Sore Loser

Chess was ubiquitous in the Soviet Union.  Its players were among the best in the world, and Russia has a history of strong chess players going back centuries.  It’s therefore not unusual that research scientists in Antarctica often played when they had little else to do.  During one game, however, in 1959, one game ended in tragedy.  The loser was so enraged that he took an axe and brutally murdered his friend and colleague.  After this incident, the Soviets banned chess at their Antarctic research stations.

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Human Chess

The cruelty of the Inquisition is somewhat axiomatic in the modern West, yet it seems that even they had a light-hearted, if dark, side.  Spain was enormously popular in Spain, having been brought there through the Muslim conquerors of Al-Andalus.  In 1485, Pedro de Arbués is said to have set up a game of human chess, using those convicted by the Inquisition as pieces.  Two blind monks played, although if this part is true, it must have been quite an achievement, since while blind chess is relatively common today, at the time, it was nothing short of a marvel.  As each piece was captured, the person was executed.  What happened to the survivors is unknown, but most likely, they, too, were put into the bag, as we all are someday.

Extortion at Acre

In 1291, the last major Christian city in the Holy Land, Acre, fell to the Muslims during the Third Crusade.  Yet even in the midst of tragedy and death, some found business opportunities.  One Templar, Rutger von Blum, managed to acquire a small fortune just before the city left, by seizing a galley.  He then charged ruinous rates to the wealthy women of Acre to take them from the city before it fell to the army outside.  Those not fortunate or wealthy enough to escape could look forward to nothing less than rape, mutilation, slavery, and death.

Fresh Meat

The Russian Civil War saw atrocities on both sides.  The Cossacks, especially, were feared for their brutality.  Once, three sealed trains reached Petrograd from the south, labeled “fresh meat.”  The Bolsheviks opened the trains, only to behold a grisly sight.  Inside the trains were the blood-stained corpses of Red Guards, placed into obscene positions by their killers.

Nationalized Women

In every revolution, one finds individuals who take advantage of the chaos for their benefit.  As the Bolsheviks came into power in Russia, some used the new creed of Marxism-Leninism for their own gain, before Moscow put a stop to it.  In Suizran, north of the Caspian Sea, it was proclaimed that all the women should be nationalized.

Whereas before, the bourgeoisie hoarded the most beautiful women for themselves, leaving the workers and peasants with second best, from then on, all women would be shared communally.

When Lenin and Moscow found out, their disapproval was quickly made known.  The order was rescinded, and even possessing a copy of it was made a crime.

Helen of Rhodes

On his return from Troy with the recaptured Helen, Menelaus, due to a storm, was required to dock at the Isle of Rhodes.  However, this island’s queen, Philixo, had lost a husband at Troy, and desired to take her revenge upon Helen, the cause of the war.  She took as many Rhodian soldiers as she could gather and marched to the ships, which were stuck due to unfavorable winds.  Menelaus, to protect himself and Helen from danger, dressed up a woman as Helen to act as a fiday, a body double intended to draw fire.  The Rhodians slew the fake, and, the queen satisfied, withdrew.  When the winds returned, Menelaus returned home with Helen, where they lived miserably together, Menelaus constantly haunted by the human cost of the war, and unable to sire an heir with Helen.

The Civilians at the Rock of Andely

After Richard Lionheart’s death, Philip II of France set to work at absorbing the Angevin dominions into France.  The Rock of Andely was an especially impressive fortress, constructed by Richard, which Philip needed to conquer if he wished to complete his conquests.  The fortress was nearly impregnable, but Philip was perfectly willing to starve out the defenders.  His recent attacks had driven a large number of noncombatants into the castle, who would help deplete the food stores of the castle.  Already, the commander of the castle, de Lacy, had sent out a number of elderly as worthless mouths, and the French had allowed them to pass through unmolested.

When he tried to expel all noncombatants, though, the French fired upon them, in order to keep them from escaping the castle.  The men, women, and children now tried to return to the castle and safety, but de Lacy had raised the drawbridge and shut the gates against them.  These people now had to survive between two armies for weeks, eating rats and grass, huddling in the moats together for warmth.  When the castle released its dogs in order to improve its food situation, these people tore them apart and devoured them.  Before long, they resorted even to cannibalism in order to stay alive.

Finally, Philip took pity and gave the order to let them go and give them food, but they had starved for so long that they were now too weak to survive, and almost every one of them died immediately after their first taste of real food in months.