History of the World According to the Movies: Part 17 – Pre-Columbian America


Of course, in one of Mel Gibson’s attempts to bring history to life, here’s his vision of Pre-Columbian America, specifically the Mayans. Still, though the architecture may be historically acceptable, they look pretty drab by most Mayan standards. If these buildings really looked as they did in Mayan times, they’d be painted in bright colors so they could easily be seen like most buildings in Latin America or Southern United States. Also, they Mayans were much more than a civilization that practiced human sacrifice which Mel Gibson fails to show. Not to mention, this movie also contains a heavy Eurocentric bias by including Spanish Conquistadors but that’s beside the point.

Just because the continents of North and South America had to be discovered by Europeans, doesn’t mean that there’s no history in the Americas to be told. While only few societies in the New World had a written language, the Americas had plenty of civilizations in the Pre-Columbian era nonetheless. After all, indigenous peoples had been living in North and South America for thousands of years before the arrival of Columbus explained by the presence of archaeological evidence. Of course, when it comes to movies set in Pre-Columbian America, Hollywood mostly centers on the Mayans since we know more about them than any other such civilization at this time, they had a written language which has been preserved, and that the Mayan people still survive to this day. There can’t really be a historically accurate movie on Pre-Columbian civilizations because there are things we simply don’t know about their cultures and archaeological evidence can only go so far. Still, there are plenty of historical accuracies in movies set in Pre-Columbian America that even archaeologists can say which may consist of putting the wrong buildings in the wrong locations as part of the wrong civilizations, having people speak the wrong language, or what not. Sometimes Pre-Columbian culture on film can consists of mish-mash between cultures. Still, I list some here.

The Mayans:

The Mayans ransacked a village of their own people for sacrificial victims and slaves. (Captives were taken during war and there is not much evidence that they ever did this.)

The Mayans sacrificed captives in mass quantities. (No, that was the Aztecs who did that. When it came to human sacrifice, the Mayans were into quality not quantity. Besides, to the Maya, human sacrifice was a very personal thing.)

The Mayans sacrificed almost anyone. (Again, it’s the Aztecs. The Mayans preferred to sacrifice royals and elites {preferably adversarial} taken from war, which led to a lot of wars in the process. Oh, and there were rituals pertaining to self-sacrifice involving a Mayan king having to draw blood through a barbed thread at either the tongue or his genitals. The 1960s Mayan movie with Yul Brynner is actually more accurate in its treatment of Mayan human sacrifice than the one directed by Mel Gibson since the character trying to avoid sacrifice is a chief who’d be a more likely candidate {despite that he’s the leader of a tribe from Mississippi}.)

The Mayans were a savage people with reckless sewage treatment, widespread slavery, bad rave dancing, and a real lust of human blood. (They were also very concerned with hygiene. They had remarkable astronomy with their calendar being especially good at predicting eclipses and were able to precisely measure planetary orbits. They also had advances in medicine, agronomy, and mathematics. Also, all the Mayan buildings were built by free men who participating in such projects as a civic duty. Yet, we don’t know whether these people did it because they were forced to, as a way of using labor to pay taxes, or voluntarily. Then there was the Mayan ball game which was a combination of basketball, lacrosse, and rollerball, in which either the captain of the winning or losing team was sacrificed, we’re not sure which. Oh, and they were probably one of the most sophisticated Pre-Columbian civilizations of all time, which was an ordered society of maize, kings, and gods, as well as flourished for a thousand years. Nevertheless, they were no violent than other civilizations even if they did practice human sacrifice.)

The Mayans were awed by solar eclipses. (They were accomplished astronomers and therefore, the Mayan elites would’ve known it was coming and planned a ritual all around it.)

The Mayan civilization collapsed with the arrival of the Spanish Conquistadors in the 1500s. (The Maya Civilization collapsed in 900 A. D. which was 600 years before the Spanish ever set foot when their cities were abandoned {yet it’s possible that some of the Mayan cities did survive}. Of course, Spanish disease killed many of the Mayan people, but that’s beside the point  since it took almost 200 years to subdue the people who were left from their remaining cities {while the Aztec Empire fell within a year}. Still, as to what caused the Mayan collapse, many have their own theories like drought, deforestation, disease, overpopulation, warfare, social disruption.)

Mayan villagers were hunters and gatherers in the deep jungles of Meso America. (Actually they would’ve been farmers on manicured land with a very structured social and economic system. Oh, and they had crops like cacao, tomatoes, corn, and avocados long before the Europeans did.)

The Mayans thought 2012 would be the end of the world. (The Mayans never equated the end of their calendar with the end of the world. Also, it’s 2014.)

Mesoamerican jungle people were never aware of Mayan pyramids. (They would’ve since these structures were never too far from anywhere in the Mayan world, occupied or abandoned. If you lived 6 to 12 miles outside a large Mayan community, you would’ve certainly have seen one since such structures were usually 20 kilometers away from anywhere in the Mayan world.)

Lots of Mayans wore jade. (Jade was only reserved for royalty since it was a symbol of royal power and wealth.)

The Mayans were mankind’s earliest civilization. (Actually the Mesopotamians were as far as the historic record goes. And in Meso America, the Olmecs. Also, the Olmecs and the Zapotecs had writing before the Mayans but not much of it survives.)

Mayan sacrificial victims were painted blue and were sacrificed on a column shaped stone. (The Mayans would never paint their victims blue. Rather they would adorn them with special quetzel plumed headdresses. And it’s the Aztecs who were known to sacrifice victims this way, not the Maya. Also, the Mayans used decapitation, heart excision, dismemberment, hanging, disembowelment, skin flaying, skull splitting, throwing kids in wells, and burning.)

The Mayans relished torturing their captives. (Not necessarily, but their victims were their enemies suffering a long tortuous death and being carefully disassembled. These guys were competition and a Mayan ruler may get something to add to his kingdom.)

The Mayas didn’t have libraries. (They did, but the Spanish destroyed most of their books that there are only three or four left {and one may be a fake}.)

The Mayans were tall, slim, ripped, tan, and very European looking. (The actual Mayans were shorter and stocky but I was just ripping off a 1960s movie called Kings of the Sun starring Yul Brynner.)

The Mayans visited the US Gulf Coast. (Well, it could’ve happened since the the Mississippians did grow Mesoamerican crops like corn, beans, and squash but we can’t be sure.)

Mayan kings were bystanders in human sacrifice rituals while two priests did the actual work. (He was usually the central figure who conducted rituals in front of a large audience in a major ceremonial fashion. He was not only the political leader in his Mayan city-states, but a religious one as well.)

Mayan villagers lived in stick huts in the wild jungle. (They would’ve lived in homes with stone foundations near the cleared plazas or in surrounding villages near the capital. Housing on lots were planned and intensively managed spaces where fruits, vegetables, and medicinal plants were grown and where some domesticated animals were raised.)

The Mayans were sun worshipers and called themselves “sun people.” (They had a pantheon of gods with the Maize god as the most important deity because he signified the change of the seasons.)

Some Mayan tribes used swords made out of wood or metal. (They usually used obsidian for knives which were very sharp.)

Aztecs and The Triple Alliance Empire:

The Aztecs were a homogenous people. (The Aztec Empire was run by a triple Alliance of three Nahuatl city states Tenochtitlan, Tlateloco, and Tlacopan near the islets of Lake Texcoco. Oh, and they called themselves the Mexica who may have came to Mexico during the 13th century from Arizona {oh, the irony}.)

The main Aztec city was situated in the jungle. (The Aztec Triple Alliance ran their empire from Tenochtitlan which was built upon a lake in a the middle of the Valley of Mexico. When the Spanish arrived, it looked like a Pre-Columbian Venice with a network of canals and bridges. Of course, no filmmaker has a budget to recreate this.)

The Aztecs used gold coins. (They more likely used cocoa beans as currency than gold coins. Besides, Aztec gold coins never existed in Pre-Columbian America.)

The Aztecs mummified their dead. (High-ranking Aztecs were cremated. However, the Andean peoples certainly did.)

South America:

Nazca buildings were made out of stone. They also built their tombs on hills and were mummified in a fashion depicted by Francisco de Orellana. (Nazcas built with adobe, had their tombs in the ground in flat areas, and mummified people by hunkering their knees against their chests before wrapping them.)

Peruvian coastal tribes used blowpipes with poisoned darts. (Amazon jungle tribes did.)

Meso and South America:

All Pre-Columbian cultures in Meso and South America look basically the same. (Despite the fact that many of these societies existed in different environments and have different styles of art and architecture.)

The groups of people who lived in Meso and South America were the Mayans, the Aztecs, and the Incas. (There were many other indigenous groups who lived in the same areas.)

All Pre-Columbian cultures in Meso and South America lived in the jungle. (They lived in all kinds of environments and climates such as deserts, mountains, the coasts, and other areas.)

All Meso American buildings and structures were of just plain rock. (Actually they were painted in bright colors like the works so they could be more visible.)

The Meso and South American Indians sacrificed to Quetzalcoatl more often than any other god. (He’s perhaps the only god in many of his pantheons who didn’t ask for it and abhorred the practice {making him the most bloodless and most merciful god in the pantheon whose sacrifices only comprised of birds, snakes, tortillas, and butterflies}. So it’s very unlikely that even the Aztecs would sacrifice to him. Filmmakers probably use him the most as a god to sacrifice to because his name is easier to pronounce and he’s the most famous in his pantheon anyway {he’s probably the only Mesoamerican god most people know}. Also, the Plumed Serpent is a cool nickname. As for the heart ripping out of a person’s chest and tossing the body down the pyramid stairs, that’s a festive sacrifice for the Aztec war god, Huitzilopochtli, whose name is a mouthful and is nicknamed the Left-Handed Hummingbird, yeah.)

Mesoamericans made and used crystal skulls. (Every crystal skull ever found turned out to be a fake.)

The Meso and South American Indians didn’t use metal weapons because they didn’t have the technology. (They actually did but the fact they didn’t use metal weapons was more out of personal choice because the aim of war for them was to take captives to sacrifice later, not to kill people. Also, they used metals for their figurines but they didn’t see it worth much.)

The Meso and South American Indians bound their infants’ heads with a rope to honor their gods. (It was in accordance with their beauty standards. Also, they liked elongated noses like Adrien Brody’s.)

Quecha was spoken in what is now Mexico. (It’s an Andes language spoken throughout the Inca Empire.)

Meso and South American women walked around in scantily clad bikinis or bare breasts. (No, they didn’t. Many of them simply wore a decorated cloth with holes for the head and arms. Also, many of them were shown in artwork as rather conservatively dressed with their breasts covered.)

Meso and South American Indians lusted after gold as a precious metal. (Mayas used cacao beans as currency, the Aztecs valued feathers and jade much more than gold, and the Incas only saw gold as some metal to make a drinking vessel out of. Let’s just say the Mesoamericans would be more pissed off at you eating their chocolate than melting any of their gold jewelry.)

Meso and South American Indians viewed white people as gods. (No Inca or Aztec Emperor ever mistaken a Spanish Conquistador as a god. Their giving gifts to the Spaniards was more about showing superiority and good ol’ sacred hospitality. The Spanish just assumed this.)

Meso and South American priests were always bloodthirsty men wanting to sacrifice nubile virgins to their dinosaur gods. (Sure they were the ones doing the human sacrifices most of the time. Yet, they usually viewed it as part of their job and most of their rituals do include some sort of sacrifice. They believed that such sacrifices sustained the universe and many of their stories dealt with the importance of sacrifice. Also, most Pre-Columbian sacrificial victims were men.)

Meso and South American Pre-Columbian artifacts are usually cursed. (I’m sure this isn’t the case.)

Meso and South American people could stop sacrificing people whenever. (Being sacrificed was seen as a great honor in these cultures. Besides, to them, not sacrificing people was one way to usher in the apocalypse.)

Meso and South American gods didn’t succumb to temptation. (There’s a story about Quetzalcoatl getting drunk and banging his sister. So Miguel and Tulio didn’t have to worry much about making mistakes in El Dorado.)

North America:

The Indians were noble savages who worshiped nature and cared for the environment. (This is all bullshit for there were many Native American societies that farmed and built structures like houses, temples, and monuments, even in North America.)

The New World was mostly unpopulated, with Native settlements few and far between. (Truth is, the Europeans were keen on spreading diseases they were already immune to {very successfully, I might add}. The native population was decimated by bugs like Smallpox. These sicknesses spread so fast, that when settlers moved west, they found a fraction of the population that once thrived there.)

Native Americans were a backward, childlike people who talked like Tonto. (Never mind the working economy, clearly defined values and morals, deep religion, highly developed language, and well developed justice system. Yes, Native American society was that complex, just ask the Iroquois Nations and the Cherokee.)

The Inuit always wore parkas, carved trinkets, lived in igloos, went fishing with harpoon, traveled by sled and huskies, and ate cod liver oil. They also kissed by rubbing each other’s noses together. (It might have been true at one time but not during the 1920s.)

Indian princesses were gorgeous. (There had to be ugly Indian princesses.)

Mayans and Mississippians spoke similar languages. (Their languages were from completely separate families like the Mayan and the Algonquin.)

The Mississippian peoples lived in tepees and hunted buffalo. (I don’t think this is very likely since it’s more suggestive of Plains Indians. Also, the Mississippian people were an agrarian society as far as I know. But who knows what they lived in anyway. The Mississippians were a mound building culture, however. Yet, I’m sure the Mayans didn’t build pyramids there.)

The Inuit wore metal sunglasses over their eyes. (They didn’t, yet there’s a movie poster of an Inuit who does.)

Indians planted corn in rows. (They didn’t plant corn that way.)

Indian corn ears were far larger than a human hand. (Native corn were about the size of a thumb, rarely ever bigger. Large corn was a product of seed selection and genetic research mostly done since the 1860s.)

Iroquois settled on the Ottawa River. (It was Algonquin territory.)

Indians fought during the winter. (Native war parties usually stayed home during the winter.)

Iroquois gratuitously killed their young prisoners. (They would never have killed a young prisoner who could’ve been adopted into a family to replace a fallen kinsman.)

Indian guards raped female prisoners. (Well, Mary Rowlandson did testify she was raped by one during the Indian Wars in Massachusetts, but there was a strict taboo against raping war prisoners throughout the native East. The Iroquois in particular eschewed sex with future adopted kinswomen.)

Iroquois guards were posted on a scaffold tower on cold of dead winter nights. (No Iroquois guard was.)

