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    17 Truly Odd Historical Facts That I Had A Hard Time Believing Were Real

    Romans brushing their teeth with pee is a fact I didn't need to know.

    1. In the thirteenth century, Pope Gregory IX basically declared war on the cats of the world.

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    Gregory insisted that black cats in particular were associated with devil worship, which led to them being widely exterminated throughout Europe. It’s believed that over time the scarcity of cats allowed the rat population to grow, which in turn helped to spread the bubonic plague a few decades later!

    2. In 1820 an entire town held a trial against tomatoes.

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    The tangy red fruit was once considered ~evil~ (and poisonous) by much of the world! To dispel the rumours that tomatoes were lethal, Robert Gibbon Johnson ate a basket full of them in front of a crowd in Salem, New Jersey, who were astonished to see that he hadn’t keeled over from one bite.

    3. And while we're on the subject of tomatoes, ketchup was once actually sold as medicine.

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    In the 1830s, a physician called Dr. John Cooke Bennett claimed that tomatoes could be used to treat diarrhoea and indigestion – his tomato ketchup recipe was even concentrated into pill form and sold as medicine!

    4. Roman emperor Caligula planned to make his favourite horse a senator.

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    He loved his horse Incitatus so much that he gave him an ivory manger to sleep in, and even a palace with his own servants! When you’ve heard some of the other downright bizarre things this short-lived emperor did during his reign, you’ll realise that Caligula's strange relationship with his horse was one of the more normal things about him, TBH.

    5. In Victorian England, people used to take pictures of their dead relatives in lifelike positions to keep as mementos.

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    Since photography was so new and expensive at the time, this was often the only time a person would have had their picture taken – especially in the case of children and infants. Sometimes eyes would even be painted onto the photo after it was developed, to give the subject a more ‘lifelike’ appearance.

    6. Speaking of Victorian England – an unexpected fashion trend of the straight-laced era? Nipple piercings.

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    The trend was influenced by queen Isabella of Bavaria, who actually fashioned dresses with necklines that went down to the waist to properly show off her diamond-encrusted piercings.

    Victorians were slightly more subtle about it though – gold rings were the most popular style among aristocratic women of the time, and the piercings were often attached to each other by a gold chain. It was said that the chain helped to make the breasts grow evenly, and ever-resourceful Victorian doctors actually recommended piercing the nipples to make breast-feeding easier.

    7. Before alarm clocks became the norm, there were people called knocker-uppers who would literally knock on people’s window to wake them up in time for work.

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    It was popular in some areas right up until the ‘70s – while the standard tool of choice was a long stick, some knocker-uppers would use soft hammers, rattles, or even pea shooters to reach their clients’ windows!

    8. Lord Byron kept a pet bear in his dormitory while studying at Cambridge.

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    Byron loved animals and throughout his life he owned a few unusual ones – including two monkeys, a fox, and two new mastiffs! But, since he wasn't allowed to bring his favourite pet dog to uni, he decided to bring a tame bear to live with him on campus instead.

    9. In 1923, a jockey died in the middle of a race – but still won!

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    Frank Hayes suffered a heart attack in the middle of the race but managed to stay on the horse till he reached the finishing line! It was the first race Hayes had won – but sadly also his last.

    10. The ancient Romans often used stale urine as mouthwash.

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    Although this sounds pretty nasty, urine contains ammonia, which is actually one of the best natural cleaning agents around! The liquid gold became so in-demand that Romans who traded in it actually had to pay a tax!

    11. And the wonders of stale urine never seem to cease, since it was later used to make coloured dyes brighter and more effective!

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    The ammonia in stale urine helps to develop the colour in dyes whilst binding it to the cloth. So it’s no wonder that in 16th-century England, pee was such a valuable asset to the textile industry that it was collected in special 'urine pots' to be shipped across the country for use in factories!

    12. Roman gladiators often became celebrities and even endorsed products – a lot like athletes do today!

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    Children would even play with gladiator ‘action figures’ made out of clay.

    13. And their sweat was considered an aphrodisiac!

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    Some women even mixed it into their skincare – listen, what you do with your night cream is none of my business, Octavia.

    14. Stalin would literally have his photos retouched to remove people that he didn’t like.

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    No mean feat before the reign of Photoshop! This trend for erasing prominent figures from historical events was typical of pictures from the Soviet regime, where Lenin and Trotsky often got the same treatment.

    15. Between the 11th and 19th century, a number of Buddhist monks successfully mummified themselves.

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    They adopted a practice called Sokushinbutsu in which they gradually weaned themselves off food and water and essentially starved themselves to death over the course of a thousand days – it was believed that by successfully mummifying themselves, the monks would achieve true enlightenment.

    16. A novel about a seemingly ‘unsinkable’ ship that was hit by an iceberg was published in 1898 – 14 years before the Titanic sunk.

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    There are lots of other eerie similarities between the book and the real-life event: both ships suffered from an eventually tragic shortage of lifeboats, and the doomed ship in the book was called – wait for it – Titan.

    17. And finally, perhaps the wildest of all, Charlie Chaplin once entered a Charlie Chaplin lookalike contest – and came in 20th place.

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    To be fair, he didn’t have his famous moustache and boots on while performing his own trademark walk, so we can cut him some slack!