12 Things Nostradamus Was Totally Wrong About

For the most part, Nostradamus prophecies are either so vague it's impossible to tell what they're predicting, or have no specific date by which they will have come true. Therefore, it's hard to say they're "wrong" because there's no way to know what "right" is. His predictions were written in an obscure French dialect, often using previous events as their guide, and are full of metaphors and arcane references.

Any Nostradamus predictions that do appear to have come true are ways of interpreting the quatrain to mean something that just happened, as opposed to something that was going to happen. But some of the prophecies are just flat out wrong. They use dates that have come and gone, refer to planetary alignments that went by without incident, or are so outlandish that they can really never happen.

So, was Nostradamus wrong and about what? Take a look below to find out which predictions from the seer missed the mark.

  • Oliver Cromwell's Rise to Power

    Oliver Cromwell's Rise to Power
    Photo: Internet Archive Book Images / flickr / No known copyright restrictions

    The Prediction:
    "More of a butcher than a king in England, born of obscure rank will gain empire through force. Coward without faith, without law he will bleed the land; His time approaches so close that I sigh." VIII:76


    Nostradamus believers say he foresaw the rise of the English military leader and future Lord Protector of the realm. He didn't, at least not in this quatrain. First, Cromwell was born into a minor noble family, not that of a common butcher.  Beyond that, Cromwell was not of "no faith." Indeed, he was a puritanical Protestant and intensely religious.

  • Turkey Conquering the Balkans

    Turkey Conquering the Balkans
    Photo: Internet Archive Book Images/flickr/No known copyr

    The Prediction:
    "Very much before such intrigues those of the East by virtue of the Moon: the year 1700 they will cause great ones to be carried off, almost subjugating the Aquilon corner." I:49


    Supposedly, this quatrain predicts the Ottoman Turks (aka, the East) taking the majority of the Balkan Peninsula, which would be repelled by Peter the Great of Russia. The Moon is said to be a reference to the crescent moon symbol of Islam, and Aquilon was another name for "Anemoi", the Greek gods of the wind - specifically in this case, the north wind.

    Except that the Balkans are in the southeast of Europe, not the north. Beyond that, the Turks actually beat the army of Peter the Great in 1711 during the Pruth River Campaign. Russia and Turkey would continue fighting for nearly 200 years, including the Crimean War and World War I.

  • The 9/11 Attacks

    The Prediction:
    "Volcanic fire from the center of the earth will cause trembling around the new city: Two great ocks will make war for a long time. Then Arethusa will redden a new river." I:87

    While a few Nostradamus quatrains vaguely allude to the 9/11 attacks, this one, passed around in various translations, is almost certainly about the eruption of Mount Vesuvius. "Arethusa" is sometimes seen as an anagram of "the USA" but is actually the nymph associated with rivers and springs. Beyond that, 9/11 didn't involve "volcanic fire" or "rocks making war" or a "river" of lava. It's beyond a stretch.

  • The French Revolution

    The French Revolution
    Photo: Wikimedia Commons

    The Prediction:
    "The single part afflicted will be mitred, Return conflict to pass over the tile: For five hundred one to betray will be titled, Narbonne and Salces we have oil for knives." IX:23


    This quatrain is popularly attributed to be a prediction of the French Revolution. Instead, it's just one of many prophecies invalidated by bad translation.The original French reads: “Le part soluz mary fera mittre” and many "scholars" translate "mary" to mean Marie, as in Marie Antoinette. Narbonnes and Salces (actually called Les Salces) are towns in southwest France with little relation to the Revolution.