Everybody farts, even Queen Elizabeth II. It’s a normal bodily function, so it shouldn’t be the punchline of jokes over and over again. You shouldn’t feel embarrassed about farting in public, but it happens every day. Someone farts and you laugh or find it disgusting. You might even turn away from the scene and cover your nose.

Regardless of who you are or how you feel about farts, you still laugh a good “fart joke.” If someone tells a joke about farting, you laugh out of natural habit. But sometimes, not everyone finds farts to be humorous. Instead, they find it insulting and start a riot that even turns dangerous. This has applied to individuals throughout history. Historical figures found fart jokes to be so insulting that it actually led to a revolt against King Apries of Egypt. How did that happen? But most importantly, did they realize a fart joke wasn’t worth hateful violence? After all, it’s just a joke.

But did this happen elsewhere? How many people throughout history have been murdered because of a natural bodily function?

Don’t shoot the messenger 

The first fart joke that has been known to cause danger dates back to 569 B.C. Before then, King Apries ruled Egypt with a powerful sense of confidence no man could have defeated. He was able to hold off the spreading forces of the opposing Babylonians. As of 570 B.C., life was good and nothing seemed to have changed, that is until a history-making fart would disrupt the peace. According to legend, a renegade general farted in front of the king’s messenger. He commented, “Carry that back to Apries.” The messenger knew he had to fulfill any orders, so he returned to the king. When he delivered the message, King Apries didn’t find any humor in the news. Instead, he turned deadly and cut off the messenger’s ears.

Killing 10,000 people

Unfortunately, King Apries’s messenger wasn’t the first person in history to suffer because of a fart. This event also occurred during the Jewish War in 44 A.D., in which a Roman soldier purposely farted in front of an audience of Jews celebrating Passover. It was an insult and the audience did not appreciate the humor. “One of the soldiers, raising his robe, stooped in an indecent attitude, so as to turn his backside to the Jews, and made a noise in keeping with his posture,” recounted Roman-Jewish historian, Flavius Josephus.

The incident led to a furious riot, killing “upwards of thirty thousand” individuals. Historians now question, “Was a fart worth killing all of these individuals?” But on the bright side of history, some groups of individuals understood farting as a joke. They even turned the bodily function into a serious competition.

According to the He-gassen scroll

Teenage boys probably participate in farting and burping competitions, but you wouldn’t expect it in a group of Japanese adults. But during the Edo Period, from 1603 to 1868, European influence overtook Japan and citizens weren’t happy. Unfair trade agreements and forced Christianity resulted in Japanese natives participating in riots and the now infamous He-gassen scroll indicates the riots resulted in unusual farting competitions.

The scroll depicts scenes in which one bare-bottomed character is farting in the direction of other characters. While the scroll may have been designed to highlight the growing political and social changes in Japan from European influence, everyone, including historians, prefer to believe the parties were participating in farting competitions to determine who could “out-fart” each other.

No one really knows the full story of what happened to inspire the He-gassen scroll, but at least no one was killed during the competitions. No one was murdered for a bodily function, and that’s always a blessing. Would you participate in a farting competition?