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03:24:33 AM May 4th 2014
11:05:24 PM Jan 18th 2013
I added this, but it was deleted regarding something in Levant History... I suppose counterpoints don't count. =/

"...Bethlehem of Judah was the only city that still existed during that time and bore that name. As for the census, I believe you are attempting to pull an "argument from silence", scholar Glenn M. Miller has a detailed explanation regarding it (Warning, it's kinda wordy)."
04:15:33 PM Aug 18th 2011
"As is the case with George's porphyria, hemophilia is caused by a single mutated gene and is therefore not more common in inbred populations."

Er... wouldn't that mutation tend to propagate further, by density, in inbred populations? Especially hemophilia, which is x-linked recessive (so women don't show symptoms unless the father has it, which is rare for such a dangerous condition).
09:10:43 AM Aug 18th 2011
Also, the Timaeus doesn't actually say Atlantis is fictional - I don't know where people got that idea. It was supposed to have been recounted by Solon. No one took it as anything other than a thought experiment, but it's not made explicit.
04:13:54 PM Jul 26th 2011
Isn't the term "dark age" traced back ultimately to Petrarch, of the fourteenth century, who did mean it as a value judgment (mocking the "light of Christianity" his more devout contemporaries spoke of), and meant it to include his own present? The idea of a "dark age" being an age of obscurity is a later back-formation, I think...
12:06:00 PM Jun 30th 2010
Removed lots and lots of discussion from the main page:

  • Cleopatra was once seen as a scheming, amoral Femme Fatale whose sins led to her death and to the destruction of Egypt as an independent nation. Recent evidence from Alexandria and a reappraisal of the historical record has led many historians to believe that Cleopatra saw seducing Caesar and Antony as a legitimate way of convincing them to help restore order in a country quickly approaching lawlessness and poverty while at the same time preventing Rome from invading and enslaving the populace. The discredited trope informs everything from William Shakespeare's Antony And Cleopatra and Julius Caesar to the paintings of Alexandre Cabanel and Guido Cagnacci.
    • This is not History Marches On as it is a difference of perspective. Cleopatra was definitely trying to save her country/gain power by sleeping with men, most of whom were married. Both Roman social mores of the time and later historians found her a rather ridiculous, lusty, and not neccessarily too bright. Obviously, opinions differed (some saw her as scheming, others as having poor self-control). Historians today have tried to cut out the personal judgement aspect of history to compensate, although that somtimes leaves a dry or colorless text which fails to capture the essential nature of the historical subject.
    • Historians were once also divided over whether Cleopatra was the most beautiful woman to ever live or an outright Gonk. There was no middle ground. Recently, though, historians actually decided to look at the damn coins Cleopatra minted, and they've decided she was an average-looking young woman - no great beauty, but nothing to be embarrassed about either.
    • And let's not forget the assumption that Cleopatra had numerous slaves bitten by the asp she'd later kill herself with to make sure that its venom was potent. She didn't need to: the Egyptians had used snakes to kill upper-class prisoners for thousands of years, and they knew what breed to use and how. They were also quite aware that an asp that's already bitten numerous slaves isn't going to have enough venom left to kill a fly.
    • One of the more recently discredited "facts" about Cleopatra was that she was ethnically African. Recent documentary discoveries have proven that the ruling dynasty of which Cleopatra was just one part was ethnically Greek, dating back to the days of Alexander.
      • Recent discoveries? As in, the "common knowledge for 2,300 years" type of recent discoveries? The people of Antiquity were quite well aware of the origins of the Ptolemy dynasty: Cleopatra was the first member of her family to actually take the effort to learn Egyptian, even after that family had been ruling Egypt for three hundred years. Egypt hadn't had an Egyptian Pharaoh since at Cambyses added Egypt to the Persian Empire back in 525 BCE and every subsequent ruler of Egypt was either Persian or Greek right up until its final conquest by Rome.
        • A fair number of amateur historians presume that a lot of data concerning the accomplishments of black africans and the racial background of others have been actively supressed. There is some truth to these claims, but nowhere near to the extent noted above.
          • But... Egyptians are not black Africans anyway. The difference between an Egyptian Pharaoh and a Greek queen like Cleopatra is not a racial difference. There were plenty of black African civilizations further south whose accomplishments really have been ignored (or even actively suppressed), but Egypt was not one of them. And also, when talking about such accomplishments, it's the identity of the people that matters, not the identity of a ruler whose sole role was to bark orders.

