10 Commonly Accepted Historical Inaccuracies

By on February 15, 2014

In attempts to make the world history seem catchier, people have resorted to putting forward inaccurate facts. We have pointed out some of them in this article. It is quite interesting to see the kind of historical “facts” that have been so easily accepted around the world as being true.

Albert Einstein failed mathematics in school

Albert Einstein did NOT fail mathematics in school, as is commonly believed. Rather, historical records show that he had had mastered differential and integral calculus by the age of 15.


The misunderstanding actually came about due to the fact that people did not understand the Swiss grading system which was being used at the time. His results in mathematics were actually really good, according to one photo of his report card. He got perfect scores in algebra, theoretical and practical geometry, and physics.

Another reason for this rumor making rounds were Einstein’s comments about his “troubles with mathematics” referring to him taking help of the mathematician Minkowski and some others to bring him up to speed on four-dimensional geometry and a few other topics. Given these comments, it can be said that he was not too great at mathematics compared to the top mathematicians of the time, but as a physicist his mathematical abilities were at or above par for that discipline.

Cinco de Mayo is Mexican Independence Day

Contrary to widespread belief, Cinco de Mayo is actually not Mexico’s Independence Day. Mexico’s Independence Day is actually held on Sept. 16.

In reality, Cinco de Mayo commemorates El Día de la Batalla de Puebla (The Day of the Battle of Puebla), when the Mexican army defeated the much larger invading French army in 1862.

A line from Kennedy’s famous speech in Berlin translates to “I am a jelly doughnut.”

The story goes that his statement, “Ich bin ein Berliner,” translates to “I am a jelly doughnut.” While “berliner” is a word for a type of jelly-filled pastry, no one at the time thought that’s what Kennedy meant. The general story is that Kennedy should have said “Ich bin Berliner,” rather than “Ich bin ein Berliner.”


However, if seen from a more logical perspective, Kennedy meant to say “I am one with the people of Berlin” by his statement.

Roman gladiatorial battles were blood baths

It is widely believed that these gladiatorial battles resulted in 30 men dying in one fight and 1 in 200 fights always resulted in killing. However, the truth is that gladiators are really expensive and they do not just get killed.

image credits: artofmanliness.com

image credits: artofmanliness.com

An injured man always resulted in the fight coming to an end. Gladiators were very well cared for by those that owned them. The misconception probably stems from the use of the arenas as execution grounds for prisoners and the like. They would often be killed en masse, which could easily be mixed up with the gladiators being tossed in to die as the years go on.

Titanic was badly designed, built, and badly operated by the standards of the time

The truth is that Titanic was an incredibly seaworthy ship, as proven by the fact that she still stayed afloat for more than two hours, even after the iceberg tore a gash almost a third of the way down her side.

Associated Press The Titanic in Southampton, England, on April 10, 1912

Associated Press The Titanic in Southampton, England, on April 10, 1912

Plus, it is also an incorrect claim that Titanic was built using sub-standard material. Yes, in today’s world, there are much better options available but the steel used for building the ship was the best one available at that time period. Titanic also was not travelling too fast for the conditions – by the standards of practice around at the time.

Most of the slaves in the triangle-trade ended up in the USA

This was a completely incorrect belief. The truth was that the majority of slaves shipped from Africa ended up in South- or Central-America or the West Indies.

Rosa Parks just decided one day to not move from her seat on the bus because she was tired

This historical fact making rounds is incorrect. Rather, her reason for not leaving her seat for a white man was purely to stand against the segregation law for which she had years of training with the NAACP leading up to that action.

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Rosa Parks was not too old to get up nor too tired from a long day at work. Instead, Rosa Parks was just fed up with being mistreated.

Napoleon was short in height

Napoleon is sometimes described as being 5 foot 2 inches tall, which would make him short for his era. The truth is, Napoleon was actually above average height (Tweet me).


The misunderstanding exists due to the fact that French inches were different from English inches. Plus, there are some paintings where he is depicted with French grenadiers, which usually were the biggest soldiers in the French army and all towered over him. Napoleon was actually 5 foot 5-7 inches tall, no shorter than the average Frenchman.

Katana is the best sword humanity ever created and the Samurai were the best swordsmen

This belief is false. Katana is a great sword but when up against metal armor, it actually falls short. Plus, history has shown Europeans could handle a sword just as well as the Japanese. The katana is celebrated because Japan and its Samurai-class celebrate it. The reality is that the sword was not nearly as important as other weapons, and the real warriors were prized on their skills with other weapons like the bow or the naginata (lance-ish weapon). Swords were merely side weapons.

Vikings wore horns on their helmets

There is no evidence, archaeological or otherwise, that Viking warriors wore any type of horns or wings on their helmets. The remains of Vikings and “non-horned” helmets have proven this too.


The truth is that Vikings never wore horns on their helmets. Furthermore, Viking warriors also did not wear wings on their helmets, as they were commonly depicted doing before the horned image took over.

Zainab Khawaja

F. Scott fan. Dreamer, planner, believer