Table of contents:

7 real historical facts that are hard to believe
7 real historical facts that are hard to believe

Curious moments from the life of Michelangelo, the last French queen and American kamikaze pigeons.

7 real historical facts that are hard to believe
7 real historical facts that are hard to believe

1. The Pontians used underground tactical bears against Roman soldiers

Surprising historical facts: the Pontians used bears against Roman soldiers
Surprising historical facts: the Pontians used bears against Roman soldiers

Around 71 BC NS. Roman legions under the command of the consul Lucius Lucullus laid siege to the Pontic city of Themiscira. Yes, the one in which, according to legends, the beautiful warrior-Amazons lived.

The legionnaires, having examined the city and its defenders from afar, did not find the muscular beauties, as expected, they were upset and decided to raze Femiskira to the ground.

However, the assault gave nothing: the walls of the city were strong and high, the defenders fought bravely, and the army made a temporary retreat. The siege began.

The Romans were skilled masters of trench warfare. They had engineering troops that specialized in digging. By order of Lucullus, sappers dug a tunnel under the walls of Themiscira so that the soldiers could penetrate the walls.

But the Pontians noticed the tunnel and, when the legionnaires launched an offensive, made holes in the ceiling of the tunnel and dropped several bears there. Yes, you heard right. Naturally, the Romans were not at all happy about them.

The battle of the Romans with fighting animals was described by the ancient author Appian. But he did not mention whether the clubfoot was the standard weapon of the Pontians, or whether they were hastily recruited in the nearest menagerie on a voluntary-compulsory basis.

One way or another, the bears did a good job: the skin of a large animal with a gladius or pilum cannot be taken immediately. And as if there weren't enough tactical bear cavalry: the inhabitants of the besieged city threw several bee hives into the Roman passages. Well, to add fun and frenzy. As a result, the attack was drowned out.

After reinforcements came to the besiegers, who were absent to defeat the army of King Mithridates VI at the city of Kabir, Themiscira fell and was destroyed.

2. Michelangelo mocked the churchmen who criticized his drawings

Amazing historical facts: Michelangelo painted a churchman on a fresco
Amazing historical facts: Michelangelo painted a churchman on a fresco

Michelangelo Buonarroti was a very famous painter and sculptor who gained recognition during his lifetime. Why, he was so cool that dad personally invited him to paint the Sistine Chapel.

The painter enthusiastically took up his favorite job - to paint beautiful naked bodies in the strangest positions. And the pontiff liked it.

But among the pope's close associates were those who believed that naked people in the Vatican were no longer in any gate. The shameless could at least paint on their underpants, but he, you see, does not want to. No decency and humility before the Lord.

The main opponent of nudity in the chapel was the papal master of ceremonies Biagio da Cesena, not the last person to be surrounded by His Holiness. After seeing how Michelangelo was working on the Last Judgment fresco, he stated the following.

How shameful that in such a sacred place all these naked figures should have been depicted, revealing themselves so shamefully! This fresco is more suitable for public baths and taverns than for a papal chapel.

Biagio Martinelli da Cesena Pontifical Master of Ceremonies.

Michelangelo took and silently added Biagio to the fresco. He portrayed him in the underworld, surrounded by demons and frightened sinners, in the guise of Minos - a hellish judge with donkey ears. The body of the master of ceremonies was wrapped around a snake, sinking teeth into his penis.

Biagio began to resent his dad: what does this painter allow himself? To which the pontiff replied succinctly that he is the governor of God on earth, and his power does not extend to Hell, so the portrait should remain.

Later, at the Triden Cathedral, the clergy revised their views on nudity in art and decided: no, after all, it's not good to appear in a church without pants.

By order of the new Pope Pius IV, the artist Daniele da Volterra, a student of Michelangelo, made some changes to the fresco, adding loincloths to everyone. Because of this, he received the nickname Braghettone ("the painter of pants").

In addition, he remade the St. Catherine and Blasius of Sevastia depicted there. Mischievous Michelangelo painted the first completely naked, and the second - looking at her ass. The churchmen decided that the lady should be dressed, and the saint should be turned towards the Heavenly throne. And to depict on his face is not carnal interest, but exclusively piety.

3. Marie-Antoinette asked forgiveness from her executioner

Surprising historical facts: Marie Antoinette asked for forgiveness from her executioner
Surprising historical facts: Marie Antoinette asked for forgiveness from her executioner

Everyone knows the phrase allegedly uttered by the French queen Marie-Antoinette when she was informed about the starving commoners: "If they have no bread, let them eat cakes!" She didn't really say that.

But her last words are written down to the point. Marie Antoinette was executed by guillotine on October 16, 1793 at exactly 12:15 pm. When she was climbing the scaffold, she accidentally stepped on the executioner's foot and said: “Forgive me, monsignor. I didn't do it on purpose."

This is what raising a real lady means.

