Sometimes while authors are researching books, they run across strange and interesting facts. Some of these discoveries make it into the book, but others don’t. Editors may decide certain facts shouldn’t be included. Other times there isn’t enough room to include them all.
I recently finished writing a book called Exploring Ancient Rome that will be coming out next year. The editors wanted to include information about government and road building; I want to include odd and unusual details about daily life.
If you were reading the book would you rather know that Rome was once an empire, or that the emperor Caligula built his horse a marble stable and gave his horse a top government position? Or that gazing on the emperor’s balding head was a capital offense?
Would you rather know that Romans used the arch to create the Pantheon, or that they ate flamingo tongue, stuffed dormice, and pickled sow udder?
Would you rather know that the Romans adopted ideas from other cultures, or that they washed their clothes with urine? The ammonia in urine gave a washing solution good whitening power, so Romans also used urine to brush their teeth. Other cosmetic tips from ancient Rome:
- To dye hair black, let leeches rot for 40 days in wine
- Instead of soap, rub your body with oil and scrape off the dirt.
- Hippopotamus skin helps prevent balding.
- To cover gray hair, boil walnut shells, earthworms, and ashes.
For me, quirky information like that is what makes a subject come alive. A few books that provide unusual facts about Rome are Horrible Jobs in Ancient Greece and Rome by Robyn Handyman, The Totally Gross History of Ancient Rome by Jeremy Klar, and Top 10 Worst Things about Ancient Rome You Wouldn’t Want to Know! by Victoria England and David Antram. Other books in these series cover different countries.
For a little extra fun, author Bobbi Miller volunteered some interesting tidbits she unearthed while researching her book, Girls of Gettysburg.
- The youngest soldier serving in the Civil War was a nine-year old boy from Mississippi.
- In a single day, the one million horses serving in the Civil War would have peed enough urine to fill more than 12 swimming pools.
- Robert E. Lee had a pet chicken named Hen. Every morning, Hen laid an egg under Lee’s cot, which Lee then cooked for breakfast.
- The artillery barrage during Picket’s Charge could be heard 100 miles away in Pittsburgh.
- After President Lincoln was diagnosed with a mild form of smallpox, he said, “For once in my life as President, I find myself in a position to give everybody something.”
Perhaps people who find history boring are reading the wrong things. What fascinating facts have you discovered?
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
A former teacher and librarian, Laurie J. Edwards is now an author. In addition to Exploring Ancient Rome, she has written more than 2300 articles and 30 books under several pen names. Some of her other books on history include Pirates through the Ages, Imperial China, West African Kingdoms, Exploring Ancievt Rome. Visit Laurie at www.lauriejedwards.com.