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Author Topic: Most annoying historical myths?  (Read 17864 times)

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Online Neysha

Re: Most annoying historical myths?
« Reply #75 on: July 18, 2013, 10:56:35 AM »
I know at least one source that says he didn't speak a word of English (because he spoke with his sword!)

Fixed that for you!

Now that's a mythical hero of history! :D

Offline gaggedLouise

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Re: Most annoying historical myths?
« Reply #76 on: July 28, 2013, 04:51:29 PM »
Saw this one a couple years ago and I still think it's fairly brilliant. The Taxi Driver spoofs and the acting have a way of bringing out some serious questions about how and why to teach history at school in an age when everything seems to be racing away from the past - without losing the sense of fun and satirical edge.
.
History Teacher

It's an amateur production, the guy who wrote and directed it was still at high school when he produced the film, with folks from his own school as actors. As he points out in the comments, it was made in 1999, before Columbine and before 9/11, so they should not be counted in as background at the brief violent moments. But it was also made before Google, handhelds and Wikipedia, before it was really possible to call out "who needs facts, books or newspapers when I can google all that stuff right here?"
« Last Edit: July 28, 2013, 04:52:48 PM by gaggedLouise »

Offline Tamhansen

Re: Most annoying historical myths?
« Reply #77 on: August 27, 2013, 03:35:43 PM »
The idea that the French surrendered in almost all of their wars.

well maybe not all of them, but they did surrender in quite a lot of them. So there is some truth to the myth. Most embarrassingly perhaps, the war against the Southern Netherlands (now known as Belgium) at the turn of the 14th century.

This does not however make the French people cowardly in any way, as they are not at all.

Offline Hemingway

Re: Most annoying historical myths?
« Reply #78 on: August 28, 2013, 07:02:38 AM »
It's hard to pick the most annoying myth, but if I am to pick an annoying myth - and one that may not be that well-known outside certain parts of Europe - it would be the idea of Greater Hungary.

See, Hungary used to be a damn large country. In addition to its current territories, it included large parts of what are now Romania, Croatia, Serbia, Slovakia, and Slovenia. It was about four times its current size, up until 1918. Actually - in the late 15th century, after the conquests of Matthias Corvinus, it may have been even bigger than that, stretching as far as Vienna. Matthias Corvinus was some sort of badass.

Anyway, those are facts. But it's also a myth. A myth that this somehow means these territories are Hungarian by right, and should be returned to Hungary. Today. A hundred years after the fact. That's absurd. And more than a little bit dangerous. It's been the source of a few recent diplomatic conflicts in the region, in cases where ethnic Hungarians living in neighboring countries have been given Hungarian citizenships.

I don't know if this is more "dangerous" than "annoying", but I still find it immensely interesting - so there you have it.

Offline gaggedLouise

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Re: Most annoying historical myths?
« Reply #79 on: August 28, 2013, 08:09:41 AM »
I've heard a couple times that the Hungarians were descended from the Huns, after Attila's hordes had been expelled from Europe by a coalition of Romans and Goths. Not true, they had nothing to do with each other, came from different parts of Asia and the Hungarians (Magyars) didn't show up in the Danube basin until nearly five hundred years after the Huns had disappeared from written history. Anyway, most of the genetic pool of Hungarians since the middle ages has been European, not Asian - the genetic heritage of a fairly small horseman people doesn't stay dominant that long when they invade a settled plain that's already got a large population.

The name Attila is still in use in Hungary today, though.  ;)

I'm a bit surprised there hasn't been any mention of the ten lost tribes of Israel yet - any number of hypotheses on what happened to them! Only last week I saw a web site where it was argued that they morphed into the Celts.
« Last Edit: August 28, 2013, 08:10:46 AM by gaggedLouise »

Offline Kythia

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Re: Most annoying historical myths?
« Reply #80 on: August 28, 2013, 08:50:42 AM »
It's hard to pick the most annoying myth, but if I am to pick an annoying myth - and one that may not be that well-known outside certain parts of Europe - it would be the idea of Greater Hungary.

