Gross Facts About History's Nasty Past

March 24, 2020 | Miles Brucker

Gross Facts About History's Nasty Past

Thanks to glossy period dramas and slick Hollywood epics, when we think of the past, it's easy to imagine gorgeous rulers and Pinterest-worthy palaces. But trust us, that's not how people really experienced life. From brutal punishments to nasty “medicines" and bizarre bedroom activities, it turns out that people have been gross forever.

Gross History Facts Behemoth

Golden Cure

Urine was believed to be a great antiseptic. It was certainly good enough for Henry VIII’s surgeon, who abided by a policy that all battle wounds should be rinsed with the stuff. What’s more twisted? It wasn’t a terrible idea when you consider the alternatives; clean water was hard to come by in the Medieval Ages. Might as well use what you got.

Medieval Beliefs factsWikimedia Commons

The Oldest Joke in the Book

The first joke ever recorded was a fart joke. It goes all the way back to 1900 BC and proves that potty humor is eternal.

The historic Maya manuscript 'Codex Dres.Getty Images

Did the Punishment Fit the Crime?

Marcus Aurelius (largely known for his philosophy and humanitarianism) faced an interesting gladiator dilemma. His wife Faustina became aroused over one combatant and confessed her passion to her husband. His solution? Faustina was ordered to strip and sleep with the gladiator in question, who was then murdered while on top of her. Afterward, she was obliged to bathe in his blood, do a quick cleanup, and then make love to her husband Marcus.

Bas-relief depicting Marcus Aurelius and Faustina with the Goddess RomaGetty Images

Mad as a Hatter

Boston Corbett, the man who shot John Wilkes Booth, was totally insane from handling mercury as a hatter. Years prior to shooting Booth, he calmly castrated himself with scissors.

Bizarre Historical Facts

Death Photographs

It was common in the Victorian age to have photographs of loved ones taken after they died. Families in Victorian Britain would even pose with the dead, with tikes that seemed to be sleeping and young ladies who seemed to recline. This practice was especially popular with children who died. Yikes.

The Victorian Era factsGetty Images

This’ll Kill Your Appetite

Many medieval saints were reputed to have healing powers, and they often cared for lepers and those afflicted with similarly gruesome diseases—by licking their wounds. St. Mary Magdalene of De’Pazzi licked the sores of the ill, and even sucked maggots out of wounds. St. Angela of Foligno drank water she had used to bathe a leper’s feet, and purposely swallowed one of his scabs.

Medieval Europe

Down to the Bone

In the Czech Republic, there is a church called The Sedlec Ossuary that has decorations made entirely of human bones. This happened because there were too many people in the cemetery to bury everyone, and the church leaders claimed that if their bones became part of the church, it only made them closer to God. Nice propaganda spin there, guys.

Scary FactsWikimedia Commons

Horrible Protein Smoothies

In the 1600s, alchemists were extremely into finding eternal life, and they came up with some pretty disgusting theories and supposed elixirs along the way. One such alchemist, John French, used to prepare a "brain tincture," if you can guess what that was made of. He then left the mixture to sit inside of horse manure for six months, until it became a liquid and could be drunk. The worst thing of all? French had plenty of other colleagues trying out similar medicine.

Scary FactsShutterstock

When "Til Death Do Us Part" Isn't Long Enough

When Philip of Burgundy died, his wife Joanna refused to let him go. Literally. Refusing to part with her philandering husband, she viciously clung to the body. Even when her father and the government stepped in to finally bury Philip, their separation did not last long. Joanna ordered him exhumed, leapt at his coffin, and kissed his dead feet. And it only gets more disgusting from there...

Mad Kings and Queens factsWikimedia Commons

Clingy Girl Problems

From that moment on, you couldn’t have Joanna if she couldn’t bring Philip. The coffin—thankfully closed most of the time—would accompany her to meals, travels, and even her bedside. Only years later did Philip return to the ground, albeit at a safe distance, i.e., buried right outside of her window. On the bright side, Joanna’s cheating husband was finally all hers!

Joanna Of Castile factsWikimedia Commons

X-Rated Creation

One Egyptian creation myth states that the universe was created when the god Atum, um, reached climax during private time. But that's not the gross part. To honor Atum, Pharaohs would ceremonially do the same public. They'd make a show of spreading their seed right into the Nile river.

