Medieval History

by Gonzalinho da Costa

Zero was invented in India when Hindu philosophers made great efforts to empty their minds. They came up with nothing.

Toilet paper, which first appeared in China, caught on very quickly among the populace. It was manufactured in huge quantities, and when the emperor would order large 2’ x 3’ sheets, we are left to imagine why.

During the Heian period in Japan, the ideal aristocrat was supposed to be highly cultured and tenderly sensitive, drenched in melancholy and gloom, always brooding over the Buddhist dictum that life and especially beauty is fleeting. It’s a wonder they didn’t all commit suicide.

The Abbasid caliphate was a Golden Age, renowned for numerous scientific and mathematical advances. Contrary to a belief popular among secondary school students today, algebra, developed by al-Khwarizmi in the 9th century, was not a medieval instrument of torture.

The Vikings pillaged Europe in the hope that by dying in battle they would be rewarded with an endless supply of mead at Valhalla, the longhouse in the sky. They were party animals on steroids.

Thomas Aquinas claimed that women are defective and misbegotten, following Aristotle’s belief that every female is born the equivalent of a mutilated male. It never occurred to him to consider the opposite—that males are born mutant females.

Spain is famous for many inventions and discoveries, for instance, inhalation anesthesia—during the al-Andalus period, Arab physicians like al-Zahrāwī and ibn Zuhr would anesthetize patients by placing a sponge soaked with narcotic over their mouths before surgery. They didn’t use it during the Inquisition.

Joan of Arc was burned at the stake, horribly and cruelly, for cross-dressing. We’ve come a long way since then.

During the Late Middle Ages the legend of Robin Hood was born, the outlaw who would rob the rich and give to the poor. Today dictators are more inspired by Robin Hoodwink, robbing the poor and giving to the rich.

Bram Stoker’s horror novel Dracula is based on a real historical figure, Vlad Dracula—translation, Vlad “the Impaler”—a ruler of Wallachia in Eastern Europe who was expected to hold the line against invading Turks. He had a lot at stake.

The Aztecs used cocoa beans as valuable currency. When they added water to make chocolate drinks, it gave new meaning to the term, “liquidity.”

The Incas ingeniously resorted to long knotted cords coded with colored threads to keep records of historical events, astronomical dates, financial accounts, and the like, including debts. The colorful cord came in handy—it could be used to strangle debtors when they refused to pay.

Under the god-king cult of the Khmer empire, curious laws were enacted, like, “It is illegal to die without the permission of the emperor.” What were you supposed to do if the emperor didn’t give his permission?

Indonesia’s most popular tourist destination, the 8th-century Borobudur, is the largest Buddhist temple in the world, made up of ascending levels that represent the three planes of existence in the Buddhist universe—Desire, Forms, and Enlightenment. Tourists who climb to the third level of the temple invariably experience Enlightenment, namely, that it was a good idea to go on vacation.

Before the 15th century in Melanesia, the custom developed of using as money very large stones up to 12’ in diameter and weighing as much as four tons. Basically impossible to steal and lacking the portability of credit cards, the stones had no value except that which was based on their oral history, for example, “Marco Polo stubbed his toe on this one.”

Category: Fiction, SNHU online creative writing