Nicarchus was a satiric poet who lived and worked in Greece in the 1st century AD. Little is known about Nicarchus – his birthplace and life history are not recorded and he was not mentioned by other writers. Not much of his poetry has survived either, just 38 epigrams and some satiric pieces.
Nicarchus’ extant epigrams suggest he was influenced by, and possibly a student of the better known Lucillius. But unlike Lucillius the younger Nicarchus had a liking for invective and coarse terminology, something he shared with one of contemporaries, Martial. In one epigram, Nicarchus tees off on an acquaintance named Theodorus, who obviously struggled with bad breath:
“Your mouth and your arse, Theodorus, smell exactly the same;
It would be a noteworthy achievement if men of science could distinguish them.
You really ought to write labels on which is your mouth and which is your arse
For now when you speak, I think you break wind.”
Gerallt Gyrmo, or Gerald of Wales, was a prominent clergyman, theologian and diarist of the late 12th and early 13th centuries. Educated in England and France, Gerald became chaplain to Henry II in the mid-1180s. He also accompanied the future King John, then a teenager, on a tour of Ireland.
In his 1188 manuscript Topographica Hibernica, Gerald wrote at length about his experiences in the Emerald Isle. In keeping with English sentiments of the age, his views of Ireland and its people were almost wholly negative. He described the Irish as a race of “rude people… living like beasts”, “given to treachery more than any other nation”, “frightfully ugly”, “adulterous and incestuous” and “foully corrupted by perverse habits”. Their only civilised talent, Gerald writes, is:
“…playing upon musical instruments, in which they are incomparably more skilful than any other nation I have ever seen… In their musical concerts they do not sing in unison like the inhabitants of other countries but in many different parts… who all at length unite with organic melody.”
One of the more fanciful accounts in Gerald’s work, not witnessed by him but recounted as fact, was a ceremony for crowning Irish kings:
“The whole people are gathered in one place, a white mare is led into the midst of them… he who is to be inaugurated… comes before the people on all fours… The mare being immediately killed and cut in pieces and boiled, a bath is prepared for [the king] from the broth. Sitting in this, he eats of the flesh which is brought to him, the people partaking of it also. He is also required to drink of the broth in which he is bathed, not drawing it in any vessel but lapping it with his mouth. These unrighteous rites being duly accomplished, his royal authority and dominion are ratified.”
William Prynne (1600-1669) was an English lawyer and writer, famous for his provocative and controversial essays. One of the most Puritan of the Puritans, Prynne was not afraid to take aim at popular conventions, culture or leaders. One of his earliest and best-known works was Histriomastix, a 1633 attack on just about anything considered fun.
Historiomastix strongly criticised parties, masquerade balls, country fairs, mixed dancing, feast days, wakes, sports, even hairstyles and colourful stained-glass windows. But much of this particular text is a condemnation of theatrical performances and those responsible for them. Plays, Prynne claims, are “the chief delight of the Devil”, wanton and immoral displays of debauchery filled with:
“…amorous smiles and wanton gestures, those lascivious complements, those lewd adulterous kisses and embracements, those lustful dalliances, those impudent, immodest painterly passages… they are the very schools of bawdery, real whoredoms, incests, adulteries, etc.”
As to those who regularly attend the theatre, they are:
Histriomastix was especially severe on actors and actresses. The ranks of male actors, Prynne claimed, were filled with “Sodomites” who spent their time writing love letters and “chasing the tails” of “players boys”. As for actors of the opposite gender, Prynne offered a simple but biting four-word assessment:
“Women actors, notorious whores.”
This anti-thespian tirade soon got William Prynne into trouble. One woman who quite enjoyed masked balls, mixed dancing and the occasional acting role was Henrietta Maria, wife of Charles I. The queen, who appeared in a speaking role in a prominent play not long after the publication of Histriomastix, took his slurs personally.
In 1634, Prynne was hauled before the star chamber, charged with seditious libel against the queen and others and found guilty. He was fined £5000, stripped of his academic degrees, given two days in the pillory and sentenced to have the tops of his ears clipped off with shears. And if that wasn’t enough, hundreds of copies of Histriomastix were rounded up and burned before Prynne’s eyes while he languished in the pillory.
In August 1780, Wolfgang Mozart, then aged 24, happened upon his sister Maria Anna’s diary. Pretending to be her, he wrote the following entry:
“About shitting my humble self, an arse, a break, again an arse and finally a nose, in the church, staying at home due to the whistle in the arse, whistle not a bad tune for me in my arse. In the afternoon Katherine stopped by and also Mr Fox-tail, whom I afterwards licked in the arse. O, delicious arse!”
This was not the first time Mozart had written in his sister’s diary without her permission. In May 1775, Maria Anna mentioned attending a concert in the city hall, featuring a female singer. Beneath her entry Wolfgang had scrawled:
In 1494, Spain and Portugal signed the Treaty of Tordesillas which effectively divided the rest of the uncolonised world between them. The treaty only covered the Atlantic hemisphere, so by the 1510s Spanish and Portuguese explorers and colonists were clashing in Indonesia and the Philippines.
In 1524, both powers convened more treaty negotiations, this time to divide the other side of the world. These meetings, held in the border towns of Badajoz and Elvas, were attended by some of the most notable diplomats, cartographers, astronomers and mathematicians of the age.
Leading the delegation from Lisbon was Diego Lopes de Sequeira, a prominent military leader and a former governor of Portuguese Goa. According to a contemporary report, Lopes and his advisors took a break from the negotiations and went walking along the banks of the Quadiana river. On the Spanish side of the river they saw:
“…a boy who stood keeping his mother’s clothes which she had washed… [The boy] demanded of them whether they were those men who were partitioning the world [on behalf of] the emperor. And as they answered ‘Yea’, he took up his shirt and showed them his bare arse, saying: ‘Come and draw your line through the middle [of this].’ This saying was afterward in every man’s mouth and laughed at in the town of Badajoz.”
The negotiations ended with the Treaty of Zaragoza which, in general terms, handed Portugal colonial rights over the Asian mainland, while Spain was given access to islands in the Pacific.