11 Events You Were Taught In School That Never Actually Happened

#1: The First Thanksgiving, never happened that way

Every November, classrooms across the United States come alive with images of Pilgrims and Native Americans sharing a harmonious feast, marking the origins of Thanksgiving. However, as the years pass and historical scholarship evolves, it becomes increasingly clear that the traditional narrative of the First Thanksgiving, as taught in schools, is far from accurate.

The conventional portrayal of the First Thanksgiving paints a picture of peaceful coexistence between Pilgrims and Native Americans, with both groups coming together to celebrate a bountiful harvest. However, this depiction glosses over the grim realities of colonization and the violent displacement of Indigenous peoples.

In truth, the arrival of the Pilgrims in 1620 marked the beginning of a devastating period for Native American communities. European diseases, warfare, and forced assimilation decimated Indigenous populations, making it difficult to imagine a scene of conviviality and shared abundance.

Central to the myth of the First Thanksgiving is the portrayal of Native Americans as passive participants in the Pilgrims’ story. However, Indigenous peoples had their own rich cultures, traditions, and histories long before the arrival of European settlers.

Contrary to popular belief, the Wampanoag people, who are often depicted as welcoming hosts at the First Thanksgiving, had complex relationships with the Pilgrims. While there were instances of cooperation and trade between the two groups, these interactions were often fraught with tension and power imbalances.

To understand the true significance of the First Thanksgiving, one must reckon with the broader context of colonization and its lasting repercussions. The arrival of European settlers in North America led to the displacement of Indigenous peoples from their ancestral lands, the suppression of their languages and cultures, and the imposition of foreign systems of governance.

The First Thanksgiving, far from being a simple celebration of gratitude, was a microcosm of the unequal power dynamics at play during this period. It was not a gathering of equals but rather a moment shaped by colonialism and its profound injustices.

As we confront the myth of the First Thanksgiving, it is essential to rethink how we commemorate this holiday. Rather than perpetuating a sanitized version of history, we should strive to honor the resilience and resistance of Indigenous peoples.

This includes amplifying Indigenous voices, acknowledging the ongoing impact of colonization, and supporting efforts to reclaim and preserve Indigenous cultures and traditions. It also means fostering genuine understanding and reconciliation between Native and non-Native communities.

The story of the First Thanksgiving, as taught in schools, is a myth that obscures more than it reveals. By unpacking the complexities of this historical event, we can begin to confront the legacy of colonization and work towards a more inclusive and truthful understanding of our shared past.

As we gather with loved ones to give thanks each November, let us also reflect on the lessons of history and commit ourselves to building a future grounded in justice, respect, and solidarity. Only then can we truly honor the spirit of Thanksgiving and the diverse tapestry of cultures that enriches our nation.

#2: Columbus did not discover America

For centuries, Christopher Columbus has been celebrated as the intrepid explorer who “discovered” America. However, a closer examination of historical evidence reveals a more nuanced and complex truth. Columbus did not discover America in the traditional sense of the word. In Fact, he never stepped foor in what is known as America, but rather landed in what is known today as Barbatos. Instead, he stumbled upon lands that were already inhabited by diverse Indigenous peoples who had thriving civilizations long before his arrival.

Contrary to popular belief, the Americas were not empty wildernesses waiting to be discovered by European explorers. In fact, the Americas were home to advanced civilizations, including the Maya, Aztec, and Inca, who had developed sophisticated societies with complex political structures, impressive architectural achievements, and rich cultural traditions.

These civilizations had thriving economies, extensive trade networks, and profound scientific and artistic accomplishments. From the towering pyramids of Mesoamerica to the intricate irrigation systems of the Andes, the indigenous peoples of the Americas had built remarkable civilizations that flourished for thousands of years before Columbus set foot on their shores.

While Columbus is often credited with being the first European to reach the Americas, historical evidence suggests otherwise. In fact, Norse explorers, led by Leif Erikson, established a settlement in present-day Newfoundland, Canada, around the year 1000 AD, nearly 500 years before Columbus’s voyage.

