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Did Romans Really Wash Themselves in Wee?
By Dr. Dino's Learnatorium
John Blake Publishing LtdCopyright © 2014 Noel Botham and Chris Mitchell
All rights reserved.
Cavemen lived during the Stone Age (so-called because tools were made out of stone), which was between 3.4 million and 5,000 years ago. Even though we think of them as humans, most weren't Homo Sapiens. There were many other species, like the Neanderthals, which were all very similar to each other.
There are more people living in caves now than there have been at any other time in the Earth's history.
The average age a caveman lived to was only 16 years old. So, more of a caveboy really!
Language was still developing throughout the caveman period and a result of this is our yawn. It's believed that yawning was used to show all the members of your caveman group that you were tired and it was time for bed. This is why it is still contagious today – when caveman yawned, all the others would follow suit.
Cavemen wouldn't have just one cave. They were nomads, which meant that they would travel around and find new caves to live in quite often, for example if the weather became too cold, or if they ran out of easy access to food or water.
The oldest human fossils are 400,000 years old and were found in a cave in Northern Spain called 'The Pit of Bones'.
Cavemen often painted the caves that they lived in and, incredibly, some of these paintings still survive today. One of the most famous of these is the Lascaux cave in France, which has nearly 2,000 images. Most paintings are of animals, and quite a few people think they were just cavemen showing off and making a record of what they had hunted, much like people might take a picture now.CHAPTER 2
It's easy to think of the Aztecs as pretty ancient, but in fact they only arrived in modern-day Mexico in the 1300s. Before that the Mayans had been in charge for a long time ...CHAPTER 3
The Miserable Mayans
The Mayans famously created a calendar system that predicted that the world would end on 21 December 2012. For some reason, even though the Mayans were long gone by this time, some people still believed them and 'end-of-the-world' parties happened all around the globe on that date. One person who probably wasn't celebrating was Dutchman Pieter van der Meer who had an ark installed in his back garden in readiness. Still, at least he's got a nice big boat to play in now!
They weren't the cheeriest lot, the Mayans. They built huge pyramids dedicated to their gods, which was nice. But they used the pyramids for human sacrifice, which wasn't ... Often, the priests in charge would cut the heart right out of the victim while he was still alive!
Being a Mayan kid wasn't too fun either. If the adults thought your head was too broad they would put two planks of wood on either side to push on your head and make it narrower.
For some reason in the 900s the Mayans all fled the cities and left them abandoned. Many explanations have been given for this, ranging from a peasant revolt (probably against all the priests cutting out their hearts!), overpopulation leading to famine, a huge earthquake or a devastating plague. The truth is, much like the dinosaur extinction, nobody really knows. (Except me, of course. I could tell you all about what happened to the dinosaurs, but nobody ever asks me.)CHAPTER 4
Back to the Aztecs
The Aztecs learned quite a lot from the Mayans – not least the old trick of human sacrifice. And they were pretty 'bloody' good at it too. It's believed that they sacrificed an average of 50,000 people a year, and in one massive party to celebrate opening the temple in their capital of Tenochtitlan they killed 20,000 people in honour of the sun god.
The Aztecs never actually called themselves the Aztecs. Western historians came up with that description – they called themselves the Mexica.
Even worse than human sacrifice, the Aztecs were very cruel to their kids. They introduced ... Compulsory Schooling! If you were low-born you had to learn to be a warrior if you were a boy and how to be a housewife if you were a girl. The worst off were the nobles who had to learn maths, art, history and politics.
When two Aztecs got married, they would tie the man and woman's clothing together. This is believed to be the origin of the phrase 'tying the knot'.
Mexican food, like fajitas and quesadillas, can be delicious, but you might have wanted to give some Aztec foods a miss ... They would eat everything from monkeys and dogs to toads and frogs. And they were even known to make cake from pond scum!
Hernan Cortes and his Spanish army are often given the credit for conquering the Aztecs in 1519 by military brilliance. (That, plus the fact that they had guns while the Aztecs only had spears!) However, the real killer was something the Spaniards brought with them – smallpox.
The disease tore through the Aztec population, which hadn't ever been exposed to it before, and allowed Cortes and his men to take over.CHAPTER 5
The Greatest Explorers
It wasn't too long ago that people thought the world was flat. (Or even weirder: that it rested on the back of a giant turtle!) But despite this, some brave (or very stupid) men set off to travel the high seas to see if they would fall off the edge. Here are the top 10 greatest explorers of all time:
10. Vasco da Gama – He discovered the route to sail directly from Europe to India (around the bottom of Africa). He looked after himself pretty well, but it wasn't so great to be one of his sailors – more than half of them died of scurvy on the trip, including his brother!
9. Ferdinand Magellan – Magellan's expedition sailed the whole way around the world, doing piddling things like naming the Pacific Ocean along the way. He would be higher up the list but, due to a combination of bad diplomacy and sharp spears, he was killed in the Philippines and never made it home.
