20 Historical Myths Everyone Believes

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The many historical myths that everyone believes are varied and cross multiple cultures, but are typically not entirely factual. Either through gossip or misdirection, many historical myths are upheld for a lot of reasons.

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“Let them eat cake!”

As one of the many historical myths that everyone believes, this one doesn’t check out. It’s indeed been attributed to Marie-Antoinette, but scholars have deduced that semantics is why this statement doesn’t make sense. Plus, the quote predates her, as many claim.

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Vikings wore horned helmets

It’s not tough to realize that this historical myth comes from the violent and often destructive raids that the Vikings were known for. But the horned helms that are attributed to them were not their creation and were not typical to see in the overall culture.

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Thomas Edison deserves credit for the lightbulb

There’s no need to take anything away from this historical myth. But the truth is that Edison packaged the materials into a lightbulb, he didn’t create it.

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The trains ran on time because Mussolini said so.

Do you want to know why this appeared so impressive after WWI? Mussolini, instituting one of the most pervasive historical myths, figured out how to show the ‘important’ people the best parts of something he claimed credit for while blinding them to the real issues with the Italian railroad network. Politicians…oy.

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Jesus was born on December 25th. 

It’s tough to convince people that this isn’t the case since for generations they’ve heard this over and over. It’s possible, but scholars have stated that it’s also not likely.

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Witches were burned at the stake

Brutal as this is, and it was without a doubt, those accused of witchcraft were hanged first. Many were never burned, though in Scotland they were burned after death.

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Coca-Cola made up Santa Claus

This is easily debunked considering that St. Nicholas is considered the beginning of this legend. Coke created a pleasing image that people still enjoy, but even a giant such as Coca-Cola can only do so much.

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Albert Einstein wasn’t smart. 

As historical myths go, this one gives some people hope. But the fact is that Einstein’s rise to genius level has more to do with his learning style than anything.


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Columbus discovered America

It’s easy to state that indigenous tribes discovered the Americas long before Columbus. But while that’s true, he didn’t even land on the shore of the Americas to start with.

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The highway is Hitler’s invention.

Despite what the Nazis claimed, the first real inspiration for the autobahn came in 1932. The mayor of Cologne came up with the idea, but Hitler was great at stealing ideas.

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Hitler also created the atom bomb. 

It’s not hard to debunk some historical myths. The Germans talked a good game but had nothing even close to this level of destruction in their arsenal.

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Nero fiddled while Rome burned

First, the violin wasn’t invented for over a thousand years later. Second, Nero was despised to start with and was the perfect scapegoat for Rome’s woes.

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Bishops questioned if women had souls.

This myth feels like something that someone spread due to hatred, gossip, or something just as ludicrous. Otherwise, how could women have undergone baptism and acceptance into religion?

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Lords had the right to sleep with their servants’ wives

This myth was continued for generations and even featured in pop culture. Unfortunately, rumor doesn’t make something true, but it does make for a great story that too many people are willing to believe.

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Napoleon Bonaparte was short. 

One has to recall that the average height for men and women does change. Back in Napoleon’s time, his supposed height, 5’6″, was above-average. Today it’s considered short, but back then, he was considered normal.

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George Washington had wooden teeth.

It’s too easy to think that a document or two would exist describing the pain he felt if he’d had wooden dentures. But what does exist is the fact that such devices were not made of wood.

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The 1929 Crash caused many suicides.

Amazingly, there were no documented suicides during the Crash. The suicide rate climbed in the years prior, but much like our Y2K, it was the hype that led nowhere.

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The Spanish flu came from Spain. 

Amazingly enough, the Spanish flu originated in America, in Kansas no less. But there were outbreaks in Spain, even if it didn’t start there.

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Manhattan was sold for $24. 

It’s kind of like trying to interpret measurements from the Bible, it’s tough to know what each measurement corresponds to. But the likelihood is that the cost was in the thousands. Back then, that was still a lot of money.

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Magellan circled the world.

It’s easy to claim that the guy had lofty goals and was set to achieve them. But unfortunately, he died about halfway into his trip.


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