20 Historical Figures Who May Have Never Existed

Photo of author

By Darryl Henderson

Historical figures have always fascinated us, giving us a glimpse into the past. However, when we hear the names of these historical individuals, many of us would never doubt they were real. 

You would be fooled, though; here are 20 historical icons who may never have existed.

Cleopatra VII

Photo Credit: Anton_Ivanov/Shutterstock

Cleopatra is well remembered as the last active ruler of the Ptolemaic Kingdom of Egypt and for her relationship with Julius Caesar. However, due to the lack of evidence, historians have debated whether she really existed or if she was the culmination of several people.

King Arthur

Photo credit: Gilmanshin/Shutterstock

TV shows, movies, and books have all paid homage to the legend of King Arthur. Despite this, Time Magazine reveals that experts on Arthurian legend say there is no evidence and no primary source from the time to confirm that King Arthur was ever a real person.


Photo Credit: Timothy Harding/Shutterstock

Speculation surrounds the figure of Homer, a Greek poet credited with writing the epics “The Iliad” and “The Odyssey.” However, to everyone’s shock, many scholars agree that Homer really is a group of writers rather than one singular person, with Homer’s identity skewed over time!

Robin Hood

Photo credit: muroPhotographer//Shutterstock

Robin Hood is a popular name in modern culture, but the truth of his existence is shrouded in mystery. Although many people believe that Robin Hood was real, there is still no sufficient evidence that he ever existed. We feel so deceived!

King Midas

Photo credit: Nataly Tatarinova/Shutterstock

Nowadays, we pay more attention to King Midas’s symbolism rather than his credibility. Many things have been uncovered, such as archaeological findings relating to ancient Phrygia. Yet, there is not enough evidence to say for certain that he was real; perhaps the truth will come out someday.


Photo Credit: Phuong D. Nguyen/Shutterstock

Despite The Guardian highlighting that historians largely agree that Mulan was a member of the proto-Mongolic Xianbei people who lived in northern China in the 5th century, there is still no concrete evidence relating to the real Mulan. This suggests she may have been a myth, but she certainly made for a good movie!

William Tell

Photo credit: Andy Faessler/Shutterstock

William Tell recalls the Swiss struggle for independence in the 14th century, but despite the prominence of this legend, there isn’t enough historical evidence to support his existence. Many discrepancies exist regarding dates that have been associated with him, so it looks likely that he never existed.


Photo Credit: Wirestock Creators/Shutterstock

In Chinese philosophy, Laozi is an important historical figure who resonates with many. However, many historians have suggested that Laozi was not a human being but an embodiment of the teachings of Taoism, created to influence people rather than to be taken literally. It’s a similar situation to that of Homer.

Prester John

Photo Credit: George_TheGiwi/Shutterstock

Whispers of Prester John began in medieval writings many years ago. Yet, the medieval legend of Prester John has been denounced by many scholars throughout the years. While attempts have been made to locate Prester John and his kingdom, none have succeeded, suggesting he wasn’t real.

Pope Joan

Photo Credit: Wirestock Creators/Shutterstock

Many religious individuals like to hope that Pope Joan’s existence is real, as she is somewhat of a feminist icon. Although it is claimed that she existed during the Middle Ages, there is simply not enough evidence to confirm her existence, much to the dismay of many.


Photo credit: markara/Shutterstock

In ancient Greece, Pythagoras held a lot of intrigue and speculation; as a philosopher and mathematician, this historical figure was hailed for their various insights in these fields. Despite his supposed success, doubts remain about whether Pythagoras was a genuine human being. We call this the Pythagoras theorem!

Lady Godiva

Photo Credit: nrqemi/Shutterstock

Lady Godiva is a name that still appears in contemporary culture. However, according to Harvard Magazine, little was written about her at the time, mentioning her merely as the wife of a famous man. Thus, there is still speculation about her identity.


Photo Credit: Anastasios71/Shutterstock

For philosophy buffs, Socrates’ legacy and life are fascinating subjects, yet few firsthand accounts written by Socrates himself exist. Without this evidence, many historians are skeptical about whether he was a real person or someone made up by others as a philosophical teaching mechanism.

King Solomon

Photo credit: Tanya Keisha/Shutterstock

King Solomon is featured in many stories. Known for his wisdom, this historical figure is mentioned in the Hebrew Bible, the Quran, and various other ancient writings. Despite his popularity, there seem to be minimal references or evidence of him outside of biblical teachings and texts. We might never know if he existed!

Romulus and Remus

Photo credit: Artem Avetisyan/Shutterstock

Historians today regard Rome’s mythological origins with Romulus and Remus with suspicion. Credited as the founders of Rome, these twins hold powerful positions in terms of Roman identity despite the lack of historical evidence for their existence. If they didn’t actually exist, history books need to be rewritten!

Helen of Troy

Photo Credit: Gilmanshin/Shutterstock

Helen of Troy, the mythological figure, captivated many people throughout the years, especially those interested in Greek mythology. Although the legacy of the Trojan War continues to resonate with modern individuals, many scholars still claim that she was a myth and not a historical figure.


Photo credit: Tramp57/Shutterstock

Literature students know all too well the significance and relevance of Beowulf’s epic poem. They may be sad to learn, however, that Beowulf might never have existed. It’s likely that Beowulf is the product of word of mouth, where people would spread stories about different legendary heroes.


Photo Credit: Shine TV

Arthurian legend prominently features the wizard Merlin, but historians suggest our beliefs about Merlin might not be true. In fact, National Geographic explains that sources from the Middle Ages speak instead of a Welsh bard or poet from the sixth century, Myrddin Wyllt, who lived in the court of Gwenddoleu. It’s pretty confusing!


Photo credit: vangelis aragiannis/Shutterstock

Hailed as a hero of Athens and slayer of the Minotaur, Theseus is frequently depicted in ancient Greek literature and art. While written accounts of Theseus date back to the classical period of ancient Greece, there is a chance that he was simply a combination of multiple historical icons. 


Photo credit: nrqemi/Shutterstock

Last but not least, the legendary musician and poet of Greek mythology, Orpheus, has been recounted many times in stories and art. Despite many people being intrigued by this figure, historians cannot make any sweeping statements about his existence as there just isn’t enough evidence to support this. We hope we learn the truth someday!