Fake History – WIF Myths and Misconceptions

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Historic Myths

and Misconceptions

Even though history is, in theory, a fixed and unchangeable field of study, in practice it evolves all the time. Things and events that we were sure to have happened can be turned on their head by a single archaeological discovery or a reinterpretation based on new facts.

It is after these changes in historical perspective that certain notions, myths, and misconceptions stick around. In other cases, however, it could just be that not so historically accurate movies have created them as such for dramatic effect. Whatever the case may be, we are here to set the records straight for 10 of them…

10. The Viking Name

The Norsemen, more commonly known as the Vikings, were a group of peoples from Northern Europe, particularly the Scandinavian Penninsula, Denmark, and Iceland. They made a name for themselves from the 8th to 11th centuries AD mostly by pillaging, enslaving, but also trading with other European and Middle Eastern peoples.

The most common misconception about the Vikings is in regard to their very name. The term Viking didn’t appear in the English language until the middle of the 19th century. There are several possible origins for the term; the most widely accepted being that it came from vikingr, an Old Norse term meaning to raid or piracy. A similar theory proposes that the term Vikings refers to men rowing in shifts.

What’s more, the Norsemen had different names to the different people they came in contact with. The Germans knew them as the Ascomanni (ashmen), the Irish knew them as Lochlannach (lake people), while the Slavs, Byzantines, and Arabs know them as the Rus. The fact of the matter is that we don’t really know what they called themselves. Nevertheless, the Vikings that ended up living in Ireland began calling themselves Ostmen (east men) at some point.

9. Napoleon Was Short

There’s a common misconception that Napoleon Bonaparte was really short in stature. This myth is so ingrained in today’s collective consciousness that we even have a psychological issue named after it: the Napoleon Complex. This type of inferiority complex manifests itself in some shorter people, particularly men, where they feel the need to overcompensate by exhibiting aggressive and/or domineering social behavior.

As far as the actual Napoleon was concerned, he was 5-foot-2, to be exact. That’s not particularly tall. But the fact of the matter is that he wasn’t shorter than the average Frenchman from the late 18th and early 19th centuries. So, why all the fuss about his height, then? The answer lies in the difference between the measuring systems of France and England at the time. Both nations used inches in their measurements, but the French inch was longer than its British counterpart.

In reality, Napoleon was 5-foot-6 in British inches and 5-foot-2 in French. At some point, a confusion was made, and people started believing that Napoleon was 5-foot-2 in British inches. To make matters worse, Napoleon was often surrounded by taller guards, making him seem smaller by comparison. But the Imperial Guard had height requirements, which account for Napoleon’s by-name of le petit caporal or the little corporal. 

8. Benjamin Franklin Discovered Electricity

Many people around the world are under the misconception that Benjamin Franklin discovered electricity during his famous Kite Experiment. And while Franklin was a renowned scientist of his time with an interest in many areas of study and an inventor of many things, such as bifocal glasses, he did not discover electricity.

In fact, scientists of the 17th century had been experimenting with static electricity. What Benjamin Franklin did, however, was to prove that electricity had both positive and negative elements and that lightning was, in fact, a type of electricity. His initial idea for the experiment was to use a 30-foot rod. But after two years, he decided on the silk kite, instead. Little did he know at the time, however, that a French naturalist by the name Thomas-Francois Dalibard did conduct the experiment as Franklin originally intended — on May 10, 1752, just one month before Franklin. Dalibard concluded that Franklin’s hypothesis was right.

7. Peasants Ignited the French Revolution

Revolutions are almost always idealized as an event in a nation’s history where the lower class people took up arms against a brutish and authoritarian regime. Yet, as history has shown us time and time again, for a revolution to be successful, it oftentimes requires more than just the peasantry. The same thing can also be said about the French Revolution of 1789.

Explaining the actual causes and how the revolution went down is something way beyond the scope of this list. Nevertheless, the common “knowledge” is that impoverished people began the revolution. There were several notable uprisings prior to the revolution, when the people of Paris rebelled against the government. But every time, the middle class prevented things from degenerating further. In 1789, however, things were different. The middle class and lower nobility, themselves — dissatisfied with the high taxes and levels of corruption — joined the commoners. Thus, sealing the fate of the French monarchy.

