Hidden Histories: 44 Uncommon Events From the Middle Ages

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1Mansa Musa

Mansa Musa

Mansa Musa, the ruler of the 14th century Mali Empire is one of the richest person to have ever lived (Inflation adjusted). When he made his pilgrimage to Mecca, he gave away so much gold that he completely devalued the metal in each city he passed through, disrupting economies and causing inflation in Cairo, Medina, and Mecca.


2. During the Black Plague, the Jewish community had a lower infection risk than other populations. Among the theories, it has been suggested that Jewish religious practices promoted better health since so many of their rituals were related to hygiene. It resulted in the Jews being accused of causing the Black Death.


3. Murderers in medieval Ireland were given to the deceased's family as slaves if they failed to pay a hefty fine to buy their freedom. The family could then legally kill the murderer themselves.


4. Medieval English longbows could fire an arrow more than 300 yards and required so much strength that the skeletons of medieval archers can be identified by their enlarged left arms.


5. The Scottish army tried to take advantage of the Black Plague in England through an invasion, but caught it themselves and brought it back to Scotland, killing half of the native population.


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6Al-Ma'arri

Al-Ma'arri

The medieval Arab philosopher and skeptic Al-Ma'arri wrote that religion consisted of ancient fables used to exploit the popular masses.


7. Medieval scholar Al-Biruni, after accurately measuring earth's radius and judging by the size of Asia and Africa, predicted the existence of a landmass in the ocean between Asia And Europe, similar in size to the known continents and with similar geological features, likely inhabited by humans.


8. People of the Middle Ages widely accepted that the Earth was spherical. The notion that they thought the world was flat is actually a misconception.


9. Saladin (Egyptian Sultan), the fabled hero of the Islamic world who repelled the attacks of European invaders during the Crusades and left a monumental mark on the history of the Middle East was in fact a Kurd.


10. One of the suggested "cures" for the Bubonic Plague during the middle ages was to fart in a jar and smell it.


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11King James IV

King James IV

In the 15th century, King James IV conducted an experiment by sending a mute woman and two infants to an empty island to learn what the 'natural human language' would be.


12. The "L" in "could" was added intentionally in the 15th or 16th century solely to match the spellings of "would" and "should."


13. A 7th-century general named Khalid bin al-Waleed swallowed poison in front of his enemies to demonstrate how much of a hard-a*s he was. He instantly shrugged it off because he'd built up resistance since childhood. Seeing this his enemy immediately surrendered.


14. During the 9th century A.D., 2 Vikings graffitied their names in the runes of Hagia Sophia. These carvings have survived since the Byzantium era, and are still viewable in modern-day Istanbul.


15. In 2014, archeologists in Bulgaria uncovered a grave of a 13th century staked "vampire". At the time of the man's death, vampires were perceived as a real threat in many Eastern European communities.


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16Black Death

Black Death

The Black Death killed so many people in the 14th century that the world population did not recover to pre-plague levels until the 17th century.


17. According to legend, a female pope named Pope Joan reigned for a few years during the middle ages, disguised as a man. After she was caught, potential popes has to sit on a chair with a hole on the seat, and a cardinal would reach through it to check to make sure the new pope had testicles.


18. There is a Catholic Saint of Beer named Saint Arnold of Soissons who saved the lives of many by urging them to drink beer rather than water which he believed was spreading the plague. Boiling during the brewing process killed the pathogens.


19. Medieval Pope Gregory IX considered cats to be the 'incarnation of Satan', leading to mass killing of cats, causing the rat population to swell, which thereby quickened the spread of the Black Death.


20. In the medieval times, animals could go to trial. In 1457, a sow and six piglets were charged with killing a 5-year-old boy. The mom was deemed guilty, the piglets’ role, however, was ambiguous. Although splattered with blood, they were never seen directly attacking the boy.


21King Herod

King Herod

In medieval England, children were beaten on the 28th of December (Holy Innocents Day” or “Childermass Day) to remind them of King Herod's cruelty.


22. In medieval Europe, "barber-butchers" were barbers that practiced surgery as well, a profession ranging from amputations to haircuts. The red and white 'barber swirl' in front of most barber shops today signifies blood and bandages which were common in their trade.


23. 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 a "help ale" and preceded charity keggers by 1500 years.


24. 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."


25. In the 10th century there lived a Syrian poet named Al-Maʿarri who was attacking and rejecting Islamic (or any other religion) claims. He could freely express his opinions in Arabic lands without fear of his life. In 2013, almost a thousand years after his death, a Jihadist group beheaded his statue.

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