June 22, 1964: Dan Brown is born.
Dan Brown’s thriller novels, the most famous of which is probably The Da Vinci Code, are entertaining for what they should be read as - which is light airport fiction. But for whatever reason, the author has continuously insisted that his books should actually be taken seriously in terms of the historical content; to quote Mr. Brown, after being asked how much of The Da Vinci Code is true:
Absolutely all of it. Obviously, there are—Robert Langdon is fictional, but all of the art, architecture, secret rituals, secret societies, all of that is historical fact.
No more can be said (except that I’m glad Robert Langdon is not a real “symbologist”. He would be the worst teacher ever).
Historical Inaccuracies in Dan Brown’s Books or I Don’t Even Think He Tries At All:
- It is, of course, inaccurate to refer to Leonardo da Vinci as “da Vinci”, since Vinci is the town he was born in. It would be like calling Raphael “Urbino”.
- One of the main antagonists in The Da Vinci Code is an “Opus Dei monk”. Naturally, they don’t exist, though only the misinformed protagonists refer to him as such. Read Opus Dei’s agitated response to the claims made in the book.
- According to Dan Brown, Constantine made Christianity the official religion of the Roman Empire. His Edict of Milan legalized Christian worship, but it was through Theodosius I (decades later) that Christianity became the state religion.
- The book states that the Dead Sea Scrolls were discovered in the 1950s. They were actually discovered in 1947 and, also contrary to what the book states, none of the texts were Christian texts.
- Paris was not founded by the Merovingians, as the book claims. It was founded by a Celtic tribe in the third century B.C., centuries before the Franks made the city their capital.
- The claim that the Priory of Sion was a real ancient organization is ludicrous and Brown knows it; the group and its fictitious history were created in the 1950s and 60s. The entire basis of The Da Vinci Code centers around the existence of this organization, so to suggest that “absolutely all of it” is true is actually ridiculous.
- Many of Brown’s claims about early Christianity are disputed or just plain inaccurate. See here and here.
- The Egyptian goddess Isis is described as the wife of Amun; she is actually the wife of Osiris. Seriously, Brown, would it killed you to have done one Google search?
- In Angels and Demons, the director of CERN claims that Copernicus was murdered by the Church for his discoveries. There is no proof of this. Copernicus died at age seventy from complications from a stroke.
- Robert Langdon, our Harvard symbologist (a fictional field, unsurprisingly) expert, once lectured that the practice of Holy Communion was borrowed from the Aztecs. This is impossible, because the practice predates the rise of the Aztecs. So, unless there is proof that the Aztecs built a time machine, went back in time a millennium, and flew across the ocean, Brown’s claim is laughable.
- Brown also claims that Winston Churchill was a Roman Catholic. He belonged to the Church of England.
- According to another Angels and Demons character, Rhodes Scholarships were set up “centuries ago” to recruit Illuminati members. The scholarships, named after Cecil Rhodes, were first handed out in 1902, so unless “centuries ago” means “less than a century ago” in Dan Brown-speak, this is also inaccurate.
- Bernini’s Fountain of the Four Rivers does not represent the “four major rivers of the Old World” (the Rio de la Plata is in South America) but rather four rivers from four continents.
- Brown also gets the general placement of locations (Versailles to Paris; many, many places in Rome) completely wrong.
- In Digital Fortress, Spain is portrayed as a miserable country with no functioning hospitals.
- From the same book, the United States National Security Agency confuses Kanji with Mandarin, referring to the former as a language and the latter as a script (it’s the other way around). Either Brown thinks the Department of Defense is actually that stupid, or he himself doesn’t know the difference.
… the list goes on and on and on. The man even has a TVtrope named after him. In short, read his books, have fun, but don’t believe anything he says or writes. Ever.