6 Random Coincidences That Created The Modern World

#3. The Spur of the Moment Land Deal that Created an Empire

As you can see, it's easy to take great men and accomplishments for granted. After all, Napoleon was a brilliant general, so it's easy to assume that no matter what else happened, he would have taken power in France, and got closer to conquering the world than anyone else in modern history.


The Ridiculous Coincidence

The thing was, Napoleon wasn't born in France, but on the French island of Corsica, in 1769. And as recently as the year before that, Corsica wasn't French.

Pictured: Bonaparte House, and the only reason Corsica is important.

Before the day the Corsican landscape presumably tore apart to deliver baby Napoleon from the earth in a storm of fire, the island was ruled by Genoa. More specifically, it was ruled by whichever filthy rich bearded Genoese banker bribed the duke enough to be granted governorship. Unfortunately, the island was constantly rebelling or being conquered by random Turks.

Finally, after five centuries of struggling, Genoa said "fuck it" and gave up on Corsica. Honestly, it was pretty shitty, anyway. The duke sold it to some French guy.

Then that guy handed it over to the French crown, for whatever reason. Over the next several years, French soldiers were smuggled onto the island and stuffed into the citadels.

Finally, in 1768, Genoa and France signed a treaty, officially ceding the island to France.

And How Did it Change The World?

Out popped Napoleon Bonaparte a year later. Even though he was born to an Italian family, it was technically on French soil--and even then only tentatively, as Corsica was revolting again. Thus, he became a French citizen, which allowed him to join the French Army.

Fast forward a couple of decades. The French Revolution comes to Corsica, and the next thing anyone knows, some random Italian idiot from some backwater island nobody had ever heard of, is ruling France, and doing a hell of a job.

If the land deal had gotten delayed, or the treaty signed later, or any one of a thousand things had happened to delay the handover for a year, no Napoleon.

#2. The Heart Attack that Saved the Western World

You know how every comic book villain and James Bond mastermind has some convoluted plan to take over the world? Totally ridiculous, right? The entire world? Come on. Nobody can possibly hope to do that.

Or maybe real villains just don't think big enough, because it can be done. In fact, if it weren't for a well-placed heart attack, it probably would have already happened.

The Ridiculous Coincidence

Welcome to Central Europe, circa mid-13th Century. A few years ago, you got word of some powerful distant nation, led by a guy named Genghis Khan, was destroying the hated Muslims. "Great!" you said. "The enemy of my enemy is my friend! What could possibly go wrong?"


Then things started getting sketchy. You heard about this mysterious army utterly annihilating Russia. Hey, that's not right! Russia is Christian! They're Orthodox heretics, sure, but they're still Christians.

Then one day, you finally meet this friend. Except, instead of bringing you Funyuns and Mountain Dew, he's here to slaughter you and everything you hold dear.

Folks, this was the Mongol Invasion of Europe. And shitty Europe, with its clunky knights and piss-poor peasantry, could do absolutely nothing to stop it. The Mongols, led by Genghis Khan and later, his son Ogedei, defeated the armies of such greats as Hungary, Austria and the Holy Roman Empire. They utterly plundered Poland (thank God that country never suffered again), and set their sights on the next densely populated nation: Germany.

Oh, yeah. They would have totally been fine.

Then, the Mongolian leader, Ogedei Khan, died. And everyone had to go back to Mongolia.

Why? Because Mongolian cultural traditions required everyone to go back home when a new khan ascended. Everyone knew that Ogedei's son Guyuk was going to succeed him, but they all had to go back to Mongolia and ceremonially "vote" for him anyway--or vote for someone else, and probably get their face skewered.

And How Did it Change The World?

More than you might think, actually. One recent book speculates that the Mongols' destruction of the Islamic heartland, and their comparative non-destruction of Europe, was what allowed the West to become the power center it was.

After they were done piling skulls into pyramids and ripping fetuses out of pregnant women's uteri, what the Mongols basically did was connect the world. New trade routes opened up, and new contacts were made between the major centers of population.

So while China and the Middle East were getting their shit burned, Europe was gaining new contact with the East. This, in turn, motivated the Age of Exploration. Hence why the West has nukes and computers and technology today, while everyone else has goats and carriages. Thanks, Mongolia!

#1. The Meteor Shower that Gave us Christianity

The fact that there are two billion or so Christians in the world today is largely due to one guy: Constantine the Great. He's the Roman emperor who legalized Christianity, converted to Christianity himself and cleared the path for spreading the religion throughout Europe and then across the globe.

So go for it, atheists. Here's who you have to blame.

But Constantine wasn't always a Christian. In 310 A.D., not-yet-emperor-Constantine was fighting a civil war against another guy laying claim to the throne, Maxentius, who we believe made such claim based purely on the fact that his name was awesome.

After several months of fighting, Constantine and Maxentius met for a single, decisive battle. Maxentius had almost twice as many men but, as it turns out, Constantine had God on his side. A few hours before the battle, Constantine "saw with his own eyes in the heavens a trophy of the cross arising from the light of the sun, carrying the message, 'Conquer By This.'"

And he did.

The World-shattering Coincidence

Depending on how religious the person is you are talking to, the sign he saw in the sky was either a miracle or some ridiculous thing he imagined/made up later for the awesomeness. Turns out, it was apparently just a massive, flaming meteorite that just happened to be flying by at that moment.

That's right, the entire religious makeup of the modern world turned on a random hunk of space rock.

OK, that doesn't explain the words "Conquer By This" flying across the sky. It's possible here that he decided to enhance his meteor shower viewing by dropping some nice acid.

If however it turns out the meteor's trajectory was such that its flame trail did somehow spell out "Conquer By This" across the sky in the man's own language, well, we probably have to give props to the divine intervention school of thought.

And How Did it Change The World?

Constantine went on to win and become Roman Emperor. Forever altered by the events of the battle, he passed the Edict of Milan, which granted religious tolerance to everyone!

Well, not everyone.

Christianity exploded in popularity and a few decades later, was declared the sole religion of the empire. And the rest is... well, you know.

For more lucky occurrences that changed history, check out 5 Accidental Inventions That Changed The World. Or find out about some assholes writer that were lucky in their own right, in 6 Writers Who Accidentally Crapped Out Masterpieces.

And visit our Top Picks to see the sites that were good enough to make it (read: provide boobies) and the ones who are on their by pure coincidence (read: show no boobies).

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