In 1573 the Renaissance artist Paolo Veronese painted a Last Supper that included drunken Germans, dogs, parrots, and dwarfs. He liked it, but the Inquisition had other ideas.
“Stuck a feather in his hat and called it macaroni.” What does that even mean? As it turns out, a macaroni was an 18th century hipster.
In the long history of war, there are almost no conflicts between cavalry and navy. But in 1795, there was. And the cavalry won.
Is modern thought more advanced than the Greeks and Romans? Most people fall on the side of “duh, of course,” but in 16th century France the debate between the Ancients and the Moderns was fierce.
In the early 17th century, the German artillery master Franz Helm suggested attaching a bomb to the back of a cat, in the hope that it would run into a fortified town and set it on fire. This sounds like a terrible idea.
Vampire folklore goes back a long way, but who was the first real person to be described as a vampire? That honour goes to Jure Grando, who died in 1656, and who was decapitated sixteen years later.
Poggio Bracciolini was a key instigator of the Italian Renaissance: he recovered or rediscovered many of the Latin texts that would inspire that storied revival. Also, he loved a good fart joke.
Venice, 15th century. It’s a gorgeous city, but has a tendency to get a bit waterlogged, so you wear clogs to keep your clothes out of the mud. Next thing you know, you’re half a metre off the ground.
A magic square is a grid of numbers in which any row, column, or diagonal adds up to the same total. They look complex, but it’s actually easy to design your own using the Siamese method.
Everyone loves to give someone’s shins a good kick (no? just me then?) but leave it to the English to make it into a sport.