110 Important historical facts that you must know!

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History is littered with amazing historical accounts and facts. However, did you know that almost 97% of human history is lost? Hence we have compiled a list of important historical facts that you must know!

 

Read 110 Important historical facts that you must know!

 

1) Did you know that women in Ancient Rome were prohibited from drinking wine? It was a crime and if caught they were given the death penalty. This is the first of the 110 historical facts we have compiled for you!

A picture of a party in Ancient Rome

2) Forks were once considered sacrilegious! They were introduced in the west in the 11th century and its usage was considered an offence to God. The reasoning being that we already have natural forks a.k.a our fingers. 

A picture of medieval forks - important historical facts

3) Often innocent-sounding phrases have a macabre origin. For example, the idiom ‘cat got your tongue’ originated in Egypt. Where a liar’s tongue was fed to the Egyptian pharaoh’s cat!

A picture of Egyptians with cats- important historical facts

4) Roman Emperor Caligula was certainly one of the craziest rulers! In addition to his other antics, the emperor once even declared war on the sea god Neptune! He sent his men to attack the ocean. After securing a ‘victory’ he ordered his men to collect the seashells as war booty.

A picture of Roman Emperor Caligula
Roman Emperor Caligula (c: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; Rogers Fund, 1914, 14.37, www.metmuseum.org)

5) The elite force of the Thebans was a group of homosexuals known as the ‘Sacred Band of Thebes’. They were a band of 150 male lovers and were instrumental in ending Spartan domination. 

A picture of warriors- important historical facts

6) Udham Singh was a survivor of the 1919 Jallianwala Bagh Massacre in Amritsar, India. He later went on to assassinate Michael O’Dwyer, the man who was responsible for the massacre.

A picture of Udham Singh
Udham Singh

7) The famous Olympic torch rally was introduced by the Nazis! It was devised by Carl Diem when the 1936 Olympics were held in Berlin.

A picture of the torch rally of Olypics- history facts

8) A popular drink today, Coca Cola included cocaine in its original formula!

A picture of bottles of coca cola

9) Anglo-Zanzibar is the shortest recorded war in history! It was fought between the United Kingdom and the Zanzibar Sultanate, the battle lasted only around 30-45 minutes. 

A picture of the Anglo-Zanzibar war

10) King Goujian of the Kingdom of Yue had a fearsome army. During a battle, he was known for placing convicted criminals at the front line. Before the battle commenced these criminals decapitated themselves as a tactic to scare the enemy. 

A picture of King Goujian of the Kingdom of Yue

11) Another historical fact is that once tomatoes were put on trial! The town of Salem, New Jersey once thought they were poisonous. Robert Johnson then stepped up and consumed a basket of tomatoes. Seeing as he didn’t die, the trial was promptly dismissed. 

A picture of tomatoes

12) Li Ching-Yuen, a Chinese herbalist is known for his extreme longevity. He died in 1933 at the age of 256.

A picture of Li Ching-Yuen
Li Ching-Yuen at the reported age of 250

13) French queen Marie Antoinette was known for her extravagant gowns but did you know her hair was extravagant as well? She is famous for popularising the ‘pouf’ and she once even shaped her hair as a naval ship! 

A picture of Marie Antoinette with the naval ship hairstyle

14) Genghis Khan was a ruthless warrior with 6 Mongolian wives and over 500 concubines! Today geneticists estimate that around 16 million men share his DNA. 

A picture of Genghis Khan
Genghis Khan

15) We have all heard of count Dracula but have you heard about his counterpart, Countess Elizabeth Báthory? Also known as the blood countess, she is the most prolific female murderer of all time. Additionally, she was very sadistic and allegedly bathed in her victim’s blood.

A picture of Countess Elizabeth Bathory
Countess Elizabeth Báthory

16) The Holodomor or the Great Famine was a 1933 man-made famine in Soviet Ukraine. With a death toll of around 6-7 million people, it is often referred to as a genocide. 

A picture of starved peasants on a street in Kharkiv, 1933.
Starved peasants on a street in Kharkiv, 1933.

17) Enea Silvio Bartolomeo Piccolomini authored ‘a tale of two lovers’, an erotic novel. The book went on to become a literary success of the 15th century, but Piccolomini did not pen down another book, he instead went on to become Pope Pius II in 1458.