6. Hernan Cortes and the Aztec Empire

At its height during the early 16th century, the Aztec Empire managed to cover much of what is now central Mexico. It encompassed an area of over 52,000 square miles and a population of around 11 million. Though relatively young, the Mesoamerican nation managed to gather a lot of wealth and expand its reach in a short amount of time. This, however, also attracted a lot of hatred from the people they subjugated, as well as the attention of the Europeans stationed in Cuba.

Hearing reports of strange stone monuments and brightly dressed and golden-covered natives on the mainland, the Spanish Governor of Cuba, Diego Velasquez, organized an expedition comprised of a fleet of 11 ships, 500 soldiers, and 100 sailors. At the head of this expedition was Hernan Cortes. And even though the expedition was later canceled, Cortes sailed to the mainland anyway.

The historical myth surrounding Hernan Cortes is that he, alongside his men, managed to bring the mighty Aztec Empire to its knees all by themselves. Truth be told, they were sporting state-of-the-art weapons such as crossbows, steel swords, guns, pikes, cannons, and full plate armor. They also had horses, something which the natives had never encountered before. All of these weapons made the Spanish hundreds, if not thousands of years ahead technologically, proving their worth time and time again on the battlefield — mainly as morale breakers for the enemy.

Nevertheless, this would not have been enough to bring down an Empire — let alone in a timespan of just three years. It was by employing the help of several subjugated tribes and their armies, as well as smallpox that was introduced several years earlier that managed to do the job — alongside Cortez and his heavily-armed men, of course.

5. Richard the Lionheart was English

Richard I of England, later known as Richard the Lionheart, was born on September 8, 1157 in Oxford. He was the son of Henry II and Eleanor of Aquitaine. Second only to Henry VIII, Richard I was among the most famous kings of England. Among his most notable achievements was his involvement during the Third Crusade (1189-1192) alongside Frederick I Barbarossa, King of Germany and Holy Roman Emperor, and Philip II of France.

The campaign was ultimately a failure, with the Crusaders not being able to take the Holy City of Jerusalem. There were, however, several victories along the way, most notably the capture of the city of Messina in Sicily, the capture of the island of Cyprus, the capture of Acre in what is now present-day Israel, and the Battle of Arsuf. Though not able to fulfill its intended objective, the Crusade created a Christian foothold in the Middle Eastern mainland.

Even though he was born in England, Richard the Lionheart became the Duke of Aquitaine and Count of Poitou at age 11 — both in France. Among Richard’s other deeds were two rebellions against his own father, after which he became sole heir of the Kingdom of England, as well as Normandy, Maine, and Aquitaine. He died in 1199, leading a siege at the age of 42, and throughout his life he only set foot in the British Isles twice for a total of six months. He never learned how to speak English and, prior to the crusade, he emptied the Crown’s coffers and sold off many lands and titles in preparation for the campaign.

4. Chivalry

People, by and large, have a fairly idealistic view of history. Many of us like to think that the past was a simpler, nicer, and overall better time. But this is a common misconception so deeply ingrained into our common consciousness that even historians sometimes have trouble distancing themselves from it. Many of us oftentimes forget just how war-ridden the world was or how little access most people had to so many things that we take for granted today.

The purpose of history is, or should be, to examine events and systems in the most objective way possible. To see what worked and what didn’t, and how we can use those things to improve the future. History shouldn’t be about keeping score or grudges, nor should we look at it through a nostalgic lens so as to better fit with our idealistic point of view.

One example of this is chivalry. Popularized by numerous medieval and modern novels, stories, and epic poems, chivalrous knights are often seen as valiant, noble, courteous men, defined by their high-minded consideration, particularly towards women. Yet, the reality is quite different. The origins of the term and concept stem back to the 10th century France. It was introduced by the church as an attempt at regulating the endemic violence in French society. The term comes from chevalier, or knight, which in turn, derives from cheval, or horse.