The Viking settlement at L’Anse aux Meadows provides compelling evidence of European exploration in North America long before Columbus’s famous journey. While the Norse presence in the Americas may have been brief and limited in scope, it nonetheless challenges the notion of Columbus as the discoverer of the New World.

Perhaps the greatest fallacy perpetuated by the myth of Columbus’s discovery is the erasure of Indigenous peoples from the narrative. Long before Columbus’s arrival, Indigenous peoples had been living, thriving, and exploring the Americas for thousands of years.

From the Inuit of the Arctic to the Mapuche of South America, Indigenous peoples had developed deep connections to their lands, honed intricate knowledge of their environments, and established complex social and cultural systems. They were the true discoverers of America, navigating its rivers and coastlines, charting its landscapes, and building civilizations that shaped the course of history.

While Columbus may not have been the first to reach the Americas, his voyages had profound and far-reaching consequences. Columbus’s arrival in the Caribbean marked the beginning of a brutal era of conquest, colonization, and exploitation that decimated Indigenous populations, destroyed cultures, and reshaped the world.

The legacy of Columbus’s voyages includes the introduction of European diseases that ravaged Indigenous communities, the imposition of forced labor systems that exploited Indigenous peoples for profit, and the erasure of Indigenous languages, religions, and traditions.

As we reconsider the myth of Columbus’s discovery, it becomes clear that the true significance of his voyages lies not in the act of exploration itself, but in the consequences that followed. Columbus’s “discovery” of America was not a moment of triumph, but rather the beginning of a tragic chapter in history marked by colonization, exploitation, and violence.

Moving forward, it is essential to redefine our understanding of discovery and celebrate the contributions of Indigenous peoples who have shaped the Americas for millennia. This includes acknowledging the injustices inflicted upon Indigenous communities, supporting efforts to preserve and revitalize Indigenous cultures, and fostering genuine dialogue and reconciliation between Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples.

The myth of Columbus as the discoverer of America has long overshadowed the rich and complex history of Indigenous peoples and their civilizations. By challenging this myth and centering Indigenous perspectives, we can begin to reckon with the true legacy of Columbus’s voyages and the ongoing impact of colonization on Indigenous communities.

As we reflect on the history of the Americas, let us honor the resilience, strength, and wisdom of Indigenous peoples who continue to shape the world today. Only by acknowledging the truths of the past can we build a more just and equitable future for all.

#3: Ben Franklin was a notorious Puffer (making shit up) and never actually flew a kite with a key in a Thunderstorm

Benjamin Franklin is often hailed as one of America’s greatest thinkers and inventors, credited with a myriad of accomplishments, including his famous kite experiment. According to popular legend, Franklin flew a kite with a key attached during a thunderstorm, proving the electrical nature of lightning. However, a closer examination of historical evidence suggests that this iconic event may be more myth than reality

The story of Franklin’s kite experiment has become deeply ingrained in the collective consciousness, perpetuated through textbooks, children’s books, and popular culture. According to the popular narrative, Franklin, curious about the nature of lightning, constructed a kite with a silk string, a key, and a Leyden jar (an early form of capacitor). During a thunderstorm in June 1752, he flew the kite into the clouds, where it attracted lightning. The key conducted the electrical charge down the string and into the Leyden jar, providing evidence of lightning’s electrical properties.

However, the historical record surrounding the kite experiment is surprisingly sparse. Franklin himself never published an account of the experiment, and the only written evidence of it comes from a letter he wrote to Peter Collinson, a fellow scientist in England, in October 1752. In the letter, Franklin describes his intentions to conduct the experiment but provides few details about its execution.

One of the most significant challenges to the authenticity of the kite experiment is the absence of contemporary documentation. Despite Franklin’s prolific writings and correspondence, there are no detailed accounts or diagrams of the experiment in his papers. Furthermore, none of Franklin’s contemporaries, including Collinson, mentioned the experiment in their own writings until years later.

Historians have also pointed out the practical challenges and risks associated with flying a kite in a thunderstorm. The use of a metal key, in particular, would have posed a significant danger to Franklin, as it could have attracted a lightning strike directly to him. Given Franklin’s meticulous approach to scientific inquiry, it seems unlikely that he would have taken such unnecessary risks without careful planning and preparation.

