The craziest splurges in history.
All those celebrities and wealthy people spending money on the gaudiest displays of opulence! Do you think that you’ve seen it all?
Are you sure that nothing can surprise you anymore? Well, don’t be so sure, because contemporary celebrities have nothing on folks who lived centuries ago.
Ancient Rome can easily be the leader of the list, judging by the extant sources. Rome was stuffed with wealthy people — you couldn’t possibly find so many people gathered together in any other place.
And it looked like there was nothing they liked more than trying to outcrazy others when it came to splurging. Quite unsurprisingly, local authorities were the best at it.
For example, emperor Vitellus, the author of a famous saying “A good enemy is a dead enemy”, was also famous for his partying talents.
The guy spent nights doing nothing but banqueting and for one of those banquets his servants cooked 2000 birds and 6000 delicatessen fishes. I guess his cooks were perpetually puzzled as to what kind of meals they should serve for the next big party.
One of such meals costed 100 000 sesterces (ancient Roman silver coins) and contained sweet meat, baked birds, pheasant and peacock brains and parrot tongues.
Another emperor named Elagabalus, who was considered insane by many of his contemporaries (and let’s be honest; this much can be said about a great many of Roman emperors) was convinced he is a living god and had a habit of eating peas mixed with grains of gold and rice mixed with pearls.
But it wasn’t all about food, of course.
There was a German family of bankers who were quite well known in XVI century, Fugger family. One day they were honored to host the emperor Charles V Habsburg. To show just how happy they are to see their high-ranking guest, they decided to heat his room using not ordinary wood but cinnamon bark.
Even now cinnamon bark is quite costly, but at those times it was incredibly expensive.
But even that’s not all: the head of the Fugger house intended to set a fire to it using Charles’ 50 000 silver thalers debt obligation paper!
What wouldn’t you do draw attention of a woman you fancy!
Some guys can do this in style. In very expensive style. Like this prince de Conti, who lived in France in the end of the XVIII century.
One of the ladies-in-waiting once told him that she would really like to have a bird miniature. A few days after she received a ring bearing the exquisite miniature… covered with a priceless diamond.
The lady was impressed, but, being convinced she didn’t deserve such a pricey gift, sent the ring back.
The prince sent her a letter saying just how disappointed he is about her refusal, in the end of which he noted that the ink he used to write this letter was dried using this very diamond, crushed to powder.
Compared to this, some other acts of mindless splurging may seem not so crazy.
Like Duke of Richelieu (not the cardinal in the “Three Musketeers”, another one) who liked showing off by littering streets of Vienna with silver horseshoes that have “accidentally” fallen off.
Or knight Bertrand de Rambeau who planted 30 000 silver coins like so many seeds around his liege lord’s castle.
There are, of course, lots of such stories, and each one is quirkier than another. And they do make the modern cases of opulence pale in comparision.