25 Insane Human Practices That Prove History Was Terrifying

Various studies throughout the years have shown that when most people are asked to fix the period in history during which the human race was most happy and prosperous, they tend to always go back to the past while simultaneously finding a lot of flaws in the age they are living in. However, it’s been proven that no historical era was “perfect” and that every human society has been flawed. So next time you hear your grandma say that the world is becoming amoral, violent, and weird just show her these 25 insane human practices and remind her that it has always been like this.

Subscribe to List25


In places like Greece and Rome, if you were found guilty of violating a local law you would be forced to leave your home and go to another region away from your family and friends either permanently or for a fixed period of time.

The Parthenon

If you had the misfortune of living in most parts of Asia about two thousand years ago you would be terrorized at the sound of the word bastinando. What was bastinando you ask? Well, it was the practice of beating a person on the soles of their feet with a stick. Because the soles of the feet are vulnerable it was a very painful form of discipline.


Beheadings was a very popular method of punishment in medieval Europe. And though, for the most part, beheading seemed to be more merciful than hanging, that was not always the case. Sometimes several blows were needed to sever the person’s head. resulting in a rough and painful execution.


Birching was a form of punishment and pretty much meant beating a person across the backside with birch twigs. It used to be a popular punishment in British schools and was imposed by the courts for minor offences. Birching for minor crimes was abolished in Britain in 1948.


In medieval England a not-so-humane law allowed poisoners to be boiled alive. In 1532 a cook named Richard Rose was boiled alive and then years later a woman named Margaret Davy was boiled alive too. Nobody ever accused the Brits of being sensitive.

Boiled water

It might sound totally barbaric and unrealistic to us but branding people with red-hot irons was a popular and common method of punishment in Britain.

red-hot irons

Even though nobody can explain why, human urine was thought to be the best way to brush your teeth or clean your clothes in ancient Rome. Just ewww!

Tooth brushing in Rome

If you happened to love cats then seventeenth-century France wouldn’t be a good place for you or your cats. See, in France at that time people thought it was good luck to burn a sack full of cats. The only problem was that in many cases they couldn’t find enough cats and would add a few foxes, too.

Cat burning

During WWII, the propaganda aimed at dehumanizing the Japanese was so successful that many American marines in the Pacific kept the body parts of Japanese soldiers as souvenirs. And the scariest part is that people thought this way only a little over seventy years ago.


In ancient Egypt people actually believed with a passion that the universe was the result of the ejaculation of the god Atum. Because of this theory many pharaohs would ceremonially ejaculate into the Nile in public view.

Ancient Egypt

If you happen to be of Bulgarian heritage and had the misfortune of living in the vast Byzantine Empire around 970–1050 you probably wouldn’t have liked it. Basil, the Byzantine emperor, apparently hated Bulgarians so much that when he captured fifteen thousand of them in battle, he had 99 out of every 100 blinded, leaving the hundredth with one eye— and then sent them all home.

Basil (Byzantine emperor)

Being a pedophile in Rome was considered pretty normal. As a matter of fact, the emperors frequently had young boys as concubines, and some even hired toddlers to nibble at their inner thighs while they bathed.

Pedophilia in Rome

We’ve all heard about the sex scandals in the Church, however, many of them haven’t been proven true. Back in October 1501, Pope Alexander VI had an orgy with over fifty prostitutes in what went down as the Banquet of Chestnuts. Keep in mind that this is the only major sexual event we’ve discovered about the “holy” people of that period.

Vatican City

The WWE might be one of the most entertaining “sports” in the world at the moment, where everything is staged and wrestlers rarely get hurt. However, back in the eighteenth century wrestling was incredibly violent and the winner would usually take the loser’s eye as a trophy.


In sixteenth-century France and Germany if you had the bad luck to piss off the local authorities for any reason you could be tied to a wheel and an executioner would use an iron bar or hammer to break both your arms and legs in several places. Sometimes a blow to the chest or strangulation was used to end the man’s agony but he could also be left to die of thirst. Breaking on the wheel was finally abolished in Germany in 1827.

Breaking on the wheel

For some crazy reason lobotomy was seen as the ultimate cure in most parts of the US for a woman that refused to do housework or was being naughty in general.

lobotomy tool

During the Elizabethan era (1558–1603), Queen Elizabeth I loved sugar so much that her teeth rotted and turned black. However, most of the aristocracy found this cute and in their attempt to imitate her they tried to make their teeth black too.

Queen Elizabeth I

In the 1830s there was something called Dr. Miles Compound Extract of Tomato; it was supposed to treat indigestion, diarrhea, and liver disease among other things that it never actually healed. Today we just call it ketchup and use it as a sauce for our fries and hot dogs.


Foot binding was a barbaric custom of applying painfully tight bindings to the feet of young girls in order to prevent further growth. The practice possibly originated among upper-class court dancers in Imperial China around the tenth or eleventh century, but spread during the Song Dynasty and eventually became common among all but the lowest classes.

Foot binding

Burning is a very old method of killing people and in 1401 a law in England made burning the penalty for heresy. In the sixteenth century nearly three hundred Protestants were burned to death in England while during the same period many “witches” were burned in Scotland and other parts of Europe. During the eighteenth century in Britain if a woman was found guilty of murdering her husband she was burned to death.

Death by burning

Even if you’ve never had the unpleasant experience of being stuck by cactus needles, you are probably aware of the incredible pain they can cause. However, the Aztecs used to punish naughty children by having cactus needles forced into their skin.

cactus needles

Today a hot shower is considered one of the most relaxing things you can do after a long tiring day but this wasn’t the case in ancient Greece. In that period people used to take cold showers even during the winter since they believed cold water helped to make the skin healthier and younger looking.

cold shower

In Aztec society, naughty children were sometimes punished by having their heads put over a fire containing chilies and being forced to inhale the smoke.

Aztec art

During the sixteenth century the Dutch navy came up with the very inhumane idea of keelhauling, which pretty much meant dropping a man into the sea then hauling him under the keel of the ship with a rope. Barnacles would cut his skin to shreds and of course, there's the whole drowning thing.

Dutch navy

All Spartan infants were brought before a council of inspectors and examined for physical defects and if a Spartan baby was judged to be unfit for its future duty as a soldier, it was most likely abandoned on a nearby hillside. Left alone, the child would either die of exposure or be rescued and adopted by strangers.

Spartan soldier

SEE ALSO: 15 Science Projects Better Than Making Slime (Your Kids Will Agree!) »

NOW WATCH: 25 Strangely Unique Schools You Won't Believe Exist

Subscribe to List25

What do you think?

0 points
Upvote Downvote
25 Places You Must Visit Before They Disappear

25 Places You Must Visit Before They Disappear

25 Crazy Things You Didn't Know About Tea

25 Crazy Things You Didn’t Know About Tea