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Popular Historical Myths

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SarahWoodbury
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Post by SarahWoodbury » Sat August 15th, 2009, 3:48 am

On the height issue (way back in one of the earlier posts), my understanding is that it is Victorian era/city dwellers who were so short. Meat protein makes for tall people (just one of those things). There was a study done after WWII, for example, for Japanese people who immigrated to the US. Their children ended up being the same 'average' height as the norm (5' 9"/5' 10"), regardless of the height of the parents. There is obviously a genetic component here, but the nutrition was much poorer during the Industrial Revolution for much of the population.

Thus, in the Middle Ages, wealthy people were taller, given their better nutrition. William the Conqueror was apparently huge. (While his wife was apparently tiny)

Here's just one article I found:
http://researchnews.osu.edu/archive/medimen.htm

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Kveto from Prague
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Post by Kveto from Prague » Sat August 15th, 2009, 7:28 am

I'll throw in the "Napoleon was short" myth. He stood at 5'7'-5'8' which while not giant was cetainly average for the times. the short myth arose from mistranslations of the french system, the fact that he was often seen with his royal gaurd (who were often chosen to look intimidating) and good old fashioned British propaganda

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parthianbow
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Some Roman myths

Post by parthianbow » Sat August 15th, 2009, 9:56 am

That the Romans salted the fields around Carthage after they sacked it.(This was invented by a scholar who wanted to dramatise his account of it.)

That the Ninth Legion 'disappeared' in Scotland. (It disappears from the historical record ca. AD 117, but officers who are known to have served in it keep popping up in later records, giving the lie to its annihilation in Scotland. More likely is that it was annihilated later, about AD 132, in Judaea, I think it was.)

That Roman gladii are all short - until in/around the time of the Civil War, the standard issue sword, the gladius hispaniensis, was much longer than the one seen on virtually every film or TV programme.


Absolutely fantastic thread - gods I love this forum!
Ben Kane
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Spartacus - UK release 19 Jan. 2012. US release June 2012.

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parthianbow
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Post by parthianbow » Sat August 15th, 2009, 9:59 am

[quote=""SarahWoodbury""]On the height issue (way back in one of the earlier posts), my understanding is that it is Victorian era/city dwellers who were so short. Meat protein makes for tall people (just one of those things). [/quote]

Not always meat protein - the Irish peasants of the 19th Century were commonly about 5' 10" - 5' 11" in height. This has been proved from analysis of many skeletons, and is part of the information on display in the fantastic, and moving, Famine Museum in Strokestown, Co. Roscommon, Ireland. If any of you are ever in Ireland, please make the time to visit it - it's amazing.

The peasants' good stature was thanks to their diet of potatoes, butter and milk, which gives carbs, fat and protein. Animal in origin, I know, but not meat! :D

On this line, have any of you read The Law of Dreams by Peter Behrens? It's a stunningly well-written account of the life of a peasant boy in the Irish Famine, and moved me to tears on multiple occasions throughout. I'd rate it as one of the best books I've ever read. (I know, I'm biased because I'm Irish, but it's still a wonderful read.)
Last edited by parthianbow on Sat August 15th, 2009, 10:02 am, edited 2 times in total.
Reason: addition
Ben Kane
Bestselling author of Roman military fiction.
Spartacus - UK release 19 Jan. 2012. US release June 2012.

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chuck
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Post by chuck » Sat August 15th, 2009, 6:44 pm

My Viking ancestors were not a giant race.....Archaeologist have taken numerous measurements of Viking Grave sites...Average height Viking women 5'2" male 5'7.5" ...I know there were there were exceptions to the rule....But now I know why a short Tony Curtis"The Vikings" and Russ Tamblyn in "The Long Ships" were closer to reality....but they so miscast.....This makes my skin crawl when I read about the Vikings and their very cruel and violent act of the "Blood Eagle" when performed a live victim..... Google "Blood Eagle" ....for a vivid description....

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Post by Volgadon » Thu August 20th, 2009, 8:49 am

[quote=""Chatterbox""]Volgadon, if you can possibly get to Krak des Chevaliers, do it! It's amazing, you can instantly see exactly why it was so strategic and why it was never taken back, even by Saladin -- it was ultimately abandoned by the Templars. You can probably see for 50 miles or more in any direction.

