There is something about history that triggers varied reactions in us. Some loathe it while some love everything about it. Be that as it may, one simply cannot ignore history. We have been taught history in school, we have witnessed history-in-the-making, we have read tomes on history. However, these 20 facts from history are not taught in schools. Neither are they readily available in our pocket guides. These intriguing facts from history will keep you riveted to your seat.

1. Ludi Meridiani or Midday spectacles (dramas) used condemned prisoners and prisoners of war for real executions within the play. 

Image Source: ancient.eu

The Romans were notorious for their midday spectacles known as Ludi Meridiani. These performances enacted popular mythologies such as Hercules, Pasiphae and Orpheus. These shows were not just an enactment of the myth but also served as a platform for public execution of the condemned prisoners and prisoners of war.

For instance, in the enactment of Pasiphae, a woman prisoner would literally be smeared with the scent of a cow in season. A bull would then be let loose which would try and mount the weakened prisoner. If the woman survived the brutal ordeal, swipe of the sword would then end her life. Emperor Nero would clothe the Christians in animal skins before throwing them to vicious dogs as a means of degrading and humiliating them. The spectators who came from wealthy class appreciated these forms of execution as it enabled their sense of moral superiority over the convicted criminals.(source)

2. Sunandha Kumariratana, the Queen of Thailand, drowned while her subjects watched. They were forbidden to touch her.

Image Source: historyofroyalwomen.com

19-year-old Sunanadha Kumariratana (10 November 1860 – 31 May 1880) was the daughter of King Mongkut and Princess Consort Piam. She was married to King Chulalongkorn (King Rama V). Queen Sunandha was the consort to the chief queen of King Rama V. She was one of the four queens of King Rama V (of Siam, present-day Thailand). The other two queens were her younger sisters, Queen Savang Vadhana and Queen Saovabha Bhongsi.

The queen and her daughter died a tragic death when the boat ferrying them to the Bang Pa-In palace (Summer palace) capsized drowning them both. The incident was watched by a large number of people (common subjects). Unfortunately, none of them could help since a law forbade common people from touching a royalty at any time – not even if  it was a matter of life or death. Any subject found breaking this law was given death sentence. The grief-stricken King erected a memorial in memory of the queen and their unborn child in Bang Pa-In Palace.(source)

3. Albert Einstein married his first cousin.  In fact, 80% of marriages in history were between second or closer cousins.

Image Source: eshockers.com

A union between two people with a common relative (grandparent or another recent ancestor) is known as cousin marriage. In fact, the Rothschilds, Albert Einstein and Charles Darwin married their first cousins. Charles Darwin was a grandchild of first cousins. Robin Fox of Rutgers University thinks that more than 80% of marriages in history might have been between second or closer cousins. Ancient times had less number of people dispersed over wide areas. Hence, inbreeding was the inevitable result of this situation. In the olden days, cousin marriage was considered ideal. But the recent medical discoveries unearthing links between inbreeding and neurological diseases led to a decline in the number of cousin marriages. Cousin marriages have come down in Brazil, US, Europe, and other western countries. However, cousin marriage numbers have not witnessed any change in the Middle East and few other Asian countries.(source 1, 2)

4. Skull-cups, made of human skulls, belonging to Cro-Magnon period found in Britain. 

Image Source: Wired

Three skull cups were unearthed from Gough’s cave in Cheddar Gorge in Somerset, UK. The three skull cups found are of 2 adults and a three-year old child. These cups were made from 14,700-year old skulls. The usage of skull-cups may sound macabre but the practice of using skull-cups was well-known worldwide. From Vikings to Scythians, all created and used skull-cups. Dr. Silvia Bello of Natural History Museum, London believes that the early humans were skilled anatomists who carefully cleaned the skull of the soft tissues before making the cuts and dents. As a final step, the cranial vaults are shaped into cups by retouching the broken or chipped bones. Dr. Silivio Bell suspects that the early humans might have been cannibals who consumed the soft flesh of the skull before turning it into a cup. However, he believes that the purpose of consumption may have been ritualistic rather than pure cannibalism.

The skull cups found in Gough’s cave belong to two adults and a 3-year old child from Cro-Magnon period. Two of the skull-cups were found in 1920 and another was found in 1987.(source)

5. The average life expectancy in ancient Rome was only 20 to 30 years.

Image source: america.pink

The modern day statisticians have conceded to the fact that the average life expectancy of ancient Romans hovered around the age of 25. This shocking figure is due to the high mortality rate of infants and children. As many as 50% of the children succumbed to death by the age of ten. Those who managed to survive plagues, dysentery and wars had life expectancy that ranged from 45-50 years.(source)


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