20 Myths From History Books We Still Believe In
Thanks to the illusory truth effect, we often end up being surrounded by lies, and world history is no exception. Many things we learned at school turned out to be lies.
Bright Side is going to bust the historical myths and reveal the true history for you. Hold on tight, here we go!
Myth № 20. The Greeks presented the Trojan horse to conquer Troy.
Truth: The goal was real — to conquer Troy. But, unfortunately, the insidious gift of the Danais didn’t exist. Instead, the Greeks created a unique siege engine that resembled a horse. That’s how they managed to break the wall and get into the city.
Myth № 19. Archimedes discovered his principle when lying in the bath.
Truth: Actually, the water that overflowed from the bathtub doesn’t have anything to do with the famous buoyant force discovered by Archimedes. This method only allows volume to be measured. However, it’s not excluded that Archimedes was inspired by bath procedures.
Myth № 18. Mendeleev saw the periodic table of elements in his dream.
Truth: The scientist himself disproved this legend by saying, "I have been pondering upon it for 20 years while you think it came to me at once." And the story about seeing it in his dreams was created by his friend A. A. Inostrancev to entertain his students.
Myth № 17. Cleopatra came from Egypt.
Truth: The famous Queen of Egypt was of Greek origin. Cleopatra was born in Alexandria. She is the descendant of Ptolemy’s dynasty that took control over Egypt after the death of Alexander the Great. By the way, Cleopatra was the first in her family to learn the Egyptian language.
Myth № 16. The pyramids were built by slaves.
Truth: There is conclusive evidence that the magnificent shrines of the pharaohs were neither built by slaves nor by the Jewish but by free employees and professionals in construction.
Myth № 15. Diogenes lived in a barrel.
Truth: Actually, Diogenes couldn’t have lived in a barrel because the ancient Greeks simply couldn’t make them. He lived in a pithos — a big clay vessel in which oil and wine were stored and people were buried in.
Myth № 14. Only men could become pirates.
Truth: A woman onboard a ship will bring bad luck, especially if she is...a pirate! Surprising, but men were not the only ones who were sailing around the oceans hunting for treasure. Female pirates were good competitors to male pirates, and they were as deadly and vicious as their male colleagues.
Myth № 13. Aborigines ate Captain Cook.
Truth: The reasons for James Cook’s death were gossip about the killing of several Hawaiian people by the British and his personal strange behavior. All these prompted the Aborigines to start warlike actions.
And while the Englishmen were in a panic, the Hawaiians killed Cook, supposedly by hitting the back of his head with a spear. But nobody ate him.
Myth № 12. Gladiators always killed each other.
Truth: The most skilled and highly trained warriors cost a lot of money, and many of them lived a long life. Analysis of skeletons and gravestones prove that there were gladiators who had more than 100 fights in their lives and lived approximately 25-30 years, which corresponds to the average life expectancy in the Roman Empire of that time.
Myth № 11. The Vikings used to wear horned helmets.
Truth: When we think of a Viking, an image of a brutal bearded man wearing a horned helmet appears in every person’s mind. However, no archaeological find has proved that the Vikings were fans of this fashion.
In reality, horned helmets were not practical as they were more vulnerable, and that’s why the Vikings put them on for rituals only, not for fights.
Myth № 10. Before leaving for the Crusades, knights used to put chastity belts on their wives.
Truth: We all know about the chastity belt, guaranteeing the faithfulness of a beloved one. However, in reality, they were never used, and all stories connected to them are myths.
The female chastity belt is no more than a symbol of faithfulness, while a chastity belt for men looks more like a part of the armor.
Myth № 9. King Arthur was a real man.
Truth: Arthur never existed as an individual. His name was probably assigned to another person known by a different name in traditional history. And, yes, there are a huge number of individuals that exhibited the essential features of Arthur.
Myth № 8. Mozart was poisoned by Salieri.
Truth: Salieri had neither the wish nor the motive to kill Mozart. He was famous enough and even more successful than the suppositional victim. That’s why envy, as well as murder, are excluded. Salieri was even cleared of the accusation during his life.
Myth № 7. All antique statues are white.
Truth: Antique art is strongly associated with the color white. It’s amazing, but public buildings and statues were once brightly painted, but those paints have worn away after thousands of years because they were made from minerals with an organic base. Bacteria decay organics, and hence the paints crumbled.
Today we can see the real colors of ancient art with the help of ultraviolet light.
Myth № 6. Vincent van Gogh cut his ear himself.
Truth: This legend was even the reason behind the naming of a syndrome where a sick person performs a surgery on his own body or demands another person does it for him.
However, van Gogh didn’t cut his ear off. In reality, he lost his earlobe during a quarrel with his friend Gauguin.
Myth № 5. Walt Disney painted Mickey Mouse.
Truth: It would be great, but it’s not true. Mickey was painted by a famous Disney animator: Ub Iwerks. However, Walt Disney also played a role in creating this famous character. When sound cartoons appeared, Mickey Mouse started to speak with Disney’s voice.
Myth № 4. Cowboys liked to have gunfights.
Truth: Ah, these dramatic cowboy gunfights! A hot town at midday, the burning sun, tumbleweeds, and... no duelists around. All because cowboys rarely had such gunfights. This stereotype was created by the Western movies.
Myth № 3. Ivan the Terrible killed his son.
Truth: There are no signs in any chronicles that the death of Tsarevich Ivan Ivanovich of Russia was violent. Moreover, we can assume from the Tsar’s letter to Moscow that his son died from an illness. That’s what modern research proves as well.
Myth № 2. Math was excluded from the list of Nobel prizes because Alfred Nobel’s wife cheated on him with a mathematician.
Truth: Surprising, but it’s a fact that Alfred Nobel was never married. And the Nobel prize is not awarded for achievements in the field of math because it was recognized as an abstract science.
Myth № 1. The Spartans threw their sickly newborn off a cliff.
Truth: This myth was disproved by modern researchers. According to legend, the newborns were thrown into an apothetae (pit). Having analyzed the bones extracted from this place, it was decided that the remains belonged to 46 men aged 18-35 years. This means that no infant was injured.
Preview photo credit Albert Moll / wikimedia