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Eight Historic Lies about the Ancient World that will Blow Your Mind


Dec 22, 2022

Our understanding of the previous is fluid. Fairly often issues we expect we all know concerning the previous grow to be false or extremely distorted. Historians aren’t excellent; typically they make errors, different occasions they outright lie. There’s an extended checklist of historic details that we take without any consideration that aren’t true. Listed here are eight of probably the most generally unfold historic lies which can be nonetheless being repeated immediately.

Historic Lie #1: Jewish Slaves Constructed the Egyptian Pyramids

This is among the oldest and longest-lasting myths on the checklist. The concept slaves constructed the pyramids probably dates again to across the fifth century BC and was solely debunked within the Nineteen Nineties. Two issues that occurred across the identical are answerable for the parable.

First, the E-book of Exodus was accomplished within the fifth century BC. It said that the Israelites have been slaves in Egypt, however made no point out of the pyramids or the Israelites getting used as builders. Second, the Greek historian Herodotus was writing across the identical time that Exodus was completed. In one in every of his works, he claimed that 100,000 slaves have been used to construct the pyramids. He didn’t point out the Israelites in any respect, nevertheless. This didn’t cease later historians from placing two and two collectively and getting 5.

This historic lie lasted for over two and a half millennia. It appeared in class textbooks, and Hollywood films depicted the Egyptians as merciless slave drivers. In 1977, then-Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Start even went so far as to say it was his folks, not the Egyptians, who had constructed the pyramids.

In truth, the Egyptians used skilled builders to construct the pyramids. In 1990, a vacationer stumbled throughout some graves that, because it turned out, belonged to the pyramid builders. Digs have been undertaken, and tombs devoted to the Egyptian residents who had constructed the pyramids have been found.

The best way the builders had been buried, and what that they had been buried with, indicated they have been free males, not slaves. Additional archaeological discoveries proved that the employees had been recruited from low-income communities in historical Egypt and that that they had labored three-month shifts.

It’s believed the Greek historian additionally bought his numbers exponentially improper. It probably took 10,000 builders thirty years to construct the pyramids. Whereas it seems that they died younger, it is probably they lived higher lives as builders than they might have again residence residing in squalor. There isn’t a proof slaves constructed the pyramids.

For hundreds of years, archaeologists have been learning how the Egyptian pyramids have been constructed. We’ve discovered so much, together with that it was skilled builders, not Jewish slaves, who constructed them (NYPL / Public Domain )

Historic Lie #2: Historic Greco-Roman Statues Had been Undecorated

This can be a bizarre one. We’ve recognized for a very long time that sculptures and buildings have been painted with brilliant colours in historical Greece and Rome. Individuals simply selected to disregard it. For the longest time, representations of historical civilizations confirmed them stuffed with white marble and unpainted statues.

That is even supposing archaeologists had been discovering statues that have been stained from paint for hundreds of years. The white marble was simply so clear and exquisite that we mainly determined to disregard proof that that they had as soon as been painted. By the point of the Renaissance, clear white marble had grow to be a logo of Rome, and subsequently, civilization. Early artwork historians went so far as to argue that the sculptures have been alleged to be white, even supposing there was proof of paint left on them.

It was so unhealthy that the statues have been defaced. Statues that have been stained with paint had the paint washed off. The identical went for buildings. The Parthenon in Greece nonetheless had its unique paint till it was eliminated throughout the 18th century.

Worst of all, we had historic texts that described how colourful Roman cities have been. When Pompeii was unearthed, it revealed a Roman Empire that was stuffed with vibrant colours. But for some cause, we have now clung to this concept that every part in Italy and Greece was white and clear, when in truth they have been painted quite garish by immediately’s requirements.

