Myths About the Middle Ages We Need to Stop Believing

12. People thought the world was flat.

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To be precise, the idea that the Earth was flat was present in pagan Scandinavia and disappeared with the arrival of Christianity in that region. In the rest of Europe and the Mediterranean, people (at the very least, educated people) knew the world was probably round already in the Middle Ages. This is proven by the large number of maps and texts that have come down to us from that period.

11. Columbus wanted to prove the world was round.

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If people knew the world was round, it follows that there was no need to prove it. Through his journey, Columbus merely proved that the world was much bigger than people realized. The seafarer believed he could reach the rich markets of East Asia by sailing west, but instead he discovered the hitherto unknown islands of the Caribbean.

10. The Vikings wore horned helmets.

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Horned helmets were actually very impractical and uncomfortable to wear during a battle. It was only in the 19th century that Scandinavian artists began to add horns to their depictions of the Vikings.

9. Men made their women wear chastity belts.

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We’ve all heard about the “fact” that noblemen made their women wear chastity belts when they went off on crusades. But those scary-looking iron constructions covering the lower half of the body are actually a myth. They’re merely an erotic fantasy of later times.

8. People only lived to the age of 30.

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Indicators for the average life expectancy during the Middle Ages are very low because of the extremely high child mortality rate caused by illness. But if an individual reached adulthood and didn’t experience illness, there was a high likelihood that he or she would live to the age of 60–70.

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