Oddities, Misconceptions, and Facts About the Middle Ages that Made it So Delightfully Strange
Oddities, Misconceptions, and Facts About the Middle Ages that Made it So Delightfully Strange

Oddities, Misconceptions, and Facts About the Middle Ages that Made it So Delightfully Strange

Khalid Elhassan - April 6, 2022

Oddities, Misconceptions, and Facts About the Middle Ages that Made it So Delightfully Strange
Sultan Mehmed the Conqueror, who invaded Wallachia during Vlad the Impaler’s reign. Wikimedia

1. A Display So Scary it Terrified Invaders and Made Them Turn Around and Head Back Home

The mass impalements did not halt Vlad the Impaler’s Easter Sunday feast, and the party went on. Afterward, the wives and children of the impaled aristocrats were taken to the mountains to rebuild a fortress, still dressed in their Easter finery. He worked them hard, until most died of exhaustion. Months later, when the job was finally done, Vlad’s reward for the few survivors, now skeletal figures clad in tattered rags, was to impale them. That was just the start of The Impaler’s passion for impalement. To solidify his rule, Vlad systematically exterminated the aristocratic class that had given his family so much trouble. Impalement was his preferred method to deal with them and anybody else who angered him.

He also warred against the Ottomans. Sultan Mehmed II the Conqueror, who had seized Constantinople and extinguished the Middle Ages Byzantine Empire a few years earlier, sent a force of 10,000 cavalrymen to deal with him. Vlad ambushed and defeated them, then impaled the survivors, with their leader mounted on the highest stake. In 1462, the Sultan led an army of 90,000 against The Impaler. As they approached Vlad’s capital, the Ottomans met no resistance. Instead, the road was lined with 20,000 impaled Turks and Muslim Bulgarians. The horrific sight was enough to spook the Sultan, who promptly turned around and went back home.


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

Antisemitism Studies Vol. 4, No. 1 (Spring 2020) – The Invention of Race in the European Middle Ages

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

Big Think – Vikings Unwittingly Made Their Blades Stronger by Trying to Imbue Them With Spirits

Cantor, Norman F. – In the Wake of the Plague: The Black Death and the World it Made (2001)

Cracked – Medieval Divorce Duels Were a Wild (but fair) Brawl

Crawford, Dorothy – Deadly Companions: How Microbes Shaped Our History (2018)

Encyclopedia Britannica – Carbon Sink

Encyclopedia Britannica – Tariq ibn Ziyad

Health and Fitness History – Medieval Mob Football

Historic England – The Time of Leprosy: 11th Century to 14th Century

History Collection – What Life Was Like as a Medieval Soldier

Holocene, The, July, 2011, 21(5) – Coupled Climate-Carbon Simulations Indicate Minor Global Effects of Wars and Epidemics on Atmospheric CO2 Between AD 800 and 1850

Live Science – Mongol Invasion in 1200 Altered Carbon Dioxide Levels

Live Science – What Was the Black Death?

Lorge, Peter – War, Politics, and Society in Early Modern China, 900-1795 (2005)

McNeil, William H. – Plagues and People (1976)

Medievalists – Did Everyone Believe in Religion in Medieval Europe?

Medievalists – Erectile Dysfunction in the Middle Ages – Cases From 14th Century York

Monga Bay – How Genghis Khan Cooled the Planet

Mote, Frederick W. – Imperial China: 900-1800 (1999)

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

Rosen, William – Justinian’s Flea: Plague, Empire, and the Birth of Europe (2007)

Russell, Jeffery Burton – A History of Medieval Christianity: Prophecy and Order (2007)

Sertima, Ivan Van – The Golden Age of the Moor (1992)

Talhofer, Hans – Medieval Combat in Color: A Fifteenth-Century Manual of Swordfighting and Close-Quarter Combat (2018)

Weatherford, Jack – Genghis Khan and the Making of the Modern World (2004)

Wikipedia – Sweating Sickness

Wiktenauer – Talhoer Fechtbuch

World History Encyclopedia – St. Anthony’s Fire