Hanging at the Gemäldegalerie Art Museum in Berlin, Germany, is an unusual painting. Measuring 64 inches by 46 inches, this oil-on-oak-panel painting from the 1500s has an unusual subject. The crowd of people are all doing frankly weird things: two men are defecating out of a window, a man is biting into a wooden pillar, another man is banging his head against a wall, a man is burying a calf, a man is attempting to scoop up spilled porridge, and a woman is tying into a bundle what appears to be the devil. This odd artwork was made by Pieter Bruegel the Elder, who was one of the most significant Dutch artist of the Renaissance. Titled "Netherlandish Proverbs," the painting is actually a literal illustration of more than one hundred Dutch language proverbs and idioms.

The Temple at Epheseus: Wonder of the World

Epheseus was the most important Greek city of those founded along western Turkey. The city was first founded by Ionian Greek settlers along the marshy delta of the Cayster River. There was already a sanctuary, dedicated by the local people to a goddess of vegetation and fertility. The new Greek settlers associated that with Artemis, goddess of the hunt, wild animals, chastity, and childbirth. Several structures were built in Artemis' honor by the early settlers.

Epheseus eventually built a magnificent temple to her, which was continued under the famous King Croesus of Lydia. He is known today for his huge wealth, but at the time he was a newly-arrived king who had conquered Ephesus in 560 BCE and was looking to make his mark as a man of piety and sophistication in the Greek world. So he paid for work on the temple to continue, and hired an architect from Crete, Chersiphron of Knossos. It says how important the temple was that even its architect's name is remembered in history. Croesus' wealth certainly did the trick: with the first temple ever constructed entirely of marble, and located along a great trade route running from Greece into Asia Minor, Epheseus flourished.

Unfortunately, King Croesus' temple burned down in 356 BCE. Supposedly it was destroyed the same day as Alexander the Great was born, and it was not saved because Artemis was busy helping his mother through her labor -- a key role as she was the goddess of childbirth. But Epheseus wasn't ready to give up and become a backwater. After all, their temple was on the list of wonders of the world that the famous historian Herodotus They rebuilt the temple, a bigger and better one with an additional stepped platform, and rededicated it to the goddess Artemis. It even kept its old name, the Artemision.

Saint's Stolen Brain Secured

Fragments of the stolen brain of St John Bosco, a Catholic priest and founder of the Salesian religious order in the 1800s, have been found. His brain had been stored in a reliquary at the basilica of Castelnuova, near Turin in Italy. But both were stolen in early June of 2017. Fingerprints left nearby eventually led police to discover the brain's location, in August of 2017. The culprit had hoped to sell the reliquary, which he thought was made of gold. According to Italian police the brain, and the reliquary, had been hidden inside a copper kettle at the man's home, until they could be sold. The brain is now safely back at the basilica.

The full inventory of Shakespeare's possessions, which would have listed his books and other important information that modern historians would kill for, was probably sent to London. Important records were kept at the time in the capital. Unfortunately, that means the inventory was most likely destroyed in the Great Fire of 1666.

A Bank? A Pub? The Irish Don't See The Difference

In 1970, the entire banking system in Ireland went on strike. But the country was not crippled. Pubs stepped up -- after all, pub owners were very familiar with whether a patron could pay up or not. The strike ended six months later, and everything went on, the Irish economy basically unhurt.

Dirty People, Not Rats and Fleas, May Have Been Why The Black Death Spread

A new study suggests that we should stop blaming rats for spreading the Black Plague. Instead, the findings suggest, we should look at ourselves. Dirty humans, not dirty rats, were the likely culprits in spreading the bubonic plague. Specifically, “ectoparasites,” such as body lice and fleas carried by people, are more likely to be the guilty party.

Using mortality data from nine plague outbreaks in Europe between the 1300s and 1800s, the teams in Norway and Italy tracked how pandemics developed. In seven of the cases there was a closer resemblance to the human model for outbreak spread compared with the alternatives. Which means that if humans were just a little cleaner, the plague would not have spread so easily, or killed so many.

The United Nations passed the "Convention on the Law of the Sea" in 1994 and is now the recognized governing body in all legal matters concerning the world's oceans.

Romans Had Odd Naming Conventions

In ancient Rome, it was standard practice to name daughters with the female form of the family name. Julius Caesar's daughter, for instance, was Julia. And Marcus Antonius' (Mark Antony's) daughters were both Antonia! Although to avoid confusion, they were known as Antonia Maior and Antonia Minor.

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    HISTORICAL NON-FICTION

    By Lillian Audette

    This blog is a collection of the interesting, the weird, and sometimes the need-to-know about history, culled from around the internet. It has pictures, it has quotes, it occasionally has my own opinions on things. If you want to know more about anything posted, follow the link at the "source" on the bottom of each post. And if you really like my work, buy me a coffee or become a patron!

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