You might not know who Götz von Berlichingen was, but I’m pretty sure you’ve heard of his infamous line. He did many things and has been on a lot of adventures throughout his life, but the most notable, perhaps, was when he told his enemies to “kiss my ass.” While you think there was nothing special about that, it was in the 14th century.

Also known as Gotz of the Iron Hand (more about that later), Gotz was a German knight, mercenary, and poet. He was called the German Robin Hood by some. So young Gotz was an imperial knight fighting for God and the country. In the 1500s, just after three years, he got bored and decided he didn’t want to do it. So he quit and changed his career by forming a team of mercenaries and offering their services to various feudal lords and barons. Their customers, of course, should be able to afford to pay them. We got some serious business here.

Götz mit der Eisernen Hand

The second iron prosthetic hand worn by Götz von Berlichingen.

As mentioned above, his nickname was Gotz of Iron Hand. He and his team fought for the Duke of Bavaria, Albert IV, in 1504 when he, unfortunately, lost his right arm when an enemy cannonball fired and forced his sword against him. He did not let that stop him, so he got himself two mechanical prosthetic arms— one was simple while the other one was more advanced and impressively could grasp objects like swords and shields. Nothing’s stopping him, so he went on his merry way, fighting and making money.

Imperial Bans

Gotz was placed under an Imperial ban from the Holy Roman Empire when he pissed off Emperor Maximilian I more than once because he was raiding towns, seizing merchant shipping, and kidnapping noblemen for ransom.

In 1525, Gotz led the rebel army of farmers and pitchforks with the outbreak of the German Peasants’ War. They were effortlessly crushed, and 100,000 rebels were killed. He was called to account for his actions, to which he responded that he abandoned the rebel army,  It worked because the Imperial Chamber acquitted him.

The Birth of the Now-Famous Insult

Original armor from Götz von Berlichingen to Hornberg.

Later on in his life, he served under Charles against the Ottoman Empire of Suleyman the Magnificent in Hungary and against France of King Francois I. Sometime between these wars, he was invited to surrender by the Swabian League. His response was to tell the general that “he can lick me in the arse.” Funnily enough, this line became a Swabian salute.

It is of note that the hygiene habits of the 14th century in Europe left much to be desired so

Of all the things he had done, all the wars he had fought, who would’ve thought that the legacy he’d leave behind was an insult?

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