Ancient Rome and Greece were incredibly colorful, although the paint has faded from the statues that have survived. Left: ‘Peplos Kore’, circa 530 BC and Right: Reconstructed in polychrome as Athena (Both by Marsyas / CC BY-SA 2.5)

Historic Rome and Greece have been extremely colourful, though the paint has light from the statues which have survived. Left: ‘Peplos Kore’, circa 530 BC and Proper: Reconstructed in polychrome as Athena (Each by Marsyas / CC BY-SA 2.5 )

Historic Lie #3: Columbus Was Attempting to Show the Earth Was Spherical

There’s a frequent false impression that when Christopher Columbus made landfall in 1492, he needed to show to his compatriots that the Earth was spherical. Additionally it is generally claimed that Columbus struggled to get funding within the first place as a result of potential sponsors have been involved they might lose their funding when Columbus’s ship fell off the sting of the Earth.

Each of those are improper. Individuals had suspected the Earth was spherical for 1000’s of years. Since not less than 600 BC, scientists, philosophers, and mathematicians had been making observations that the Earth was most definitely spherical. Throughout Columbus’s time, educated folks have been nonetheless learning the teachings of the traditional Greeks, and as such, the concept the Earth could also be spherical wasn’t significantly surprising in educated circles.

Quite than believing the Earth was flat , Columbus thought it solely had a really small circumference. He didn’t got down to show something apart from that if he sailed west (quite than east), he would quickly attain China and open up new commerce routes.

He struggled to seek out funding as a result of nobody agreed with him. They merely thought that, in a best-case situation, he’d get misplaced by crusing west quite than east. The worst-case situation? Spherical Earth principle would grow to be improper, and Columbus would sail straight off the sting of the world, with their funding.

The problem was that potential sponsors might have been conversant in the idea the Earth was spherical, nevertheless it was simply that: a principle. Nobody had but sailed the Earth’s circumference. Even those that believed in a spherical Earth lacked the science to elucidate the way it may work, as Isaac Newton and his clarification of gravity have been nonetheless a good distance off. Of their eyes, it simply wasn’t well worth the danger.

This fantasy doesn’t even come from Columbus’s time. It was invented in 1828, when the well-known American writer Washington Irving printed The Life and Voyages of Christopher Columbus . Irving was a greater storyteller than he was a historian. When writing Columbus’s biography, he couldn’t cease himself from making some dramatic thrives, reminiscent of Columbus getting down to show the Earth was spherical. Irving’s readers have been too trusting and took every part within the e book as gospel. From that time onward, it turned an accepted fact and it has taken many years to undo this historic lie.

"Columbus map", drawn circa 1490 in the Lisbon mapmaking workshop of Bartolomeo and Christopher Columbus (Public Domain)

“Columbus map”, drawn circa 1490 within the Lisbon mapmaking workshop of Bartolomeo and Christopher Columbus ( Public Domain )

Historic Lie #4: Columbus Found America

That is one other historic lie that looms giant immediately. It’s generally reported that Columbus was the primary individual to find America. America even has a complete vacation celebrating the day that Columbus supposedly found their nation.

This ignores one necessary truth: When Columbus ‘found’ America, there have been already folks there – a number of them. It’s broadly believed that people first settled on the North American continent 15,000 years in the past on the newest. Sea ranges have been a lot decrease again then, that means all they needed to do was stroll throughout the Bering land bridge that linked Siberia and Alaska.

Up till the Nineteen Seventies, these early settlers have been known as the Clovis peoples . DNA proof immediately connects them to 80% of all indigenous peoples within the USA immediately. There’s even proof that there might have been settlers even sooner than the Clovis folks, however for now, the proof is inconclusive.

So, Columbus was the primary European to find America, proper? Nope. The Vikings beat him to it by not less than 500 years. Archaeological proof of Viking settlers has been discovered on the Canadian island of Newfoundland that reveals the Vikings have been there lengthy earlier than Columbus was.

