Historical Misconceptions We Keep Seeing That Make Us Frustrated

List Rules
Vote up the most irritating inaccuracies.

History is full of dumb tropes that many people accept as fact. Think of the many infamous utterances of famous people that likely were never said at all (looking at you, Mark Twain). Or the various myths that surround the Founding Fathers, including one individual who supposedly chopped down a cherry tree and had wooden teeth.

There are plenty of misconceptions that make history buffs cringe when we hear them repeated. From mistakes that never really happened, to fallacies that have mistakenly become truths - when we encounter these misnomers, we die a little bit inside. While plenty more exist, this list highlights the most frustrating and common historical misconceptions that continue to be repeated as fact. 


  • People Didn't Just Die At 30
    Photo: Unknown / Wikimedia Commons / Public domain
    813 VOTES

    People Didn't Just Die At 30

    In the "old days" people did everything earlier - moved out on their own, got married, had children. Many assumed this was simply because lives were so much shorter, so people had to get started on things earlier if they wanted to do them at all. Heck, reaching 30 was a miracle, and practically the equivalent of someone today turning 90. 

    Well, that last part isn't entirely true. The misconception about "average life span" that usually throws people off is the fact that this number is more a reflection of how many individuals made it to a certain age, rather than the fact that individuals as a whole lived longer or shorter lives. It was the high infant mortality rate that brought down the average life expectancies of centuries past.

    For example, if a couple had six children, three of whom passed as infants and three of whom lived to 60, then it would be misleading to say their children on average lived to age 30, although it is technically accurate.

    So, while medicine and other technological advances certainly help us add on a few years now, people did not just drop dead at 30 before these advances. In fact, even in the first century, records exist of people living to 100 and beyond.

  • A Knight's Armor Was Not Clunky And Clumsy
    Photo: Sebacalka / Wikimedia Commons / CC-BY-SA 4.0
    660 VOTES

    A Knight's Armor Was Not Clunky And Clumsy

    Despite most common portrayals of knights in shining armor, their wardrobe was actually not difficult to move in. (They also weren't usually romantic heroes, but that's for a different list.) Given the relatively lightweight and mobile body protection worn by today's military, it's no wonder so many people assume that layers of metal plates covering the body would be cumbersome.

    Knowing it was necessary both for survival and the success of battle, a knight's armor was built to allow for relatively easy movement. Yes, it was heavy - sometimes weighing as much as 77 pounds - and earlier designs were certainly less efficient. However, because a suit of armor comprised many smaller pieces that fit together, it allowed for near-normal mobility. In fact, knights were able to run, fight, and mount a horse in their armor. 

  • Ninjas Didn't Wear Black
    Photo: Sidharta-999 / Wikimedia Commons / Public domain
    561 VOTES

    Ninjas Didn't Wear Black

    In any book, movie, or comic, ninjas are always portrayed as wearing black (Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles aside). And usually, they'd bring out nunchucks sooner or later. In reality, however, ninjas were basically undercover agents. Acting as spies, they would not have dressed to stand out, but to fit in. They may have dressed as priests, farmers, beggars, or whatever else the job might have called for. 

    Typically, ninjas wore clothes that were dark blue or almost an orange color - similar to a farmer's uniform. When expecting a battle or hand-to-hand combat, a ninja would wear a chain-hemp top for protection. They only wore hoods when they needed to hide their identity; otherwise, ninjas tried to look as inconspicuous as possible.

  • 4
    692 VOTES

    The Egyptian Pyramids Were Not Built By Slaves

    It's a common misconception that Egypt's Great Pyramids were all built by slaves, particularly Jews. To the contrary - plenty of evidence points to the pyramids being built by paid laborers 4,500 years ago. For one, archaeologist found the remains of a village built just for workers, something that would not have been done if they were slaves.

    Additionally, evidence in the village shows proof that the laborers were fed the best cuts of meat and given plenty to eat. Graffiti (most likely written by the workers) near one of the pharaoh's tombs read "The Friends of Khufu Gang." It's doubtful slaves would have left such a heartfelt message.