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This is an index of the chapters in the novel which contain substantial claims about history. Those chapters which contain only action scenes or plot elements have been ommited.

Each chapter is sub-divided into topic headings analysing the claims made in that section of the novel and their associated subjects.

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Pagans and Villains

The Pentacle of Venus

Venus and the Olympics

Pagans and Villains

Nowadays the term pagan had become almost synonymous with devil worship - a gross misconception. The word's roots actually reached back to the Latin paganus, meaning country-dwellers. "Pagans" were literally the unindoctrinated country-folk who clung to the old, rural religions of Nature worship. In fact, so strong was the Church's fear of those who lived in the rural villes that the once innocuous word for "villager" - villain - came to mean a wicked soul.
(Chapter Six, p.36)

It is true that the word 'pagan' comes from the Latin paganus, meaning a rustic or country-dweller. The etymology Brown gives here is also commonly held, but not exclusive.

It may be that non-Christians became known as pagani because the country-dwellers stuck to the older religious traditions longer than city folk. New religions often spread via trade routes and are taken up more quickly in urban centres along those routes than in more remote areas. The alternative etymology, however, is that the term came from Roman military slang, with the word originally meaning 'country bumpkin, civilian or incompetent soldier'. According to this theory, it became part of the terminology of early Christianity in much the same way other military imagery did, with believers calling themselves milites, or soldiers of Christ.

Brown's choice of wording here is also interesting - the pagani of the countryside were 'unindoctrinated', implying that the Christians of the towns were therefore 'indoctrinated'. The implication here is that, somehow, Christianity was foisted on people like a form of mind-control. The 'unindoctrinated' pagani on the other hand, practiced 'Nature worship', which sounds much more pleasant and bucolic than a religion which requires 'indoctrination'.

This implication is further underlined by his talk of 'the Church's fear' of the unconverted pagans. He says that 'villain' became a word meaning a criminal or miscreant because of the Church's fear of paganism. In fact, the word simply means 'farmhand', from the Old French villain and the Latin villanus, related to the Latin villa, 'country house'. It is a pure piece of snobbery aimed at country people and one that arose in a period in medieval English history where there was migration of country folk to the towns. It has no more connection to 'paganism' than any other such word with similar origins and meaning - eg 'churl' - and first appears almost one thousand years after country people were likely to be pagans in any sense of the word.

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The Pentacle of Venus

Langdon decided not to share the pentacle's most astonishing property - the graphic origin of its ties to Venus. As a young astronomy student, Langdon had been stunned to learn the planet Venus traced a perfect pentacle across the elliptic sky every eight years. So astonished were the ancients to observe this phenomenon, that Venus and her pentacle became symbols of perfection, beauty and the cyclic qualities of sexual love.
(Chapter Six, p.36)

Perhaps Langdon should have paid more attention 'as a young astronomy student.' While the planet Venus traces a synodic path over 2925 days (ie roughly eight years and five days) before returning to the same position relative to an earth-bound observer, this path does not trace 'a perfect pentacle across the …sky'. The pattern it traces could be best described as a lop-sided, crooked, or truncated semi-pentacle.

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Venus and the Olympics

As a tribute to the magic of Venus, the Greeks used her eight-year cycle to organize their Olympic games. Nowadays, few people realized that the four-year schedule of the modern Olympics still followed the half-cycles of Venus. Even fewer people knew that the five pointed star had almost become the official Olympic seal but was modified at the last moment - its five points exchanged for five intersecting rings to better reflect the games' spirit of inclusion and harmony.
(Chapter Six, pp. 36-37)

Few people 'realise' these things because they are not actually true. The Greeks held the Olympics in honour of Zeus, not their equivalent of Venus, the love goddess Aphrodite. His claim that the four year Olympic cycle is somehow connected with the planet Venus' synodic eight year cycle because it's a 'half-cycle' (why?) is ingenious, if rather unconvincing.

As is his claim about the Olympic rings. There is no evidence to back the assertion that 'a five pointed star' was to become the original modern Olympic symbol or that it was 'modified at the last moment'. The five linked rings were first used at the Athens in 1906 for the 'Intercalated Games', or games between Olympiads, of that year. In 1913 the founder of the modern Olympics, Pierre de Coubertin, designed a flag for the 1914 Paris Congress of the Olympic Movement, using the five interlinked ring design.

It is commonly said that he found this design on an ancient Greek monument at Delphi, but Olympic historian Robert Knight Barney has revealed that this is not the case. In his article 'This Great Symbol: The Tricks of History', (Olympic Review, No. 301, 1992, pp.627-31), Barney shows that the stones in question were manufactured in 1936 for the torch relay from Greece to Germany. He details that the origins of the symbol actually lie in the interlinked circles of the French Union des Sociétés Françaises des Sports Athlétiques or USFSA in the late Nineteenth Century.

Baron Pierre de Coubertin chose the interlinked circles as the Olympic symbol because it represented the five inhabited continents of the world and commemorated the first five modern Olympiads. There is no evidence that any five pointed star was ever considered and no evidence that Venus or pentacles had anything to do with the modern Olympic symbols.

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History vs The Da Vinci Code is copyright Tim O'Neill 2006. All rights reserved.