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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.
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Susan
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Post by Susan » Sun December 14th, 2008, 11:56 pm

[quote=""AuntiePam""]Did Marie Antoinette really say "Let them eat cake", when told that the peasants had no bread? Cecil Adams of The Straight Dope books says no, but do historians agree?[/quote]

Catherine Delors, author of Mistress of the Revolution, who posts here, addressed this question on her blog: http://blog.catherinedelors.com/2008/03 ... -cake.aspx
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Margaret
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Post by Margaret » Mon December 15th, 2008, 1:23 am

Literally true. There were alligators swimming around in Texas and Louisiana rivers until well into the 19th century. There's no myth around it - it's just a factoid that popped into my head at some earlier point in this thread.

Thanks for the link to Catheriine Delors' post about the "Let them eat cake" myth. Madame Victorine's heartfelt comment about the paté crusts is much funnier - and undoubtedly outraged the populace. One is reminded of the first President Bush's amazement at the concept of scanners in grocery stores.
Last edited by Margaret on Mon December 15th, 2008, 1:28 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Post by gyrehead » Mon December 15th, 2008, 5:03 pm

I'm going to be real pedantic here. And really in many ways this is actually an anti-myth myth. Namely that Cleopatra was blonde. Now, I'll allow that she could have been blonde. But it seems like the new trend is for authors to trot out their Wiki knowledge to prove that they know she wasn't black. While her ancestry was Macedonian (Alexander's hair color is mentioned in records in a way that might suggest blonde was not the norm in Macedonia and might have sprung from Olympias's possible Illyrian forebears or at least a more recent wave of northern tribal settlers in Epiros); it was also Persian through Apama, Cappadocian through Cleopatra I and both her mother and her paternal grandmother's provenance are still unknown. But could easily allow Pontic, Nabatean and Parthian blood into the mix.

I know it is silly but it just irks me when authors seem to smugly state how she is blonde because of her Macedonia roots without once looking at the rest of them. At least McCullough took the Pontic bride approach (even if her portrayal of Cleopatra really descended into the realm of ridiculous in Antony and Cleopatra for me).

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Margaret
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Post by Margaret » Mon December 15th, 2008, 7:32 pm

I always assumed Cleopatra shaved her head, like other Egyptian royalty, and wore the standard black wig (with the drippy cone of perfumed wax underneath). In that case, I would think her real hair color would be moot!
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Rowan
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Post by Rowan » Mon December 15th, 2008, 8:35 pm

[quote=""Margaret""]Literally true. There were alligators swimming around in Texas and Louisiana rivers until well into the 19th century. There's no myth around it - it's just a factoid that popped into my head at some earlier point in this thread.[/quote]

But there are still a fair amount around. Not in the big rivers such as the Mississippi or Atchafalaya or Red River, but certainly in the smaller ones even now.

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Post by annis » Mon December 15th, 2008, 8:58 pm

This was a while back ,Ash, but I just noticed it
does anyone know if the terms Don and Dona in Spain are from the Hebrew Adonai meaning lord?
Spanish is one of the Romance languages, derived from the Latin of the Romans. (For more information on Iberian Romance language variations see here) Hence don and dona derive from the Latin dominus (male) domina (female)
meaning, lord, master, mistress etc.
Whether there is a semantic root linking the Latin dominus with the Hebrew adonai I don't know, though someone else with a lingustics background might be able to enlighten us.

As a Hebrew speaker, Volgadon might know the answer, though I have a vague thought that the word adonai might have been adapted from the Greek.
Last edited by annis on Mon December 15th, 2008, 9:08 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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MLE (Emily Cotton)
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Post by MLE (Emily Cotton) » Mon December 15th, 2008, 9:06 pm

[quote=""Margaret""]I always assumed Cleopatra shaved her head, like other Egyptian royalty, and wore the standard black wig (with the drippy cone of perfumed wax underneath). In that case, I would think her real hair color would be moot![/quote]

Were the wig and the wax customs used by the Ptolemies? I was under the impression that they were rather proud of their Greek heritage, and that the Egyptians, as a conquered people, had better get used to it. I've always wondered if all those black-wig depictions of Cleopatra weren't modern interpretations based on paintings from the pre-Ptolomaic era.

There must be contemporary (to her century, that is) depictions of Cleopatra. What do they look like?

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Post by Volgadon » Mon December 15th, 2008, 10:09 pm

I thought I addressed it earlier, but adonai is only used to refer to the Lord. Adon means lord or master, there is no feminine equivalent. I don't think that there is a connection between that and don.

Light hair was actually not that unusual in the Near East. Not straw blond but light, sandy hair, with a reddish tint. Moab and Edom were famous for their reddish hair, many ancient Iranians had reddish hair, as did the Turks (not the Mongols) and Armenians say that the ancient hair color was predominantly reddish, black coming in later. The Kurds are also giner-ish.
Lybians had light hair. You would however stick out like a sore thumb in Egypt or Arabia.

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Post by annis » Mon December 15th, 2008, 11:16 pm

Sorry, Volgadon, I missed your earlier comment on the subject of adonai .

Another historical myth:

That Portuguese explorer Ferdinand Magellan circumnavigated the world in the sixteenth century.
Problem- during this historic trip, he was killed by natives in the Philippines, therefore he only made it half-way around the world, leaving it to his second-in-command, Juan Sebastian Elcano, to complete the circumnavigation.

True: When Victoria, the expedition's one surviving ship, returned to the harbor of departure after completing the first circumnavigation of the Earth, only 18 men out of the original 237 men were on board.

Re Cleopatra's hair colour- I have seen references to Cleopatra having red or reddish hair, but I haven't actually seen ancient sources which confirm that. It would fit in with Volgadon's comments. The other possiblity is that she might have used henna, as the custom of using henna to redden the hair was already in practice at that time.
Last edited by annis on Mon December 15th, 2008, 11:31 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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AuntiePam
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Post by AuntiePam » Mon December 15th, 2008, 11:46 pm

Was henna used to change the color or for another reason? Henna adds body and makes hair thicker-looking and easier to control. Maybe the color was a side effect.

Have I started a new myth? Nah. Probably not. :)

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