5 Real Historic Purges That Prove Life Used To Be Horrifying


Venice Turned Into An Orgy Of Violence Once A Year

via aguidetovenice.co.uk

When you think of Venice, you think ornate gondolas, pretty bridges, ancient churches, and fancy Italian food you can’t pronounce. You probably don’t think of hundreds of hooligans beating the absolute crap out of each other in those gondolas and churches, atop those bridges, and yes, probably sprawling across the fancy Italian food, too.

Joseph Heintz

The earliest Where’s Waldo books were a lot more fun.

During the 16th and 17th centuries, Venice was the site of the “battagliole sui ponti,” which basically means ‘fighting over bridges.’ The city’s two major factions both liked those bridges, you see, almost as much as they liked punching. As many as 30,000 people, from fishermen to politicians, could be involved in these brawls, which happened at least once a year. Further emphasizing the Purge-like atmosphere, fighters often wore special outfits: rolled up shirts around the waist to stop blows, caps to protect the head, and special non-slip shoes to avoid tripping as you stepped on someone’s face.

Giacomo Franco

Now you know why Mario and Luigi dress that way.

You might be wondering: where were the police during all of this? Shitting their pants, mostly. Despite having one of the most sophisticated law enforcement forces in Europe (The Council of Ten, who were like something out of Assassin’s Creed), the few hundred men sent to contain these riots could not compete against the raging thousands. Police would get chased off by mobs, or the captains would be lured into secluded spots, locked in cellars, and have their mustaches ripped from their faces (seriously).

And remember: these were Italians. That’s practically castration.


Victorians Placed And Enforced Insane, Occasionally Murderous Bets

Thomas Rowlandson

Imagine the film Trading Places. Now, imagine that the rich old dicks not only got away with it, but also murdered Dan Aykroyd and Eddie Murphy at the end. That was considered ‘a sporting wager’ in 19th-century England. These bets ranged from simple obnoxiousness, like daring a fellow well-to-do ne’er-do-well to spit in a stranger’s hat, to having sex in a hot air balloon, to negligent homicide.

Thomas Rowlandson

“I wager that I can shag 80 hats in 80 days.”
“You’re on, my good man!”

One time, a group of old-timey one-percenters decided it would be fun to bet on whether or not a collapsed man was dead. When saner passersby wanted to get him medical attention, the elite effete stopped them — arguing that saving the man “would affect the fairness of the bet.” Another bet involved intentionally drowning someone, to find out if they could survive underwater for 12 hours — it looks like he could not.

Illustrated London News

Jack the Ripper was some guy they bet couldn’t kill five hookers.

And law enforcement couldn’t raid these pre-Thunderdome gambling dens, because the rich hired private armies to protect them. When cops stormed the room of Dr. James Graham (a quack who once claimed to be able to cure infertility with an “electric bed”), they found themselves vastly outnumbered by hired goons, and had to leave hundreds of gamblers free. When they came back better prepared, the Magistrate was beaten unconscious with a club — or perhaps, knowing Graham, a crank-operated electric dildo.


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