Facts about Horrible History
The crew behind Horrible Histories make a return to Northampton's Royal & Derngate this week.
Audiences can see Groovy Greeks and Incredible Invaders when the show runs until Saturday June 11.
In Sparta they believed in starting to train new soldiers from a young age – as soon as they were born! To toughen them up Spartan children slept on rushes they gathered from the river bank & if they were cold in winter they had to mix in a few thistles with the reeds – the prickling gave them a feeling of warmth.
Under strict Athenian laws you could be executed for the most trivial offence even stealing a cabbage!
The Athenians even liked to punish metal objects. After sacrificing an ox to their gods in a temple they would conduct a trial to decide who killed it. But they didn’t convict the man who did the killing rather the knife that he used to stab the ox & then they sentenced the knife to death by drowning & threw it into the sea!
Xerxes, King of Persia, also liked punishing things. When a bridge he was building to take his army across the water to attack Greece was destroyed by huge waves in a storm he ordered the sea should receive 300 lashes from a whip to teach it a lesson!
The famous Greek teacher Pythagoras set up his own religion. He thought that if you behaved yourself during life after you died your soul would come back in the body of a great person like a king but if you’d been bad you’d return as something nasty like a pig or a tree or worst of all a woman!
The ancient Greeks held the very first Olympic games but they also held other contests at Isthmia where if you won a race you were given a crown made of pongy celery!
There were lots of Nike trainers on view recently at the London Olympics but Nike was originally the name of the Greek’s goddess of victory, whom they thought watched over all athletic contests
Groovy Greeks in Athens would sometimes eat thrushes and grasshoppers at a banquet but they were very sniffy about their neighbours Sparta’s diet and said “The Spartans claim to be the bravest people in the world. To eat horrible food like theirs they’d have to be!”
The Greek King Pyrrhus was in a battle with the Roman army & was hit by a peasant using a pike. The king turned round to smash the man with his sword but unluckily for Pyrrhus the man’s mother was watching from the roof of a nearby house. She tore off one of the roof tiles & flung it at the king. Amazingly the tile hit him on the back of his neck and he dropped down dead
The Romans had dozens of gods – some well known – Neptune, god of the sea etc but some rather silly ones
Penates was god of cupboards
Robigus was god of mildew
And Furrina whose festival the Romans celebrated every 25 July but by 100 BC no one could remember what exactly she was goddess of!
Romans also had a lot of strange superstitions and customs:
Woman thought combing their hair with the spear of someone just killed in the arena would bring them luck
Sausages were banned as only being fit for Barbarians to eat!
It was bad luck to enter a house left foot first so rich Romans put a servant at the door to make sure everyone entered right foot first. They were the first ‘footmen’.
A Roman cure for snake bite was to rub pig droppings onto the bite and then pour wine mixed with the herb Fennel up your nose!
The Saxons were the name the Welsh, Scots and Irish called all strangers who moved into England when the Romans left in 410AD
The Saxons worried a lot about the ghosts of their dead relatives coming back to haunt them so would often chop the heads off their dead bodies before burying them so the spirit couldn’t find their way back to haunt the family.
There were certainly a lot of dead people around then - half the Saxon population were dead before they were 25 and most of the rest by the time they reached 40
When they first came to Britain the Saxons were pagans though some became Christians later. But to start with they worshipped German gods like Tiw (Tuesday is named after him). He was the god of justice and allowed himself to be used as bait to catch a monstrous wolf but the wolf bit his head of – perhaps he should have been god of stupidity!
Saxons believed the weather foretold what was to happen ie thunder on a Sunday meant the death of monks and nuns
Some Saxons had a model of a wild pig on their helmets it was supposed to bring them good luck in battle
The Vikings legends said that the first man & woman in the world came from the sweat of a giant’s armpit - so if giants had used deodorant we might all never have been born!
They also believed clouds were made from the brains of a dead giant
Viking, Leif Erikson was the first European to land in America long before Christopher Columbus got there. The Vikings called this new place Vinland
Vikings are famous for their funny nick-names, like Olaf the Stout and Ivar the Boneless, but they weren’t usually known by these names when they were alive these were usually invented by history writers much later to describe the different Vikings. Other funny ones were Keith Flatnose, Harold Bluetooth and Sigtrygg One Eye
Viking letters were known as Runes and many many years later J,R.Tolkien used the idea of runes as a secret language in his book The Hobbit but said it was the writing of dwarves
More gruesome facts like this can be seen when Horrible Histories is performed. For more details visit www.royalandderngate.co.uk.