  • Remember when people thought that everyone in this time believed the world was flat and Christopher Columbus was a hero who pushed the idea of the Earth being round?
    • Also, Columbus was not even the first foreigner to make landfall on the Americas. The Vikings beat him there by some five hundred years. There is even some very controversial evidence that the Chinese beat him as well.
      • The Chinese evidence is not as solid as that for the Vikings, but it's far from the "hogwash" some claim it is. Some of the evidence (the 1418 map found in 2006 especially) has been dismissed out of hand by Western experts without actual evidence of its authenticity or inauthenticity being provided. "I don't think it looks right" is not good science: test the paper and the ink.
      • The Chinese "evidence" incredibly is flimsy bordering on translucent, the 1418 map included. Besides one man and his publishers, no experts take it seriously. Also, history isn't, strictly speaking, science.
      • And given that seemingly no one has heard of it since the map was supposedly tested in late 2006...
    • That's not the half of it. People not only knew Earth was round, they knew (and had known for 1000 years) how big it was. But Columbus got that wrong. He underestimated the size of the globe and overestimated the size of Asia, so that the distance that he predicted between Europe and Asia was much shorter than in reality. (That's why all those monarchs before Isabella refused to fund him: they were right and he was wrong.) He and his sailors would have died en route if not for his big stroke of luck: an entirely unknown land mass at just about the distance from Europe that he predicted.
      • Some claim that Columbus didn't so much get the size of the globe "wrong" as "shaved a third of the established value off to make it a better sell."
      • ... Despite which, Columbus did not spend his life thinking he had actually reached the Indies. He knew quite well that it was something different, rich in gold rather than spices.
        • Columbus wrote of it as "the Indies", but that was because at that time all of southeast Asia and environs was called "the Indies" and he thought he might be in the general vicinity. Contrary to what some people might tell you, he did not really write that he'd found una gente indios, or indigenous people. He did say that the people believed in heaven, and did not worship idols.
  • Despite the modern associations with the word, Gothic architecture wasn't at all that dark; churches used to be painted bright colours, and there was plenty of light. After centuries, the paint faded away and everything was covered in grime and dust and the colours were lost. Emulators in later centuries built buildings that looked like the old churches ended up looking, with all the gloomyness and intimidation that entails, that wasn't originally even there.
  • The Dark Ages weren't nearly as backwards as Renaissance and Enlightenment scholars claimed. Even the phrase "Dark Ages" had nothing to do with the times being regressive or difficult: it referred to how "dark" the past seemed to be without adequate reliable sources. Modern historians have stopped using the term specifically because of this confusion. Even the phrase "Middle Ages" is going out of style: it was invented by the same scholars to emphasize the glory of the ancient world and the nobility of the scholars who reached for it, in comparison to the ignorant fools who laughed at their theories, yes, laughed, but they'll show them, they'll show them all. Historians are now more likely to use the phrases "early medieval" and "late medieval." ("Medieval" is derived from the Latin for "middle age", so you have to wonder if it just sounds cooler.)
  • The Venerable Bede wrote in the 8th century that the Anglo-Saxons and Danes colonized England soon after the Romans left, sending the native Celts escaping to Scotland, Wales, Ireland, and Cornwall while Germanic settlers took over. But recent DNA testing of residents of the British Isles shows that the English, Welsh, Irish, and Scottish are much more closely related to each other and to the pre-Celtic Britons than they are to the Celts or the Germans. Historians now think that the various invasions of the British Isles by the Celts, Saxons, Angles, Jutes, Vikings, and Normans merely replaced the ruling classes, and that the common people (who made up well over 99% of the population) simply adapted the culture and language of their new rulers. Virtually every fictional representation of pre-Norman England is influenced by this discredited trope.
    • Also, the notion that the Germanic invaders were an alliance of Angles, Saxons, and Jutes has been debunked by linguistic evidence. Old English is more closely related to Old Frisian than any other Germanic language (including Old Saxon). It's now accepted that the Germanic invaders were largely Frisians.
      • That's one's rather contentious; that English is most similar to Frisian merely implies that the dialects spoken by the original settlers were Anglo-Frisian, rather than "Frisian" as such. It's more likely that the involved peoples spoke a collection of related dialects, of which present-day English, Scots and Frisian are the descendants.