The enduring popularity of the kite experiment story speaks to the larger phenomenon of mythologizing historical figures and events. Franklin’s reputation as a pioneering scientist and statesman has contributed to the elevation of his status to near-legendary proportions. The kite experiment, whether fact or fiction, has become emblematic of Franklin’s ingenuity and curiosity, reinforcing his image as a quintessential American hero.

However, by perpetuating myths like the kite experiment, we risk distorting our understanding of history and obscuring the true achievements of figures like Franklin. Rather than focusing on sensationalized anecdotes, we should strive to appreciate Franklin’s genuine contributions to science, politics, and society, which are more than deserving of recognition in their own right.

Whether or not Franklin conducted the kite experiment as commonly believed, his legacy as a pioneering thinker, inventor, and statesman endures. By critically examining historical myths and separating fact from fiction, we can gain a deeper understanding of the complexities of the past and appreciate the true achievements of historical figures like Benjamin Franklin.

#4: Jesus was not born on December 25th

The celebration of Christmas on December 25th has been a cornerstone of Christian tradition for centuries. However, recent scholarship and historical analysis challenge the notion that Jesus was born on this date. Instead, evidence suggests that Jesus’s birth likely occurred in the spring.

For generations, December 25th has been synonymous with Christmas, the annual celebration of Jesus’s birth. The choice of this date can be traced back to early Christian efforts to Christianize pagan festivals, particularly the Roman celebration of Saturnalia and the birthday of the sun god, Sol Invictus. By adopting December 25th as the date of Jesus’s birth, church leaders sought to provide a Christian alternative to these popular pagan celebrations.

However, the selection of December 25th was not based on historical evidence but rather on symbolic and strategic considerations. As a result, the tradition of celebrating Christmas on this date became entrenched in Christian practice, despite its lack of biblical support.

The New Testament provides limited information about the timing of Jesus’s birth. The Gospels of Matthew and Luke, which recount the nativity story, offer few clues regarding the specific date of Jesus’s birth.

Matthew’s Gospel mentions the visit of the Magi, or wise men, who followed a star to Bethlehem to honor the newborn king of the Jews. However, the Gospel does not provide a precise date for this event, nor does it mention December 25th or any other specific day.

Similarly, Luke’s Gospel describes the birth of Jesus in Bethlehem and the announcement to the shepherds by angels. Again, no specific date is mentioned, and the Gospel does not provide any clues as to the time of year when Jesus was born.

To understand the timing of Jesus’s birth, it is important to consider the historical and cultural context in which he lived. Scholars believe that Jesus was likely born during the reign of Herod the Great, who ruled Judea from 37 to 4 BCE.

One key piece of evidence supporting a spring birthdate for Jesus is the account of shepherds tending their flocks in the fields at night. In first-century Judea, shepherds would not have been in the fields during the winter months, as the weather would have been too cold for grazing. Instead, shepherds typically kept their flocks in the fields from spring to autumn, making a spring birthdate more plausible.

Additionally, the Gospel of Luke mentions that Jesus’s parents traveled to Bethlehem to register for the census ordered by Caesar Augustus. Historical records indicate that Roman censuses were typically conducted in the spring or early summer, further supporting the idea of a spring birthdate for Jesus.

While the evidence supporting a spring birthdate for Jesus is compelling, some scholars have proposed alternative theories regarding the timing of his birth. One theory suggests that Jesus may have been born in the fall, during the Jewish festival of Sukkot, or the Feast of Tabernacles. This theory is based on the Gospel of John, which mentions Jesus attending the Feast of Tabernacles shortly before his crucifixion.

Regardless of the exact date, what is clear is that Jesus’s birth occurred within the broader historical and religious context of first-century Judea. His message of love, compassion, and redemption transcends any specific date or time of year.

The reevaluation of Jesus’s birthdate has important implications for Christian faith and practice. While the tradition of celebrating Christmas on December 25th may remain deeply ingrained in Christian culture, it is important for believers to recognize that this date is not based on historical fact but rather on cultural tradition.