A picture of Pope Pius II
Pope Pius II

18) During World War II, a dentist convinced Roosevelt to use bats as a weapon against the Japanese. He proposed to have them strapped with bombs and drop them all over Japan. Crazily enough this idea was accepted but soon nixed after the early planning stages. 

A picture of a bat holding a bomb

19) Yasuke was an African man who became the first foreigner to be titled as a samurai. He sailed to Japan around 500 years ago and reached the rank of samurai under the rule of Oda Nobunaga. 

A picture of Yasuke

20) The beloved nursery rhyme ‘Mary had a little lamb’ is based on a true story.  In the 1800s, a girl named Mary Sawyer lived on a farm in Boston. One day she came across a lamb and it subsequently followed her to school. An older student noticed the events which took place and penned down the poem. 

A picture illustrating Mary and the lamb

21) Pope Gregory IX once ordered the purge of cats, with special emphasis on the black cats. The Catholic church perceived them as the instruments of Satan.

A picture of Pope Gregory IX
Pope Gregory IX (c: es.tresors.de.lys.free.fr)

22) Northern Japanese monks from the 11th to the 19th century practised a form of meditation called sokushinbutsu. During which they would observe asceticism to the point of death and mummify themselves alive. 

A picture of a mummified Buddhist monk-Important historical facts

23) It is common to say ‘cheese’ when a photo is to be taken, but during Victorian times, people said ‘prunes’.

A Victorian photograph

24) Another historical fact is that the Ancient Romans used urine as mouthwash! 

An illustration of Romans next to a toothbrush
(C:dw8stlw9qt0iz.cloudfront.net)

25) The designer of the current United States flag was a 17-year-old Boy Scout named Robert Heft. He was a student of Lancaster High School and designed it for a school project. The grade he got for it was B-!

A picture of the U.S. flag-Important historical facts
(C: Lynne Gilbert/Getty Images)

26) According to the Cuban spy chief Fabian Escalante, Fidel Castro survived over 600 assassination attempts.

A picture of the dictator Fidel Castro
Fidel Castro

27) Contrary to popular belief, people accused of witchcraft weren’t burned at the stake during the Salem witch trials. They were instead hanged or imprisoned. 

A picture of the Salem Witch Trials

28) Another historical fact about Marie Antoinette is that she never said the phrase ‘let them eat cake’.

A picture of Marie Antoinette
Marie Antoinette

29) Cowboys are often associated with cowboy hats but did you know they didn’t actually wear them! In fact, cowboys wore bowler hats.

A picture of cowboys wearing bowler hats

30) Former U.S. President Calvin Coolidge was known for keeping unusual pets. His pets even included a pair of lions and a pygmy hippo!

A picture of Calvin Coolidge
Calvin Coolidge

31) The oldest surviving parliament is the Icelandic parliament ‘Althing’. It was established in 930.

A picture of Althing-Important historical facts

32) Pigtails are considered a cute hairstyle. But this wasn’t the case in China, they were in fact banned in 1911. This was because it was a reference to its feudal past.

A picture of barbers cutting pigtails

33) We have another historical fact on the subject of ‘hair’. Did you know that British soldiers were prohibited from shaving their moustaches between 1860 and 1916? Doing so would result in a breach of discipline. 

34) Julius Caesar was once captured by pirates. So when they set his ransom amount for 20 talents, he instead negotiated it to 50 talents! Rendering the captors dumbfounded.

A picture of Julius Caesar
Julius Caesar

35) Wife-selling was a common custom in 17th century England. If a husband was unhappy with his marriage, he would simply sell his wife by auctioning her off to the highest bidder. 

A picture of wife selling

36) The Thai queen Sunandha Kumariratana died because of an ancient law that forbade commoners from touching her. Her boat capsized on a river but the boatsmen didn’t rescue her as they feared the law. 

A picture of Sunandha Kumariratana-Important historical facts
Sunandha Kumariratana

37) In 1911, an orphanage in Paris held a raffle in an effort to raise money and find homes for orphaned children. Seems normal right? But the twist is that the prizes were live babies. 

A picture of the raffle of babies-Important historical facts

38) If you thought medieval European execution techniques were bad, you should hear what they did in South Asia. A popular form of capital punishment was execution by elephants!

A picture of death by elephant-Important historical facts

39) Roman general Marcus Licinius Crassus was known for his wealth. So when his conquest of Parthia (modern-day Iran) failed, the Parthians allegedly poured molten gold down his throat to mock him.