It’s incredible that the historic lie of Columbus’s ‘discovery’ of America has persisted so long. Columbus enslaved many inhabitants of the West Indies and became the first European slave trader in the Americas. (Public Domain)

It’s unbelievable that the historic lie of Columbus’s ‘discovery’ of America has persevered so lengthy. Columbus enslaved many inhabitants of the West Indies and have become the primary European slave dealer within the Americas. ( Public Domain )

Historic Lie #5: The Historic Romans and Greeks Had been High quality With Homosexuality

This can be a incontrovertible fact that’s no enjoyable to debunk. There’s a frequent false impression that the traditional Greeks and Romans have been way more accepting of homosexuality than many individuals immediately. Sadly, this can be a main oversimplification.

The traditional Greeks and Romans simply had a really totally different understanding of sexuality. Quite than seeing intercourse as a heterosexual versus gay binary, it was seen as dominant versus passive. Merely put, it was solely okay for a person to have gay intercourse if he was the ‘giver’ quite than the ‘receiver’. Moreover, class factored in. It was past scandalous if a person from a decrease class was discovered to be the dominant associate over an upper-class male. In historical Rome, a person from a noble household may have his title and even his citizenship stripped from him if he was discovered to be the passive associate in a gay relationship.

As for ladies, they have been all the time the passive associate. Lesbian sex was frowned upon as a result of it was believed it required one of many girls to take the person’s function as a penetrator, which was an enormous no-no.

The concept Roman excessive society was stuffed with hedonistic intercourse events and orgies has additionally been exaggerated. Whereas it’s true that some Roman leaders, like Caligula, loved hedonistic existence, usually, the Romans significantly disapproved of overindulgence. It was superb for a person to benefit from the firm of the occasional prostitute, or younger male, but when he did it an excessive amount of, there have been dire social penalties.

In brief, historical folks weren’t extra liberal than we’re immediately. They simply had barely totally different beliefs as to what was regular or acceptable. Identical to immediately, there have been usually excessive costs to be paid in case you broke these prudish guidelines.

Male couples at a symposium, as depicted on a fresco in the Tomb of the Diver from the Greek colony of Paestum in Italy (Public Domain)

Male {couples} at a symposium, as depicted on a fresco within the Tomb of the Diver from the Greek colony of Paestum in Italy ( Public Domain )

Historic Lie #6: Jesus was born on December twenty fifth

Christmas Day is among the most necessary days of the 12 months in lots of nations. Christians and non-Christians alike flock collectively to alternate items and luxuriate in Christmas cheer. Sadly, they’re in all probability doing it on the improper day.

If there was a historic determine named Jesus, we don’t know when his birthday was. There’s no biblical cause to rejoice Christmas on December 25th . Actually, the Bible factors in the other way. The Gospel of Luke said that shepherds have been watching their flocks at evening when Jesus was born. Shepherds would solely have been watching their flocks at evening throughout the lambing season in spring. In winter, their flocks would have been corralled.

It appears the most definitely cause the date was chosen is that it comes precisely 9 months after March twenty fifth, the date it’s historically mentioned Jesus was crucified. Early Christians believed Jesus was conceived and killed on the identical date, so it made sense that he can be born 9 months later in December.

Moreover, it suits with the winter solstice, which pagans just like the Romans already celebrated from December seventeenth to December twenty fifth. This competition included all of the hallmarks of Christmas: gift-giving, household time, and partying. When Emperor Constantine converted the Roman Empire to Christianity within the early 4th Century, the Christian church merely appropriated the Roman vacation as Jesus’s birthday. The church did a lot the identical with Easter, which was additionally initially a pagan vacation.

Biblical mentions of shepherds tending their flocks indicate that if there was a historical Jesus, he was likely born in the spring, not in December. Nativity of Jesus by Botticelli, circa 1473 (Public Domain)

Biblical mentions of shepherds tending their flocks point out that if there was a historic Jesus, he was probably born within the spring, not in December. Nativity of Jesus by Botticelli, circa 1473 ( Public Domain )

Historic Lie #7: 300 Spartans Held off the Persians at Thermopylae

Everybody loves an excellent underdog story, and courageous heroes combating towards grave odds. This specific historic lie concerning the Battle of Thermopylae has served to cement the concept the Spartans have been some sort of group of historical tremendous troopers.

