“In 1492 Columbus sailed the ocean blue.”
That may be the most important fact anybody ever learned in high school but it turns out there are other, more important facts out there. For example, I don’t know, maybe all the things that that followed as a result of that boat trip.
Maybe schools should be teaching us about fun and interesting things instead of dates and rhymes. Just a thought. Sorry for being such a visionary everyone.
They lost, by the way
During the First Sino-Japanese War, a Chinese admiral pawned one of the main guns on his flagship to a scrap dealer, in order to pay off some gambling debts.
This was the same war where the Empress embezzled from the army to fund her palace renovations.
The American hippo bill. During a meat crisis in 1910, some American legislators wanted to introduce African hippos to the southern wetlands so we could all enjoy “lake cow bacon.” Obviously, the bill never passed.
Weapons never go out of style
The time a 340 year old museum piece was used to repel an invasion.
The Dardanelles Operation was a fairly minor skirmish during the Napoleonic wars. The Ottomans aligned with the French against Britain and Russia. The British sent a fleet to intimidate the Turks and force them to reopen the strait.
As the British fleet sailed towards Constantinople, French engineers worked with the Turkish army to repair and improve shore defenses. Part of this included reactivating a 340 year old supercannon modeled on the one used in the famed Turkish conquest of Constantinople in the 1400s.
This cannon weighed 17 tons and fired stone cannonballs that were two feet in diameter.
After meeting little resistance from the Turkish fleet, the British were forced to withdraw after taking heavy damage from the shore batteries, including from the colossal “Dardanelles Gun”.
Tl;DR: Trebuchets are nice, but can they fire a 360 kg projectile over 2400 meters?
Go team, go!
We all worship soldiers
After WWII, some tribes in Pacific islands got their first exposure to “civilization” when US military bases would be setup. The military would bring supplies and food with them which the villagers liked. When the war ended, cults formed that built new runways, mimicked army drills, and even built straw planes to try and bring back the “Gods” that gave them food, medicine, and supplies.
This is why you don't reward bad behavior
In Bernal Diaz del Castillo’s The True History of the Conquest of New Spain he mentions that a priest died during his time with Cortez. When searching through his stuff, they found a leather dildo.
Another funny incident: they held Montezuma hostage in modern day Mexico City. While a hostage, he still had gold and was a king, so he was treated half-decently. One of the Spanish guards accidentally farted in his face. The guard was embarrassed and apologized profusely for humiliating a noble. To show there were no hard feelings, Montezuma gave the guard a gold piece. The stupid guard then farted again hoping to get another gold piece.
You'd think the pope would have better things to do
So… Pope Stephen VI really hated the guy that was pope before the guy that was pope before him, aka Pope Formosus. I believe their relationship would be called “pope twice removed”. That line will work on two levels in just a second.
Anyways, so Steph super hated him. It was pretty much all because of powerful families and politics and grudges. Still, Pope is a literally life long gig, and that means the guy he hated had been dead for a bit by the time Stu became Pope. So what did Steven do? Why he dug up the ultra dead previous pontiff and put his skeleton on trial of course!
He was found guilty, striped of his garments, had three fingers removed (because reasons), was redressed in peasant garb, and reburied in a pauper’s grave.
This didn’t feel like enough for Ol’ Stevie Vi, so he dug him up again and had him chucked into the Tiber River.
Stephen VI was then imprisoned for the whole thing and later strangled. History!
Viva La France!
“The Savior of Paris”. Paris as we know it may not exist today had it not been for one man. During the German military occupation of France in WWII, Paris became the capital of this occupied zone, while France moved it’s own capital to Vichy to keep the state alive. During this time Paris saw no real bombing or fighting and remained relatively unscathed (compare to London or Berlin by the war’s end). However, the commander of Nazi-led Paris, General Dietrich Von Choltitz was given orders by Hitler to blow up the bridges and level the city should it be overtaken by the Allies, as he would never return it to them the way it was. Within a month the Free French Forces liberated the city and Choltitz had famously ignored Hitler’s call, “Is Paris Burning?”. The General grew fond of the Paris during his short time there and recognized it’s immense cultural and historical importance, so today he is remembered as the savior of Paris.
How the actual call from Hitler went, or whether or not it even took place is debated, but we do know that if Choltitz had not grown sympathetic, we may have lost some of the best parts of Paris.
Good ol' Garbo
He comes up now and again on TIL, but for all the history about WWII that is often bandied about in the culture at large I had never heard about the fascinating double-agent Juan Pujol Garcia, also known by his codename: Garbo.
Juan was from Spain and had become disgusted by fascism. He wrote letters to the UK and the US saying “hey, I’ll spy on Germany for you guys!” UK and US said “Nah, we got this.”
