5 Unanticipated Facts About the Middle Ages That Prove History Can Be More Exciting Than "Game of Thrones" | Viral Buzz News
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5 Unanticipated Facts About the Middle Ages That Prove History Can Be More Exciting Than “Game of Thrones”

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The Middle Ages are believed to be one of the darkest times in European history: multiple wars, diseases, and a lack of hygiene — are all things that led to many problems. But the Middle Ages were also a really interesting historical period that we don’t know enough about. For example, do you know why wearing striped clothing was a bad thing or why knights fought with snails? If you don’t, you have to read this article.

Bright Side wants to dispel the myth that the Middle Ages was a time when nothing interesting happened.

Striped clothes were a bad sign.

Wearing striped clothing in the Middle Ages was not safe. In 1310, a shoemaker from Rouen was actually executed for wearing striped clothing. Wearing stripes was only legally allowed for actors, musicians, prostitutes, heretics, jesters, and other people who didn’t have a stable position in society: these clothes were a way to tell them apart from the noble folk.

Modern scientists don’t really know the root of the reason for why stripes were considered bad. Some experts believe it was because striped clothing can hide the shape of the body and could be taken as an attempt to change one’s true appearance.

Why was there a beak on the plague doctor mask?

The famous plague doctors wore special masks with a beak. However, the beak wasn’t there to intimidate people: it was used to carry substances with a strong odor: for example, a cloth soaked in vinegar, flowers, herbs, or something like that. It was believed that the plague could be stopped by this type of filter. The only question is when exactly the plague doctor costume was created. Even though a popular opinion is that it was created during the plague outbreak during the 14th century, there is no exact evidence of that. Some experts believe it wasn’t invented until the 17th century.

The first plague pandemic that we know of broke out in the middle of the 6th century and killed more than 125 million people in Europe and Asia. There was also a pandemic in the 14th century: it was brought from China to Europe and reached Russia where it killed the population of several towns. In Europe, more than 25 million people were killed by the plague. At that time, this was 1/3 of the entire population of Europe.

Why were there openings in the walls of cathedrals?

During their restoration, experts found small openings in the walls of the cathedrals that were built in the Middle Ages. These openings are called hagioscopes and people could use them to see what was happening inside. They were for people who couldn’t enter the cathedral for some reason, for example, those who had leprosy.

These types of openings were found to be differently shaped depending on the cathedral, some were round, rectangular, and even cross-shaped. The openings faced either cemeteries or sparsely-populated districts. In the 16th century, most of these openings were sealed once the leprosy pandemic was eradicated.

Why did spiral staircases always go clockwise?

Spiral staircases in the castles of the Middle Ages were always built to follow a clockwise path. They were built this way in case the castle was under siege: the thing is, a defender coming down the stairs would be able to fight with his right hand, and most people are right-handed. And an attacker, coming up the stairs, would have trouble doing the same.

Spiral staircases had another trick to them too: the stairs were different in height and width. This caused attackers who were unfamiliar with the specifics to trip and fall. And the owners of the castle knew every single step and could move very fast.

Of course, this rule has very rare exceptions, for example, one of the Waldstein castles had counterclockwise staircases because most members of the family were left-handed.

Why did knights fight with snails?

At the end of the 13th century, manuscripts that were created in the north of France had pictures of knights fighting with snails. Scientists don’t know exactly why these creatures were not loved by the artists of the Middle Ages, but there are several versions of this story. One of them says that a snail appearing from a shell is a symbol of resurrection and the picture is just a metaphor.

Another version says that a snail is a symbol of cowardice that artists placed in the manuscripts. And the most trustworthy theory is that a snail is a symbol of the Lombards who were at war with the French.

Bonus: Women were not as good-looking as they are on TV-shows.

Of course, women in the Middle Ages were beautiful too. But they didn’t have cosmetics or access to showers and other facilities. So, when you are watching Game of Thrones, remember that this is only a show, the reality was way more harsh. Here are several examples:

  • When women needed fake eyebrows, they used rodent hair.
  • All marks on the skin (like moles and freckles) were believed to have been received from the devil, and all of them had to be hidden. So in order to remove these “stains of witchcraft,” women would use willow tree water, the blood of a rabbit, and other strange substances.
  • It was fashionable to be pale, so women used mercury, acid, and lead to whiten their faces.
  • And about their hygiene: There weren’t any fancy cosmetic products, so women had to use soap that was made of ash and fat. It was the medieval version of a catch-22, either have a dirty face or use this gross substance to wash it.

Did you know any of these facts?

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Look at How Much “Game of Thrones” Characters Have Changed Over 8 Seasons

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During the summer of 2019, the final season of Game of Thrones aired. The show had gone on for almost 10 years which is a long time not only for the characters but also for the actors who portrayed them.

Bright Side is remembering what characters looked like in the very first episodes of the groundbreaking series and is comparing them to what they look like in the final season of the show.

1. Cersei Lannister

2. Jon Snow

3. Tyrion Lannister

4. Daenerys Targaryen

5. Sansa Stark

6. Arya Stark

7. Jorah Mormont

8. Varys

9. Jaime Lannister

10. Sandor Clegane

11. Brienne of Tarth

12. Samwell Tarly

13. Davos Seaworth

14. Theon Greyjoy

15. Brandon Stark

Did you watch Game of Thrones? Did you enjoy season 8? Tell us in the comment section below.