See, Hungary used to be a damn large country. In addition to its current territories, it included large parts of what are now Romania, Croatia, Serbia, Slovakia, and Slovenia. It was about four times its current size, up until 1918. Actually - in the late 15th century, after the conquests of Matthias Corvinus, it may have been even bigger than that, stretching as far as Vienna. Matthias Corvinus was some sort of badass.

Anyway, those are facts. But it's also a myth. A myth that this somehow means these territories are Hungarian by right, and should be returned to Hungary. Today. A hundred years after the fact. That's absurd. And more than a little bit dangerous. It's been the source of a few recent diplomatic conflicts in the region, in cases where ethnic Hungarians living in neighboring countries have been given Hungarian citizenships.

I don't know if this is more "dangerous" than "annoying", but I still find it immensely interesting - so there you have it.

A hundred years is nowhere near enough.  Gibraltar has been ours for three hundred and that argument's still going strong.  And lets not even get started on the Irish problem.

Offline gaggedLouise

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Re: Most annoying historical myths?
« Reply #81 on: August 28, 2013, 09:16:54 AM »
The funny thing  (or not so funny) is that the Hungarian barons in the 19th and early 20th century managed to make Serbs, Croats and other southern Slav peoples very pissed at the relentless pressure those old-style landowners exerted at them, and the political clout that this nobility had within Austria-Hungary. But the imperial administration looked Austrian and German-speaking, and the Emperor sat on top, so their anger would hit at Austria, the more visible target but the weaker nation in the tandem pair. Ultimately they decided to take out the crown prince, Franz Ferdinand on his visit to Sarajevo in June 1914 and...well, you know the rest of the story, don't you?

Offline Ephiral

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Re: Most annoying historical myths?
« Reply #82 on: August 28, 2013, 09:53:51 AM »
I'm a bit surprised there hasn't been any mention of the ten lost tribes of Israel yet - any number of hypotheses on what happened to them! Only last week I saw a web site where it was argued that they morphed into the Celts.

I'd file that and similar variants under "most annoying", as it's used in certain virulently and violently racist sects of Christianity to justify pretending that white Europeans somehow fall under "God's chosen people".

Offline KennethNoisewater

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Re: Most annoying historical myths?
« Reply #83 on: August 29, 2013, 11:15:53 AM »
Most annoying..... Anything associated with religion as being treated as fact.

Offline Kythia

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Re: Most annoying historical myths?
« Reply #84 on: August 29, 2013, 02:31:23 PM »
Most annoying..... Anything associated with religion as being treated as fact.

Anything associated with religion?  Cos, you know, I'm pretty sure the Pope is Catholic. :P

Couldn't resist.  Sorry.

Offline Oniya

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Re: Most annoying historical myths?
« Reply #85 on: August 29, 2013, 02:38:42 PM »
Then there's that whole bear thing.  ;)

Offline gaggedLouise

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Re: Most annoying historical myths?
« Reply #86 on: August 29, 2013, 02:54:50 PM »
Then there's that whole bear thing.  ;)

Does a bear dance in the woods?

Just love this one - could easily have been Steely Dan meeting up with Jeff Beck, or something.


Online Callie Del Noire

Re: Most annoying historical myths?
« Reply #87 on: August 29, 2013, 03:51:15 PM »
A hundred years is nowhere near enough.  Gibraltar has been ours for three hundred and that argument's still going strong.  And lets not even get started on the Irish problem.

Please.. let's not. I know 'Irish' Americans whose family have been here since the revolutionary war.. who get in a froth over it.

Offline Cyrano JohnsonTopic starter

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Re: Most annoying historical myths?
« Reply #88 on: August 29, 2013, 05:03:14 PM »
There's tonnes one could do with religious mythology and revisionism. Among them:

The belief that Jesus was a mythical / literary figure has been decisively refuted. (This one sticks out to me because I used to geek out about Christian origins for some obscure reason.) This is indeed still current among Biblical scholars... but rests on so little data that said consensus isn't very compelling, especially when the most the scholarly consensus can say about the "historical Jesus" is that maybe there was a guy at some point to whom a handful of the old apocryphal "sayings Gospels" might possibly be traced. (Translation: "The traditional Gospel narrative isn't totally fictional... just mostly fictional!" And yet apparently that last half-inch of maybe-nonfiction will be defended to the last drop of blood.) Meanwhile, the opposing arguments are far stronger than the scholarly "mainstream" likes to think.