Bizarre Historical Facts

Man-Made Miracles

Cannibalism wasn’t always a taboo. Medieval doctors kept their patients in check with drinkable byproducts of human blood and flesh. “Mummy powder” was a commonplace fixture of 12th-century apothecaries, and these practices even had a name: "corpse medicine." Well into the 17th century, even English kings like Charles II dined to a healthy regime of what he called “King’s Drops,” aka alcohol mixed with crushed human skulls. Salty!

John Wilmot, Earl of Rochester FactsWikimedia Commons

Don't Look a Gift Denture in the Mouth

In the 1800s, people needed dentures just like they do today—but they didn't have access to our modern technologies. Instead, dentures at the time were actually made out of the teeth of deceased people, usually soldiers.

Scary FactsShutterstock

Ballistic Remedies

Cheat on your diet with beaver testicles. In medieval times, beavers were classified as a breed of fish. As a result, consumption of beaver did not count as “eating meat” during a religious fast. Moreover, their furry private bits were very valuable in medicine recipes, a belief that gave birth to the myth that a beaver would bite its own testicles off and throw it at human hunters to escape with its own life.

Medieval Beliefs factsWikimedia Commons

A Warrior’s Blood

In ancient Rome, some people believed that if they drank fresh, warm blood from a fallen Gladiator, they would absorb their power. They also believed that drinking blood cured epilepsy.

Scary FactsPxHere

A Little Pick-Me-Up

Nowadays we have Viagra, but Pliny the Elder suggested a bevy of ancient Roman aphrodisiacs that reads more like a witch’s shopping list than a doctor’s prescription. To put the pep back in your step, Pliny suggested the yolks of pigeon eggs, in honey, mixed with hog’s lard, or sparrows eggs, or a lizard drowned in one’s own urine.

If that didn't work, you could always wear “the right testicle of a cock.” 

The Ancient Olympics FactsGetty Images

Bleeding Awesome

Bloodletting was an important part of any medieval doctor’s belief system. A patient had two options: leeches or venesection. With the leeches, a “blood worm” would be administered on the pertinent body part and the creature would, in theory, suck the illness out. Sure, that sounds gross—but it's not as horrifying as the other option: the doctor would just slice open a vein with his “fleam” (razor) and hope for the best.

Medieval Beliefs factsFlickr, Peter O

The Seven-Year Sniff

One day, the 17th Earl of Oxford came into Queen Elizabeth's courtroom, bowed to her—and let out an enormous fart. The man was duly mortified. So mortified, in fact, that he went into self-imposed exile for seven years. When he returned, Elizabeth’s first reply was, “My lord, I had forgot the fart.”

Elizabeth I Facts Wikimedia Commons

And You Thought Buckley's Was Bad

The rule of thumb with medieval medicine was generally: if it does anything, then it's probably working. This led to many medicines that were actively bad for you. For instance, a common remedy for stomach worms would cause brutal diarrhea. Doctors assumed that the diarrhea meant the body was flushing out dead worms, when really, they were just making a bad situation a whole lot worse.

Medieval Beliefs factsWikipedia

Years Before Elmo Wanted Tickles…

Foot tickling was used in the Muscovite palaces and courts for centuries as a means of arousal. Many of the Czarinas (Catherine the Great, Anna Ivanovna, and others) loved it. In fact, it was so popular that eunuchs and women were employed as full time foot ticklers. While the ticklers performed their task, they often told bawdy stories and sang obscene ballads to get the ladies into the mood.

Bizarre Historical Facts

Profiting from Pee

In ancient Rome, human urine had a lot of applications and was a pretty valuable product, but Emperors Vespasian and Nero figured out a way to make a profit from people’s pee. They imposed a tax on acquiring urine, and Vespasian took things a step further, ordering public pay toilets to be built. The urine from the toilets was collected for tanning leather and cleaning clothes, though I have no idea how they kept the clothes from smelling like pee!

Ancient World facts Primicias24

Splitting Pain

Medieval torture methods used simple devices and the force of gravity to inflict unimaginable pain. The Judas Cradle was a pyramid-shaped spike that a victim would be forced to sit on, so that it penetrated their anus. As if that wasn't bad enough, torturers could strap weights to the feet of their victims to increase the suffering.


