5 most ridiculous laws in history

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1. Law forbidding female weeping at funerals, Roman Republic, 449 B.C. e.

Weeping woman on a piece of Greek pottery from Attica. Image: Wikimedia Commons

Until 449 BC e. women, unlike men, were not only not forbidden to shed tears, but were strongly prescribed.

The more sobbing Roman women were at the funeral, the more respected the deceased was considered. When important figures were buried, the relatives hired professional mourners for the image. These ladies were yelling, hysterical, howling “Yes, who did you leave us for?” in Latin and scratched their faces, showing respect for the status of the deceased.

The profession of a mourner has become quite popular. Firstly, in Rome there was not much with the rights of women to employment, and for some, such employment was the only way to earn money. Secondly, there was demand: the Romans adopted the fashion for mourners from the Greeks.

However, by 449 B.C. e. the mourners, who turned every funeral into a farce, so got the Romans that they introduced into the “Laws of the Twelve Tables” (the first and main source of the law of Ancient Rome) a decree banning women’s tears at funerals.

Women should not tear their faces with their nails during funerals; nor shall they make loud cries for the dead.

Laws of the Twelve Tables, Table X, “The Sacred Law”

The ban applied to all women, not necessarily professionals. Of course, he was respected so-so, because you can’t figure out every crying relative, and the law enforcement agencies of Rome had more important things to do. Nevertheless, the law prohibiting weeping at funerals lasted , apparently, until 27 BC. e. And there, the “Twelve Tables” were canceled, and the republic was changed to an empire.

2. Law on forced departure of women from home, Roman Republic, 451 BC. e.

Hercules and Omphale, Roman fresco, 45–79 AD n. e., National Archaeological Museum of Naples, Italy. Image: Wikimedia Commons

Here is another interesting fact about the difficult female lot in the Roman Republic .

The Romans, at least from 451 BC. e. there was a legal concept of occupatio – the acquisition of ownership of an ownerless thing. What you owned for a certain period became yours. In modern jurisprudence, this practice has migrated under the name “acquisitive prescription”.

For example, you found a shovel, picked it up – and if the owner did not come for it within the prescribed period (about a year), then take everything for yourself. The same right allowed the Romans to share war trophies, hunting, fishing and poultry farming objects, abandoned and lost objects and livestock, abandoned housing, and so on without unnecessary litigation.

There was only one problem: occupatio also extended to women. Because they could not vote in the Roman Republic and were not considered citizens, although they enjoyed a certain freedom.

Therefore, when a woman cohabited with a man in his house (this is important) for a year, she became his wife and … his property.

However, a loophole was mentioned in The Laws of the Twelve Tables.

Any woman who does not want to be taken as a wife by a man must be absent for three consecutive nights each year in his house and thus terminate the ownership annually.

Laws of the Twelve Tables, Table VI, “The Law of Property.”

The woman spent three nights in a row not at home, the counter was reset, and she again became a free person, and not the property of her husband.

Later (about 300 BC), Roman law did make concessions to women, and lawyers added useful things to the laws, such as divorce, division of property, and prenuptial agreements. This led to the fact that the Romans became less likely to marry. The law itself was in effect until 27 BC. e.

3. Law against pretending to be a witch, England, 1736

Flying on a broomstick is too commonplace. It is better to use a horse skull as a transport. Detail from The Witch of Endor, Jacob Cornelis van Ostsanen, 1526. Image: Wikimedia Commons

At all times, witches and sorcerers have had a very tense relationship with the law. Somewhere they were simply fined for sorcery, somewhere they were excommunicated, and sometimes they were burned at the stake.

In England since 1542, witchcraft was a crime for which the death penalty was due. The last witch in the country was burned in 1727 (preliminarily doused with tar and rolled around the city of Dornoch in a barrel). Her name was Janet Horne, and she was accused of having crooked arms and legs for her daughter. And this is a sure sign that the mother rode the child on horseback to the Sabbath.

Time passed, progress and enlightenment marched on the planet, and in 1735 Parliament passed a law on witchcraft. Sorcery was no longer considered a crime and was declared simply an immoral act. In general, we decided not to burn anyone anymore and limit ourselves to administrative buildings.

But what the new law implied criminal liability for was pretending to be a witch.

