For many people, time spent in the bathroom is the perfect opportunity for reflection and introspection. And for many others, it’s when they get new high scores on Candy Crush. Okay, so maybe most of us use that time for procrastination, but even so, there have been a few significant events that occurred inside a bathroom.
10. The Death of Agamemnon
We’re going to start off with one event that is more mythology than history – the assassination of Agamemnon. Made famous in “The Iliad,” Agamemnon was the King of Mycenae who led the Greeks during the Trojan War. After the fall of Troy, he returned home triumphant, only to discover that his wife, Clytemnestra, had taken on a lover by the name of Aegisthus.
According to the legend, Agamemnon had sacrificed one of his daughters, Iphigenia, in order to please Artemis and secure his victory at Troy, so it was understandable that his wife might bear a tiny grudge against him. She was probably hoping that he would die in battle, but now that he was back, Clytemnestra wanted Agamemnon dead and plotted with her lover to make it happen. In some versions, Aegisthus simply attacked Agamemnon with a band of assassins, but in others, Clytemnestra did the deed herself by stabbing her husband in the bath.
9. The Political Career of John Glenn
In 1962, astronaut John Glenn made history when he became the first American to orbit the Earth. Once he was done with the whole space thing, as one of the most popular people in the country, the world was his oyster. Glenn wanted to get into politics and, eventually, he did serve as a senator for Ohio for two-and-a-half decades. However, his first run was derailed thanks to an unfortunate slip in the bathroom.
In January 1964, Glenn retired from NASA and announced his candidacy for the U.S. Senate. Just a month later, the former astronaut slipped in his bathtub and sustained a severe hit on the noggin. Left with a concussion and an inner ear injury, Glenn was unable to campaign and decided to quit the senatorial race since he felt that it would not be fair to ask for the people of Ohio to simply vote for a name on a piece of paper.
The accident delayed Glenn’s political career by an entire decade. It wasn’t until 1974 that he finally won a seat in the Senate.
8. The Assassination of Edmund Ironside
There is a pretty long list of people who died on the toilet, but of them all, King Edmund Ironside probably had the most unpleasant way to go. The son of Ethelred the Unready, Edmund only reigned for half a year in 1016 during the Danish invasion of Cnut the Great. He earned the moniker “Ironside” because of the bravery and valor he displayed while fighting against a superior invading force.
Edmund did not fall valiantly in battle, but was rather done in by treachery in the end, both literally and figuratively, assuming the account of historian Henry of Huntingdon is correct. According to him, the king was slain in his private privy while obeying the call of nature. The son of an enemy ealdorman named Edric snuck inside the castle and hid himself in the pit under the king’s privy. Then, when Edmund sat down to do his business, the assassin stabbed him upwards multiple times.
Cnut was not particularly impressed with this method of disposal. He had respect for Edmund Ironside, so when he heard what Edric had done to him, he had the ealdorman decapitated and his head placed on the highest battlement of the Tower of London.
7. The Work of Edmond Rostand
Bathrooms have not been solely the scenes of violence, bloodshed, and injuries. Occasionally, good things happen in them because some people use them as sources of inspiration. Benjamin Franklin was famously fond of spending a lot of time in the bath, musing on the world around him, and French poet Edmond Rostand did a lot of his writing while soaking in the tub.
Most famous for his play Cyrano de Bergerac, Rostand regarded working in the bathroom as the perfect solution to two of his problems. He hated being interrupted while he was writing but, at the same time, he was loathe to use this as an excuse to turn his friends away. However, if he were in the bathtub, nobody would take offense to being asked to return another time, so he could focus on his work without worries of interruptions.
6. The Demise of Elagabalus
Elagabalus is constantly ranked among the worst Roman emperors in history. Therefore, it’s not really surprising that he made a lot of enemies, including his own grandmother, Julia Maesa, who helped orchestrate his assassination. She decided to replace one nephew with another, so Julia convinced Elagabalus to adopt his young cousin, Severus Alexander, as his heir.
The emperor accepted, but he quickly changed his mind when he saw that the people liked Alexander more than him. He wanted his young cousin gone, but the Praetorian Guard refused to cooperate. They’ve had enough of Elagabalus and asking them to assassinate Alexander was the final straw. They attacked the Roman emperor, who tried to hide in a latrine in vain. His mother was also killed at the same time. Afterward, “their heads were cut off and their bodies, after being stripped naked, were first dragged all over the city, and then the mother’s body was cast aside somewhere or other, while his was thrown into the river.”
5. The End of King Haakon’s Reign
The reign of King Haakon VII defined Norway during the first half of the 20th century, with him ruling for over 50 years between 1905 and 1957. He is now remembered as one of the country’s greatest leaders, although he did have an ignominious end thanks to an accident in the bathroom that marked the end of his reign.