Re Othello & Africans in London: I'm just now reading Christie Dickason's book about the daughter of James I (Elizabeth of Bohemia); her author's note mentions that Queen Elizabeth had her own blackamoor and that the queen decided to expel black africans in 1596, deciding that there were too many of them around! So Shakespeare could well have seen some, esp. living in London.

Re skin color generally, it seems that what was most striking was the difference to what was known/accepted, rather than ascribing personality traits or intelligence levels to a particular skin color, especially in those early days that were really pre-colonial. No one was going to sneer at an Ottoman ambassador because of his skin color. (Just his religion!) There is a new book by James Reston about the 1521 to 1526 wars between Charles V and Suleiman that I'm about to read, as soon as I finish Andrew Wheatcroft's book about the 17th c siege of Vienna; he seems to deal with Ottomans at the Western courts.[/quote]

Visiting Krak des Chevaliers is a childhood dream of mine, unfortunately, it lies in Syria. I'm Israeli, so that is out of the question.

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Volgadon
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Post by Volgadon » Thu August 20th, 2009, 8:58 am

[quote=""parthianbow""]That the Romans salted the fields around Carthage after they sacked it.(This was invented by a scholar who wanted to dramatise his account of it.)

That the Ninth Legion 'disappeared' in Scotland. (It disappears from the historical record ca. AD 117, but officers who are known to have served in it keep popping up in later records, giving the lie to its annihilation in Scotland. More likely is that it was annihilated later, about AD 132, in Judaea, I think it was.)

That Roman gladii are all short - until in/around the time of the Civil War, the standard issue sword, the gladius hispaniensis, was much longer than the one seen on virtually every film or TV programme.


Absolutely fantastic thread - gods I love this forum![/quote]

I have an article in a collection of essays with some relevance to the Bar Kokhba revolt which mentions the 9th. The article is based on inscriptions found in Syria, Jordan and Israel.

Gladii are rather similar to the caucasian kinjal (or should that be the other way round) they are pretty long for a 'dagger'.

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Miss Moppet
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Post by Miss Moppet » Wed August 26th, 2009, 12:15 pm

[quote=""keny from prague""]I'll throw in the "Napoleon was short" myth. He stood at 5'7'-5'8' which while not giant was cetainly average for the times. the short myth arose from mistranslations of the french system, the fact that he was often seen with his royal gaurd (who were often chosen to look intimidating) and good old fashioned British propaganda[/quote]

And I'll throw in the "Louis XIV was short" myth. The primary sources describe him as medium height or tall. The story may have started with some apocryphal memoirs supposedly by one of his mistresses, Madame de Montespan, which appeared in the early C19. They were actually very well written and some scholars are still fooled by them. Anyway, it says in there that he started the fashion of wearing high heels to look taller, which isn't true - all men wore high heels at this time, and nobles wore red heels. Francoise Chandernagor addresses the question in her notes to her novel The King's Way but AFAIK no one else has.

Not possible to measure him unfortunately, as the royal tombs at Saint-Denis were desecrated during the Revolution and all the dead royals thrown into a pit. They were reburied later, but all mixed up together so no one knows whose bones are whose. So ironically among the few members of the royal family to have their own graves at Saint Denis are Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette.

chuck
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Post by chuck » Wed August 26th, 2009, 3:48 pm

Not a historical myth question.... While watching the new "Mad Men" series on AMC....a character from the UK was discussing the "London Fog" raincoat account,and he mention it was odd term for a coat label because there is no such London fog....He said 'It's the coal burning pollution".....Anyway it got me to thinking about Dickens and Doyle's foggy London towne?????

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parthianbow
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It was the pollution from coal fires

Post by parthianbow » Wed August 26th, 2009, 5:46 pm

Hi Chuck
Interesting post. I immediately thought of the 1952 'fog' which killed thousands of people, and was caused by coal pollution 'fog'. I then thought that the 19th Century 'fog' had to be the same thing. Looks like it was:

http://www.icons.org.uk/nom/nominations/london-fog
Ben Kane
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Spartacus - UK release 19 Jan. 2012. US release June 2012.

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