Not too long ago, as I was walking along the shores of the Aegean, I stumbled upon a fragmentary papyrus that read thus:
οἱ δὲ ἵπποι οἱ ποτάμιοι νομῷ μὲν τῷ Παπρημίτῃ ἱροί εἰσι, τοῖσι δὲ ἄλλοισι Αἰγυπτίοισι οὐκ ἱροί. φύσιν δὲ παρέχονται ἰδέης τοιήνδε· τετράπουν ἐστί, δίχηλον, ὁπλαὶ βοός, σιμόν, λοφιὴν ἔχον ἵππου, χαυλιόδοντας φαῖνον, οὐρὴν ἵππου καὶ φωνήν, μέγαθος ὅσον τε βοῦς ὁ μέγιστος· τὸ δέρμα δ᾽ αὐτοῦ οὕτω δή τι παχύ ἐστι ὥστε αὔου γενομένου ξυστὰ ποιέεσθαι ἀκόντια ἐξ αὐτοῦ.
Upon translating the fragment, I discovered, much to my surprise, that the text spoke of “river-horses.” The author of this text, a supposed eyewitness of these beasts, was adamant that these “horses” were “four-footed, cloven-hoofed like cattle, flat-nosed, with a mane like a horse, showing tusks, with a tail and voice like a horse.”
Being the intelligent, sophisticated Internet user that I am, I immediately applied the logic of ex-Mormons on Reddit and confidently dismissed this supposedly ancient Greek fragment as a modern forgery. After all, I knew that this is not a horse, and only a charlatan would try to say otherwise. The author of this bogus “ancient” fragment therefore never truly existed, and, I safely concluded, anyone who believes otherwise is a fool.
Of course, after some time I came, much to my horror, to realize that this text was an excerpt from the writings of the ancient Greek historian Herodotus (History 2.71.1). It was his description of the strange creatures he saw swimming in the Nile as he traveled through the new, exotic land of Egypt.
Unable to handle the sudden cognitive dissonance, I proceeded to soothe myself by making snarky memes and finding reassurance from the proprietors of Zelph on the Shelf that “apologists” for the historicity of this text are bumbling idiots who suffer from confirmation bias.
Because, as we all know, hippopotamuses aren’t horses.