Famous people who may never have existed

Moses

The tale of Moses goes a little something like this. Moses was the son of Hebrew slaves in Egypt. To prevent him from being drowned in a river on the pharaoh’s orders, his mother counterintuitively floated him down said river in a basket. Miraculously, this led to Moses becoming an Egyptian prince. In adulthood, he discovered his lineage and a burning bush.  Several biblical plagues and a mass drowning later, Moses freed the slaves and laid down the law per God’s Ten Commandments. Then, after 40 years of desert wandering, Moses died and his Israelite followers founded Judaism.

Sunday schools, synagogues, and The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air have retold that story for ages, but proving its veracity has proved problematic. As The Guardian pointed out, the Bible didn’t mention the slaves building pyramids. That tidbit came courtesy of Hollywood. And evidence of a historical Moses is scant at best.

Whether or not you believe Moses defeated Pharaoh Yul Brynner with the power of beards and water, you might think a real guy inspired the idea. Some historians note similarities with the Egyptian pharaoh Akhenaten, who predates the Hebrew Bible by 900 years. As ABC News noted, Akhenaten forsook his cushy lifestyle to found a city on unforgiving terrain. His god appeared not as a burning bush but as a flaming disc (the Sun) that he made Egyptians worship. The theory, however, suffers from a lack of Charlton Heston.