<By: Martina I.
History is the story of humanity’s time here on planet Earth. Not only is it essential to understanding who we are as a race and what we have done in the past, it is also the most efficient method to determine what we will be in the future. For this reason, it is generally agreed upon that everybody should study history to some extent and be informed of at least the main events in our past, but we must remember, history is not memory, it is the words that have been passed on to us by the victors of humanity’s conflicts, and as such it needs to be scrutinized. Here are 10 commonly believed myths about history:
- Christopher Colombus Sailed to America Without Knowing the Earth was Round
Surely, all of you have heard the story of Colombus’ journey across the Atlantic and the discovery of the Americas. It is often depicted as the improbably quest of a misunderstood hero who, despite popular opinion, was convinced that the Earth was round so much so that he was fearless enough to sail to the edges of the world without thinking he would fall off to prove his unlikely thesis. Here is the truth: before embarking on the journey, Colombus already knew the Earth was round. In fact, the view of the earth as a sphere which today we take for granted, was already common at the time Colombus made his journey.
What people often don’t realize about his quest is that not only did Colombus never set foot in the USA, having instead landed in South America, he was convinced that he had reached the Indies until the day of his death, and therefore, was never aware of the immense discovery he had made.
- King Arthur is a True Historical Figure
Sorry fans of King Arthur and the knights of the round table, but unfortunately, most probably King Arthur never actually existed. While there are mentions of someone named Arthur living in England around the 5th century, “King Arthur” is absent from most of the official, reliable English accounts of history during that time period. Most notably, he is never mentioned in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle.
- Marie Antoinette Was So Selfish That She Said: “Let Them Eat Cake” About her Starving People
I must blame this one on the media. Marie Antoinette has been heard in various movies and TV shows stating that her starving people, who lacked bread, could simply be placated by eating cake. However, there is no evidence that she has every said this. In fact, the evidence there is regarding this quote suggests the exact opposite. “Qu’ils mangent de la brioche” first appeared in Rousseau work Confessions written in 1765, when Marie Antoinette was still a child and living in Austria, a full 20 years before the French Revolution.
- Gladiators Were Treated Like Animals and Made to Fight Till Their Deaths
As much as I love the movie “The Gladiator” I must say its portrayal of the experience of fighting in Rome is quite inaccurate. It is untrue that fighting in the Colosseum meant “kill or be killed,” on the contrary, gladiators were treated as prized soldiers to be used for entertainment, many, in fact, lived long lived. After matches that left gladiators scarred or even on the point of death, many were saved and healed through access to the best medical care.
- Vikings Wore Horned Helmets
It all started when horned soldiers were put into productions by Wagner and now vikings are close to always portrayed as wearing horns. While a 9th century Oseburg tapestry shows a viking in a horned helmet, he is most likely performing some religious ritual or is simply a god. Vikings are never said or shown in any primary source as wearing horns in battle.
- Napoleon Was a Dwarf
If you believed this then the anti-French British propaganda created during the Napoleonic wars was successful. While it suited his opposers to paint Napoleon as a hysterical child, he was actually 5 feet 6, an average height at the time.
- Witches Were Burned at the Stake at the Salem Witch Trials
Fortunately, this never happened. In fact, most of the 20 people convicted of being “witches” at the Salem Trials were simply hanged or imprisoned. Burning people alive was illegal at the time in England as well as all its colonies, including the US.
- Einstein Was A Bad Math Student in School
It is obvious why this myth has been perpetuated for so long. Wouldn’t it be nice if one of the most intelligent people to have ever lived and one of the most famous mathematicians was actually a bad student? This would give hope to those wishing to have great futures despite underwhelming present results. Not that one can only become great by being a great student, but Einstein certainly was an excellent student. In fact, he was brilliant from a very early age. This myth stems from the fact that he failed an entrance exams to a university, the Swiss Polytechnic in Zurich. Not many people realize, however, that Einstein, at the time, was only 16, two years younger than all the other students taking the exam. In addition, he was under pressure from his father to enter a more technical profession rather than pursuing his studies, and it is possible, therefore, that he has willingly failed the exam in order to remain in High School. So next time someone tells you you’re bad at math, I’m sorry to say but “Einstein was too” is a lie, not an excuse.
- Edison Invented the Lightbulb
Many people will be astonished at hearing this but Edison did not invent the lightbulb. What he did was merely improve the quality of the work of pioneers that came before him by making the electric lightbulb more long-lasting, therefore rendering it more commercial.
- Magellan Circumnavigated the World
Unfortunately, after having made it halfway around the world in his ship, the Portuguese explorer was killed by natives in the Philippines, leaving his second-in-command, Juan Sebastian Elcano, to complete the journey alone. Meaning Magellan in fact did not circumnavigate the world.