It is said that those who don’t know history are condemned to repeat it - and as any history buff can tell you, much of history is something you
would NOT want to repeat. However, many well-known historical “facts” are myths, with no basis in fact. Here (and in the next few segments) are 20
of the most common, which have misled and misinformed people for years, decades, or centuries. If more people knew the facts, a few of the great
history-makers would be recognised (anyone heard of Ub Iwerks?), some famous people would stop taking so much credit, and we would stop blaming apples
for everything! Let’s start with the following misconceptions…
20. Eve ate a bad apple
An apple a day might keep the doctor away, but they have still had bad publicity as the “forbidden fruit” that Eve tasted in the Garden of Eden,
thereby making life difficult for all of us. Yet nowhere in the biblical story of Adam and Eve is an apple mentioned. It is simply called “the fruit
of the tree that is in the middle of the garden” (Genesis 3:3). OK, it COULD have been an apple, but it might just as well have been an apricot, a
mango, or any other sort of fruit.
19. Newton was hit by an apple
Apples continued to get bad press with the famous story that scientist Sir Isaac Newton was under a tree, minding his own business, when an apple fell
on his head. Just as well it provided him the inspiration for the laws of gravity, or the poor apple would never be forgiven! But while the falling
apple is a good story, it probably never happened. The story was first published in an essay by Voltaire, long after Newton’s death. Before that,
Newton’s niece, Catherine Conduitt, was the only person who ever told the story. It was almost certainly an invention.
18. Walt Disney drew Mickey Mouse
One of the world’s most famous fictitious characters, Mickey Mouse, is credited to Walt Disney. However, Mickey was the vision of Disney’s number
one animator, Ub Iwerks. Disney, never a great artist, would always have trouble drawing the character who made him famous. Fortunately for him,
Iwerks was known as the fastest animator in the business. He single-handedly animated Mickey’s first short film, Plane Crazy (1928), in only two
weeks. (That’s 700 drawings a day.) But give some credit to Disney - when sound films began later that year, he played Mickey’s voice.
17. Marie Antoinette said “Let them each cake”
In 1766, Jean Jacques Rousseau wrote of an incident he recalled from some 25 years earlier, in which “a great princess” (name unknown) was told
that the country people had no bread. “Then let them eat cake,” she replied. When Rousseau wrote of this, Marie Antoinette was an 11-year-old
child in Austria. The French Revolution would not begin for another 23 years. The myth that she spoke these infamous words was probably spread by
revolutionary propagandists, to illustrate her cold indifference to the plight of the French people.
16. The Great Train Robbery was the first feature film
When it was released in 1903, “The Great Train Robbery” pioneered several techniques, includes jump cuts, medium close-ups and a complex
storyline. But the first feature film? It was only ten minutes long! Even most short films are longer than that. The first feature-length film was a
100-minute Australian film, “The Story of the Kelly Gang”, released three years later. Even if you think of a feature film as the “feature” of
a cinema program, the title would go to one of a number of French films made during the 1890s (but I won’t name one, as that could cause any number
15. Van Gogh sliced off his ear
Van Gogh is known as the archetypal starving artist, only selling one painting in his lifetime, and - in a quarrel with Gauguin - slicing off his ear,
not long before committing suicide. Though he did face a tragic end, and his own paintings sold poorly, it is worth noting that he spent most of his
life teaching and dealing art. He only spent eight years of his life painting, which helps to explain why he didn’t starve to death. Also, he
didn’t slice off his entire ear, just a portion of his left lobe. Painful, but not nearly as bad as you might have thought.
14. Witches were burned at stake in Salem
The Salem (Massachusetts) witch trials of 1692 led to the arrests of 150 people, of whom 31 were tried and 20 were executed. But just as these trials
were based on ignorance, there are many misconceptions about them. For starters, the 31 condemned “witches” were not all women. Six of them were
men. Also, they were not burned at stake. As any witch-hunter would know, a true witch could never be killed by this method. Hanging was the usual
method - though one was crushed to death under heavy stones.
13. Napoleon was a little corporal
Some people believe that Napoleon’s domineering ambitions were to compensate for being so physically small. Not so. True, Napoleon was called Le
Petit Corporal (”The Little Corporal”), but he was 5 feet, 7 inches tall - taller than the average eighteenth-century Frenchman. So why the
nickname? Early in his military career, soldiers used it to mock his relatively low rank. The name stuck, even as he became ruler of France.
12. King John signed the Magna Carta
The Magna Carta (Great Charter) is known as a landmark in history, limiting the power of the King of England and sowing the seeds of democracy.
Paintings show King John reluctantly signing the Magna Carta in a meadow at Runnymede in 1215. Fair enough, except for one thing. As well as being a
rogue, John was probably illiterate. As anyone could see from looking at one of the four original Magna Cartas in existence, he simply provided the
royal seal. No signature required.
11. Walter Raleigh introduced potatoes and tobacco to England
Sir Walter Raleigh - explorer, courtier, privateer - Is one of greatest myth figures ever to come from England. Virtually every reason for his fame is
untrue. Was he handsome? According to written accounts, he was no oil painting - though somehow he charmed Queen Elizabeth I, and had a reputation as
a ladies’ man. Did he lay his cloak across a puddle so that the Queen could step on it? No, that was pure fiction. Most importantly, he didn’t
return from his visit to the New World (America) with England’s first potatoes and tobacco. Though Raleigh is said to have introduced potatoes in
1586, they were first grown in Italy in 1585, and quickly spread throughout Europe (even across the English Channel). Also, though people all over
Europe blame Sir Walter for their cigarette addictions, Jean Nicot (for whom nicotine is named) introduced tobacco to France in 1560. Tobacco spread
to England from France, not the New World.
10. Magellan circumnavigated the world
Everyone knows two things about Portuguese explorer Ferdinand Magellan. One, he was the first man to circumnavigate the world; and two, during this
historic trip, he was killed by natives in the Philippines. Of course, those two things tend to contradict each other. Magellan only made it half-way
around the world, leaving it to his second-in-command, Juan Sebastian Elcano, to complete the circumnavigation.
9. Nero fiddled while Rome burned
We all know the story of mad Emperor Nero starting the Great Fire of Rome in 64 AD, then fiddling while the city burned. However, this would have been
impossible. For one thing, the violin wouldn’t be invented for another 1,600 years. OK, some versions of the story suggest that he played a lute or
a lyre - but then, scholars place the emperor in his villa at Antium, 30 miles away, when the fire began. Though he was innocent of this disaster,
however, there is much evidence to show that he was ruthless and depraved.
[edit on 18-8-2009 by phi1618]
[edit on 18-8-2009 by phi1618]