In reality, these knights were quite violent, with numerous accounts of sacking and pillaging towns, villages, monasteries, as well as regularly committing acts of murder, torture, rape, and so on. In short, chivalry evolved to become somewhat of a code of conduct in warfare and had almost nothing to do with what we now consider chivalrous today.

3. The Infamous Vomitoriums

According to popular culture, a vomitorium was a room in Ancient Rome where Romans would go to purge during feasts so as to continue gorging themselves and make room for more. But while the actual Romans did love their food and drink, the purpose of the vomitorium was a completely different one that had nothing to do with vomiting.

For the actual Romans of old, vomitoriums were the entrances and exits to stadiums, arenas, and theaters. They were dubbed as such by the Roman writer and philosopher Ambrosius Theodosius Macrobius in his work entitled Saturnalia. He called them this based on how these exits spewed crowds of people onto the streets.

It was sometime during the late 19th and early 20th centuries when the term was reintroduced with its wrong connotations. In his 1923 novel Antic Hay, author Aldous Huxley writes about vomitoriums as literal places for people to vomit.

2. Vincent van Gogh Cut off His Own Ear

Many people around the world have seen Vincent van Gogh’s Self-Portrait with Bandaged Ear. He painted it shortly after returning from the hospital in 1889. The official version of the story is that, in a fit of madness, the disturbed Dutch painter severed his left earlobe with a razor blade shortly before Christmas 1888. He then wrapped it in a pieced of newspaper or cloth, walked to a nearby brothel and handed it to a prostitute, who immediately fainted.

He then went back home, went to sleep and almost bled to death before the police found him the next morning in a blood-drenched bed. Being unconscious, he was taken to the hospital. When he woke up, van Gogh asked for his friend, the French artist Paul Gauguin, who refused to see him.

Nevertheless, two German historians have proposed a different version of events. The two argued that, after reviewing numerous witness accounts and letters, the official story had plenty of inconsistencies. Their interpretation points to Paul Gauguin, van Gogh’s friend, who was a keen fencer and, during a heated argument, lopped off his earlobe with a sword. The two made a so-called pact of silence where Gauguin was looking to avoid prosecution while van Gogh wanted to keep his friend, with whom he was infatuated.

A somewhat recent discovery, however, seems to disprove (or at least significantly alter) both the original version and the one proposed by the two German historians. A letter written by Dr. Felix Rey explains in full detail the extent of the wounds. As it turns out, the entire left ear was sliced off, not just the earlobe, as it was previously assumed.

1. Emperor Nero Played the Fiddle as Rome Burned

For an entire week in 64 AD, the citizens of Ancient Rome watched helplessly as their city burned to the ground. As with many similar tragedies, ordinary people who’ve lost everything often look for someone to blame. Old stories say that Nero, himself, set fire to the city, after which he climbed on the city walls and began playing the fiddle and reciting long-lost poems about the destruction of Troy. Truth be told, Emperor Nero was not a particularly good man. Going from cruelty to incest, murder, and the like, Nero is considered by many to be the Biblical Antichrist.

But when it comes to the fire of 64 AD, Nero didn’t sit idly by or play his instrument as the city burned. He was actually at his Palace in Antium when the fire began. When news reached him, Nero rushed back to the city where he personally coordinated the firefighting efforts during the first night. He also opened all public buildings and his own private gardens to act as temporary shelters. In addition, Nero imported grain from all nearby cities and offered it to the citizens at only a fraction of the cost.


Fake History –

WIF Myths and Misconceptions

Roman Almanac – WABAC Into History

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Fascinating Facts

About the Romans

“Where is the WABAC Machine going to take us this time, Mr. Peabody?

“Set the WABAC for Ancient Rome, Sherman My Boy.”

Ancient Rome had a huge effect on the world as we know it today. Many of the ideas they had in regards to governing and infrastructure are still in use in the modern world, and similar to Ancient Egypt, everyone knows quite a lot about the Ancient Romans.

 However, just like with the Ancient Egyptians, when a culture becomes that ingrained in the public consciousness, we tend to learn a lot of things that aren’t actually true. Some of the stranger or less convenient facts get swept entirely under the rug. The Ancient Romans are a fascinating culture, and in some ways stranger or more disgusting than you might have imagined.

