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Author Topic: Most annoying historical myths?  (Read 17842 times)

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Offline Chris Brady

Re: Most annoying historical myths?
« Reply #300 on: December 30, 2013, 09:49:21 PM »
Horned helmets on vikings. Not sure if anyone else has brought this up, but sadly they did not have horned helmets. Their helmets were actually overall quite plain and unadorned.
If I remember correctly, it was the Germanic Visigoths who had horned helms.

Offline Oniya

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Re: Most annoying historical myths?
« Reply #301 on: December 30, 2013, 10:04:56 PM »
Horned helmets are terribly impractical on the battlefield, though.  Instant hand-holds.

Offline gaggedLouise

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Re: Most annoying historical myths?
« Reply #302 on: December 30, 2013, 10:11:43 PM »
Horned helmets are terribly impractical on the battlefield, though.  Instant hand-holds.

 ;D

Well, I suppose they did have straps under the chin, so the opponent could not simply pull the helmet off and continue, but you're quite right no one wants to offer a place to grab at one's head like that...

Offline Chris Brady

Re: Most annoying historical myths?
« Reply #303 on: December 30, 2013, 10:30:49 PM »
Horned helmets are terribly impractical on the battlefield, though.  Instant hand-holds.
This is another annoying myth.  What do you think you're opponent is trying to do to you, when you're not actually trying to kill him?  Grabbing for something, instead of running someone through, is a sure fire way to get killed.  Same with long hair and the like.  No one's going to grab at them, they rather try and MURDER their opponent.  And any activity that does not involve murdering, gives THEM a chance to murder you.

Offline consortium11

Re: Most annoying historical myths?
« Reply #304 on: December 30, 2013, 10:58:10 PM »
This is another annoying myth.  What do you think you're opponent is trying to do to you, when you're not actually trying to kill him?  Grabbing for something, instead of running someone through, is a sure fire way to get killed.  Same with long hair and the like.  No one's going to grab at them, they rather try and MURDER their opponent.  And any activity that does not involve murdering, gives THEM a chance to murder you.

I'm not sure that's strictly true.

If you view combat as a series of one-on-one duels, sure, there may be better options then grabbing at something (although I wouldn't completely dismiss sheer instinct taking over at times).

But in group combat? Especially during most of the Viking Age (or at least the cross-over with primarily Anglo-Saxon Britain)?

Major engagements in that period tended to consist of two shield walls crashing together and then pushing against each other till one broke. The key to success was therefore strength, stamina and the ability to hold the line and prevent gaps from appearing. In the front ranks there was little room to use a weapon, even one with a short blade, and very few targets to aim at; you were after all shield to shield with the enemy. But an easily grabbed and held-onto helm offered an easy way for a fighter to latch on and try to pull his opponent off balance, which in turn was likely to create a gap in the shield wall which they could then exploit. And once a gap forms it was very hard to stop an enemy from pushing through and splitting the wall entirely... which essentially led to the end of the battle.

Offline TheBlackRider

Re: Most annoying historical myths?
« Reply #305 on: December 30, 2013, 11:33:38 PM »
If I remember correctly, it was the Germanic Visigoths who had horned helms.

Plus, the helmets seem to have been ceremonial as opposed to actual armor. They may have been used in religious or magical rites.

Offline TheGlyphstone

Re: Most annoying historical myths?
« Reply #306 on: December 30, 2013, 11:40:49 PM »
This is another annoying myth.  What do you think you're opponent is trying to do to you, when you're not actually trying to kill him?  Grabbing for something, instead of running someone through, is a sure fire way to get killed.  Same with long hair and the like.  No one's going to grab at them, they rather try and MURDER their opponent.  And any activity that does not involve murdering, gives THEM a chance to murder you.

This is also assuming that you're evenly matched. When you're a peasant with a spear or something against an armored knight (hopefully he's been dismounted, otherwise you're just screwed), the activity that involves murdering happens to be trying to grapple him, knock him down and shove sharp things through his faceplate or other gaps in the armor.

Which indirectly reminds me of one of my own annoyances, possibly already mentioned up-thread...the idea that full plate was clumsy and unwieldy to where knocking a knight over was like flipping a turtle upside down. Assuming your plate was made right, it weighed less than the field packs modern infantrymen carry, was better-distributed, and very well articulated. There are videos of people wearing modern-day replica field plate doing gymnastics.

