evolSince the dawn of civilisation, man has always devised theories based on his perception of the world around him, letting his imagination do most of the work. He has created some mesmerising stories that have boggled humans for centuries, offering little evidence of their authenticity. However, humans are hard-wired to believe in legends because, inherently, we feel more comfortable hearing a fairy-tale than anecdotes.
Here are some of the most popular legends from around the world.
5. Kingdom of Heaven : From the beginning of the 4th century – when the Romans left the isle for good – until the start of the Early-Mediaeval period, Britannia fell into a dark age. The period when virtually no archaeological records have been found, rendering it obscure to us.
However, few written records that have survived speak of a King before the Saxonisation of Britain; before the first Anglo-Saxon king ruled England and Wales. King Arthur – The Once and Future King of the island nation – a man who ruled the Celts of Britain from his legendary castle of Camelot. Along with the knights of the round table, his sidekick Merlin who had supernatural powers, and his magical sword Excalibur, he brought peace and prosperity to the ancient kingdom of Britain. It is said that he subdued all of Gaul, Ireland, Norway spreading all the way up to Iceland. In his last battle, however, Arthur is grievously wounded by Mordred, Arthur’s illegitimate son. Offering his Excalibur to the lady of the lake, Arthur disappears to the Island of Avalon. Legend has it that Arthur will one day return to save Britain.
Some 600 years after his death, in the 11th century AD, the story that was transmitted orally until then was written down by Geoffrey of Monmouth. This is the first and the only evidence that we have today on the legend of Arthur.
What do we know of the legend apart from the well-documented story? Well, for starters, we know that there is absolutely no historical evidence to support the belief that Arthur was a king. The picture that often depicts the round table at Camelot was in fact made by king Edward III; it was repainted by king Henry VIII depicting Henry VIII at the top of the table as the legendary king Arthur.
Monks at the Glastonbury Abbey in 1100s reportedly discovered two bodies buried in the abbey. One was a man, and the other a woman with still-intact golden hair. They claimed to have found the legendary King Arthur and Queen Guinevere. Historically, it is not sure exactly when and how he ruled if he ever existed. However, artists, photographers, and filmmakers have produced their own version of the legend.
4. The founding of Rome:
“Husband,” she cried, “you have died young, and leave me in your house a widow; he of whom we are the ill-starred parents is still a mere child, and I fear he may not reach manhood. Ere he can do so our city will be razed and overthrown, for you who watched over it are no more- you who were its saviour, the guardian of our wives and children – Andromache in Homer’s Iliad.
It is most unfortunate for a city to burn, and it is heart-wrenching to hopelessly see it burn. Such was the plight of Aeneas, a Trojan hero. Nothing could stop the destruction of Troya – the most beautiful city in ancient times. It is what happened after this barbaric act that inspired Vigil, a Roman poet from the pre-Christian era.
After the death of Hector, Aeneas is said to have escaped the burning of Troy with a small group of Trojans under his command; wandering the Mediterranean in order to find a second home for the Trojans, Aeneas comes to Buthrotum (city that was built to replicate Troya) where he meets Helenus who foretells his destiny. Eventually, he comes to Italy where he founds a city that would later be known as Rome.
However, over the ages, writers and free thinkers have influenced the tale much to the liking of the aristocracy leaving the original tale obscure to historians.
It is generally accepted that the Greeks founded many settlements in present-day Italy and Turkey, but the authenticity of a city called Troya or the incidents described by Homer has no historical records except for Heinrich Schliemann’s supposed “death mask of Agamemnon”. Also, Roma is not founded for several hundred years after the supposed destruction of Troya. Did Aeneas come to Italy during the late bronze-age? Did he even exist? All that we know comes from Greek sources after the Greek dark ages and they considered civilised people living in the Western Mediterranean as the refugees from Troy.
3. God’s own temple: After wandering for 40 years, the Israelites, according to the promise made to Abraham by God, take possession of Canaan. Around 900BC (or perhaps 832BC), a fane was supposedly built in Jerusalem by the legendary king Solomon upon the orders of his father David, the second King of the United Kingdom of Israel and Judah. It was supposedly housing three of the most important artefacts in Jewish tradition; the staff used by Moses to part the Red Sea, a sealed box of Manna, and the holiest of the holies, The Ark of the Covenant. None other than the high priests was divinely ordained to enter the sanctum sanctorum and he alone knew the name of the God.
Being the only source for the construction of the First Temple, the Bible gives an in-depth graphical account of the temple’s layout. Lord Yahweh, says the Bible, gave David a detailed plan to build his earthly abode. So says the Bible, but are there evidence supporting its claim?