We Heart Mummies

When a body was mummified the brain was literally scrambled and removed through one of its nostrils, and each organ was placed in its own canopic jar. The only internal organ that was not removed was the heart as it was considered to be the seat of the soul.

Ancient Civilizations FactsPxHere

Roman Restrooms

Unsurprisingly, considering how ancient Romans had multiple gods that had to do with sewers and poop, toilet etiquette was also pretty important to them as well. Public facilities had a long marble bench with holes on topfor the obvious thingand holes at the front, to hold sponge-sticks called “spongias” that were the Roman equivalent of toilet paper. But there were a few very gross catches...

Romantic Gestures In History Facts Wikimedia Commons

The More the Merrier

There were no doors or dividing walls in Roman bathrooms. You sat right next to your friend and did what you had to do. Once you had done your business, you would rinse the spongia in the channel of running water at your feet, give your bottom a solid wipe, rinse off the spongia… and leave it in a basin for the next person to use. Sharing is caring, people!

Ancient Civilizations FactsWikimedia Commons

Born Numb

In the past, people thought babies were simply too underdeveloped to sense physical distress—and this led to a truly disturbing practice. Surgeries were regularly performed on infants without any attempt at anesthesia. Any crying was believed to be the result of ill-mannered childishness, as opposed to any external forces. Scary to think that “Babies feel pain” is a very recent belief.

Medieval Beliefs factsPiqsels

Pelvic Finger Massage

Many women in Victorian England suffered from “hysteria,” which was really just a catch-all name for anything that bothered them. Feeling blue? Hysteria. Irritable? Hysteria. Anxious? Hysteria. How could you cure this horrible ailment? Well, with a “pelvic finger massage” which would cause “hysterical paroxysm.” That is to say, having a doctor use his hands to cause an orgasm.

The Victorian Era facts Shutterstock

Electric Stimulator

Maybe it was their own fault for diagnosing basically every problem a woman had as hysteria, but either way, doctors could only perform so many “pelvic finger massages” a day before presumably beginning to battle Carpal Tunnel Syndrome themselves. As a result, the vibrator was the fifth home electronic invention ever created, preceding the electric vacuum cleaner, the electric iron, and the electric frying pan by nearly a decade.

The Victorian Era facts Shutterstock

Cats And Dogs (And Snakes)

The Romans devised a punishment called "Poena Cullei" to deal with those who committed parricide (killing their parents). The criminal was sewn into a leather sack with several wild animals, often dogs, cats, snakes, and even monkeys, then thrown into a body of water. Eventually, the method fell out of practice, but was revived several times throughout history, each time with a specific list of animals to be thrown in the sack.

Ancient Civilizations FactsFlickr

Filthy Composition

Mozart was surprisingly obsessed with feces and bathroom humor. Two of his songs actually talk about anlingus. He also wrote letters to his family members where he described his farts in great detail.

Bizarre Historical Facts

Heads Will Roll

Aztec gods and religion demanded more human sacrifices than any other faith in history. Priests would conduct these rituals at the Pyramids of the Sun and Moon. Roughly 500 to 700 people were killed each year in order to appease the gods.

Aztec Civilization FactsWikipedia

Royal Audience

On his wedding night, future king William of Orange consummated his marriage while Charles II watched from the sidelines and shouted encouragement.

Bizarre Historical Facts

Charles II.

That’s So Sweet

King Herod, the tyrant king of Judea, had his wife, Mariamne I, preserved in honey after her death. Mariamne was executed on her husband’s orders, but Herod found her too beautiful to be buried and kept her preserved body for seven years. Some even claimed Herod had er, relations, with the body.

Herod The Great factsPexels


In ancient Greece, “Figging” was the insertion of the skinned ginger root into one of the lower orifices to cause an intolerable burning sensation and discomfort.

