Joan of Arc: Drunk on the Divine


Joan of Arc

Comedy Central dropped a hilarious clip yesterday from Drunk History on Joan of Arc, which for the un-initiated, is a show where comedians get completely smashed and re-tell something that happened in History. Then their drunken stupor of history facts is dubbed over and re-enacted by other comedians. Basically, the perfect show for me.

Aaaand that’s pretty much the gist of what happened! Knowing me though, I felt like offering a bit more context for those who were smitten to know more about the raging Maiden of Arc.

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Harry Potter and the Arthurian Shipwreck Grave (Also, Hitler was a Vegetarian)

This week’s History Around the Web brings us some Boy Who Lived mixed with King Arthur, Anne Frank’s newly discovered ‘naughty’ pages, Royal Wedding humor, and more!

King Arthur Harry Potter

Harry Potter, the Arthurian Romance | JSTOR Daily

Twenty years after the U.S. publication of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, the “Boy Who Lived” shows no sign of dying, with a record-smashing Broadway show, new editions of all seven novels, and a traveling museum exhibit (the most successful of all time at the British Library).

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King Slayers: Charles VIII Knocking on Death’s Door


He certainly does look “Affable”

It almost seems like it’s a prerequisite to be both a French King and histrionic in death. I mean, when hunting accidents, executions, and bizarre gangrene infected limbs make-up the brunt of the company, it seems a bit cliche to just up and die of natural causes.

Part of the reason I’ve been interested in focusing on this series is because I’m still baffled by the completely mundane or stupid way these Royal Dudes have gone so far. And that’s largely due to the idea that royalty is somehow above us, an assumption fostered by the Will of God in declaring a divine right to rule (or, of course, all the people in charge want you to believe). I have plans to get into the Divine Right of Kings or the Mandate of Heaven someday on this blog, but for the basics–as a concept, it was an idea that a King was granted earthly powers through God in the same way as religious prophets/leaders were. The idea existed in Western and Eastern civilizations and it wasn’t that hard to stomach since the tradition of a mortal being imbued with special powers was no stranger to mythology. The fact that you had some kind of godly figure sitting on the throne accepted by large swaths of the population isn’t that questionable either, since you could take a quick search on Twitter and learn that people will believe just about anything if it means their leader is infallible and preferential in some way…



But for this next king, Charles VIII, it’s really hard to reconcile how anyone could find this guy anything other than divinely stupid in the way in which he chose to leave his mortal coils. And as it was so lovingly put in indignant bafflement:

And so the greatest king of the world is dead to the most ugly and dirty place of his court. Admittedly, this filthy place was too unworthy of this great and illustrious king and his fortune.Pierre de Brantôme, 16th century French Historian [1]

If you’ve been following along with my blog, I’ve already turned the embarrassing way he met his end into a punchline. But for those who are new, come on in (but please, watch your head) and listen to the tale.

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The Killing Joke


Stoic AF

There are many bizarre deaths in Classical antiquity and, with a people that guzzled wine like water [1], it shouldn’t be all that surprising. There was Emperor Caracalla who decided to take a pee break off the side of a road and was stabbed mid-stream [2].  Philosopher Empedocles who hurled himself into a volcano thinking he’d survive it and become a god because that sounds legit [3]. Or rich bastard Roman General Crassus who forced down molten gold because he lost a battle with the Parthians and irony [4]. There was even Saint Lawrence who earned his martyrdom by sass for quipping “Turn me over–I’m done on this side!” [5] while being cooked up on a giant grill to be served during a persecution of Christians BBQ. But speaking of jokes, my favorite has to be the tale of Chrysippus, whose death you probably just had to be there to get.

