Crazy Facts About Medieval Times that Will Make Present Day Look Easy
Crazy Facts About Medieval Times that Will Make Present Day Look Easy

Crazy Facts About Medieval Times that Will Make Present Day Look Easy

Khalid Elhassan - May 15, 2021

Crazy Facts About Medieval Times that Will Make Present Day Look Easy
The Zhengde Emperor. Wikimedia

3. An Emperor Who Took Make Believe to Extremes

As his realm went to ruin, the teenaged Zhengde Emperor took to learning foreign languages and travelling incognito – although most of the time it was obvious just who he was. He was into make-believe in a big way, and created an alter ego for himself, a generalissimo Zhu Zhu, upon whom he lavished praise and rewards. He also built a city block within the imperial palace so he could pretend to be a shopkeeper. Less innocent and more harmful was his habit of taking his companions on thrill raids.

During those excursions, the emperor and his cronies often burst into the homes of wealthy citizens, violently seized and kidnapped their daughters, and held them for ransom. Officials who criticized the emperor’s erratic and irresponsible behavior were arrested, tortured, and executed by the hundreds. The Zhengde Emperor eventually drowned in 1521 when his pleasure barge capsized, an accident that finally brought his reign to a merciful end. Although he exited the scene, the damage he left behind proved permanent. During the years of his reign, without oversight from the throne, palace eunuchs achieved such power within the government’s structure that subsequent emperors were unable to dislodge them.

Crazy Facts About Medieval Times that Will Make Present Day Look Easy
The Citadel of Aleppo was severely damaged by the 1138 earthquake. Pintrest

2. The City That Suffered One of the Medieval Era’s Worst Calamities

The city of Aleppo in northwestern Syria is located right on a precarious geologic fault line that separates the tectonic Arabian Plate from the African Plate. That accident of geology is, to put it mildly, unfortunate for the city and its people. The friction between the two plates makes Aleppo and the region surrounding it particularly susceptible to devastating seismic events. One of the worst occurred during the Crusades on October 11, 1138, when one of history’s deadliest earthquakes shook northern Syria.

Aleppo was a bustling and vibrant city during the medieval era. In the mid-twelfth century, however, the region was ravaged by war as the recently formed Crusader states, such as the nearby Principality of Antioch, vied with the neighboring Muslim states. Aleppo, then part of the Zengid Sultanate, was at the forefront of the anti-Crusader resistance, protected by strong walls and a powerful citadel. Then came the 1138 earthquake, which killed hundreds of thousands in Aleppo, its environs, and the surrounding region.

Crazy Facts About Medieval Times that Will Make Present Day Look Easy
Aleppo’s medieval citadel. Wikimedia

1. Nearly a Quarter Million People Perished in This Earthquake

On October 10, 1138, a small earthquake shook Aleppo. Warned by the foreshocks, most of the population fled the city for the countryside. Many died there when the main earthquake struck the following day, but far more would have perished if they had they remained in the city. There, the powerful citadel suffered extensive damage from the tremors that caused its walls to fall down, while in the city below, most of Aleppo’s houses collapsed. The devastation extended beyond Aleppo and was widespread throughout northwestern Syria.

The town of Harem, conquered by Crusaders who fortified it with a strong citadel, was particularly hard-hit by tremors that shook apart and demolished its castle, and caused the local church to fall upon itself. The nearby Muslim fort of Atharib also had its citadel destroyed by the earthquake, which caused it to collapse upon and kill 600 of its garrison. The border town of Zaradna, sacked and pillaged multiple times as it changed hands between the combatants, was wholly obliterated. All in all, an estimated 230,000 perished in Aleppo’s 1138 earthquake, making it one the medieval era’s worst natural disasters

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Where Did We Find This Stuff? Some Sources and Further Reading

Ancient Origins – Tomoe Gozen: A Fearsome Japanese Female Samurai of the 12th Century

Chambers, James – The Devil’s Horsemen: The Mongol Invasion of Europe (2001)

Encyclopedia Britannica – Tariq ibn Ziyad

Encyclopedia Britannica – William Marshal

Encyclopedia Britannica – Zhengde, Emperor of Ming China

Hildinger, Erik – Warriors of the Steppe: A Military History of Central Asia, 500 BC to AD 1700 (2001)

History Collection – Fascinating Middle Age Facts

Horror History Net – Edmund Ironside, Murdered on His Toilet

How Stuff Works – Meowing and Biting Nuns: 10 Strangest Mass Hysterias

New York Times, October 23rd, 1994 – Historical Study of Homicide and Cities Surprises the Experts

Pinker, Steven – The Better Angels of Our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined (2011)

Ranker – All the Afflictions You Might Have if You Lived in a Medieval City

Tebrake, William H. – A Plague of Insurrection: Popular Politics and Peasant Revolt in Flanders, 1323-1328 (1993)

Wikipedia – Jack Cade’s Rebellion

Wikipedia – Sweating Sickness

Wikipedia – Yue Fei

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