Offline Chris Brady

Re: Most annoying historical myths?
« Reply #307 on: December 31, 2013, 12:25:17 AM »
Which indirectly reminds me of one of my own annoyances, possibly already mentioned up-thread...the idea that full plate was clumsy and unwieldy to where knocking a knight over was like flipping a turtle upside down. Assuming your plate was made right, it weighed less than the field packs modern infantrymen carry, was better-distributed, and very well articulated. There are videos of people wearing modern-day replica field plate doing gymnastics.
Yeap, I blame D&D 3rd edition for this one.  But it's more from the older medieval movies, like Excalibur, where actors in metal armour weren't all that graceful, because even if they made them out of tinfoil, they were not trained to fight in them for years on end.  And so everyone emulates and believes it.

Offline Oniya

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Re: Most annoying historical myths?
« Reply #308 on: December 31, 2013, 01:04:49 AM »
This is another annoying myth.  What do you think you're opponent is trying to do to you, when you're not actually trying to kill him?  Grabbing for something, instead of running someone through, is a sure fire way to get killed.  Same with long hair and the like.  No one's going to grab at them, they rather try and MURDER their opponent.  And any activity that does not involve murdering, gives THEM a chance to murder you.

Actually, I always envisioned it as 'grab with the off-hand, yank, and stab with the sword-hand', rather than simply 'try to unhelm'.  And, as Louise pointed out, they probably had something holding the helmets on - and if you yank on someone's head, that's going to distract them at the very least (if not throw their aim off entirely.)  If your off-hand isn't encumbered by a shield (by choice or by mischance), any distraction would work in your favor.

Offline Chris Brady

Re: Most annoying historical myths?
« Reply #309 on: December 31, 2013, 01:45:21 AM »
Actually, I always envisioned it as 'grab with the off-hand, yank, and stab with the sword-hand', rather than simply 'try to unhelm'.  And, as Louise pointed out, they probably had something holding the helmets on - and if you yank on someone's head, that's going to distract them at the very least (if not throw their aim off entirely.)  If your off-hand isn't encumbered by a shield (by choice or by mischance), any distraction would work in your favor.
Which is also a myth.

There have been only two melee combat styles in the world.  Two weapon and two handed.  Two handed is both hands on one weapon, like spears, axes and other sweeping weapons that are great for battlefield control, and dealing with multiple targets.  Two weapon runs the gamut from shield, dagger, sword (well weapons in general), cloak, chain gauntlet (rarely, and mostly for dueling) and other tools of murder.  Forget what Hollywood has taught you, forget what Olympic fencing has done to a combat style, you NEVER ever leave your off hand empty.  To do so would cut both your offensive and defensive power in half, and that can be lethal.  To you.

Which brings up another myth, the shield.  It's not some lump of wood and metal that rests on your arm until you need to block with it.  There are plenty of surfaces you can use to attack your enemy with, and even better, it's designed to be used in conjunction with your main weapon!

Offline chaoslord29

Re: Most annoying historical myths?
« Reply #310 on: December 31, 2013, 01:15:51 PM »
Which is also a myth.

There have been only two melee combat styles in the world.  Two weapon and two handed.  Two handed is both hands on one weapon, like spears, axes and other sweeping weapons that are great for battlefield control, and dealing with multiple targets.  Two weapon runs the gamut from shield, dagger, sword (well weapons in general), cloak, chain gauntlet (rarely, and mostly for dueling) and other tools of murder.  Forget what Hollywood has taught you, forget what Olympic fencing has done to a combat style, you NEVER ever leave your off hand empty.  To do so would cut both your offensive and defensive power in half, and that can be lethal.  To you.

Which brings up another myth, the shield.  It's not some lump of wood and metal that rests on your arm until you need to block with it.  There are plenty of surfaces you can use to attack your enemy with, and even better, it's designed to be used in conjunction with your main weapon!

The exception that proves the rule being the use of a gauntleted fist. It applies pretty strictly to the plate armored warrior or knight, and it's not like any of them are going to intentionally leave their off hand empty anyway, but the best part about a gauntlet is that even if you're forced to drop your shield, are disarmed of your dirk, or someone ducks past the guard of your oversized two-handed weapon, your fist is now a perfectly serviceable lethal weapon which you can use to great effect against their face, groin, joints, etc. Many gauntlets even included built in knuckle-dusters: studs or bracing that protected the joints when wielding a weapon, and happened to provide a more effective striking surface when the fingers are balled into a fist.

In keeping with this line of thought, it also needs to be mentioned that anyone not employing kicks, punches and helmeted head butts in combat is similarly, needlessly disadvantaging themselves. The caveat is that in the midst of melee, not just everyone is going to have the presence of mind to do so, and in 'civilized' duels, tourney combat, and other one on one matches, they might be considered poor form, not very sporting.