Backing up a little bit, let’s lay the foundation for this set-up. Chrysippus was a famous Greek philosopher who was tearing up the streets of Athens a few hundred years after Socrates daintily sipped an aromatic cup of freshly brewed hemlock tea. He was a stoic, the guys confused in modern days with sociopathy and Commander Spock, but taught his students about the aether of the Universe and living a life in congruence with the will of Fate and aligning oneself with Nature. So more like a Jedi rather than someone who refuses to smile at puppies. He also tinkered around with math, created prepositional logic, and started some early ancient therapy sessions hoping to assist folks with unruly passions. Chrysippus was kind of a big deal, logical in thinking and focused entirely on formulating an impressive philosophical rapt sheet. So let’s fast-forward to a now 73 year-old man with this impressive a career to behold.

Invited by his pupils to a sacrificial feast which, in those days, was probably akin to a professor attending a wild on-campus keg party, Chrysippus downed copious amounts of wine as one is want to do. It was noted by Diogenes Laertius, a Classical biographer of the Greek philosophers, that this particular wine was undiluted–no water, just pure sweet straight up wine which was sure to get even the most stoic philosopher congruently drunk in accordance with Nature. Stumbling around in the throes of intoxication, Chrysippus was giddy in delight when a donkey escorted by an old woman happened by him and immediately started to consume the remaining figs Chrysippus must have been carrying around from the party. [6]

Struck with the genius of his own cleverness, Chrysippus seized upon the moment to hurl the greatest joke to which would ever be uttered in the history of hilarity:

Now give the ass a drink of pure wine to wash down the figs! [6]

Howling with laughter, Chrysippus was beside himself with his own joke, the old woman we can only assume, struggling to find the humor at all in this line. Delirious and overtaken with his own comedic timing, Chrysippus fell into such a violent fit of hysterical giggles about the prospect of giving a donkey wine or something, I don’t know, I don’t get you Chrysippus, that he promptly died on the spot–in the wake of his own comedy. [6]

The dude literally died laughing at his own joke.

And it wasn’t even that funny.

Fact Check it, yo!

[1] Wine and Rome. (n.d.). Retrieved April 25, 2017, from

[2] Goldsworthy, A. K. (2009). How Rome fell: death of a superpower. New Haven: Yale University Press. P. 74.

[3 & 6] Laertius, D. (1980). Diogenes Laertius: Lives of Eminent Philosophers. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

[4] Nuwer, R. (2014, June 10). Here’s What Actually Happens During an Execution by Molten Gold. Retrieved April 25, 2017, from

[5] Miller, O. F. (2017, March 06). Saint Lawrence. Retrieved April 25, 2017, from

Kings and Their Mistresses

As Caroline had feared, Henrietta was replaced by younger, prettier, more manipulating mistresses. Dying from an umbilical rupture in 1737, wrapped in towels as her intestines spilled out, the queen, sensible to the end, suggested that George remarry. But the king, heartbroken, hovering near her bed in her last agonizing moments, swore he would have only mistresses and never remarry.

“Oh, my God!” the dying queen said in French, with characteristic practicality, “that won’t make any difference!”

-Excerpt from Sex with Kings by Eleanor Herman. Famous last words of Queen Caroline to her gallivanting husband King George II of England.

That Asshole Commodus


As most of the popcorn munching smelly theater seat dwellers know by now, Gladiator was a pretty manly and kick-ass flick that was every bit deserving of that Best Picture golden boy as Saving Private Ryan was….OH WAIT. Anyway, it would seem that most movie-goers find themselves quite familiar with Joaquin Phoenix’s portrayal of an eccentric Dumbledore murdering, “bosom breast children LOVE ME PLEASE”, Russell Crowe neck stabbing weeny who desperately DESPERATELY wanted to get laid by his sister. All of this behavior was cultivated under the moniker which was favorably earned by friendly slaughter, “Roman Emperor” and the every man name Commodus, which was probably earned by a little pantsless attire. When in Rome.

And while this was an enjoyable prestigious role that almost won Phoenix the Oscar, it is still a highly fictionalized version of one of the most hated men in the Roman Empire. Because, maidens and clergy, there really did exist a Roman Emperor of same name who certainly was, in fact, an asshole of epic proportions.

“Champion of Secutores; only left-handed fighter to conquer twelve times one thousand men.”
Translation: Over-compensating for something.