If you are a real witch, then this is not very good, of course, but in principle it is normal. And if you claim that you are a witch, but you are not, get ready for imprisonment.

The law was repealed only in 1951. The last to be convicted in 1944 was a woman named Jane York, who claimed she was a medium and could summon the spirits of the dead. She was unable to prove it and was fined £5 and imprisoned for three years, but was released early for good behaviour.

For that matter, the law was not the most thought out. But it would be a great help in the fight against superstitions and would certainly reduce the popularity of programs like the Battle of Psychics.

4. Window Tax Act, England, 1696

Windows tax evasion at Château des Bruneaux, France. Image: Wikimedia Commons

Once, the King of England, Ireland and Scotland, William III of Orange, decided that the treasury was empty, and was about to introduce new fees. And since he was a progressive king, he decided to make taxes progressive, so that the amount depended on the welfare of the payer.

There was only one but: the idea of income tax in England at that time (1696) was new and not very suitable for the then economic system, because citizens had the right not to disclose their income to the state.

Wilhelm found an elegant, as it seemed to him, solution. He took a look at the interior of Kensington Palace and reasoned sensibly: the rich live in houses with a lot of windows, and the poor huddle in huts with one hole in the wall covered with a bull bladder to let the light through. And let’s introduce a tax on windows, His Majesty decided.

At first, the plan really worked.

The window tax was unobtrusive, easy to calculate and understand. After the UK, it was adopted by other countries: France and Spain. Later, economist Adam Smith, in his book An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations, called the tax effective because the collectors did not have to go to the owners to calculate who should pay how much. You can also look at the facade from the street.

Very poor people, as well as cheese dairies and dairies, were exempted from this tax. But the middle class did not want to pay and called the window tax “a tax on light and air”, daylight robbery (English “rob in broad daylight” or “steal daylight”).

And all sorts of smart people began to simply wall up the windows in their houses in order to save money. And new buildings can be built without windows at all.

Naturally, all this had a bad effect on the well-being of urban residents. They began to suffer from a lack of fresh air and sunlight, and dampness grew in the rooms. Only in 1851 the tax was abolished.

That is why there are so many buildings in the UK with bricked up windows.

5. Football Prohibition Act, England, 1540

Boys playing ball. Seat carving in Gloucester Cathedral, 1350, Gloucester, England. Image: Wikimedia Commons

Medieval English football appeared at least in 1303 (the first mention of the game dates from this time). And then it was much more brutal entertainment than you might think.

Instead of a ball – a pig bladder filled with dry peas. It was allowed to play with hands and feet. It was allowed to hit opponents, drop them, arrange hand-to-hand fights (sometimes using improvised means) and even injure other players. The only rule is to bring the ball to a predetermined area. The number of participants could reach hundreds or more. The match easily escalated into a street pogrom that the current fans never dreamed of.

English chroniclers mentioned that many football players had their arms and legs broken , their teeth and eyes knocked out, and their cheeks bruised after matches. Sometimes the players even died.

Here it is, a sport for real men. There was no judge, there was a dispute with the enemy – break his head.

Modern dollar millionaires, running around the field after the ball and almost falling spectacularly, with their pitiful attempts would have caused only a smile from the players of medieval England.

English kings at various times tried to ban football with varying degrees of success. Edward II, and Edward III, and Richard II tried to do this. The reason for the dislike of crowned persons for football was the same all the time. Recruits were needed to complete the royal armed forces with archers, but there were not enough candidates: one had a broken arm, the other had a leg – finished playing.

The well-known Henry VIII also managed to compete with this sport. In his youth, the king was an avid athlete and played a lot of football, even ordered especially fashionable boots for himself (in dry weather they weighed about a kilogram, and when wet, all two). But later his majesty got tired of it, and in 1548 he banned the ball game on pain of prison or even execution. Not only football players were punished, but also the owners of the fields on which the game was played. Football was outlawed and called a “plebeian game” because of the destruction and mayhem that the players caused.

Naturally, this did not stop people from continuing to play it, just away from the sheriffs. The severity of English laws in those days was compensated by the optionality of their implementation due to the carelessness of law enforcement officers.

The players run fast, it was not easy to detain violators.

The ban on football was lifted in Scotland by 1592 and in England in 1603. However, the sport had a bad reputation, and the persecution of the game stopped only by the 19th century, when the rules began to look more like modern ones.

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