50 Peculiar and Bizarre Historical Practices

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26Viking Raids

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.


27. 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.


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


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


30. 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.


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31Medieval Female Sexuality

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.


32. 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.


33. 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.


34. Christmas in the Middle Ages was more like Mardi Gras on steroids. It included raucous parties that lasted for days, animal sacrifices, gambling, and adult trick or treating.


35. Politicians in ancient Rome kept slaves named “nomenclators”, whose sole job was to remind their masters of the names and pertinent details of all the different people they met.


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36Secession of the Plebeians

In ancient Rome, in a practice known as “secessions of the plebeians” commoners would evacuate entire cities in acts of revolt, similar to the modern concept of a general strike, leaving the elite in the cities to fend for themselves.


37. In Ancient Rome, vestal virgins were a group of six women recruited at age six to tend the flame of the goddess Vesta. Expected to serve for 30 years, if their virginity ever came into question they would be buried alive as punishment. They were the only female priests in Ancient Rome.


38. Romans believed that eyelashes fell out from excessive sex, so women would use cosmetics to make their eyelashes look fuller and longer to demonstrate their chastity.


39. Before the advent of reliable and affordable alarm clocks, British and Irish workers were woken up by a person who made sure they could get to work on time. The knocker-up used a baton to knock on clients’ doors or a long and light stick to reach windows on higher floors.


40. Approximately 7000 years ago, humans used to drill holes in their heads to allow spirits to flow in and out of the body. This practice is called 'Trepanation.'


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41Purple Dye

Making a purple pigment used to dye clothes for royalty in ancient Egypt, Greece and Rome involved harvesting the pigment from rotting snails. The stench was so bad that Jewish law specifically granted women the right to divorce any husband who became a dyer after marrying.


42. To clean up after using the lavatory, ancient Romans used a “tersorium”, a sponge on the end of a long stick that was shared by everyone in the community. When not in use, the stick stayed in a bucket of vinegar or seawater in the communal bathroom.


43. Between the 4th and 5th centuries, ancient Athens adopted Ostracism, a (check and balance) system that allowed the citizens to vote to exile and banish anyone deemed a threat or tyrant for 10 years. The ostracism was only considered valid if the total number of votes counted to at least 6000.


44. In medieval times, red hair was associated with moral degradation and intense sexual desire. Redheads were regarded as vampires, werewolves, and witches. The Spanish Inquisition singled them out for persecution, believing their hair to be a sure sign that they stole the fires of hell.


45. Toilets in ancient Rome were bad enough to warrant prayers to the Gods of fortune written on the walls. Problems included bursts of flame from the methane buildup, and biting creatures emerging from below.


46Hate Valentine

In the Victorian era, it was a thing to send “Vinegar” or Hate valentines anonymously to people you disliked. They were often incredibly harsh, and some even suggested the recipient go kill themselves.


47. Tuberculosis was so romanticized during the Victorian era that fashion trends emerged to highlight and emulate the symptoms of the disease. This fashion movement is referred to as “Consumptive Chic”.


48. It was common for 19th-century Victorian men to fashion clippings of their lover's pubic hair into jewelry and wear them as hat ornaments or souvenirs.


49. In Ancient Rome some condemned prisoners were executed onstage at the theater as “actors” for famous death scenes.


50. The “Alexandra Limp” was a short-lived fad in Victorian London. Fashionable young women mimicked the limp of Princess Alexandra. Canny shopkeepers even started selling mismatched footwear, with one high heel, and one low. The practice was widely ridiculed, even at the time.

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