Myths About the Middle Ages Debunked
Myths About the Middle Ages Debunked

Myths About the Middle Ages Debunked

Khalid Elhassan - September 26, 2019

Myths About the Middle Ages Debunked
Charlemagne. Flickr

2. Charlemagne Liked Sexing His Live Sister and His Dead Wife

Charlemagne was one of medieval Europe’s greatest figures, who unified much of western and central Europe into what became known as the Carolingian Empire. In 800, he was crowned by Pope Leo III as “Emperor of the Romans” – the first in a line of Holy Roman Emperors that would last until 1806. Charlemagne was also a weirdo, who was into incest and necrophilia. He had an incestuous relationship with his sister Gillen, and fathered upon her a son/ nephew, named Roland.

Sleeping with his sister was not the worst of it: Charlemagne also reportedly had a thing for sleeping with corpses. A variety of texts from the ninth century refer to Charlemagne repeatedly engaging in, but refusing for a long time to confess to, some “unspeakable sin”. He eventually got it off his chest, and sought absolution for what some modern scholars think was a predilection for necrophilia. That gave rise to legends in which Charlemagne’s partiality to corpses extended from sexually satisfying his lusts with random corpses, to sleeping with his wife’s corpse after her death.

Myths About the Middle Ages Debunked
Qarmatians. Daily Motion

1. The Medieval Cult That Sacked the Kaaba

Ninth century Arabia saw the emergence of the Qarmatians, who started off as bandits preying upon caravans. Then they got religion, after they came upon and fell under the sway of a mystic who preached that the End Times were nigh. The Qarmatians morphed into a heretical millenarian cult, and captured eastern Arabia and Bahrain, where they founded a utopian religious republic in 899. Believing that pilgrimage to Mecca, a pillar of Islam, was a superstition, the Qarmatians attacked pilgrim caravans, and in 906, massacred over 20,000 Muslim pilgrims. In 930, as part of their millenarian quest to speed up the End Days, they seized Mecca and Medina, Islam’s holiest cities, and sacked both.

The Qarmatians killed over 30,000 pilgrims in Mecca, desecrated religious sites, and polluted the holy Well of Zamzam by filling it with corpses. They also seized the Black Stone, a meteorite rock affixed to the Kaaba and deemed holy by Muslims, took it back to their republic, and smashed it to pieces. They held the shards for a huge ransom, that was paid by the Abbasid Caliph, who then reassembled the bits and restored them to the Kaaba. Pilgrimage ceased for nearly a decade, and only resumed after the Qarmatians were paid protection money by the region’s states to stay away from the holy cities. The payments continued until the Abbasid defeated the Qarmatians in 976.

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

Annotated Prince – Francesco Sforza: Warlord Prince of Milan

Badass of the Week – Khawlah bint Al-Azwar

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

British Battles – Battle of Agincourt

Buzzfeed – 16 Strange and Surprising Facts About Medieval England

Encyclopedia Britannica – Bela I

Encyclopedia Britannica – Timur

English Monarchs – Edmund II Ironside

Geni – Wreck of the White Ship

Health and Fitness History – Medieval Mob Football

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

JSTOR – Charlemagne’s Unspeakable

Latin Library – Robert Guiscard

Medievalists – Did People Drink Water in the Middle Ages?

Military History Now – Meet the Landsknechts: 10 Wild Facts About the Most Murderous Mercenaries of the Renaissance

Military Wikia – Swiss Mercenaries

New World Encyclopedia – Hulagu Khan

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

Samurai Archives – Ashikaga Takauji

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

Svedrup, Carl Frederik – The Mongol Conquests: The Military Operations of Genghis Khan and Sube’eti (2017)

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

Weatherford, Jack – Genghis Khan and the Making of the Modern World (2005)

Wikipedia – John Hawkwood

Wikipedia – Jacquerie

Wikipedia – St Scholastica Day Riot

World Bulletin – The Qarmatians: The World’s First Enduring Communistic Society

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