The Museum of Hoaxes
hoax archive hoax archive hoax archive hoax archive hoax archive
 
The most sacred relic: the Holy Foreskin, circa 800 AD
Can a bar of soap between your sheets ease muscle cramps?
Sober Sue, the woman who never smiled, 1907
Pierre Brassau, Monkey Artist, 1964
BMW's April Fool's Day Hoaxes
Female thieves hide money in their bras, 1950
Man flies by own lung power, 1934
The disumbrationist art hoax, 1924
The Nobody For President Campaign, 1940 to Present
The Gallery of Fake Viral Images
The Letter of Prester John, c.1150
In the mid-twelfth century, at a time when European rulers felt threatened by the growing power of Muslim nations on their borders, a letter suddenly appeared from Prester John, who described himself as a Christian king of great wealth living in the far east. The letter was addressed to the Byzantine emperor Manuel Comnenus.

Prester John claimed to be a descendant of one of the Three Magi. He wrote that his kingdom stretched from India to the land where the sun rises, and that it was inhabited by fantastic creatures such as seven-horned bulls, birds so large they could lift and kill an armored man, and horned men with three eyes in the back of their heads. He even claimed there was a fountain of perpetual youth in his kingdom.

The letter circulated throughout all the European courts. In 1177, Pope Alexander III instructed his personal envoy to travel east, search for Prester John, and deliver a reply to his letter. It was hoped Prester John would come to the aid of the Christian nations in Europe, but no response ever came. Nevertheless, European explorers continued to search for the mythical king for centuries.

The true author of the letter remains unknown. Whoever it was, he was familiar with old legends, which he borrowed heavily from — legends such as the tales of Alexander the Great’s adventures in the East. Linguistic evidence suggests the letter originated in Italy. The author probably intended to offer hope to the Christian armies fighting the crusades, and in this respect he succeeded, even though the hope was a false one.
Commenting is no longer available for this post.


All text Copyright © 2014 by Alex Boese, except where otherwise indicated. All rights reserved.