Remember that one seriously epic party you went to where you got so wasted, and the cops came and you crawled out of a second-story window without your pants? Well guess what, history just called, and they said your insane party experience ain’t nothing. We’re going to look at parties that created countries, started wars, and killed off the entire English royal family. Bring some chips or a six-pack (or just bring a bag of ice if you’re that guy)and look at history’s craziest parties.
MOSCOW’S FIRST VICTORY DAY
Winning the Second World War was a pretty good excuse for a party, particularly if you were a Russian and had seen a lot of that war fought in your backyard. Fittingly, Moscow’s victory celebration blew everybody else’s parties out of the water and into a vast lake of booze—supposedly, so much vodka was being consumed that it flowed down the streets like rivers. The party started at one in the morning on May 9, 1945 when Germany’s surrender was officially confirmed, and continued for a solid 22 hours, slowing down only when it was discovered that Muscovites had done the impossible—drank the city’s entire supply of vodka.
ADMIRAL RUSSELL AND HISTORY’S BIGGEST COCKTAIL
“Drunk by Naval standards” was a British expression during the Age of Sail to indicate someone so smashed it was hard to believe they’d ever been sober. There are plenty of reasons for this but Admiral Edward Russell’s legendary 1694 naval officer’s party couldn’t hurt: draining the fountain of his estate, he refilled it with some 250 gallons of brandy, 125 gallons of wine, 20 gallons of lime juice, 1400 pounds of sugar, 2500 lemons, and five pounds of nutmeg (because a little nutmeg goes a long way). In true naval fashion, the punch was served by bartenders in a canoe, who had to change shifts every fifteen minutes to so as not to pass out from the fumes. Over the course of a week, revelers drank the fountain dry, stopping only to put up a canopy to keep rain from diluting the booze.
THE LAST BASH OF THE WARI
Little is known of the Wari people of ancient Peru: they lived in the Andean mountains, they brewed “chicha” beer out of maize and saliva, and after about 500 years they just seemed to disappear. Evidence suggests they went out with a hell of a bang, however: the ruins of Cerro Baul, once an ambassadorial outpost and major chicha brewery, show evidence that the last thing the Wari did before abandoning the city was hold a massive ceremonial party. After brewing a final giant batch of chicha, the residents burned the brewery, smashed their houses, and disappeared into the forest.
THE FIELD OF THE CLOTH OF GOLD
In 1520, the non-aggression pact between England under Henry VIII and France under Francis I was in danger of falling apart, so the decision was made to conduct a series of calm, orderly peace talks… nah, just kidding, the two kings agreed to hold a gigantic party in a field. Although the party started out on good terms, King Hank and King Frank couldn’t stop trying to outdo the other in terms of spectacle and luxury, including huge fountains filled with wine, a gigantic tent done up to look like a castle, and so many fancy cloth-of-goldoutfits that it became the semi-official name for the event.
The highlight of the celebration was a series of friendly competitions between British and French jousters, duelists, and archers, which culminated in Henry’s surprise challenge of Francis to a wrestling match, even though the rules of the event stipulated that the two kings weren’t supposed to directly compete against each other. It turned out that rule was a good idea, since after Henry got his ass handed to him by the king of France the party went sour in a hurry. Within a year of the party, the British allied with the Holy Roman Empire, who promptly declared war on France and their stupid jerk king who thought he’s so great at wrestling.
THE NAMING OF MANHATTAN
Explorer Henry Hudson was one of many people who failed to discover the Northeast Passage, mostly because it didn’t actually exist, but as a sort of consolation prize ended up mapping most of the Eastern seaboard. During his 1609 expedition, he found himself in the territory of the Lenape people, who made the kind but arguably short-sighted decision not to kill these strange white people and traded them some furs and supplies instead. To celebrate, Hudson broke out his private brandy reserves, and soon everyone in the local tribe was drunk as hell for the first time in their lives. After sending Hudson on his way and dealing with some of the first hangovers in the New World, the locals began referring to the little forested island as “manahachtanienk,” roughly translated as either “place of general inebriation” or “that island where we all got blitzed.”