  • Likewise, the view popularised by Sir Walter Scott's Ivanhoe of plucky "English" commoners still resisting their "Norman" overlords a century or two after the conquest has likewise been shown to be hogwash - but that doesn't stop it showing up in most Robin Hood adaptations, where the Sheriff's soldiers are referred to as Normans to make it OK for Robin to kill and wound them.
    • Such was the strength of this, incorrect, legend, people were referencing the 'Norman yoke' which had supposedly derailed incontrovertible English freedoms as justifications for rebellion in the 17th century. There was no sense of Norman and non-Norman by then, but it was a handy reason to demand more rights. Walter Scott was clearly on a well trodden path when he penned his work.
    • The idea either dates to the Hundred Years War, when Henry V's propagandists started to play up an imaginary antagonism with France (despite Henry's whole claim in that war being based on his being, you know, a member of the French royal family), or to the Reformation, when it was even more useful to play up a nationalist narrative.
  • Contemporaries viewed Lucrezia Borgia as a scheming, amoral poisoner who abetted her father and brother (Rodrigo and Cesare Borgia, respectively) in their Machiavellian plans to dominate Europe. This belief became even more prevalent in Victorian times, when the word "borgia" entered the dictionary as a synonym for "sadistic female poisoner". More recent scholarship has cast doubt on this belief, as there is no historical proof that Lucrezia herself ever harmed a flea, let alone committed multiple murders. If anything, Lucrezia's life might have been a lot easier if she had been a poisoner. It's thought now that Lucrezia was blamed by her contemporaries because unlike her less innocent relatives, she was a safe target.
    • And then there's the Borgia's supposed poison, la cantarella, a potent yet undetectable brew whose formula could be adjusted so that the victim could die at any time the poisoner wished. Too bad it's not actually possible for such a poison to exist given the limitations of Renaissance science and the unpredictable response every individual will have to a specific toxin. Roderigo probably used plain old arsenic while Cesare and Giovanni disposed with subtlety, strangling their enemies and throwing them in the Tiber.
    • Did we mention that the Borgias were no more murderous than any other prominent Italian family of the time? They got the bad rep because they were social climbers, not because they were especially evil or because their evil was hereditary. Which is a good thing for Tom Cruise, since Brooke Shields is a descendant of Lucrezia Borgia.
      • Of course, that Shout-Out in The Prince certainly doesn't help....
      • Nor the fact that Roderigo was a foreigner (a Spaniard).
        • As the whole Borgia family was. The Borgia lot (Borja is still a fairly common Spanish name, both as a family name and as a male surname) were a bunch of Valencian merchants who became rich very fast, and who climbed even faster to the Papal throne. It's no wonder that the rest of intriguing families, Ursinis, Barberinis, Medicis, you name them, did their best to discredit them.
        • Or that a Dead Horse Trope popular at the time credited Spaniards with especial deviousness.
  • Everybody Knows That people in the Middle Ages loved to burn witches — it was like their version of the movies. Go into town, do some shopping, and then stop to watch some witch burnings. Good times. Except this is another of the things manufactured by later philosophers to elevate their own times over the so-called Dark Ages. The medieval Catholic Church actually considered it heresy to believe in witches — that's right, accusing a woman of witchcraft would likely get you in trouble. It was only late in the Middle Ages when the Church declared witches to be real, and it's the supposedly enlightened Renaissance and Reformation when the witch burning craze took off. Incidentally, burning was primarily a continental thing — in Britain (and Salem, Massachusetts) the punishment was hanging.
    • Witchhunts were in fact a very Protestant thing during the Reformation, while the Catholic world remained generally apathetic about it (the main exception being France). So if you are planning to follow Dan Brown and write a story about poor girls being rounded and burned by the Corrupt Church because they are feminists ahead of their time that know the truth about Mary Magdalene, consider that for example, the entire number of witches burned by the terrible Spanish Inquisition was 12. In a single trial in 1609 directed by a French inquisitor that was sacked after it, and after which the whole existence of witchcraft was declared bollocks by his superiors.
      • Essentially the Inquisition was too busy killing Jews and Protestants to bother with peasant superstition.
