Facts from the Middle Ages that Are Full of Surprises
Facts from the Middle Ages that Are Full of Surprises

Facts from the Middle Ages that Are Full of Surprises

Khalid Elhassan - March 15, 2021

Facts from the Middle Ages that Are Full of Surprises
Facial reconstruction of Timur, based on his skull. Owlcation

1. A Great Medieval Conqueror’s Great Curse

Timur’s most dramatic victory came at the expense of the Ottoman Turks. A rising power in their own right, the Ottomans were as exuberantly confident in their prowess as was Timur. For years, insulting letters were exchanged between Timur and the Ottoman Sultan, Bayezid, until Timur finally showed up in 1402, Timur crushed Bayezid, and took him captive. In one of the medieval era’s greatest acts of ownage, Timur humiliated his prisoner by keeping him in a cage at court, while Bayezid’s favorite wife was made to serve the victor and his courtiers, naked.

Facts from the Middle Ages that Are Full of Surprises
Timur gloating over the captured Ottoman Sultan Bayezid I. Wikimedia

Timur’s decades-long rampage finally came to an end in 1405, while he was preparing to invade China. He took ill while encamped, and died before launching the campaign. His grave was reportedly cursed. His body was exhumed by Soviet anthropologists on June 19th, 1941. Carved inside his tomb were the words “When I rise from the dead, the word shall tremble“. Two days later, the Nazis launched the largest military operation of all time against the USSR, which the Soviets survived only by the skin of their teeth. Just to be on the safe side, in November, 1942, shortly before Operation Uranus which led to the first major Soviet victory at Stalingrad, Timur was reburied with full Islamic rituals.

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

BBC – Trial by Ordeal: When Fire and Water Determined Guilt

Buzzfeed – 16 Strange and Surprising Facts About Medieval England

Doran, John – The History of Court Jester Fools (2012)

Encyclopedia Britannica – Charles VI, King of France

Encyclopedia Britannica – Timur

Health and Fitness History – Medieval Mob Football

Hibbert, Christopher – Great Battle: Agincourt (1986)

Hildinger, Erik – Warriors of the Steppe: Military History of Central Asia, 500 BC to 1700 AD (1997)

Historia Cartarum – What Does a Stick of Eels Get You?

History Extra – 8 Things You (Probably) Didn’t Know About Medieval Elections

History Extra – 10 Things You (Probably) Didn’t Know About the Middle Ages

JSTOR – Charlemagne’s Unspeakable Sin

Keegan, John – The Face of Battle: A Study of Agincourt, Waterloo, and the Somme (1983)

Medievalists – Did People Drink Water in the Middle Ages?

Oakeshott, Ewart – The Sword in the Age of Chivalry (1994)

Ranker – Were Medieval People Really Drunk on Beer and Wine All the Time?

Slate – What Was the Drink of Choice in Medieval Europe?

Tradition in Action – A World of Brilliant Colors

Wikipedia – Agnes Sorel

Wikipedia – John Hawkwood

Wikipedia – St Scholastica Day Riot

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