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The 20 Greatest Historical Myths, Part 1
It is said that those who don’t know history are condemned to repeat it – and as any history buff can tell you, much of history is something you would NOT want to repeat. However, many well-known historical “facts” are myths, with no basis in fact. Here (and in the next few segments) are 20 of the most common, which have misled and misinformed people for years, decades, or centuries.
If more people knew the facts, a few of the great history-makers would be recognized (anyone heard of Ub Iwerks?), some famous people would stop taking so much credit, and we would stop blaming apples for everything! Let’s start with the following misconceptions…
20. Eve ate a bad apple
An apple a day might keep the doctor away, but they have still had bad publicity as the “forbidden fruit” that Eve tasted in the Garden of Eden, thereby making life difficult for all of us. Yet nowhere in the biblical story of Adam and Eve is an apple mentioned. It is simply called “the fruit of the tree that is in the middle of the garden” (Genesis 3:3). OK, it COULD have been an apple, but it might just as well have been an apricot, a mango, or any other sort of fruit.
19. Newton was hit by an apple
Apples continued to get bad press with the famous story that scientist Sir Isaac Newton was under a tree, minding his own business, when an apple fell on his head. Just as well it provided him the inspiration for the laws of gravity, or the poor apple would never be forgiven! But while the falling apple is a good story, it probably never happened. The story was first published in an essay by Voltaire, long after Newton’s death. Before that, Newton’s niece, Catherine Conduitt, was the only person who ever told the story. It was almost certainly an invention.
18. Walt Disney drew Mickey Mouse
One of the world’s most famous fictional characters, Mickey Mouse, is credited to Walt Disney. However, Mickey was the vision of Disney’s number one animator, Ub Iwerks. Disney, never a great artist, would always have trouble drawing the character who made him famous. Fortunately for him, Iwerks was known as the fastest animator in the business. He single-handedly animated Mickey’s first short film, Plane Crazy (1928), in only two weeks. (That’s 700 drawings a day.) But give some credit to Disney – when sound films began later that year, he played Mickey’s voice.
17. Marie Antoinette said “Let them each cake”
In 1766, Jean Jacques Rousseau wrote of an incident he recalled from some 25 years earlier, in which “a great princess” (name unknown) was told that the country people had no bread. “Then let them eat cake,” she replied. When Rousseau wrote of this, Marie Antoinette was an 11-year-old child in Austria. The French Revolution would not begin for another 23 years. The myth that she spoke these infamous words was probably spread by revolutionary propagandists, to illustrate her cold indifference to the plight of the French people.
In the next chapter of this list, we uncover a tall tale about Napoleon, and find out how witches did NOT die, whatever you might have heard…
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