Offline Chris Brady

Re: Most annoying historical myths?
« Reply #311 on: December 31, 2013, 05:50:34 PM »
I blame D&D for this one, but once plate and maille came into being the Shield being a Knight's weapon was dropped for melee combat.  For two main reasons.  First, lack of control, the metal around you gauntlet made it hard to feel where the shield was, but more importantly, you needed more power to do more damage to your opponent.  The only place the shield showed up regularly was in the hands of lighter armoured troops or lance-men.  And if the cavalry got dismounted, off went the shield.  Assuming they landed on their feet.  Which actually happened more than not.

Offline chaoslord29

Re: Most annoying historical myths?
« Reply #312 on: December 31, 2013, 06:42:06 PM »
I blame D&D for this one, but once plate and maille came into being the Shield being a Knight's weapon was dropped for melee combat.  For two main reasons.  First, lack of control, the metal around you gauntlet made it hard to feel where the shield was, but more importantly, you needed more power to do more damage to your opponent.  The only place the shield showed up regularly was in the hands of lighter armoured troops or lance-men.  And if the cavalry got dismounted, off went the shield.  Assuming they landed on their feet.  Which actually happened more than not.

See that I didn't know. I assumed the shield was still a viable weapon for a foot knight, especially should they be engaged in a siege.

The amount hollywood and most folks discount the potential for plate armored folks to still be agile on their feet is also disconcerting. Not only that, but the best part of plate armor, and the reason it was the signature of the medieval era, was that if you could afford plate mail (ie was a noble) you were invincible to just about anyone and everyone not wearing plate. It's the closest anyone can come to being the invincible juggernaut.

The hardest part of wearing plate (from my own brief experience) is the endurance factor. Between the padding, the undergarments, and the steel, you retain heat till you're sizzling like a sausage just walking around on a cloudy day. Worse, and enclosed helmet makes it damn hard to breathe.

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Re: Most annoying historical myths?
« Reply #313 on: December 31, 2013, 08:05:31 PM »
The all Native American tribes were nomadic misconception is one that likely comes from the fascination with the western pop culture image of the old west where plains tribes were more often mentioned. However, the Zuni, Hopi, and other Pueblo peoples were sedentary. Despite being one of the best known subdivisions of native peoples, many forget that the Iroquois  were also a sedentary culture.

Offline chaoslord29

Re: Most annoying historical myths?
« Reply #314 on: December 31, 2013, 08:16:41 PM »
The all Native American tribes were nomadic misconception is one that likely comes from the fascination with the western pop culture image of the old west where plains tribes were more often mentioned. However, the Zuni, Hopi, and other Pueblo peoples were sedentary. Despite being one of the best known subdivisions of native peoples, many forget that the Iroquois  were also a sedentary culture.

This is one I only learned recently myself. Someone asked me what I figured the native population of North America was at it's peak, and I guess a coupled million top, figuring the Iroquois Confederacy, Cherokee, and Plains Indians nations accounted for a million each tops.

Turns out it was 10 million plus at best estimates, beating out Europe's own population for the 17th-17th Century by 3 whole points. They had a vibrant trade network which stretched from the Great Lakes to the Caribbean, and created burial mountains, gardens, and structures to rival all of the Old World's Wonders. Hell, wood clearing, burning, and industrialization in the New World even caused a miniature global warming effect felt in Europe.

The whole myth of manifest destiny is at work here. The image of the wild, untamed west is not only romanticized to justify our systematic conquering of the native peoples, but to glorify the difficulty it presented. In actuality, many western settlements, particularly the fertile Ohio Valley and those around the Mississippi were built over and upon existing Native American towns and cities, with fields half-planted, orchards already growing, streets, roads, gardens, and houses all primed and ready for the first white folk to arrive to take up residence.

So, what happened? Their version of the Black Death, that's what. I'm not just talking about Small Pox blankets here (leave it to the Europeans to take credit for that too), but rather the advanced side effects of increasing industry, urbanization, and stagnation that triggered a massive outbreak of disease, just like it did in Europe.

Check out Lies my Teacher Told Me, awesome book if you enjoy railing about this kind of stuff  ;D

Offline Zakharra

Re: Most annoying historical myths?
« Reply #315 on: January 01, 2014, 01:06:38 PM »
  On the matters of horned helmets, it isn't just a matter of the horns being something to grab, but also of catching an axe or sword. If the horn is fairly solidly secured, chin strap or not, that -is- going to yank your head to the side and either bare your neck, strain it and it will distract you at a time you do not need it.

 Headbutting someone wearing a helmet isn't going to work. The helm acts as a.. well, helmet. It will not do much to the one you headbutt unless you can turn the helmet around. You're better off using a war hammer or a mace or an axe to crush the helmet or shove a pike point/spear through the face than to headbutt them.

 Shields would also be useful mounted or on foot. Even with a gauntlet (usually built on a leather glove), you would have good control over the shield if trained well. Only if you are using a two handed weapon would a shield be a problem.

