False facts that actually changed the world

We believed in a magical, Christian kingdom, so European conquerors ran amok in Asia and Africa

In 1145, rumors of a mysterious Christian kingdom started circulating through Europe, and you would totally want to live there, too. According to ThoughtCo., the legend said that the kingdom was ruled by the good Christian king Prester John. There was no crime and no vice, there was plenty of food, the rivers flowed with gold, and it was the site of the Fountain of Youth. Global Middle Ages says it was called the richest kingdom in the world, filled with jewels, natural resources, and spices.

There was a problem in paradise, though: the kingdom was surrounded by all kinds of heathens and savages who wanted nothing more to plunder it … which was, presumably, not at all why Europeans had set their sights on paradise.

No one was exactly sure where Prester John’s kingdom was, and there were plenty of expeditions sent to find it. One of the early ones was dispatched by Pope Alexander III, who hoped to defend the kingdom against the infidels. Later expeditions mapped huge patches of Asia and India in hopes of stumbling across the beleaguered king.

When explorers determined that the kingdom wasn’t in Asia, they set their sights on Africa. According to Black Past, the legend of Prester John was the driving force behind Italy and Portugal’s 15th century forays into Ethiopia and opening Africa to European exploration. We don’t really need to discuss the consequences of how Europe’s trips through Africa turned out, since society continues to deal with their repercussions every day.