a consistency similar to porridge (ew). By the Renaissance it acquired it’s modern form, pretty much, because of the addition of hops.
94. Peter the Great lived up to his reputation of wild party animal – Sayes Court, where the Russian Delegation stayed, was virtually destroyed by their carousing. Expensive carpets were soiled beyond repair, crystal doorknobs were stolen, windows were broken and valuable paintings were used for target practice. Damage to the garden was bad, too – after drinking lots of vodka, the Russians would sit in wheelbarrows and have their friends send them crashing through carefully-tended hedgerows like a modern version of Jackass. (Does that make Peter Johnny Knoxville?)
95. Sir Francis Drake was probably the most successful privateer, money-wise. He became the first English sailor to circumnavigate the globe and stole a ridiculous amount of treasure along the way. In 1580 alone, Queen Elizabeth’s take of his plunder exceeded all of her other royal income COMBINED. One of Drake’s more lucrative captures was a galleon named Cacafuego – Shitfire – containing 80 pounds of gold bullion, thirteen chests of gold coins, a gold crucifix, jewels and 26 tons of silver.
96. In 1721, John Taylor’s crew captured the single biggest prize in history: the Portuguese frigate Nostra Senora della Cabo. EACH of Taylor’s crew receives 42 large diamonds and a half-million dollars worth of gold.
97. In 1633, the Catholic Church forced Galileo to admit that the Earth does not move around the sun. Legend has it that after he officially renounced his theory, he turned to leave and muttered, "Still, it moves.”
98. Tea wasn’t popular in England until the 17th century. That’s when Charles II and his wife got hooked. They popularized the drink and imported about 11 million tons of it in 1785.
99. Gin began as medicine. The word comes from "genever”, the Dutch word for the juniper berry, which gives gin its distinctive taste.
100. Casanova referred to condoms as his "English riding coats”.
101. Because sheep-intestine condoms were so valuable and hard to make, men who were lucky enough to get one just kept it and reused it without washing… thus, early condoms probably caused just as many hygiene problems as they prevented.
 
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