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Popular Historical Myths

For discussions of historical fiction. Threads that do not relate to historical fiction should be started in the Chat forum or elsewhere on the forum, depending on the topic.
Ash
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Post by Ash » Thu October 9th, 2008, 9:39 pm

That people never bathed in the Middle Ages

What was their hygeine regimen? I always knew they had to have bathed sometime. Did they have soaps, shampoos? How did they clean their clothes? DId they really keep their furs in the guardrobe to keep insects away?

The law of droit du seignur on a bride's wedding night.

I was reading a HF (cant remember the name) where this is the start of the book. I started wondering if this really happened and looked. Glad to see it wasn't true. (and the book was rubbish and I didn't even finish it)

Ash
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Post by Ash » Thu October 9th, 2008, 9:42 pm

[QUOTE=Volgadon;7394]My personal theory is that the huge influx of Muslim and Jewish refugees from Spain brought back a lot of the cuisine. QUOTE]

That makes sense, esp when you figure how many Arabic words eventually made it into the European languages (tho that could also have been from the crusaders

(does anyone know if the terms Don and Dona in Spain are from the Hebrew Adonai meaning lord)

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Kveto from Prague
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myths that bug me

Post by Kveto from Prague » Thu October 9th, 2008, 10:22 pm

i guess this thread is about historical myths that bother us?

ok, lets see:

that English was widely spoken earlier than 50 years ago.
(and English is more expressive than other languages)

that the crusades were any worse than anything else that occured at that time period.

that the wild west was at all "wild"

that the moors were sub-saharan african
(and well having sub-saharan africans in Europe or north africa any time before the 1450s) (even shakespere made this error in othello)

that knights could be left-handed (knights born left-handed had to be trained to fight right-handed, as the left was considered sinister.)

that christians were sacrificed to lions in the coloseum

vikings with horns

that people in the old days were considerably shorter than modern times.

just a few i thought of

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Margaret
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Post by Margaret » Fri October 10th, 2008, 1:59 am

that the crusades were any worse than anything else that occured at that time period
Good one. The Crusades were pretty bad. I've read, though, that one of the reasons they got started was because there was so much awful warfare within Europe that the rulers there and the pope were both eager to get the military-age men out of the way fighting somewhere else. I think the idea of the Crusades being so horrible comes from (a) the hypocrisy, because supposedly these were pious Christian warriors fighting to free Jerusalem from Moslem rule, and actually they killed a lot of Christians as well, and (b) modern sensibilities that correctly oppose unprovoked aggression against other nations, not that it doesn't happen today. Also, it's a reaction against 19th century novels that romanticized the Crusaders.

The Wild West could be pretty wild, though. A lot of people moved west to avoid being put in jail, so the percentage of the population that were thugs was rather higher than in the east. Plus, with Indians who had been displaced from their land making war on the settlers, and the settlers retaliating by making war on Indians in general, whether or not they belonged to a group that had made war on them ... things could get bloody.

Weird but true: Did you know there were alligators in Texas and Louisiana well into the 19th century?
Browse over 5000 historical novel listings (probably well over 5000 by now, but I haven't re-counted lately) and over 700 reviews at www.HistoricalNovels.info

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Alaric
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Post by Alaric » Fri October 10th, 2008, 6:35 am

[quote=""keny from prague""]that people in the old days were considerably shorter than modern times.[/quote]

There's some truth to this one though. For example, during the second half of the 18th century/early 19th century the most common height of the British soldier was 5'6. The current average height in Britain for males aged 18-30 is 5'10, comparable because soldiers would have been in the same age bracket.
Last edited by Alaric on Fri October 10th, 2008, 6:37 am, edited 1 time in total.

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Volgadon
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Post by Volgadon » Fri October 10th, 2008, 9:55 am

People being shorter was mostly true! Maybe a better way to put it was that there weren't as many tall people. This can be backed up by many items of clothing and photos as well as architectural details. It varies, of course, according to time and location.

As for the Crusades, the only event comparable to the First was the reign of the Fatimid Al-Haqim in the early part of the century. I'm not claiming that the Muslim world was all peaceful, it wasn't, but the First Crusade was shocking in it's level of violence and barbarity.

Shakespeare did not write Othello as being Sub-Saharan, he is a moor, not a blackamoor. I did read an interesting theory, in Jan Morris's book about the Venetian Empire, that the historical prototype might have been a Moorean mercenary in Venetian service.

