Marco Antonio Bragadin Was Flayed and his Skin Kept as a Trophy

Tales of massacres, sieges and sadistic executions are common throughout history. Nevertheless, the brutal flaying of Marco Antonio Bragadin, the Venetian commander of Famagusta, and the fall of Cyprus to the Ottomans sent shockwaves throughout the Christian world. Bragadin was caught in a titanic struggle between the Ottoman Empire and the Republic of Venice as […]

A Spider Had a Leading Role in the Story of Scottish Independence

Inspiration can come in all shapes and sizes. But the story of the downtrodden Scottish national hero Robert the Bruce, who ruled Scotland in the 14th century, being motivated to continue his struggle for Scottish independence by a lowly spider really takes the biscuit. The 1300s were a tough time for the Scots. The famed […]

Did Oliver Cromwell Ban Mince Pies in England?

Despite his legendary political career, during which he helped overthrow the Stuart monarchy during the era of the English Civil War and then served as Lord Protector of the Commonwealth of England, the 17th century political leader and anti-monarchist has also been remembered for a far more mundane facet. If you believe everything you read […]

Medieval Manuscripts Are Full of Knights Fighting Snails

The next time you’re looking through an illuminated manuscript, keep an eye out for images of medieval knights fighting off snails. Of all the villains in the world, these may not have been the first to come to mind. Nevertheless, as someone with a bizarre phobia of the slimy creatures, it makes perfect sense to […]

Naked Olympics: Athletes at the Ancient Olympics Competed in the Nude

Can you imaging sitting down with the family to watch a group of naked men, with their olive oil-soaked bodies glistening in the sunshine, running around and flexing their muscles? A great deal has changed since the Olympic Games were celebrated in ancient Greece , but one aspect that may surprise sporting fans out there […]

Chrysippus Died Laughing at His Own Deadly Joke

We’ve all heard the expression “to die laughing” to refer to a bout of uncontrollable laughter. But did you know that it actually happens? When looking at the Hellenistic bust of Chrysippus housed at the British Museum , you’d never guess how he perished. The portrait depicts the ancient Greek philosopher with a stoic, or […]

Halley’s Comet Prophesized the Battle of Hastings in 1066

When it came to the sighting of comets and meteors, experienced as eerie apparitions in the sky, ancient cultures understood them as omens sent by the gods. Without the benefits of modern-day science and space exploration, superstition was rife and all kinds of celestial events were viewed with fascination and fear. Comets were particularly disruptive, […]

Queen Christina of Sweden Kept an Itty-Bitty Flea Cannon by Her Bed

If you haven’t heard of the renegade 17th century Queen Christina of Sweden, you’re in for a treat. Remembered for breaking gender norms and abdicating the throne to avoid marriage, Queen Christina was a truly unconventional monarch, who has inspired books, plays, operas and even a 1933 Greta Garbo film. She was however scared of […]

Despite His Divine Artworks, Michelangelo Had A Dirty Secret

While most people have heard of Michelangelo, the majority have no idea that he had some pretty filthy habits. Nicknamed Il Divino (“the divine one”) by his contemporaries, Michelangelo was a master artist of many mediums, but not of personal hygiene. Born into the Italian Renaissance of the 15th and 16th centuries, he was not […]

The Word ‘Freelancer’ Originates with Medieval Mercenaries

Even though the word freelancer often feels omnipresent, very few know its etymology. In fact, freelancers have been around for a long time. The word freelancer has been traced back to Sir Walter Scott’s Ivanhoe, a romantic novel published in 1820 which is set in 12th century England. Ivanhoe was included in a list of […]