Shutterstock_357125162 Marble statue of the Greek goddess Hera or the Roman goddess Juno, holding an apple of discord in the park of the Palace and park complex Estate of G. Galagan. Sokyryntsi village, Ukraine - ImageShutterstock

Blast from the Past

In 1996, famous pirate Blackbeard’s ship, the Queen Anne’s Revenge, was found off the coast of North Carolina. Thirty-one cannons and 250,000 artifacts have been recovered. One such artifact was a urethral syringe, which was used to treat syphilis with mercury. Ouch. Plot twist: mercury does not, in fact, cure syphilis.

Joanna Of Castile factsPixabay

Frozen in Time

Madame Tussaud’s wax museum is famous around the world for frighteningly life-like figures of celebrities. What most people don’t know, however, is that Madame Anna Maria Tussaud got her start by rushing over to grab heads from the guillotine during the French Revolution. She used these heads to showcase her waxing process.

Scary FactsGetty Images

Crocodile Cure

In ancient times it was pretty common to use animal dung as a treatment or a cure for various diseases. In ancient Greece, crocodile poop was used as a female contraceptive, and in ancient Egypt, warriors used animal dung to treat battle wounds. Sheep droppings were used by the Scots to treat smallpox, and pig dung was used to stop nosebleeds. Thank goodness someone invented Kleenex!

Ancient World facts National Geographic Kids

Pain Before Pleasure

Sexual acts meant for pleasure and not for procreation were considered a sin, punishable by life in prison. So was any form of female domination over a man—meaning women couldn’t go on top. One saint, Francesca Romana, was forced into marriage and she was so scared of experiencing pleasure, she burned her own genitals with hot fat to make intimacy as miserable as possible.

Medieval Europe factsRegina Magazine

Nail in the coffin.

During the 7th century B.C., ancient Roman "vestal virgins" were required to keep their hymens intact as proof of virginity until age 30. Vestal virgins who engaged in sexual conduct were buried alive.

Emperor Hadrian factsShutterstock

Brain Food

Do you ever wonder what people did before the invention of assembly-line cups and bowls? In ancient England, people used the tops of hollowed human skulls to drink and eat.

Scary FactsMax Pixel

Alone Time Isn’t Fun Time For Everyone

We imagine it was hard to offend those Ancient Greeks, but the quirky Diogenes put that to the test by pleasuring himself while inside of a barrel. Frequently. And in public. Diogenes defended his behavior by saying how he wished it was “as easy to relieve hunger by rubbing an empty stomach,” as if that counts as a defense.

Ancient Greek Philosophers Factsrafaelsantandreu

Wash Your Brain and Your Hands

Adding to the list of Diogenes’ social faux pas, the philosopher was also (allegedly) known for pooping in public theatres and urinating on “annoying” people. Well, it takes one to know one, Diogenes.

The Wire FactsShutterstock

No One Was Safe

The Aztec religion could be brutally literal at times. During periods of drought, priests would sacrifice children specifically, because they believed that the little ones' tears would bring rain. In 1980, archaeologists found the remains of 42 child skeletons near a large Aztec temple.

Aztec Civilization FactsWikimedia Commons

Disturbing Decapitations

One grisly aspect of Celtic culture was their obsession with severed heads. Since the Celts considered the head to be the source of life and the location of a person’s soul, warriors saw great value in beheading their defeated enemies. Not only that, but severed heads were a motif in Celtic art and Celtic mythology. Mythic figures such as the Green Knight would even carry their own severed heads in their hands while their mouths kept speaking!

The Celts factspixabay

Keep It in the Family

Ancient Egyptian King Tutankhamun, or as he is more affectionately known, King Tut, died at the tender age of 18. Some researchers believe he died from genetic disease due to the fact his parents were brother and sister. Ancient Egypt was into Game of Thrones before it was cool.

Egyptian Pharaohs FactsFlickr

Fart Jokes = Eternal

King Henry II employed a professional "flatulist" named Roland the Farter.

Anna of Russia factsWikipedia

Moss Definitely

Hundreds of years ago, when people died on the battlefield or elsewhere outside, their bodies often just lay there until they rotted away. As they decomposed, their skulls would start to grow a moss called usnea. People believed that this moss contained the spiritual qualities of the fallen soldiers, and they would gather it up as medicine. Apparently, usnea that grew on hanged men's skulls was seen as the most effective.

Scary FactsPxHere

All in Favor of the Free Carrots Bill?