The man who would, during his reign, believe he was the totally plausible, completely for real, reincarnation of the mythological Greek figure Hercules, grew up with all the makings of a successful Roman Emperor. He was one of the still breathing sons of the “Philosophical King” and my personal Guru, Marcus Aurelius, who is known both historically and academically as the last of the Five Great Roman Emperors. Basically, it all went down hill after Commodus, leading the senator and famous historical source Cassius Dio to remark that, after the ascension, Rome went “from a Kingdom of gold to one of iron and rust”. And Edward Gibbon, famous for his historical narration and publication of The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, marks Commodus’s reign as the beginning of the decline. So, basically, I guess, when you leave a sprawling imperial empire on the shoulders of an ego-maniacal jock-strap like Commodus, everything falls to the poop latrines. To bear the brunt of responsibility over fiddler and diddler Nero and Equastrian Caligula basically skyrockets Commodus’ douche points from the get go, but don’t worry. He earned a lot more over the course of his 12 years and 9 months reign of chaos.

Near the end of Marcus’ legendary reign which included besting the Parthians and Germanic tribes while finding time to scribble out one of the great achievements of Stoic philosophy and authoritative duty, The Meditations, Aurelius brought his son Commodus up to the position of Co-Emperor. Marcus probably did this in the hopes of passing along many years of governing wisdom and to ensure a painless transition and proper foothold into running the Empire like a just and thoughtful King as his son had always been raised to be. And as Commodus’ learning throughout the years was at the hands of, whom Marcus regarded as, the top intellectual minds of the time, it would seem that he had every right to believe his son would serve himself and Rome proud. Unfortunately, after Marcus’ death, this didn’t appear to be the case. Leaving his earthly body behind after an illness during a military campaign (scholars suspect the plague, not “fathercide” as the film Gladiator suggests), Commodus became the sole ruler of Rome at the ripe old age of 18 and the first thing he did was reduce the purity of Roman currency. And while the amateur economists in the audience are already pulling their hair out at this harebrained (hah!) move, let me spell out what happened:

Roman currency, at that time, traded in gold, silver, brass, and copper coinage. So when reducing the value (which was more heavily attributed to the Denarius, a small silver coin) the weight of these coins was lessened, but attained the same monetary value while be essentially worth far less that what it deserved. So how do you make up for this short-sight in trade? Inflation, baby. And as the elite class would mostly be trading in gold coinage, the classes who got hit the hardest were the middle and poor, naturally. General impoverishment all around! Thanks, Commodus. Too be fair, he was following in the steps of Nero who already previously reduced the value of coinage, but as a bleeding economy was a continuous battle for Rome throughout its decline, making the same mistake twice is just damn annoying.

This immediately earned the attention and displeasure of the Senate and his father’s old advisors, but whomever disagreed was put out of their misery. In fact, during his reign, Commodus experienced a great many plots conspired by rivals and even his sister Lucilla which probably led him to grow so paranoid that he begun killing anyone who even so much as gathered up a dissatisfactory cough in his presence. His ‘biggest fan’, Cassius Dio, chronicles the general absurdity of the drama below:

Commodus was guilty of many unseemly deeds, and killed a great many people. Many plots were formed by various people against Commodus, and he killed a great many, both men and women, some openly and some by means of poison, secretly, making away, in fact, with practically all those who had attained eminence during his father’s reign and his own. I should render my narrative very tedious were I to give a detailed report of all the persons put to death by Commodus, of all those whom he made away with as the result of false accusations or unjustified suspicions or because of their conspicuous wealth, distinguished family, unusual learning, or some other point of excellence.

