History’s greatest fraud was a monk who lived some time in the middle of the 8th century. We don’t know his name, but he wrote the Donation of Constantine. The Donation of Constantine is a document in which the Roman Emperor Constantine “donated” most of Europe to the Pope— the lands that later became the Holy Roman Empire. According to the document, Constantine made the donation out of gratitude because a Pope cured him of leprosy and converted him to Christianity. The Donation of Constantine is a fake.
The Donation wasn’t written by Constantine, who ruled in the 4th century. It was written by that nameless monk, who lived in the 8th century. The Donation is a total work of fiction— never happened. That the monk wrote it as a Roman decree shows that it was a forgery. That the monk wrote it as a statement of fact shows that it was a lie. That said, don’t be too hard on the monk for telling a colossal lie; we know that in those days, people didn’t consider false statements of fact to be lies if they could have been true. So no doubt the monk thought that Constantine could have donated lands to the Pope out of gratitude.
All that said, here’s why that nameless monk turns out to be the greatest fraud in history: Long story short, the Donation of Constantine is responsible for the “divine right of kings,” which, in turn, is responsible for the creation of the modern State. In simple terms, God decided who should be king, so the will of the king was the will of God. So over the centuries, all power— control over wealth and decision-making, and control over the means of violence and coercion to enforce decisions and confiscate wealth— devolved to the king, and from there, to the monarchical successor, the State.
So we live in modern states, with all of their excesses of power, and not some other, perhaps more humane, governmental arrangement, because some guy living in a cell about 1200 year ago made up a story and passed it off as truth.