top 10 history myths truth behind misinterpretations

Mysteries "Polli Verso" in the nineteenth century, by Jean-Léon Gérôme

Published on January 18th, 2014


Top 10 History Myths. The truth behind Misinterpretations!

It’s time to blame the Hollywood movie industry, the media and even some history teachers that have misled and made ​​us misunderstand some of the most important moments in history.

Do not believe everything your friends tell you or what you see in movies or history. Some information was misunderstood and passed on like this over time.

Below, we chose 10 history myths that we expose and identify their origin:

1. How a Roman emperor ordered the death of a gladiator?

Holding the thumb up. Neither the audience nor the king kept their thumbs down when they wanted a gladiator to be killed. In fact, they do not even use the gesture depicted so common in films that of holding the thumbs down.

However, if the individual wanted to be spared, people make another gesture: the thumb held tightly inside the fist.

Gesture I’ve seen lately in movies, and that involves keeping index finger down to indicate death, is inspired by a painting “Polli Verso” in the nineteenth century, by Jean-Léon Gérôme (article photo). The problem was that the artist had misinterpreted the Latin expression “pollice verso”, believing that it means “turned down” when it actually means “turned up”.

2. Where was Marco Polo from?

Not from Venice, but from Croatia.

Marco Polo was born under the name of Marko Pilić in Korcula in 1254 in Dalmatia.

It’s a sure thing that his famous book about travel was largely the work of a novelist named Rustichello da Pisa, with whom he shared a cell after being captured by the Genoese in 1296. It is true that Polo dictated but Rustichello was the one who wrote it in a language Polo did not know, which is French.

3. Where was the guillotine invented?

In Halifax, Yorkshire.

This first guillotine was made up of two wooden plates 4.5 m which was caught between an iron ax controlled by a pulley and a rope. Official sources indicate that at least 53 people were executed during 1286 to 1650 with this machine.

In medieval times, the region was famous for Halifax textile trade. People used to leave large amounts of expensive materials to dry outdoors. The community faced a pretty serious problem: theft textiles. Therefore they resorted to inventing such killing machines.

This, and other Scottish machine called Iron Maiden, apparently inspired by the French who borrowed the system of punishing offenders, rename it.

In fact, the term “guillotine” comes from Dr. Joseph Ignace Guillotin whom disliked terrible public executions. In 1789, he created a plan to reform the French penal system in an attempt to make it more humane. First, he proposed a standardization of penalties, so poor and the rich receive the same penalties for similar acts, the majority of its proposals were rejected, but the one on creating a device that quickly kill them those sentenced to death became popular. So Guillotin’s proposal was adopted by Dr. Antoine Louis, who in 1792 created the first prototype of such a killing machine.

Somehow, Guillotin’s name remained engraved in the collective mind and started killing machine bearing his name, despite the fact that the doctor’s family did not agree.

4. Who said : “Let Them Eat Cake”?

No, it was not Marie Antoinette.

marie antoinette let them eat cake

Perhaps you’ve seen a movie or heard about Queen Marie Antoinette of France, in 1789, the poor of Paris revolted because they had no bread, then the queen said in ignorance that without bread people could eat cake.

The first problem with this scenario is that it was not the cake, but the muffin (Qu’ils mangent de la brioche) which at that time was nothing more than a good bread and not a desert as it is today.

The Queen’s remark may have been an act of kindness, a kind of “if they still want bread, give them one that is of good quality”.

A second problem is that the line didn’t belong to the queen. Jean-Jacques Rousseau was the one who said that he heard it for the first time in 1740.

Antonia Fraser, the most recent biographer of Marie Antoinette, argues that the Queen’s line belonged to Marie-Thérèse, wife of Louis XIV, the “Sun King”.

5. What was the most humiliating defeat for Napoleon?

Everyone knows that defeat at Waterloo was terrible, but it was not the most shameful.

In 1807, after the Treaty of Tilsit, Napoleon was in a good mood and decided to celebrate by hunting rabbits.

