#2. Ancient Egypt Invents the Peace Treaty So Ramses II Can Get Laid
The Nineteenth Dynasty of ancient Egypt was hard for a pimp, and by "pimp" we mean "Ramses II," and by "hard" we refer to his "penis." Following the epic Battle of Kadesh around 1274 B.C., Ramses II and Hattusili III of the Hittites decided they had better things to do than throw some 6,000 chariots at each other.
Oh sure, it looks fun. But you can't imagine how tedious desperate battles really are.
Fortunately for both sides, Hattusili had a hot daughter and an open mind.
Get your minds out of the gutter -- it was a peace treaty.
The treaty between Egypt and the Hittites was important for many reasons, not the least of which was an amendment about Hattusili's daughter which Ramses had to sign with his dick. It set diplomatic standards that survive to this day, such as having the document copied in both parties' respective languages. The treaty even took creative steps to resolve future disputes between the nations, such as maintaining that both signers' respective gods had to demand peace as well, because the last thing a guy named "Hattusili" needed was more cosmic strikes against him.
Pictured: Hat Too Silly.
Besides the sinister implications of daughter ho'ing, the agreement also forced both nations to back each other up if outsiders messed with their business. In other words, this peace treaty not only established the first surrogate for war, it also created the first precedent that made every other multinational war possible -- the stipulation that non-fighting countries would get sucked into their allies' conflicts.
Thanks a lot, Ramses II.
#1. The Italian Renaissance
We know what you're thinking: only an IDIOT would forget about the Italian Renaissance, when art and poetry flourished as the nation of Italy remembered all the cool stuff Greece came up with back in the day. Even if your history class dropped the ball, TMNT was there to pick that ball right back up and throw it in your face.
Actually, there's a lot that we get wrong about the Italian Renaissance -- for instance, the name "The Italian Renaissance." As we've mentioned before, nations are a pretty recent invention. Prior to the late-18th century, people were loyal to their ethnic group or their local city-state, but declaring allegiance to something that you couldn't see while standing on your roof was about as common as feudalism is today.
"You know what I hate? Peasant uprisings."
At the time of the Renaissance, the region that would eventually become Italy was actually made up of Florence, Venice, Milan, Pisa, Verona, Mantua and countless other city-states that spent most of their time beating the shit out of each other. The only allegiance that crossed over those borders was to the Pope, who was considered exempt from the loyalty zoning rules because he was on a first-name basis with God and his hat was so tall that you could probably see it from your roof on a clear enough day.
They called it the Pope Signal.
A group of Italian intellectuals got one of those crazy "seriously you guys are going to laugh, but just hear us out" ideas: What if we all joined up together and created some sort of giant land-based thing. Like an empire, but unified around the same language and ideas, so we wouldn't have to murder each other to get it started?
"And once we have a bunch of these 'nations,' we can murder each other faster than ever before!"
The Pope decided he kind of liked being the biggest swinging dick on the peninsula, and what followed was a territorial culture war full of murder, mayhem and more double crosses and back stabbing than you can shake a cloak and dagger at.
Some of the greatest intellectuals of the Renaissance -- Petrarch, Dante, Machiavelli and others -- were all on one side of the massive tug of war. On the other side were the Papal States, anchored by the Pope, and all the brilliant artists he paid to make art. The rope was the place that eventually became Italy, and when the dust settled, the struggle had produced some of the most important art and influential political and religious writing in the history of the Western world.
The Italian poet Petrarch, for example, spent his whole life looking for an emperor/messiah who could both resolve the region's internal conflicts and restore Rome back to her former glory, all while receiving patronage from a tyrant in Milan. Dante was one of the first writers to actually write in the Italian language, which was considered a pretty radical political statement at the time. On the secular side, you had guys like Machiavelli proposing that Italians liberate themselves from the "barbarians" and "kill the Pope and all the cardinals." Which explains why his most famous works were all about the ideal alternatives to papal control.
"What if we replace our corrupt, violent religious leaders with corrupt, violent secular leaders?"
Speaking of popes, we can pretty much thank them for everything else we got out of the Renaissance. Because at the end of the day the struggle over the fate of Italy resulted in a propaganda war to win the hearts and minds of Renaissance Italian cities. Only instead of cheesy posters and uncomfortably racist Bugs Bunny cartoons, the Pope paid artists to create art. You might have heard of some of it: Michelangelo's "David," those epic frescoes Leonardo and Michelangelo worked on in Florence's Salone dei Cinquecento, even the whole damn Vatican. All just one big political ad.
Vote for Pope Julius II!
So, while it might be easier to teach us about the "Italian" Renaissance, it would have been more accurate to think of it as a centuries-spanning battle for the soul of a country that involved way more sex, murder and wife-boning than the East Coast-West Coast rap battle. But your teachers knew you'd be bored by all those details, so today we remember it as a bunch of guys sitting around a table, eating spaghetti and doing art.
Jacopo's book Go @#$% Yourself! is available for the Kindle (DRM free!) and in paperback, including his manic observations on nuclear war, public breastfeeding, video games, conspiracy theories, the economy, and alien invasions. Also includes: hidden messages and secret codes that may or may not reveal the location of the Holy Grail.
For more world-changers (or lack thereof), check out 5 World Changing Decisions (Made for Ridiculous Reasons) and 6 "World-Changing" Inventions (That Didn't Change Shit).
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