The Roman Emperor Gaius Caligula made his horse a senator. Caligula also allegedly committed incest with his sisters, fed prisoners to wild beasts and had conversations with the moon.

Mad Kings and Queens factsWikipedia

I Ate His Liver With Some Fava Beans

Xipe Totec (meaning "Our Lord the Flayed One"), was the Aztec god of agriculture, vegetation, the east, disease, spring, goldsmiths, silversmiths, liberation, and the seasons. They believed that he flayed himself to provide food for humanity. As such, followers of the god wore the flayed skin of prisoners during worship.

Aztec Civilization FactsFlickr

No Political Movement Like a Bowel Movement

The infamous King Henry VIII employed four Grooms of the Stool, men whose job it was to wipe the royal bottom and attend to his other private needs. It was a position of great honor, but also—as one Groom soon discovered—incredibly grave danger. Henry VIII executed one of his bathroom staff, Sir Henry Norris, on trumped up charges that he was sleeping with Henry's second wife Anne Boleyn.

Mary, Queen of Scots facts Wikimedia Commons

Bite Me

In ancient China, there was a process of making a “mellified man,” which was essentially mummifying someone with honey. In order to do this, an elderly person, ideally near death, would volunteer themselves to the process of being binge-bathed in honey, and given only honey to eat, until their entire digestive system was honey. Then, when the volunteer died, they would be covered in honey for 100 years. After this century or so, the contents were turned into a candy that was said to heal broken bones.

Scary FactsPexels

Weird Flex

The mystic monk Rasputin went for incredibly long periods of time without touching himself or washing. He once bragged about not changing his underwear for over six months, and food would often rot in his beard. Despite these personal choices, a group of Russian women still worshipped his genitals.

Rasputin factsWikipedia

I Prefer the Statue of Liberty

The Aztec's fondness for human sacrifice led to a truly horrific sort of public display. The "tzompantli," common across many different Mesoamerican cultures, was a massive skull rack meant to show off the skulls of sacrifices. Tenochtitlan alone had several of them, but the largest was in the massive Templo Mayor complex in the city's center. Archaeologists discovered this huge tzompantli in 2017, and it contained more than 650 skulls.

Burial Customs FactsShutterstock

Don't Mess With King Phillip

When King Phillip IV of France (“Phillip the Fair”) discovered his three daughters-in-law were having intimate relations with knights from his court, he actually forced the girls to stand trial for adultery. The resulting scandal became the brutal Tour de Nesle affair. In the end, two of the daughters-in-law had their heads shaven and were thrown in prison, but their lovers faced a far worse fate.

Most historians agree that the lovers were first castrated and then either drawn and quartered or flayed alive, broken on a wheel and then hanged. Yikes.

Monarchies FactsWikimedia Commons

Now You're Just Bragging

The Aztecs themselves reported that during the reconsecration of the Great Pyramid of Tenochtitlan, they sacrificed more than 80,000 prisoners in just four days.

Aztec FactsWikimedia Commons

Let it Out!

In the Ancient world, you’d probably be wise not to admit to having a headache among other things as doctors might attempt to cure you by drilling a hole in your head. The practice of trepanation was used to cure convulsions, headaches and infections, and doctors believed that they were caused by evil spirits being trapped inside your head that needed to be let out. An exorcism would probably have been less painful!

Ancient World factsThe Doctor Weighs In

Sexy Signposts

You know how airport parking lots have special numbers and letters to help you recall where you parked your car? Well, Ancient Roman bathhouses had those too, except replace “car” with “toga” and “numbers and letters” with “sexually explicit images.”

People would remember where they put their toga by remembering what “position” they hung it under. What was the alternative? Going to the toilet with their clothes on?


In One Ear…

One ancient Egyptian cure for blindness was to pour mashed-up pig’s eye into the patient’s ear. Luckily, patients who received this treatment couldn’t see the mess it made.

Ancient Civilizations FactsShutterstock

Accurate Representation

How would you like to be remembered after your death? If you chose “as a rotting corpse,” you would fit right in with Medieval society. There was a type of tomb called ‘transi tombs’, which would display a sculpture of the deceased in an advanced state of decomposition, sometimes being eaten by snakes or other creatures.

