Fake Facts: 10 Things We Learned in School that Aren’t Exactly True

History isn’t always correct. Sometimes, the things we all know are actually not true. Here are some historical facts we learned in school that, according to the Internet, might not be facts at all. 

History’s Greatest Authors

an open book and quill in an aged looking library surrounded by old books.
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Homer wrote the Greek epics The Odyssey and the Illiad, while Sun Tzu authored The Art of War

But is that true?

Reddit users claim there’s no historical record of either author outside these books, and most were compiled centuries after they supposedly lived. The works are likely compilations from various authors accredited to a single source. 

The Lost Library at Alexandria

An old shelf filled with old and antique looking books.
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We were taught that the fire at the Library in Alexandria destroyed hordes of human knowledge and history. The fire wiped out sacred texts key to our continued growth. 

That’s not entirely true. Although the fire was a devastating loss, many of the texts were copied and sent to other regions, meaning we didn’t lose as much as our teachers made it seem. 

Prima Nocta

Black and white photo depicting a bride and groom at the altar but neither looks happy.
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Prima nocta refers to a practice where the ruling party would claim first rights to a bride on her wedding night, hoping to impregnate her with their child rather than her husband’s. 

The feature film Braveheart thrust the idea into our collective brains, making thousands of people believe this practice regularly took place. However, there’s no solid evidence that prima nocta was used as anything other than propaganda. 

Caesar’s Last Words

Statue of Roman Emporer Julius Caesar.
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The infamous “Et tu, Brute” was written by Shakespeare. No one really knows Caesar’s true last words. 

Napoleon’s Complex

Statue of Napoleon Bonaparte.
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Short men are said to have a Napoleon complex, after the French ruler known for his short stature. Common knowledge states that Napoleon’s obsession with conquering France (and even the world!) stemmed from his insecurity over his height. 

However, Napoleon was of average height for his time. He’s only a little short by today’s standards. 

The Fall of Rome

The ruins of the Roman Colosseum at sunrise.
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Rome fell in 476 AD…or did it? There wasn’t just one fateful day that ended an empire. It slowly decayed for decades. 

The final sack by the Turks in the 1400s is simply something modern historians can look back to and pinpoint. 

Let Them Eat Cake

Marie Antoinette wax figure in Madame Tussauds
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Marie Antoinette’s famous last words were likely never uttered by the unfortunate queen. The French writer Rousseau penned these words in the 1780s when she was just a child, but the unfortunate attribution became a rallying cry against the royal family, leading to her ultimate demise. 

Viking Helmets

Darkscale image of a viking helmet in a nightime forest.
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The common perception of a Viking helm bearing long, terrifying horns probably isn’t accurate. Vikings likely wore more utilitarian and practical helmets, but these artistic displays look great in film. 

Salem Witch Trials

Home of one of the judges in the Salem Witch Trials as part of the tour in Salem, MA.
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Witch trials were seldom about witchcraft, and Salem is no exception. Witch burning typically had a political and patriarchal agenda. Men, threatened by wealthy, powerful, and intelligent women, accused them of witchcraft to get them out of the way and to keep other women in line. 

Artistic Genius

Image of the Statue of David in the Accademia Gallery in Florence. In the image, only the torso and head of Michelangelo's David are shown, and you can see the backdrop of the gallery.
Photo Credit: Ariana Ibarbo via Shutterstock.com.

We often believe that great artists throughout history had some extraordinary genius inaccessible to others. While it’s true they had something most people don’t, that thing wasn’t talent but privilege. 

Most famous artists had the time and money to pursue their crafts. They came from wealthy artisan families who supported the arts. They had free time to develop their skills without worrying about how to feed themselves. 

It makes you wonder how many artistic geniuses, past and present, society missed because they had to work menial jobs to survive. 

A Lot of History is Propaganda – and Still is!

Man with a tv head playing puppet master to a group of smaller people with tvs for heads.
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Propaganda surrounds us. It attempts to sway our thinking in both mundane and critical ways. Here are some examples of propaganda we see every day.

History Abounds with Nuance

Vintage clock or pocketwatch hanging from a pile of old books.
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Have you ever heard the saying that there are three sides to every story, his side, her side, and the truth?

The same is true for everything in history. Nobody knows with any certainty exactly how things went down. We must trust the written records of those who lived it. Unfortunately, many “writers of history” have hidden agendas, unconscious biases, or limited perspectives, but stories from the opposition get lost in the sands of time. 

The Nuance Makes It Fun

Excited woman who looks like she's having fun.
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That’s the fun thing about history, though. There are always new viewpoints to consider and new things to learn about our favorite historical figures. 

Conspiracy Theories That Might Just Be True

Pretty short haired woman with her hand on her chin and a smile on her face as if she's having a happy thought.
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Some conspiracy theories are far more believable than others. Here are some we can get on board with

Meet the Most Famous Scientists in History

A black and white photo of Albert Einstein, one of the most famous scientists in history, in front of a chalk board.
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Science changed the world. These famous scientists helped make our future what it is today

Are We Living in a Simulation?

Vintage computer on a colorful bright pink desk against a bright orange wall.
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The evidence is all around us. Here are the biggest clues that we might be living in a simulation

What’s the Difference between Astronomy and Astrology?

Telescope image of nebulas in the far reaches of a galaxy to represent astronomy vs. astrology.
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One is a hard science, while the other is a belief system. Learn the difference between astronomy and astrology and discover why each holds a valid place in the world. 

Source: Reddit

Author: Melanie Allen

Title: Journalist

Expertise: Pursuing Your Passions, Travel, Wellness, Hobbies, Finance, Gaming, Happiness

Melanie Allen is an American journalist and happiness expert. She has bylines on MSN, the AP News Wire, Wealth of Geeks, Media Decision, and numerous media outlets across the nation and is a certified happiness life coach. She covers a wide range of topics centered around self-actualization and the quest for a fulfilling life.