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.
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.
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.
Once, when the Emperor Caligula fell ill, someone had sworn to fight in the arena, if only the emperor were to recover. After Caligula recovered, he insisted the the man be taken at his word, and forced him to fulfill his oath. The man was only allowed to go free after he had won his match and begged to be released.