His armies killed 17 million people — 5% of the 14th century world population

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Tamerlane, a Turco-Mongol conqueror — artistic depiction (Image: Pinterest/@Ahmet Sağsöz)

During the summer of 1941, Josef Stalin ordered the opening of the mysterious tomb in Samarkand, Uzbekistan. The superstitious locals warned the dictator of the Soviet Union about the curse. The archeologists opened the tomb on the 20th of June 1941. The sarcophagus had the following curse written on the top:

Two days later, on the 22nd of June 1941, Hitler invaded the Soviet Union. Stalin believed the curse and they returned the body to the tomb.

Who was the man able to strike the fear in the hearts of the men even from his grave? …

The Roman army versus the Jewish fanatics

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The remnants of the ancient fortress Masada in modern-day Israel (Image: todayinhistory.blog)

Next to the Earth’s lowest elevation on land, the Dead Sea, stands a solitary plateau. The Masada’s rugged slopes rise 400 meters (1,300 feet) high. On top of the plateau, we can see the remnants of a fortress.

The Masada fortress is one of the most visited Israeli attractions. It is also an Israeli national symbol. Every inductee to the Israel Defense Forces takes the oath of loyalty which ends with:

To understand why the military oath ends with Masada, we need to go almost 2,000 years back in history.

A desert fortress with luxurious swimming pools

Messalina, the wife of Roman Emperor Claudius, had an insatiable desire for sex

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Messalina in the arms of a gladiator (Image: Wikimedia Commons)

Roman Empress Messalina had a notorious reputation as a nymphomaniac. The sexually promiscuous empress had a string of lovers. Her decadent love life was also the cause of her demise.

The spicy stories about Messalina include her working as a prostitute in a brothel and holding a competition about who had more sexual stamina.

Who was Messalina?

Napoleon’s little sister had a lively love life

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Pauline Bonaparte in Canova’s studio by Lorenzo Valles (Image:aline-voinot.com)

Napoleon Bonaparte (1769–1821) was a military genius who transformed France into a military superpower.

He knew how to subdue kings and princes, but he had big difficulties to keep his family members in order. His rebellious brothers and mischievous sisters made him say a famous sentence:

Pauline Bonaparte (1780–1825), the youngest of Napoleon’s three sisters, was the most frivolous one. She possessed magnetic beauty and charm. Whenever she went, the eyes of men turned after her. …

Much more than just the support troops of the Roman legions

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The Roman auxiliary infantry during the riots in Israel (Image: Pinterest)

When we think about the Roman army, we think about the mighty Roman legionaries. Though definitely effective, they shouldn’t get all the glory. The Roman army was much more than just the legionaries.

Contrary to the popular belief, auxiliary soldiers were an important part of the Roman army. They were famous for their battle prowess.

The auxiliary soldiers were non-Roman citizens from provinces who volunteered in the military. …

During the 19th century, Western society repressed women’s sexuality

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Nymphs and satyrs, painting by George Frederic Watts (1817–1904) (Image: Wikimedia Commons)

A nymphomaniac is a woman with an uncontrollable and excessive desire for sex. She masturbates and has erotic feelings towards many men (and women). Nymphomania is a disease. Nymphomaniac requires serious treatment since they are a danger to the civilized world. At least that’s what doctors in the nineteenth century believed.

If a man was hypersexual, then he received the diagnosis of satyriasis. But the doctors rarely gave this kind of diagnosis. They simply believed all men had stronger sexual desires.

Pauline Bonaparte (1780–1825), the youngest sister of Napoleon, Catherine the Great (1729–1796), the Russian Empress, and Marie Antoinette (1755–1793), the last queen of France before the French revolution, were accused of being nymphomaniacs. …

Thought your computer was old?

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The reconstruction of the Antikythera mechanism (Image by Tony Freeth, Images First Ltd)

The Antikythera mechanism is an ancient astronomical calendar. Even though it is not as famous as the Rosetta Stone or Tutankhamun’s tomb, it deserves the same amount of attention. After all, it is the oldest known analog computer!

The artifact was found in the shipwreck off the coast of the Greek island Antikythera. It is over 2,000 years old. You can see it in the National Archaeological Museum in Athens, Greece.

Nobel Prize-winning physicist Richard Feynman was baffled by the Antikythera mechanism. It sparked his curiosity, he would later write:

Impalement, flaying, and amputations were the trademark of the Assyrians

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The Assyrian relief depicting the torture of the defeated enemies (Image: faculty.uml.edu)

Assyrians created an enormous empire. They mastered the art of war. Unfortunately for their enemies, the Assyrians mastered also torture techniques. And they bragged about it!

The Assyrians depicted the torture in great detail on the walls of the imperial palaces. They created tablets containing every single punishment the Assyrian army carried out. They cut off the limbs, gouged out the eyes, and then left those poor victims to roam around. Those poor people serve as a living reminder of the Assyrians’ cruelty.

The cruelty didn’t hurt only the enemies, the Assyrian soldiers suffered too. The soldiers were seeing and hearing the ghosts of the killed enemies. These were the symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). …

Removal of a tenth

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Roman legionaries (Image: historyanswers.co.uk)

The Roman army was an effective war machine that created one of the largest empires in history. Roman legionaries obeyed their commanders and kept formation during the battle. They were famous for their discipline.

But what happened when the legionaries deserted from the battle or disobeyed their commander?

They would be subjected to one of the most brutal punishments in military history.

Decimation meant the execution of every tenth legionary

The first military power in history

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The notorious Assyrian war chariot (Illustration by Angus McBride)

The Assyrian army was the most technologically advanced army of its time. The Assyrian war machine created one of the biggest empires in history. The Neo-Assyrian Empire (911 BC — 605 BC) revolutionized warfare.

The Assyrians were one of the firsts to use weapons made of iron. They were one of the earliest adaptors of cavalry forces and one of the firsts to use battering rams for a siege of the cities.

The Assyrian war machine


Peter Preskar

History junkie.

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