istory is filled with many great stories but sadly a few of them are lies that were created based on the nativity of people back in the day. You would not believe how many things are simply lies, especially when it comes to early historical inventions where we try to explain their creation with superficial entities when in fact they are lies.
I want to present to you the five most interesting lies that have made important historical figures very famous and their work appreciated around the world.
1. Michelangelo Buonarroti’s first artwork
To this day, Michelangelo is known as one of the most popular sculptors for his amazing attention to detail in his craft. His talent was observed from a young age. It is said that he made his very first sculpture at the age of 16 but many of his early works from childhood have been either lost or destroyed by him.
One of the less popular sculptures for making him famous was the “Kneeling Angel” from the Ark of Saint Dominic completed in 1495 when Michelangelo was only 21. At the time, Michelangelo saw this sculpture as his best work to that point, but he wasn’t appreciated for his talent so no one was willing to buy his sculptures.
He decided to advertise his sculpture as being hundreds of years old and obviously not made by him. A cardinal named Raffaele Riario was a collector of antiquities and when hearing about this piece he was sold straight away. The sculpture was sold for a nice sum of money but after the review of an expert, Michelangelo was found out.
However, the cardinal was so pleased with the quality of the sculpture that he never asked for the money back, actually, he praised Michelangelo for his work, making him quite famous around Italy.
2. Priory of Sion Hoax
The so-called mysteries hidden by the Priory of Sion are the most debunked lies within the 20th century by various journalists and historians around the world. Some still choose to believe it even if there isn’t much proof.
For those who haven’t heard of this, the Priory of Sion was a secret organization founded in 1956 by Pierre Plantard that was trying to create a neo-chivalric order. The Organisation was dissolved in the same year, however many say that this was just to cover its existence.
The idea behind the group was to protect the secrets of the world, passed from generation to generation by the descendants of Jesus. It is amazing how many books have been written about this hoax that actually support this lie and mention that it has connections to da Vinci’s codes. One such book is The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail by Michael Baigent, Richard Leigh, and Henry Lincoln published in 1986.
This hoax was both very complex and very well planned. As mentioned before, in the same year the organization was founded it was also dissolved by Pierre Plantard who made a shocking declaration saying that his organization was a big lie. Those who supported his ideology still think to this day that this was done to hide the true identity and existence of the organization.
Now, the real reason Pierre Plantard has done all this was for him to gain power and wealth. This was considered the biggest literary hoax in French history and it even got many powerful politicians to believe it, exactly what Pierre Plantard had in mind as he wanted to gain the support of French politicians in order to gain wealth, power, and fame.
3. The Mechanical Turk/ Chess Computer from 1769
During the 18th century, chess was at an all-time high around the world. Until that century, chess was mostly played by higher social classes, but as people became more educated it became popular at all levels. There were thousands of chess championships and great players that were hungry for new challenges.
An inventor named Wolfgang von Kempelen saw an opportunity here and created the Mechanical Turk which at the time was advertised as the first computer with artificial intelligence (although they did not use this terminology) that was able to play chess at a very high difficulty level.
The invention had a huge box filled with “mechanisms” that would calculate the best outcomes for each move and make the best possible move. Attached to this box was an animatronic mechanical body that looked like a Turk (hence the name).
Since its public presentation in 1769, it became famous around the world and many famous chess players wanted to go against it to prove their skills. The story created behind the machine sold like hot bread to the public, with no one questioning how it actually works so well.
Well, the truth behind the hoax is quite simple and most of you may have guessed it from the image presented at the top of the article. The machine was actually controlled by a chess player and nothing such as artificial intelligence. In fact, there were quite many great players behind the hoax who controlled the machine such as Johann Allgaier, Aaron Alexandre, William Lewis, Jacques Mouret, and William Schlumberger to name a few.
The Mechanical Turk toured around the world for many years beating almost all of its opponents. The Machine was even played by Napoleon Bonaparte and Benjamin Franklin who were beaten by the player inside. When Kempelen died in 1804 the machine was auctioned and bought by Johann Nepomuk Maezel who exposed its secret.
4. The Cottingley Fairies
This mystery is lesser known to the world but became quite famous at the start of the 20th century, now it has been forgotten and only remembered around the United Kingdom where it originated from. Two girls named Elsie Wright Frances Griffiths from Cottingley, England have taken photos in a forest with real fairies.
The photos were made public in 1917 and the world went crazy as they actually looked quite well edited for the era. As people were still quite naive when it came to photo editing most of the world believed it.
As mentioned before people were not aware of photo editing at the time and many believed it, but when the girls were told to show the public the fairies they could not find them anymore, what a surprise.
After many years of mystery and different superficial conspiracies, the two women came clean in 1981 by admitting to the world that the photos were actually edited by them. The fairies were actually cut from a kids’ book and stuck with glue onto the real photos.
If they would have not come clean many I believe that some people would still believe this lie.
5. Marco Polo’s journeys around the world
Marco Polo is considered to be one of the best explorers in history for finding the silk road in 1275 and traveling to many unknown places around the world. However, in his vast exploring career there are many questions marks and things that just don’t seem to make sense when compared to other contemporary writings.
In his book entitled The Million, published in 1300 he talks about his travels of 24,000 kilometers around Asia has some facts that don’t seem correct for the time as if he never actually visited those places and he just invented stories based on plausible facts.
A recent book was written by historian Frances Wood entitled Did Marco Polo Go To China?, in it the author analyses the blank spots within Marco’s book and compares it to other literature written at a similar point in time.
The blank spots make the author come to the conclusion that Marco only traveled to the Black Sea where he met someone else who had already discovered China and never actually went to China himself. He wrote everything he was told about China by whoever discovered it first and created some of his own stories to make the book more interesting and attractive to readers.
Based on the reputation of Frances Wood we could assume that Marco Polo lied about traveling to China and that he just wrote the book to make money off it. In regards to this mystery, I am still on the neutral side, but the numerous achievements of Marco Polo make me a bit skeptical. There is no clear proof, but the factual errors made in Marco’s book are well explained by Frances Wood.
Just like with most of the lies mentioned above, you have to be your own judge, but apart from the fifth, most of them have enough justification to show the lie behind them.