10. Christians Weren’t Fed To Lions and Many Tales of Martyrdom Were Exaggerated

One of the most popularly told tales about the Romans is how they fed the Christians to the lions for having the audacity to start a new religion and do their own thing. This has been recounted in so much popular culture it is staggering, and at this point it may be impossible to remove it from the public mindset. The sad part here is that it is incredibly untrue, but the untruth has become so ingrained it may as well be fact to most people. Not only are the stories about feeding Christians to lions without any real basis, but many scholars argue that there is no real proof for the kind of sustained, and targeted persecution that many later Christian writers would put forth.

There were, truthfully, only a handful of scattered years where Christians were ever targeted specifically at all, and many of the more colorful accounts of martyrdom are completely impossible to verify, and there is good reason to believe many of the stories were much exaggerated. Now, this doesn’t mean that Christians weren’t ever put to death for reasons that involved their beliefs, but some scholars argue that in many cases where a Christian was killed for being Christian, it was because they made statements refusing the divinity of the emperor or something similar while in court. This wasn’t a specifically targeted persecution, even if it was a difficult position for them to be in – not wanting to say someone is divine when they do not believe they are.

9. In Ancient Rome the Word Decimate had an Entirely Different Meaning

When we use the word decimate today, we just mean to destroy something really badly, often completely or entirely. This is essentially the correct meaning now because of common usage, but when the term was first coined, its meaning was much more literal. As you might imagine from the root of the word, it originally had to do with the number ten. When a group of soldiers committed some crime, such as desertion, the entire troop would be punished to put them in their place. They would isolate the entire group, and then have them draw lots to decide who was going to die.

The Romans would then force those who were to live to kill the tenth of the troops that drew lots. This meant that, quite literally, they were removing one tenth of that troop, or “decimating” it. This was one of the earlier forms of something referred to today as military discipline, where an entire troop is punished for a few men’s infractions, to make sure the entire troop self-polices. This can be seen some today in modern armies where someone will make a mistake and the entire unit will be forced to pay for the mistake. However, in today’s modern world we don’t kill our troops, we just make them do push-ups or something similar.

8. Romans Shared a Sponge on a Stick for Cleaning Up After Using Public Toilets

Today we like to think of Romans as very hygienic for their time. In fact, we often consider them a beacon of cleanliness that the world didn’t see anything like for quite some time. They had their own sewer and water systems and they had public baths and were very much into being clean. However, the truth is that many of the Roman’s habits would disgust many people today who live in some of the countries without much infrastructure. For example, their public bathrooms were a horror show. It wasn’t uncommon for gigantic rats to come out of the sewer, and because they contained gases, fires could erupt randomly.

To make matters worse, the Romans at public toilets shared a single sponge on a stick that they used to clean up after using the bathroom. They would use the sponge on a stick to wipe themselves up, rinse it, and then leave it for the next person to use. Most people today would be absolutely disgusted by the thought of using a sponge to clean themselves that a bunch of random people had also used. And while people think they were clean, the Romans didn’t actually bathe traditionally, per se. Instead, they would cover themselves in oils, and then scrape it off their skin with an instrument called a strigil.

7. The Romans Invented an Early Form of Concrete

The Romans did an incredible amount of building, and their gigantic structures as well as their infrastructure such as aqueducts are one of the things they are most famous for. One of the biggest reasons we still talk about their buildings so much is because so many of them have managed to withstand the test of time. They managed this by using an early form of concrete, something that was essentially unheard of at that time in history. On top of that, once the Roman Empire fell, the knowledge was lost, and concrete was basically rediscovered much later on.

However, that doesn’t mean that Roman concrete is the same as modern concrete. Modern concrete is actually ten times the strength of Roman concrete, however, the concrete they had back in the day was still an incredible achievement, and not just because they were able to build it at all. Because they had their own unique kind of concrete, it may have been weaker, but it had advantages ours does not. Due to being made with volcanic ash, it actually performs way better against erosion, especially from water, something that modern concrete does not do very well with at all. This has allowed their buildings to withstand the test of time, for generations of tourists to continue to explore and be fascinated by.

6. The Romans Drove a Birth Control Plant to Extinction

Back in the day Romans were definitely known for their love of sex, and they would not have denied their love for it at all. There was a plant called Silphium which they greatly prized, because they believed that it could act as a method of birth control. It could only be grown wild and attempts to put a quota on the harvest failed miserably, due to how ridiculously popular the plant became. It was soon worth an incredible amount of money, and before too many years, the Romans had managed to lust their way to the extinction of the entire plant.

However, some people today wonder if it really worked. The problem is that there is really no way to be actually sure. The plant has gone extinct so we cannot really check samples, and there were plenty of dubious medical cures in Ancient Rome, so this could have been one of them. On the other hand, some experts believe it could have had abortion inducing affects, which means all the men taking it would have been wasting their time and the plant. However, the truth is that whether it worked or not is hardly important. The truth is that just thinking it had that effect was enough – the Romans loved consequence free sex so they drove the plant to extinction.

 5. Some Believe the Antichrist Referred to was Nero

The idea of an antichrist figure who becomes a ruler on earth, and helps set up the final battle between good and evil, that culminates in the second coming of Christ, has been fascinating people for a very long time. Many people will claim that the latest world leader they don’t like is the antichrist, and many people have been suggested to be this figure over the years. For some, the antichrist is always yet to come, but for others, he may have already been. Many scholars believe it is quite possible that the passages referring to the figure we now call the antichrist were actually talking about the Emperor Nero.

This man blamed the Christians for the fire of Rome, and persecuted them greatly. He killed his own mother and was known for being one of the most despicable tyrants in the history of Rome. However, even more telling, is the fact that when he died, many people believed he had just disappeared. Many believed he was actually going to be resurrected or return somehow, and bring more great evil to the world. And if you look at the encoded numbers that everyone always points to as the mark of the beast, the numbers can represent Nero’s name if you interpret them a certain way. Of course, this interpretation may not have been accurate either, but the fact the Christians thought he might resurrect at all shows how much they feared this man.

4. The Romans Flooded the Colosseum in Order to Conduct Mock Sea Battles

The Romans were a culture that liked to do things on a very grand scale, and they certainly kept true to this when they reenacted battles. Specifically, they decided that they wanted to reenact large scale naval battles, so they would dig out huge trenches in the ground, make artificial lakes, and then fill them with soldiers and rowers carrying out the various parts of the battle. In order to make it realistic as possible, prisoners and captured soldiers would literally be forced to fight to the death as part of the mock battles. These forms of entertainment were very popular, but due to the incredible expense they were only done on special occasions.

Many people were not sure at first if the coliseum was used for these spectacles, as it was hard to find physical evidence and it seemed like the structure would not support it. However, it turns out that the coliseum could have supported being flooded for such a purpose; they just would have had to use much smaller scale ships and such. And while there is little physical evidence, there are plenty of written sources that point to the coliseum being used at least a few times for this purpose. The Romans were always about going as big and all out as possible, and their theater was some of the most advanced and realistic you would find anywhere. Today, we stick with pretending to kill people when putting on a show.

3. The Very Strange Lives of Ancient Rome’s Vestal Virgins

The Romans were very religious and very superstitious and had many different gods. One of the more important gods was called Vesta, a great goddess of fire. They believed that as long as her fire was kept burning, Rome as a civilization would endure for the ages. To this extent, they decided they needed well trained and well-disciplined people to keep the fire burning always, to make sure Rome remained. For some reason, they decided that the best way to accomplish this would be to appoint six young girls at a time, who would remain virgins as long as they remained in their position.

It was a coveted position that gave them status most women would never get, but it did come with the price of having to remain virgins for as long as they were helping keep the fire lit. A vestal virgin who briefly let the fire go out was punished severely, usually taken aside, stripped and beaten in order to instill in them how important it is to attend to their sacred duty. And if a vestal virgin became a virgin no longer, it was considered an act of incest, because they were married to the city, and the cities citizens were related to the city in some form. This logic may not sound particularly sound, but to the Romans, it was very important that these women remained virgins. When they committed the crime of being a virgin no longer, certain rules forbade the normal means of execution for these women, so vestal no longer virgins were buried alive as punishment.

2. Urine Was Used as a Cleaning Product for Both Teeth and Clothes

As we mentioned earlier, the Romans were known for being hygienic, but they also did a lot of things that we might find rather questionable. And one of the most questionable things would likely be the way they made use of urine. Now, urine is mostly ammonia so it can be used in cleaning products, and ammonia does have cleaning properties, but the difference is that today we are essentially processing it to only keep the stuff we need.

Back in the day, Romans would use urine in order to whiten their teeth, and also in order to clean clothes. Urine would be collected throughout the day, and then diluted with water somewhat, and poured over clothes, where the launderer would then stomp on them to sort of simulate the workings of how a washing machine works now. While it may have indeed been useful at getting out the stains, we don’t really want to imagine what their clothes would have smelled like, since they soaked them in unprocessed urine in order to get them clean. However, likely the Romans would have been used to the smell, or perhaps would have used various oils or other perfumes to hide it. As we mentioned earlier, they also didn’t clean in the traditional sense to begin with and instead oiled themselves and then scraped off the excess.

1. There is Little Evidence That Romans Threw Up on Purpose So They Could Eat More Food

One of the most commonly believed myths is that Romans had a special room in which they threw up food so they could then go eat more food. This has been greatly confused because there is a word for a “vomitorium”, but this is just the exit of a coliseum, where it “vomits out” all the people back onto the street. This “fact” has made its way into books like the Hunger Games series, where the people of the capital are seen as being similar to the Romans in this respect. When most people learn that this isn’t actually true, many insist that the Romans at least still threw up on purpose to eat more.

 However, there is really little evidence of such actually happening. Romans did sometimes throw up on purpose, just as some people do today. But it is likely there were other reasons for it, just as there are today. There is really little reason to believe that Romans were actually throwing up just to make room for more food right there on the spot, and then stuffing down more, just to throw up again. This widespread belief, which is a great exaggeration, likely has made its way around due to the fact that Romans were known for elaborate feasts and hedonism in general, making it very easy to believe. The truth is, what people are talking about likely wouldn’t work that well anyway. Most people don’t feel like eating after being full, and don’t really want to make room for more, and most people certainly don’t feel like eating after recently throwing up.

Roman Almanac

– WABAC Into History


Puns (#27) Imported from Italy

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For Intelligent People (#27)

Puns Imported from Italy #27

I bought a computer from The Nero Company. It comes with a CD/Rome burner.

I used to think I’d hate Italian food, but I finally decided to give pizza a chance

Why are Italians so good at making coffee? Because they really know how to espresso themselves.

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That Italian chef is really annoying. He’s making a pesto himself

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Italian building inspectors in Pisa are leanient.

The compensation received by the Italian chef was a pretty penne.

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My friend dropped his box of Italian pastries on the floor. I cannoli imagine what he must be going through

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Puns (#27) Imported

pun-catalog-001

from Italy

Bad People – Too Powerful

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WIF Politics-001

Top 10 Worst Abuses

of Power in History

Being in a position of power is awesome, and we’re not going to lie: given nigh unlimited god-like power over millions of people, we’d probably abuse it just a little. However, here’s a list of 10 people who went way too far, because they were in charge and because they could.

10. Lavrentiy Beria

Lavrentiy-Beria

Lavrentiy Beria was not a nice man; operating just under Stalin during WWII, his power and reach were effectively absolute. So what did he choose to do with it? He’d rape any woman he took his fancy to. Using his vast reach and virtually unopposed power over Russian life and death, Beria would drive around Russia in his armored limousine (because power comes with all the best perks,) pick out any woman who took his fancy, and have his men bring them back to his mansion. When there, Beria would rape the woman in a soundproofed room and then give her a bunch of flowers. This last act was a token gesture that Beria did as to make the sex seem consensual. Women who didn’t accept the flowers would be arrested and sent to the Gulags, because Beria was an ass like that.

Speaking of Gulags, most of Beria’s victims were women with family members already imprisoned in them, and they only accepted his advances under the promise they’d be freed. Most of the time, the women’s family were either dead already, or forced to be in the room as Beria had his way with them. Again, he was an ass.

His sexual appetite was such that even Stalin himself feared for his daughter’s life and innocence when she was alone with him. Then again, when a guy has a soundproof rape room in his house, anyone would be uncomfortable leaving their children there.

9. Ivan the Terrible

ivan-the-terrible

With a name like Ivan the Terrible, you’re probably not holding out much hope for this one. So what are we going to talk about? His abuse of the nobility? The executions he’d hand out seemingly at random whenever he felt like it? Nope, we’re going to talk about what Ivan did to dogs and cats, because the Internet loves them more than people.

It’s noted that in his youth, because he wanted to hear their anguished screams, and also because he could and no one could stop him, Ivan would throw cats and dogs off of the walls of the Kremlin. Again we could go into much, much more detail about the horrific acts this man committed because of the power he held, but lets be honest here — after reading that you already know he was pure evil.

8. Emperor Commodus

Emperor-Commodus

You may remember Emperor Commodus from the Gladiator movie. Though that film went out of its way to represent Commodus as an unlikable, power-mad dictator, the movie didn’t even approach how insane he truly was.

Commodus openly believed that he was a direct descendant of Hercules, and as such fought in the arena as much as he could — fought being a word we use in the loosest possible sense of the word. As Emperor, no opponent would ever dare strike Commodus in open combat, meaning all of his gladiatorial fights were him simply beating unarmed men to death. He also stabbed animals to death from a high wall to prove how great he was.

But it gets worse! Simply murdering unarmed men and slaughtering hundreds of wild animals for fun wasn’t enough for Commodus; he had the audacity to charge the city of Rome for every appearance in the arena he made. That’d be like Obama challenging you to a game of one-on-one basketball, having his secret service shoot your family at halftime, and then charging you for it. Only Commodus would have probably stabbed your dog too.

7. Emperor Caligula

Emperor-Caligula

We could have probably written this entire list about Roman emperors, but we only wanted to include thereally insane ones, and Caligula was likely the most insane of them all.

Though many of the stories about him have been blown out of proportion as time has marches on, a lot of them are grounded in fact. For example, it’s widely accepted that Caligula once had an entire section of a crowd gathered at the Coliseum thrown to the animals because he was bored, but an important part most miss out on is that he had their tongues cut out first so they couldn’t complain about it.

That’s just the kind of man he was; he didn’t just kill people on a whim, he made sure they suffered too. Because who was going to argue with him?

6. Christian VII

christian-VII

Christian VII was the kind of King you could have a beer with, as long as you were always, always on your guard. Why? Because Christian had a rather unusual habit of slapping people as hard as he could across the face whenever he damn well felt like it.

Slapping someone across the face may seem like small potatoes compared to the other things on this list, but you have to realize Christian saw no difference between slapping a peasant and a freaking lord. All were equal, and all were slappable in his eyes.

Think of this as more of a glimpse into the mind of someone with absolute power than us saying the slapping thing is in line with cutting people’s tongues out. It’s an example of total disregard for even the most simple human courtesy, an example of someone so safe in the knowledge they can do whatever they want, so without empathy for the feelings of others, that physically assaulting them is little more than something to pass the time.

5. Emperor Heliogabalus

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Emperor Heliogabalus, sometimes spelled Elagabalus, was another Roman Emperor who let total control over what was virtually the entire known world go to his head. Whereas other Roman emperors enjoyed murdering people, Elagabalus just really liked eating. However, he had really peculiar tastes. For example, he loved him some eel, but to make it tastier he fattened them up by feeding them live slaves. Because what’s a little human suffering when you’ve got dinner to make?

Elagabalus would also force his guests to eat rocks, and play awesome practical jokes like trapping them in rooms with live lions. No guest ever complained, because they enjoyed living. When he wasn’t annoying his friends, Elagabalus also held a lottery for the people of Rome. You may think this sounds like a nice gesture, until you realize the prizes included boxes of angry bees, and he launched the tickets out of catapults along with hundreds of snakes. Why? Because it was funny.

4. Emperor Nero

Emperor-Nero

Okay, one more Roman Emperor, then we promise we’ll stop. So what did Nero do, you ask? Well, he mugged people. Again, this may seem tame compared to launching deadly snakes into a crowd of innocent people or slapping people across the face really, really hard. But you have to remember, Nero had virtually no need for money; anything he couldn’t afford, he could just take. He didn’t mug people because he needed money, he did it because he liked stabbing random people, and he enjoyed the power he felt when his victims realized he was the Emperor and that there was literally nothing they could do to stop him from punching their lungs full of speed holes, without risking being tortured to death for treason.

Man, that’s cold.

3. Josef Mengele

josef-mengele

If you’ve never heard of this guy, read his Wikipedia entry, and then quietly hug your children and cry. If you don’t have any children of your own, take a leaf out of Josef’s book and borrow some.

Basically, during WWII Josef was given unlimited and unfettered access to the thousands of inmates passing through Auschwitz. Josef had free reign to perform any experiment his sick mind could concoct. He was completely safe in the knowledge that anything he did could be passed off as legitimate medical experimentation, and that no one would stop him unless they wanted an angry letter from Hitler.

We’ll likely never know the true extents of what Josef did at Auschwitz. However, from what little information has been gathered about him, it was almost certainly horrific. Experimentation without anesthesia was incredibly commonplace; he once removed a young boy’s kidney just to see what would happen, and injected chemicals into people’s eyes to see if he could change their color. He’d remove limbs, castrate and sterilize his victims (who again, were mostly children) and meticulously note what happened. Usually, the scientific conclusion was “whatever I did caused horrible, painful death.”

Unbelievably, virtually nothing of any medical significance was ever discovered in post-war research into his work, aside from “poison and mutilation are bad for you.” If you’re looking for some closure here, Josef died many years later in Brazil, as a free man.

2. Samurai

Satsuma-samurai

Yes, we’re making this entry about all samurai, because they were all, as far as we could tell, buttholes of the highest degree. Now, the Internet has a huge chubby for samurai and feudal Japan in general, but this is almost certainly because the Internet has learned everything it knows about Japan from Dragon Ball Z and Jackie Chan movies (even though he’s Chinese.)

In reality, samurai were huge douchewads who cut people down for fun, because samurai were one of the ruling classes of Japan. As a ruling class, they were entitled to a few privileges, one of which was Kiri-sute gomen, which was literally the right to cut down anyone of a lower class for any reason whatsoever, without reprieve.

Though this wasn’t a practice likely followed by all samurai all the time, just realize that they had free reign to kill anyone they felt like, for any reason, and no one could do anything about it unless they too wanted a brutal neck-stabbing. You have to admit, that’s kind of harsh.

1. Kim Jong-Il

Kim-Jong-il

Kim Jong-Il literally lived the dream of being a billionaire playboy who owned his own country. He was like that one person we all have on Facebook who does nothing but brag about how awesome their life is, only people actually believed everything he said because he was Kim Jong-Freaking-Il.

The list of all the crazy stuff Kim claimed to have done or invented is massive: he invented the hamburger, the weather was directly linked to his mood, and the first time he ever played golf he got 11 holes-in-one. How do we know that last one? A bunch of his guards signed sworn documents that they’d seen him do it.

We could go into the atrocities Kim committed, but there are enough of those on this list already. We think it’s far more amazing that he used his power and reach to basically write fan fiction about how awesome he was, then convinced his entire country to believe it. He was basically a rich spoiled child everyone was too afraid to scold. When he was travelling by armored train across North Korea, he had lobster airlifted to him every single day. When he wanted North Korea to have a film industry, he kidnapped a famous South Korean director, presumably single-handedly while fighting off a group of capitalist ninjas because at this point, why the hell not?

And that, ladies and gentlemen is the image we want to leave you with. Not people being tortured, not animal cruelty, but an elderly Korean man sitting in his giant mansion full of naked women, alcohol, and gold, wondering how he can make his life sound more interesting to people whose minds would be blown if you showed them an iPhone.

Bad People

– Too Powerful