Historical errors in The Scorpion King (2002)

This blog post is about the historical and factual errors in the 2002 movie “The Scorpion King”, starring Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson. When I first saw the movie, I was like “WTF?! They didn’t have that stuff then!”, but as I saw it a couple of more times it started to grow on me. If you just look at it as a fantasy/adventure movie, it’s actually quite good in my opinion. I gathered most of the historical issues with this movie that I saw. I’m sure there are some things I missed and some things I just ignored, like the Nike sneakers that were painted over and worn by the guys that were hunting The Rock in that cave in the desert.

This movie is supposed to be taking place at the time of the historical Scorpion King, which would be sometime between 3200 and 3100 B.C.E. in ancient Egypt. Here are the inaccuracies and information about them:

— In the beginning of the movie, when Mathayus is going to rescue his brother, it’s not said where he is. Judging from the fact that the people that have captured his brother are all Caucasian, the country closest to the Mesopotamian region, with Caucasians, would have to be Armenia. Mathayus and his brother would have had to have gone all the way north of Iraq (their homeland if they are Akkadians), and across Turkey, which would be entirely possible and plausible in that age.

— When Mathayus is fighting the barbarians and he rides a rope up towards the ceiling, you can see the rope is attached to a pulley. Now I looked up pulleys and this is what I found: “It is unknown when the first pulley was developed but it is believed to have been invented by Archimedes who lived 287 B.C. to 212 B.C.” That’s almost 3000 years before Archimedes was even born!

— When the barbarian leader announces that his people have killed Babylonians, Mesopotamians, Assyrians, Sumerians and Mycenaeans the only people on that list that any of them could have killed were Sumerians; which was the first developed civilization in Mesopotamia. Also, Babylonians, Assyrians, and Sumerians were all Mesopotamians, the same way Germans, Italians and Spaniards are all Europeans. Now the Babylonians and the Assyrians didn’t come to power until the 20th century B.C.E., and the Mycenaean’s weren’t around until the 1600’s B.C.E.! So unless they have a time machine in the next hut, its impossible for that statement to be true.

— The barbarian leader, the one who announces all the people they killed, pulls out two clubs with retractable metal blades just before he gets caught by the rising antler “chandelier”. The mechanisms for switchblade weapons were way too complex for any Bronze Age people, there is absolutely no way they could have existed in that time period.

— Now, this movie takes place during the Bronze Age but as you can see all the weapons are made from steel or iron, and steel is mentioned at least twice in the movie. This is absolutely impossible as iron didn’t come into prominence until the beginning of the Iron Age in 1800 B.C.E. Iron had been first discovered during the Bronze Age, but during that time iron was more expensive than gold! And the earliest steel has been traced back to East Africa around 1400 B.C.E., so much for those famed monks of Pompeii!

— Speaking of which, the city of Pompeii, known throughout the world because of Mount Vesuvius erupting and killing everybody in 79 C.E., wasn’t founded until the 7th century B.C.E. by the Osci, a people of central Italy.

— The historical Akkadians were a group of people from Mesopotamia that reached it’s height of power between the 24th and 22nd centuries B.C.E. The Akkadian Empire conquered the Sumerians and the Akkadian language become the diplomatic language in the ancient world.

— If the accounts of the Bible are to be believed Gomorrah was supposedly near the Dead Sea, but no sea was visible in the movie. Except with modern technology, nearby river or other water source, a city cannot survive in the middle of the desert, especially in ancient times. It was also in a lush and fertile area with lots of plants and animals around it.

— When Mathayus arrives at Gomorrah the first time, you see two people riding an elephant into the city. Firstly, I don’t think an elephant could survive very long in the desert, even with human care. Secondly African elephants were tamed by the Egyptians (for the first time in written history) about 300 B.C., much later than the movie takes place.

— You see some of the characters in the movie wearing armor or skull caps made from chain mail. This is impossible as chain mail was not invented until around the mid 1st millennium B.C.E.!

— When Mathayus uses a catapult in an attempt to escape from Memnon’s guards, this could never have really happened. The catapult appears to have been invented in 399 BC in the city of Syracuse during the reign of the tyrant Dionysius I.

— When Mathayus and his friends get captured at the oasis by soldiers loyal to Balthazar, we see the soldiers armed with crossbows. This is another impossibility as the earliest evidence of the crossbow comes from the fourth century B.C. in the region around China, although the Greeks may have had the crossbow sometime in the 5th century B.C.E. Both way after the events depicted in the movie.

— The names of Philos, the inventor, Cassandra, the sorceress, Memnon, the tyrant and Mathayus(very close to the Greek name Matthew) are all names of Greek origin. This movie takes place thousands of years before the Greeks came into contact with Egypt.

— Philos’ “Magic Powder Formula” that he got from China is another impossibility. The Chinese had not developed gunpowder until the 9th Century C.E.

— The cart they use to carry the “magic powder” and smuggle Balthazar and his people into Gomorrah may not have existed at this time, because carts didn’t start getting mentioned until the second millennium B.C.E.

— Despite the Egyptian style columns and all the statues of Anubis in Memnon’s palace, there is no way that this movie could have taken place in Egypt! Firstly, the abundant use of horses makes this a historical impossibility. Horses were not introduced into Egypt until the 17th century B.C.E. by the Hyksos (known as Hikau-khoswet by the Ancient Egyptians). Also camels were not introduced into Egypt until Greek times, before then donkeys were used as beasts of burden. Also, all those statues of Anubis (Anpu to the Ancient Egyptians) don’t make sense. Anubis was the god of mummification and of cemeteries. Maybe Memnon (or the set decorators) really liked how he looked?

— The machine that Philos has stirring the magic powder could not have existed at this time, complex machines like that were unheard of in that time.

— The training swords used by Memnon and his people in the courtyard before Mathayus tries to assassinate him were of Japanese origin. There was absolutely no contact between Egypt and Japan in 3200 B.C.E., and those swords hadn’t even been invented yet by the Japanese at that time!

— So far as anyone knows, there were no Asians living in Canaan, the Middle East, or Egypt at this time. There was trade with the northwestern part of Afghanistan for Lapis Lazuli during this time, but that’s as far as anyone from the Middle East really got. The first civilizations in China hadn’t even existed until the Xia around 2000 B.C.E.

— The big round metal shields some of the soldiers had in the movie couldn’t have existed at this time. Those shields seem to look like iron, and as stated above iron was more expensive than gold at this time in history and those shields seem much bigger than what they had in that day. In that time it seems more likely that shields were made of reeds, leather, or wood.

— Also the use of coins didn’t come about until sometime between the 8th and the 6th centuries B.C.E.

So that’s the list! I hope you enjoyed it!

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