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Baltimore’s ransomware attack, explained – Vox

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Thirteen bitcoins are standing between the city of Baltimore and many of the services and processes its citizens rely on after hackers seized thousands of government computers at the start of the month. The ordeal has been going on for two weeks, and there’s no clear end in sight.

Here’s what’s happening: On May 7, hackers digitally seized about 10,000 Baltimore government computers and demanded around $100,000 worth in bitcoins to free them back up. It’s a so-called “ransomware” attack, where hackers deploy malicious software to block access to or take over a computer system until the owner of that system pays a ransom.

Baltimore, like several other cities that have been hit by such attacks over the past two years, is refusing to pay up. As a result, for two weeks, city employees have been locked out of their email accounts and citizens have been unable to access essential services, including websites where they pay their water bills, property taxes, and parking tickets. This is Baltimore’s second ransomware attack in about 15 months: Last year, a separate attack shut down the city’s 911 system for about a day. Baltimore has come under scrutiny for its handling of both attacks.

The ransomware attacks in Baltimore and other local governments across the US demonstrate that as ransomware attacks spread, and as common targets such as hospitals and schools beef up their online systems’ security, there are still plenty targets vulnerable to this kind of hack. It also exemplifies the conundrum that ransomware victims face: pay up and get your access back, or refuse — potentially costing much more in the long run.

What’s going on in Baltimore, briefly explained

Hackers targeted the city of Baltimore on May 7 using a ransomware called RobbinHood, which, as NPR explains, makes it impossible to access a server without a digital key that only the hackers have.

The Baltimore hackers’ ransom note, obtained by the Baltimore Sun, demanded payment of three bitcoins per system to be unlocked, which amounts to 13 bitcoins to unlock all the seized systems. The note threatened to increase the ransom if it wasn’t paid in four days, and said the information would be lost forever if it wasn’t paid in 10 days. Both deadlines have now passed.

“We won’t talk more, all we know is MONEY! Hurry up! Tik Tak, Tik Tak, Tik Tak!” the note said.

The city government is refusing to pay, meaning that the government email systems and payment platforms the attack took down remain offline. The attack has also harmed Baltimore’s property market, because officials weren’t able to access systems needed to complete real estate sales. (The city said transactions resumed on Monday.)

Baltimore Mayor Jack Young, who’s officially been in his office less than a month, said in a statement on Friday that city officials are “well into the restorative process” and have “engaged leading industry cybersecurity experts who are on-site 24-7 working with us.” The FBI is also involved in the investigation.

“Some of the restoration efforts also require that we rebuild certain systems to make sure that when we restore business functions, we are doing so in a secure manner,” Young said. He did not offer a timeline for when all systems will come back online.

The Baltimore City Council president also plans to form a special committee to investigate this latest attack and try to ensure it doesn’t happen again.

A similar attack using RobbinHood hit government computers in Greenville, North Carolina, in April. A spokesperson for Greenville told the Wall Street Journal that the city never wound up paying, and that while its systems aren’t entirely restored, “all of our major technology needs are now being met.”

More than 20 municipalities in the US have been hit by cyberattacks this year alone. And such attacks can be expensive, perhaps especially if targets say they won’t pay. In 2018, hackers demanded that Atlanta pay about $50,000 in bitcoins as part of a ransomware attack. The city refused, and according to a report obtained by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution and Channel 2 Action News, the attack wound up costing the city $17 million to fix.

Ransomware attacks aren’t new — but we’re still figuring out how to deal with them

In 2017, a ransomware called WannaCry targeted tens of thousands of computers using Microsoft Windows operating systems in more than 100 countries. Officials in the US and the United Kingdom eventually blamed North Korea for the attack. Also in 2017, corporations in the UK, France, Russia, Israel, and Ukraine experienced ransomware attacks. US hospitals were also targeted.

Here’s how Timothy Lee explained for Vox what was going on and how ransomware had become more prolific:

The basic idea behind ransomware is simple: A criminal hacks into your computer, scrambles your files with unbreakable encryption, and then demands that you pay for the encryption key needed to unscramble the files. If you have important files on your computer, you might be willing to pay a lot to avoid losing them.

Ransomware schemes have become a lot more effective since the invention of Bitcoin in 2009. Conventional payment networks like Visa and Mastercard make it difficult to accept payments without revealing your identity. Bitcoin makes that a lot easier. So the past four years have seen a surge in ransomware schemes striking unsuspecting PC users.

Some ransomware schemes are so sophisticated that they even invest in customer service, helping victims who want to pay their ransoms navigate the complexities of obtaining bitcoins and making bitcoin payments.

Since then, a number of sectors and organizations have made improvements to their security practices to protect against ransomware. But the latest Baltimore attack exemplifies what a whack-a-mole game this is: One area improves its practices and hackers just go looking for another.


Recode and Vox have joined forces to uncover and explain how our digital world is changing — and changing us. Subscribe to Recode podcasts to hear Kara Swisher and Peter Kafka lead the tough conversations the technology industry needs today.

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Cameron Russell for ELLE

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A film by Kai Z Feng of our February 2014 cover.

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