When we think back on the great figures in history, we remember the struggles they fought; their courage, leadership and great innovative minds… so WHY did so many balls it up and meet their end in a way totally unbefitting to how they lived in life? Well, here are some of my favourites:
Who: Attila the Hun
Atilla is, for sure, one of the most notorious villains in history. His army had conquered all of Asia by 450 AD-from Mongolia to the edge of the Russian Empire, destroying villages and pillaging the countryside.
How he died: He got a nosebleed on his wedding night.
In 453 AD, Attila married a young girl named Ildico. Despite his reputation for ferocity on the battlefield; he tended to eat and drink lightly during large banquets. On his wedding night, however, he really cut loose. He gorged himself on food and drink! Sometime during the night he suffered a nosebleed, but was too drunk to notice. He drowned in his own blood and was found dead the next morning.
Stupidity Rating: 6/10
Big Man, Little Nosebleed: Mor Than’s painting The Feast of Attila, based of a fragment of Priscus.
A Greek Playwright who was considered to be the father of Greek Tragedies (500 BC)
How he died: An eagle dropped a tortoise on his head
Apparently, eagles pick up tortoises and attempt to crack them open by dropping them on rocks. According to legend, an eagle mistook Aeschylus’ head for a rock (he was bald) and dropped it on him, instead.
Stupidity Rating: 5/10 (if only Aeschylus had worn a toupe!)
Bust of Aeschylus (I can’t tell you how tempted I was to Photoshop a toupe onto his head… *Must remain professional*)
Who: Tycho Brahe
An important Danish astronomer of the 16th century. His ground breaking research allowed Sir Isaac Newton to come up with the theory of gravity.
How he died: Didn’t get to the bathroom in time.
In the 16th century, it was considered an insult to leave a banquet table before the meal was over. However, poor Brahe had a bladder condition and was desperate to relieve himself. To avoid committing a social faux-par, he didn’t excuse himself once during the meal and only made matters worse by drinking far too much! Eventually, his bladder burst, killing him slowly and painfully over the next 11 days.
Stupidity Rating: 7/10
Tycho Brahe: Too polite for his own good
Who: Horace Wells
Pioneered the use of anesthesia in the 1840s
How he died: Used anesthetics to commit suicide
If Horace hadn’t pioneered the use of anesthesia, we would still be laying on the operation table wide awake with our limbs strapped down and a stick in our mouth the bite on – which quite frankly doesn’t bear thinking about! However, while silly, old Horace was experimenting with various gases during his anesthesia research, he acquired and addicted to chloroform. In 1848, he was arrested for spraying two women with sulfuric acid. In a letter he wrote from jail, he blamed chloroform for his problems, claiming that he’d gotten high before the attack. Four days later he was found dead in his cell. He’d anaesthetized himself with chloroform and slashed open his thigh with a razor.
Stupidity Rating: 8/10 (an extra point for being quite clearly mental)
Horace Wells: An innovative addict
Who: Francis Bacon
One of the most influential minds of the late 16th century. A statesman, a philosopher, a writer and a scientist; he was even rumored to have written some of Shakespeare’s plays.
How he died: Stuffing snow into a chicken
Now I can see the logic behind this, but its fair to say Francis had a relapse of common sense. One afternoon in 1625 he was watching a snowstorm and was struck by the wondrous notion that maybe snow could be used to preserve meat in the same way that salt was used (a.k.a the freezer!). Determined to find out, he purchased a chicken from a nearby village, killed it, and then, whilst standing outside, he attempted to stuff the chicken full of snow to freeze it. The chicken never froze, but Bacon did…and caught pneumonia.
Stupidity Rating: 8/10
Francis Bacon: Great idea, poor execution
Who: Li Bai
Li Bai was one of the most recognised poets of China in 762 AD.
How he died: Kissing the river
This sounds very poetic, but this may top the list as the most stupid action leading to death. According to the sources, one night, he was traveling in a boat on the Yangtze River when he tried to kiss the reflection of the moon in the water. He suddenly lost his balance, and drowned.
Stupidity Rating: 9/10
Li Bai: Kissing the river does sound very poetic, but please don’t try this at home.
Who: Charles II of Navarre
Charles II was the king of Navarre (currently Northern Spain) from 1349 to 1387.
How he died: Soaking his own bandages in Brandy
To be fair we can’t really blame this on Charles, but his ill-advised physician. Poor, old Charles limbs were in a real state of decay, and his physician suggested he be wrapped up from head to foot in linen cloth, soaked in brandy. After completing the process, his nurse who wrapped him up with the bandages, tried to burn off the loose threads with a candle (instead of cutting it with scissors!). Obviously, the cloth immediately caught fire and Charles II burnt alive in his palace.
Stupidity Rating: 9/10 (this is more for the nurse though)
Charles II: The lesson here is never mix alcohol and fire.
Who: Jack Daniel
Jack Daniel was the founder of a whisky distillery in Tennessee, USA.
How he died: Stubbing his toe on a safe
One day, in 1911, Jack was trying to open his safe. He couldn’t remember the combination of the safe, so, in anger he kicked the safe. Unfortunately, one of his toes was seriously injured, and caused blood poisoning that led to his death. Luckily for us, the distillery carried on his legacy. So, the next time you order a JD & Coke, raise your glass to the idiot who stubbed his toe (but not before bringing us great whiskey!)
Stupidity Rating: 8/10
Poor old Jack. Luckily for us, the distillery carried on his legacy.