By embracing a more historically accurate understanding of Jesus’s birth, Christians can deepen their appreciation for the rich tapestry of biblical and historical scholarship that informs their faith. Rather than fixating on the date of his birth, let us focus on the significance of Jesus’s incarnation and the timeless message of hope, love, and salvation that he brings to the world.

#5: George Washington never chopped down a cherry tree

The story of George Washington confessing to chopping down a cherry tree, famously declaring, “I cannot tell a lie,” has become ingrained in American folklore. However, historical evidence suggests that this iconic anecdote may be more fiction than fact.

The tale of George Washington and the cherry tree first appeared in “The Life of Washington,” a biography written by Parson Mason Locke Weems in 1806, several years after Washington’s death. According to Weems’s account, a young George Washington received a hatchet as a gift and, in a fit of curiosity, chopped down his father’s cherry tree. When confronted by his father, Washington admitted to the deed, declaring, “I cannot tell a lie.”

Weems’s biography was widely read and circulated in the years following its publication, cementing the cherry tree story as part of the popular image of George Washington. The anecdote was intended to illustrate Washington’s honesty, integrity, and moral character, virtues that were deemed essential for the fledgling nation’s first president.

Despite its enduring popularity, the story of George Washington and the cherry tree is not supported by contemporary evidence. None of Washington’s own writings or correspondence mention the incident, nor do the accounts of his family, friends, or associates.

Furthermore, historians have noted inconsistencies and embellishments in Weems’s biography, suggesting that it may have been more concerned with promoting a heroic image of Washington than with presenting an accurate historical record. Weems, a clergyman and bookseller, was known for his colorful storytelling and moralizing tone, leading some scholars to question the reliability of his biographical accounts.

In the absence of contemporary evidence, some historians have proposed alternative theories regarding the origin of the cherry tree myth. One possibility is that the anecdote was inspired by similar stories from classical literature or folklore, which often featured moral lessons about honesty and integrity.

Another theory suggests that the cherry tree story may have been a fabrication intended to humanize Washington and make him more relatable to the American public. In the early years of the Republic, Washington was venerated as a national hero, and his image was carefully crafted to inspire loyalty and patriotism. The cherry tree anecdote, with its emphasis on Washington’s humility and honesty, may have served to reinforce this idealized image.

The perpetuation of the cherry tree myth in American culture reflects a broader tendency to romanticize and mythologize historical figures. George Washington, as the first president of the United States and a symbol of the nation’s founding ideals, has been the subject of countless myths, legends, and biographical embellishments over the years.

While these stories may serve to inspire and uplift, they also risk distorting our understanding of history and obscuring the complexities of Washington’s character and legacy. By critically examining the cherry tree myth and other apocryphal anecdotes, we can gain a more nuanced appreciation of Washington’s contributions to American history and society.

#6: The Star Spangled Banner has nothing to so with the Revolutionary War

“The Star-Spangled Banner,” with its soaring melody and stirring lyrics, is widely regarded as the national anthem of the United States. However, many Americans may not realize that the song’s origins have little to do with the Revolutionary War, the era typically associated with America’s struggle for independence.

Contrary to popular belief, “The Star-Spangled Banner” was not inspired by the Revolutionary War but rather by the War of 1812, a conflict between the United States and Great Britain. The song’s author, Francis Scott Key, was a prominent lawyer and amateur poet who witnessed a pivotal moment in American history during the Battle of Baltimore in 1814.

During the Battle of Baltimore, British forces bombarded Fort McHenry, a strategic stronghold defending the city. Key, who had been sent to negotiate the release of American prisoners held by the British, watched anxiously from a nearby ship as the battle raged on. As dawn broke on September 14, 1814, Key was relieved to see the American flag still flying proudly over Fort McHenry, signaling the fort’s successful defense against the British assault.

Inspired by the sight of the flag waving in the early morning light, Key penned the lyrics to what would become “The Star-Spangled Banner.” Originally titled “Defence of Fort M’Henry,” the poem celebrated the resilience and patriotism of the American defenders and captured the spirit of national pride that characterized the War of 1812.