8. Robert Fitzroy and Charles Darwin – Fitzroy was the captain of HMS Beagle, the ship that took Darwin to the Galapagos Islands where he first came up with the little idea of evolution. The only reason Darwin came was for a bit of conversation – the captain before Fitzroy had got so bored he had killed himself!
7. Stanley and Livingstone – David Livingstone was an explorer and national hero who went deep into the unknown heart of Africa and discovered a lot of it. Unfortunately, he wasn't as good as he thought he was and he got lost! Henry Stanley was sent to find him and finally did (after a couple of years!). When he eventually tracked him down all he said was 'Dr Livingstone, I presume?'
6. Christopher Colombus – He famously discovered America, (although try telling that to the Native Americans!). In fact, Colombus was convinced that he had landed in Asia, however he soon realised his mistake. He never set foot on mainland America himself, but on his first trip there he left 40 people in a settlement. By the time he came back, they were all dead.
5. Lewis and Clark – This pair of hardy explorers spent a couple of years crossing the unknown America, mapping the vast wilderness as they went. The mission was a great success, except for one hairy moment when they sent a man travelling with them, Cruzatte – who only had one eye – out hunting. He mistook Lewis for an elk and shot him right in the bum. Lewis survived, but he had trouble sitting for the rest of the trip.
4. Leif Ericson – Leif is probably the greatest explorer to get the least credit for it. He was a Viking who made it all the way to America, 500 years before Colombus! Unfortunately for him, all evidence suggests he was pretty peaceful and, unlike later Europeans, didn't try to conquer anyone. Consequently, everyone forgot all about him and nobody believed he'd actually made it until 1963, when archaeologists discovered an old Viking village right where he said he'd been.
3. Captain Cook – Not to be confused with the equally famous Captain Hook, James Cook had the pleasure of sailing the Pacific and discovered countries such as Australia and New Zealand. One of the people who paid for his journey was Lord Sandwich, and Cook tried to repay him by naming Hawaii the Sandwich Islands. But the name didn't stick, and it seems the Hawaiians didn't much like it either – on his third trip there they got in a fight and Cook was killed!
2. Marco Polo – Marco Polo was a 13th-century explorer who travelled around most of Asia. He's often seen as the grandfather of all explorers. The only reason we know so much about it is because he had a bit of time on his hands ... When he headed home to Italy there was a war going on and he was on the wrong side. Marco was thrown in prison and was so bored he decided to write his story.
1. Neil Armstrong – The ultimate explorer, it was a 'great leap for mankind' when Armstrong became the first man to walk on the moon in 1969. And he finally proved once and for all that it wasn't made of cheese.CHAPTER 6
The Glorious Greeks
The Greeks were pretty clever chaps. Unlike their rivals the Romans, they never had big dreams of conquering the world (except for Alexander the Great, but more about him later), however they were great inventors and traders, and they spread knowledge throughout the known world better than anyone else. From around 1600 BC until the Greeks became part of the Roman Empire in 146 BC the Greeks were without a doubt the most glorious of the lot.
The Greeks invented or discovered an incredible number of things. Among them were the first maps as we know them, the discovery of most of the other planets in our solar system, coming to the realisation that there was science behind illnesses, figuring out that the Earth is a globe, inventing central heating and creating the world's first democracy. And, most importantly, creating the first flushing toilet! Unfortunately, they were so far ahead of everybody else that when they weren't around most of their best stuff was forgotten, and it was nearly 2,000 years later that people re-invented a lot of it.
Toasting at parties first began in ancient Greece. The host would always drink first, and his guests would wait until after he'd done so to have their drinks. They weren't being polite ... they were making sure that the drink wasn't poisoned!
Next time you're bored at the theatre, blame the Greeks. They invented plays, and would have huge competitions to see who wrote the best ones. Only men could be actors, so they had to play the parts of all of the women too.CHAPTER 7
The Smashing Spartans
Ancient Greece was made up of a number of city-states, and for a long time Athens were the top dogs. Athenians were clever, sophisticated, witty ... pretty boring in fact. Then came the Spartans, and they were horrible!
There was nothing the Spartans liked more than a good fight, and they fought a famous one at Thermopylae in 480 BC when the nasty Persians were invading with more than 100,000 men. Around 300 Spartans stood in their way and ... well ... they all died. But they held off the Persians for three days, which was pretty impressive, and their leader, Leonidas, was honoured as a hero.
If you think you've got it tough now, be glad you weren't a Spartan! When a child was born, if it looked a bit sick it would be taken away and left outside to die. Assuming you survived that foul treatment, at the age of seven children had to leave home and fend for themselves.
School included learning how to sleep outside, learning how to steal food and being the toughest, fastest, best fighter around.
It wasn't any easier for the girls. They had to learn to run, wrestle, throw javelins ... and be a good housewife. And, so they didn't become vain, they weren't allowed any nice clothes. In fact, they weren't allowed any clothes at all! Until they were about 12 all Spartan children would be naked.