Paganism (and/or Gnosticism) was totally inclusive and feminist until [the Catholic Church / modern Christianity] came along and harshed everybody's buzz. This was born partly from feminist thealogy and the Goddess Movement of the late-20th century, which tried to reconstruct paganism as a feminist alternative to the masculinist fundies of the day; and with counterculture fascination with Gnosticism, which because it was Christianity's early also-ran form, eventually overcome by the mainline Church, was thought to have been something the inverse of all the crappy exclusivist, sin- and shame-oriented patriarchal thinking of Christianity. But the old-style pagans of yore, be they European or African or what-have-you, rarely live up to this permissive and liberal image -- Norse paganism was actually more sexist in a great many ways than Christianity. And all the elements that are taken to be a drag about modern Christianity (esp. Catholicism) were present to a far worse degree in Gnosticism: obscurantist theology (Gnosticism would see your Holy Trinity and endless hairsplitting arguments about the natures of the Christ and raise you several ranks of Emanations of the Pleroma with countless associated Aeons), baked-in anti-Semitism (Christianity was calling the Jews Christ-killers from early on, but Gnosticism taught that the Hebrew God of the Old Testament was actively evil and that a new God had come to rescue the world from that God), outrageous sexism (Paul said "keep your women silent in the churches," but the Gnostic Gospel of Thomas promotes the doctrine that women could only enter the Kingdom of Heaven by getting a sex change; no, really), and so on.

Early Islam converted people by the sword, and this is what "jihad" means. Actually, the early Arab Caliphates made a point of not doing mass-conversions: aside from the fact that the Quran actually explicitly enjoins religious tolerance (something rather glossed over by modern-day "political Islam" and even moreso by the counterpart Islamophobes in the West), there was a tiny layer of Arabs over a large mass of subject peoples who would have been seriously pissed by any such attempt... and were much more useful paying poll taxes, anyway. Mass top-down conversions were actually much more characteristic of European Christianity.

Buddhism is universally tolerant, peaceful and laid-back. Most people are familiar with the avuncular, pluralistic, sanitized and superficially Western-friendly image of the Dalai Lama, with decades of received pop-culture myth about pacifist Tibetan lamaseries and upstanding Shaolin monks, with the Buddhism of Richard Gere and the Hollywood celebrity. These images are why modern Islamophobia often poses Buddhism as the peaceful "other" of the supposedly uniquely violent religion. But these images have obscured a far more complicated history and reality of Buddhism, which has as long-standing a relationship with war and violence as any Western religious tradition does and developed its own sometimes disturbing workarounds for its core commandment of compassion (such as the notion of "compassionate killing") as noted here.
« Last Edit: August 29, 2013, 05:06:50 PM by Cyrano Johnson »

Offline Zeitgeist

Re: Most annoying historical myths?
« Reply #89 on: August 29, 2013, 06:11:43 PM »
That the Moors in Spain, or the Iberian Peninsula, were but benevolent rulers over their Christian and Jewish subjects. What were they doing there in the first place? Don't think Mohammad ever left the Arabian Peninsula. At least the Christian Crusaders had something of a plausible premise to invade the Middle East (Biblical lands), even if it was in large part just a premise in most cases.