Most Indian captives were killed. (Indian captives were mainly adopted and kept alive.)

Indian captives were led by leather thongs around their necks and fully dressed. (They were naked when taken prisoner.)

History of the World According to the Movies: Part 6- Vikings and Fighters

This is from a 1928 silent technicolor movie called The Viking which focuses on Leif Ericson. The accurate details about his life featured here are that he was the son of Eric the Red and discovered North America that we know of. Still, this picture shows a popular image of Vikings wearing horned helmets, which is not only historically inaccurate but also a stupid idea. Still, this doesn’t stop teams from having such images on their sports logos.

The Middle Ages isn’t one of the most accurately depicted times in movies. Much of how we view the medieval era isn’t shaped by actual history but by how it was viewed by later generations like in the Renaissance or the Victorian era. The Middle Ages lasted for about a thousand years or show as well as experienced lots of changes, but many medieval movies may take place in one era. Yet, they may have the people wear clothes and use weapons from a later period as well as large scale battles conducted in ways that would make most medieval military minds scratch their heads. Not to mention, some aspects of the Middle Ages are more likely to be filmed than others. Movies set in the Early Middle Ages tend to be about Vikings even though they were among many of the Germanic tribes wreaking havoc all over Dark Age Europe {mostly because few surviving writings from this era exist}. Well, that or King Arthur {who may just be a mythological figure}. Also, many of them tend to focus on fighting {like large scale epic battles} and most of them would be set in England {mostly because of Shakespeare, Robin Hood, and King Arthur} though there was plenty happening throughout Europe as well. This post will devote itself to the Vikings and the Medieval warfare inaccuracies portrayed in movies since these revolve around fighting which was common place in the Middle Ages.

No group gets more movie depictions in the Early Middle Ages than the Vikings, the fearsome Scandinavian raiders that bring any settled early medieval village to its knees. Many of these guys were pagans who worshiped the Norse Gods, wore awesome gear and carried gnarly weapons, sailed on ships with gruesome figureheads, and had long light hair and beards. Of course, this is the Hollywood depiction. Yet, the Middle Ages was a time where warfare was common place, of knighthood and chivalry, castles, battles, and tournaments. However, when it comes to Hollywood, there of plenty of things that movies get wrong which I shall list accordingly.

The Vikings:

The Vikings wore horned helmets and treated their women as objects. (The Vikings didn’t wear horned helmets, it was made up by Wagner when he did his operas on Norse and German mythology. Besides, a horned helmet wouldn’t be of any practical use whatsoever. Still, the Teutonic Knights and the samurai did though. And the women didn’t wear cone bras either. Also, Viking women held more rights than most other women did at the time.)

The Vikings were a savage people who raided and pillaged in areas all over Europe. They were also filthy as well as large and muscled. (Raiders, yes, but the Vikings weren’t uncivilized savages. They also were traders, explorers, artists, sailors, craftsmen, settlers, as well as a lot of other things. They also discovered Iceland, Greenland, and North America. And as for hygiene, evidence shows they were keen on personal hygiene unlike some European peoples. And they weren’t always hated and feared either.)

Vikings were tall, big, and blond. (Actually, though they came from Scandinavia and blond was seen as ideal, they took slaves from a great many ethnic groups who later joined them. So maybe there were Vikings who looked like Tony Curtis and Ernest Borgnine after all. Also, the average Viking man’s height was 5’ 7” which is not tall but fairly average.)

Viking was an ethnicity. (It was more of a job description derived from their method of raiding. Also, they did carry their weapons in normal life which they used for other purposes. They referred to themselves as Norsemen. All Vikings were Norsemen but not all Norsemen were Vikings. Also, most Norsemen would stay in villages all their lives.)

Vikings were clean shaven. (Male Vikings had beards.)

All Germanic tribesmen looked and dressed alike.

Viking women usually stayed home. (Many actually did accompany their husbands on invasions and sometimes fought according to recent evidence.)

Viking funerals consisted of a warrior being burned on the boat with all his possessions. (There was also a slave girl thrown in, too, but no one wants to film that.)

The Vikings were feared from all those they invaded. (Sometimes, but they weren’t bad rulers as well as accepted as traders. Also, they and the Slavs got along much nicely in what is now Russia and the former Soviet Union. It’s said Kievan Rus was founded by a man named  Rurik and his Viking band {who was a Finn raised in Swedish society} though it was already an urbanizing culture when those guys came.)

Leif Ericson fell for an English princess.( No, he didn’t. Nor did he land in Rhode Island {he landed in Canada, specifically, New Foundland or Nova Scotia}. Also, he didn’t speak Algonquin either.)

Hrothgar was a king of Denmark who met Ahmed ibn Fadlan. (Both these men existed in different eras. The Danish king mentioned lived during the 500s and wouldn’t have any contact with Muslims in the first place since Islam was founded in 622. The latter existed in 922. Of course, Vikings could’ve met Muslims though.)

The Vikings only used axes. (Vikings were all legally required to own weapons and the vast majority of Viking men and women used swords.)

The Vikings were unusually bloodthirsty and barbaric. (Well, they were living in a violent age and non-Viking armies were just as bad. However, they usually get special mention because of their willingness to destroy objects of religious value and kill churchmen, earning them a lot of hatred in a highly religious time. Also, they kind of enjoyed the reputation they had.)

Vikings were hated everywhere. (Some respected them like French king Charles the Simple who gave a Viking chief named Rollo Normandy and his daughter. In return these Vikings protected France against their wilder counterparts. Also, the Byzantine Emperors if the 11th century were protected by Swedish bodyguards in Constantinople.)

The Vikings lived only in Scandinavia and later settled in Iceland, Greenland, and the Faroe Islands. (They started settlements reaching as far as North Africa, Russia, and Constantinople.)

The Vikings used crude and unsophisticated weaponry. (They were actually very skilled weapons smiths. They could make extremely sharp and flexible swords.)

Viking funerals were solemn occasions. (Yes, but after the deceased was sent in a blazing glory, it was basically a party with feasting and fighting afterwards.)

A Viking weapon of choice was the doubled axe. (No double axe has ever been found in early medieval Europe. Also, Viking axes were light and single handed and spears are the most common weapons found on their sites.)

Viking drank from skull cups. (They drank from horns.)

Vikings were a nation. (They were a groups of warriors, explorers, and merchants headed by a chieftain.)

Viking men had tresses. (They shaved the backs of their heads like a reverse mullet.)


The Huns were Asian looking. (They were from Eastern Europe or Central Asia not Mongolia. Yet, we’re not sure what the Huns looked like.)

Attila the Hun visited Rome and fell in love with Valentinian III’s  sister Honoria. (He never visited Rome nor even met the Roman princess. However, he did consent to marrying her before invading the Roman Empire after she was caught in bed with her brother’s chamberlain. Yet, this had less to do with love than wanting her brother Valentinian III dead. Oh, and instead of being exiled to a convent in Constantinople, she was forced to marry a senator.)

Attila the Hun never had a bath. (He did bathe.)

Knights and Warfare:

Knights were honorable, chivalrous, warriors who wooed damsels, were faithful to their wives, and treated their subjects with respect. (Actually, many knights usually entered into arranged marriages and many of them would hump pretty much anything that moves. Also, many of these knights raped peasant women and took their aggression on the local population which was one of the reasons why the Catholic Church called for a Crusade. Oh, and prostitution was legal because it was believed to deter rape among the general population and even the Vatican had brothels. In the Middle Ages, knights in shining armor were more the exception than the norm.)

Knights followed a specific code of chivalry which depicted unwavering pillars of justice. (Knights basically followed chivalry whenever they wanted to and only respected those above them. Most of them did whatever they wanted such as rape, looting, pillaging, and killing peasants. In fact, they looting was their right since they thought the booty was owed for their services. Hell, they’d hang out at bridges and rivers in large groups where they’d pick fights with passing knights, kill peasants, and harass women.)

Good knights treated peasants and serfs like human beings. (Knights treated serfs incredibly terrible since they were at the lowest rung of society. Serfs were usually key targets of knights since they were responsible for the upkeep of an estate. And though they might not be killed by a rival knight, they’ll likely be severely wounded or dismembered so they’d be a drain on estate. If a knight killed another lord’s serf, he’d have to pay or receive a beating.)

Armor was surprisingly useless against most forms of attacks. Whenever the plot requires, arrows and sword thrusts will punch through armor with ease. This is related to:

Braveheart Brigandine: This consists of metal plates riveted beneath a leather covering with a gap between the plates. This as flexible and easy to make, and virtually useless as protection, because any thrust will slide along the plate until it reaches the gap, slides into it, and kills the wearer. Its most perverse variant is the Braveheart Pajama Bottom of War: trousers with metal plates riveted to them with *large* gaps between them so the wearer can move. These gaps allow William Wallace to chop the wearer’s legs off with ease.  [From A Commonplace Book] (It’s unlikely that actual medieval fighters wore this.)

Studded Armor. Leather armor with decorative studs. This is designed to look like brigantine or similar armor to someone who doesn’t have a very good idea what brigantine looks like. The studs offer approximately the same protective value as loose change in the wearer’s pocket. However, the combination of metal studs and leather is very popular in bad historical movies, as well as the kind of bar where the patrons like that sort of thing. [From A Commonplace Book] (Armor wasn’t really useless in forms of attacks since many medieval soldiers used it in the form of chainmail, which was very heavy.)

For a medieval hero, a helmet is an encumbrance to be discarded as soon as possible, so that the hero’s face can be more easily seen and recognized. Unless it is desirable to wait until later to suddenly reveal that the armored figure is female, evil or somebody who we have already met. (Soldiers usually wore helmets in battle for good reason.) [From A Commonplace Book]

The Antagonists are Eeeeevil. Particularly if the protagonists are killing large number of the antagonists, having completely evil bad guys helps avoid any nasty moral ambiguity to the body count. Cardboard Cliche Villains don’t hesitate to promiscuously slaughter random civilians (Timeline), rape and kill women (Braveheart), not necessarily in that order (The Messenger) or toss babies into the fire (Alexander Nevsky) [From A Commonplace Book] (You see that many medieval movies operate on protagonist morality though both sides usually engaged in this.)

Protagonists can do no wrong. If a historical protagonist has actually made a belt from the skin of an opponent, or carried out a campaign of burning and pillage aimed at civilians, this will not appear in the movie (Braveheart)[From A Commonplace Book] (This was relatively common in the Middle Ages but this is right.)

Amazing Portable Siege Weapons. Enormous munitions siege weapons can always be deployed from somewhere else over medieval roads to where they are needed in whatever time is required by the plot (Timeline) [From A Commonplace Book] (These would take a lot of time and resources to assemble.)

Random Melee. Some modern fight choreographers like to show the chaos of battle by scattering fighters of both sides randomly about the field in a series of mostly single combats. (Braveheart, Branagh Henry V, etc, etc, etc.). (If you have gotten yourself into this kind of situation on a medieval battlefield, you, your companions, and/or commander are incompetent and will probably be dead in a few minutes. If you’re doing it right, you are standing in good formation with an ally on your left and your right, and you won’t break formation until your enemy is fleeing in rout, if then. Alexander Nevsky is one of the few movies that comes close to getting this right.) [From A Commonplace Book]

Only nobles fought battles. (Actually nobles were officers but medieval soldiers came from all backgrounds and most were drafted peasant foot soldiers.)

In a swordfight, you can always parry behind your back, and you must always find a set of stairs to fight on so that the loser can roll down them and die at the bottom. [From A Commonplace Book]

Knights could easily get up by themselves after falling off a horse. (Of course, wearing armor didn’t make this job easy.)

Knights fought in tournaments to win a lady’s favor. (It was battle practice and they weren’t fighting for girls as prizes. Sometimes there were prizes you wouldn’t expect.)

Knights never cheated in tournaments unless they were evil. (Cheating in tournaments was very common.)

Storming the castle through the front door was the best way to defeat an enemy. (In medieval warfare, this is the absolute worst thing you can do since it basically made the castle forces’ job a whole lot easier. Most medieval armies would usually surround the castle and hold it under siege until the resident lord or lady surrendered {though some did try to sneak in through the toilets which is also a dumb thing to do, which goes without saying}. This could take months or years. This is why so many nobles built castles back then because they were very effective defenses.)

Swords were a preferred weapon of choice for most of the Middle Ages. (Those living in the Early Middle Ages would rather use a spear or a battle axe {since they were easier to make and lighter than wood axes}. Besides, steel blades were rather expensive and difficult to make on swords. The Dark Age Europe weapon of choice was blade on stick, which they’d use for everything. Many Dark Age weapons were even passed down generations.)

Castles existed during the Dark Ages. (They didn’t in Britain at least until William the Conqueror. So if King Arthur existed, he wouldn’t have one.)

Early medieval knights were clad in full armor. (Knighthood as we know it didn’t exist yet in the early Middle Ages. Also, most knight armor we see came from the 13th century or later.)

Open fighting was a daily occurrence consisting of two armies on a big field. (From Medievalist: “Warfare was very common in the Middle Ages (as in pretty much every other age), but medieval strategists were too sensible to frequently attempt the type of battle we often see in the movies. Having two big armies charge each other in the field was a little too risky – the outcome could go either way. Because of this, the most common type of warfare was siege warfare: an army would attack a stronghold, and their opponents would try to withstand the attack. For some entertaining views of siege tactics, check out The Lord of the Rings trilogy (you’ll find sieges in The Two Towers and The Return of the King). While there weren’t a lot of orcs and goblins running around medieval Europe, J.R.R. Tolkien was a medievalist, so some of the tactics are borrowed from history.”)

Squires assisted the knight as a sidekick. (They also had to clean the knight’s armor as well as assist him in other ways.)

Medieval armor made knights slow. (From Writing Is Cake: “Somehow, somewhere, somebody started the idea that a fully armored knight was about as nimble as lead statue.  A lead statue high on quaaludes.  The cliche is an unhorsed knight was ‘as helpless as a turtle on its back’.  It’s not even close to true.  It is true that in the late middle ages, when tourneys were big money, specialized jousting armor was made.  These suits were designed for only one thing, riding a horse in a straight line with a lance.  They were never designed for any kind of real war (most had helmets that you couldn’t see out of)  Every other kind of armor was designed to keep a warrior alive on a field of battle and survival meant protection, mobility and vision.  Even the full plate was fully articulated and knights were expected to perform all sorts of acrobatics in them; leaping into a saddle, climbing up siege ladders with only their arms (think monkey-bars), and doing somersaults.”)