A picture of Marcus Licinius Crassus-Important historical facts
Marcus Licinius Crassus

40) Around 2,000 tons of unexploded bombs are uncovered on German soils every year. 

A picture of the allies dropping bombs on Germany

41) The British are known to be tea lovers and hence since 1945 all British tanks are equipped with tea making facilities. This facility is called Boiling Vessel Electric.

A picture of British soldiers enjoying tea- Important historical facts

42) Another historical fact is that the French constructed a ‘fake Paris’ to fool the German bombers. It was a replica of Paris complete with a fake running train station.

A picture of fake Paris

43) The Voynich Manuscript is one of the most mysterious books in the world. The speciality about it is that no one has been able to decode its contents till date. 

A picture of a page from the Voynich Manuscript-Important historical facts

44) Normandy’s beach consists of 4% shrapnel as a result of the intense nature of D-Day.

A picture of the D-Day- important historical facts

45) Catherine the Great was certainly one of the worst queens in history but she had a fun side as well! She ordered the construction of the world’s first roller coaster, the Katalnaya Gorka and it was set up in her residence. 

A picture of Catherine the Great
Catherine the Great

46) Actors in Egypt were once not allowed to testify in court as they were considered liars.

47) Often titled as the strangest battle of WWII, the Battle of Castle Itter was the only time the Americans and the Germans fought side by side.

A picture of the Battle of Castle Itter

48) Queen Cleopatra was not an Egyptian, she was, in fact, a Greek. Additionally, she was the last ruler of the Macedonian Greek dynasty to reign over Egypt. 

49) Another historical fact about Cleopatra is that despite her lineage, she was the first member of the Macedonian Greek dynasty to learn and speak Egyptian. 

A picture of Queen Cleopatra- important historical facts
Queen Cleopatra

50) Ketchup is a very popular condiment today, but did you know that it was once used as a medicine? In the early 1800s, ketchup was sold as a cure for indigestion. 

51) U.S. President Zachary Taylor passed away from eating too many cherries. On the day of his death, he consumed many cherries and drank milk after. The combination was lethal for him and resulted in his death.

A picture of U.S. President Zachary Taylor- important historical facts
U.S. President Zachary Taylor

52) Rome was known for its daring and brave male gladiators but did you know women were gladiators as well? They were called Gladiatrix, or Gladiatrices (plural). 

(C: raph04art.deviantart.com)

53) Between 1912 and 1948, the Olympics handed out medals for art which was inspired by sports.

A picture of Olympic art medals-Important historical facts
(C: Olympic Museum Lausanne)

54) Today English is a widely spoken language but once upon a time, it was a commoner’s language. In fact, England’s royalty spoke French. And for 600 years French was the official language of England. 

55) Hitler was responsible for one of the worst genocides in history. But did you know he had pretty sinister plans after World War II? Essentially, he wanted to collect enough Jewish artefacts to build a ‘museum of an extinct race’.

A picture of Adolf Hitler-Important historical facts
Adolf Hitler

56) Sultan Ibrahim I of the Ottoman Empire was mentally unstable which made him spend most of his time with his 280 concubines. However, later based on the rumours of disloyalty, he drowned the entire harem in the ocean.

A picture of Sultan Ibrahim I
Sultan Ibrahim I

57) In the 13th century, a boy led a group of 30,000 children on what is known as the ‘Children’s crusade’. They were convinced that God would give them safe passage to Jerusalem without incident. However, most died or were sold into slavery.

A picture of Childrens crusade-Important historical facts

58) Pharaoh Pepi II of Egypt allegedly despised flies, hence he smeared his servants with honey in order to attract them away from him. 

59) During the Battle of Karansebes, the Austrian army broke up into two and accidentally ended up fighting amongst themselves. As a result, around 10,000 troops ended up dead. Talk about mistaken identity!

A picture of Battle of Karansebes- important history facts

60) Being a criminal during medieval times was quite scary. They practised the custom of ‘trial by ordeal’. Basically, the accused had to put his arm in a vat of boiling water and if it emerged unscathed then he was believed to be protected by God and thus innocent.

A picture of trial by ordeal-Important historical facts

61) Between the period of 1910 and the 1970s, the Australian government created policies which would forcibly remove Aboriginal children from their families. These children were then taught to reject their origins. 

62) In the 1970s, Pol pot’s communist regime exploited and brainwashed thousands of Cambodian children into committing mass murders and other atrocities.

A picture of Pol Pot
Pol Pot

63) A 19th-century ‘cure-all’ for babies, Mrs Winslow’s Soothing Syrup contained alcohol and morphine.

A picture of Mrs Winslows soothing syrup-Important historical facts

64) Peter the Great executed his wife’s lover, put his head in a jar of alcohol and forced his wife to keep the jar in her bedroom as a reminder of her infidelity. 

A picture of Peter the Great-Important historical facts
Peter the Great

65) Another historical fact about the Mongol ruler Genghis Khan is that he has killed around 40-70 million people across Europe and Asia. 

66) Rich Europeans in the 16th and 17th century thought they could heal themselves by consuming corpses. For example, powdered skull was one cure for head ailments. 

67) Ancient Romans practised the custom of ‘paternal power’ in which a father could have absolute control over his family. He had the power to kill them and even sell them into slavery.

A picture of a Roman Family

68) Before studies showed smoking causes cancer, tobacco companies used to recruit doctors as endorsers for their product. And their ads suggested that smoking had certain health benefits!

A picture of an ad ad showcasing that doctors smoke cigarettes too-Important historical facts

69) Oxford University is one of the oldest universities in the world. It is even older than ancient civilisations like the Aztecs and the Machu Picchu

70) Albert Einstein was Jewish but was not an Israeli citizen, however despite that he was offered the presidency of Israel in 1952 but he turned it down.

A picture of Albert Einstein-Important historical facts
Albert Einstein

71) Incestuous relationships were pretty common in Ancient Egyptian dynasties so it is not surprising that Pharoah Tutankhamun was a product of incest as well.  

A picture of Pharoah Tutankhamun
Pharoah Tutankhamun

72) London’s Great fire of 1666 caused a lot of damage, in fact, it destroyed more than 13,000 houses and displaced more than 80,000 people. However, in spite of the destruction, only 6 people died.

A picture of the Great fire of London

73) Bram Stoker’s Dracula is inspired by a real-life ‘blood-thirsty’ count known as Vlad the impaler. He is named so because he infamously impaled his enemies and allegedly ate their blood with bread.

A picture of Vlad the impaler
Vlad the Impaler

74) During the French revolution, the French had a whole new time-keeping system and a whole new calendar as well!

75) Vodka is one of the most popular drinks in Russia. So it’s no surprise they ran out the alcoholic beverage as they celebrated the end of World War II.

A pictures of soldiers drinking and celebrating

76) The fastest surgeon of the 19th century recorded a whopping 300% mortality rate! The fiasco happened when Robert Liston attempted to swiftly amputate a leg, but he was so fast that he ended up wounding his assistant. In the end, both died from sepsis, additionally, a spectator also died from shock!

A picture of a surgeon performing surgery-Important historical facts

77) Abraham Lincoln was once a renowned wrestler, in fact, he was so skilled in the art that he only lost one match out of 300! He is even inducted into the Wrestling Hall of Fame.

A picture of Lincoln wrestling

78) Another historical fact about Lincoln is that he created the U.S. Secret Service on 14th April 1865, however, he was assassinated that same evening.

A picture of Lincoln's assassination

79) The first napkin was essentially soft dough. The Spartans called it ‘apomagdalie’. After a meal, they wiped their fingers off it. 

A picture of spartans enjoying a feast

80) Vladimir Pravik was one of the first firefighters to fight the fire at Chernobyl. However, the radiation from the plant was so intense that it changed his eye colour from black to blue!

81) Roman Emperor Julius Caesar invaded Britain twice. But did you know that before this most Romans simply didn’t believe it existed!?

82) Today the turkey is a customary part of the Thanksgiving meal, but in 300 B.C. the Mayans worshipped them and considered them vessels of God. 

A picture of an engraving of a turkey

83) After the French Revolution, hundreds of men claimed to be the son of Marie Antoinette. He was the dauphine of France and very few knew about his whereabouts back then.

A picture of Louis XVII
Louis XVII- son of Marie Antoinette

84) Another historical fact is that the great emperor Napoleon Bonaparte was once attacked by a herd of rabbits!

A picture of Napoleon Bonaparte
Napoleon Bonaparte

85) The Vikings had their drinking horn cups so what did the Ancient Britons have? Well, they used human skulls as cups!

A picture of a human skull cup
(C: Natural History Museum, London)

86) Between the 13th and 18th century, animals were put on trial in Europe. And oftentimes they were sentenced to death as well.

A picture of a pig on trial

87) Before alarm clocks, there were knocker-ups, who were people employed to wake you up on time. They would simply knock on your window at the designated time.

A picture of a knocker upper

88) Today we have various types of soft pillows but the pillows in Ancient Egypt were anything but soft, they were essentially rock slabs!

A picture of an ancient egyptian pillow- historical facts

89) Ilya Ivanovich Ivanov, a Russian biologist is famous for attempting to create a human-chimpanzee hybrid via artificial insemination. The bizarre experiment was however a failure. 

A picture of Ilya Ivanovich Ivanov
Ilya Ivanovich Ivanov

90) Joseph Stalin was responsible for the killing of 20 million people yet ironically he was nominated for the Nobel Prize twice!  

A picture of Joseph Stalin

91) Another historical fact is that during World War II, Americans called ‘hamburgers’ as liberty-steaks because they perceived the word hamburger as too German. 

92) Did you know that once Heroin was used as an effective cough cure for children!? In 1898, heroin laced aspirin was sold as a cure for children’s sour throat, coughs and cold.

A picture of heroin laced medicine

93) In 1929, two researchers from Princeton claimed to have transformed a living cat into a working telephone.

A picture of a cat telephone

94) Before the invention of dentures, teeth were extracted from the mouths of dead soldiers and used as prosthetics.

95) U.S. President Ronald Reagan was also an excellent lifeguard. He saved around 77 people from drowning while holding the position!

A picture of a life guard

96) Winston Churchill was quite a heavy smoker, he smoked around 8-10 cigars a day.

A picture of Winston Churchill
Winston Churchill

97) During the 18th century, pineapples were considered a status of wealth and power throughout Europe. The fruit was so revered that people even rented pineapples for the night to show them off to their friends.

A picture of pineapples

98) In medieval England, the word ‘ask’ was pronounced as ‘axe’. This pronunciation is even featured in the Bible with the verse ‘axe and it shall be given’.

99) Alexander the Great is a renowned Roman Emperor. But did you know that he named 70 cities after him!? But then, he did conquer over 2 million miles of the Earth’s surface by the age of 30 so it is justified.

A picture of Alexander the Great
Alexander the Great

100) Back in Colonial America, slaves could get their freedom through filing lawsuits, however, the chances of winning were pretty low. But once they won, they were considered citizens. Since slaves did not have any last name they were just referred to as ‘freeman’.

A picture depicting colonial America
(C: Duncan 1890 Getty Images)

101) Charlie Chaplin once participated in a Charlie Chaplin lookalike contest, ironically he came in the 20th place!

A picture of Charlie Chaplin
Charlie Chaplin (c: Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

102) Roman Catholics in Bavaria established a secret society in 1740 called the ‘Order of the pug’. The order members called themselves mops. Additionally, they wore dog collars and had to scratch at the door to get in.

103) During the Victorian Era, it was pretty common for people to photograph their dead relatives. These pictures were then placed in family albums.

A picture showing different Victorian photographs

104) In the 16th century France, divorce was next to impossible for women hence the only way a woman could take her husband to court was if he was impotent.

105) In 1923, a jockey won the race despite being dead. Frank Hayes suffered a heart attack mid-race, but his horse raced forward and won the race!

A picture of Frank Hayes
Frank Hayes

106) One of history’s most successful pirates was a woman named Ching Shih. She commanded a fleet of 1,800 ships and manned around 80,000 sailors.

A picture of Ching Shih- important historical facts
Ching Shih

107) Roman Emperor Caligula wanted to make his favourite horse a senator, however, he was assassinated before he could do so.

108) On his death bed, the French writer Voltaire was asked to renounce Satan by a visiting priest. He famously said, “this is no time to be making new enemies”.

A picture of Voltaire- history facts
Voltaire

109) Potatoes were first cultivated by the Incas, they even used them to treat injuries!

A picture of potatoes- historical facts
(C: Jim Richardson National Geographic)

110) The last historical fact in our list is that in Ancient Egypt women used nail paint as a way to signify their social ranking. The lower class wore light shades while the higher class wore dark red.

A picture of an Egyptian woman admiring her nails-Important historical facts

 

Enjoyed the above article? You may also enjoy 45 interesting facts about museums

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