Although Key’s poem gained immediate popularity as a patriotic rallying cry, it was not until much later that it became associated with the national anthem of the United States. In the decades following the War of 1812, “The Star-Spangled Banner” was set to various popular tunes, including “To Anacreon in Heaven,” an English drinking song.

It was not until the late 19th and early 20th centuries that “The Star-Spangled Banner” began to be officially recognized as the national anthem of the United States. In 1916, President Woodrow Wilson signed an executive order designating the song as the national anthem for military and naval ceremonies. Then, in 1931, Congress passed a resolution officially recognizing “The Star-Spangled Banner” as the national anthem of the United States.

Despite its belated adoption as the national anthem, “The Star-Spangled Banner” quickly became ingrained in American culture, symbolizing the values of freedom, resilience, and patriotism. Its stirring melody and evocative lyrics have inspired generations of Americans and served as a source of pride and unity during times of national challenge and triumph.

While “The Star-Spangled Banner” has become synonymous with American patriotism, its origins are often misunderstood or overlooked. Contrary to popular belief, the song was not born out of the Revolutionary War but rather out of a later conflict, the War of 1812.

Understanding the true origins of “The Star-Spangled Banner” allows us to appreciate the song’s historical context and significance more fully. It reminds us that the spirit of patriotism and national pride embodied in the anthem transcends any single historical event or era and speaks to the enduring values and ideals of the American people.

#7: The Battle of New Orleans did not decide the War of 1812, since it was already over before the battle even started

The Battle of New Orleans, fought in January 1815, is often portrayed as a decisive moment in the War of 1812, solidifying American victory and shaping the course of history. However, a closer examination of the war’s timeline reveals that the conflict had already ended before the battle took place.

The War of 1812, fought between the United States and Great Britain, arose from a combination of grievances, including British impressment of American sailors, trade restrictions, and British support for Native American resistance to American expansion. The conflict, which began in June 1812, saw a series of military engagements on land and sea, including battles along the Canadian border, naval skirmishes on the Great Lakes, and British raids along the Atlantic coast.

Despite some early successes, including the capture of Detroit and the burning of Washington, D.C., American forces faced significant challenges throughout the war. The British blockade of American ports stifled trade and economic growth, while Native American allies of the British inflicted heavy casualties on American settlers in the western territories.

By late 1814, both the United States and Great Britain were growing weary of the costly and inconclusive conflict. Negotiations for peace began in August 1814 in Ghent, Belgium, and continued for several months. Despite initial setbacks and disagreements, diplomats from both sides eventually reached a tentative agreement.

The Treaty of Ghent, signed on December 24, 1814, officially ended the War of 1812 and restored prewar borders and conditions. The treaty did not address many of the issues that had sparked the conflict, such as impressment and trade restrictions, but it effectively halted hostilities and allowed both nations to return to a state of peace.

While diplomats were negotiating the Treaty of Ghent, American and British forces continued to clash on the battlefield. On January 8, 1815, British troops launched a major assault on American positions near New Orleans, Louisiana. Led by Major General Andrew Jackson, the American defenders repelled the British assault in a stunning victory that boosted American morale and secured Jackson’s reputation as a national hero.

Despite its significance as a symbolic triumph, the Battle of New Orleans did not alter the outcome of the War of 1812. By the time the battle took place, the Treaty of Ghent had already been signed, effectively ending the conflict. News of the treaty’s ratification reached the United States in February 1815, just weeks after the battle, further underscoring the fact that the war had concluded before the Battle of New Orleans was fought.

In light of these historical facts, it is clear that the Battle of New Orleans did not decide the outcome of the War of 1812. While the battle remains a celebrated moment in American history, its impact on the course of the war was largely symbolic rather than strategic.

The Battle of New Orleans did, however, have important ramifications for American national identity and mythology. Jackson’s decisive victory bolstered American pride and confidence, serving as a potent symbol of American resilience and determination in the face of adversity. The battle’s legacy continues to be commemorated in American culture, literature, and music, including the popular folk song “The Battle of New Orleans” by Johnny Horton.

