50 Fascinating and Historical Facts About The 1500s

1Queen Elizabeth

In 1589, English pamphleteer named John Stubbs was sentenced by Queen Elizabeth to have his hand severed for seditious writing, and before the ax fell, he cried out, "My calamity is at hand!" - thus becoming the only known victim of Elizabeth to incorporate a pun at his dismemberment. He then fainted.


2. During the Ming dynasty (approximately 1570 A.D.), powdered smallpox scabs were blown up the noses of the healthy. The patients would then develop a mild case of the disease but were immune to it from then on.


3. The symbol ⸮ has been proposed as a punctuation mark to denote irony since the 1580s.


4. One of the oldest chess strategy books, from 1561, recommends playing with your back to the sun to blind your opponent. If playing at night by a fire, it advises you to cast a shadow over the board with your hand, so your opponent "will not be able to see where to play his pieces."


5. In 1504, a German knight named Götz von Berlichingen lost his right arm when an enemy cannon fire forced his own sword against him. He had two mechanical hands made for him, capable of holding a shield to a feathered pen. He was then known as Götz of the Iron Hand.


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6Johann Tetzel

In 1517, a nobleman offered to pay a corrupt Catholic monk named Johann Tetzel for an indulgence in order to forgive him of a future sin. The monk quickly agreed and granted it, but as he rode out of town the nobleman attacked and beat him. He then told the monk that was the future sin he had in mind.


7. The Aztec capital of Tenochtitlán was the largest city in the Americas that was inhabited by over 200,000 people. It was built on a man-made island in the middle of a lake that was connected to shore by 3 causeways. The city had huge pyramids, floating gardens, aqueducts, and canals. It was destroyed by the Spanish in 1521.


8. In 1524, a statue of Virgin Mary was charged as being a witch in Riga (the current capital of Latvia) and was sent to a trial by water in the Daugava River. The statue floated, so it was denounced as a witch and burnt at Kubsberg.


9. Tomatoes are native to the Americas and weren’t introduced to Italy until the 1540s.


10. The bread did not exist in Japan prior to 1543 until Portuguese sailors brought it to their shores.


11Martin Luther

Martin Luther was a great German Reformation leader, in 1543, who wrote a 65,000-word treatise called “On the Jews and their Lies” in which he argued that Jews should be shown no mercy or kindness, and that “these poisonous worms” should be expelled for all time.


12. In 1550's France, Catherine de Medici was so disgusted by women with “thick waists” that she enforced a ban on them from her court. This led to the widespread use of the corset throughout western civilization for the next 350 years.


13. The deadliest earthquake in recorded history struck in the Shensi province of China in 1556, which killed about 830,000 people.


14. Whilst being burnt alive at the stake in 1556, a woman gave birth to a live baby who the executioner then threw back into the flames.


15. The equals sign was invented in 1557 by a Welsh mathematician named Robert Recorde. He only invented it because he was fed up with the ‘tedious repetition’ of the phrase is ‘is equal to.’


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16Hans Steininger

In 1567, Hans Steininger, the man said to have the longest beard in the world, died after he tripped over his beard and broke his neck running away from a fire. He usually bundled up his beard in a leather pouch, but that day he hadn't.


17. Yasuke was a 16th century African who traveled to Japan as a slave and caused such a sensation that a powerful warlord wished to see him. He thought his black skin was painted and ordered it to be scrubbed. However, they became friends and Yasuke was later given the prestigious rank of a Samurai.


18. In the 16th century, prestigious mathematics professorships could be "won" by defeating the current professor in a public algebra competition.


19. A 16th-century serial killer named Christman Genipperteinga is said to have murdered 964 individuals. This including 6 of his newborn babies, birthed from a sex slave he held captive 7 years. He was caught when she (slave) convinced him to let her go to the town where she betrayed him by dropping peas for the town’s men to follow and capture him.


20. The traditional Japanese dish of Tempura was actually introduced to them by Portuguese missionaries in the 16th Century.


21Biertan fortified church

Around the 16th century, there was a chamber in Romania’s Biertan fortified church where all the couples that wanted to divorce were forced to live, with only one item of everything: one bed, one spoon, one chair, etc. before breaking up. Only one couple in 300 years ended up divorcing.


22. When the Portuguese introduced chili peppers to Japan in the 16th century, rather than being eaten they were commonly put into socks to keep toes warm.


23. Tycho Brahe was an enormously rich 16th-century Danish astronomer, who is well known for the pet moose that accompanied him everywhere and developed a strong taste for the beer, eventually becoming so intoxicated at a party that it fell down a flight of stairs and died from subsequent injuries.


24. The gibberish language being spoken in the stop-motion clay animated series ‘Pingu’ is actually a language which has been used by the clowns and mimes since the 16th century.


25. Ishikawa Goemon was a 16th-century legendary Japanese outlaw hero, who stole gold and other valuables from the rich to give it to poor, for which he was sentenced to death. He and his son were boiled alive in public in an iron cauldron, but he was able to save his son by holding him above his head. His son was later forgiven.

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