You've probably heard the phrase "Drink the Kool-Aid," which comes from the 1978 Jonestown Massacre, in which 909 members of Jim Jones' cult drank cyanide-laced Kool-Aid to commit mass suicide at his command. Except...it wasn't Kool-Aid. It was Flavor-Aid.
2.Also, that everyone willingly drank the poison.
Jones reportedly said that if they didn't comply with his orders and drink the poison, the Guyanese Army would torture them, castrate the men, and eventually kill them. Security guards also pulled people from their seats toward the poison, and around 70 people were estimated to have been injected with the poison. Others were shot by armed guards as they ran.
The misconception seems to have come from Japanese Kabuki theater.
4.That in the original story, it's Pandora's box.
It's actually "Pandora's Jar." A translation error caused the meaning to be muddled a few hundred years ago.
5.That in World War II, the United States mainly fought the Nazis to free the Jews.
According to the US Holocaust Memorial Museum's website, the US prioritized military victory over saving Jews being persecuted and killed by Nazis. They didn't even enter World War II until 1941 (it had begun in 1939), when they were attacked by the Japanese at Pearl Harbor.
Much of their fighting was against the Japanese in the Pacific. It wasn't until 1944 (a year before the war's end, and two years after credible reports that millions of Jews were being killed began to widely circulate) that the US actively began trying to rescue Jews through the War Refugee Board.
In fact, the US actively turned away thousands of Jewish refugees during the war, despite not having filled their quota for German immigrants.
6.That Italy switched sides in World War II.
This is overly simplistic. Dictator Mussolini had sided with Hitler, but Mussolini had been deposed, and his successor, Pietro Badoglio, reached an armistice with the Allies.
However, Nazis seized strongholds in Germany and broke Mussolini out of jail to make him leader of the parts of Italy they controlled, creating the Italian Social Republic.
So basically, Italy was going through a civil war near the end of World War II, with different parts siding with the Allies vs. the Axis powers.
7.That Benjamin Franklin ever said that beer is proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy.
He said something similar about wine: “Behold the rain which descends from heaven upon our vineyards; there it enters the roots of the vines, to be changed into wine; a constant proof that God loves us, and loves to see us happy.”
8.And that he said, "A penny saved is a penny earned.” What he actually wrote was, "“A penny saved is two pence clear.”
9.That the Library of Alexandria was destroyed in one big fire.
There were many reasons for the library's decline, including yes, multiple fires — but also because the institution of the library was devalued in society and attendance waned as the library itself fell into disorganization and neglect. Even the fires happened far apart from each other — there was no one event that destroyed the library.
The claim that the Caliph Omar was the perpetrator of one of the fires is also disputed. First of all, Jewish and Christian texts in the library would've also been sacred Muslim texts. And it's unclear if the library even existed at the time of its "burning" — there is no mention of the event from writers of the time, and the account of the burning was written three centuries after it supposedly took place.
10.And also that losing the library set humanity back centuries.
It was not the only library to exist at the time, and many of the texts were copies of texts that were returned to their owners, and the discoveries and inventions that scientists and mathematicians made spread through society and existed outside the library.
11.That Anastasia didn't die with the rest of her family.
This claim persisted for a few reasons, one of which being that people kept claiming to be Anastasia — most notably, Anna Anderson (her claims were later disproved).
And because in 1991, the grave of the family was discovered, and two children's bodies were missing. However, in 2007, more remains were found a bit away from the rest, and the remaining two children (Alexei and one of his sisters) were found.
12.That Neanderthals were the only other human species to exist alongside Homo sapiens.
At least nine species existed 300,000 years ago, one of which may have outlived the Neanderthals — the Denisovans. Some sources say they went extinct 50,000 years ago — while others say it was more like 15,000.
13.That knights were chivalrous.
Chivalry was introduced in the Middle Ages to curb the mass civilian casualties that brutish and violent knights had been causing — but even after its adoption, it was more about fitting in among the noble class than being honorable to civilians. Burning and looting towns as well as raping townspeople were still common.
In fact, much of the literature about chivalrous knights was either not written by knights themselves (but instead clergy or poets) or was written after the fact, adapting the word "to define ideal male behavior."
14.That Roman gladiators were all convicts and slaves.
While it may have started that way, many people signed up for fights willingly to prove their prowess, and some gladiators became celebrities.
15.And that gladiator fights were always to the death.
Somewhere between 1 in 5 and 1 in 10 matches ended in death, but many times they did not. Promoters put money into training and housing their gladiators, and didn't want them killed so easily.
16.That Marilyn Monroe was a size 16.
While Monroe is now often called "curvy" and lauded for a non-traditional figure compared to other actors during the Golden Age of Hollywood, she actually would've been around a size 4 by today's standards.
17.That Einstein failed math or didn't get good grades in school.
While Einstein was expelled for being rebellious — though he later re-enrolled at another school — his science and math grades were actually great, according to a biographer.
18.And finally, that the ancient Egyptians worshipped cats.
They had some feline-appearing gods, but this did not mean they worshipped cats. They simply admired them, as we do today.
What are some other historical misconceptions that always bother you? Let us know in the comments below!
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