#8: Betsy Ross did not create the US Flag

Betsy Ross is often celebrated as the seamstress who crafted the first American flag, a symbol of the nation’s unity and independence. However, historical evidence suggests that the story of Betsy Ross and the creation of the US flag may be more myth than reality.

According to popular tradition, Betsy Ross, a Philadelphia seamstress, was approached by George Washington and other members of the Continental Congress in 1776 to create a flag for the newly formed United States. Allegedly, Ross suggested alterations to the design, including the addition of stars in a circle pattern, which became the iconic symbol of the American flag.

The story of Betsy Ross and the flag gained prominence in the 19th century, thanks in part to the efforts of Ross’s descendants to promote her legacy. In 1870, Ross’s grandson, William Canby, presented a paper to the Historical Society of Pennsylvania recounting the tale of his grandmother’s involvement in flag-making. The story was later popularized in children’s books, textbooks, and patriotic literature, solidifying Ross’s status as an American icon.

Despite its widespread acceptance, the story of Betsy Ross and the flag is not supported by concrete historical evidence. There are no contemporary accounts or documents that confirm Ross’s involvement in creating the first American flag. In fact, the earliest known mention of Ross’s role in flag-making dates to Canby’s 1870 paper, more than 90 years after the purported event.

Furthermore, there is no consensus among historians regarding the origin of the American flag design. The flag adopted by the Continental Congress in 1777, known as the “Stars and Stripes,” featured 13 stars and 13 stripes, representing the original 13 colonies. The design is believed to have been inspired by earlier colonial flags, military banners, and patriotic symbols.

In the absence of concrete evidence linking Betsy Ross to the creation of the US flag, some historians have proposed alternative theories regarding its origin. One theory suggests that Francis Hopkinson, a signer of the Declaration of Independence and a member of the Continental Congress, played a significant role in designing the flag. Hopkinson is known to have submitted bills to Congress seeking compensation for his design work, including one for the flag.

Another theory posits that the flag design may have been a collaborative effort involving multiple individuals, including military leaders, politicians, and artisans. The design of the flag may have evolved over time, with contributions from various sources reflecting the changing ideals and aspirations of the new nation.

The story of Betsy Ross and the flag serves as a reminder of the power of myth and folklore in shaping historical narratives. While the tale may have originated with good intentions, its perpetuation as historical fact obscures the complexities of history and diminishes the contributions of other individuals who played a role in shaping American identity.

By reevaluating historical myths like the Betsy Ross legend, we can gain a more nuanced understanding of the past and appreciate the diverse array of voices and perspectives that have shaped American history. Rather than clinging to simplistic narratives that uphold certain figures as heroes, we should strive to uncover the truth and acknowledge the complexities of historical events.

#9: Nero didn’t play the fiddle while Rome burned

tory of Nero playing the fiddle while Rome burned is one of the most enduring and widely recognized tales from ancient history. However, historical evidence suggests that this iconic anecdote may be more myth than reality.

The legend of Nero playing the fiddle, or lyre, while Rome burned has its roots in ancient accounts of the Great Fire of Rome, which occurred in July of AD 64. According to popular tradition, Nero, the emperor of Rome at the time, was indifferent to the devastation wrought by the fire and instead amused himself by performing music on a musical instrument, often depicted as a fiddle or lyre.

The earliest known reference to Nero’s alleged fiddling during the Great Fire of Rome comes from the historian Tacitus, who wrote about the event in his “Annals” several decades after it occurred. Tacitus describes how rumors circulated that Nero had set the fire himself and then watched the destruction from his palace while singing and playing the lyre. However, Tacitus himself casts doubt on these rumors, noting that Nero was not even in Rome at the time of the fire but rather in his villa at Antium.

The Great Fire of Rome, which raged for six days and seven nights, was a catastrophic event that caused widespread destruction throughout the city. The fire is believed to have started in the area around the Circus Maximus, possibly as a result of accidental causes such as a cooking fire or a lightning strike.

The exact extent of Nero’s involvement in the fire remains a matter of debate among historians. While some ancient sources, including Tacitus, suggest that Nero may have had ulterior motives for the fire, such as clearing land for a grandiose building project, others dismiss these claims as unfounded speculation. The majority of modern historians believe that Nero did not deliberately start the fire but rather took swift action to organize relief efforts and provide assistance to the victims.

Despite the lack of concrete evidence linking Nero to the fire, the myth of Nero playing the fiddle while Rome burned has persisted for centuries. The image of Nero as a tyrannical and callous ruler who reveled in the suffering of his subjects has become deeply ingrained in popular culture, perpetuated through literature, art, and media portrayals.

However, a closer examination of the historical record reveals a more nuanced and complex picture of Nero’s reign. While Nero was certainly not without flaws and his reign was marked by political intrigue and violence, he also implemented significant reforms and initiatives aimed at improving the welfare of the Roman people. Nero’s patronage of the arts and his efforts to promote cultural and architectural projects have left a lasting legacy that continues to influence Western civilization to this day.

The perpetuation of the Nero fiddle myth in popular culture reflects a broader tendency to simplify and sensationalize historical events and figures for entertainment purposes. By reducing Nero to a caricature of villainy and excess, we risk distorting our understanding of the complexities of ancient history and overlooking the nuances of Nero’s reign.

As we continue to reassess and reinterpret the past, it is important to critically examine the sources and narratives that shape our understanding of history. Rather than perpetuating myths and stereotypes, we should strive to uncover the truth and appreciate the multifaceted nature of historical events and individuals.

The myth of Nero playing the fiddle while Rome burned has captured the imagination of generations, but its historical accuracy remains a subject of debate. While the legend may persist in popular culture, the evidence suggests that Nero’s role in the Great Fire of Rome was far more complex and nuanced than the myth would suggest.

By critically examining the historical record and reassessing our assumptions about ancient history, we can gain a deeper understanding of the complexities of Nero’s reign and the events that shaped the Roman Empire. In doing so, we can move beyond simplistic narratives and appreciate the rich tapestry of human experience that defines our shared past.

#10: An Apple never fell on Isaac Newton’s head

The tale of Sir Isaac Newton’s encounter with a falling apple, which purportedly inspired his groundbreaking theory of gravity, is one of the most enduring legends in the history of science. However, historical evidence suggests that the story of the apple falling on Newton’s headnever really happened.

According to popular tradition, the young Isaac Newton was sitting beneath an apple tree in his family’s garden when he was struck by a falling apple. This seemingly mundane event purportedly led Newton to ponder the forces of nature and ultimately inspired his formulation of the law of universal gravitation, one of the cornerstones of modern physics.

The story of Newton and the falling apple first appeared in the writings of William Stukeley, a friend and biographer of Newton, who recounted the anecdote in his “Memoirs of Sir Isaac Newton’s Life” published in 1752, nearly half a century after Newton’s death. Stukeley described how Newton, reflecting on the fall of the apple, was inspired to develop his theory of gravity, which he famously articulated in his seminal work, “Philosophiæ Naturalis Principia Mathematica,” published in 1687.

Despite its widespread acceptance, the story of the falling apple lacks corroborating evidence from contemporary sources. There are no accounts from Newton himself or from his contemporaries that mention the apple incident as the catalyst for his theory of gravity. In fact, Newton’s own writings on the subject make no mention of the apple or any specific anecdote related to its fall.

Instead, the true story behind Newton’s discovery of gravity is more complex and nuanced than the popular legend would suggest. Newton’s interest in the forces of motion and celestial mechanics was sparked by his studies of mathematics and physics at Cambridge University, where he developed a keen interest in the works of earlier scientists such as Galileo and Johannes Kepler.

Newton’s breakthrough came not from a single revelatory moment but from years of meticulous observation, experimentation, and mathematical analysis. His theory of gravity was the culmination of years of research and reflection, drawing on insights from astronomy, optics, and mechanics.

Newton himself described the process of discovery in his “Principia,” writing, “I deduced that the forces which keep the planets in their orbs must [be] reciprocally as the squares of their distances from the centres about which they revolve.” This elegant formulation, known as Newton’s law of universal gravitation, provided a unified explanation for the motion of celestial bodies and laid the foundation for modern physics.

