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Historical Myths – Spanish Flu

Historical Myths – Spanish Flu

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 – Queen Cleopatra

Historical Myths – Queen Cleopatra

The Myth: Cleopatra was Egyptian

Though Cleopatra bore the ancient Egyptian title of pharaoh, the Ptolemaic dynasty (of which she was a part) was Hellenistic (Greek), having been founded 300 years before by Ptolemy I Soter, a Macedonian Greek general of Alexander the Great (depicted by Anthony Hopkins in the Oliver Stone film: Alexander).

As such Cleopatra’s language was the Greek spoken by the Hellenic aristocracy, though she was reputed to be the first ruler of the dynasty to learn Egyptian. She also adopted common Egyptian beliefs and deities. According to tradition, saddened by the loss of her lover Mark Antony, she killed herself by means of an asp bite on August 12, 30 BC.

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Historical Myths – Let them eat Cake

Historical Myths – Let them eat Cake

According to popular myth, Queen Marie Antoinette was heard to say: “S’ils n’ont plus de pain, qu’ils mangent de la brioche.”

(“If they have no bread, let them eat brioche”) – referring to the poor. First of all, even if Queen Marie had made this comment, it would have not had the same meaning as it does today. Laws at the time of her reign meant that bakers who ran out of cheap bread, had to sell their finer bread (such as brioche) at the lower price, in order to protect people from ruthless bakers who would make insufficient quantities of inexpensive bread in order to make a bigger profit.

That aside, the Queen did not say these words at all, they were actually written by Jean-Jacques Rousseau in his book “Confessions” – written a number of years before Marie Antoinette became Queen. His exact words:

“I recalled the make-shift of a great princess who was told that the peasants had no bread and who replied: ‘Let them eat brioche’. “

The misattribution and perpetuation of this myth is most likely a result of anti-Royal propaganda following the revolution in which she and her husband were murdered.

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