Yeah, expect few here to agree with that, but that is my contribution nevertheless.
« Last Edit: August 29, 2013, 06:16:44 PM by Zeitgeist »

Offline Kythia

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Re: Most annoying historical myths?
« Reply #90 on: August 29, 2013, 06:38:51 PM »
The belief that Jesus was a mythical / literary figure has been decisively refuted. (This one sticks out to me because I used to geek out about Christian origins for some obscure reason.) This is indeed still current among Biblical scholars... but rests on so little data that said consensus isn't very compelling, especially when the most the scholarly consensus can say about the "historical Jesus" is that maybe there was a guy at some point to whom a handful of the old apocryphal "sayings Gospels" might possibly be traced. (Translation: "The traditional Gospel narrative isn't totally fictional... just mostly fictional!" And yet apparently that last half-inch of maybe-nonfiction will be defended to the last drop of blood.) Meanwhile, the opposing arguments are far stronger than the scholarly "mainstream" likes to think.

Eh.  While I have a fair amount of time for Richard Carrier, Doherty himself is a crackpot.  There's an interesting chapter by chapter rebuttal on www.patheos.com - the site is pretty hard to navigate but a search for earl Doherty pulls it up.  In fairness to Carrier he seems to have abandoned his flirtation with Doherty - look at his post in the comments here

Hoffman said it best -
Quote
[Doherty] has rehashed many of the [Wells]ís views in The Jesus Puzzle (Age of Reason Publications, 2005) which is qualitatively and academically far inferior to anything so far written on the subject".

Offline Cyrano JohnsonTopic starter

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Re: Most annoying historical myths?
« Reply #91 on: August 29, 2013, 07:15:31 PM »
In fairness to Carrier he seems to have abandoned his flirtation with Doherty - look at his post in the comments here

Actually what Carrier says there is that Doherty's second book is far inferior to his first. He hasn't changed his assessment of the original book or of Doherty's overall place in "mythicism," as he makes clear if you read through the comments thread. (Doherty does have some crack-pottish tendencies -- I wish people would never, ever write "action thrillers" about their philosophical theories -- but Hoffman's quote about Wells does not do at all as an attempt to refute him, for the reasons Carrier makes clear in his original review.)
« Last Edit: August 29, 2013, 07:16:47 PM by Cyrano Johnson »

Offline Cyrano JohnsonTopic starter

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Re: Most annoying historical myths?
« Reply #92 on: August 29, 2013, 07:20:38 PM »
That the Moors in Spain, or the Iberian Peninsula, were but benevolent rulers over their Christian and Jewish subjects. What were they doing there in the first place?

Conquering stuff. Sort of like the Visigoths did before them, the Romans before them, the Carthaginians before them... ;) ...list edited for direct Iberian relevance...

I'm not aware of a myth that the Moors in Spain were "but benevolent rulers over their Christian and Jewish subjects," but I'm aware of the general opinion that the Andalusian Caliphate was a very liberal state for its time, which AFAIK is perfectly correct. Subsequent Berber movements that tried to "protect" al-Andalus -- the Almoravids and the Almohads -- not so much.
« Last Edit: August 29, 2013, 07:29:21 PM by Cyrano Johnson »

Offline Kythia

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Re: Most annoying historical myths?
« Reply #93 on: August 29, 2013, 07:41:36 PM »
Actually what Carrier says there is that Doherty's second book is far inferior to his first. He hasn't changed his assessment of the original book or of Doherty's overall place in "mythicism," as he makes clear if you read through the comments thread. (Doherty does have some crack-pottish tendencies -- I wish people would never, ever write "action thrillers" about their philosophical theories -- but Hoffman's quote about Wells does not do at all as an attempt to refute him, for the reasons Carrier makes clear in his original review.)

No, but he is taking pains to distance himself from Doherty - "But [Doherty] still falls short of the academic standards required of experts in the field like Ehrman or myself. " -  which is what I meant.  And Hoffman's comment was, I assumed, meant more as a criticism than as a rebuttal.  But meh, wildly off topic.

What's on topic and has came up today in a conversation in the pub is the "green a pleasant land" that England once was, everyone living in delightful little cottages with roses growing around the doors singing songs about their delightful rural life.  I've always assumed - and I don't really have enough knowledge of other countries to state this for a fact - that this is a peculiarly English thing.  A hearkening back to a golden age that simply never existed.

