Category Archives: Medieval History


Did People in Columbus’ Time Really Believe Earth Was Flat?

Columbus was never laughed at because he thought Earth was round. As Gerhard Prause points out in his book from year 1986, frequently repeated legend about Christopher Columbus being mocked by the dignitaries of the Royal Court of Castille is a widespread misconception, that originated in the first half of century.

Christopher Columbus, by Sebastiano del Piombio(1519)

The idea that educated people at the Columbus’s time believed in flat Earth, still remains one of the most prevalent errors in Western teaching. In reality, idea of spherical Earth was widespread since the third century B.C. Historian Jeffrey Burton Russell points out, that ”with only a few exceptions, no educated person in the Western history who ever lived after the Empedocles, believed in the flat Earth”.

However, even in late century, there were still people who believed in the flat shape of the Earth. This map was drawn in 1893 by Prof.Orlando Ferguson, in an attempt to disprove the “Globe Theory”

At the time of Christopher Columbus, shape of Earth was no longer discussed, however the exact size still remained a speculation. Columbus’s estimate of the Earth’s circumference was around 17,000 miles(28,000 kilometers), In contrast, figures estimated by the dignitaries of the Royal Court of Castille, based on the calculations of famous Florentian mathematician Paolo Toscanelli, were very close to actual earth’s circumference, that being 25,000 miles(40,000 kilometers).

And this, not the shape of the Earth, was the reason why Christopher Columbus was ridiculed.



Did the Vikings Really Wear Horned Helmets?

We always imagine the Vikings as fierce nordic warriors, equipped with heavy iron axes and wearing the unmistakable  horned helmets. However, no historical evidence suggests that the Vikings actually used such helmets in combat.

File:Leif Ericson on the shore of Vinland.gif

Leif Eriksson on the shore of newly discovered Vinland(Newfoundland)

The practice of burying the dead war heroes with their weapons and armor has left modern archaeologists with plenty of evidence about the Viking culture and lifestyle. However, only few horned helmets have been ever found in Viking burial mounds.

Historical sources suggest, that priests among the Celtic and Norse peoples did wear helmets equipped with horns (sometimes also with wings), during the most of religious ceremonies, however, they were never used in combat. The modern image of Viking in a horned helmet dates back to the century, when people like Gustav Malmström and Richard Wagner included the horned headgear in their works for the first time.

Painting of a Viking ship

No sane Viking warrior would ever wear a horned helmet in battle – they weren’t that stupid. Helmets with horns would be very impractical in combat, likely ending entangled in a tree branches or embedded in a shield. In addition, enemies could use the horns as a great handhold while slitting the Viking warrior’s throat.