Spartans were so obsessed with fighting that they had a law stating you had to be a soldier until you were 60. All the farming and trading was done by slaves.
Now, if you have a sneaky suspicion that the Spartan women thought all the men were being silly acting as tough as they were, then think again. When the men went to war, the women had a saying: 'Return with your shield, or on it' – meaning if you don't win, you had better come back dead. Tough love!CHAPTER 8
The Glorious Greeks II
When it came to war, the other Greeks had a few tricks of their own up their sleeves ... You've almost certainly heard of the old sneaky wooden horse trick at Troy, when the attackers built a big wooden horse and hid inside it until they were inside the city. But have you heard of Archimedes' burning mirrors? While his city of Syracuse was under siege, Archimedes created a wall of mirrors, which he used to focus the sunlight and set fire to the attacking ships. On reflection, what a clever chap!
The Greeks had other weapons up their sleeve when it came to warfare. They invented gruesome weapons such as the crossbow and the catapult to give their enemies a real battering.
Alexander the Great was a pretty good leader by all accounts. He took over as king of Macedonia (part of Greece) from his father (who was unfortunately assassinated – one of the pitfalls of being an ancient leader) at the young age of 20. By the time he was 30 he had conquered all of Persia and was attacking India. He had created one of the biggest empires of the ancient world. And by the time he was 32 ... he was dead! A short but spectacular reign.
The Greeks might have been pretty clever, but they still had some weird superstitions. They believed in augury, which basically meant checking out which way birds were flying and saying it was a sign. But, if they weren't satisfied with that, they would also kill the birds and pull out their guts. Then some clever chaps would examine them, believing they could tell the future from what they found!CHAPTER 9
The 10 Greatest Sayings No One Ever Said
10. 'Mirror, mirror, on the wall ...' by The Queen in Snow White and the Seven Dwarves.
Everyone says this one wrongly. She actually said 'Magic mirror on the wall ...' – the mirror knows it's a mirror, so why would she say it twice?
9. 'I only regret that I have but one life to give for my country' by Nathan Hale, an American revolutionary spy. Hale was captured by the British and hanged for his actions, and his famous 'last words' have been repeated by American soldiers for centuries. Unfortunately, there's no actual evidence he said them.
8. 'I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it' by Voltaire, the famous French philosopher. History teachers love to give this quotation from Voltaire, but if yours ever does, ask them where he wrote it.
Because he didn't. Actually, it was a historian called Evelyn Beatrice Hall, writing about Voltaire, who used the line in 1906, more than 100 years later.
7. 'Because it's there' by George Mallory, mountaineer. George Mallory, together with his companion Andrew Irvine, set out to be the first man to get to the top of Mount Everest. He might have made it, but we will never know – their bodies were found a few hundred metres from the summit decades later. When asked why he wanted to climb it, legend says he answered with the above. Actually, it was made up by an excitable newspaper reporter.
6. 'The end justifies the means' by Niccolo Machiavelli, a devious Italian. Machiavelli wrote a book called The Prince in 1513 which was a guide for how to be a great ruler – in an evil genius kind of way. His basic idea was that it's much better to be feared than to be loved, but he never said 'the end justifies the means'. Although he probably thought it.
5. 'Elementary, my dear Watson' by Sherlock Holmes. This is the most famous line said by Sherlock Holmes, and in pretty much every adaptation on TV or film you will hear it at least once. However, this line never appears in the original stories written by Arthur Conan Doyle and was a much later invention.
4. 'Please, Sir, can I have some more?' by Oliver Twist in Oliver Twist. Oliver Twist is given a bit too much credit for politeness in his most famous line, which people always get wrong. He actually said 'Please, Sir, I want some more.'____
3. 'Houston, we have a problem' by Jim Lovell, astronaut on Apollo 13. Do you want to be an astronaut? You can show off your space history the next time someone says this. Jim Lovell actually said 'Housto, we've had a problem.'
2. 'Lights, Camera, Action' by movie-makers everywhere. Legend has it that directors always lead into a scene by saying 'Lights, Camera, Action.' However, this is never actually said on a real set.
Excerpted from Did Romans Really Wash Themselves in Wee? by Dr. Dino's Learnatorium. Copyright © 2014 Noel Botham and Chris Mitchell. Excerpted by permission of John Blake Publishing Ltd.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Table of Contents
The Miserable Mayans,
Back to the Aztecs,
The Greatest Explorers,
The Glorious Greeks,
The Smashing Spartans,
The Glorious Greeks II,
The 10 Greatest Sayings No One Ever Said,
The Extraordinary Egyptians,
The Sly Saxons,
The Virtuous Victorians,
The Frighteningly Great First World War,
The Spectacular Seas,
Painful Pirates ... Aaaarr!,
The Turbulent Tudor Family,
10 Greatest Mysteries in the History of the World (and some explanations),