History .. Minus All Those Dull Bits; DEAD POPES, DUNG AND MAD NAZIS, IT'S

Article excerpt

Byline: By NICK WEBSTER

WERE your history lessons a good chance to catch 40 winks while the teacher droned on about dusty old dead people?

They should have been telling you about the 38-minute war, the Nazi search for a subterranean race of super-humans and Delia Smith's role in rock history.

These all appear in a new book called History Without The Boring Bits. Here are a few eye-openers from times gone by...

456BC

THE Greek dramatist Aeschylus dies when an eagle drops a tortoise on his bald head.

346BC

HAVING conquered much of Greece, Philip II of Macedonia sends a message to the Spartans: "You are advised to submit without further delay, for if I bring my army into your land, I will destroy your farms, slay your people and raze your city." They send a one-word reply: "If." Philip leaves them alone.

897AD

DEAD pope Formosus, who passed away nine months before, is charged with breaking holy law. Pope Stephen VI insists Formosus appear to answer charges so the corpse is exhumed and propped in a chair in court. Formosus is found guilty, stripped of papal robes and the fingers used for blessings cut off.

1066

THE body of King Harold is so horribly mutilated after his death at Hastings that only his mistress can identify him.

1087

WILLIAM the Conqueror dies after a fall from his horse. As they attempt to bury the king the monks of Rouen find him too large for the sarcophagus. As they try to force the putrid carcass into its final resting place it bursts. And even incense and perfumes fail to mask

the stench that fills the church.

1264

HENRY III pardons one Inetta de Balsham, condemned to death for harbouring thieves. She had been hanged but survives after three days swinging on the end of the rope.

1415

AT the Battle of Agincourt many of the English archers are suffering from dysentery. Unable to leave their positions they fight naked from the waist down, allowing nature to take its course.

1473

ATTACKING the Aztec city of Tlatelolco, the army of Axayacatl of Tenochtitlan is met by an army of naked women. They try to distract their enemies by spraying them with milk from their breasts. However, this ruse does not save Tlatelolco, which is sacked.

1555

IVAN IV, known as "the Terrible", orders the building of St Basil's Cathedral in Moscow. When it is completed he orders the architects to be blinded, so that they will never design a more beautiful building.

1623

A LAW dictates all bankrupts have an ear nailed to the pillory - a sort of stocks that you have to stand in - for two hours, before it is cut off.

1703

DANIEL Defoe is held for three days in the pillory as punishment for his satirical Shortest Way With Dissenters. But he is so popular the crowd throw flowers at him rather than rotten eggs.

1714

ON the Isle of Man Katherine Kindred is found guilty of being "a notorious strumpet" and sentenced to be dragged behind a boat across the harbour at Peeltown. …