CLOSE

What a way to go: antiquity edition

The tortoise and the playwright - 458 B.C.
The possibly apocryphal but widely-disseminated story of Aeschylus' death goes something like this: the legendary Greek playwright was walking outside when an eagle, mistaking his round bald head for a rock, dropped a tortoise on it. (Seriously.) Apparently, eagles still use this technique to break open shelled prey -- no word as to whether the tortoise was killed as well as the writer.

The stoic who died laughing - 207 B.C.
It's said that the Greek philosopher Chrysippus died of laughter while watching his drunken donkey attempt to eat figs. (Actually, if he'd had a video camera, sounds like that might've been the first great YouTube phenomenon. Which, if everyone were as sensitive to funny animal videos as the Greeks probably would've been, could lead to a doomsday scenario like this.)

The man who thought too much - 270 B.C.
The Greek poet and philosopher Philitas of Cos is said to have died from insomnia while contemplating the Liar Paradox. (An example of a Liar: "The next sentence is false. The previous sentence is true.") According to Athenaeus, his epitaph read:

"Philetas of Cos am I
'Twas The Liar who made me die,
And the bad nights caused thereby."

The man with the golden tongue - 53 B.C.
Roman general and politician Marcus Licinius Crassus was one of the most rich and powerful men of his time. He suppressed the slave rebellion led by Spartacus and boasted a number of impressive military victories won under his command. Still hankering for glory, however, he led a disastrous military campaign into Syria, and was executed after an embarrassing defeat at Carrhae. It is rumored that he died in one of two -- equally bizarre -- ways: either by having molten gold poured down his throat (supposedly to satisfy his unquenchable thirst for wealth) or by having his head used as a theatrical prop by enemy king Orodes II. Either way, he makes our list with flying colors.

Death by bull (in a manner of speaking) - 98 A.D.
brazen-bull.jpgSaint Antipas, Bishop of Pergamum, was roasted to death in a brazen bull during the persecutions of Emperor Domitian. Saint Eustace, as well as his wife and children supposedly suffered a similar fate under Hadrian. The creator of the brazen bull, Perillos of Athens, was according to legend the first victim of the brazen bull when he presented his invention to Phalaris, Tyrant of Agrigentum. (For more on the brazen bull, and other bizarre ancient methods of execution, check out this blog.)

nextArticle.image_alt|e
arrow
video
Bone Broth 101
5669938080001

Whether you drink it on its own or use it as stock, bone broth is the perfect recipe to master this winter. Special thanks to the Institute of Culinary Education

nextArticle.image_alt|e
iStock
arrow
science
Why Can Parrots Talk and Other Birds Can't?
iStock
iStock

If you've ever seen a pirate movie (or had the privilege of listening to this avian-fronted metal band), you're aware that parrots have the gift of human-sounding gab. Their brains—not their beaks—might be behind the birds' ability to produce mock-human voices, the Sci Show's latest video explains below.

While parrots do have articulate tongues, they also appear to be hardwired to mimic other species, and to create new vocalizations. The only other birds that are capable of vocal learning are hummingbirds and songbirds. While examining the brains of these avians, researchers noted that their brains contain clusters of neurons, which they've dubbed song nuclei. Since other birds don't possess song nuclei, they think that these structures probably play a key role in vocal learning.

Parrots might be better at mimicry than hummingbirds and songbirds thanks to a variation in these neurons: a special shell layer that surrounds each one. Birds with larger shell regions appear to be better at imitating other creatures, although it's still unclear why.

Learn more about parrot speech below (after you're done jamming out to Hatebeak).

SECTIONS

arrow
LIVE SMARTER
More from mental floss studios