Offline Cyrano JohnsonTopic starter

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Re: Most annoying historical myths?
« Reply #94 on: August 29, 2013, 07:52:35 PM »
No, but he is taking pains to distance himself from Doherty - "But [Doherty] still falls short of the academic standards required of experts in the field like Ehrman or myself. " -  which is what I meant.

He's not saying anything there that he didn't say from the outset, though; he was always clear that Doherty's work isn't of professional academic polish, and also said that this shouldn't be allowed to prejudice evaluation of his arguments. His position hasn't changed at all that I can see. (And regardless of how it's meant, Hoffman's remark is simply wrong.)

Quote
What's on topic and has came up today in a conversation in the pub is the "green a pleasant land" that England once was, everyone living in delightful little cottages with roses growing around the doors singing songs about their delightful rural life.  I've always assumed - and I don't really have enough knowledge of other countries to state this for a fact - that this is a peculiarly English thing.  A hearkening back to a golden age that simply never existed.

A typology of national golden ages might be in order. England's imagined golden age is the country squire lifestyle writ large. Canada's is the idealized, austere pioneering homestead...

Offline Kythia

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Re: Most annoying historical myths?
« Reply #95 on: August 29, 2013, 08:00:40 PM »
The US's seems pretty similar in the American West.  Have gun will travel, taming the land with only manifest destiny to help you, a time when men were men, women were women and small furry things from Alpha Centauri...

Offline Ephiral

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Re: Most annoying historical myths?
« Reply #96 on: August 29, 2013, 08:23:03 PM »
Mmm... I'd actually say the US's nostalgia-ridden golden age (for the dominant, ie white, culture at least) is rooted in the 1950s. Happy suburbia with cute little houses and picket fences, where all the neighbours knew each other, that sort of thing.

Offline gaggedLouise

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Re: Most annoying historical myths?
« Reply #97 on: August 29, 2013, 08:28:31 PM »
At one time, the Scandinavian imagined golden age would have been the Viking age (yay!). Certainly a time when we punched it hard and far in all directions, though the jolly blows may not have been appreciated everywhere. In France in the 8th and 9th century, the church litany included the line "From the rage of the wild Norsemen spare us, dear Lord".

It was a favourite calling card for national mythmakers, politicians and ideologues in the 19th century, but I don't think the idea of this as a truly golden age ever penetrated deep into the core of the people. After all, the Vikings were mostly heathen and drinking and fighting as hard as they had done was not being encouraged in the crowded countryside of those days, or among the early industrial workers. Even when you put them on stage you had to severely brush down how wild and dirty that era had actually been.  ;)

Of course, it's always had a kind of outlaw attraction to more opposition-minded folks, "bands of young men", something like the American west has: an age of  tough, short-tempered and strong-minded men who only trusted in their own strength and their sword.


Offline gaggedLouise

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Re: Most annoying historical myths?
« Reply #98 on: August 29, 2013, 08:47:57 PM »
Another issue with the Viking age as heroic golden age is that it's so far back that the later Nordic nations only vaguely existed back then. A Viking would have identified with his local shire rather than with anything called Sweden or Denmark (Iceland is a bit special, but then it wasn't even a kingdom at the time, it was a republic with minimal central power, sort of like the United States around 1800). To give this the image of an ideal early kingdom of tough men always standing by their kings and ready to surge onto the sea for him, it had to be touched up a bit.

With Sweden especially, national unity wasn't something that was going to happen fast. Too much fighting and marauding. I think the Wikipedia entry on "early history of Sweden" used to state that "the actual age of the Swedish kingdom is unknown", and yeah, that's true, at least if the king is supposed to have had real and undisputed authority all over the country.
« Last Edit: August 29, 2013, 08:50:39 PM by gaggedLouise »

Offline Cyrano JohnsonTopic starter

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Re: Most annoying historical myths?
« Reply #99 on: August 29, 2013, 08:50:25 PM »
I wonder, is Sweden's golden age today the era of the Swedish Empire? (That's sort of what I expect it would be, but my knowledge of Scandinavian countries is limited.)

For that matter I wonder what Russia's commonly-imagined golden age would be. The reign of Peter the Great... or is that just what Westerners would see as its golden age?