The lives of many historical figures are shrouded in myths and legends but there is plenty of proof that they were real people, leading real lives, that they did exist.
There are however, a number of historical figures we've all heard about but whose existence has been a genuine mystery. And then reasonably the question arises of whether they were real people or just the fruit of legends.
Here are some of the most famous historical figures whose existence is debatable:
Lycurgus was a legendary Spartan king and even more legendary lawgiver. His name was first mentioned by Herodotus but there is no other proof of his existence. According to legend, he left for Delphi to seek advice from the Oracle Pythia and his tracks were nowhere to be found after.
Laozi was an ancient Chinese philosopher, who laid the foundations of Taoism and became revered as a deity. It's difficult to say how ancient he actually is. Legends say he lived during the 6th century BC but contemporary scientists believe he was a historical figure who lived at least 2 centuries before that and tried to wittingly cover his tracks.
Sun Tzu is considered to be the author of the legendary war strategy The Art of War. It's claimed he was a renowned general, strategist and thinker, living around the 6th-5th century BC, but there is no actual evidence of his existence either.
The very existence of Switzerland's greatest national hero, William Tell, is highly questionable. Everything we know about him today is a legend and there is not a single historical fact proving that such a person ever really lived.
The legendary English outlaw, who stole from the rich to give to the poor and who lived in Sherwood Forest, is actually completely made up, as shown by years of research of archives from the 12th - 13th centuries, when he was thought to have lived.
The existence of King Arthur, a central figure in English mythology, is also highly debatable. If the legend is to be believed, he was an unmatched general in times of war and a just ruler in times of peace... but these are simply legends.