4. The British taught seagulls to defecate on German submarines

Surprising historical facts: the British used seagulls to track submarines
Surprising historical facts: the British used seagulls to track submarines

Submarines, which began to be massively used during the First World War, completely changed the rules of naval battles. And the most dangerous and technically advanced ships of this type were then German submarines.

At the beginning of the war, Germany had only 28 such submarines. But, despite this, they demonstrated extremely high efficiency in the fight against the British fleet. The submarines attacked suddenly, sunk ships left and right, and virtually nothing could be done about them.

In 1916, the first weapon against them was invented - depth charges. But there were still two decades left before the creation of sonars. Therefore, German submarines were invisible even to the most advanced warships of the time.

They did what they wanted, attacking even neutral and merchant ships without warning. The British, losing ships one by one, decided that it was enough to endure it, and began to look for ways to fight.

Fortunately, without sonar and submarines were practically blind in battle. All they could was to detect with the help of periscopes a ship floating carelessly nearby, and then launch torpedoes in its direction. Therefore, the German boat could be spotted by the observation tubes sticking out from under the water.

And the British used it. Teams of British sailors on small boats patrolled their waters.

These fighters were armed with the latest anti-submarine systems of their time.

When they spotted the periscope, they would imperceptibly swim up, throw a canvas bag over it and smash the eyepieces with blacksmith's hammers. The Germans, announcing the serene depths of the sea with furious abuse, returned to their port for repairs, and practically by touch.

There is information that, for example, the captain of the destroyer HMS Exmouth specially recruited blacksmiths into the team, because they were better at swinging hammers than the average sailors.

German submarine U-14
German submarine U-14

True, this tactic also had drawbacks: the periscope still has to be noticed, especially if even the slightest waves are present at sea. Therefore, the British were constantly looking for a way to make enemy submarines more visible.

For example, the Royal Administration hired a sea lion trainer named Joseph Woodward to teach his pets how to search for submarines and shout out their locations. However, the program was ineffective, and British Admiral Frederick Samuel Inglefield proposed a new idea.

On his instructions, a training complex was built in Poole Harbor (this is not the same as Pearl Harbor), where ornithologists purposefully taught seagulls to detect and unmask submarines. The seabirds were fed over the mock-ups of submarines, developing the association "a sub is food" in them.

It was assumed that flocks of hungry seagulls would fly over the submarines, giving away their location. In addition, bird feces should have stained the lenses of the periscopes, impairing visibility for the Germans. The bird training lasted for almost a year, but later the project was canceled as unnecessary.

It turned out that it is more effective to escort merchant ships with destroyers with deep-sea bombs than to hope that a stupid seagull will find a submarine and begin to accurately bombard its eyepieces with droppings.

Since 1917, no merchant ship has left the port without an escort, and attacks by German submarines have become much more rare. In addition, British and American reconnaissance aircraft began to patrol the seas.

Although they could not destroy submarines (during the entire war, only one submarine was sunk by an attack from the air), in their presence they were forced not to raise the periscopes from the water, remaining blind and helpless.

5. And the Americans were developing pigeon-guided aerial bombs

The Americans developed pigeon-guided aerial bombs
The Americans developed pigeon-guided aerial bombs

The United States loves eccentric military projects no less than Britain. There, too, all the time they thought about how to use various animals and birds in the war. Indeed, why are all sorts of tailed and birds idly staggering, who ordered them a reprieve from the army?

In the 40s of the last century, the United States created many new models of bombs and missiles, but all of them had depressingly low accuracy. The warriors were looking for a way to make the shells manageable, but nothing worked. Electronics had not yet reached the required level.

Behavioral psychologist Berres Skinner came to the aid of the valiant American army. He suggested that the military should not use bulky electronic devices as an on-board missile control system, but living beings.

According to Skinner's idea, a specially trained tactical war pigeon should direct the projectile at the target.

After all, these birds endured war correspondence, why shouldn't they be engaged in the delivery of bombs to the address? To the military, the idea seemed a little stupid, but intriguing. Skinner was given a budget and engineers. The contractor was General Mills, Inc., a food, toy and bomb company.

Training apparatus for training tactical war pigeons
Training apparatus for training tactical war pigeons

By joint efforts, the following design was developed. In front of the projectile, a special camera with three round screens was installed, where the image was projected using a system of lenses and mirrors. A dove was sitting in front of them. When he saw the silhouette of a target on the screen, he had to peck him. The mechanism recorded the pressure and directed the ammunition in the right direction.

Skinner trained pigeons using a technique he called operant conditioning. If the trained bird in the simulator bites exactly into the image, then it is fed with grain, if it is lazy, then it is deprived of the reward.

The Dove project was developed from 1940 to 1944. But in the end, he was curtailed, although Skinner threatened to turn his birds into professional kamikaze. However, in 1948 the program was resumed under the new code name Orcon (from the English. Organic Control, "Organic control").