In 1868, a stone tablet was discovered dating back to 840BC with a reference to the House of David. It was written by a Moabite king named Mesha, an enemy of Israel. This is the first known reference to the legendary line of kings outside the Bible and is now clear that the House of David was more than mere myth. A defensive wall dating back to the 10th century BC has been unearthed in Jerusalem making it a potentially strong evidence in the search for the lost temple. Archaeologists say that there weren’t many kings in the 10th century BC who could’ve built such a structure, basically just David and Solomon.
Though there is some evidence endorsing the Bible’s claims, they are not enough to prove the legend with utter certainty. However, after all the anomalies in the authenticity of the text, a vast majority of Jews, Christians, and Muslims still believe in it.
2. The Paradise Island: We know but little of the city that was lost to history. The only source of information comes from the Greek philosopher Plato who lived in the 4th century BC.
Plato wrote about a splendacious city that stood beyond the Pillars of Herakles – modern day Gibraltar. Poseidon – the sea God – watched over and protected the city. When Poseidon fell in love with Cleito, he built a dwelling on top of a hill surrounded by ringed layers of water and land.
A temple was built in honour of Poseidon on the top of the hill.
The city sat just outside the outer ring and spread across the plain covering a circle of 11 miles. Beyond the city lay a fertile plain 330 miles long and 110 miles wide. The magnificent city – says Plato – had no equal on the face of the earth.
Around 9000BC, the city was destroyed by Zeus and the Olympian gods as greed began to corrupt the Atlanteans. In a single day and night, the city was ravaged by tsunamis. The island of Atlantis submerged into the sea leaving no trace of its existence.
He also gives a detailed description of the bridges, walls, canals, and rings. So was the city that supposedly thrived nearly 11,000 years ago, but what proof do we have?
Plato has shown us where to look. One plausible explanation would be that the lost city is buried somewhere in the Atlantic Ocean just beyond the Strait of Gibraltar. Azores – an island cluster off the coast of Portugal – has sometimes been identified as the site of ancient Atlantis. However, some archaeologists disagree with this idea. Cádiz – on the southern coast of Spain is also a possible location which has puzzled archaeologists. This region has a land mass jutting out of mainland Spain, possibly matching Plato’s description of the lost city. A recent study just Northwest of Cadiz has revealed the remains of a civilisation that was buried by tsunamis nearly 4000-years ago. What intrigues some historians are the ring-shaped anomalies found on the satellite images. The region’s vast plain has circular patterns buried in the ground which is pretty conspicuous. However, there are claims that the city can be located in the Mediterranean or the Aegean coasts of Italy, Greece, or even on the coast of North Africa.
For some, the city was the cradle of civilisations; yet for others, it is a mere myth handed down to us by crafty poets and storytellers.
1. The story of Creation: Let me simply say that the world is divided into two categories; those who believe in the story of creation and those who do not. Every religion has a different version of the story of creation and it tries to make it flamboyantly real in its own way. There’s the story of Adam and Eve for the westerners; while the Hindus believe in the concept of a cyclic universe that neither begins nor ends and for the Buddhists of course, the concept of creation and apocalypse are just changes that come to pass and the universe lives on as is ever the case.
It was in Göbekli Tepe, present day Turkey, that archaeologists have found compelling evidence of a sort of organised worship some 11,000 years before now. Would this perhaps be the place where, according to the bible, Adam and Eve supposedly lived in the Eden garden – between the Tigris and Euphrates rivers? Maybe!
While some aboriginal Australians believe that life was created by a god who, dancing in a ceremony, dropped a cradle on the planet which later spawned life on earth. And interestingly, they think that life began in the exact place where an asteroid hit the earth some 140 million years ago – the Gosses Bluff crater which is about 22 km in diameter. Does this story make any real sense? Very much if you consider that the seeds of creation were brought to earth from outer space. It is truly fascinating to think that life began from an impact crater rather than by some divine intervention.
The Universe, however, might have taken a different course than what the legends say. Did God create the Universe? What was it like before he did so? If the Big Bang is proved right, what did the Universe look like before the explosion? There are many unanswered questions to which religion provides answers effortlessly. Some scientists do believe that God is within and without the Universe. He created it and he will eventually destroy it when he seems it fit to do so. And for some, God does not exist outside space and time; God is space and time and creation is not a one-time event but rather an ongoing phenomenon that never ends.
With the ever-widening schism between religion and science, the story of creation binds the two factions in a subtle manner. After all, the question still remain unanswered!