Weird History

Did People Of The Middle Ages Think The World Was Flat?

When Columbus set sail in 1492, he proved - for the first time - that Earth was round. Europeans laughed at Columbus, certain he would fall off the edge of the flat Earth. If you've heard that story, you aren't alone. There's just one problem: It's completely false. Dating back to the 6th century, educated Greeks, Romans, and medieval Europeans knew Earth was a sphere. Medieval Christian writers explained Earth was like a ball, and scientists even calculated Earth's circumference with remarkable accuracy.

Long before Columbus, Europeans made globes, which would be pretty strange if they thought Earth was flat. And educated people weren't the only ones who knew Earth was round. Even illiterate sailors didn't believe Earth was flat for a simple reason.

In fact, bizarre flat-Earther theories are much newer than the 15th century. Most of them come from a 19th-century hoax invented by the same guy who came up with the Headless Horseman. But proof that medieval people knew Earth was round probably won't sway flat-Earthers who've attempted to justify a patently silly theory.