Princess Elisabeth Charlotte FactsWikimedia Commons, Rita1234

Making Sure

Before the advent of modern medicine and technology, it was difficult to tell if someone who appeared to be dead was actually dead. So, of course, doctors came up with truly disturbing methods to make sure. Ways of checking included yanking out the deceased’s hair, breaking their fingers, and stabbing them with a needle. One medieval poem recounts Charlemagne biting his friend's toe in an effort to wake him up.

Medieval Beliefs factsFlickr, hape662

No Future

Ancient Egyptians practiced scatomancy, the act of telling the future through someone’s feces. Well, if there’s anyone who can tell us about the future, it’s Doc Brown. We’ll see ourselves out.

Ancient Civilizations FactsShutterstock

Don’t Choke

Medieval torture methods were just as bad as the stereotypes would have us believe. One gruesome device was the choke pear, a metal contraption that torturers would insert into a victim’s orifices and then expand. I didn’t see that the last time I went to Medieval Times.

Medieval Europe factsCharisma News

He Who Does the Crime Must Do The Time

If you were found guilty of adultery in ancient Greece, the husband of the woman with whom you committed the crime had the right to sodomize you with radishes.

Thomas Seymour factsShutterstock

Definitely a Turn-Off

Birth control was quite difficult in medieval times, though it was helped by the belief that the best time to conceive was during menstruation. Contraception methods included wearing the testicles of a weasel, the earwax or uterus of a mule, a bone from a black cat, or donkey dung around your neck. I mean, that’s one way to make a man keep his distance.

Birth Control FactsWikimedia Commons

A Sticky Mixture

Finding ways to increase sexual performance was a specialty of the ancient Greeks, and one of them involved smearing a honey/crushed pepper mixture on their private parts to make their erections "stick" around for a long time. Makes perfect sense!

Ancient World factsEffective Remedies

Gotta Get Dirty to Get Clean

The ancient Romans did NOT have Tide or Crest, in case you were wondering. What was used to wash clothing in ancient Rome? Urine, of course. The Romans also used it to whiten their teeth. I'll pass, thanks.

Ancient Rome FactsWikipedia

Praying for a Good Poop

The inhabitants of ancient Rome had a sewer goddess, a toilet god, and a god of excrement. The gods were said to frequent the latrine in large numbers and excrement was regarded as the food of the dead.

Ancient Civilizations FactsGetty Images

You get a Sacrifice! And You get a Sacrifice! Everyone gets a Sacrifice!

It seems the Aztecs just couldn't get enough of sacrifice. They sacrificed adults, children, and animals, depending on which god they meant to please. Some priests would practice self-mutilation and offer up their own blood as a sacrifice. And finally, while it's unknown just how widespread this practice was, some Aztec rituals featured cannibalism.

Eating Sins ExperienceShutterstock

Supper anyone?

15th century Romanian ruler Vlad the Impaler was the inspiration for Dracula and had a uniquely gross way of dealing with his opposition. He invited hundreds of them to a banquet and had them impaled on long sharp poles. His contemporaries reported that he also had a penchant for consuming the blood that dripped from of some of his victims, hence the Dracula connection.

Disgusting facts

Wagging Tails

It was a common belief that witches kept male genitalia as house pets, even going as far as to feed them and house them in nests. Puts a new spin on My Pet Rock, right?

Medieval Beliefs factsFlickr, M Ryan Taylor

A Chicken a Day

As you can imagine, the Black Death and medieval medicine didn't exactly mix well. People had no idea what caused the disease, and even less of an idea what cured it—so they tried some truly insane remedies. Many people believed that pressing the shaved bottom of a live chicken against the boils of an infected person was the only solution. The only problem was that the chickens then also became infected and helped spread the disease.

Famous Real-Life Ghosts factsPixabay

Boar You to Death

Nothing gets earthier than a boar bile enema. Administered by “clysters”—large, long, metal syringes—they can’t have been a comfortable way to pump medicine in medieval subjects. But where they truly that awful? Louis XIV “The Sun King” of France had as many as 2,000 of these during his lifetime.

Hortense Mancini FactsWikimedia Commons

Cure You or Kill You

Some of the cures physicians used for the Black Plague actually made things worse: Doctors would burst plague boils, which only helped spread infection. Another treatment involved applying human excrement to the boils, which probably caused entirely new diseases in the victim, on top of the fact that they, you know, applied human excrement to plague boils.

The Black Death FactsShutterstock

The Ultimate Gross Revenge

When he discovered that his wife had cheated on him with another man, Peter the Great had the man killed, but then he took revenge to the next level. He forced his wife to keep her lover’s head in a jar of alcohol in her bedroom. The head, still in it’s jar, is now kept on display at the Kunstkamera museum in St. Petersburg.

Peter the GreatWikipedia

Cutting It Close

Ling Chi or death by a thousand cuts was used as a form of execution in ancient China. The executioner uses a knife to remove small pieces of the victim's body, eventually resulting in death. Executioners would test their skills by trying to prolong the torture for as long as possible. Seriously, cut it out.

Michelangelo factsPixabay

Anatomically Correct

Ancient Egyptian doctors had specialties, often focusing on one part of the human body. Dentists were known as “doctors of the tooth,” while the term for proctologists literally translates to “shepherd of the anus.” We don't want any part of that Shepherd’s Pie.

Ancient Civilizations FactsWikimedia Commons

The Magic Touch

There was a belief in the Middle Ages that corpses retained a tiny spark of life and were therefore magical, which justified the practice of ‘cruentation’. For this, they would place an accused murderer in contact with the corpse of their alleged victim. If the corpse started spontaneously bleeding, that proved the murderer’s guilt. Cruentation was a legally valid practice and was used as late as the 17th century.

Dark Middle Ages Factsancient origins

Too Sexy For My Tweezers

In ancient Greece, the unibrow was a sign of intelligence and great beauty in women. Some women who didn't have epic unibrows naturally used makeup to draw one on.

Ancient Civilizations FactsGetty Images

Gross is Where the Heart is

Frankenstein author Mary Shelley had a pretty gross secret hidden away in her desk: her dead husband’s heart. When her husband, the poet Percy Bysshe Shelley, drowned in a boating accident, he was cremated, but his heart remained intact. Physicians believe it might have been calcified due to tuberculosis. Whatever the cause, it was eventually given to Mary and discovered in her desk when she died a few years later.

Disgusting facts

Royally Drop Where You Stop

The legendary Palace of Versailles had everything—except enough toilets for everybody. Despite the villa’s luxury, Versailles simply didn’t have enough public water closets to accommodate Louis XIV’s huge court. It wasn’t uncommon for courtiers to bribe each other for access to those precious commodes…or else, they simply went in the corner.

At least this was better than the Princess d’Harcourt, who would often just urinate where she walked, which made her understandably hated by the servants. The aristocracy: they’re truly our betters.

History Of The Toilet FactsWikipedia

Keeping Out the Riffraff

Today, if someone wants to keep out trespassers they build a fence or a wall, or maybe just get a guard dog, but in ancient Rome, they had a rather unique way of dealing with unwanted intruders. Statues of the god Priapus, complete with erect penises, were placed in market gardens throughout Rome. The Romans believed that Priapus would impose severe sexual punishments on anyone who entered without permission, and whatever that entailed, it was a good enough deterrent to be effective.

Ancient World factsFox Emerson

Head of the Army

King Goujian of Yue (reigned 496–465 BC) placed a row of convicted criminals at the front of his army. Before the battle, the criminals would cut off their own heads to scare his enemy’s army.

Bizarre Historical Facts

The Bronze Sword of Goujian, King of Yue State.

I Ain’t Lyein’

Who doesn’t love the smell of fresh, clean laundry? Medieval people, apparently. They washed their clothes with lye made from ash and human urine.

Medieval Europe factsmuchaalegria - WordPress

Paternal & Papal Invasions of Privacy

On October 2 1533, Pope Clement VII married Catherine de Medici off to the french Dauphin (the son of the King), Henri. The couple were lucky to be the same age—just 14 years old—but old men still wormed their way into the honeymoon. Henri’s father, King Francis I, apparently stayed in the bedroom until the marriage was fully consummated, and the Pope visited the couple in bed the next morning to bless the previous night’s “proceedings.” Yick.

