5 People in History Who Were Terrible at Their Jobs

Modern people see history through competency-colored glasses. It's the masterful art and architecture that gets treasured and passed down throughout the centuries, and this gives us present-day folk the impression that history, for all its faults in the bloodletting and witch-hunting departments, was at least packed with creative geniuses composing sonnets and constructing awesome cathedrals. Our own era, by comparison, is rich with bad Mario fan art and features your dad's failed patio extension that fell down when a butterfly landed on it.

In truth, though, history had just as many screw-ups and lazy people as we do now. And some of the stuff these failures produced makes Mario fan art look downright sublime. For example ...

#5. Awful Taxidermy Has Been With Us Forever

The Internet has caused a terrible taxidermy explosion. Luckily not a literal explosion, because that would be pretty much the only thing that's scarier than terrible taxidermy in the first place, but online craft stores have introduced us to a world of people creatively molding dead rats and squirrels into clever poses without ever asking whether this is maybe against the laws of Earth and Heaven. For example, we know God has abandoned the world because this is currently available on Etsy:

Via Etsy
Those of you who haven't finished your Christmas shopping yet can thank me in the comments.

Taxidermy by its nature will always be creepy. But at least in the past, before all this Etsy bullshit happened, it was somewhat dignified, right?

The Historical Awfulness

Nope. The glorious past presents us with this 18th-century taxidermy of a lion, now on display at Mariefred in Sweden:

Via The Mary Sue

King Frederick I of Sweden had been given the lion as a gift some time around 1731. He loved it so much, he wanted to stuffed after it died, so he hired a taxidermist, who had only the creature's pelt and bones to work with. People have tried to excuse the guy's leonine failure by pointing out that back then you couldn't just drive to a zoo to check what a living lion looks like. But come on -- lions have been appearing on flags and coats of arms since long before the 18th century: just try to imitate one of those, dude. Hell, he could have just found himself a nice fluffy cat and scaled up. Either would have produced something better than a stoned pedophile dog.

And the anonymous, lion-ruining taxidermist wasn't the only awful animal-stuffer in history. The 19th century had Walter Potter, who created weird tableaus of dead animals reenacting human scenes. Potter wasn't any good at stuff like "realism" or "getting the size of the animal right before trying to put a skin over it," but he sure could create creepy scenes of dead kittens getting married, and this made him so popular with Victorians that he was able to open his own museum.

Via The Telegraph
And you thought the LOLCats thing was bad.

#4. Ancient Architecture Didn't Always Stand Forever

America's housing-boom McMansions are already falling apart. And that's not surprising, because most houses today are constructed for quick profit, not in the hope of creating anything of lasting worth and value. It's a depressing sign of our shortsighted, get-rich-quick, capitalistic society.

Via The Telegraph
Today, these kittens would be marrying each other only for the money.

It wasn't like this back in the day. After all, in Europe and elsewhere you can find buildings still standing after hundreds or thousands of years. In the past, people built shit that lasted. I'm trademarking that last sentence to use in an ad campaign for my nostalgic country-diner chain, so please don't steal it.

The Historical Awfulness

Except there was that one guy back in the 1st century who constructed an amphitheater so bad it makes those crumbling, weed-strewn McMansion tracts look like the Taj Mahal.

In the year 27, a guy named Atilius decided to construct a large amphitheater in the town of Fidenae, not far from Rome, in order to exhibit some good old-fashioned gladiatoring. Access to gladiator shows had been restricted during a recent emperor's reign, so locals flocked to the amphitheater like teenage girls to an all-nude One Direction concert. Which was unfortunate, because the amphitheater then collapsed, killing up to 20,000 people.

grafalex/iStock/Getty Images

The disaster wasn't just bad luck: according to the historian Tacitus, the structure collapsed because Atilius failed to "lay a solid foundation and to frame the wooden superstructure with beams of sufficient strength." He'd deliberately rushed the amphitheater-construction job and built it dangerously big so he could make more money on entrance fees, and possibly so he could point suggestively to the building and drop hints about his crotch size. Atilius ended up banished, which doesn't really seem like that much of a punishment, because living in that town and having to avoid eye contact with all those piles of rotting corpses would be pretty awkward anyway.

OK, but you'd expect gladiator-related stuff to be pretty sketchy already, what with all the killing of innocents and weird Australian accents and such. What about the stuff that was taken really seriously, like religious buildings? Well, about that ...

#3. Medieval Churches Are Riddled With Design Flaws

The modern world is good for a lot of things, but "beautiful religious buildings" is not one of them. Gone are the days of awesome Gothic cathedrals; today's churches often look more like DMV offices built in the 1970s while the architect was going through a bad divorce:

Via World Mag
"Sorry, I have to stop here for a while. My soul is just so overwhelmed with the beauty of creation."

Things used to be different. Thanks to the deep devotion and skill of architects and builders, medieval churches have a beauty and symmetry that even the most ardent atheist would be compelled to tip his hat to.

The Historical Awfulness

Well, sometimes. Other times that deep devotion and skill looked more like this:

Via Stained Glass Attitudes
Via Stained Glass Attitudes

If these guys got their church-measurements wrong and couldn't fit in an arch where they thought they could, they just awkwardly squished it in there anyway and hoped no one noticed. See, the people designing these churches usually didn't work off scales or drawings, like the heathen architects of today: they mostly just dove in and built, and if that meant that an arch ended up looking like it had melted and fallen over, well, just be happy you're not in a Roman amphitheater.

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C. Coville

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