Mental Floss

10 Pivotal Battles That Changed History

Ellen Gutoskey
'Francisco Pizarro Seizing the Inca of Peru' by John Everett Millais, 1846.
'Francisco Pizarro Seizing the Inca of Peru' by John Everett Millais, 1846. / Fine Art/GettyImages

Today’s historians generally agree that the fall of Constantinople in 1453 wasn’t the only reason the Middle Ages ended, but it was definitely important in more ways than one. As the Ottoman Empire took over the city, some Byzantine scholars hightailed it to Italy and elsewhere in Europe—bringing knowledge of ancient Rome and Greece that would help ignite the Renaissance.

On this episode of The List Show, Mental Floss editor-in-chief Erin McCarthy is covering that and nine other battles that altered the course of history beyond what those involved could’ve ever foreseen. Without World War II’s Battle of Britain, for example, penicillin production might have continued moving at a glacial pace well into the mid-20th century. And if Liu Bang hadn’t won the Battle of Gaixia in the early 200s BCE, he may never have succeeded in founding China’s Han Dynasty—a hugely influential and productive period that gave us things like paper and the Silk Road.

Find out more in the video below, and be sure to subscribe to the Mental Floss YouTube channel for future releases.