The all Native American tribes were nomadic misconception is one that likely comes from the fascination with the western pop culture image of the old west where plains tribes were more often mentioned. However, the Zuni, Hopi, and other Pueblo peoples were sedentary. Despite being one of the best known subdivisions of native peoples, many forget that the Iroquois  were also a sedentary culture.

 Yeah, that one is kind of annoying. The Plains Indians were somewhat nomadic, but the Indian tribes and nations on the east and west coasts and a good part of the middle sections were definitely sedentary. They might not have had large cities like the Aztecs, Mayans, Olmecs and Incas and Europeans, but they had agriculture and a sophisticated culture. Idiots they were not.



 An annoying myth I dislike is that the Indians were noble savages. That is a load of bunk.  Or how the Mayans were peace loving people (I got a laugh when that myth was finally busted. They were damned bloodthirsty people)

Offline TheGlyphstone

Re: Most annoying historical myths?
« Reply #316 on: January 01, 2014, 02:02:34 PM »
Mayans...the guys who ripped out hearts in human sacrifice at the top of pyramids. Who thought they were a peace-loving people?

Offline Oniya

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Re: Most annoying historical myths?
« Reply #317 on: January 01, 2014, 02:05:00 PM »
Wasn't that the Aztecs?  Or did they both do the ripping-out-of-hearts bit?

Offline consortium11

Re: Most annoying historical myths?
« Reply #318 on: January 01, 2014, 02:30:20 PM »
Wasn't that the Aztecs?  Or did they both do the ripping-out-of-hearts bit?

Both cultures had human sacrifices but most sources indicate it was more frequent for the Aztecs (although the degree is still hotly debated).

Offline Oniya

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Re: Most annoying historical myths?
« Reply #319 on: January 01, 2014, 02:36:59 PM »
I was more wondering if the 'death by removal of vital organs' was more prevalent in one than the other.  Human sacrifice can be anything from slicing the throat to flaying alive (which I seem to recall was a method used regarding one of the harvest gods.)

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Re: Most annoying historical myths?
« Reply #320 on: January 01, 2014, 05:32:45 PM »
Another one is that no one had an education system before the colonial powers showed up in the Americas.  While it wasn't exactly a modern one, the Aztecs did have an organized education system.

Offline Zakharra

Re: Most annoying historical myths?
« Reply #321 on: January 01, 2014, 08:27:24 PM »
Mayans...the guys who ripped out hearts in human sacrifice at the top of pyramids. Who thought they were a peace-loving people?

 The way I heard and read is is until the Mayan language was finally deciphered, the carvings were interpreted by many people, mostly ones that believed in the noble savage thing I am guessing, that the Mayans were an inherently peaceful people in touch with the world and  everything around them. I think I have some books on that and will see if I can find it. As it is though, the Mayans were damned bloodthirsty. Not necessarily in the same vein as the Aztecs, but the kings of the cities were supposed to do a lot of ceremonies that sacrificed their own blood, including drawing blood from their penises.

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Re: Most annoying historical myths?
« Reply #322 on: January 01, 2014, 08:54:46 PM »
You do realize being sacrificed was considered a great honor by these cultures right? There are accounts of people willingly offering themselves up. They did not do such things simply because they wanted to see someone die. There's also ample evidence to say they did not sacrifice in the numbers many have said. The math alone would show that their civilization would have seen them much more greatly reduced in number if they did. The sacrifice in Mesoamerican cultures has many nuances that are overlooked by many in present day society. As for some reports of cannibalism, it is believed at the time they had no domestic animals suitable for the purpose of raising them for slaughter so they incorporated it as means of getting protein. I do not condone or look kindly on the practice of human sacrifice myself, but it must be seen on its own terms as much as possible.

Offline TheGlyphstone

Re: Most annoying historical myths?
« Reply #323 on: January 01, 2014, 09:10:50 PM »
Is that including the fact that a lot of their sacrifices were captured prisoners of war? If I remember right, one of the other things history books tend to forget was how Cortez broke the Mayans leading a small army of all the other little tribal powers the Mayans had been abusing and warring against for generations, not just his Spanish conquistadors.

Offline IStateYourName

Re: Most annoying historical myths?
« Reply #324 on: January 01, 2014, 09:41:39 PM »
Is that including the fact that a lot of their sacrifices were captured prisoners of war? If I remember right, one of the other things history books tend to forget was how Cortez broke the Mayans leading a small army of all the other little tribal powers the Mayans had been abusing and warring against for generations, not just his Spanish conquistadors.

I always thought it was smallpox, at least as much as force of arms, that broke the Mayans (and other indigenous Western Hemisphere inhabitants in the early stages of colonization).