And though Cassius Dio had reason to hate Commodus as he taxed the senators heavily, much of his contention had to do with the fact that the state economy was in shambles and yet Commodus’ main concern was spending all of his funds on wild beasts and gladiators, for, as I forgot to mention until now, Commodus was a massive Jughead who loved to show off his skill in the Colosseum. This would be fine, you know, if he was participating with any ounce of sportsmanship, but all of his combats were met with shoddy victories as all of his opponents submitted because he was Emperor and not truly a gladiator. He boasted skill in combat and was a supposed master of marksmanship, but had his unknowing gladiatorial rivals executed before they even knew they were competing in skill with the Emperor. As was the case with Julius Alexander, in a fit of badassery, he killed a lion with a javelin while on horseback. So then Commodus killed him with an order while riding on his megalomania chariot of douchebaggery. Because Commodus was the best gladiator that ever was, so great in fact,  he charged the city of Rome 1 million sesterces for every appearance he made in the Colosseum, whether there was an audience or not. And if the populace weren’t too busy laughing at him, or feeling a deep sense of shame that their fabled ruler would show up naked or insist on sleeping in the gladiatorial barracks, they would mostly stay away all together unless they wanted to chance getting shot at by Commodus himself while he reenacted Hercules and the Stymphalian birds. And again, what should have been a challenging expedition of showmanship (At 1 million sesterces you gotta be kidding me) turned out to be nothing more then, by Herodian’s account;

A terrace encircling the arena had been constructed for Commodus, enabling him to avoid risking his life by fighting the animals at close quarters; rather, by hurling his javelins down from a safe place, he offered a display of skill rather than of courage.

And with all that “display of skill”, Commodus went through Ark-fulls of exotic beasts, leading Cassius Dio to blithely insinuate that the one reference he could make on Commodus’ career as a whole was that he happened to dispatch five hippopotami together with two elephants on two successive days as well as killing rhinoceroses and a camelopard by himself. And that’s sort of it. And, naturally, those beasts didn’t come cheap, and Rome continued to pay for the Ego of Commodus. In an attempt to scrape up funds, he brought false charges on male and female citizens offering them a “pass” from death at a large price in the guise of a voluntary offering. IS HE NOT MERCIFUL?!

When he wasn’t busy making an ass out of himself to the general public by clubbing amputees for fun in the Colosseum, he was erecting golden statues of himself in the attire of Hercules, you know, just in case people didn’t get that he was a super cool gladiator and a reincarnation of the guy. But that certainly wasn’t enough, and assuming the Romans felt the same way about his awesomeness as he did, he renamed all of the Months after himself and even rechristened Rome ‘Commodiana’.

And much to the chagrin of the Senate, he continued to make threats and shake around bloody Ostrich heads at them in case they forgot that he was a looney tune. He even went so far as to troll them with this message upon every address, complete with all of his fake title additions earned and given by himself;

The Emperor Caesar Lucius Aelius Aurelius Commodus Augustus Pius Felix Sarmaticus Germanicus Maximus Britannicus, Pacifier of the Whole Earth, Invincible, the Roman Hercules, Pontifex Maximus, Holder of the Tribunician Authority for the eighteenth time, Imperator for the eighth time, Consul for the seventh time, Father of his Country, to consuls, praetors, tribunes, and the fortunate Commodian (the renamed title of Rome, remember) Senate, Greeting.

He forgot, of course, to add most hated man in Rome. But in his final act of douchery, he left lying around for anyone to see, a “death list” in which he had scribbled down the names of his current mistress Marcia, bedsteward Eclectus, and praetorian prefect “Quintus” along with a handful of his father’s old senators. The two former obviously stumbled upon it because that dick wrote it out before bedtime, and they shared it with each other and were able to hatch a last minute attempt to rid Rome of what Cassius Dio called “a greater curse to the Romans than any pestilence or any crime.”

And so, in the most fitting end in the history of everything, Emperor Commodus was strangled in his bath by an athlete named Narcissus. It can’t get any more perfect then that.

Fact Check it, yo!

Edward Gibbon, The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire. Vol. 1. Chapter 4: The Cruelty, Follies, and Murder of Commodus.1776.

Lars Brownworth. Lost to the West: The Forgotten Byzantine Empire That Rescued Western Civilization.2009.

Cassius Dio, Roman History. Epitome of Book LXXIII

Herodian. History of the Roman Empire. Book 1.