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20 Messed-Up Facts About History You Never Learned From Your School Books. Part 2

6. The Romans drove Silphium, a contraceptive herb, to extinction.

Birth Control Silphium Coin
image source: all-that-is-interesting.com

Silphium was cultivated in the oldest Greek city in North Africa – Cyrene (now Libya). Its resin was used in food as an additive, as an ointment or balm, a remedy for several illnesses and most commonly as a natural contraceptive. Silphium became so important to the Cyrenians that they stamped its picture onto their currency. Researchers speculate that the herb was so effective as a birth-control that the Romans used it to the point of driving the plant to extinction. By the end of the era, Silphium had become so rare and prized that it was worth its own weight in silver.(source)

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7. In WWII, Russians strapped dogs with explosives and trained them to run under tanks and blow them up.

Kamikaze Canines
image source: dailymail.co.uk

Yet another horrifying chapter from WWII. Stalin’s ‘canine killers’ were trained specifically to deploy bombs under Nazi tanks on the battlefield. Apparently, the initial plan was to equip the dog with a remote control or a cord that could be used to pull the trigger from a distance.  Military expert Yuri Veremeyev explains how this was accomplished in an interview with DailyMail,

“The Soviet army used of the most basic instincts – hunger. The dogs were kept without food for a while in cages, then hot food was cooked and put underneath the tanks. Attracted by its smell, dogs ran under the tanks and quite soon they learned that this was the only place where they could get the food. Very soon they were taught to get under the tanks when engines were on and during the battle field sounds imitation.”

When the dogs were too frightened to successfully do this in actual battle, the Russians grew desperate and strapped the explosives to the dogs themselves. This destroyed the morale of the soldiers, who opined that they did not want the indiscriminate killing of dogs in addition to the men who were already dying in war. Replicas of these “anti-tank dogs” were installed in Moscow’s Red Square, in honour of their sacrifice.(1,2)

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8. 15th-century Romanian ruler Vlad III Dracula impaled 20,000 Turkish soldiers on sharp spikes, enjoyed dining in his “forest” of corpses and even dipped his bread in the blood of his enemies.

Vlad The Impaler Tepes imapled
image source: sickchirpse.com

In his time, Vlad the Impaler had gained notoriety for implementing gruesome methods of killing. These included the usual impalement with hard, sharp spikes; disembowelment and beheading; even skinning and boiling. No one was exempt from his torture, and Vlad sometimes killed his own people. Vlad’s most famous execution spree was after winning a battle against the Ottoman Turks – he impaled every single one of the 20,000 soldiers on spikes and propped them on the banks of the Danube river, as decoration. Known to history as the most terrifying, cold-blooded ruler that ever existed, Vlad the Impaler went on to inspire a myriad of antagonistic and downright monstrous characters in literature – like Bram Stoker’s Dracula.(source)

9. King Goujian of Yue placed convicted criminals on the front row of his army, who were then forced to decapitate their own heads in a demonstration of Goujian’s ruthlessness to the enemy.

King Goujian of Yue
image source: history.cultural-china.com

This guy was absolutely nuts. Goujian reigned in the Kingdom of Yue (now Zhejiang) from 496 to 465 BC. Among other unspeakable things, he was known for his extreme and unconventional displays on the battlefield. His army’s frontline consisted of convicted criminals, who would proceed to behead themselves as a demonstration of loyalty for their King and his ferocity. In other words, it was a way of sending the enemy the message that Goujian was all-powerful and showed no mercy. According to the texts, it worked most of the time.(source)

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10. It was common for 19th-century Victorian men to fashion clippings of their lover’s pubic hair into jewelry and wear them as hat ornaments or souvenirs.

pubic hair victorian era
Image source

Just when you thought Europe could not get any weirder. In 19th-century Victorian Britain, men wore the curls of their lover’s pubic hair as a cockade (most commonly a knot of ribbons on hats) as a sign of potency or exchanged it with one another as souvenirs of love. Scotland’s St.Andrews University houses a snuff box full of pubic hair that belonged to one of King George IV’s mistresses.(source)

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