There is an ancient Chinese proverb that says, “History is a maiden, and you can dress her however you wish.” If you’ve read my blog much, you know that I love writing history posts. I also like to dress up the maiden of history in a beautiful gown that will turn every eye in the room. Too often historians and history teachers dress up the maiden of history in dowdy and frumpy clothing and it bores us all to tears. The trick is to let the gossip flow and grab their attention when you walk in the room.
For me, history is the gossip that survived. The winners right history and only the most interesting get remembered. There are many things in history that cannot be proved or disproved. That is where gossip comes in. The juiciest of the gossip is often what survives, whether true or not. A few examples, the history of the lives of the Roman emperors written by Suetonius is full of historical gossip, especially of the sex lives of the emperors. The wildest of the stories that Suetonius wrote are probably not true or at least greatly exaggerated, though the salaciousness is what keeps getting repeated.
Another example is the death of Empress Catherine the Great of Russia. The story goes that Catherine had an insatiable appetite for huge cocks, including those of horses. When she wanted a horse hung man, she went straight for a real stallion. She had a contraption built that allowed the horse to be lowered over her so that she could, well…you get the picture. The story of her death is that the harness broke and the horse crushed her. Most Russian historians will tell you that there is no truth to this myth (In reality, Catherine died of a stroke.), but it has obviously survived for some reason. At the heart of all myths lies some reality, no matter how small. Most likely the story was first told as a way to discredit Catherine, much like Suetonius told the the stories of the emperors of Rome. So, Catherine the Great and her horse most likely did not engage in sexual congress. True, Catherine the Great liked to ride, and she loved cavalrymen (the younger the better). So there was no equine sex, although it must be said that the Empress did enjoy dressing like a man and riding a horse astride her thighs.
History can truly be enjoyable, so I hope that you will continue to enjoy my posts on history. I hope that the maiden catches your eye and becomes memorable, because no one likes a frumpy maiden.
Study the past if you would define the future.—Confucius