Untrue Historic "Facts" It’s Time to Erase
Untrue Historic “Facts” It’s Time to Erase

Untrue Historic “Facts” It’s Time to Erase

Khalid Elhassan - September 8, 2020

Untrue Historic “Facts” It’s Time to Erase
The last Western Roman Emperor, Romulus Augustulus, surrendering the imperial insignia to Odoacer. About History

4. The Myth that the Roman Empire Fell in 476 AD

It is often bandied about that the Western Roman Empire fell in 476 AD. While that year is usually viewed as that empire’s traditional end date, the notion that it came to an end in 476 is a myth. The empire’s end was actually a gradual process, not an abrupt one. Contemporaries hardly noticed that anything special had happened in 476. What did actually happen that year was that a military strongman, Odoacer, beat another military strongman, Orestes, to become the power behind the throne – Western Roman emperors having long since been reduced to puppets by then.

Odoacer then forced Orestes’ son, the sixteen-year-old Emperor Romulus Augustulus, to abdicate. Augustulus’ imperial regalia was sent to the other Roman emperor, in Constantinople, who confirmed Odoacer as ruler of Italy in the now-sole Roman Emperor’s name. On the ground, little changed in Italy or the rest of the Western Roman Empire. Most people who lived in 477 would not have noticed anything particularly different from 476.

Untrue Historic “Facts” It’s Time to Erase
The Empire of Alexander the Great. Encyclopedia Britannica

3. The Myth That Alexander the Great Conquered History’s Greatest Empire

Alexander the Great was one of history’s greatest conquerors, widely credited with conquering history’s greatest empire until then. The man was undoubtedly great, but his empire’s size was not the greatest to date. When Alexander died in 323 BC, history’s largest empire until then was still the Persian Empire. The map above is of Alexander’s empire at its greatest extent. The map below is of the Achaemenid Persian Empire under Darius the Great (490 BC).

Untrue Historic “Facts” It’s Time to Erase
The Persian Empire under Darius the Great. Wikimedia

Alexander’s and Darius’ empires mostly overlap. However, the territory that Darius did not rule in Greece and Thrace is more than made up for with territories he ruled in Arabia, Central Asia, Libya and the Caucasus, that Alexander never conquered. All in all, the difference amounts to about 300,000 square kilometers in favor of the Persian Empire at its peak: 5.5 million square kilometers, vs 5.2 million for Alexander’s realm. It took another two and a half centuries after Alexander’s death before the Achaemenid Empire’s size record was finally bested, by China under the Han Dynasty.

Untrue Historic “Facts” It’s Time to Erase
“River of Blood” plaque at The Trump National Golf Club. Houston Chronicle

2. The “River of Blood” Myth

People visiting the Trump National Golf Club in Northern Virginia might come across a bit of Civil War history that few had ever heard of. Situated between the 14th hole and the 15th tee in one of the courses is a plaque attached to a flagpole overlooking the Potomac River. Above a Trump family crest and President Trump’s full name is an inscription that reads:

Many great American soldiers, both of the North and South, died at this spot. The casualties were so great that the water would turn red and thus became known as ‘The River of Blood.’ It is my great honor to have preserved this important section of the Potomac River“. The plaque designates that portion of the Potomac as “The River of Blood”. As seen below, there is a good reason why few had ever heard of that engagement: it is a myth.

Untrue Historic “Facts” It’s Time to Erase
A Civil War battle. Science Source

1. “Were They There?

There is a solid consensus among Civil War scholars and historians that there is no battle or “River of Blood” designation associated with the Trump National Golf Club. When challenged about the accuracy of the plaque, however, Trump was adamant. As he put it, the area was: “a prime site for river crossings. So if people are crossing the river, and you happen to be in a civil war, I would say that people were shot – a lot of them“.

Unfortunately, scholars remain unconvinced, and refuse to accept the point-at-a-landmark-and-speculate method as valid historic corroboration. When informed that historians disagreed with his River of Blood myth, Trump retorted: “how would they know that? Were they there?

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Where Did We Find This Stuff? Some Sources and Further Reading

Ancient History Encyclopedia – Fall of the Western Roman Empire

Carley, Michael J. – End of the Low, Dishonest Decade: Failure of the Anglo-Franco-Soviet Alliance in 1939 (1993)

Clark, Alan – Barbarossa: The Russian-German Conflict, 1941-1945 (1985)

Clarke, Sir Richard – Anglo-American Economic Collaboration in War and Peace, 1942-1949 (1982)

Cracked – 5 Historical Landmarks (That Are Total Frauds)

Cracked – 5 People You Didn’t Realize Were Fictional Characters

Encyclopedia Britannica – Montezuma II

Ericson, Edward E. – Feeding the German Eagle: Soviet Economic Aid to Nazi Germany, 1933 – 1941 (1999)

Glantz, David – When Titans Clashed: How the Red Army Stopped Hitler (1995)

GQ, June 20th, 2019 – A Dirty, Rotten, Double Crossing (True) Story of What Happened to the Italian American Mob

Japan Talk – 8 Common Ninja Myths

Lane Fox, Robin – The Search For Alexander (1980)

Military History Now – Enter the Ninja: Facts and Myths About Japan’s Most Mysterious Warriors

Montefiore, Simon Sebag – Stalin: The Court of the Red Tsar (2004)

New York Times, March 17th, 2017 – Debunking a Myth: The Irish Were Not Slaves, Too

Rolling Stone, August 17th, 2017 – Donald Trump’s Golf Course Plaque Honors Fake Civil War Battle

Smithsonian Magazine, August, 2004 – In Search of William Tell

Southern Poverty Law Center – How the Myth of Irish Slaves Became a Favorite Meme of Racists Online

Tank Encyclopedia – Medium Tank M4 Sherman

Washington Post, May 5th, 2017 – Five Myths About the Mafia

Wikipedia – Lend-Lease

Wikipedia – St. Bernard (Dog)

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