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There are some historical facts that we just love to talk about.


They humanize the faraway past by reminding that the human beings of long ago are humans all the same, full of petty flaws, shocking capacities for selfishness, and very weird traditions.

But those fun historical facts, though popular for their surprising nature, are actually not true at all. Perhaps that's why they were so surprising in the first place.

A recent list on Reddit showed that a head-scratching historical face may be stunning for a reason.

Here's to exercising healthy skepticism the next time someone drops one of these at a party.

doggies_keeper asked, "What historical fact sounds truthful but is actually false?"

A Grotesque Imagination

"The Iron Maiden was a medieval torture device."

"As far as I recall, the concept was created by a rich old crazy man in the late 1800s for a display and it sort of worked its way into the public consciousness."

"But it was never used as a torture implement, medieval or otherwise."

-- I-Euan

Stranger Than Fiction

"I'm from the UK and I have a Aussie friend who couldn't believe that Sherlock Holmes was fictional and that 'Jack the Ripper' was a real person. If you think about it, it makes sense."

"A shrouded, invisible slasher prowling the streets of London (who's identity to this day is a mystery) is a real historical figure..."

"...and a man who investigates and solves real crimes who's address is known and who actually has a real statue outside of a tube station in London is a character made up in a fictional series of novels."

-- BlueLegiion

Vomit Them Out

"Vomitoriums were places for Romans to vomit during feasts so they could continue eating."

"They were actually just entrances/exits to amphitheatres." -- Lucaanis

"I've heard it said that the Colosseum in Rome could empty in 15-20 minutes. This was amazing design." -- displaced_virginian

Collective Will is the True Variable 

"Electric cars are pretty recent technology."

"Actually, around 1900 about 30% of cars were electric. New York even had a grid of public charging stations." -- MeltingDog

"It is astounding how much engineering has been (rightly) justified by gasoline's simple energy density advantage."

"The internal combustion engine has been refined for more than a century, and even now is orders of magnitude more complex, expensive, and fragile than an electric motor... but it runs on gasoline and that's enough." -- aetius476

Smear Campaign

"Napoleon wasn't short. He was average height." -- thedudeisalwayshere

"For his time, it was even a bit more than average!" -- Taurock

"It was pretty much propaganda by the British. His personal guards were all big guys too, so gave the appearance of him being shorter." -- tunkerz

Get This Straight 

"The 1989 Tiananmen Square protests were peaceful and the 'Tank man' standing in front of the tank was the highlight of the protests."

"In reality somewhere between 300 and 10,000 students were massacred."

-- gimmieasammich

What Was Nero Like?

"Nero playing the fiddle as Rome burned"

"1.) That instrument hadn't been invented yet, and wouldn't be for centuries."

"2.) Even if you swapped it out with a lyre, historical sources disagree on Nero's true character (as they do for many emperors)."

"He might have actually done all he could to save as many lives as possible during the fire (e.g. opening the gates of his imperial gardens, so people trapped in the cramped urban space had somewhere to evacuate to)"

-- AdvocateSaint

And Tour Guides Have Been Dealing With It Ever Since 

"Marie Antoinette said, 'let them eat cake.'"

"Actually, she didn't, and this is such a widely accepted mistake, that when you take a tour of Versailles one of the first things your tour guide will tell you, unprompted, is 'and no, Marie Antoinette did not say let them eat cake, please stop spreading this lie.'"

-- Aniosophy

A Hodge Podge of All Things Not Calcium 

"George Washington's teeth..."

"Despite many people believing they were made of wood, they contained no wood. They were actually made of slave teeth, as well as other materials such as hippopotamus ivory, brass, or gold."

-- boffohijinx

Wildly Impractical 

"That Vikings had horns on their hats. That was invented by the Victorians." -- GLaDOS815

"If they did have horns, they wouldn't be very useful. They're just a target to knock your hat off, or if it's strapped on, a lever to chop your head off." -- BlueManedHawk

Don't Over-Analyze It 

"In brothels in Ancient Rome and Pompeii they had picture over the doors to show what the prostitute was offering."

"Nah, they were just sexy pictures guys."

-- BadlyDrawnRomans

Not Rude, Poisonous

"Putting your elbows on the dinner table is considered rude, but it traces back to 19th century British copper mining."

"Miners would come home for dinner and, by putting their elbows on the table while eating dinner, transfer copper ore residue to the table."

"That residue would then make its way to other surfaces, particularly dishware and cutlery, and the members of the household would eventually ingest toxic levels of copper, leading to illness and death."

-- 0xD153A53

Not At All Consensual 

"'Romans were openly accepting of gay relationships and sex.'"

"The homosexual acts that occurred during the time were by men of a higher status forcing themselves onto slaves and underage boys."

"It wasn't a sexual utopia by any means and was based on toxic ideals of hyper masculinity, slavery, and class."

-- WastedA**Potential

Nope, They Kept the Boobs 

"That Amazon warriors cut off their breasts in order to shoot a bow. Like that's even necessary."

"That came from someone saying the word was Greek in origin, and jamming together 'a' (without) 'mazos' (breasts). Except the word isn't even Greek. It's suspected to come from an Iranian compound."

-- whereisyourlavendar

Cities All of Wood

"The statement that pre-Columbian USA was made entirely of hunter-gatherers."

"Nope. In some parts they farmed corn, built pyramids and had a city that was once bigger than London. The reason why you don't see so much of it today is because wood doesn't preserve very well."

-- sega31098

Thanks, Hollywood

"General Sherman set the whole of Atlanta on fire after occupying it. The reality is Sherman took the city, kicked everyone out, and before he left ordered the business district burned and anything of military or logistical value destroyed."

"In fact, the popularized image of Atlanta burning given to us by Hollywood via Gone With the Wind was actually from Confederate General John B. Hood's destruction of 80 railcars of ammunition as they retreated."

"The reality is, Atlanta did not burn down, only parts of it. And it wasn't entirely of Sherman's doing. Not that facts or historical accuracy are a large part of the southern narrative for the war, anyway."

-- DrForrester87

Anglo Saxons Have a Great PR Team 

"Vikings were dirty stinky barbarians and Anglo Saxons were very clean like you see in all the tv series.'"

"It was actually the other way around by the standards of those days cause Vikings would bathe once a week and Anglo Saxons would only bathe once a year."

"We also know that vikings had things like combs for their hair and beards and would bleach their hair in winter to kill of things like lice because washing in winter would be a damn sight colder."

-- Yordleranger

Read the Name!

"Christopher Colombus discovered America."

"Probably the ultimate hoax in american history. Outside of, obviously, the people already on the continent, he'd been beaten by the vikings and Amerigo Vespucci who has actually set foot on the continent (instead of the Carabibbean) and literally put his name on it to call dibs"

-- Taurock

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