Medieval swords weighed 15 pounds. (From Writing Is Cake: “Your average sword was under four feet long and under three pounds.  A professional warriors sword would typically be more like three feet and about a pound and a half to two pounds.  The mechanics and physics of what a sword does is based on velocity.  Swords are light and balanced so the six to ten inches near the tip go as fast as possible with the least amount of effort from the end you’re holding.  Even the big two-handers like a Scot’s claymore or landsknecht’s pike breaker are much lighter than you might think.”)

There was one type of battle axes. (There were two consisting of a fighting axe for close combat and a throwing axe for distance.)

Soldiers never used guns in the Middle Ages. (They did in the later years.)

Flaming Arrows were often used in battle, particularly by those at castles. (They weren’t as often used as medieval movies claim it to be. I mean before you can set the arrows on fire, you had to wrap them in a flaming material first which may make them heavier, reduce their range, and inhibit its ability to penetrate the enemy’s skin. Also, may pose as a fire hazard. So flaming arrows wouldn’t be a handy way to kill someone and medieval soldiers didn’t use them to do so. Yet, whenever they did use flaming arrows, it was usually to frighten the enemy, letting archers know how to adjust their shots, and setting targets on fire.)

Castles were easy pickings when the adult males were away. (If you think you could easily take castles in which the resident nobles occupying it are women and children, think again. Women of noble or royal birth in the Middle Ages had sufficient knowledge of warfare and combat training for defending their turf while their men were away. Also, many tradesmen of the era had their wives helping them in their craft so women armorer is possible. So the medieval notion of damsel in distress was probably a myth unless she’s trapped in a castle and being besieged by a force significantly outnumbering her. In that case, you might want to bring reinforcements.)

Swords made a clinking sound. (From Medieval Sourcebook: “From Cathy Hanley  [Here is a myth, or rather] an inaccuracy which appears in every medieval film I’ve ever seen. Why is it that whenever anyone picks up or draws a sword the filmmakers feel obliged to add that annoying “ching” sound, even when the sword is drawn from a leather scabbard or picked up off a table? Anyone who has ever tried to draw a sword (I have several) will know that it’s almost impossible to produce this sound. The only way I’ve found is to deliberately pull the sword across the back of a mail glove, but this isn’t very authentic!I know it’s probably more dramatic, but it sounds so false and is highly annoying.”)

Armor was too heavy. (A knight in full harness weighed up to 60 to 120 pounds. All he couldn’t do in it was swim.)

Sword fights lasted a long time. (Most usually lasted a few minutes even if it didn’t result in killing or seriously injuring one’s opponent.)

Only knights used swords. (All soldiers used them in battles and these guys weren’t all knights either.)

All European swords were straight blades. (Most were but some did use scimitars from the Middle East, especially after the Crusades.)

Swords were easy to make. (It took many years for a skilled master craftsman to forge a high quality blade.)

Swordfights were always honorable affairs. (Sometimes they were just about trying to win and survive and a lot of knights wouldn’t hesitate to use dirty tactics.)

Knights were helpless without their swords. (Each knight had significant training in self-defense and martial arts from the time he was seven. Of course, he may not be as proficient or as encompassing against an Asian kung-fu master, but if he lost his sword, he’d still be formidable foe. Also, historic records and manuals of such do exist.)

Stronger swords were better swords. (They also needed to be durable and flexible.)

Swords always stayed sharp. (All blades need to be sharpened.)

Knights were highly likely to be killed in battle. (Conscripted foot soldiers could be killed if they killed a knight even he fought on the other side. Capturing one was better since they could fetch a handsome ransom. Captured foot soldiers were instantly slaughtered).

Swords cut through armor. (Chainmail was quite impervious to swords.)

Medieval armies amassed thousands of people. (Depends on the setting. Maybe in national wars but in situations between two lords, it’s more likely a few thousand at most.)

Trebuchets were very effective weapons that caused a lot of widespread damage. (They weren’t effective at long distances or at low arc {they threw projectiles at a high arc}. Also, the biggest damage they’d do to a large castle wall is creating a huge dent and a thump upon impact.)

Medieval soldiers had no problem fighting at night. (Fighting at night is what most medieval soldiers tried to avoid for obvious reasons, except in stealthy sneak attacks if possible.)

The Longbow killed the knight. (The cost of putting him on the field did. From Lonnie Colson.com: “It cost hundreds of thousands of dollars in today’s currency to field one knight along with the necessary supplies and retainers he would need. Even more importantly, he had to be extensively trained from the age of 5 to deftly wield sword and lance while wearing armour. That is in stark contrast to the small sum that it cost to put an arbequs–early firearm–in the hands of a common soldier with very little training. Thus it was that with the dawn of the age of gunpowder we saw the sun set on the age of chivalry.”)

Any man can become a knight. (The vast majority of knights were born into wealth. Unless a foot soldier did something exceptionally badass in battle like saving a lord’s life perhaps. But they were just as likely to be killed by embarrassing someone born with money.)

Battle axes and wood axes looked about the same. (Battle axes were lighter than wood axes since it took much less force to cut people’s heads off than cut down trees. Simple physics, really.)

History of the World According to the Movies: Part 4- Ancient Rome


Okay, I know this is from Life of Brian which is a comedy but this movie scene nevertheless shows a lot of things you see in a movie on Ancient Rome. For instance, the soldiers are dressed in outfits similar to Greek hopilites and all the actors portraying Romans are British (justified since this is a British film and Monty Python). Nevertheless, this is a very entertaining film I really enjoy.

No series of history in the movies can be complete without mentioning one of the ancient entity everyone talks about: Rome. More movies set in ancient times usually pertain to Ancient Rome than any other. And most movies set in Ancient Rome usually focus on the Empire during the first century. Of course, there are plenty of reasons why. After all, when we think of Rome we think of things like depraved hedonistic rulers and aristocrats, Julius Caesar, gladiators, statues, Cleopatra, Pompeii and Herculaneum being covered by Mount Vesuvius’ ash, great feats of architecture, tons of fighting and intrigue, assimilation of cultures, and Jesus as well as the early Christian era (which will be in a separate post I swear.) Oh, and the fact that it lasts for a considerable long time like from 753 B. C. E. to A. D. 476 (or to 1453 if you include the Byzantine Empire but their time is more suited for The Middle Ages. Also, the fall of the Western Roman Empire usually marks the end of Ancient times anyways.) Not to mention, the Ancient Romans left so many records and remains for archaeologists to examine. While much of Roman history is drawn from archaeology (from Pompeii and Herculaneum naturally) and written records, sometimes it’s hard to which is true and which isn’t since it was mainly written by aristocrats who had biased opinions. Also, many people don’t know that Rome was originally founded as a kingdom before it became a Republic and later an Empire. Still, despite all the Roman history material we have, filmmakers still do take artistic liberties and add things in we’re sure didn’t happen, which I shall list.

The Kingdom of Rome and Roman Republic:

Spartacus was born a slave and was crucified outside the gates of Rome. (He was enslaved as a prisoner of war or an ex-Roman auxiliary {non-citizen} soldier sold to gladiator school for desertion. Oh, and he died during the battle so everything from the I Am Spartacus scene in Spartacus is mostly made up.)

Spartacus’ slave revolt led to a crisis that resulted in Crassus becoming dictator. (The Roman Republic was still alive and well at this time and when Crassus went after Spartacus, he was an relatively wealthy ex-praetor and after the revolt would later serve a term as Consul {a bit like prime minister or chairman of the board} after the war but he never was a dictator of Rome. Though ruthless and possibly bisexual {common among Roman aristocrats} he wasn’t psychotic like the Sir Laurence Olivier portrayal. Also, if it helps, he’d later lose his life in a battle with the Parthians who not only decapitated him but also used his severed head as a prop for a play.)

Rome was founded as a Republic. (It was originally founded as a kingdom, later became a “Republic” or an aristocratic oligarchy, and then an Empire.)

Spartacus had a son with a woman from Britannia. (While it’s unclear whether Spartacus had any children at all, he most certainly didn’t know anyone from Britannia, let alone sleep with someone from there. No Roman would step foot in Britain until thirty years after Spartacus’ revolt.)

Spartacus’ revolt would lead to the break up of the Roman slave system. (No chance in hell that was ever going to happen since slavery survived for another two thousand years, which was well after Rome. And no, Rome never abolished slavery and crushed every slave revolt taking place.)

Slave rebels in Spartacus’ revolt lived a harmonious existence with one another. (C’mon, there had to be some confusion of purpose among Spartacus’ followers.)

Spartacus was a gladiator who led a slave revolt as well as humane guy. (It’s said he was brutal enough to put some three hundred Roman prisoners to death in honor of a slave comrade-in-arms by the name of Crixus. Then again, this just might be Roman propaganda. Still, if he did, he might’ve had some good reason to.)

Caesar’s last words were “Et Tu Brute?” (They weren’t. What he actually said to have told Brutus was, “You too, my child?”)

Julius Caesar was stabbed by members of the Roman Senate because they thought he was becoming too much of a king as well as a danger to the Republic. (Well, yes, Caesar was well aware of his reputation as well as had megalomaniac tendencies {though he did refuse kingship in 44 B. C. E. though he was pretty much king in all but name and had declared himself dictator for life}. Yet, the senators were also worried about being able to compete for real power and that any office they held was meaningless even if it was a consulship. Oh, and it’s said he was going to depart in three days time and leave the running of Rome to his henchmen Oppius and Balbus who was a Spaniard, which the Roman nobles thought absolutely intolerable. Add to that Cleopatra had his son Caesarion {I’m not making this up} and wearing red boots {what old Roman kings used to wear}. Thus, they were more worried about their own power stakes than the form of government itself in Rome at least with the possible exception of Brutus.)

Gracchus was a politician of plebeian sensibilities and showed some sympathy for Spartacus and his followers, if only with the ultimate goal to upstage Crassus. (There were actually two revolutionary politicians named Gracchus {both brothers} but they were long dead before Spartacus’ time, like at least 50 years prior. Also, they were tribunes, not senators.)

Spartacus’ men were crucified because they refused to hand him in. (The Romans had planned on killing them all anyway to set a very clear example not to mess with Rome. So any of the slave survivors would certainly have been crucified, a fate that would’ve awaited Spartacus had he survived the battle as well {which he didn’t in real life}. The women and children would probably have been renslaved though.)

Julius Caesar participated in suppressing Spartacus’ Rebellion. (Sure he was a young officer in the legion but it’s unknown whether he did take part in it.)

The Carthage general Hannibal was white. (We’re not sure whether he was or not since he hailed from North Africa.)

Spartacus was against the gladiatorial games. (Spartacus celebrated several of his victories by holding gladiatorial games, which is strange for a freedom fighter. Makes him seem less like Katniss Everdeen and more like Alma Coin.)

Spartacus was a freedom fighter who desired to have slavery eliminated. (He may have been just trying to get out of Italy or maybe even a warlord escaped slavery through rape, pillage, and burn. He probably wasn’t the kind of freedom fighter portrayed by Kirk Douglas.)

Cicero was involved in Julius Caesar’s assassination. (He wasn’t involved in any way, though he approved of it.)

Agrippa was seated in the Curia and wore a senatorial toga. (He was a hereditary member of an equestrian order and prohibited under Republican law from non-invitational attendance to the Curia or wearing any patrician insignia.)

Julius Caesar declared himself Emperor. (He was Emperor in all but name at that point he became dictator for life.)

Julius Caesar had a full head of hair. (His family earned the name Caesar as a joke because the men were well known for pre-mature baldness. At the time it meant “hairy” until Julius Caesar showed up. Still, though depicted with a full head of hair on busts and other art, the real Caesar would’ve been bald for most of his adult life, maybe since his late teens.)

Mark Antony was a dashing, romantic hero and Rome would’ve been far better off under him than Octavian. (Between Antony and Octavian, Antony was the more violent of the two. Also, Cleopatra was well know for backstabbing and murder for hire as well, but being a Ptolemy, you can’t really hold it against her.)


Cleopatra was an Egyptian known for her beauty and was one of the most gorgeous women of her time able to win men over with her sexuality. (For one, Cleopatra was Macedonian Greek and a direct descendant through a man called Ptolemy who was a general of Alexander the Great and her capital was Alexandria founded by, well, you know who. Still, she did speak Egyptian and presented herself as a reincarnation of Isis. Second, though archaeologists have never found Cleopatra’s body, they have found bodies of some of her family and most of the women they found were no more than 5 feet tall, overweight with Venus ring necks, and sported noses comparable to the size of Adrien Brody’s, not an attractive combination at least nowadays {and certainly nothing like Elizabeth Taylor}. And even Roman historians say that she wasn’t the best looking girl around. What Cleopatra’s best assets were her strong personality, her intelligence, and her political savvy and that was how she won over Julius Caesar and Mark Antony.)

Cleopatra killed herself by poisoning herself through snakebite by an asp. (Again, this is also false but often depicted in movies because it’s in many ancient sources. Actually, historians may agree that she committed suicide to avoid capture by Octavian but the methods, well, that’s a matter of debate since the asp would cause a slow and painful death through paralysis. If Cleopatra wanted to kill herself to avoid capture, she probably wanted to do it quick so an asp bite might not have done the job.)

Cleopatra had affairs with Roman leaders out of satisfying her sexual urges. (Actually she slept with Julius Caesar and Marc Antony because it also helped her country retain political independence from Rome. She was doing it for political reasons, not for herself. It didn’t work for long as we know now.)

Caesarion was Julius Caesar’s son and heir. (Caesar never acknowledged him though he was his son. Also, in order to be Caesar’s heir, Cleopatra would have to be a Roman citizen as well, which she wasn’t. Not to mention, he made Octavian his heir anyway.)

Cleopatra was unusually brutal toward her own siblings. (Yes, Cleo killed her brothers and sisters but knocking off relatives wasn’t unusual for an Egyptian pharaoh. Not to mention, the Ptolemys were notorious for marrying and killing their relatives. There’s no wonder why that bunch is considered one of the most dysfunctional families in history.)

Cleopatra led a procession into the Roman Forum. (Foreign rulers were prohibited from crossing the Pomerium which was the sacred boundary of Rome.)


In Roman gladiator matches the loser always died. (Actually the loser’s fate really depended on how well he fought for the Romans would never let a good gladiator die in a fight even if he lost as well as his popularity {emperors could suffer in popularity if they allowed a renowned gladiator get slaughtered}. It was usually convicts sentenced to the arena who were made to fight to the death, not professional gladiators who went through regular training. Besides, training gladiators was expensive and it didn’t make sense to have them slaughtered their first time out in the arena. Sure gladiators were slaves, criminals, and POWs as well as didn’t live long but the death rate among Roman gladiators was 1 out of every 4 not 1 out of every 2. Also, gladiators were treated more like many of our professional athletes as well as better than most slaves of their day.)

Gladiators had chiseled physiques. (Actually unlike you see in films, most gladiators didn’t have chiseled six packs due to the fact that they had a carb-rich diet to cultivate a protective layer of fat which would protect them from shallow slashing blows that were typical in gladiator fights. So a real gladiator may have the chance of looking like a linebacker from the NFL than the chiseled hunks in Gladiator or Spartacus. But no one wants to see that.)

The sign for wanting a gladiator finished off was thumbs down and to spare him was thumbs up. (Actually, the signal to kill the gladiator was thumbs up, while the signal to spare him was in the shape of a fist.)

Gladiators usually fought people they didn’t know. (Gladiators fought only those they trained with at their school as depicted in Spartacus.)

Gladiators fought their counterparts of different sizes. (They were usually matched by their size.)

Gladiators fought in helmets of Germanic designs. (Those in Gladiator were made after Rome fell.)

Gorillas were used in the Roman Coliseum. (They wouldn’t be known to Europeans until 15 centuries later. Same goes for alligators, which only exist in the US and China where Romans had never stepped foot.)

The Roman Empire:

When Octavian declared war on Egypt, he stabbed Cleopatra’s ambassador Sosigenes of Alexandria with a spear. (This never happened. Also, Sosigenes was an astronomer and didn’t have any place in Cleopatra’s regime.)

Nero set fire to Rome and fiddled while it fell so he could expand his palace. (Actually, Nero was in Antium when the fire broke out and had nothing to do with causing it. Rather when he heard the news, he immediately rushed back home where he help try to extinguish the blaze and assisted in the rebuilding efforts paid by his own funds. Most historians believe that the fire was caused by his political enemies. As for the fiddle, well, it wasn’t invented yet.)

Nero was a hedonistic and bloodthirsty emperor who killed his mother and two of his wives as well as other political enemies, had an Oedipus complex, and blamed the burning of Rome on the Christians. (Actually with Nero’s life, it’s difficult to separate the fact from fiction. Yes, he did kill his mother and at least his first wife and several others but so did other emperors for the chances of assassination were very real. As for his second, she might have died from a miscarriage. As for his mother, she had considerable influence on him but I don’t think he was attracted to her. And for blaming the fire on Christians, even that’s up for debate. Overall, there was no doubt that Nero was a controversial figure who inspired considerable bias from ancient historians. Not to mention, most people who wrote about him and knew him personally {except for friend Senectus} hated him though he was a great lover of the arts and loved by the commoners.)

Octavian was a pathetic, tantrum prone to a homicidal degree, and totally unfit to rule as despot. (He was one of the most competent Roman Emperors who ever lived.)

Augustus was a wide-eyed idealist who tried to do everything for the good of Rome and only did his bad things because he was forced to by his enemies. (Yes, he was a competent emperor who tried to be good to Rome but did many bad things as well such as marry his daughter off to Tiberius and exile her when he found out she was having an affair.)

Marcus Aurelius wanted a return to the old Roman Republic and didn’t trust his son Commodus. (Marcus wouldn’t have wanted to return to the Roman Republic and actually did trust his son Commodus as well as wanted him to succeed his throne. After all, it was a Roman Emperor’s dream to have a son succeed him as well as a rather wise decision. Also, Rome had been through a string of decent emperors by the reign of Marcus Aurelius and the Roman Senate’s power would later be further diminished to the point of being purely ceremonial.)

The Roman Empire and the Byzantine Empire were two different entities. (Actually the Byzantine Empire was the Roman Empire, it was the Eastern part of the Empire, even though they spoke Greek, they still used the same Roman systems and even referred to themselves as Roman long after the Byzantine Empire fell in 1453.)

Power automatically passed to Commodus after Marcus Aurelius died, even though his dad wanted someone else to succeed him. (Marcus Aurelius chose his son to succeed him. Not to mention, there was no clear emperor succession line because many of the emperors before Marcus Aurelius simply didn’t have any surviving sons to succeed them or didn’t live long enough to have them. Thus, many of these emperors would appoint a successor and legally adopt them. A strong emperor’s son wouldn’t be passed over until Constantius’ son Constantine, which sparked a civil war.)

Lucilla’s son was alive during his uncle’s reign. (Her son was already dead by the time his uncle became emperor.)

Marcus Aurelius banned the gladiatorial games. (Only in Antioch and only as a punishment. He did cause a shortage of gladiators by putting them in the army and the games actually profited from it. A Roman Emperor banning the gladiatorial games in the 2nd century? Unthinkable!)

Octavian called himself Octavian. (More like Gaius Octavius Caesar at least from the time he was adopted to the time he was emperor.)

Augustus referred to himself as Emperor. (He preferred people call him the princeps or First Citizen of Rome, not emperor.)

Caligula was a hedonistic, sadistic, depraved, and psychotic ruler with megalomaniac delusions of grandeur who referred to himself as a god, had endless extravagant orgies, liked to kill and torture for fun, had incestuous relations with his sisters, as well as other absurd antics of insanity and gore. In other words, he was a complete monster. (Well, he probably was a bad enough emperor to have himself and most of his family killed {save Claudius} by his own bodyguards {many Roman Emperors died this way}, his monstrosity during his reign is probably an exaggeration and created by noble Romans who didn’t like him. Still, he was said to be popular among the lower classes and was seen as a noble ruler the first six months of his reign. Yet, he probably did want to increase his authority which made him unpopular with the Senate as well, had several conspiracies against him, may have had an excuse for killing his great uncle Tiberius {who killed several of his family members [like his dad] leaving him as the sole male survivor}, spent extravagant sums of money on ambitious construction projects {including two aqueducts in Rome} and his luxurious dwellings, had several family members killed {typical for Roman Emperors}, and might’ve wanted the people to recognize as a god. However, he probably didn’t have sex with his sisters {though he did make one as his queen but they were married to different people}. He probably didn’t make his horse a consul or declare war on sea deity to collect shells as booty. He most likely didn’t kill Tiberius who probably died of natural causes. Also, most sources about him were written 80 years after his death so reliability is questionable. Oh, and he didn’t like being called Caligula which translates to “Bootsie” in Latin. Bad ruler, yes, but not as evil or crazy as portrayed.)

Roman Emperor Commodus killed his father Marcus Aurelius, banged his sister, and was killed in the arena. (Actually, Commodus didn’t kill his father or slept with his sister. What killed Marcus Aurelius was chicken pox or plague. Not to mention, Commodus was a highly respected statesman who was chosen by his father to succeed him after a few years as his assistant. Also, he was married and had his sister killed for trying to assassinate him in order seize the throne herself. He’s not considered well regarded because he believed himself to be Hercules and tried to rename everything in the Empire after himself, including Rome {though he’s said to be popular with the army and the people}. He was also known as a spendthrift and tactless as well as for starting Rome’s long decline. As for his death, Commodus was strangled in his bathtub at the end of his thirteen year reign even though he did fight in the arena but mostly incognito. Nevertheless, he’s known for herding women, snogging men, killing rare animals, cross-dressing, boozing, coprophagy, being afraid of hairdressers, feeding his guards poisoned figs, and forcing people to beat themselves to death with pinecones. Guess Ridley Scott didn’t do his research.)

Rome conquered Germania in the reign of Marcus Aurelius. (Sorry, Ridley Scott, but Germania was never conquered by Rome.)

Tribune was a military office during the Roman Empire. (It’s actually a political office from the Roman Republic and no, tribunes wouldn’t serve alongside the Emperor.)

Roman Emperors fought wars against the Goths. (Only near the very end, in which the Romans lost.)

Marcus Aurelius was related to Claudius. (They came from two different dynasties.)

“Caesar” was the title for a Roman Emperor. (After 180 A. D. it was then reserved for the Emperor’s heir while “Augustus” was the Emperor’s title.)

Nero had pet Arabian Salukis. (They weren’t kept as pets in Europe until the Crusades.)

Agrippa was around the same age as Julius Caesar and Octavian’s mentor. (He was the same age as Octavian as well as his best friend who did almost everything for him. Yet, Augustus did treat him well.)

The 9th Legion was massacred in Scotland. (We’re not sure what happened to the 9th Legion since they disappear from the records after 108AD in Britain. Yet, some of its officers and detachments popped up occasionally.)


The Romans referred the Flavian Amphitheatre as the Coliseum. (Coliseum wasn’t used until way after the Roman Empire.)

Crucifixion was one of the main methods of execution during the Roman Empire. (Crucifixion was a punishment for crimes against the state, which was a serious crime and one that Jesus was crucified for {Note: Jesus of Nazareth King of the Jews}. Besides, they had other methods of punishment for criminals like gladiator school, slavery, and for the aristocrats, exile and suicide. And if you killed your father, they’d put you in a sack with an animal before throwing you into the sea.)

Ancient Rome was filled with white marble statues and buildings. (They were painted in bright colors and so were many historical monuments in ancient civilization, well, a good many of them. Same would go for the Greeks.)

Roman aristocratic men wore togas almost anywhere. (They only wore them in the forum because they were required to and avoided wearing one whenever they could.)

The Roman Senate was an elected body. (They were appointed by the Roman censor, the Emperor, the Senate itself by a vote, or won a major public office at election {except Plebian Tribuneship}, even during the Republic. There was even a Citizens’ Assembly from which Senators were excluded and any citizen can vote on the matter at hand that day. They also had significant legislative and executive power and much like Athenian democracy.)

Roman centurions had uniforms similar to Greek hoplites. (No, they looked pretty different and later ended up looking more medieval than anything you’d see from ancient Greece. Also, there’s a variation that comes with pants.)

The Romans were a hedonistic people. (They were no more hedonistic than anyone else. Well, maybe the aristocrats but your average Roman citizens, not so much. Though some surviving Roman literature puts Fifty Shades of Grey to shame.)

All Roman soldiers were known as centurions. (A centurion was a Roman Army officer or platoon leader.)

Winning chariot horses got to race another day. (They were sacrificed as offerings, but the winner got to keep the tail.)

Roman crosses were T-shaped. (They had several different shapes and weren’t standardized.)

The Romans were cruel oppressors in their conquered areas. (Well, yes, but many of their domains had as cruel and brutal criminal justice systems as they did and resistance movements spent more time squabbling amongst themselves than resisting the Romans. Not to mention, they did improve the lives of many of their subjects. Also, being seen as a Messiah isn’t as good as it’s cracked up to be {as the story of Jesus would tell you}.)

Rome was the only Empire in existence during its time. (Well, in Europe. However, there was also their rivals the Parthians {later Sassanid} and Han China.)

Roman soldiers wore the lorica segmentata armor. (They only wore this during the first century. It’s just that its the easiest and cheapest Roman armor to make for costume designers. Also, many Roman soldiers outside Rome usually wore the uniform they already had.)

Most Roman architecture was composed of marble. (It was mostly built from brick but most of the bricks either crumbled or were stolen for other buildings while the marble was left alone.)

The Ancient Romans had all out orgies of debauchery. (Orgies were seen as secret religious rituals and no, they didn’t involve lurid and debauched sex. Okay, the orgies involved plenty of lurid and debauched sex but it was nothing like Caligula. Many Roman couples usually had sex at night, in complete darkness, with their clothes on.  Of course, the wealthy did have sex in front of their servants but they were mostly seen as furniture that bring you stuff. Also, they definitely had sex with their slaves, as depicted in the notorious bathing scene in Spartacus when Sir Laurence Olivier basically tells Tony Curtis that he’s his slave and he better do what he wants. Even if it means having sex with him.)

Roman birth control was very effective. (Roman contraceptive methods were virtually useless. It wasn’t very common for Roman mothers to toss away newborn babies in the trash heap left to die. It’s widely suggestive that many Roman slaves were unwanted children.)

Roman aristocrats only had sex with adults. (Pederasty was neither uncommon nor unacceptable so long as the kid involved was a slave, of course. If he was under 12 years old.)

Roman cities contained no lewd imagery on the streets. (Archaeology has told a very different story. Pornographic imagery was everywhere from the temples, bathhouses, sculpture, mosaics, and the like. Oh, and a lot of the buildings in Pompeii contain very dirty graffiti. Then there are Roman graves with plenty of inscriptions on the dead people’s sex lives.)

Ancient Rome was a lily white society. (Actually it was a real melting pot of every nationality stretching from western Europe to the Middle East by the 3rd century. However, Spartacus’s wife was probably not British, if he ever had one.)

Roman soldiers had beards had stirrups on their horses. (Stirrups weren’t invented yet and most Roman soldiers and aristocrats were clean shaven.)

Romans spoke in modern Ecclesiastic Latin. (They spoke in the historical Classic pronunciation whenever they spoke Latin.)

The Roman streets were sandy. (They were paved with stones.)

Romans had German Shepherds as pets. (They weren’t a registered breed until 1899.)

Roman legionaries camped on open spaces. (They usually fortified their camps.)

The Roman Army treated their soldiers with decency. (You may think this, especially in movies that show heroic Roman generals but it’s not true. Trainers regularly beat up trainees, exercises were done in full armor with non-lethal weapons that still hurt and weighed more than combat ones, and they were forced to learn some engineering {because they’d build aqueducts, roads, forts, and long mile walls}. They were also made to march on wooden poles because they’d have to build, fortify, dismantle their camp on a daily basis on campaign. And this was when they were lucky. Those trainees would get trainers so harsh they’d kill more people than actual battles. Pissed-off commanders could select a tenth of their soldiers to have the rest beat to death in order to teach them a disciplinary lesson {this is a process known as decimation}. Marcus Licinius Crassus killed 4,000 of his own men this way after taking command of an army recently trashed by Spartacus.)

History of the World According to the Movies: Part 3- Ancient Greece and Other Things


This is from the notorious historical disasterpiece 300. While there was a Battle of Thermopylae as well as a real King Leonidas and Queen Gorgo, they certainly didn’t dress like that. I mean Spartan warriors would fight without upper body protection while Spartan women wouldn’t wear their hair below shoulder length or don in outfits other tan a short tunic. Also, you don’t see any helots tending the fields, which they certainly would because slavery was actively enforced in Sparta. Not to mention, Leonidas’ son would have to be at the Spartan warrior school learning fighting, survival skills, and dirty tricks by now since there’s no way he looks younger than seven.

When telling the history of the western world, you can’t leave out the Greeks. Much of our vocabulary comes from them as well as the fact that they were the forerunners of a lot of things like science, medicine, theater, democracy (sort of), and other academic disciplines. Not to mention, the word “history” itself is a Greek word meaning “inquiry, knowledge acquired by investigation.” Also, they had the Olympics (but not in way we’d be familiar with since they didn’t have women’s events and competed in the nude. Not to mention, they cheated a lot.) There’s even Greek mythology with a pantheon of many complete assholes save a few like Hades. Of course, Greece was never a very united entity and consisted of an array of city states, the most famous being Athens a naval power as well as a place of culture, quasi-democracy, and rampant misogyny and Sparta a oligarchical warrior slave state where everyone lived off the land supported by helots and the only place in Greece where women had any rights. Still, there are movies made on Ancient Greece most notably the gory historic trainwreck 300 and it’s sequel 300: Rise of an Empire as well as all those movies on Greek mythology like Clash of the Titans. Nevertheless, even though it was the Greeks who came up with the concept of history (though it’s hard to distinguish history from myth sometimes in this context), filmmakers still find ways to butcher theirs (as well as other civilizations, but at least they didn’t leave any written records).

Ancient Greece:

The Greeks carved marble statues. (The marble Greek statues you see are Roman copies. Actually the Greeks cast their statues in bronze using a marble prototype. Most of the original bronze Greek statues were melted during the Middle Ages for cannons and church bells.)

Oracles had leprosy and had naked girls danced around for them. (Bullshit, but the oracles were on drugs.)

Oracles were attractive women who danced naked in a trancelike state. (Sorry, but 300 gets this wrong. They were mostly old women.)

Most Greek city states looked like Athens. (A lot of Greek city states would later get fed up with Athens and fight against them so why would they want to emulate them? Also, filmmakers usually use Athens for Ancient Greece because it’s the most familiar Greek city most people know.)

Most men of Ancient Greece were clean shaven. (Contrary to what you see in the movies, a lot of guys in Ancient Greece had beards and dark hair.)

The Greek hoplites threw doru spears. (Actually they would be too long and heavy to be thrown. Javelins would’ve been used instead.)

Ancient Greece was a progressive beacon of reason. (Actually Ancient Greece consisted of over 1,000 city states that had their own unique culture as well as more or less resembled a sectarian war zone. Also, only less than 5% of the Ancient Greek population was literate. Of course, the Greeks were willing to lynch, exile, and execute some of the brighter among them like Socrates as well as possessed no qualms to enslave their fellow man, with Athens said to have more slaves than anybody. Also, whatever achievements the ancient Greeks made, they didn’t spread too far since most Greeks were illiterate rural farmers and herders who rarely ventured beyond their own city state. And your average ancient Greek didn’t really care about logic, literature, or theater. In fact, they’d prefer the comfort of familiarity and superstition.)

Ancient Greek Olympic athletes were amateurs who just believed in fair play and peace. (Yeah right. Actually Ancient Greek Olympians were nothing of the sort and the early Olympics were rife with cheating, corruption and commercialism. They didn’t have the spirit of sportsmanship like we do today. Sure punishments for cheating ranged from flogging to death, but in Ancient Greece, the Olympics were such a big deal with the prize being instant and lasting fame as well as riches and bitches, athletes took cheating to an art form as well as bribed judges and competitors. Thus, what made their games different than our games is that they didn’t allow women to watch or compete and that they competed in the nude.)


The Cretans participated in human sacrifice. (There’s no evidence they actually did this, though there are mythological references to it, which might have been just propaganda.)


Spartan warriors were all buffed out with six-pack abs and bulging muscles as well as went into battle nearly naked. (Just because Spartan men devoted their lives as warriors doesn’t mean they had the bodies of Olympic athletes. As for clothes, they were covered in bronze armor in battle not speedos. A Spartan warrior knew better than that.)

Sparta was an unstoppable military juggernaut with an army of proud warrior race guys and badass warrior kings, only stopping to deliver witty lines to philosophers for posterity’s sake. (This might be what Sparta was like in 300 or how men like Plato or Xenophon saw it. Ditto the Romans who admired Sparta’s military spirit. But the real Sparta was very much like the North Korea of its day that had secret police as well as highly discouraged contact with the outside {then again, comparing ancient Sparta to North Korea may not be accurate militarily speaking, but it does fit with the repressive closed society bit}. Visitors were usually given the Spartan Disneyland treatment of all the things in which the Spartans would glorify about themselves. However, more modern assessments state that Sparta was a Peloponnese regional power that essentially cannibalized all the non-military functions of its own state, in order to continue a bitter war with the city-state of Argos, and was able to use the ensuing victory to bully its allies into fighting for them. Spartan military supremacy lasted less than 100 years and its hegemony over Greece lasted only 10. Furthermore, the Spartan  army lost more battles than it won and its central warrior caste was decimated by the city’s town leaders to profit from their “inalienable” land holdings. Let’s just say Disney’s Hercules has a better assessment of Sparta than 300, especially when an old Theban says, “That’s it, I’m moving to Sparta.”)

300 Spartans fought against the Persians in the Battle of Thermopylae under King Leonidas. (Actually, though there were 300 Spartans present at the Battle of Thermopylae, they didn’t fight alone like 300 suggests. And unlike what 300 suggests, only a fraction of their force for they wouldn’t send their whole army that far north. Though Leonidas did command the Spartan force personally, there were 4000 other troops under him as well such as 700 Thespiae, 400 Thebans, and 900 helots to assist. And out of Leonidas’ forces, 1500 of them were involved in the last stand. Some scholars even said that the Greeks had about 7000. And they weren’t against half a million Persians, but 80,000.)

Spartan men’s only occupation they were trained for was that of a solider. (Yes, but they also learned how to sing, dance, read, write, and perform in plays. And when a Spartan man got too old to fight, he spent the rest of his life either on the council or teaching other Spartan boys to fight in the warrior school.)

Sparta was the only Greek city state with a professional army. (Well, they were the only one that required that all male citizens participate in the army and sent their boys to boot camp from the age of seven though all Greek city states had some form of conscription. Also, every Greek city state had a professional army not as dedicated, hardened, and well trained as the Spartan Army but certainly not sculptors or potters.)

Spartans had manhood rituals such as slaying a wolf. (No, they didn’t. Actually it involved living in the wild for a week and killing a slave.)

Spartans left their weak babies to die. (No archaeological evidence has been found to support this. Rather, people with disabilities were cared for in Spartan society.)

Sparta sent a naval fleet at the Battle of Salamis. (Contrary to 300: Rise of an Empire, Sparta had no navy until the Peloponnesian Wars when they need one to fight the Athenians. Ironically, their navy was given by the Persians.)

The Spartans had hundreds of ships at the Battle of Salamis and turned up at the last minute to save the day. (Nice try, 300: Rise of an Empire, but they didn’t show up at the last minute and only had 16 ships. Oh, and they weren’t led by Queen Gorgo either.)

Adultery was shameful in Sparta. (It wasn’t.)

The Spartans had disdain for the ephors and the supernatural. (They were particularly religious for Ancient Greece and were big worshipers of Ares.)

The ephors were deformed molester priests who betrayed the people of Sparta. (They actually were five Senators who ran the Spartan government and democratically elected by each village but only served a year.)

Sparta was ruled by two democratically elected “kings” who held equal power and judged by the ephors. (While Sparta did have two kings ruling the land, the positions were hereditary.)

The Spartan Gerousia consisted of men of varying ages. (Spartan men had to be at least 60 before ever being considered for the Gerousia. Of course, there is the Apella made up of representatives of the Spartan citizenry but they didn’t have much power.)

The Spartan city state was mostly populated by Spartans. (They were a minority military caste in their own city-state where the state-owned helot serfs made up 90% of the population. Also, you have the perioci from Laconia who were autonomous civilians but were never considered citizens though they were required to fight when needed to.)

Sparta was a rural  and freedom loving society. (It was far from it than what you see in 300 but rather a dictatorship by a militant elite minority who lived by and continually repressed the majority helot population basically slaves who worked the land to produce food so the Spartans could spend all their time oppressing them and fighting other wars in between. Also, during some periods a Spartan could kill a helot and never be punished for it if he wanted. Oh, and they killed diplomats, were profoundly racist, and may have practiced eugenics. Not to mention, they regularly beat up boys during warrior training and taught them to be bullies {which can be somewhat justified}.)

Queen Gorgo killed a council member named Theron. (There’s no evidence she did this.)

Spartans referred Athenians as “boy lovers.” (This might be true, but Spartan soldiers and other Greeks weren’t so above being pederasts themselves either. As Television Tropes and Idioms says: “The relationship between adult men and adolescent boys was used like in all Greek states for education of the adolescent boy. However many Spartan sources, and even some outside of Sparta, insist that the relationship was not sexual in nature as that would have been similar to a father doing it with his son. The relationships were broken by the time the older man married as he would have to concentrate on his main job in peace: procreation. In Athens however the matter was completely different due to the locking up of women in gyneceums and their general lack of rights compared to Spartan women, the main sexual relationships of men were with other men. When it came to the relationship between adult men and adolescent boys it involved a lot of competition between the older men for the affections of the teens and the whole thing resembled soap operas with the older men serenading the boys writing them love poem and stuff like that, something that would have ended with two beheaded bodies in Sparta. That might have been what Leonidas meant by “boy lovers”.”)

The Spartans had an excellent military training program. (Spartan military training was especially harsh but it didn’t put them at a better advantage against other Greek city states.)

Ephialtes was a deformed Spartan tempted to join the Persian side when Xerxes showed him a tent full of naked ladies. (According to Herodotus, he was a non-deformed non-Spartan who showed the Persians a mountain trail around Thermopylae which led them to victory.)

Queen Gorgo had long flowing hair and wore long backless dresses. (Gorgo would’ve looked like any Spartan woman of the time such as a slit up dress called pelos as well as had hair that went no further than their shoulders. In fact, Gorgo wouldn’t be allowed to have her hair that long. Also, if a Spartan woman was just married, it would be very easy to tell because she’d have a shaved head. Thus, in 300, most female Spartan characters would’ve been way overdressed.)

Sparta saved Athenian democracy. (The Peloponnesian Wars show a very different story since they kicked the crap out of Athens.)


The Ancient Athenians had a democracy. (Actually, though it may have been a democracy it was a only a democracy for adult male citizens who have completed military training which was 20%, for the rest like women, slaves, freed slaves, resident aliens, and disqualified citizens, it wasn’t.)

Themistocles said his only family was the Athenian fleet. (According to Plutarch, he was married at least once and had as many as ten kids. Not only that, but he was also a prominent politician in Athens as well so much of his life didn’t just revolve around the Athenian navy.)

Themistocles wasn’t present at the Battle of Thermopylae. (Contrary to 300, he was and made a very significant contribution to it by preventing the Persians to sail past the Spartan army as well as outflanking them. He only retreated once the pass was taken and defending the sea became irrelevant. In some respect, he held where Leonidas failed. However, Themistocles doesn’t get any recognition for this in movies solely because he’s Athenian. So if you aren’t Sparta in Thermopylae, you basically don’t get squat.)

Themistocles devised the strategy and led the charge in the Battle of Marathon as well as killed King Darius. (While he did fight at Marathon, he was only one of many captains involved in the struggle. But he didn’t devise the strategy or lead the charge. Also, he didn’t kill King Darius who wasn’t at the battle and died a few years later of completely natural causes. Oh, and Artemisia didn’t manipulate Xerxes into becoming king {Darius was his father}, have him to reshape himself into a god {which would’ve been blasphemy}, nor did she encourage him to declare war on Greece. Nor was she a lousy commander either or obsessed with revenge.)

Athenian warriors had six pack abs and went out scantily clad. (Seriously, I’m beginning to think that the 300 franchise is catered to guys deep in the closet. Besides, hopilites would’ve been clad with armor no matter where they came from.)


The Macedonians spoke in an Irish accent. (Oliver Stone cast Irish actors in Alexander to show how hickish they were compared to the Greeks though {at least in their point of view}, which was true in fact.)

Trojan War:

The Trojan War was fought over a woman named Helen. (Yes, but there were a lot of other things. For instance, Menelaus only became king by marrying Helen {who was the actual queen and much more than a pretty face} and the fact that she made off with Paris not only endangered his position but also gave the Trojans a claim to Sparta. Menelaus just couldn’t let Helen go with Paris, even if she just wasn’t that into him. Also, Paris violated sacred hospitality which is never to run off with the wife of his host.This is according to Homer. As for the real Trojan War, well, we can’t really be sure but a recent theory of a Mycenaean Allied Hittite commander from Miletus who wanted to expand his territory and had spent 35 years attacking Hittite vassal states.)

The Greeks were the aggressors in the Trojan War. (Actually, archaeology squarely puts this on the Hittites, not the Mycenaean Greeks. Also, it’s fairly established in The Illiad that Paris caused the whole war.)

Llamas were present in the city of Troy and Zeus’ symbol was a bald eagle. (These are native to the Americas so the Ancient Greeks would have no knowledge of these animals.)

The Trojan War was fought with Iron Age weapons. (Actually it was fought in the Bronze Age if it was ever fought at all {most likely it was}.)

Menelaus and Agamemnon didn’t survive the Trojan War. (According to Homer, they did and even won the Trojan War {further Menelaus gets Helen back}. Not to mention, neither of them are the disgusting middle aged guys depicted in Troy. Still, in Agamemnon’s case, it wasn’t for long.)

Paris survived the Trojan War and gets to keep Helen. (According to Homer, Paris gets killed before the war is over and he is actually blamed for starting the whole thing {he’s actually even destined to doom Troy}. Also, Helen ends up with his brother for a time before being ultimately rescued by Menelaus. Not to mention, Hector’s son doesn’t survive the war either and his wife ends up a concubine to the Greeks.)

The heroes of the Trojan War were kings. (Archaeology casts doubt on this. However, it’s possible. Still, if you weren’t a king in Greek mythology, you probably didn’t mean much in some respects.)

