circa 13,700,000,000 BCE — The Big Bang

The short version: in the beginning, there was nothing, which then exploded.

The longer version: all the matter in the universe was compressed into the smallest possible volume. Try to understand that this is so much matter that the force of gravity warps the laws of physics as we know them. The whole thing is is under so much pressure that it explodes – forming the universe as we know it as the laws of physics change radically from picosecond to picosecond, and eventually energy cools and congeals into matter.

It’s like they say: “it all started with the Big Bang!

CMB Timeline300 no WMAP.jpg
By NASA/WMAP Science Team – Original version: NASA; modified by Ryan Kaldari, Public Domain, Link

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The Big Bang Theory — Barenaked Ladies

circa 4,540,000,000 BCE — The Earth gets cooler

In the early millenia of what is sometimes referred to as the Hadean era of the Earth, there were no rocks as we would commonly understand the term – it was too hot for them to form. Still, the Earth was slowly cooling and solidifying. It’s worth noting that the Sun itself was not as hot at this time – like the larger planets of our solar system, it was still accreting matter to itself. Rockballs like the Earth (and Mars and Venus) were largely done with this process (although the occasional meteor or cometary impacts still occurred).

By the end of this era, approximately 3,800,000,000 years ago, the Earth had cooled sufficiently to allow for the stable formation of rocks, and its surface had begun to split into tectonic plates. Most importantly for humanity’s future, life had begun: the earliest evidence of photosynthesis dates from around this time.

circa 4,200,000,000 BCE — The Earth’s oceans form

The majestic oceans of planet Earth were formed neither quickly nor simply. It took literally millions of years between the first surface water’s appearance and the creation of the primordial sea.

Several factors contributed to this: the gradual cooling of the Earth was the first and most important, but also important was the slow release of water from existing minerals, the condensation of steam, and even the addition of water in the form of ice from occasional cometary collisions with the planet.

The first waters soon became the habitat of early prokaryotes – whose biochemical processes led to the formation of still more water. Indeed, it is possible that the majority of water on the planet today exists as a result of these organisms.

circa 3,800,000,000 BCE — Autotrophic organisms evolve

The autotrophs are the first true organisms on the planet Earth. The very first of them, the first prokaryotic life on earth, were chemotrophs. Chemotrophic organisms utilise reactions with inorganic chemicals to generate the energy they need to survive. They were followed by other autoptrophs – lithotrophs, a more specialised form that rely on minerals, and phototrophs, the earliest photosynthetic organisms.

These organisms were the common origin of all life on Earth, from single-celled bacteria that have not really changed that much in millions of years, to every multi-celled organism on the planet. Even you.

circa 580,000,000 years ago –The first animals evolve

The Proterozoic Eon, which began some 2.5 billion years ago and ended about 542 million years ago, was traditionally regarded as the last era before the evolution of what we would recognise as animals. But more recent fossil discoveries have repainted this picture, and it now appears that animals roughly midway through the Ediacaran Period.

The earliest animals were very simple creatures- small invertebrate multi-cellular forms like the earliest worms and such. Arthropods evolved shortly thereafter, and would go on to become the most dominant type of animal on the planet – just think how many insects and spiders and such you see each day if you don’t believe that.

circa 530,000,000 BCE — The first animals leave the ocean

The earliest known fossil footprints on land actually predate the earliest definitively land-based animals fossils by a considerable margin: 170 million years. It appears that our early ancestors may have explored the land before they moved there permanently. In fact, fossil records suggest that this exploration began before there were even terrestrial (as opposed to aquatic) plants – which may account for this peculiarity: no plants would have meant no food.

The first known animals to leave the ocean for good were members of the superclass Tetrapoda, a large group that includes all amphibians, reptiles, birds, and mammals, living and extinct. Including us.

Protichnites.jpg
By Kennethcgass at English Wikipedia – Transferred from en.wikipedia to Commons using CommonsHelper., Public Domain, Link

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The River of Dreams — Billy Joel

circa 284,000,000 BCE — Bolosaurid Eudibamus is the first known biped

The earliest known bipedal vertebrate, eudibamus cursoris was a small parareptile. The sole specimen that has been found (in Thuringia, Germany) measured about 25 cm long – about the size of a house cat. Reconstructions of it give it an appearance resembling a cross between a tiny velociraptor and a modern iguana.

The sole specimen of it known to science was discovered in 2000 by a paleontological team including David S. Berman, Robert R. Reisz, Diane Scott, Amy C. Henrici, Stuart S. Sumida and Thomas Martens. The species is believed to have existed for a span of about five million years or so.

circa 250,000,000 BCE — The super-continent Pangaea forms

Pangaea was a super-continent – an agglomeration of multiple continents – that came into being about 250 million years ago. It was composed of all the continents we know today fused into a single landmass, surrounded by a single ocean (called Panthalassa) – and was the last time such a thing occurred. In fact, it was slightly larger than the combined areas of the modern continents, as supercontinent formation tends to lead to lower sea levels.

Pangaea (the name comes from the Greek Pan meaning All and Gaea meaning Earth) existed during the Paleozoic and Mesozoic eras, and its best known inhabitants were the dinosaurs. It began to break up approximately 75 million years after it formed, although the continents would not reach anything approximating their modern positions until only about 35 million years ago, when the Indian subcontinent collided with Asia.

circa 243,000,000 BCE — The earliest dinosaurs evolve

There remains some question which dinosaur was actually the earliest of its kind. The oldest claimant is of the order Saurischia (literally ‘lizard-hipped’ dinosaurs), the Nyasasaurus, dated at 243 million years ago. The next oldest saurischians are dated between 232 and 230 millions years ago.

The earliest true dinosaurs of the Ornithischia order (the other major order of the Dinosauria clade) are likewise dated at 230 to 220 million years ago, the oldest of which is the Pisanosaurus.

circa 65,500,000 BCE — The Cretaceous–Tertiary extinction event wipes out the dinosaurs

Everyone loves the dinosaurs. A lot of people – if the Jurassic Park films are to be believed – would like to see them come back. But without their extinction, we wouldn’t be here today.

Even now, it’s still not clear what exactly caused the extinction event – but the best known hypothesis is that of Luis and Walter Alvarez, which states that a meteoric or cometary impact caused a nuclear winter-like effect that altered the climate drastically, wiping out something like 75% of all species alive at the time. The effects were particularly felt by larger species – which included most dinosaurs.

In the wake of the event, now open evolutionary niches were occupied by mammals and birds, including our own ancestors.

circa 28,400,000 BCE — the sub-Class Allotheria becomes extinct

Not actually true mammals, but instead mammaliformes, the members of the sub-class Allotheria are distinguished from other mammals chiefly by their dentition, which featured lower molariform teeth equipped with two longitudinal rows of cusps. Extant from the Late Triassic through to the Early Oligocene, the Allotheria were rodent-like animals in appearance.

They were widespread, found on all continents including Antarctica (which was considerably warmer in this era), and included in their ranks herbivores, carnivores and omnivores. Unfortunately for biodiversity, the last of them died out between 33.9 and 28.4 million years ago, give or take 100,000 years.

circa 3,900,000 BCE — Australopithecus evolves

Australopithecus was an early proto-hominid that evolved in Eastern Africa around 4 million years ago. It consisted of a number of sub-species: A. anamensis, A. afarensis, A. sediba, and A. africanus; and two more sub-species whose genus is disputed: A. robustus and A. boisei. Over the course of two million years or so, the various Australopithecenes ranged across Eastern and Southern Africa.

The Australopithecines evolved about 2 million years after the split between the ancestral roots of humanity and chimpanzees (our closest relative), and one or more of the various sub-species of Australopithecus is likely to have been the progenitor of the Homo Genus, to which modern humanity (homo sapiens sapiens) belongs.

Australopithecus sediba (Fundort Malapa).jpg
By Neanderthal-Museum, Mettmann – Pressebilder Neanderthal Museum, Mettmann, , CC BY-SA 4.0, Link

The Big Bang Theory — Barenaked Ladies

circa 2,400,000 BCE — Genus homo evolves

The earliest species to evolve in the genus homo was Homo habilis, which is believed to have evolved in Africa from Australopithecene ancestors (although which of several species of australopithecus was the direct ancestor is not known). The genus homo would go on to become the most successful species in the entire history of the earth, until it created a global ecological catasprophe in the early to mid twenty first century, which destroyed all the members of that genus, and almost every other genus above the size of bacteria.

(By the way, if you’re reading this, you’re either a homo, or an extraterrestrial intelligence that’s very tolerant of our immaturity.)

(Man, I love that pun.)

circa 2,300,000 BCE — The ancestors of humanity leave the trees

The earliest known member of the genus Homo, habilis evolved on the savannah of Africa between 2.5 and 2 million years ago. They are believed to have been the earliest part of our evolutionary chain to have been fully bipedal, to have lost (almost all of) the body hair that other primates have, and to have lived entirely on the ground – although possibly still gathering fruit from and seeking shelter in trees, much as we still do.

The reasons for this evolutionary move are many, but some of the more important ones include greater access to water, increased dietary variety and increased use of tools in hunting, which also made defence against predators easier than it had been for their australopithicene ancestors.

KNM ER 1813 (H. habilis).png
By John Hawks, Marina Elliott, Peter Schmid, Steven E. Churchill, Darryl J. de Ruiter, Eric M. Roberts, Hannah Hilbert-Wolf, Heather M. Garvin, Scott A. Williams, Lucas K. Delezene, Elen M. Feuerriegel, Patrick Randolph-Quinney, Tracy L. Kivell, Myra F. Laird, Gaokgatlhe Tawane, Jeremy M. DeSilva, Shara E. Bailey, Juliet K. Brophy, Marc R. Meyer, Matthew M. Skinner, Matthew W. Tocheri, Caroline VanSickle, Christopher S. Walker, Timothy L. Campbell, Brian Kuhn, Ashley Kruger, Steven Tucker, Alia Gurtov, Nompumelelo Hlophe, Rick Hunter, Hannah Morris, Becca Peixotto, Maropeng Ramalepa, Dirk van Rooyen, Mathabela Tsikoane, Pedro Boshoff, Paul H.G.M. Dirks, Lee R. Berger – Hawks et al. (9 May 2017). “New fossil remains of Homo naledi from the Lesedi Chamber, South Africa”. eLife 6. DOI:10.7554/eLife.24232>/a>., CC BY 4.0, Link

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Cowtown — They Might Be Giants

circa 900,000 BCE — the earliest boats are invented

Okay, this one’s a bit of a reach, but work with me here.

At some point, boats were invented. We do not when, or where, or by whom. Nor, Mr Brown’s opinions aside, do we know what gender the inventor had.

What we do know is that, at the very latest, humans arrived in Australia having traveled by boat approximately 65,000 years ago. However, some evidence suggests that boats were actually invented in the Indonesian archipelago somewhere around 900,000 years ago.

circa 600,000 BCE — The first Neanderthals evolve

The classic ‘caveman’, Neanderthals – homo neanderthalensis – were native to Europe, Western Asia and Central Asia. The earliest Neanderthal characteristics evolved at around this time – fossil evidence (admittedly incomplete) suggests that the full differentiation of the species had taken place by 130,000 BCE.

They were not, as is often thought, the ancestors of modern humanity, but rather a rival species that our ancestors wiped out in a competition for space and resources.

circa 300,000 BCE — Mousterian tool kit evolves among Neanderthals

The earliest known example of tool making by a hominid species, the Mousterian tools were created by members of the species homo neanderthalensis. They were primarily a flint-based technology, consisting mostly of cutting and scraping tools. Their name derives from Le Moustier in France, where such tools were discovered. However, it is unlikely that Le Moustier is the actual site of the tools’ origin, as similar tools have been found throughout Europe, the Near East and North Africa. Wherever they were invented, they clearly disseminated widely and – one assumes – swiftly.

The advent of tool making is the beginning of humanity’s technology-enabled conquest of the world. Up until this point, our ancestors were one species among many – a little smarter than most, but not especially better adapted than any other. Tool making changed that, making hominid species deadlier and more efficient hunters, and leading in time to the technological civilization that anyone reading this lives in today.

circa 223,000 BCE — The earliest funerary customs evolve

The actual origin of religion is a hotly debated topic in anthropoligical circles. We don’t know exactly when or how it happened. We know that it pre-dated the invention of writing, but not by how much. And we don’t know what the first religious beliefs were – do cave paintings represent a recording of a successful hunt, or a devotion to the aurochs spirits?

It is generally – though not universally – accepted that the ritualisation of death and burial, and the invention of the funeral, mark the earliest evidence of a belief in an afterlife or a spirit world. We know nothing of what was believed, but the care and attention which our ancestors paid to the arrangement of the dead, the things they buried with them and the markers left at gravesites – all of these imply a developing spirituality. We cannot say exactly where it happened, but somewhere in this process, the idea of God was invented.

circa 120,000 BCE — The people later to be known as Indigenous Australians first arrive in Australia

In the traditions of the Indigenous Australian peoples, their ancestors were created with the land, at the dawn of what is called the Dreamtime, the Dreaming or Alterjinga.

Science tells it a little differently. The original ancestors of the people now known as the Australian Aboriginals emigrated to Australia at some point between 40,000 and 120,000 years ago, with an increasing amount of evidence supporting the earliest date. Due to the wide variation of dates, it is unclear whether they arrived here after a sea crossing, or via a landbridge now submerged. It is not known where they first set foot in Australia, nor how many separate waves of migration occurred.

What is for certain is that these people dwelt in Australia with little or no contact with the rest of the world (the Macassar fishing fleets being one of the few exceptions), for thousands of years before European settlement in 1788. Whether or not one accepts the Dreamtime legend, there remains an undeniable case for considering them to be the traditional owners of the land, displaced and disenfranchised by European imperialism.

First Lesson (Sculpture) - Pillaga Scrub

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Solid Rock — Goanna

circa 25,000 BCE — the last Neanderthals become extinct

It’s unclear exactly how our nearest hominid relatives went extinct, but the leading candidates are our direct ancestors: whether fucking or fighting.

I mean that quite literally: some of them interbred with homo sapiens until they no longer existed as a separate species, or they just plain got killed by other homo sapiens. At their widest range, Neandertals occupied lands from Ireland and Spain in the west through to the southern Urals in the East. They did not go extinct everywhere at the same time, of course, but the precise details are somewhat obscured by the incompleteness of the fossil record.

circa 9600 BCE — The most recent Ice Age ends

The most recent Ice Age – or more precisely, the most recent glacial maximum of the current Ice Age – ended a little under 10,000 years ago, having lasted some 70,000 years itself. The abrupt climactic changes (abrupt in a geological sense) contributed to mass extinctions of various animal species, notably the woolly mammoth, although it is also believed that hunting by early humans also contributed to at least some of these extinctions.

In geological terms, the end of the last Ice Age is recorded as the transition from the Pleistocene to the Holocene epochs.

9564 BCE — Atlantis sinks

It’s Atlantis. Everyone knows the basics: an advanced civilisation on a large island or small continent in the Atlantic Ocean, sunk beneath the ocean in a single day.

The Atlantis story originated in two works by Plato, the Critias and the Timaeus. These tell the story of Atlantis – created by the sons of Poseidon, ruled the world as an economic superpower, and finally destroyed by the gods of Olympus for its hubris.

Of course, so far as anyone can tell, Atlantis never truly existed. It was a myth, a parable regarding the dangers of arrogance and pride.

Pity, really.

November 1, 4004 BCE — Adam hides his nakedness from God

Stop me if you heard this one: so, a naive chick is tricked by some snake into eating something she probably shouldn’t have. Suddenly much less naive, she tricks her partner into seeing things her way. We’ve all heard it a million times, right? Except that in this case, the chick is Eve, the snake is better known as the Serpent in the Garden, and her partner, of course, is Adam.

It turns out that eating from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil tells you that it is evil to be naked, which is why when God (who is elsewhere described as both omniscient and omni-present) comes back, Adam hides from Him, so that God – who has seen him naked as often – if not more often – than any parent has ever seen their child, will not see him naked again.

God, in his infinite forgiveness, expels Adam and Eve from the Garden of Eden, and sets an angel with a flaming sword to stop them from returning.

Anyway, it’s all holy and ineffable, so quit your snickering.

3874 BCE — Cain murders Abel

It’s not clear exactly when Cain murdered Abel in any biblical chronology I’ve been able to find. Some of them even date it to 4004 BCE, the same year usually given for the Creation of the earth. Which implies that not only were Cain and Abel both full grown men in the space of a single year, but that their mother’s two pregnancies (Cain and Abel were not twins – Cain is the older), also took place in that same year.

Nevertheless, as brothers, they didn’t always get along. This may or may not have had something to do with the notoriously fickle and hard to please deity that they worshiped, or that deity’s changing of the rules on them – Cain presumably would not have made an offering that God (who is, according to the Gospel of Luke, Cain’s grandfather) that God found unacceptable had he known ahead of time that it would be rejected.

Cain responds to his rejection by God by hunting and killing his brother, Abel. (Which makes him sound a little older than >1 – about 16 or so, I would guess.) And then God, not done with the mind games, pretends not to know about it and questions Cain, leading to his infamous declaration that he was “not his brother’s keeper” (which is a rare concession to historical accuracy by the Book of Genesis – cricket had indeed not yet been invented). God curses Cain and exiles him, making him the earliest biblical figure to be set up and knocked down by God.

circa 3500 BCE — Aphrodite born from the blood of castrated Uranus

Legend has it that Aphrodite, the goddess of love and beauty, was born in a most unusual way: when Cronus led his fellow Titans in a rebellion against their father, Uranus, the final victory was achieved when the son castrated his father, and cast his genitals into the ocean (accounts vary as to whether this was offshore from Paphos in Cyprus or the island of Cythera). Aphrodite sprung fully formed and already an adult from the foaming waves of the wine dark sea.

Aphrodite was known to the Romans as Venus, and it was under this name that she became popular with later Europeans, notably as the subject of the painting “The Birth of Venus” by Botticelli, and numerous surviving sculptures, such as the Venus de Milo.

Sandro Botticelli - La nascita di Venere - Google Art Project - edited.jpg
By Sandro Botticelli – Adjusted levels from File:Sandro Botticelli – La nascita di Venere – Google Art Project.jpg, originally from Google Art Project. Compression Photoshop level 9., Public Domain, Link

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Tales Of Brave Ulysses — Cream

circa 3400 BCE — The Sahara Desert assumes its modern form

It wasn’t always a desert. The Saharan plain was once open grassland with occasional forests. As late as the time of Julius Caesar, and even afterwards, Romans reported elephants, leopards and lions on the North African shores – along with abundant timber. But like that timber, which was cut down by the Carthaginians and Romans to build their navies, little remains of the Saharan plant life today.

The changes began around three and a half thousand years earlier, with a combination of changes in prevailing winds, a shift in the planet’s orbit and increased cultivation of the land – at this time, for example, south western Egypt and the Sudan were great agricultural realms, for example. But within a few hundred years, the region had become almost impassible, with few other than the Berbers prepared to cross the region until the invention of modern cooling systems in the Twentieth Century.

circa 2630 BCE — Imhotep designs and begins construction of the first Pyramid in Egypt

Imhotep was an Egyptian polymath who was what we would later call a Renaissance man. Of course, Imhotep had a 4000 year head-start on Leonardo. He served the Third Dynasty pharaoh Djoser as vizier, although the complete list of his titles ran:
Chancellor of the King of Egypt, Doctor, First in line after the King of Upper Egypt, Administrator of the Great Palace, Hereditary nobleman, High Priest of Heliopolis, Builder, Chief Carpenter, Chief Sculptor and Maker of Vases in Chief.

His most notable work to modern eyes is the Step Pyramid of Saqqara, in which the pharaoh Djoser was buried. It was the first pyramid, and comparatively small and primitive, but for its time it was an engineering marvel.

After his death, Imhotep was deified, one of very few Egyptians to whom this occurred (other than the pharaohs).

circa 2600 BCE — Gilgamesh becomes King of Uruk

Gilgamesh is the title character of one of the oldest known literary works, the Epic of Gilgamesh, which dates from approximately 2150 BCE. The most complete surviving version of the Epic was recorded on twelve clay tablets in the library of Ashurbanipal, a later Mesopotamian king.

Gilgamesh was the fifth king of Uruk, an early Sumerian realm that encompassed what is now Kuwait and southern Iraq. His parentage was partially divine – he was two thirds god and one third man. As a result of this, he was abnormally strong and long-lived – some sources describe him as immortal. He seems to have been based on actual historical figure, and several details in the Epic appear to derive from historical figures who were his contemporaries. However, despite his reality, it is unlikely that he reigned for the 126 years attributed to him by Sumerian historians.

Hero lion Dur-Sharrukin Louvre AO19862.jpg
By Unknown artist – Jastrow (2006), Public Domain, Link

As mentioned in:

The Mesopotamians — They Might Be Giants

circa 2500 BCE — construction of Stonehenge begins

Hundreds of years before the dawn of history
Lived a strange race of people… the Druids

No one knows who they were or what they were doing
But their legacy remains
Hewn into the living rock… Of Stonehenge!

Stonehenge was constructed out of massive slabs of bluestone, by persons unknown using means unknown for reasons unknown, on a field on Salisbury Plain, in Wiltshire, England.

Theories abound as to its purpose, although as the lyrics above suggest, it is generally believed to have been something druidic. Suggestions include it being a burial ground, a primitive observatory, or a place for human sacrifice. Less likely theories argue that it was constructed by Atlanteans or aliens.

circa 2500 BCE — Gilgamesh ends his reign as King of Uruk

Gilgamesh was the king of Uruk for many years, but was not well-loved by his subjects, as he was an oppressive ruler, who insisted of the privilege of sleeping with the young women of the city on their wedding nights. The goddess Arura, seeking to humble Gilgamesh, created a man named Enkidu, who was his opposite in all ways: wild where he was civilised.

Gilgamesh and Enkidu became fast friends, and the two journeyed together from Uruk to the Cedar Forest, where they faced and slew Humbaba. Later, after the gods slew Enkidu, Gilgamesh pleaded for his return, and later journeyed to the underworld to rescue him. Gilgamesh prays to the gods to restore Enkidu’s life, and moved by his humility, they accede.

Hero lion Dur-Sharrukin Louvre AO19862.jpg
By Unknown artist – Jastrow (2006), Public Domain, Link

As mentioned in:

The Mesopotamians — They Might Be Giants

November 30, 2349 BCE — Noah begins building an ark

So one day, God, in his infinite wisdom and mercy, got pissed off at basically everyone. I mean everyone.

Except for this one guy, Noah. And Noah’s family and their families. And all but two of each different kind of animal. God told Noah that he was planning to flood the entire planet and drown, well, everyone. He further instructed Noah to build an ark of the dimensions 300 cubits by 50 cubits by 30 cubits, to carry those whom God, in his infinite mercy, had deemed worthy of salvation.

Admittedly, no one’s quite sure exactly how big a cubit is – it’s based on the length of one’s forearm, but of course, no two forearms are exactly the same size either. What is fairly certain is that there’s no way that any such creation could be large enough to fit two of every animal, even allowing for excluding fish.

December 18, 2348 BCE — Noah’s ark makes landfall

So God, in all his moodswingy glory, decided to wipe out the entire human race.

Except for this one guy, his wife, his three sons and his three daughters-in-law. So Noah gets told to engage in one of the world’s most unlikely acts of carpentry. He builds an Ark in which to place a breeding pair of every kind animal in the world – which, by the way, would totally not fit in the cubic volume of Ark, unless “cubit” is an ancient hebrew word for “mile” – and apparently successfully places them there.

And then God makes it rain for forty days and forty nights. Fortunately, the flooded Earth has a very low albedo, and all this water eventually evaporates into the vacuum of space, allowing the ludicrously small gene pool we are allegedly all descended from to not suffocate from the vast quantities of water vapour in the air. And there’s a rainbow.

And down the rainbow rode the Norse gods, and they looked at Noah for a while, told him “no way are you getting into Valhalla” and then rode back up the rainbow to Asgard.
The End.

2270 BCE — Sargon becomes King of Akkad

Sargon the Great became the king of Akkad by murdering his predecessor. As king, he led a military conquest of Mesopotamia and neighbouring regions, covering modern Iraq and Kuwait, as well of parts of Iran, Arabia and even Anatolia and Syria, reaching all the way to the Mediterranean coast of the latter. This was the first centrally-controlled multi-ethnic empire in world history.

Sargon’s origin, much like that of Julius Caesar, has been mythologised. In particular, there is a portion of it that describes him as being set adrift upon a river in a basket woven of rushes – a tale strikingly similar to that of Moses (as described in Exodus), and predating the Book of Exodus by around two centuries.

Sargon of Akkad (1936).jpg
By Unknown author – Mallowan (1936) “The Bronze Head of the Akkadian Period From Nineveh“, Iraq Vol. 3(1) pp. 104–110, Public Domain, Link

As mentioned in:

The Mesopotamians — They Might Be Giants

2247 BCE — The Tower of Babel’s construction is disrupted by God

The Tower of Babel was an attempt by the post-Deluge peoples – all of whom spoke a common language – to build a structure upon the plain of Shinar which would reach to Heaven. God took offense to this, and went down from Heaven to prevent the project from succeeding. Having a keen understanding of the importance of good communication, God’s method for disrupting the project was the change everyone’s language. He created an un-recorded number of languages that day, sundering families and friendships, and all to prevent people from reaching Heaven physically.

The traditional religious interpretation of this is that it is a warning against pride. However, God’s words, as recorded in the Book of Genesis, make it fairly clear that, not unlike with that unfortunate business with the snake and the fruit, God was once again acting from fear that mere humans could dethrone Him by equalling him in power.

2215 BCE — Sargon I of Akkad dies

The first ruler of the Akkadian empire, which covered most of Mesopotamia by the time he was done, Sargon was also the builder of Babylon (which is probably his most lasting mark on history). Sargon’s reign lasted for 56 years, an impressively long figure by the standards of his era.

In Sargon’s later years, much of the conquered territories rose in rebellion, seeing his old age as weakness. Sargon proved them decisively wrong, restoring his rule with considerable bloodshed and brutality. Sargon’s death led to another round of rebellions, naturally, but the Akkadian Empire lived on for nearly another century.

Sargon of Akkad (1936).jpg
By Unknown author – Mallowan (1936) “The Bronze Head of the Akkadian Period From Nineveh“, Iraq Vol. 3(1) pp. 104–110, Public Domain, Link

As mentioned in:

The Mesopotamians — They Might Be Giants

1922 BCE — God first appears to Abraham

When God first appears to Abraham – which, by the way, was what the big guy renamed Abe – his name was originally Abram – Abram is 75 years old, although that doesn’t mean much, since his father Terah has not long died of old age. Terah lived to be 205, so no doubt Abe anticipates a number of good years ahead of him yet.

God tells him a bunch of stuff – that he should move from where he lives (in what is now Iraq) to Canaan (or what is now Israel); that he will become the founding father of a great nation; that he should change his name; and that his wife, Sarai (also renamed as Sarah) will soon become pregnant. Sarah is old enough to be unable to bear children, so she laughs at this prophecy, although one assumes that it seems less funny after she conceives and delivers Isaac, as prophesied.

1897 BCE — Sodom and Gomorrah are destroyed by God’s wrath

The story of the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah shows God’s mercy at its finest. After he threatens to destroy the cities, Lot, who resides in one of them, bargains with his god, finally convincing him to spare the cities if Lot can find five righteous men in them (apparently, righteous women aren’t good enough).

The bar is not set high: Lot himself is considered righteous, although he clearly suffers from the sin of pride (it takes a pretty big ego to bargain with god as an equal). However, he does have one virtue that god appreciates, that of shameless toadying. Indeed, Lot is so desperate to curry favour with god and his servants that he offers his virgin daughters to the baying mob to do with as they please if they will simply consent to leave god’s servants alone.

For this, god spares Lot and his daughters, allowing them to flee the city before he smites down upon it with great vengeance and furious anger – although Lot’s wife, whose only crime is to like watching explosions, is turned into a pillar of salt as a punishment – which is pretty harsh considering how few fans of action movies have ever been similarly afflicted.

1792 BCE — Hammurabi becomes King of Babylon

Hammurabi is perhaps the best-remembered king of Babylon’s first dynasty. Although he was the sixth of that house, he was the first one to actually be called a king, largely as a result of his military victories, Aside from the simple fact of his kingship, his greatest claim to fame is the Code of Hammurabi.

One of the oldest known written codes of law in the world, it predates Mosaic law (i.e. the Bible) by centuries, and was a direct influence on that code. The code consists of 282 individual laws, and states the punishments for each infraction. The law was revolutionary in three aspects:

  • It was written in the common tongue (Akkadian, in this case) so that any literate citizen could read it.
  • It standardised punishments, ensuring that the law was consistent (albeit rather harsh by modern standards – it is also one of the earliest known examples of the “eye for an eye” principle, which appears to have been intended to limit vengeance to an equitable level.).
  • It is one of the earliest known examples of the presumption of innocence, a cornerstone of our modern legal system today, and required that both sides provide evidence to substantiate their claims.

As a result of Hammurabi’s pivotal role in the history of the law, his likeness is often found in courts and parliaments, as a famed law-giver. In many such depictions, he is the earliest historical figure shown.

F0182 Louvre Code Hammourabi Bas-relief Sb8 rwk.jpg
By MbztOwn work, CC BY 3.0, Link

As mentioned in:

The Mesopotamians — They Might Be Giants

1772 BCE — The Code of Hammurabi is created

The oldest surviving written code of laws in the world, the Code of Hammurabi was a landmark in the development of the ideas of laws, justice and human rights. Although it massively favoured the rich – who generally suffered lighter punishments than the poor – it still actually gave the poor some rights for restitution for crimes committed against them.

The Code was brutal and bloodthirsty by modern standards – it was the first codification of the “an eye for an eye” principle – but it was a massive advance on the idea that judges made decisions and assigned punishments however they wanted. The Code of Hammurabi created the idea of consistency of outcome in legal cases. It is the foundation stone of all Western jurisprudence, and was a direct and strong influence on the law-makers who wrote the book of Leviticus and the later Roman legal codes.

F0182 Louvre Code Hammourabi Bas-relief Sb8 rwk.jpg
By MbztOwn work, CC BY 3.0, Link

As mentioned in:

Mesopotamia — The B-52’s

1750 BCE — King Hammurabi of Babylon dies

Hammurabi was born in 1792 BCE and became the sixth king of Babylon that same year when his father abdicated. He ruled for his entire life (presumably with a regency at first), and despite the war town nature of Mesopotamia in that era, he is best known for the relative peace of his reign, his public works programs and, of course, his legal code, which is the earliest known one.

When he died, at the ripe old age of 42, he had also expanded the borders of his kingdom enormously, leaving his own son a realm that was more than six times the size of the city state he had inherited, one that stretched from the shores of the Persian Gulf to Mari, hundreds of miles up the Euphrates.

F0182 Louvre Code Hammourabi Bas-relief Sb8 rwk.jpg
By MbztOwn work, CC BY 3.0, Link

As mentioned in:

The Mesopotamians — They Might Be Giants

circa 1650 BCE — the last mammoths become extinct

It’s unclear exactly what killed the mammoths off, although there are two leading contenders: the end of the last Ice Age made climates generally warmer (although the last ice age ended several thousand years before the extinction was complete) and predation – the predator in question being, of course, us.

At one point, mammoths were found across most of the northern reaches of Europe, Asia and America, in several different species, but bit by bit, these were hunted to extinction. The shrinking of their optimal habitat as the ice retreated probably made the hunting easier, but their extinction was a certainty as soon as our ancestors developed a taste for mammoth-meat.

The last known population of mammoths, that on Wrangel Island in the Arctic Sea to the north of Chukotka (the easternmost part of Asia), became extinct in about 1650 BCE, having survived their relatives on St Paul Island, Alaska, by about 1100 years.

Grotte de Rouff mammut.jpg
By Cave painter – Own work, Public Domain, Link

As mentioned in:

In The Days Of The Caveman — Crash Test Dummies

circa 1628 BCE — Zeus seduces Niobe

There are two Niobes in Greek Myth: one was the daughter of Tantalus, and a prideful mother whose children were slain by Apollo and Artemis. The other, less well-known, was the daughter of Phorenus, and the mother, by Zeus of Argus – for whom the city of Argos was named.

It should be noted also, that thus Argus was not any of the other figures in Greek Myth named either Argos or Argus – he was not the shipwright who built the Argo, nor the son of Jason and Medea named for that shipwright. Neither was he a legendarily faithful dog whose master was Odysseus, nor the hundred-eyed giant known as Argus Panoptes. He was just this guy, who happened to be the third king of Argos, and the first child Zeus had by a mortal woman. He would have lots of half-siblings, mostly posthumously.

Otricoli Zeus - 1889 drawing.jpg
By William Henry Goodyear, A History of Art: For Classes, Art-Students, and Tourists in Europe, A. S. Barnes & Company, New York, 1889. Page 158. Scanned by Dave Pape., Public Domain, Link

As mentioned in:

When You Sleep — Cake

May 21, 1491 BCE — The Israelites leave Egypt

One of the best known stories in the Bible, the Exodus or Exit from Egypt, is the escape of the Israelites from slavery under the Pharoahs. The particular Pharoah in question is not specified in the Bible (and speculation about who it is has been a scholarly pastime for centuries), but whoever it was, he was clearly cut from the same cloth as the most stubborn, stupid and self-destructive leaders of history.

It’s only after numerous plagues – which kill off a goodly portion of his subjects – that he agrees to let the Israelites go. And even then, he changes his mind once more, pursuing them with his army…

…only to be killed, along with his army, when Moses unparts the Red Sea and the Israelites make good their escape to the Sinai, where they spend the next four decades preparing to invade Canaan and begin the Israeli-Palestinian conflict that has continued, intermittently, ever since.

June 22, 1491 BCE — The Ten Commandments are handed down to Moses

No doubt you’re familiar with the story: during the 40 years that the Israelites spent wandering in the Sinai desert between fleeing Egypt and entering Canaan, they encamped for some time at the foot of Mt Sinai.

At one point, God summoned Moses, his chosen prophet and the leader of the Israelites, to the top of the mountain, and here he gave him stone tablets upon which were inscribed the Ten Commandments – one of the world’s earliest legal codes that is still known to us.

When Moses carried the tablets back down the mountain, he was sufficiently enraged by the conduct and reaction of his fellow Israelites that he broke them half. Fortunately, God had made a backup copy, and Moses was able to once more bring the tablets of the Ten Commandments.

Jewish tradition holds that both sets of tablets were stored inside the Ark of the Covenant, which implies that their current resting place is a non-descript government warehouse somewhere in the USA.

May 12, 1451 BCE — Joshua destroys the walls of Jericho

Moses’ right hand man and heir, Joshua was the leader who led the Israelites into Canaan after their 40 years of exile in the Sinai desert.

The major conflict recorded by the Bible in this period – which was, in all fairness, an invasion and conquest of Canaan by the Israelites – was the battle of Jericho. The Israelites under Joshua laid siege to this town (which is one of the oldest continually occupied human settlements in the world). The Israelites spent a week carrying the Ark of the Covenant around the city while holding horns in front of it – on the seventh day, they blew the horns, and the walls came down. Stripped of their greatest defence, the Canannites of Jericho well slaughtered and the town razed – only a turncoat who had assisted the Israelites (and her family) was left alive.

circa 1438 BCE — Zeus seduces Europa

Europa was the daughter of the Phoenician King and Queen, Aegnor and Telephassa. But one day, she was kidnapped by Zeus, who had taken the form of a white bull, and carried off to Crete. Here, Zeus seduced her (accounts differ as to whether he was still in the form of a bull at the time). Europa became the first Queen of Crete, and bore three sons: Minos (her heir), