Monday, April 6, 2015

E: by Ear Ache (26 Ways to Die in Medieval Hungary)

Kálmán I (also known as Könyves Kálmán, "Kálmán of the Books," for his scholarship) is one of the most interesting characters in Hungarian royal history. He ruled the Hungarian Kingdom between 1074 and 1116.

He was not strong, or particularly knightly. Some sources say he was a hunchback, and lame, and cross-eyed, and a whole bunch of other things; since most of those chronicles were written under a rival branch of the dynasty, they probably need a grain of salt. Whatever the case, Kálmán (originally intended to become a priest) was more nerdy than kingly. His learning and intellect made him a very efficient ruler. One of the things he is known for is his law concerning witches: "There shall be no talk of witches (striga), since they do not exist." Most people see this as a sign of an enlightened ruler, but it is also possible that he only tried to strengthen Christian beliefs against pagan superstition.
The low point of his character was his attempt to secure his lineage against the succession of his stronger brother Álmos and Álmos' son Béla; he had them both blinded so they would be unfit to rule. He also wanted to have the child castrated, but the soldiers didn't go through with it.
(Béla did end up becoming king, known as Béla II the Blind, and ruled for ten years) (Kálmán did not see that coming).

The chronicle says that at the end of his life Kálmán fell gravely ill; he trusted an Italian doctor called Draco to cure him (although the name should have been a red flag). The doctor put a poultice on the king's ear for his ear ache... But it proved to be a tad too strong for the task, for when it was taken off, part of the king's brains came out through his ear with it. Oops.

This goes to prove that medieval medicine could kill you just as fast as the disease. Sometimes even faster.

27 comments:

  1. Hmmm - Brains falling out. More like infection came out and broke through the blood/brain barrier. Couldn't have happened to a nicer guy. I have never understood someone wanting royal ancestry. They could be such lowlifes to keep power.

    ReplyDelete
  2. What kind of medicine makes a man's brains fall out?! Interesting story, yes, terrifying remedy, most definitely!

    ReplyDelete
  3. Oh boy. That's one heck of a poultice. Makes me curious to know exactly what the guy put in there and how in the world that didn't just hurt unmercifully. Elle @ Erratic Project Junkie

    ReplyDelete
  4. That was a rather brainless idea. (Sorry.)

    ReplyDelete
  5. Methinks the doc was a bit too vociferous with the cure. Maybe Almos and Bela put him up to it?

    ReplyDelete
  6. That is not a nice way to go - dissolving your brains out your ear! Are they sure the doctor wasn't an assassin in disguise?
    Tasha
    Tasha's Thinkings | Wittegen Press | FB3X (AC)

    ReplyDelete
  7. If I was afraid of my brothers I'd probably have them killed, not blinded. Seems like that would just piss them off and leave them wanting vengeance.... like hiring an assassin doctor.

    ReplyDelete
  8. That's just so... so wrong. I'm on board with the assassin doctor theory.

    ReplyDelete
  9. The pains people take to make sure they go down in history.

    ReplyDelete
  10. Well, as Csenge noticed, the chronicle was written in the reign of Álmos and Béla's successors. Maybe they didn't want to know any Italian hitman. :)

    ReplyDelete
  11. Oh Boy! that was some way to go, maybe if he didn't get his brother and nephew blinded, maybe I would say he didn't deserve it. But man oh man that was really original!
    "Haneen/I Will Never Give you Up (479)"

    ReplyDelete
  12. So does the chronicle state the ingredients of that poultice? Let's hope not!

    ReplyDelete
  13. In my cold and medicine induced state I found that amusing in a sick and twisted sort of way.

    ReplyDelete
  14. I am trying to imagine the logistics and time needed for that to happen. Yikes.

    ReplyDelete
  15. That's a very big oops! Gosh, death by ear ache. Who would've thought?

    ReplyDelete
  16. Seems like where I live, we're stuck in Medieval Hungary then - people go to the doctor with one thing and come out much worse. Third world medicine. Lol.

    But that's a gruesome way to go though.

    ReplyDelete
  17. seems like poetic justice his brains falling out through his ears :P

    ReplyDelete
  18. That is one nasty poultice - YIKES!! These are great posts.

    ReplyDelete
  19. That is one nasty poultice - YIKES!! These are great posts.

    ReplyDelete
  20. Oh, how awful. Can a poultice really do that? the doctor may have had ulterior motives.

    ReplyDelete
  21. OH, my! How awful! Mama & Daddy put a buttermilk poultice on my thumb once when I had it slammed in a truck door. My thumb came out fine though!
    Life & Faith in Caneyhead
    I am Ensign B ~ One of Tremp's Troops with the
    A to Z Challenge

    ReplyDelete
  22. Ironic that the 'brainy' one who likes books lost his brains. Great post.

    ReplyDelete
  23. Wow.... that is indeed a horrible way to die. But good on the kid for overcoming his injury, and even getting a kick-ass title out of it. Kings always seem way cooler when they have an adjective attached to their first name. I hope one day I'm referred to as Alex the (something epic). Haha.

    Alex Hurst, A Fantasy Author in Kyoto
    A-Z Blogging in April Participant

    ReplyDelete
  24. That sounds awful and Draco sure is a suspicious name... I wonder what he used in the poultice?!

    ReplyDelete
  25. The images that came to my mind... gross! Why did I laugh? It was just so unusual! Perhaps we should be careful to do a little research before trying a new home remedy? :)

    ReplyDelete