Hector was an all around nice guy. (While he’s nicer than most of the Illiad characters, he does do dubious things in the original poem like stealing, bragging about killing his enemies, and running away from Achilles during their final confrontation until the gods convinced him to fight.)

Achilles and Patrolcus had a close relationship because they were cousins. (As far as the Ancient Greeks are concerned, they could’ve been “cousins” in the same contexts as some of Ava Gardner’s fuck buddies in The Barefoot Contessa or even more so. But Homer also said that Achilles had a son who went on to marry Helen’s daughter Hermione. But, then again, you can’t really tell with the Greeks. He’s also said to fall in love with an Amazon after killing her. So it’s very possible that Achilles went both ways as illustrated in the Homer poem, which was very typical for the Greeks at the time. It’s also possible for Patrolcus to be older than him, too.)

Aeneas was only a teenager when he fled Troy. (According to Homer, he was the best warrior in Troy after Hector and his fate is unknown. In Virgil’s Aeneid, he’s most definitely not a teenager.)

The Trojans worshiped the Greek gods. (We’re not sure whether they did or not or whether Troy was a dependent of the Hittites {it’s said to be located in modern Turkey by the way} or Mycenae. Also, the Greek architecture should look more like Knossos as well as more or less Egyptian. Besides, we don’t know whether the Greeks worshiped their gods in the same context then either.)

Agamemnon and Menelaus had an easy time getting other Greek kings to fight for them. (According to Homer, this was made easier by Odysseus’ meddling. In actuality, getting multiple kings to fight for each other makes cat herding look easy. Oh, and Mycenean Greeks were under a more feudal society more akin to medieval Europe or Medieval and Shogunate Japan.)

The Greeks won the Trojan War with sneaking themselves in Troy with a Trojan horse. (I’m not sure if the Trojans would be that stupid or if such tactics would work. Hell, Moses parting the Red Sea is more believable than this. Still, there’s a theory that the Trojan Horse is an allegory of a timely earthquake.)

Helen of Sparta chose to marry Menelaus. (Even The Illiad doesn’t make this bogus claim. Also, Menelaus had to marry her before he could become king of Sparta anyway.)

Helen of Sparta and Paris had a loving relationship. (According to Homer, Paris was a philandering and cowardly jerk even by Trojan standards who gets his ass beat by Menelaus {who’s no way considered the best Greek warrior}. Furthermore, when Helen is accused of being a slut, Paris doesn’t defend her thinking it’s Hector’s job. Also, we’re not sure if Helen even consented on leaving Sparta with Paris, but if she did, she certainly regretted it and feels very guilty about starting the Trojan War in the first place. Still, by The Illiad, their relationship has considerably cooled and let’s say that the only Trojans Helen generally respects are Prince Hector and King Priam since they’re actually nice to her.)

Troy was destroyed in the Trojan War. (Recent archaeology says it’s possible that it held on for a few centuries. Furthermore, there may have been other cities in present day Turkey attacked by the Greeks with Troy only being one of them.)

Alexander the Great:

Alexander the Great was straight. (Historians aren’t really sure what his sexual orientation was. Let’s say he just humped anything that moves.)

Alexander the Great was tall and imposing with blond hair. (It’s said he was more or less short and stocky by Macedonian standards as well as had twisty neck and eyes of two different colors. Nothing like Colin Farrell in the least.)

Herodotus recounted the events of Alexander the Great’s life. (He died 70 years before Alexander the Great was born.)

Alexander the Great was wounded with an arrow in his chest at the Hydapses and nearly died. (He was wounded in a later siege in what is now Mutan, Pakistan. Also, he won at Hydapses but you wouldn’t know it from Alexander.)

Ancient Europe:

The Celts were uncivilized barbarians who fought naked and participated in barbaric rituals like human sacrifice. (Sure the Celts were a warrior culture headed by kings and nobles but even though they didn’t have writing, they did have civilization and their women had more rights. Not to mention, the Celtic culture wasn’t homogenous as was the case with the Greeks and the Mayans. Besides, most civilizations in the ancient world had their share of barbarity. Same goes for the Germanic tribes.)

Celts usually had red or blond hair as well as blue, gray, and green eyes. (Brown haired and brown eyed Celts also existed. Same goes for Germanic tribes.)

Pictish is Scotch Gaelic. (No record of the Pictish language exists and the Scottish people in Centurion didn’t want to speak Welsh.)

Druids worshiped Zeus. (They were Celts so they most certainly did not.)

The Picts fought the Romans in the 2nd century. (They don’t appear in the historical records until 297 AD. If they were fighting the Scots in the 2nd century, it would’ve been the Caldones.)


The Arab women stripped the dead soldiers of their clothing during the Punic Wars. (There were no Arabs in North Africa during the Punic Wars, and no, Carthaginian civilians didn’t scavenge dead soldiers either.)


The Hebrews looked just like modern-day white Americans while the Romans resembled Englishmen and spoke in English accents.

Greeks and Romans resembled Northern and Western Europeans.

The civilizations of Greece and Rome tend to look pretty much the same as if they existed around the same time and almost every ancient Greek city looks like Athens.

Greek and Roman galleys were rowed by slaves and condemned criminals. (Galley rowers were free men for it was a highly skilled job and only relied on slaves when they couldn’t get anyone else. And to a slave, galley rowing had good benefits like the potential for freedom. As for condemned criminals, there’s no evidence to support it, even if it is depicted in Ben Hur. Rather the use of galley slaves and prisoners was used far more frequently during the Middle Ages and beyond.)

The Greeks and Romans wore white. (Actually they wore clothes of all kinds of bright colors.)

Everything in Greece and Rome was written on scrolls. (The Romans used books.)

Hospitality wasn’t a big deal in the ancient world. (Are you kidding me? Being a bad host or guest could result in death or destruction. It was deemed so sacred that Sodom and Gomorrah were both destroyed over hospitality violations. Of course, as traveling conditions could be in the ancient world, there’s a good reason why hospitality was deemed so sacred. Heck, Jesus talks about it a lot, too.)

History of the World According to the Movies: Part 2- Ancient Egypt and Near East


Of course, no post on Ancient Egypt and the Near East would be complete without discussing The Ten Commandments. Of course, we may not be sure that the Exodus happened under the reign of Ramses II or Thutmose III (though Ramses II is a more plausible candidate), or if at all. Yet, we do know that Queen Nefretiri is way overdressed by Ancient Egyptan standards.

History was born with the invention of writing in Mesopotamia in which scribes would record the events taking place on behalf of the king as well as legends relating to their religion and culture. They also were known for ziggurats and The Epic of Gilgamesh one of the first works of literature. Egypt would later follow suit and would later be known as the civilization for hieroglyphics, the Nile, mummification, pharaohs, and the Pyramids. Oh, and that little thing called the Exodus. Then there are the peoples of the Near East like the Sumerians known for writing, inventing the wheel and Gilgamesh, the Phoenicians known for trade, seafaring, purple, and having the first phonetic alphabet, the Akkadians known for a major empire and possibly the Tower of Babel, Assyrians a fierce warrior culture known for their epic beards, the Hittites known for their empire in Turkey, the Philistines, the Caananites, the Old Babylonians known for the Hammurabi Law Code, and the Neo-Babylonians known holding the Jews in captivity as well as the Hanging Gardens. Of course, the two famous civilizations from the Ancient Near East were the Hebrews from the Bible, particularly the Old Testament and the Persians who amassed one of the largest empires at the time as well as are the ancestors of the modern Iranian people (who take great pride being descended from such a glorious people). Movies made in this era are usually epics in the early sword and sandal and biblical genre (at least in the Old Testament, New Testament is for another post), however, many of these films aren’t 100% accurate nor could be. Besides, most of ancient history in this setting was written when real events could be shrouded in myth so it’s difficult to surmise between fact and fiction. Also, archaeological records are incomplete and very few people knew how to read and write at the time. And those literate had to basically write under an autocratic ruler who’d basically slit their throats if they dared say anything bad about him. Nevertheless, genuine ancient historical errors do abound in movies for some reason (meaning they go against the historic record.)

Ancient Egypt:

During the reigns of Ramses II and his family, the Hebrews lived in Egypt as slaves and were forced to build the Pyramids of Giza. (In reality, this notion is false on many levels. For one, the Pyramids of Giza weren’t built by slaves, but paid volunteer workers and during the time of the Old Kingdom and perhaps around the same time as Stonehenge. Thus, it would probably be a rather ancient landmark by the time Moses came around like over a thousand years old to be exact. Second, slavery wasn’t practiced in Egypt until the time of the New Kingdom and by that time, the Egyptians were no longer building pyramids mostly because they were targets of grave robbers. Pharaohs by that time were being buried in elaborate underground tombs instead since why do you think it took over a couple thousand years to find King Tut’s tomb which was discovered like around 90 years ago?)

Ancient Egyptians used curses to punish those who break into the pharaoh’s tomb such as modern day archaeologists. (Actually, if they did, the curses didn’t seem to work. However, they did do something to deter grave robbing which was apparent in Ancient Egypt, which was to stop building pyramids.)

Egyptians resemble Northern and Western Europeans. (Yul Brynner from The Ten Commandments is perhaps the only guy who looks more like an ancient Egyptian than any other Egyptian character in the cast.)

Moses had a chance to become Pharaoh since Nefretiri was in love with him. (For one, many historians are unsure whether Moses was a real historical figure {with Jesus, it’s an entirely different story}. Still, even if he did exist, was raised in the Pharaoh’s household, and was in love with Nefretiri, Moses would’ve had no chance to be Pharaoh since he was not only adopted but also the youngest. Thus, even if Moses were to marry Nefretiri, he’d still have absolutely no chance at being Pharaoh so Ramses didn’t have much competition for the throne. And if he didn’t have any biological brothers or half-brothers to compete with as most movies about Moses imply, then Ramses wouldn’t have to marry Nefretiri because if it was him and Moses, then Ramses was going to be Pharaoh no matter what. Besides, in the Bible, Moses’ mother also lived with the Pharaoh’s family as a nursemaid so Moses grew up knowing that he was a Hebrew. Not to mention, he was most likely raised with Ramses II and we know he got the job and Nefretiri. As a side note, Ramses wasn’t an atheist and it was his granddad who ordered the killing of male Hebrew babies according to scripture.)

Ramses I ordered the killing of male newborn babies. (I highly doubt that any pharaoh would do this seeing that they needed more Hebrew men to do heavy lifting for their building projects and other jobs. Oh, and make babies with the female slaves. Perhaps he did it around the year Moses was born but the slaughter had to stop sometime for he didn’t rule too long.)

No Egyptian men wore makeup or shaved. (All Egyptian men and women wore eyeliner and shaved most of their body hair. Mostly this was done for health reasons and the environment. Also, in The Ten Commandments, it’s unlikely that Moses would have a full head of hair in the beginning as an adult and he’d certainly have eyeliner. I mean he was raised by Egyptians for God’s sake.)

Joshua was a slave in Egypt. (Joshua was Moses’ apprentice when he received The Ten Commandments. However, in the movie The Ten Commandments, Joshua and Moses are depicted at around the same age even though in the Bible, Moses is clearly much older by at least a generation. Thus, though Joshua may have been a slave in Egypt, he most definitely not been shacked up with a slave girl for he would’ve been at least a teenager, maybe even younger than that if he was born around the time. Also, depicting Joshua as a teenager around Exodus would make better sense since Moses was sort of a priest and they did take teenage apprentices {think about the story of Samuel}. Also, there have been teenage commanders in battle like King Tut and Alexander the Great.)

Female Egyptian rulers didn’t wear beards. (They wore a fake one as a symbol of their power as well as show that they were a reincarnation of Horus.)

Imotep is best known for being buried alive because he messed with a Pharaoh’s mistress. (He was an official, priest, and architect who invented the pyramid and modern medicine before Hippocrates. He was also seen as a good chancellor as well as one of the most respected Ancient Egyptians who ever lived who was deified after his death {which was only reserved for Pharaohs} and there are some theories that contend he was the biblical Joseph {the guy with the technicolor dream coat}. Of course, this might be a different Imotep depicted in The Mummy films since the historical one lived 1300 years before this one.)

Akenaten was poisoned by an assassin. (We’re really not sure what he died from. Though Pharaohs had to worry about assassination {mostly from their own relatives} and the Aten religion soon fell out of favor a few years after his death, he could’ve just as easily died from plague or other nasty diseases, which may explain why his tomb was subsequently abandoned with rapidity. However, unlike his son Tutankhamen, he looked pretty average so there’s no evidence he had anything depicted in artistic representations of him.)

Anubis was the god of evil and Ancient Egypt’s Satan. (He wasn’t, not by a long shot. He’s just a god of the dead. Seth was the evil god.)

The Book of the Dead and the Book of Amun-Ra were written on black stone tablets in gold. (Ancient Egyptians wrote their books on papyrus scrolls.)

Hamunaptra was an ancient city in Egypt and nicknamed the “City of the Dead.” (It’s actually in India as a relic of unknown civilization destroyed thousands of years ago.)

There was a mass Egyptian enslavement of Hebrews. (While the Ancient had slaves, it’s uncertain whether they enslaved Hebrews. If they did, they weren’t technically Hebrews yet but Canaanites.)

Ancient Egyptians viewed cats as terrifying demons. (They worshiped them and were among the greatest cat lovers in history.)

Egyptians domesticated camels in the Old Kingdom. (They domesticated them late in the New Kingdom.)

The Ancient Egyptians practiced ritual sacrifice at the time of the Great Pyramid. (This had faded long before the Great Pyramid was built.)

Old Kingdom Egyptians had bronze and iron weapons as well as horses. (Horses and bronze were introduced in Ancient Egypt around 1400 B. C. E. While iron was introduced by the Hittites around 1000 B. C. E.)

Amun-Ra was the Egyptian sun god during the Old Kingdom. (Amun and Ra merged during the Middle Kingdom. The Sun God was Ra during the Old Kingdom.)

Seti won the Battle of Kadesh. (Ramses II actually fought that battle.)

Potiphar was angry at Joseph (son of Jacob) for his wife’s allegations he was trying to rape her while Joseph resisted her advances. (Contrary to Joseph and his Technicolor Dream Coat, Potiphar probably knew that his wife had a habit of making advances to the servants and was kind of a bitch. He probably put Joseph in prison to get him out of the way.)

Ancient Persia:

The Persians gave lesser rights to women. (Actually they treated women rather equally even paying them more in some situations.)

The Persians dressed in Arab clothing and had Arab generals. (They dressed in Persian clothing and had Persian generals.)

The Persians kings saw themselves as gods. (They were Zorastrian and only worshiped one god so Xerxes’ god complex in the 300 movies has no basis in reality since he never saw himself as one.)

Persians had massive orgies and lesbian shows I the kings’ room. (Well, the Bible recounts Xerxes wanting his wife Vashti to show herself naked only to banish her later, but that’s about it.)

Persians beheaded their own people. (I’m not sure that they did. However, they did have very brutal form of capital punishment called scaphism, which was far worse than having your head lopped off. This is according to the Greeks.)

Immortals wore face masks and were soulless monsters. (No, they didn’t and they weren’t.)

Persian Immortals wore black ninja like outfits to battle. (Actually their outfits would’ve been wearing masks, light armor, and outfits of bright colors. They also wore jewelry. Oh, and they also had a full head of hair and funky beards.)

The Persians charged elephants and rhinos at Thermopylae. (They used horses. Seriously, the Persian Empire didn’t extend to Africa. However, it’s said they did use these animals in later battles, just not in Greece.)

Persians were dressed in scantily clad outfits, wore jewelry, shaved their bodies, and looked kind of like Cirque du Soleil rejects as well as kind of gay. They are were also debasing and immoral. (Persian men didn’t look like their representations in 300. Look on the murals. Besides, Xerxes had a full head of hair {as far as we know} and a beard like most ancient Persians did even in the Bible. He also wore a tall hat and elaborate robes, was probably not gay, and didn’t wear a lot of jewelry. He also wasn’t 9 feet tall and if he was bald, you probably wouldn’t know it. As for Persian side, it was a pretty diverse group of ethnicities from the Middle East and Egypt, with diverse religious beliefs {including Judaism}. And as with homosexuality, there was plenty of it in the Spartan army and typical Spartan bridal wear consisted of men’s clothes and a shaved head. Sparta was also known for their enslavement of Helots whose uprising were a common feature in Ancient Greece and was one of the least free city states in Greece unless you were a woman. They also practiced pederasty {yet all Greek city states did to some extent}. And in the Bible, the Persians are depicted as perhaps some of the nicest overlords the Jewish people ever had, if one read Daniel and Esther. So it’s possible that you might have a few Israelites fighting in the Persian Wars. They also didn’t have any slaves and believed in equality.)

Persian Immortals wore shiny masks to hide their horrific faces. (They actually wrapped their faces in cloth so you could see through them. Yet, their shields were only made of wicker. Still, they were called the Immortals because they always maintained the strength of 10,000 men. Whenever an Immortal was killed or wounded, there was always someone to take his place which maintained the cohesion of the unit.)

Persians sent their entire army to Thermopylae. (Xerxes would have done no such thing since he had to rule a large empire back at home. Also, I’m not sure if he would even go to Thermopylae himself though he and Leonidas certainly didn’t meet in person. Yet, he’s said to have been at the Battle of Salamis.)

A Persian weapon of choice was the Khopesh. (It was a Canaanite weapon which hadn’t been used for 1000 years up to that point. This would’ve been the equivalent of sending US paratroopers into Normandy equipped with single shot muskets.)

During the Battle of Salamis, the Persians had a large metal ship that chugs out pitch and a detachment of frogman suicide bombers. (Sorry, but there’s no mention of this in Herodotus nor has there been any archaeological finds. Yet, this makes 300: Rise of an Empire ever the more ridiculous.)

Themistocles killed King Darius at the Battle of Marathon. (King Darius probably wasn’t at Marathon but died well after that of completely natural causes {such as a long illness} four years later.)

Themistocles killed Artemisia during the Battle of Salamis. (She survived the battle and ended up as a trusted adviser to Xerxes, even caring for his illegitimate children. Also, Themistocles ended up joining the Persians, though only after he was exiled to Argos and implicated in a plot with Pausanias by Spartans who didn’t like him. The Persians were the only entity who would take him. So it wasn’t like he betrayed the Greeks, rather the Greeks betrayed him.)

Artemisia and Themistocles shared a moment of unbridled passion. (Contrary to 300: Rise of an Empire, this never happened for Artemisia knew better than to fool around with any man, let alone a Greek.)

Xerxes tried to dissuade Artemisia from pursuing the Greeks during the Battle of Salamis. (Contrary to 300: Rise of an Empire, she advised him against the battle arguing that it was a bad idea to engage the Greeks at sea and was the only one of his allies to do so. Nevertheless, though Xerxes respected her advice, he decided to go through with the naval assault anyway. Thus, it was the other way around. Of course, she was right.)

Artemisia was the Persian naval commander during the Battles of Artemisium and Salamis. (Contrary to 300: Rise of an Empire, she was only a Persian naval commander during the battles. In fact, all the authority she had just consisted of 5 ships she contributed to the Persian force. And she would never be able to command those ships if she wasn’t a queen to begin with.)

Darius invaded Athens because he was annoyed by Greek freedom. (Darius more likely just wanted to add more land to empire and that he was getting sick of the Athenian sponsored revolts in his hometown. Also, Persians didn’t have slaves, unlike the Greeks who did.)

Xerxes burned Athens to the ground. (Contrary to 300: Rise of an Empire, he had no reason to destroy a city of significant strategic value. Many historians have theorized this is just plain Greek propaganda while Herodotus said this was a Persian objective and Xerxes withdrew from the city shortly afterwards. Thus, it’s highly disputed.)

Queen Artemisia was psychotic. (She was just the queen of one of Xerxes’ satraps {provinces} who just happen to take his side during the Greco-Persian Wars. Also, she was even praised by Herodotus for her decisiveness and intelligence despite being Persian and a woman. Of course, he was also from Halicarnassus and she was a legend in his hometown that was ruled by Artemisia’s grandson {where he’d later be exiled}.)

Persian galleys were rowed by slaves. (Ancient Persia didn’t have any slaves.)

The Persians burned every enemy city they encountered. (With the possible exception of Athens, they didn’t. Rather they viewed cities as future vassals to their empire.)

Artemisia’s family was murdered by Greek hopilites and she was held as a sex slave on a Greek ship. (Contrary to 300: Rise of an Empire, she was a princess and was never held as a sex slave. She was queen of Halicarnassus as well as a mother and regent to a young son. Oh, and did I say that her mother was from Crete?)

Old Testament Times:

The Philistines were an uncivilized and an uncultured people. (They may have been the Hebrew enemies in the Bible but they weren’t uncultured by any means and it’s even said in the Bible.)

Jacob had sons by several different women. (The Bible explicitly said he had sons by 4 women with 6 by Leah, 2 by Rachel, 2 by Billah, and 2 by Zilphah. Of course, Rachel was dead by the time Joseph received his coat while Jacob’s other sons needed dance partners in the Andrew Lloyd Weber musical. Jacob also had a daughter named Dinah, too. Of course, he should’ve known that his older brothers had wives and concubines.)

Judaism was always monotheistic. (Yes, the early Jews worshiped Yahweh but they had other minor deities until the Babylonian captivity. Also, the Bible does mention that idol worship was prevalent around the time of David, Solomon, and their successors.)

Uriah was a complete asshole who abused his wife. (The Bible says that King David was the bigger asshole since he knocked up the guy’s wife, tried to get Uriah to go home in order to pass him as the kid’s father {which didn’t work}, and had him sent to the front lines where he’d surely be killed. Uriah, on the other hand, was a nice guy as well as very loyal to his king only to be screwed in the process. Not to mention, David also got a lot of other guys killed in the process who basically had nothing to do with the whole Bathsheba thing.)

Early Passover was celebrated in the seder style. (This style wasn’t celebrated until the later rabbinic tradition which was around the time of the Roman Empire. Before then, the typical Passover tradition was sacrificing a lamb.)

Delilah actually loved Samson even though she gave him the haircut of betrayal. (According to the Bible, it’s unclear whether she had any genuine feelings for him.)

Moses wrote the Torah. (Though 4 of the five Torah books are about Moses, it’s more likely they were written at least during the reign of Solomon or the Babylonian captivity.)

Carrying the Ark of the Covenant would make an army invincible. (Let’s just say the Bible says that every time the Hebrews carried it into battle, they were soundly defeated and lost the ark as well without God’s specific direction to do so. The Hebrews were probably glad to get rid of it to get the Lord to stop smiting them.)

Delilah was sent by the Philistines to seduce Samson and deceive him. (According to the Bible, she was already in a relationship with him when the Philistines approached her. Hollywood just can’t miss an opportunity of a good femme fatale love story.)

Joseph received a multi colored coat from his dad Jacob. (Actually, the chances of Joseph having a technicolor dream coat would’ve been unlikely. He probably just received a very fancy coat.)

Nathan slut shamed Bathsheba for committing adultery with King David. (Unlike what David and Bathsheba implies, the Bible doesn’t really say that Bathsheba received any divine punishment whatsoever {or at least any that wasn’t meant for David like her son dying in infancy}. Hell, the next thing we hear about her after the whole thing was that she became the mother of Solomon and later helps secure his succession. And in the Bible, Nathan doesn’t slut shame her or call her out for infidelity. This is because since David is her sovereign king, her husband’s boss, and wanted to sleep with her, Bathsheba was in absolutely no position to refuse. It didn’t matter how she felt about David or whether she was willing or not. If she refused, it might’ve meant prison or death. Or it might’ve meant prison or death for Uriah, too. Any woman in her situation would’ve done the same thing regardless of marital status. Thus, since Bathsheba couldn’t freely consent to adultery, she was not held responsible. Besides, the Bible clearly shows that whole Bathsheba incident was all David’s fault.)

Ancient Mesopotamia and the Near East:

The Akkadians had blood feuds with the Vikings before the pyramids were built. (Of course, you know that this isn’t true when I mention Vikings, especially around 5000 B. C. E.)

Iron swords were available around 5000 B. C. E. (The Iron Age didn’t begin until about 1000 B. C. E.)

Greek warlords regularly commandeered Babylonian forces. (They most likely didn’t though the Babylonians did have a warrior culture in what is now Iraq.)

The Akkadians were a race of deadly assassins. (For God’s sake, they were just people of Akkad known for amassing an empire in the Fertile Crescent created by a ruler named Sargon and his dynasty.)

Memnon was a Greek general. (We’re not sure if this guy ever existed, wherever he’s from.)

Magic black powder was used in the Middle East around 5000 B. C. E. (For God’s sake, why is that in a movie?)

The Scorpion King was a Mesopotamian ruler from 5000 B. C. E.  or an Egyptian ruler around 3000 B. C. E. (There was a real Scorpion king but he was Egyptian who preceded the Pharaoh Menes and lived around 3100 B. C. E. Still, we don’t know much about him.)

The Hittites worshiped Gozer. (Contrary to Ghostbusters, Gozer doesn’t appear on the Hittite deity lists so it’s uncertain.)

The Babylonians had elephant statues. (Elephants aren’t indigenous to the Middle East and it’s unlikely anyone from Babylon ever saw one. Also, refer to Jesus saying about how easier it was for a camel to pass through the eye of an needle than a rich man to enter the Kingdom of God. The camel was the biggest animal anyone in the the ancient Near East anyone would’ve seen.)

History of the World According to the Movies: Part 1- Introduction and Prehistory


Believe it or not, as much as 10,000 BC might be criticized for inaccuracy, it’s actually true that many extinctions of these large prehistoric mammals may very well be attributed to early man hunting them. However, they probably weren’t hunting saber tooths (especially one by that size in Africa) and mammoths by 10,000 BC though and not with that weapon.

Movies are great teaching tools when it comes to history but sometimes they teach us the wrong lessons and give us an erroneous perception about the past. Though many of the events depicted in the film may have happened and the people might have existed, filmmakers often make a mistake or two. Sometimes it’s the presentation such as the costumes. Sometimes it’s history in general. And like it or not, there are people who tend to believe what they see in movies. In the next several days  I list clichés and inaccuracies present in movies that take place at another time. I’m listing things I see in movies that pertain to more serious films that are meant to shape our perception of history not movies like Monty Python and the Holy Grail, Blazing Saddles or period pieces by Quentin Tarantino because these were only made for entertainment and not meant to be taken seriously. I don’t include biopic much unless they are about someone historically significant. I also don’t include fantasy and science fiction films because most of them are told as myths and aren’t meant to conform to historic accuracy. I mean 2001: A Space Odyssey may be totally historically inaccurate but at the time it was written and made (in the 1960s) 2001 was the future. However, I do include westerns and literary adaptations, older movies set in their contemporary settings, and maybe the occasional animated flick or movies based on religion and mythology.

My first post on movie history is prehistoric times from human evolution to the invention of writing like around 2 million years ago to about 3000 B. C. E. (or before a civilization had records) because history ain’t history until it’s written down. Of course, this would include prehistoric mammals, cavemen, the Stone Age, the Bronze Age, the Iron Age as well as the invention of many things we take for granted like fire, houses, cities, architecture, agriculture, clothes, tools, art, the wheel, religion, weapons, trade, and a bunch of other things. What we know about Prehistory usually comes from archaeological and paleoantrhopological evidence, which is incomplete. In many ways, there could never be a truly historically accurate movie on Prehistoric man because we really don’t know much about them since they didn’t write things down. However, this doesn’t mean that there are glaring inaccuracies in them which would make any prehistory expert cry.

Early humans looked and acted very much like we did as well as had language and had their hair in similar styles. However, they ate their meat raw until they discovered fire. (Contrary to what Caveman says {which is a parody but still illustrates the inaccuracy}, fire was discovered by Homo erectus at least around 1 million years ago {which was way before the evolution of modern humans}, so cavemen looking like Ringo Starr would’ve been very familiar with the technology.)

Cavemen were predominantly white and existed as one species. (Well, the earliest modern humans probably weren’t Caucasian looking when they first came to Europe from Africa {which says alot about the other humans which certainly weren’t either since they came from Africa where a light skin human being without much body hair would be at an evolutionary disadvantage}. Actually, race is more a of a social construct than a scientific one so let’s leave it at that. Still, most cavemen in movies are usually portrayed by white actors. However, early homo sapiens certainly did exist with human species for awhile.)

Early humans wore animal skins as well as made jewelry out of their bones. Animal parts were used as musical instruments. The fact that they didn’t farm and wore things like that proves that they were uncivilized creatures. They also fought with each other over women that the treated as objects as well as had monosyllabic names. (Archaeological evidence suggests that cave men were anything but brutes and morons.)

A Stone Age diet usually consisted of meat and any vegetation that was gathered. And it was the hunters who contributed to most of the meal. (In reality it was the gatherers who contributed more as well as started agriculture. Oh, yeah, they also consumed grain though I’m not sure about dairy products.)

Neanderthals were hunchbacked, chinless, knuckle-draggers. (This was based on one of the first complete Neanderthal skeletons found, which was of a man over sixty years old suffering from bone wastage and arthritis. They actually looked more like us though they wouldn’t be winning any beauty contests.)

Neanderthals couldn’t speak. (They could, just not like us.)

The Iron Age had superior tools and weapons than the Bronze Age did. (Iron has some properties that make it more useful than bronze such as the grain allowed for sharpening, it was used as a poor man’s substitute for Bronze and that the collapse of the Bronze Age was due to the loss of trade routes which were their only source of tin. Also, iron was cheaper to produce. And before iron, most people used copper since bronze was expensive.)

Cavemen invented the wheel and originally used it for transportation. (The wheel was invented in Mesopotamia in 6000-3200 B.C. E. and its initial use was for grinding grain and would be it’s only use for two or three millennia. Also, by that time, humans were already out of caves and living in fixed settlements by then.)

Dinosaurs coexisted with humans. (For God’s sake, they most certainly did not. Dinosaurs were already extinct for millions of years by the time humans came in.)

Early man hunted prehistoric animals. (This is true, which may have caused extinction of several animals {yet the Dinofelis pictured wasn’t one of them having gone extinct 1.3 million years ago and the Smildon maybe, but only by Native American Indians}. However, they also hunted animals we’d be familiar with like deer. Actually they’d hunt almost anything.)

Egyptians used mammoths to build the Pyramids. (Actually they built the Pyramids closer to 2500 B. C. E. {which is in a whole different era} and the mammoths were very much extinct by then. Not to mention, mammoths were never domesticated, ever.)

Prehistoric women wore fur bikinis. (Whether this is true or not, odds are many prehistoric women certainly wouldn’t look like Raquel Welch around a million years ago. Actually many prehistoric women didn’t even bother covering their saggy breasts, especially if they were nursing babies.)

Prehistoric humans = cavemen. (This is true but only to a point. Most of the familiar imagery of prehistory usually do revolve around cavemen, but this eras spans beyond the Stone Age. Prehistoric humans would eventually move away from that kind of lifestyle in the advent of agriculture. Of course, many Prehistoric humans would have civilization of some sort, just not in 10,000 B.C.E.)

Prehistoric women had no body hair or ever cut themselves shaving their legs. (Chances are Prehistoric women would be much hairier than women today {including those who don’t shave at all}. And if Prehistoric women did shave {which I highly doubt}, they would’ve used a jagged rock.)

Prehistoric women were well made up and had perfect teeth. (Most cosmetics available were clay and crushed berries. And don’t get me started on dental care.)

Prehistoric men wore leopard skins and had bulging muscles. (For God’s sake, most Prehistoric men didn’t look like Tarzan. Nor they were scrawny looking either. I mean these guys weren’t attractive by modern beauty standards.)

Prehistoric humans were larger or just as big as their modern counterparts and stronger, too. (The vast majority were actually smaller. The degree of strength is actually debatable.)

Some Prehistoric Europeans had blue eyes and blond hair. (The genetic mutation for blue eyes existed 6-8,000 years ago at the earliest. And fair hair didn’t exist until 12,000 B. C. E.)

Prehistoric humans ate corn and chili peppers. (In the Americas maybe since they did exist in Pre-Columbian times, but not anywhere else before the 1500s.)

Prehistoric humans had horseback riding, ships, and steel around 10,000 B. C. E. (Horse domestication didn’t exist until 4000 B. C. E. {though horses were hunted and eaten} yet by 10,000 B.C.E there has been evidence of using dogs, pigs, and reindeer in a domestic atmosphere. Metalworking didn’t exist until 7500-5500 B. C. E. {with the earliest metal tools being made in copper}. Sailing didn’t exist until 4000 B. C. E.)

Prehistoric humans had cities around 10,000 B.C.E. (For God’s sake the first complex cities didn’t spring up until around 4000 B. C. E.  though Jericho might’ve existed by then but only as a hunter-gatherer settlement and there was a mammoth bone village in Ukraine from 18,000 to 12,000 years ago. Also, 10,000 B. C. E. would’ve when humans discovered agriculture.)

Humans had contact with large “terror birds.” (The birds were indigenous in the Americas and had gone extinct 1.8 million years ago.)

Prehistoric man used bows and and elaborate spear points for hunting as early as 10,000 B. C. E. (Bows and elaborate spear points weren’t used for hunting around that time {though humans had been hunting with stone tools for thousands of years prior}. Humans wouldn’t use elaborate spear points {those were ceremonial} though they may have hunted with bows and arrows {existing since 30,000 years ago} and spears.)

Cavemen walked crouched down like apes. (Prehistoric humans mostly walked upright since Homo habilis.)

Prehistoric men shaved their faces. (We really don’t know whether they did or not or whether beard styles varied from tribe to tribe.)

Prehistoric humans used telescopes and maps on papyrus in 10,000 B. C. E. (Telescopes weren’t invented until the 1600s, moron. Also, maps weren’t invented before writing and papyrus didn’t come around until 2650 B.C. E.)

Cro-Magnon hunted mammoth with a net. (They may have hunted mammoth but there’s no evidence it was with a net {they did have nets at the time}. Though absence of one doesn’t mean they didn’t.)

Cavemen lived in caves. (Well, we assume many did because they were nomadic but they had other kinds of shelter. Of course, very early man lived in trees or under them. The earliest house in archaeological record was found in the Czech Republic is dated to have been built 25,000 years ago. Rock shelters have been found in India with artwork possibly done by Homo erectus and dating between 200,000 and 50,000 years ago. Also, wooden buildings were said to have been erected in South America as early as 11,500 B. C. E. to 10,000 B. C. E. Oh, and pit residences weren’t uncommon either.)

Cavemen dragged chose their mates by bonking their chosen women on the head and dragging them by the hair. (Well, marriage by kidnapping was the norm at the time {it’s the earliest marriage ritual to be exact}. However, dragging a woman by the hair wouldn’t have been a good idea. Chances are a wife seeking caveman probably had his band helping him and possibly the familial approval of the woman in question. Heck, there may even be cavewomen who were kidnapped by their husbands on their own accord.)

Stonehenge was built in Prehistoric times. (It’s said to have been constructed around the same time as the Pyramids {at least the main part of it has}. Not to mention, there may have been some variations of it before then so it’s not 100% inaccurate but not really historically true.)

Hunter-gatherers lived a life of labor and near starvation. (Their diet was said to be healthier than ours and food was plentiful and didn’t take much work to get. Agricultural work was far more difficult and humans only became farmers because the hunter-gatherer lifestyle wasn’t able to support a large population. Agriculture also gave rise to all kinds of diseases and tooth decay as well as social inequality.)

Cavemen had to constantly worry about falling prey to a vicious Prehistoric monster. (Sometimes they had, especially in the early years of human evolution. More modern humans pretty much were the monsters for they were responsible for some extinctions of prehistoric animals.)

Neanderthals lived in what is now North Texas around 33,000 B. C. E. (Neanderthals never lived in North America. However, there may nor may not have been humans in the Americas around 35,000 years ago. However, I don’t think you’re going to find an early man in Encino, California any time soon, especially one that looks like Brendan Fraser.)

The Cinematic Guide to Archaeology


Throughout movie history, archaeologists seem to have a lot of interesting adventures such as discovering lost treasure, unleashing ancient curses, defeating the bad guys, solving hidden puzzles, smashing less valuable artifacts, and wait a minute, this doesn’t seem right. Of course, like many professions, archaeologists in the movies seem to have more fun and interesting lives than their real life counterparts (well, depending on anyone’s definition of “fun”). And if you’d stack someone like Indiana Jones by what most people would expect a real archaeologist would actually do, well, let’s just say he wouldn’t even make tenure even according to 1930s standards. Sure he may make archaeology look cool and has inspired many young fans to go into his field, but he sucks at his job. Still, he’s not the only one who doesn’t stack up with what anyone would expect a from a real archaeologist or even the worst offender. And when you think about it, even the subject of archaeology itself doesn’t really measure up to the real thing. So here is a list of what movie archaeology deviates from the real thing in many ways.

1. Most of archaeology focuses on discovering lost cities and civilizations, kings’ tombs, legendary artifacts, lost technologies, imprisoned evils, and long lost secrets. (Actually archaeology is about discovering knowledge about the past civilizations through the study and analysis of artifacts and what information it gives them about the past. Also, plenty of archaeologists have made careers by meticulous analysis of contents of the garbage dumps of old.)

2. The goal of an archaeologist is to find and obtain a legendary MacGuffin, which everyone else is after for themselves. (Most archaeologists would be perfectly fine with discovering worthless pottery fragments.)

3. Most archaeologists study ancient civilizations in exotic locations. (There are plenty of archaeologists who study artifacts relating to more recent history and have excavations that aren’t so far from where they live. And I’m not just talking about those who live in the Middle East and South America either or even in Asia as a matter of fact. Also, Aztec and Inca civilizations were around during the medieval period so they’re not really ancient.)

4. If an archaeologist stumbles on a tomb of an ancient king, it will be cursed and the curse will come true as well as unleash supernatural forces. (This never happens. Sorry Mummy franchise.)

5. It’s perfectly reasonable for an archaeologist to acquire the MacGuffin through any means, no matter how destructive, even if you have to destroy ancient machinery that still works after thousands of years just to obtain a gold monkey. (Most archaeologists would try to be careful with any kind of remnant of any past civilization encountered. They great pains in attempting to excavate with as little disruption as possible and carefully preserve whatever is found. Smashing your way into any and all historical monuments for a shiny trinket is just plain unacceptable in the archaeological community.)

6. Most ancient ruins are filled with booby traps set up as protection against raiders or modern archaeologists. (Most archaeologists manage to excavate ancient ruins without having to stumble in one of these. Also, plenty of Egyptian Pharaoh tombs had already been robbed a few thousand years before any modern archaeologist ever got to them. Of course, there are some ruins that do have them. Not to mention, ruins are rarely “abandoned” anyway.)

7. It’s perfectly acceptable for an archaeologist to neglect his or her students while hunting for artifacts. (Though archaeologists do go on excavations, neglecting academic responsibilities is not okay. And academic responsibilities for a professor don’t just include teaching either. In case you want to see why Indiana Jones would be denied tenure: http://www.mcsweeneys.net/articles/back-from-yet-another-globetrotting-adventure-indiana-jones-checks-his-mail-and-discovers-that-his-bid-for-tenure-has-been-denied.)

8. A Pharaoh’s tomb will be intact and have unimaginable treasure inside it. (The significance of the discovery of King Tut’s tomb in the 1920’s is that it’s one of the few Pharaoh tombs found mostly intact. Most Pharaoh tombs were robbed not long after the funeral.)

9. As long as you plan to have the priceless artifact put in a museum, there’s nothing wrong with taking it without the natives’ consent. (Understand that the people behind these ancient artifacts and heirlooms have nearby descendants who are very much alive and wouldn’t be happy if an archaeologist takes something of great cultural value to them. Best keep the artifacts as close to the place you found them or at least within the country of origin. If you want the artifact in a museum, make sure it’s in a museum in the country you found it in. Also, nothing angers Egyptians more than taking a royal mummy out of the country without their consent. You don’t want a whole country to get angry with you. And if you want to take something back for further analysis, ask first.)

10. It’s perfectly fine to excavate a site without permission from the locals or taking cultural sensitivities into account. (Then why is it illegal for archaeologists to excavate a Native American graveyard in the United States? Because the Indians would get royally pissed off if you ever dare disturb their ancestors. Also, you don’t want an archaeologist to dig up your dead grandmother, do you? I mean there’s a reason why archaeologists don’t conduct excavations in cemeteries.)

11. Archaeologists don’t need to take local and cultural sensitivities into consideration. (Okay, I know many movies pertaining to archaeology take place at a time when most archaeologists didn’t really take native sensitivities into account. Nowadays this isn’t the case since pissing the natives can result in things that a mummy curse will be the least of your troubles.)

12. Archaeologists don’t need to do any documentation once you find a priceless artifact MacGuffin. (Archaeologists need to catalog every find and document exactly where they found this in order to establish provenance. Also, they need to record information and location of every artifact and its relation to other artifacts and features at the site. It’s a meticulous, systematic, and time consuming process. They need to map the entire site, make sketches, take photographs, sift dirt through screens to make sure nothing is lost, and put all artifacts in carefully labeled bags. Neglecting to do this could lead to suspicions of theft or forgery and, yes, this has happened.)

13. In archaeology, shiny museum trinkets are all that matters. (Pottery fragments may bring glory but can yield their own share of valuable information about a past civilization.)

14. A bad archaeologist goes after a priceless trinket to hoard for a private collection, give to the bad guys or sell to the highest bidder, or use it for his or her quest for world domination. (There’s more than that to describes a bad archaeologist. Indiana Jones could be described as one for example.)

15. Long dead civilizations possessed powers we no longer understand. (Really? You got to be kidding me.)

16. Archaeologists need to be armed and badass since they constantly have to deal with bad guys. (Well, they’ll have to deal with bad guys if working in areas like the Middle East or Latin America where there are plenty of things that can kill you, especially in this day in age. Yet, never to the same degree as Indy. Also, many of them didn’t take boxing lessons or even carry guns.)

17. If an archaeologist finds something he or she can carry, he or she can just take it. (Most archaeologists usually try to do more research into the artifact before they could even touch it.)

18. Most of archaeology consists of field work and adventure. (Actually most archaeologists spend 70% of their time in some sort of academic setting doing research, like libraries, museum, laboratories, and universities.)

19. Archaeologists get rich by selling lost treasures in museums. (Most archaeologists don’t sell their artifacts because they see them as clues providing information to the lives of people in the past. In archaeology, it’s not just the shiny stuff that matters here.)

20. Desecrating a grave is perfectly all right as long as you’re using a human leg bone as a torch to explore a crypt. (Doing this will land you in an international prison.)