ALEXANDER THE GREAT SETS THE ROOF ON FIRE (ALSO EVERYTHING ELSE)
Famous commander and infamous drunk Alexander the Great could throw a hell of a party, but not everyone was guaranteed to live through the event. Case in point: the burning of Persepolis, which Alexander was originally going to spare before holding a “symposium,” which we think of today as a sort of intellectual conference or debate, but was back then an excuse to get drunk and argue about philosophy. Al’s symposia also tended to feature hetairas, essentially the Greek equivalent of geishas, and this one had the hetaira Thais of Athens, who like a lot of Athenians was still pissed off about the burning of the Acropolis during the Second Persian Invasion and had a fun suggestion: how bout all the hetairas get together, get a band going, and set fire to everything in the city? Al was totally down with the idea of combining arson with high-class prostitutes and the ancient capital was reduced to cinders overnight.
THE SPECTACLES OF TITUS
When the Flavian Amphitheater (better known as the Roman Colosseum, except for a brief period when it was officially renamed QualComm Stadium) was first opened to the public, Emperor Titus wanted a big event to show off that this wasn’t going to be your average gladiator arena. After all, Rome had just come through some rough times—plagues, fires, the whole Vesuvius things—and everybody needed to unwind. To that end, Titus declared a full hundred days of non-stop partying, drinking, racing, gladiator battles (both team and one-on-one matches), public executions, and to cap it off, a “naumachia:” a half-scale naval battle held inside the Colosseum itself, which was capable of filling with water in just a few hours. The celebration was so intense that according to Roman historians, Titus died the day after the last of the games, possibly to avoid what was going to be an incredible hangover.
ANDREW JACKSON, PARTY PRESIDENT
Andrew Jackson is a deeply divisive and controversial figure, but there is one thing everyone can agree on: he could throw a hell of a party. Jackson was the first President to invite the general public to his inaugural ball, which almost immediately got out of hand after 20,000 people showed up to get trashed. At one point, Jackson had to sneak out of the White House and couldn’t get back inside until someone came up with the idea to put huge vats of booze out on the lawn, luring enough people out of the White House for the Secret Service to secure the building again. At the other end of Jackson’s presidency, he was given the somewhat inconvenient gift of a 1400-pound wheel of cheese a year before the end of his second term. Unable to eat or give away enough of the cheese before the end of his term, Jackson again invited the public to the White House in his last public reception. Ten thousand Americans showed up, consuming the cheese in only two hours; unfortunately for future residents of the White House the stench remained for months afterwards.
THE ORIGINAL CONSTITUTION PARTY
Today, the Constitution Party is a fringe conservative group typically found on municipal ballots promising to return Biblical values to the position of dogcatcher. Originally, though, the Constitution Party referred to a balls-out rager paid for by the city of Philadelphia for the 55 delegates who had just finished the last drafts of the nation’s founding document. No direct accounts of the party survive, but luckily we still have the bill presented by the tavern owner to the city. Our noble founding fathers managed to consume 114 bottles of wine, fifty bottles of assorted booze, and seven “large bowls of potent punch.” Two days later, the groggy delegates managed to limp back to work and actually sign the Constitution.
THE WHITE SHIP
Who doesn’t like crazy drunken boat parties? Well, the Coast Guard isn’t fond of the practice, and neither are the people who have to hose vomit out of rented pontoon boats, and if we had to guess we’d say that King Henry I of England wasn’t wild about it either. That’s because of the White Ship disaster, a legendary booze cruise that sank with Henry’s only legitimate son and heir William Adelin aboard, along with several other noble bastards, princesses, counts, and basically everybody that Henry had been counting on to assume control of England after his death. The two survivors of the wreck told a story of drunken revelry fueled by William’s generous and extremely short-sighted decision to let the crew sample his private wine reserves. After it became obvious that there was no longer a clear line of succession for the English throne, Britain descended into a time of vicious civil war later referred to as the Anarchy. Henry probably lost the deposit on the boat rental, too.