History class offered us a glimpse into the past, painting pictures of ancient civilizations, world-changing events, and influential figures. Yet, there’s a wealth of untold stories and overlooked facts that didn’t make it into our textbooks. In this article, we’re highlighting 23 things your history teacher never taught you in school.
Napoleon’s Height Was Actually Above Average
Napoleon Bonaparte, often referenced for his purported short stature, was, in reality, approximately 5’6″, which was standard for Frenchmen of his era. This misconception arose due to differences in measuring units between France and England, making the French emperor seem shorter than he truly was.
The Great Wall of China Isn’t Visible from Space
The widely accepted notion that the Great Wall of China is visible from space with the naked eye is a myth. Astronauts and space agencies have consistently reported that specific details like the Great Wall are not visible without the aid of optical instruments. Scientific American reports “Although the Great Wall spans some 4,500 miles (7,200 kilometers), it’s constructed from materials that make it difficult to discern from space.”
Benjamin Franklin Wanted the Turkey as Our National Bird
Benjamin Franklin, a founding father known for his wit and wisdom, had once expressed a preference for the turkey as the United States’ national symbol. While the bald eagle was ultimately chosen, exploring alternate symbols considered provides insight into the nation’s formative discussions and decisions.
Cleopatra Wasn’t Egyptian
Cleopatra, the last active ruler of the Ptolemaic Kingdom of Egypt, was of Greek descent. According to the History Channel “While Cleopatra was born in Egypt, she traced her family origins to Macedonian Greece and Ptolemy I Soter, one of Alexander the Great’s generals. Ptolemy reigned Egypt after Alexander’s death in 323 B.C., and he launched a dynasty of Greek-speaking rulers that lasted for nearly three centuries.”
Vikings Wore Caps, Not Horned Helmets
Popular culture often depicts Vikings with horned helmets. However, historical evidence does not support this image. It’s more likely that Vikings wore leather or metal helmets without horns, which would have been more practical for combat and daily life.
Julius Caesar Wasn’t Born via C-Section
Though it’s a common belief that Julius Caesar was born via a C-section, historical records don’t necessarily support this. The etymology of “Caesarean” is debated, but its Latin origin “caesus” means “cut.”
Columbus Didn’t Discover America
While Christopher Columbus is often credited with discovering America, it’s now widely acknowledged that Norse explorer Leif Erikson reached the continent around 500 years earlier. This challenges the traditional narrative and showcases the complexities of exploration history.
The Myth Of George Washington’s Wooden Teeth
Contrary to popular legend, George Washington’s dentures were not made of wood. Instead, they were crafted from a combination of materials including gold, ivory, and lead. Dental technology of the time was rudimentary, and Washington’s dental issues were a constant challenge throughout his life.
The Iron Maiden Wasn’t a Medieval Torture Device
While the Iron Maiden is often depicted as a medieval torture device, historical records suggest that it was likely a 19th-century creation. Its macabre design seems to have been more of a spectacle than a functional tool in the Middle Ages.
Slaves didn’t build the Pyramids
It’s a widely held belief that slaves built the Egyptian pyramids. However, archaeological evidence indicates that the workforce was composed of well-treated laborers, possibly fulfilling a form of national service.
Marie Antoinette Never Said “Let Them Eat Cake”
The phrase “Let them eat cake” is commonly attributed to Marie Antoinette. However, there’s no concrete evidence linking her to the statement. Instead, it may have been used as a symbol of aristocratic indifference during a time of significant societal unrest.
The Ninjas’ All-Black Ensemble is a Movie Myth
Movies and literature frequently showcase ninjas in all-black attire. However, historical evidence suggests that real ninjas would wear disguises to better blend into their surroundings, rather than a uniform outfit.
Lady Godiva Didn’t Ride Naked
The tale of Lady Godiva’s naked ride through Coventry to protest taxes is more legend than fact. Most historians believe the story was a later addition, intended to convey a moral message or to enhance her reputation.
Richard III Wasn’t a Hunchback
Recent archaeological findings dispute the portrayal of Richard III as a hunchback. Shakespeare’s portrayal of Richard III characterized him with a pronounced hunchback. However, recent archaeological findings show that while he had scoliosis, it was unlikely to have been as exaggerated as depicted in the play.
Salem Witches Weren’t Burned at the Stake
The accused witches of Salem, Massachusetts, were not burned at the stake. Most of those found guilty were hanged, while others died in prison. Burning was a more common fate for accused witches in Europe, which has possibly led to this confusion.
Napoleon Fought the Battle of Waterloo in Belgium, Not France
The Battle of Waterloo is often associated with France due to Napoleon Bonaparte’s pivotal role in this historic conflict. However, the actual location of the battle was in present-day Belgium, near the town of Waterloo. Occurring on June 18, 1815, this battle marked the end of the Napoleonic Wars.
People in the Middle Ages Didn’t Think the Earth Was Flat
The belief that inhabitants of the Middle Ages thought the Earth was flat is incorrect. Many scholars from that time, including those in the early Christian church, understood that the Earth was spherical.
No One Wore Pure White Togas in Ancient Rome
Contrary to the popularized image of ancient Romans adorned in pure, snowy white togas, historical evidence paints a more nuanced picture. Most togas of that era were actually of a natural wool color, ranging from off-white to a light beige. This variation was not only a result of the natural color of the wool but also practical considerations.
King Arthur Might Have Been a Roman Officer
The legendary King Arthur, while deeply rooted in British folklore, might have been inspired by a Roman military leader. Various theories link Arthurian tales to Roman history, adding layers of complexity to his legend.
The “Wild West” Wasn’t That Wild
Contrary to sensationalized portrayals, the American “Wild West” was not as violent and chaotic as often depicted. Most inhabitants were settlers, farmers, and tradespeople aiming to establish communities rather than the outlaws of popular fiction.
The Declaration of Independence Wasn’t Signed on July 4
While July 4th, 1776, marks the adoption of the Declaration of Independence, the actual signing did not occur until August 2nd. The earlier date commemorates the resolution of independence, which was a precursor to the formal document.
Spartans Weren’t That Spartan
Archaeological findings indicate that the Spartans, known for their austere lifestyle, Artefacts uncovered from ancient Sparta showcase intricate jewelry, decorated weaponry, and elaborate ceramics, painting a picture of a society that valued beauty and craftsmanship alongside military prowess.
The Cultural Significance of Cats in Ancient Egypt
The ancient Egyptians held cats in great reverence, attributing them with protective qualities and associating them with divinity. Evidence suggests that killing a cat, even accidentally, was met with severe consequences, underlining their esteemed position in society.
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