1. The people alive today outnumber those who have died throughout history
There is something reassuring about this belief but unfortunately, it’s not true. Even the most conservative estimates for the age of the earth bill the pyramids as a “late” event. Millions, if not billions, of people died prior to that and even our current global population – despite great efforts from numerous overpopulated countries – cannot keep up.
2. Jesus was born on Christmas Day
The winter solstice was an important festival for the ancient Romans and it was celebrated between December 17 and 25. Its traditions were similar to ours today with gift-giving, time with family, many parties and much fun. The Church later appropriated it as a parallel holiday to celebrate Jesus’s birth. As for when the historical Jesus was actually born, most scholars believe it was between 6 and 3 BC in the months between spring and fall.
3. Christopher Columbus was the first European to discover America
Leaving aside that he thought it was India, it is believed by historians that the Norse missionary Lief Erickson was the first European who landed on the shores of Canada, five hundred years before Columbus stepped foot in the Bahamas. In case you were wondering, Erickson didn’t intend to discover America either. He was trying to get to Greenland. (He eventually did and became King.)
4. Most men in the colonial era wore wigs
Some of them did because it’s true that wigs and powdered hair were considered fashionable. But only about 5% of the population followed the trend. Wigs were way too expensive for most people and so they were mostly worn by lawyers, statesmen and rich women.
5. Cleopatra was beautiful
She seduced two of ancient Rome’s most powerful men, after all. But no, she wasn’t. Images of Cleopatra have been found on ancient coins and they show her with decided features and a hooked nose. What we do know is that she had so much charm, she didn’t need beauty. The writer Plutarch said of her:
“For her beauty, as we are told, was in itself not altogether incomparable, nor such as to strike those who saw her; but [to] converse with her had an irresistible charm, and her presence, combined with the persuasiveness of her discourse and her character…had something stimulating about it.”
6. Napoleon was short
And given his immense vanity, how annoyed he would have been at the popularity of this myth. Although Napoleon’s height was famously recorded as 5”2’, it was measured in French units (the English equivalent is 5’7”). He was actually slightly above the average height for a Frenchman at the time.
7. The Salem witch trials burned people at the stake.
Not that the fate of the twenty women condemned to die was pleasant by any means – nineteen of them were hanged. And another was pressed to death. Ouch.
8. Marie Antoinette said “Let them eat cake.”
According to legend, the Queen of France upon hearing that people were starving and had no bread, said, “Let them eat cake.” She was beheaded a few months later. Unfortunately, this is not supported by facts or recorded testimony. And even though the queen was ridiculously extravagant, there is testimony to her being generous to charity.
9. The Holocaust killed 6 million Jews
Well, yes it did. But it also killed another 5 million people – communists, Polish intelligentsia, homosexuals, the disabled and more. That’s nearly 12 million people executed (though actual figures are probably higher) while America stood by and watched – for an uncomfortably long time.
10. “Xmas” was used by atheists to remove “Christ” from “Christmas”
On the contrary. The word “Xmas” has been traced back to 1021. British monks used it as an abbreviation. “X” stands for the Greek letter chi and so in Greek, “X” is the starting letter for the word “Christ”.