Tag Archives: myth

Spanish Flu – Historical Myths

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Spanish Flu – Historical Myths

The Myth: Spanish flu came from Spain

The Spanish flu pandemic (the same virus as Swine flu) lasted from March 1918 to June 1920, spreading even to the Arctic and remote Pacific islands. It is estimated that anywhere from 50 to 100 million people were killed worldwide, or the approximate equivalent of one third of the population of Europe.

Although the first cases of the disease were registered in the continental US and the rest of Europe long before getting to Spain, the 1918 Flu received its nickname “Spanish Flu” because Spain, a neutral country in WWI, had no special censorship for news against the disease and its consequences. Hence the most reliable news came from Spain, giving the false impression that Spain was the most—if not the only—affected zone. So thanks to the honesty of Spain, they are now marred forever by the title of the worst flu epidemic in modern history.

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Historical Myths – Horsing Around

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Historical Myths – Horsing Around

The Myth: Catherine the Great died whilst having sex with a horse

While this myth is very amusing (no doubt the reason for its popularity), Catherine died in bed of illness; there were no equines involved and a Catherine/horse nexus was never attempted.

So how did the myth arise? During past centuries the easiest way for people to offend and verbally attack their female enemies was sex. Catherine the Great was always going to attract rumours about her sex life, but her voracious sexual appetite – while modest by modern standards – meant that the rumours had to be even wilder. Historians believe the horse myth originated in France, among the French upper classes, soon after Catherine’s death as a way to mar her legend.

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Caligula’s Horse – Historical Myths

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Caligula’s Horse – Historical Myths

The Myth: Emperor Caligula made his horse a consul (a figurative head of the republican government)

Caligula’s love for his horse, Incitatus, was well known in his time and in present times, but the modern love of a good myth has promoted the horse to a far greater position than in reality.

About seventy years after Caligula died, the historian Seutonius wrote of Caligula and Incitatus: “Besides a stall of marble, a manger of ivory, purple blankets and a collar of precious stones, he even gave his horse a house, a troop of slaves and furniture, for the more elegant entertainment of the guests invited in his name: and it is also said that he planned to make him consul.”

The fact that this was not a first hand account (hence saying: “it is also said”) the report is dubious. There are no other records that indicate that Caligula did ever indicate that he planned to raise Incitatus to such an important place – let alone do it.

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