The perpetuation of the Newton’s apple myth reflects a broader tendency to romanticize and simplify the history of science. By reducing complex scientific discoveries to catchy anecdotes and dramatic anecdotes, we risk oversimplifying the scientific process and overlooking the contributions of countless researchers and thinkers who have advanced our understanding of the natural world.

As we reassess and reinterpret the stories that shape our understanding of scientific history, it is important to critically examine the evidence and separate fact from fiction. While the story of Newton and the falling apple may capture the imagination, it is the rigor and intellectual curiosity of scientists like Newton that truly drive progress and innovation in science.


#12: Suspected witches weren’t burned at the stake in Salem

The Salem Witch Trials of 1692 are among the most infamous events in American history, marked by accusations of witchcraft, mass hysteria, and tragic executions. However, contrary to popular belief, suspected witches were not burned at the stake in Salem.

In the winter of 1692, the town of Salem, Massachusetts, was gripped by a wave of hysteria and paranoia as accusations of witchcraft spread throughout the community. The trials began when several young girls, including Betty Parris and Abigail Williams, exhibited strange behavior and claimed to be bewitched. Their accusations soon led to the arrest and interrogation of several local residents, mostly women, suspected of practicing witchcraft.

Over the course of se
Methods of Execution:veral months, dozens of individuals were accused of witchcraft and brought to trial before a special court convened to hear the cases. The trials were characterized by sensationalism, hearsay evidence, and mass hysteria, with many defendants confessing to witchcraft under duress or in fear of their lives.

Contrary to popular belief, suspected witches in Salem were not burned at the stake. Instead, the primary method of execution used during the Salem Witch Trials was hanging. On June 10, 1692, Bridget Bishop became the first person to be executed for witchcraft in Salem, followed by several others in the months that followed.

In addition to hanging, one individual, Giles Corey, was subjected to a particularly gruesome form of execution known as pressing. Corey, who refused to enter a plea during his trial, was subjected to the “peine forte et dure” or “pressing to death” method of execution, in which heavy stones were placed on his chest until he either entered a plea or died. Corey ultimately succumbed to his injuries without ever pleading guilty or innocent.

The Salem Witch Trials were fueled by a combination of religious fervor, social tensions, and economic pressures. Puritan beliefs in the supernatural, combined with fears of demonic influence and divine retribution, contributed to a climate of suspicion and paranoia in Salem. Additionally, social and economic tensions, including disputes over land, inheritance, and community resources, exacerbated existing divisions within the community and provided fertile ground for accusations of witchcraft.

Furthermore, the legal and judicial systems of the time were ill-equipped to handle the complex and emotional nature of the witchcraft accusations. Trials were conducted without proper legal representation for the accused, and hearsay evidence and spectral testimony were allowed to influence the outcomes of the cases.

The Salem Witch Trials came to an end in early 1693, after public opinion turned against the trials and accusations began to lose credibility. In the years that followed, the trials were widely condemned as a miscarriage of justice and a dark chapter in American history.

However, the legacy of the Salem Witch Trials continues to resonate in American culture and memory. The trials have been the subject of numerous books, plays, and films, and the town of Salem has become a tourist destination for those interested in exploring the history of witchcraft and the occult.

The Salem Witch Trials of 1692 represent a tragic chapter in American history, marked by hysteria, paranoia, and injustice. Contrary to popular belief, suspected witches were not burned at the stake in Salem; instead, they were primarily executed by hanging, with one individual subjected to pressing.

As we reflect on the lessons of the Salem Witch Trials, it is important to remember the dangers of intolerance, prejudice, and mass hysteria. The trials serve as a stark reminder of the importance of due process, fair trials, and the protection of individual rights, even in times of fear and uncertainty.

By debunking the myths and misconceptions surrounding the Salem Witch Trials, we can gain a deeper understanding of this dark chapter in American history and ensure that the lessons of the past are not forgotten. In doing so, we honor the memory of those who suffered and died during the trials and reaffirm our commitment to justice, equality, and the rule of law.

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Author: guyute