Misconceptions are a part and parcel of historical records.
In any culture, they run rampant partly due to ignorance and misguided beliefs. Just browse the internet for some time and you will see an abundance of misconceptions especially regarding world history. It’s easy to latch on to a story if it feels right but sometimes what really happened was completely different. Here are some of the world’s most interesting historical misconceptions.
1) Nero Fiddled As Rome Burned To the Ground
One of the most arguably popular misconceptions of all time is the story that Nero played the fiddle while Rome was burning. Hundreds of articles online point out the fact that the fiddle wasn’t invented during that time period and so the entire story is wrongly perceived by many people all over the world. However, what most of these people don’t understand is that the story doesn’t say that he played an instrument as Rome burned down. It merely says that Nero was fiddling while it happened. Many people automatically perceive this story to mean that he was playing the instrument but in reality it’s just a figure of speech.
2) Spartans Murdered Deformed Infants
If you are even slightly interested about history, you would have definitely heard about Sparta and their war against Persia. The Spartans were known for being one of the most courageous warriors of their time. For the longest time, people believed that the Spartans had a harsh system embedded in their culture where they killed any infant who didn’t seem fit to grow up to be a great warrior. The ancient Greek writer Plutarch wrote about Spartan elders deciding whether or not infants would live or die depending on their physical attributes.
However, archaeologists have never been able to find any locations filled with dead babies. If the Spartans indeed had such a ritual, there surely would have been a pit where they left the babies to die. In reality there is no conclusive proof to back up the view that Spartans ever involved themselves in infanticide.
3) John Smith Lying About the Fact That Pocahontas Saved His Life
A lot of people believe that John Smith was lying when he wrote about Pocahontas saving his life so that he could become a part of her legend. However, it’s hard to think that John Smith would ever want to seek fame as he was pretty well known already. He was one of the people who put down the first English settlement in America. With everything we know about him, there is nothing to indicate that he was a liar or was the type of person who wanted to be famous on the expense of others. Judging by our historical record this is another misconception that is wrongly perceived by a lot of people.
4) Et Tu Brute! – Julius Caesar’s Last Words
“Et Tu Brute!” is undoubtedly one of the most dialogues of all time and a lot of people believe that these were Caesar’s last words. Most people who are into history know that this dialogue is actually something that William Shakespeare wrote for his play. But the iconic dialogue caught the attention of the world and through the dissemination of knowledge, the fact that it was a dramatization of the actual last words of Caesar got lost. But here’s the interesting part. The actual quote in recorded history is “Kai, su, teknon?” which roughly translated means, “You too, child?” Some people believe that Caesar said this out of shock while others believe that Caesar was cursing Brutus. Coincidentally Brutus was subsequently assassinated later on. But the reality is quite different.
Nearly 150 years after the death of Caesar, the Roman Suetonius wrote a quote in his book titled, “The twelve Caesars” where he wrote the last recorded words of Julius Caesar. There is no proof whether these were his actual last words or not as it was written almost a century after his death. For all we know, it’s just again a romanticized and dramatic take on the death of one of history’s most powerful conqueror.
5) The Aztecs Were Cannibals Because They Had A Protein Deficiency
The Aztecs used to eat human beings according to recorded history but over the course of time came a theory that they became cannibals because their natural diet was deprived of protein. This popular notion came into being because of Michael Harner who believed that the Aztecs were simply misunderstood. The way people perceived Aztecs changed over time as they accepted the new theory as fact. But later on it was discovered that their diet was in fact filled with various nutrients including protein. The fact that the Aztecs only ate human flesh during the harvest season when food was in abundance only put more doubt in Harner’s theory. In reality, the Aztecs were a race who believed in the ritual of sacrificing and consuming other people for their gods.
6) Jews Came From Egypt
For centuries it was believed that the Jewish people first lived in Egypt and followed Moses in the great Exodus to Israel. According to the story after the death of Joseph, Moses leads them out of Egypt to Mount Sinai where Yahweh appears and tells them that if they follow his commandments and stay true to them, he will give them a new land to live on. But soon their spies report that there are great giants who live in that land and the Israelites refuse to move forward fearing that it might be true. Yahweh is angered by the Israelite’s lack of belief in him and condemns them to live in the desert for a generation.
While history tells an incredible tale, the facts point to a completely different direction. Archaeologists have discovered that there is no conclusive proof to the tale that told us the Jewish people ever lived in Egypt. The only records that speak of such an event are religious ones. However, this theory is especially interesting because neither side have any proof to back up their claim. There are records of Canaanite slaves in Egypt but nothing to state that they were Jewish.