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Volgadon
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Post by Volgadon » Fri October 10th, 2008, 9:59 am

[quote=""Ash""]
Volgadon;7394 wrote:My personal theory is that the huge influx of Muslim and Jewish refugees from Spain brought back a lot of the cuisine. QUOTE]
(does anyone know if the terms Don and Dona in Spain are from the Hebrew Adonai meaning lord)
Quite possibly, but not from Adonai, which means roughly translated means THE LORD (only used as a substitute for Jehova). Adon is lord, adoni- milord.

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Kveto from Prague
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Post by Kveto from Prague » Fri October 10th, 2008, 10:46 am

[quote=""Volgadon""]People being shorter was mostly true! Maybe a better way to put it was that there weren't as many tall people. This can be backed up by many items of clothing and photos as well as architectural details. It varies, of course, according to time and location.

I think it had more to do with nutrition than anything. many medevil leaders (Edward I, Charles IV, etc. stood well over 6 feet) would be considered tall. like you say, perhaps fewer tall people, would have been a better way to put it.

As for the Crusades, the only event comparable to the First was the reign of the Fatimid Al-Haqim in the early part of the century. I'm not claiming that the Muslim world was all peaceful, it wasn't, but the First Crusade was shocking in it's level of violence and barbarity.

i dont want to get into a cruelty debate nor defend the actions of the first crusaders. The wholesale slaughter of jerusalum was excessive but also exagerated for propaganda purposes (an entire suburb of damascus was founded by jerusalum refugees so clearly not everyone was killed). there are any number of examples of wholesale slaughter at those times in any part of the world. 40 years after the first crusade an estimated quarter million armenians were exteminated in southern asia minor. Timur the lame built a mountain- A MOUNTAIN- of skulls from all of the men, women and children he'd slaughtered in Asia. there are countless other examples. it was a horrible age all around.

I think as Margaret said, it was the hypocrisy of the crusades that people dislike. however there are many examples of religous tolerance shown by both the franks and muslims during the period of oultremer. For instance, King Aleric of jerusalum (father of the leper king) went so far as to question the superiority of christinaity over islam and claimed that saracens had souls (an idea unheard of in Europe until the renasaince).

in short the crusades were bad for all but also a product of their times and a great deal of good came from them as well (exposure to other cultures, increased trade, access to literature, and increased tolerance). Anyway, i wont say anymore about it. most people have their ideas about how bad the crusades were so its pointless to try to point out the positives.

Shakespeare did not write Othello as being Sub-Saharan, he is a moor, not a blackamoor. I did read an interesting theory, in Jan Morris's book about the Venetian Empire, that the historical prototype might have been a Moorean mercenary in Venetian service.[/quote]

several times othello refers to his "face black as pitch" or something along those lines so who knows how dark shakespere imagined othello. In susequent performances hes usually potrayed as sub-saharan when ive always thought north african would be more likely. but its fiction so i guess he could be whatever shakespere wanted. theres a good chance that shakespere had never actually met anyone with darker skin than himself.

take care

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Kveto from Prague
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Post by Kveto from Prague » Fri October 10th, 2008, 10:52 am

[quote=""Margaret""]Good one. The Crusades were pretty bad. I've read, though, that one of the reasons they got started was because there was so much awful warfare within Europe that the rulers there and the pope were both eager to get the military-age men out of the way fighting somewhere else. I think the idea of the Crusades being so horrible comes from (a) the hypocrisy, because supposedly these were pious Christian warriors fighting to free Jerusalem from Moslem rule, and actually they killed a lot of Christians as well, and (b) modern sensibilities that correctly oppose unprovoked aggression against other nations, not that it doesn't happen today. Also, it's a reaction against 19th century novels that romanticized the Crusaders.


agreed. Urban the second's brainchild of the crusades solved his most pressing problem, getting the unlanded nobles out of Europe.


The Wild West could be pretty wild, though. A lot of people moved west to avoid being put in jail, so the percentage of the population that were thugs was rather higher than in the east. Plus, with Indians who had been displaced from their land making war on the settlers, and the settlers retaliating by making war on Indians in general, whether or not they belonged to a group that had made war on them ... things could get bloody.

In one of Bill Brysons books, he does a pretty good job of deflating all of the myths about the old west showing that the gunfights were pretty uncommon. The OK coral is famous because it was so unusual. im not sayting hes got the last word on it, but he had some good statistics to back up his claims. the wild.wild west was more a romantic idea of hollywood than anything.



Weird but true: Did you know there were alligators in Texas and Louisiana well into the 19th century?[/quote]

so what happened to them? hunted to extinction or something else?

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Kveto from Prague
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sorry

Post by Kveto from Prague » Fri October 10th, 2008, 10:55 am

to the people i wrote to above. sorry i mixed my comments with your comments so it might be tough to read.

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