King Haakon sustained a very bad fall in 1955, shortly before his 83rd birthday. It didn’t kill him, but it left him confined in a wheelchair for the rest of his life. He survived for two more years after that, but he turned into a shell of his former self. Despite being an octogenarian, Haakon had previously maintained an active lifestyle, mainly as a skier. Now, he was forced to give up the things he loved, while his reduced mobility ensured that his health continuously deteriorated. Haakon became a recluse with little interest in state affairs or social occasions. His son, Crown Prince Olav, took up most of his ceremonial duties until his father passed away and he became the new king.
4. The Assassination of Jean-Paul Marat
Jean-Paul Marat was one of the central figures of the French Revolution, becoming one of the leaders of the Jacobin faction which was opposed by the Girondins. And yet, he is best remembered for his assassination while taking a bath at the hands of a Girondin sympathizer named Charlotte Corday.
On July 13, 1793, Corday showed up at Marat’s apartment, claiming to have information about other Girondins who were on the run. His fiancee, Simonne, was suspicious of the young woman and did not want to let her in, but Marat insisted. The revolutionary was in the bathtub, where he spent a lot of time due to a debilitating skin disease. He took out a pen & paper and a wooden plank to write on and started taking down the information that Corday provided. When she was finished, she pulled out a kitchen knife from her dress and plunged it into Marat’s chest. His last words were “Help me, my beloved,” but by the time Simonne entered the bathroom, Marat was already dead.
Corday made to attempt to escape. She was arrested and executed by guillotine a few days later.
3. The Medical Breakthrough of King George II
“On the 25th of October he rose as usual at six, and drank his chocolate; for all his actions were invariably methodic. A quarter after seven he went into a little closet. His German valet de chamber in waiting heard a noise and, running in, found the King dead on the floor.”
That is the description of how King George II of Great Britain kicked the bucket in 1760, at the venerable age of 76, as reported by his personal physician, Frank Nicholls. In the process, George II joined a long and illustrious line of people who died while straining at stool, but besides the obvious consequence of leaving Great Britain without a king, there was an unexpected benefit – it allowed Nicholls to provide us with the first clear account of an aortic dissection.
Nicholls was tasked with opening and embalming George II and he observed and described in detail the deadly aortic disease that fell the king: “…the pericardium was found distended with a quantity of coagulated blood, nearly a pint…; the whole heart was so compressed as to prevent any blood contained in the veins from being forced into the auricles; therefore the ventricles were found absolutely void of blood…; and in the trunk of the aorta we found a transverse fissure on its inner side, about an inch and a half long, through which some blood had recently passed under its external coat and formed an elevated ecchymosis.”
Following Nicholls’s account, the disease began being studied by the medical community, although it would be almost two centuries before a surgery for it was developed.
2. The Louisiana Purchase
The Louisiana Purchase is a crucial moment in the history of both France and the United States and, if Lucien Bonaparte is to be believed, his brother Napoleon decided to sell Louisiana while taking a bath.
According to Lucien’s memoirs, both he and his brother Joseph were against the idea of the Louisiana Purchase. One day in 1803, Napoleon summoned both of his siblings at the Tuileries Palace in Paris and received them while he was bathing. He was definitely not happy with them, and when Joseph indicated that he might oppose Napoleon on the matter, the latter acted out like a petulant child by falling back into the tub and splashing his brothers with the bathwater.
At that point, Lucien told his sibling that “If I were not your brother I would be your enemy,” to which Napoleon once again responded in a bad-tempered way by smashing a snuff box on the floor.
1. The Eureka Moment
When it comes to notable events that occurred in the bathroom, none can compare to the iconic “Eureka” moment when Archimedes figured out water displacement.
Here’s the story: when Hieron II became King of Syracuse, he commissioned a gold crown for himself. He gave a bar of pure gold to the goldsmith, but when the latter returned with the crown, the king feared that he had been cheated. It wasn’t unheard of back then for dishonest smiths to mix in some silver and keep part of the gold for themselves. But the question was – how to prove it?
Hieron tasked Archimedes with finding a solution. The mathematician pondered on the problem during a bath, when he noticed that the more he sunk into the tub, the more water spilled out. He then realized that there was a relationship between the volume of his body and the volume of water displaced by his body. Archimedes was so jubilant with his discovery that he leaped out of the bath and started running down the streets naked, shouted “Eureka.”
Once he understood this, the actual experiment was easy. If the crown was, indeed, made of pure gold, then it should have the same volume as the bar of gold with the same mass. If, however, it contained silver, then it would be less dense. Archimedes proved that the goldsmith did, indeed, try to cheat the king, and we can only imagine what unpleasant fate awaited him.
Unfortunately, it’s unlikely that the Eureka story actually happened like this. Archimedes himself never wrote about it and it was first mentioned by Vitruvius a few centuries later. But still, it remains a testament to the sparks of inspiration we can experience while in the bathroom.