Updated: Aug 1, 2019
Did an ancient King of Persia entertain his dinner guests with asbestos napkins?
You finish a lovely meal, swig down the last of your wine, and then contentedly dab your mouth with, er, some asbestos. Or, at least, that would be case if—lucky you!—you were dining back in sixth century Persia, dining in the court of great Sassanian king Khosrow II.
You see, records show that Khosrow II had a set of table napkins made out of asbestos. You know asbestos—it’s that fibrous silicate mineral that causes untold damage to people’s lungs. Yeah, that asbestos.
But long, long, long before its full disastrous health implications were uncovered in the early 1900s, it seems asbestos was considered little more than a magical, flame-repelling wonder-fabric. And Khosrow was keen to monopolise on its extraordinary inflammability in a bit of after-dinner fun and games.
Reportedly, the king would amaze his dinner guests by “cleaning” his table napkins by nonchalantly tossing them into a firepit, watching them “burn” up in the flames, and then fishing them back out of the fire, seemingly utterly undamaged. The spills and stains of the meal were, of course, burnt away—leaving the spotless napkin totally in tact.