Historical Figures Who May or May Not Have Existed

Krystal Smith

We often take the things we read in history books for granted and do not always question their reality. While textbooks strive for accuracy, sometimes we can get caught up in myth and metaphor and need clarification on whether people are real. This list explores 18 people who may not have existed despite how much we know about them.

King Arthur

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While stories of King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table are widely known, concrete historical evidence must be found to support his existence. Legends depict him as a fearless leader who defended Britain from Saxon invaders in the 5th or 6th century, but documents to confirm his identity have yet to be found.  

Cleopatra

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Historical records confirm Cleopatra as the last active pharaoh of ancient Egypt. Still, it may not be as it seems. Exaggerated accounts of her beauty and manipulative tactics may have been influenced by Roman propaganda, and the reality of Cleopatra’s identity is shrouded in mystery. 

Homer

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While Homer’s epic poems are the foundations of Greek literature, details about his life could be more specific. They may be based on tradition rather than fact. The earliest references to Homer appear around the late 7th or early 6th century BCE, which is at least one to two centuries after the period he is traditionally believed to have lived in, casting doubt on the reality of the Iliad and the Odyssey author. 

Lycurgus

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Lycurgus was said to be a Spartan lawmaker credited with establishing Sparta’s unique social and military system. While Sparta’s rigid social structure is well documented, details about Lycurgus and his reforms could be more precise. They may be influenced by legend as we primarily learn about him from Greek writers like Herodotus, who were around much later.  

Prester John

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The legendary Christian priest-king was believed to rule over a powerful kingdom in the East. Stories about Prester John first emerged in the 12th century and persisted for centuries; however, no evidence confirms the existence of such a kingdom or ruler.

William Tell

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Tell, the Swiss folk hero credited with sparking a rebellion against Austrian rule in the early 14th century, may be more myth than reality. The story tells of Tell shooting an apple off his son’s head with a crossbow to prove his marksmanship to a tyrannical governor. However, historical records from that period provide no evidence of Tell or the apple-shooting incident.

Robin Hood

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Robin Hood, the legendary outlaw known for stealing from the rich and giving to the poor, is a fairytale. Stories about Robin Hood have been around for centuries, but there are no apparent records of a natural person matching his description. 

Mulan

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A legendary Chinese warrior, Mulan disguised herself as a man to fight in her father’s place. The story of Mulan is a famous folktale that has even been made into a Disney film. Still, there is no historical record of a female warrior named Mulan.

Pope Joan

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Pope Joan was a woman who supposedly disguised herself as a man and rose to the rank of Pope in the 9th century. However, no credible historical evidence supports this claim, and most scholars believe it to be a medieval legend. 

Sun Tzu

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Sun Tzu was a Chinese military strategist who is believed to have written “The Art of War.” The book itself is a significant military treatise. Still, scholars raise questions about the accuracy of Sima Qian’s account due to the considerable time gap between Sun Tzu’s supposed existence and the writing of the Shiji.

Gog and Magog

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This biblical pair appears primarily in the book of Ezekiel (chapters 38-39), where they are depicted as leaders of hostile forces that will invade Israel in the end times. The prophecies surrounding Gog and Magog belong to the apocalyptic genre, often employing symbolic language and imagery. There is no historical evidence to suggest they were real people.

Theseus

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The legendary founder-king of Athens was said to have slain the Minotaur, and while it would be great if he were honest, sadly, there is little evidence to say it is true. The story of Theseus is likely rooted in mythology rather than historical fact. 

Lakshmi

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Lakshmi is a revered Hindu goddess associated with wealth, prosperity, good fortune, and abundance. While Lakshmi is a central figure in Hinduism, her existence cannot be verified historically.

Kunta Kinte

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Kunta Kinte appeared in Alex Haley’s novel, “Roots: The Saga of an American Family.” Haley claimed Kunta Kinte was his great-great-great-great grandfather and based the character on stories passed down through his family. However, extensive historical research by academics has yet to find conclusive evidence to confirm the existence of a specific individual matching the details portrayed in the book.

St. Christopher

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Despite his popularity, there is no official documentation to confirm that a man named Christopher, who matches the accounts associated with the famous saint, existed. St. Christopher’s name means “Christ-bearer,” his carrying a child across a river is likely to be a metaphor for faith and conversion.

Moses

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Debate lingers on about the existence of Moses, who we learn about in the book of Exodus. The Bible portrayed Moses as a prophet who led the Israelites out of slavery in Egypt and received the Ten Commandments at Mount Sinai. However, there needs to be concrete archaeological evidence directly mentioning Moses or the specific events in which he was said to have been involved.

Lao “Laozi” Dan

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The first mention of Laozi appears in Sima Qian’s “Records of the Grand Historian” in the 1st century BCE. However, this account acknowledges the need for more definitive information about him. The Tao Te Ching, the foundational text attributed to Laozi, might be a compilation of writings and sayings by various authors over time rather than the work of a single individual.

Fictional Characters You Might Not Know Are Based On Real People

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t’s no secret that real people serve as inspiration for a lot of fictional characters. You might be surprised to learn that the following characters are real people.

Fictional Characters You Might Not Know Are Based On Real People

Biggest Lies in American History That We Were Led to Believe

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False information, commonly known as fake news, is a modern phenomenon, as evidenced by these historical untruths about America that have been ingrained in our understanding for years.

Biggest Lies in American History That We Were Led to Believe

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