David Aaron Gray

"Don't believe everything 
you hear on the radio"
- Charles Foster Kane

David Aaron Gray (Blog)

Some Great Historical Myths

Posted by davidaarongray on January 21, 2013 at 2:00 AM

Sherlock Holmes never said “Elementary, my dear Watson”

The fictional English sleuth never said these words (at least not in any of the works written by Conan Doyle). The first use by Sherlock Holmes himself is believed to have appeared in an early 20th Century film, and consequently never penned in any form by Conan Doyle.


Abner Doubleday Never Created Baseball

This myth has been widely spread since 1907 and even today is sometimes presented by such people as Major League Baseball commissioner Bud Selig. The fact is that there exists no record of Civil War General Abner Doubleday having anything to do with baseball. Somewhat humorously, the only real reference to Doubleday concerning sports appeared in his obituary in 1893, which stated he was a man “who did not care for outdoor sports.”

Vikings Never Wore Horned Helmets

The general misconception that Viking warriors wore horned helmets was partly promulgated by the 19th-century enthusiasts of the Götiska Förbundet, founded in 1811 in Stockholm, Sweden. They promoted the use of Norse mythology as the subject of high art and other ethnological and moral aims.


No Apple Was Eaten in the Garden of Eden

In the biblical account, neither Adam, nor Eve ever ate an apple, which refers only to ‘forbidden fruit’ of which the Lord said, “Ye shall not eat of the fruit which is in the midst of the garden, neither shall ye touch it, lest ye die” Genesis 3:3.

Some believe it was an apricot or pomegranate and the Muslims (in the Koran) refer to the fruit as a banana.

Marie Antoinette Never said "Let them Eat Cake"

As famous as she is for hav­ing proclaimed, "Let them eat cake," when she heard that the peasants were starving from the dearth of bread, Marie Antoinette actually never said it. The expression comes from Jean-Jacques Rousseau's "Confessions," a treatise penned in the late 18th century. When the book was first published in 1782, Marie Antoinette was 10 years old under her mother's care in Austria.


Nero did not "fiddle" during the Great Fire of Rome

Nero, who was the Roman Emperor during the Great Fire of Rome (64 AD) never "fiddled" (violins had not yet been invented, nor was he playing the lyre while his city burned). In fact, according to Roman historian Tacitus, upon hearing news of the fire, Nero rushed back to Rome to organize a relief effort, which he paid for from his own funds, and he also opened his palaces to provide shelter for the homeless, arranging for food supplies to be delivered in order to prevent starvation among the survivors. Finally, he made a new urban development plan that attempted to make it more difficult for fires to spread.

Napoleon Bonaparte was not in fact especially short

The myth that he was short stems primarily from the fact that he is listed as 5 feet 2 inches tall at the time of his death. However, this is 5 feet 2 inches in French units. In modern international units, he was just shy of 5 feet 7 inches. Now I know what you're thinking, 'that's still kind of little for a dude.' That may be slightly true by modern day standards in certain places in the world. However, at the time in France, the average height for an adult male was just under 5 feet 5 inches in modern international units. So in fact, he was quite tall for his day.

Categories: Correcting the Historical Record

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