Cinema, literature, memory, distort everything: we no longer remember people as they were but as we want to imagine them by rewriting history through the prism of current reality. However, most of the time, we are wrong: we have an irreproachable image of great men and a mephitic image of bastards, but the reality is much more complex. Including concerning Cleopatra’s nose, which was very ugly.
1. William Wallace was no pauper who stood up against oppression
Yeah we imagine William Wallace as a farmer whose family was killed by the armies of the wicked king of England who rose up alone to fight for the independence of his people blah blah blah. Except that William Wallace was a son of a good family, a knight, with the right armor and sword, ultra reckless, with a huge beard and who enjoyed killing people. A kind of radical, in fact, who killed a sheriff to avenge the death of his girl, massacred English garrisons and led people hoping to be king in the end.
2. Cleopatra wasn’t a pretty, scatterbrained brat.
Ok, so, if we summarize: Cleopatra kind of sorceress with a pretty nose who turned the heads of Caesar and Marc-Antoine to defend her people, excuse me I’m falling asleep. Except that in fact she was an inbred child, not so beautiful, even very common, but above all hyper intelligent and not at all capricious as she is portrayed today; a strategist who managed to establish her power against Rome and who ended up losing it when Octave broke down Marc Antoine.
3. Buddha had no weight problem
The fat laughing gentleman lying in Asian temples is not Buddha. He’s Budai, a joking Chinese monk known for making everyone laugh in ancient China. Nothing to do with Buddha except that it sounds like the ear and that Budai was a Buddhist. Buddha, his name is Siddharta Gautama and he was a guy who had decided more or less that the material was not important and that you had to find the joy in yourself. But since he was less fun, we don’t represent him as much.
4. Gandhi was not the perfect man
The embodiment of non-violence, conviction and nice guys. Gandhi = heart heart, Gandhi = the perfect man, Gandhi = RIP little angel gone too soon. Except that one of his assistants, already at the time, declared: “It takes a lot of money to keep Gandhi in poverty”. In reality, the guy had invented communication. Chastity, non-violence, humility… Except that teenage girls slept naked in his bed, that he was ultra-authoritarian, even unlivable, with those who worked with him and that he defined himself as a dictator in the aim of an independent India. Not necessarily a bad guy, but not the little Jesus in velvet pants either.
5. Louis XVI was not an anti-people bastard king
One imagines Louis XVI, a big potbellied thing who understands nothing about what is happening in his country and finally finds himself with his head cut off, end of life for an inbred weakling. Except that Louis XVI had no desire to be king to begin with. He liked to play games and pick locks, and he hadn’t asked anyone. After 1789, well obliged, inevitably, he submitted without too much fuss to the reforms demanded by the people and in reality, it suited him well. It’s in relation to his allies that it’s difficult, but he’s fine with him, he doesn’t care, he doesn’t want to be king. And when he flees to Varennes, it’s not necessarily to organize the counter-attack but because he feels the thing is coming… And his head clicks.
6. Christopher Columbus was in his panties while thinking of Isabella the Catholic
For all, Christopher Columbus is a brilliant explorer, eager to discover the world, who did not hesitate to risk his life and three caravels to bring us back to America. But in fact, he was doing business, Christopher Columbus. He went to see all the courts to have his trip financed, and his aim was above all to make money with the Indian trade. When he discovered America, he quickly realized that it wasn’t India, and he freaked out that Isabelle the Catholic was yelling at him. So he wrote her a very long letter in which he doesn’t give a damn about the mouths of the local populations and where he rolls on the ground with excuses, explaining that he had to make a stopover in Portugal before reaching Spain, even if it It’s really hers, the great, the perfect Isabelle, who gets the scoop on her discovery, yours, cordially, all that all that. In reality, Columbus was afraid of having shit in the glue and of being thrown in irons.
7. Galileo, Copernicus and Kepler weren’t smart
We imagine them as amazing guys who fought the church, the Inquisition and popular belief to claim that the Earth was round and revolved around the sun. ” And yet it moves ! would have launched Galileo at his trial, all that all that. But in reality, they all tried to avoid being martyred by keeping their mouths shut. Most of them spread their theories only in safe circles and avoided equivocal publications. And then, they were not the first to understand the functioning of the earth and the stars: from Antiquity, Aristarchus of Samos had already affirmed the roundness of the Earth. These ideas had been circulating for centuries.
8. Richelieu was not a schemer from hell
The three Musketeers describe a horrible, wicked, scheming Richelieu obsessed with his own interests. Except that Richelieu was a little more complex character. He advised the king in a context where his power was endangered by the survival of Protestantism (I do not condone, but I remind you that we were in a monarchy by divine right). He struggled to assert French power against the Habsburgs and worked for territorial unity via the creation of the French Academy and the crushing of the Dukes who wanted to compete with the king. In reality, he was a builder, with shitty ideas, but a builder all the same.