The entire event was organized by Alexandre Berthier that had the desire to impress Napoleon. He purchased thousands of rabbits to ensure that those at the Imperial Court will entertain a long time. The problem was that the bought rabbits were domesticated and when they were released they thought they where going to be fed and not shot. So instead of running, they had confused the small man as their master who used to feed them and they all ran towards him. When the crowd saw rabbits running toward him, Napoleon started running towards the carriage.

6. How many wives did Henry the VIII-th have?

Depends what perspective you look. Most people say there were only 2, but if you’re Catholic, you believe that he had four wives.

His marriage to Anne of Cleves was annulled two reasons. First, Anne was betrothed to Francis, Duke of Lorraine, and in those days, engagement constitute a legal barrier that does not allow a person engaged to be married to someone other than the one to whom it had promised. Secondly, the two never consummated the marriage.

Then there was Henry ‘s marriage to Anne Boleyn which was declared illegal even by the Pope, because the king was still married to his first wife Catherine of Aragon.

Later, things get even more complicated because Henry, who led the Church of England declares the first marriage to be invalid on the ground that a man can not sleep with his brother’s widow.

Therefore, the number of wives depends on the person who we trust, the Pope or the King.

Do not forget that Henry himself wanted to cancel his marriage to Anne Boleyn even before executing her for adultery.

They did the same thing with the fifth marriage. It was canceled after Catherine Howard accused of treason.

7. What the ancient Romans like to wear?

Sandals can even wreaths of laurel leaves , but in no case togas . Basic Toga was a semicircle of undyed wool. It was so thick that it took two people to assist in putting it on an individual. Moreover, for the toga to sit on the body and not fall, the individual was forced to go with one of the hands always bent. As a result of this, most Romans hated togas.


People wore togas to show that they were Romans, they are men and, very importantly, that they are citizens.

Historian Suetonius told that when Emperor Augustus noticed a group of men who walked through the city in practical and casual clothes, got angry and decreed that toga is mandatory in the Forum.

Also, because the toga was not a practical clothing item, it wasn’t worn on the battlefield and thus became a symbol of peace. Foreigners and slaves were not allowed to wear the toga, and women wearing such a garment were either prostitutes or adulterers.

8. What happens to people who were accused of witchcraft in medieval England?

They were killed even if they were found not guilty, in extreme cases, they were hanged, not burned.

According to Malcolm Gaskill, who wrote the book “Witchfinders” about those who hunt witches in the seventeenth century, tells us that it is wrong to say that millions of women accused of witchcraft were burned at the stake between 1450 and 1750.

Like many other contemporary historians, he believes that the number of those executed was about 40,000 and that a quarter of the people were men.

In England it seems that there were only 200 executions as a result of most individuals accused of witchcraft and were hanged. More specifically, here, between 1440 and 1650, in every century, only a witch was burned at the stake. Margery Jordemaine was burned on October 27, 1441, Isabella Billington was hanged and then burned in 1650 and Isabel Cockle, in 1596.

Scots, French, Germans and Italians used to burn at the stake magicians, but not alive, only after they where hanged.

9. When did the Second World War end?

In 1990.

Though hostilities ended with the surrender of Japan on September 2, 1945, the Cold War stayed in the way of a legal agreement. In 1950 they were signed peace treaties with Italy, Romania, Hungary, Bulgaria and Finland. Then, in 1950, all NATO countries, and not the USSR, signed the peace treaty with Japan. Austria also waited until 1955 to regain sovereignty.

However, Germany was divided between the western powers and the Soviet Union, and there was no peace treaty with the German Democratic Republic.

Thus, the first celebration of German reunification on October 3, 1990, marked the official termination of the Second World War.

10. Was Cleopatra an Egyptian?

Cleopatra was part of the Ptolemaic dynasty, a family of Greek origin that ruled Egypt after Alexander the Great.

Her family refused to speak Egyptian and Cleopatra was the first who dared to learn.

It is likely that many have drawn the wrong conclusion, that Cleopatra was an Egyptian, because she had to pose as the reincarnation of the goddess Isis.

About the Author

top 10 history myths truth behind misinterpretations 1

, editor of Discovery-Zone. News portal for science, technology, nature and travel that aims to be the largest site to popularize science and general knowledge. Discovery-Zone brings daily news of science, investigates and analyses the controversial inventions or discoveries of the past century. Find us on Google+

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