Catherine de Medici factsmagnolia box

Fire to Go

Vikings often spent long voyages in unfamiliar territory, so they needed an effective way to create fires consistently. They did have a solution to this problem, but it was absolutely disgusting. They actually took a special fungus, cut it into slices, beat the slices so they had a felt-like texture… then boiled them in urine. These strips could hold an ember for days, but at what cost?

Vikings Factsgetty images

Halfises Don’t Count?

Henry Fitzroy was Henry VIII’s only acknowledged illegitimate son—and Henry VIII’s generosity with the boy drove his wife, Catherine of Aragon, mad. In 1528, an odd solution was proposed to remedy the situation. A cardinal wrote that the boy be married off to his own half-sister, Henry VIII and Catherine’s daughter Mary. This union would ostensibly fix up all of the couple’s problems (including the lack of a male heir to take the throne) with a neat little bow—except for the whole inbreeding thing.


Sources: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20 21, 22, 23, 24, 25, 2627, 28, 29, Reddit, 31, 32, 33. . 35. 36, 37, 38, 39, 40, 41, 4243, 44, 45, 46, 47, 48, 49, 50, 51, 52, 53, 54, 55, 56, 3, 57, 58, 59, 60, 61, 62, 63, 64, 65, 66, 67, 68, 69, 70, 71, 72, 73, 74, 75, 76, 77, 78, 79, 80, 81, 82, 83, 84, 85, 85, 86, 87, 88, 89, 90, 91, 92, 93, 94, 95, 96, 97, 98, 99, 100, 101, 102, 103, 104, 105, 106107108109110111 112, , 114

More from Factinate

Featured Article

My mom never told me how her best friend died. Years later, I was using her phone when I made an utterly chilling discovery.

Dark Family Secrets

Dark Family Secrets Exposed

Nothing stays hidden forever—and these dark family secrets are proof that when the truth comes out, it can range from devastating to utterly chilling.
April 8, 2020 Samantha Henman

Featured Article

Madame de Pompadour was the alluring chief mistress of King Louis XV, but few people know her dark history—or the chilling secret shared by her and Louis.

Madame de Pompadour Facts

Entrancing Facts About Madame de Pompadour, France's Most Powerful Mistress

Madame de Pompadour was the alluring chief mistress of King Louis XV, but few people know her dark history—or the chilling secret shared by her and Louis.
December 7, 2018 Kyle Climans

More from Factinate

Featured Article

I tried to get my ex-wife served with divorce papers. I knew that she was going to take it badly, but I had no idea about the insane lengths she would go to just to get revenge and mess with my life.

These People Got Genius Revenges

When someone really pushes our buttons, we'd like to think that we'd hold our head high and turn the other cheek, but revenge is so, so sweet.
April 22, 2020 Scott Mazza

Featured Article

Catherine of Aragon is now infamous as King Henry VIII’s rejected queen—but few people know her even darker history.

Catherine of Aragon Facts

Tragic Facts About Catherine of Aragon, Henry VIII’s First Wife

Catherine of Aragon is now infamous as King Henry VIII’s rejected queen—but very few people know her even darker history.
June 7, 2018 Christine Tran

Dear reader,

Want to tell us to write facts on a topic? We’re always looking for your input! Please reach out to us to let us know what you’re interested in reading. Your suggestions can be as general or specific as you like, from “Life” to “Compact Cars and Trucks” to “A Subspecies of Capybara Called Hydrochoerus Isthmius.” We’ll get our writers on it because we want to create articles on the topics you’re interested in. Please submit feedback to Thanks for your time!

Do you question the accuracy of a fact you just read? At Factinate, we’re dedicated to getting things right. Our credibility is the turbo-charged engine of our success. We want our readers to trust us. Our editors are instructed to fact check thoroughly, including finding at least three references for each fact. However, despite our best efforts, we sometimes miss the mark. When we do, we depend on our loyal, helpful readers to point out how we can do better. Please let us know if a fact we’ve published is inaccurate (or even if you just suspect it’s inaccurate) by reaching out to us at Thanks for your help!

Warmest regards,

The Factinate team

Want to learn something new every day?

Join thousands of others and start your morning with our Fact Of The Day newsletter.

Thank you!

Error, please try again.