But all research ceased in 1953, this time for good. By that time, sufficiently compact electronic control systems had been developed, and the pigeons were not needed.

6. The winner of the 1904 Olympics marathon was brought to the finish line

1904 Olympics Marathon Winner Brought to the Finish Line
1904 Olympics Marathon Winner Brought to the Finish Line

On August 30, 1904, in St. Louis, USA, an athletics competition was held, which was simply badly organized. Therefore, the events that happened at the marathon resemble a bad anecdote.

32 athletes participated in the 40 km marathon, but only 14 reached the finish line. The race took place on a very bad road. It was not blocked for cars, and the cars passing by raised pillars of dust. Several athletes were on the verge of death because of it, having received internal bleeding and damage to the lungs. Others fainted due to heat at 32 ° C and dehydration.

The first to come to the finish line was the American runner Frederick Lorz. As it turned out, during the race he felt bad, and he was picked up by the coach in the car. Lorz was taken almost to the finish line, but he got out of the car and decided to walk. And suddenly crossed the finish line.

The athlete was immediately honored and awarded a medal, but he admitted that the mistake came out. And he was driven away, booed and suspended for six months from the competition.

Briton Thomas Hicks came second. This one had already run relatively fairly, at least most of the way, so he was declared the real winner. Although Hicks, as was the case with runners in those days, was doping. Several trainers ran along with him, pouring cognac and rat poison into his mouth on the way. Then it was believed that strychnine has a tonic effect and is generally incredibly useful.

By the time Hicks made it to the home stretch, he was hallucinating and could barely move, poisoned by alcohol and strychnine. The coaches literally carried him, holding him by the shoulders, and the athlete, unconscious, fiddled with his legs in the air, thinking that he was still running. He was immediately taken away in an ambulance and barely pumped out.

The runners are accompanied by the judges by car
The runners are accompanied by the judges by car

Also among the finishers was a simple Cuban postman named Felix Carvajal, who joined the marathon at the last second. He raised funds to run the marathon by running money races all over Cuba. But on the way to the Olympics, Carvajal lost all the cash in dice in New Orleans and had to hitchhike to St. Louis.

Felix did not even have money left for equipment, and he ran in ordinary clothes - shirt, shoes and trousers. The latter were shortened by a pocket knife by a passing Olympian, a discus thrower.

Finally, the marathon was attended by two black students from Africa, Len Taunyan and Jan Mashiani.

The Africans joined the race because they were passing by and noticed the athletes preparing. And they decided: why are we worse.

Jan came in twelfth, but Len could well have taken a prize place, but two factors prevented him. First, he ran barefoot because he did not have shoes with him. Second, an aggressive stray dog caught up with him halfway, and he was forced to seriously deviate from the route.

You may ask: where are our compatriots, where are the Russian athletes, why did they not participate in the Olympic Games? They wanted to. They really wanted to. But they could not, because they arrived at the competition a week later than expected.

Because the Julian calendar was still used in the Russian Empire at that time.

7. A piece of Queen Victoria's wedding cake has been kept as a relic for almost 200 years

A piece of Queen Victoria's wedding cake has been kept as a relic for almost 200 years
A piece of Queen Victoria's wedding cake has been kept as a relic for almost 200 years

On February 10, 1840, Queen Victoria of England married Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha. The happy newlyweds were served a sumptuous wedding cake weighing 300 pounds, or approximately 136 kilograms.

This luxurious three-tiered cake was crowned with a miniature bride and groom in Roman dresses and several smaller figures - their retinue. The figurines were made from refined sugar, a fabulously expensive thing in those days. The muffin was soaked with a lot of booze, and also stuffed with lemon, elderberry, sugar and dried fruit.

But there was a catch: the bride was on a diet, the guests were not hungry - in general, no one was eager to eat a cake weighing more than a centner. After the ceremony, Victoria ordered it to be cut into pieces, sealed in tin boxes and distributed to acquaintances, friends and just random individuals. You see, the custom of handing out half-eaten pieces to the walkway existed even in the royal court.

But not all of the owners of a piece of such a cake were ready to use it for its intended purpose. This is, after all, a gift from Her Majesty, and you want to eat it. The slices were left as a keepsake, and it so happened that some of them have survived to this day.

And you thought it was only your Easter cakes that are petrified.

To this day, pieces of Victoria's wedding cake are of great value to lovers of antiquities. So, a couple of these slices are kept as a relic in the art collection of the Royal Trust. Another small piece was bought at auction in 2016 for £ 1,500 ($ 2,000).

One of the pieces of cake and the box in which it was presented by Queen Victoria
One of the pieces of cake and the box in which it was presented by Queen Victoria

If you think that this is a large amount, here's some information for comparison: in 1998, Sotheby's auction sold for $ 29,900 a piece of cake from the wedding of King Edward VIII and Wallis Simpson, which happened in 1937. Fresh, one might say.

Best of all, Victoria's cake is still edible due to its high alcohol content. At least in theory.