Juan said to himself “I’ll go ahead and spy anyway” and posed as a Nazi-loving Spanish govt. official to become a German agent. He was assigned to spy on London, but instead went to Lisbon and made up phony reports based on English magazines and newsreels.
After a while, the UK realized someone was doing a jolly good job diverting Nazi resources and took him on as a spy. He worked throughout the war, with Germany funding his totally real network of not at all imaginary spies. He was responsible for diverting many German troops during the invasion of Normandy. He was also awarded medals by both the Nazis and the Brits for his work.
This is more in the horror genre than comedy
Alboin, King of the Lombards, took his wife Rosamund as a spoil of war after he killed her father in the Lombard-Gepid War. Then at one point he made her drink from her father’s skull, which he kept as a trophy and fashioned into a mug, telling her to “drink merrily with your father.” She had him assassinated.
This is why you don't perform human sacrifices
When Cortez conquered the Aztecs he had 10,000’s of native allies who were more than eager to help because the Aztecs used them as slave and sacrifice farms.
War is a good place to make friends
That time Liechtenstein sent 80 soldiers to war and they made a friend so they returned with 81.
Hey, man. Whatever gets you off.
Czar Peter the Great received a pickled penis as a gift and made his wife kiss it to amuse him.
Dick move, bro.
Attila the Hun had a son named Erp.
He also left this son absolutely nothing (dividing his kingdom between three other sons).
So he got no inheritance, and a hysterical name.
Always interesting to see what politicians do post sex scandal
I will preface this by saying our sources from the time are sketchy at best, so this may not have happened, but I digress:
We all know Charlemagne yes? King of the Franks and all that. Well, while he did a great deal for the Frankish legacy, he wasn’t the first independent Frankish king. That honour went to a guy named Childeric, and this dude must have been fine as fuck because his sexual escapades are insane.
So Childeric was actually king twice, but he never got usurped – nope, he was instead exiled, not for killing anyone or shit like that, just because he fucked so many of the Frankish noble’s wives. Genuinely, the sources tell us he was banished because all the lords realised that their wives were all cheating on them with the same dude, and so told the king to fuck off. So he duly did, and ended up in the court of another barbarian king as an ally to him. During this time, he got into the royal court, got chatting with the king’s wife, and you guessed it, diddled the lass. Following this, rather than keeping it a thing on the down-low, Childeric straight up declared that he was marrying the wife, ran off with her, and brought her back to the nobles that thought they were finally rid of the horny bastard.
Fortunately for women everywhere, this queen seems to have had a bit of mettle, because nothing else is written about him running off with any other important women. Instead he had a son, a lad named Clovis, and thus began the rise of the Frankish Empire that spawned modern day Germany and France.
So two modern European nations have a grandfather who was just a massive horny fuck.
I would not want to see this
The image we have of armored knights being clumsy and slow is basically just Victorian misinformation. Knights were fucking terrifying.
Philosophers seemed to have a lot of time on their hands
When Plato gave Socrates’s definition of man as “featherless bipeds” and was much praised for the definition, Diogenes plucked a chicken and brought it into Plato’s Academy, saying, “Behold! I’ve brought you a man.” After this incident, “with broad flat nails” was added to Plato’s definition.
Most military strategy comes from puns
Operation Kuwaiti Field Chicken (yes, KFC) when the US Army wanted to strap live chickens to the tops of vehicles during the First Gulf War to detect chemical weapons. The chickens died in transport though.
Pretty cool except for all those murders
The Aztecs are overlooked in most history classes, but they were far from the primitive tribesmen that most people think of. At the height of its power Tenochtitlan, the capital of the Aztec Triple Alliance, was rivalled in size by cities like London and Constantinople, and it was all built on a giant artificial island. It’s a shame their culture was obliterated, because though they might have been a bit too obsessed with sacrificial killing, they were an incredibly fascinating civilization.
This is why you don't pass notes
Cato the Elder, a roman senator, would give several vehement speeches, all ending in something along the lines of “Carthago delenda est,” roughly translating to “I think Carthage should be destroyed. Carthage did end up getting destroyed a couple years after he died.
Years later, Cato the Younger was on the Senate. Augustus Caesar was reading a note during a meeting, causing Cato to accuse him of being a spy. After Caesar denied the accusations, Cato asked Caesar to read out the note, because if he really was innocent, he wouldn’t have anything to hide. Caesar agreed. It was a love note from Cato the Younger’s sister.
Both gross and fascinating
The exact path of Lewis and Clark.
The reason why is because the men of the group had sex with prostitutes almost immediately at the beginning of the trip and the old cure for syphilis (or whatever) was mercury. So they drank it and inevitably would need to urinate. This left behind mercury as well, which as a heavy metal is easily detectable.
So they just put all this spots on a map and played connect the dots.