According to Business Insider, we can blame Hollywood, the media, and even history teachers for perpetuating certain totally ridiculous or unfounded “facts” about history.
1. Jewish slaves didn’t build the pyramids.
This popular myth reportedly stems from comments made by former Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin when visiting Egypt in 1977, according to Amihai Mazar, professor at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.
“No Jews built the pyramids because Jews didn’t exist at the period when the pyramids were built,” Mazar told the AP.
Recent archaeological finds actually show that Egyptians built the pyramids themselves.
“The myth of the slaves building pyramids is only the stuff of tabloids and Hollywood,” Dieter Wildung, a former director of Berlin’s Egyptian Museum, told the AP. “The world simply could not believe the pyramids were build without oppression and forced labor, but out of loyalty to the pharaohs.”
2. Cleopatra wasn’t Egyptian.
Cleopatra belonged to the Ptolemaic dynasty, a family of Greek origin that ruled Egypt after Alexander the Great. Her family actually refused to speak Egyptian, and she was the first to learn the language.
The misconception about her nationality may have arisen from the way she represented herself in public — as the reincarnation of Isis, an Egyptian goddess.
3. Vikings didn’t wear horned-helmets.
Archaeological evidence doesn’t show any evidence of horned-helmets. Death sites instead tell us most Viking warriors went bare-headed or wore leather headgear, according to The History Channel.
This popular, albeit false, image of burly men striding into battle with horns apparently dates back to the 1800s, when Swedish artist Gustav Malmstrmstems included the imagery in his work. Some of Wagner’s operas also included costumes with horned-helmets.
4. Christopher Columbus didn’t discover America.Columbus struck land in the Caribbean and also explored Central and South America, but he never set foot on North America. Nonetheless, the U.S. celebrates Columbus Day every year.
Also, thinkers as far back as Pythagoras, a Greek mathematician in the sixth century B.C., knew the world was round. Columbus even supposedly planned his trip using a copy of Ptolemy’s “Geography,” which included theories about the world’s spherical shape.
5. The Pilgrims didn’t host the first Thanksgiving.
First of all, the Pilgrims ate numerous meals for giving thanks before the one typically cited as the origin of our modern holiday. Also, Spaniards in Florida celebrated a similar event in 1565, well before the Pilgrims in 1621 (indeed, historians don’t know if the legendary 1621 dinner even happened.
It’s also not clear what the Pilgrims ate at this famous dinner. Some accounts put venison on the table — though it’s not surprising that roasting turkeys caught on more than the much larger and more complicated deer.
While we’re on the subject, Abraham Lincoln didn’t make Thanksgiving a national holiday until 1863 — on the last Thursday of every November. But wait, we used to celebrate Turkey Day on the third Thursday, right? President Roosevelt moved the holiday in 1939 to make the period between Thanksgiving and Christmas just a little longer, giving people more time to shop, thus boosting the economy. Congress later changed it back.
6. Napoleon Bonaparte wasn’t short.
Well, at least he wasn’t as short as we think. Yes, Napoleon stood at 5 feet 2 inches — in pre-French Revolution units — but that’s about 5 feet 6 inches in U.S. measurement. That’s taller than the average male height in France at the time of 5 feet 5 inches.Napoleon may have earned the name “Le Petit Caporel” (The Little Corporal) affectionately. Still, we use the term “Napoleon Complex” to refer to small men with inferiority problems.
7. Marie Antoinette didn’t say, “Let them eat cake.”
Jean-Jacques Rousseau wrote in his novel, “Confessions,” that “a great princess” spoke these inconsiderate words. While many assume he was referring to the famous Marie Antoinette, however, there is no evidence to support this claim.
Noted biographer Lady Antonia Fraser attributed the quote to another French princess: “[Let them eat cake] was said 100 years before her by Marie-Thrse, the wife of Louis XIV. It was a callous and ignorant statement and she, Marie Antoinette, was neither.”
The quote — or something like it — had been previously attributed to many royals, dating back to Emperor Hui of Jin in Zizhi Tongjian.
8. Paul Revere never yelled, “The British are coming!”
First of all, Paul Revere needed to keep his knowledge of the Brits’ arrival on the down-low. British troops had already camped out across the Massachusetts countryside, according to The History Channel. Also, the colonists still considered themselves British. If anything, Paul Revere probably told people on a need-to-know basis about the “regulars” — the colonists’ term for British soldiers.
9. George Washington didn’t have wooden teeth.
Washington did have horrifically bad teeth. He even wore multiple sets of dentures throughout his life made of ivory, gold, and lead — but not wood, according to the organization that runs Washington’s famed estate, Mount Vernon.
Washington did love his port though. The burgundy-colored drink may have stained his teeth, making them appear brown and grainy, like wood.
10. Albert Einstein didn’t fail math.
Einstein actually excelled at math from a young age. The rumors that he couldn’t adequately solve an equation started on “Ripley’s Believe It Or Not.”
In his book, “Einstein: His Life And Universe,” Walter Isaacson wrote about Einstein’s response to the Ripley’s claim: “I never failed in mathematics. Before I was 15 I had mastered differential and integral calculus.”
Einstein’s matriculation certificate, received at the age of 17, even shows the highest marks, a “6,” in Algebra and Geometry.