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Children’s TV has always been entertaining, as it doesn’t depend on sex and violence, and the Horrible Histories Series is no exception.

Fireworks have been used around the World for centuries, bringing joy and adding to celebrations for millions but some of them have their history steeped in horrific circumstances.

In the 4th Century, Catherine of Alexandria was a high-born princess and the daughter of a pagan king and queen who converted to Christianity as a very young woman and spent her life finding out as much as possible about her faith as she could which she then passed onto others. She was unafraid to challenge those in power and when she invited Emperor Maxentius to hear about the Christian faith, which was in direct contradiction of his own pagan beliefs. Indeed the Emperor brought together a group of scholars and philosophers to challenge her point of view and basically call her out for her stupidity. However, they were so captivated by the erudite and intelligent Catherine that in fact contrary to changing her mind, they all decided that the Christian Faith was indeed good and they and the wife of Maxentius converted to the new religion. Maxentius was naturally angry about this and in an attempt to dissuade her from her faith, even offered to marry her – she declined, advising that she was wholly devoted to Christ.

Maxentius was incensed and ordered that the scholars be put to death and Catherine in turn was captured, beaten and imprisoned and once he was aware that she had no intention of reverting back to paganism, he ordered her death on the spiked breaking wheel, quite the most horrid of torture devices. However, once again, things didn’t quite go to plan as the wheel fell apart, allegedly ‘aided by angels’. She didn’t however escape death as he had her beheaded but she went on to be canonized in the 4th century AD and is today considered to be one of the most important female saints in the Christian faith.

Most Roman Emperors were at best unstable and at worst, positively psychotic but none more so that the lunatic, Emperor Nero.

Nero really despised Christians and Christianity and as the person in charge of the Roman legal system, he pretty much had carte blanche on what laws he could readily impose. The religion at the time basically implied that the Emperor was God whereas Christianity had really taken hold of the hearts and faith of the people of Rome following the death of Jesus at the hands of Pontius Pilate, under the instruction of Emperor Tiberius in the first century AD. Christianity, unlike that which was available to only the hoi polio was a religion for all including rich and poor alike and cared not for wealth and riches which Nero was not about to accept lying down.

Nero, cruel man that he was, used to torture Christians for entertainment, dousing them in tar and sticking a makeshift wick on their heads before lighting them on fire. He was known to laugh at the screams he could hear whilst the slaves died in excruciating pain. Another beautiful piece of pyro with a horrible history.

The pyrotechnic rocket was developed in the 2nd century BC and were the oldest form of pyrotechnic article used. Initially, they were only used in religious celebrations but went onto become ‘flaming arrows’ which Mongols and Arabs brought to the west in the form of gunpowder. In fact, the Congreve rocket, a British Military weapon was created from the earliest Mysorean rocket, an Indian iron creation which was used in the East India conflict.

Rockets even feature as a weapon as outlined in the words of the American National Anthem where they were used to great effect, killing huge numbers of soldiers.

So, there you have it, the macabre history of fireworks in a nutshell.

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