        • Except the Spanish Inquisition actually spent very little time killing Protestants and actually did spend most of their time correcting peasant superstitions. Because the Church in Spain was reformed 20 years before Luther, and all of Luther's works were banned, Protestantism never really spread to Spain. Instead the Inquisition spent most of the latter half of the Sixteenth century correcting folk superstitions in rural Spain (and not by torture, amazingly enough).
        • Then what about Joan of Arc?
          • Joan was not burned as a witch. Her crime was relapsed heresy, having to do not with her voices but with her cross-dressing. She signed something promising she would never again do so, then her captors stole her skirt and replaced it with pants; it was either that or go naked. Anyway, her real crime was leading the French to victory, anything else they accused her with was just an excuse.
        • But back to the Inquisition which we were expecting to hear about. It's true, they were a surprisingly small organisation with little effect outside the cities in which the minority of the population lived. Most (approx 70%) of the cases brought before the Inquisition dealt with lapses of morality and general sexual misconduct, and most of those concerned ordinary Spanish people. The other 30% dealt with charges of religious ignorance which they strove to correct. A percent or less would concern people brought up on full charges of heresy and less still, burnt. The Inquisition sought primarily to educate ordinary people about and uphold the faith, not to go around burning witches and heretics.
        • That said, recent research's pointed out that although we know the Inquisition just didn't go around torturing and burning people left right and centre, we have no idea how many people in Portugal, Castile and Aragon were tried and hanged as witches by local authorities and nobles acting under their own jurisdictions. The number could be in the thousands, but the records simply don't exist.
  • King Solomon's Mines and all the works that followed it featuring lost and *always foreign* civilizations in the mists of Darkest Africa have their roots in the plain racist interpretation of Great Zimbabwe after its discovery by Europeans in the late 19th century, that stated the place was "too advanced" to have been built by obviously "primitive" Black Africans. This view was debunked for the first time in 1905.
    • Not King Solomon's Mines, which was an aversion insofar as it was Fair for Its Day: H. Rider Haggard was a notable anti-racist (see the opening of the sequel, Allan Quatermain), and the titular lost colony of King Solomon's Mines was filled with native black people. The works by other authors that followed it usually were pretty racist, though, but Haggard did his best to avoid that.
    • When the far-right white-minority regime came to power in Rhodesia, they promoted the myth of Great Zimabawe as having been built by a "lost" European civilisation to the extent that archaeologists excavating there had their work interfered with by the government who were keen to suppress anything which contradicted the official story.
      • The Benin Bronzes were apparently also the subject of crackpot "lost civilisation" nonsense by European racists who refused to believe that they had been created by Africans.

  • Queen Victoria's status as a carrier of hemophilia was also originally blamed on inbreeding. As is the case with George's porphyria, hemophilia is caused by a single mutated gene and is therefore not more common in inbred populations. American television shows love this trope.
    • The mutation is believed to have first occurred spontaneously in the gametes (=eggs/sperm) of either of Victoria's parents, making her the first person ever to have the mutation. Thus, inbreeding would have absolutely nothing to do with it.
      • If anything, it's interbreeding with Victoria's daughters that spread hemophilia to so many other nations' royals, whether they were previously related to her or not.
    • In fact, historians are beginning to wonder if Victoria was really as closely related to her husband Albert as everyone assumed. They were supposed to be first cousins - Victoria's mother was sister to Albert's father - but German historians have pointed out that Albert was the spitting image of his mother's lover, Alexander von Hanstein, who was unrelated to the royal families of Germany. If this is the case, Victoria and Albert would have been fourth cousins - and fourth cousins share no more genes on average than any two unrelated persons.
    • It's because she's a werewolf! Modern day royalty too...
    • I wish that were true.
07:59:21 AM Dec 20th 2011
Based on Huizinga's account in "Erasmus and the Age of Reformation," the impetus for the reformation may have been more economic than spiritual: by the 15th century the Church controlled many of the functions of officialdom, both in training and licensure and in governance, but were extremely hidebound, reluctant to promote, and paid poorly. This engendered a lot of resentment in Erasmus' generation of clerics, and when they got ahold of the printing press, those resentments burst forth as a rather more comprehensive dissent with the Church's legitimating rhetoric, which necessitated confronting them on dogmatic/spiritual grounds. I'm sure Luther was earnest about those differences of opinion, but I don't think that adequately explains the social movement on the whole.
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