How much of history is myth?

Discussion in 'History Talk' started by jerri, Oct 22, 2011.

  1. jerri

    jerri Member

    We know Christopher Columbus didn't discover America. Did you know that a guy named John Hanson was really the first President? Can you think of any other myths that we've been taught as fact?
  2. Myrddin

    Myrddin Well-Known Member

    Yes, Christopher Columbus got lost. :eek: He was searching for a passage to India and stumbled onto America instead. :oops: Not someone I would want for a navigator.;) :) :D
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  3. OracleLady

    OracleLady Member

    We need to remember that history itself comes from the term "his story." History implies that stories were written down. Hence: history happened late in the game. Pre-history, or prehistoric, is before things started to be written down. Early cave drawings were a kind of picture writing. Myth is the stuff of legends -- happening before writing. Legend and myth are so far back that we cannot determine the original facts. Much of legend and myth had a basis in history, although it was exaggerated and changed over the centuries.
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  4. Wise Old Owl

    Wise Old Owl Member

    I agree with that, OracleLady. We have no idea how stories have changed and been altered down through the ages. A lot of history was handed down by oral tradition so it's amazing we know anything at all.
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  5. Alejandro

    Alejandro Active Member

    On the same topic, there are theories that there were different groups of people who landed in the Americas across the Atlantic Ocean from West Africa and via different routes from as far away as the Orient in different waves spanning tens to hundreds to thousands of years before Columbus. Any evidence suggesting this would naturally have been unpopular during the post-Columbian colonisation of the continents, and a lot of it would still be considered hotly controversial at present day.
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  6. Misa

    Misa Member

    Everyone enjoys a good story, and that is really what all of history is when it boils down to it - a investigation of past events. The how and why of what happened and when. Have six people today witness a accident and have them write down what they saw and you get six differing versions of events, and if the camera is on the scene those watching it will perceive in their own way as well. What people think of what they see and say about it will get different with each telling - think of the school yard game of telephone where they sit in a ring and one whispers into someones ear "John likes songs" and you'll likely get "Jean sings songs" at the end. If not something odder.

    Yet someone writes down "John likes songs" and someone might say later what songs John likes, or dislikes and these can be confused; or what kind of songs could be argued and where he heard these songs and if he ever wrote down the lyrics he liked or the notes to the music and if he traveled - and this might all be the same John, or a series of Johns - related grandfather to father to son or to uncle - and pretty soon you have a argument over where he was born, where he died, what he did with his life, who he loved - or liked - beyond songs or if songs might be a name! Was Songs/Song a god or goddess of music? So, it's a story told aloud or told by memory word of mouth, both might be true - and one may be more true than the other, or maybe not. Maybe people remember a story told aloud longer than something write down. We all have those little embarrassing stories our families tell about us and each other - what's the oldest one you've been told about, and what's the oldest one written down?
  7. Last Spartan

    Last Spartan New Member

    I wouldn't really say he got lost per se, rather he just happened upon a pretty big roadblock. :D
  8. Myrddin

    Myrddin Well-Known Member

    That is essentially how legends are born. A past event that gets lost like a needle in a haystack, the haystack representative of the passage of time. Likely how the Loch Ness monster was born. It's all very interesting how these stories come about.

    That's almost exactly how the Arthurian Legends likely came about, I believe. Especially where you mention the possibility of all these different John's having their likes and dislikes woven together into one John. Shall we call him Jonathan Song? There is a theory that there were in fact four different Roman soldiers who contributed to establishing the British government back in the early decades, but as all thier good deeds all got confused, over time they rolled into one individual who became known as King Arthur Pendragon. And there, like you said with John Song, is how so many different, somewhat inconsistent stories of the man could have come about; where exactly he lived (as in where Camelot sat), how he was raised, where he was buried (Avalon ain't a real place), etc. There is even more mystery surrounding his mentor, Merlin, or Myrddin, my favourite ... character?... from the legends. Obviously. ;) I'm sure some of the supporting characters were very real, (i.e. Gwynevere?) while others merely a product of invention for moving the stories along a neat path, one into the other (i.e. Morgana? and maybe even Mordred?). Only speculation, of course. I believe the oldest known text concerning the great king is contained in Geofferey of Monmouth's The History of the King's of Britain while the oldest known work entirely devoted the King Arthur is Thomas Mallory's Le Morte D'Arthur written well he was in prison.

    E. M.
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  9. Misa

    Misa Member

    I tend to think of Arthur as a sort of Roman/Christian invention to turn the native people and land of Britain into something familiar or "theirs" as a sort of twist to the Welsh and Irish lore to make it a part of their own religion. That's the historiography of the The History of the Kings of Britain in a nutshell to take both Christian myths and Roman/Greek ones and England's own lore/history and make a whole of some kind.
  10. Yaakov ben Avraham

    Yaakov ben Avraham New Member

    Actually, no, the word "history" did not come from "his story". In Spanish, the word is "historia". The words for "his story" are "la cuenta de el". I think before posting unwarranted "facts", one should make sure they are indeed factual.
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  11. Last Spartan

    Last Spartan New Member

    The origin of the word "history", according to dictionary.com.

    http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/History?s=t

    "Historia" would appear to be Greek in origin.
  12. Yaakov ben Avraham

    Yaakov ben Avraham New Member

    That is certainly interesting information. My only point was to demonstrate that there is no truth to the statement that "history" came from "his story". And I'm truly not trying to be nasty. But as a professional historian, who works in the field, I have to acknowledge the reality that history is written in certain ways (usually by the winners). Why were the Greco-Roman myths so much more dominant over say, the Ancient Kievan Rus? Because the Romans themselves were extremely dominant, and they chose to keep the Greeks dominant, because they admired that culture.

    How are myths related to history? Good question. The best answer, at least to me, is that people start telling stories about how the world comes to be, and later are able to keep records about it. Once you have the ability to keep records, you can write history. Before that, it is much harder. What you are doing before you write is keeping oral history, which can EASILY turn into mythology or legend. But never forget Heinrich Schlieman (sp?). Everyone thought he was out of his effing mind until he found the city of Troy. He was able to prove that Homer the Poet was, at least to some degree, Homer the Historian. As for the intervention of Gods and Goddesses and so-forth, I don't know. I'm a Jew. I'm not supposed to believe in such. But then, perhaps God sent what we would call Angels to serve as "Gods" and "Goddesses" to Greece and Troy. That is pure speculation on my part, of course. That is nothing anyone has ever told me. I have to go, as the wife needs TLC. I'll be back later.
  13. Nadai

    Nadai Active Member

    Even crazier, once he realized the was not in India, he continued to call the local natives 'Indians'.
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  14. Nadai

    Nadai Active Member

    My Classics professor liked to say, 'history is written by the victors'. I think that holds true. Why the Greco-Roman myths held so much sway over the world could have easily been because they were the dominant power. Why does Christianity and Catholocism hold so much sway today, because those religions have become the dominant powers. At least, that is how I see it.

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