It has been erroneously said that 300 Spartans held the Thermopylae cross towards an enormous Persian military led by King Xerxes throughout the Persian invasion of Greece in 480 BC. There have been certainly 300 Spartans on the cross; they simply weren’t alone. They have been backed up by not less than 4,000 allies. This isn’t to say they weren’t vastly outnumbered and doomed; they have been. The story has simply been exaggerated considerably over the centuries.

Another historic lie: While there were 300 Spartans at the Battle of Thermopylae, they were joined by thousands of allies. Leonidas at Thermopylae, painting by Jacques-Louis David, 1814 (Public Domain)

One other historic lie: Whereas there have been 300 Spartans on the Battle of Thermopylae, they have been joined by 1000’s of allies. Leonidas at Thermopylae, portray by Jacques-Louis David, 1814 ( Public Domain )

Historic Lie #8: Cleopatra was Nice Egyptian Magnificence

There are two frequent misconceptions about Cleopatra. First, it’s broadly thought that she was some form of otherworldly magnificence whose seems to be introduced males to their knees. Second, many individuals consider she was Egyptian by start. Each are false.

The concept Cleopatra was some form of seductress has little historic backing. Historic historians principally wrote about Cleopatra’s intelligence and the way expert she was within the artwork of manipulation. It appears historians couldn’t get their heads round a girl who may outsmart her male contemporaries, in order that they put her success all the way down to intercourse.

Cleopatra’s ancestors had fairly a fame for incest. This considerably shallow gene pool meant that Cleopatra’s household dynasty, the Ptolemaic, have been well-known for being a bit of odd-looking. This isn’t to say Cleopatra was described as ugly, however she wasn’t something particular. As Plutarch put it, “her magnificence… was in itself not altogether incomparable, nor reminiscent of to strike those that noticed her.”

She additionally wasn’t Egyptian! The Ptolemaic dynasty hailed from Greece and solely got here to rule Egypt after the reign of Alexander the Nice. The remainder of her household didn’t even converse Egyptian; Cleopatra was the primary in her household to trouble studying the native language. It appears the misperception was intentional on Cleopatra’s half. To cement her maintain on energy, Cleopatra represented herself because the reincarnation of the Egyptian goddess Isis .

While Cleopatra was an impressive ruler, she was probably not the great beauty we see portrayed on screen, after generations of family intermarriage. She may have also been a redhead! (Ángel M. Felicísimo / CC BY SA 2.0)

Whereas Cleopatra was a formidable ruler, she was in all probability not the nice magnificence we see portrayed on display screen, after generations of household intermarriage. She might have additionally been a redhead! (Ángel M. Felicísimo / CC BY SA 2.0 )


Our historians and faculty academics have been mendacity to us for hundreds of years. Most of the ‘historic details’ we frequently parrot to one another are false. Among the historic lies are real misunderstandings, whereas others have barely extra sinister origins.

A few of these false details have had real-world penalties. For instance, when one museum made an precisely painted reproduction of Augustus of Prima Porta, they obtained loss of life threats. Why? As a result of white Nationalists have been outraged that it didn’t match the picture of the traditional civilization they’d centered their twisted beliefs round.

Statue of Augustus of Prima Porta, with pigments reconstructed for the Tarraco Viva 2014 Festival (Marionaaragay / CC BY SA 3.0)

Statue of Augustus of Prima Porta, with pigments reconstructed for the Tarraco Viva 2014 Competition (Marionaaragay / CC BY SA 3.0 )

We will’t belief every part we learn on the web. Generally these historic lies are real errors and misunderstandings, however different occasions they’re propagated by teams with their very own agendas. By altering how we view the previous, they will change how we view the current.

High Picture: These historic lies might change the way in which you view historical past and our world. Supply: photoschmidt / Adobe Inventory

By Robbie Mitchell

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