40 Truly Odd Historical Beliefs & Practices You’ll Find Hard To Digest

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1Book Surrender

In ancient Egypt, under the decree of Ptolemy II, all ships visiting the city were obliged to surrender their books to the library of Alexandria and be copied. The original would be kept in the library and the copy given back to the owner.


2. Adamites were an early Christian sect that worshipped naked. They were prevalent between the 2nd and 4th centuries in the Northern parts of Africa. Some of their beliefs were holy nudism, rejection of marriage, and an endorsement of lawlessness as their actions were “neither good nor evil.” They believed they were embodying the innocence of Adam in Genesis.


3. Monks in northern Japan used to practice self-mummification. They would exercise rigorously to rid all body fat from their system, begin drinking a poisonous tea, and remain in a tiny tomb in the lotus position until confirmed dead. The process took over 3000 days.


4. People in the Middle Ages would brew a batch of ale, have a big party to drink it, and collect donations for the needy. They called it “help ale” and this practice preceded charity keggers by 1500 years.


5. Ancient Spartan schools deliberately underfed boys to force them to steal food, but severely punished anyone who was caught. This was thought to toughen them up, especially since it accustomed them to hunger, which was common on the battlefield.


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6Salamander Fur

In the middle ages, some kings had clothes made from "Salamander fur" which were completely fire-proof and bright white. The name likely comes from the common belief that Salamanders were “born from fire”. The clothes were actually made out of asbestos.


7. Krypteia was a special secret police unit in ancient Sparta, who was given the dubious task of controlling their slave population by annual massacres. Even more messed up was the fact that they had to do the killings in secrecy and were punished by whipping if anyone caught them.


8. The word “orient” comes from the Latin word “oriens”, meaning East because in the Middle Ages many maps were drawn with East at the top, for religious reasons because the Garden of Eden was supposed to be there.


9. During the middle ages there was a legal category called “enbrotherment” that allowed two men to share living quarters, pool their resources, and effectively live as a married couple. The couple shared “one bread, one wine, one purse.”


10. In 18th-century Denmark, people were afraid to take their own lives because they believed it would send them to hell. Instead, they resorted to killing other people to receive the death penalty and repented before execution, believing that doing so would send them to heaven.


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11Flyting

The concept of the “rap battle” has existed since the 5th century. Poets often engaged in “flyting,” a spoken word event where poets would insult one another in verse. The Norse god Loki is noted as having insulted other gods in verse. It is said flyting has similarities to slam poetry and rap battles of today.


12. In France in the 1500s, women could charge their husbands with impotence. He would have to become erect and show that he could ejaculate in a courtroom. If he failed, he could demand a trial by Congress and attempt to have sex with his wife in front of the experts.


13. In medieval times it was common to have “2” sleeps per night. You would fall asleep for 4 to 5 hours, wake up for 2 hours or so and fall back to sleep for another 3 to 4. It’s been suggested that we may have evolved this way to tend to the fire in order to keep us warm and safe.


14. The term “Freelancer” used to refer to a knight in the Middle Ages who was not under any feudal oaths and who sold his services to the highest bidder. Since a knight’s primary weapon was a lance, he was a “free” “lancer.”


15. The word decimation comes from the Roman practice of killing every 10th man as a form of maintaining discipline.


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16Feast of the Ass

January 14th used to be observed as the Feast of the Ass. It was a Catholic feast day that was mostly celebrated in the Middle Ages to honor all the asses in the Bible, especially the one that bore Mary and the baby Jesus into Egypt after the birth.


17. In the middle ages it was an accepted political act for two kings to sleep in the same bed as a symbol of unity between their two countries; much like the modern-day photo-op. There was nothing sexual about it.


18. Viking military tactics succeeded mainly because they disregarded the conventional battlefield tactics, methods, and customs of the time. They ignored unspoken rules, like not attacking holy sites. On the contrary, Vikings intentionally targeted religious sites for their vulnerability and wealth.


19. Prior to the middle ages, the written script often did not use spaces in between words. Instead, writers used what was called “continuous script.” Monks under Charlemagne’s rule found it much easier to copy ancient Roman manuscripts and distinguish words by implementing spaces.


20. In the Middle Ages, men who wanted a boy sometimes removed their left testicle because it was believed that the right testicle made sperm for boys and the left testicle made sperm for girls.


21Roman Timekeeping

Ancient Romans didn’t measure time in 60-minute hours. An hour was about 45 minutes in winter and 75 minutes in summer.


22. There was a custom in ancient Babylon compelling all women at least once in their lives to go to the temple of Aphrodite and have sex with a stranger.


23. In the Middle Ages, Catholic women were prohibited from having sex on Sundays, Wednesdays, or Fridays, on feast days, while fasting for Lent or Advent or while “impure” (menstruation, pregnancy, 40 days after giving birth & while nursing). Everything but missionary position was considered sodomy.


24. The ancient Egyptians believed that the ebb and flow of the Nile were caused by the god Atum masturbating to ejaculation. As such, Pharaohs were sometimes required to ceremonially masturbate into the Nile.


25. Ornatrices were enslaved hairdressers. They were responsible to create insane looks that were popular at the time, in ancient Rome. This person had to deal with a lot of gnarly ingredients such as hair dyes made out of pigeon poop, rotten leeches, squid ink, and urine.

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