Every society since the beginning of civilization has gone to war for reasons that do not always match the seriousness of the outcome. For example, in the 14th century, two northern Italian city-states fought over a bucket. This war began as a dispute between two northern Italian city-states, just thirty-one miles apart, as they fought over their borders in the 14th century C.E.: the town of Modena that was supported by the Emperor of the Holy Roman Empire, and the town of Bologna that was supported by the Pope in the Vatican. The rivalry had been ongoing for several years when in September of 1325 a few Modenese soldiers sneaked into Bologna’s city center and stole a bucket filled with valuables that was hidden in a well. The Bolognese were humiliated and outraged that the Modenese could break their security, and demanded the return of the bucket. The Modenese triumphantly refused so Bologna declared war on Modena.
The Pope’s army (defending Bologna) was much larger than the army of the Holy Roman Emperor (defending Modena) when they met one afternoon in November near the small town of Zappolino. But even though outnumbered, the underdog army of the Modenese took only two hours to rout their opposition and chased them back to Bologna, taunting them all the way. After the war the Modenese displayed the bucket as a symbol of their city’s proud victory. The rivalry continued until 1529 when Spain invaded Italy and forced the two factions to unite but the Modenese kept the bucket and it remains there still.
Another silly cause happened in 1618 after the Catholic governors of the Holy Roman Empire closed two Protestant churches. That angered the Protestants so a group of Bohemian Protestants went to a meeting in the castle in Prague and threw the Catholic governors and their secretary out of the window, a fifty-foot drop! No one was hurt because they landed in a pile of manure but that incident, known as the “Defenestration of Prague”, launched the Thirty Years’ War (1618-1648).
The unfunny part of this silliness is that there were between 3 and 11 million casualties in the long Thirty Years’ War and at least 2000 casualties in the very brief Bucket War. Another silly war, the “Pig War” had no casualties because it was never fought. The Pig War was declared on San Juan Island, one of the small islands in the channel that separates the North American continent from Vancouver. Both the British and the Americans had quite peaceably settled there, the British in the northern part, the Americans in the south, until June of 1859 when an American farmer shot a British pig that had invaded his farm and ate some of his potatoes. An argument ensued and although the American farmer offered to pay $10 in compensation, tensions grew so the local American citizens asked for U.S. Military protection. The U.S. sent in the 9th infantry which alarmed the British who then sent three British warships. The British governor demanded an engagement but, thankfully, the Commander-in-Chief of the British Navy refused to “involve two great nations in a war over a squabble about a pig” so no shots were fired, but the military of both sides occupied the island. That lasted until 1872 when calmer heads in an international committee decided that the Americans should control the island and the dispute ended. The island eventually became a U. S. National Historical Park where American and British camps can still be seen. The British donated a flagpole and a British flag is raised daily with the American flag, the only U.S. national park where a foreign flag is regularly flown over U.S. soil (Historic UK).
There are many of these bizarre causes in our history. It is time to ask, can we all just get along?
[Article sources: Military History and Ancient Origins]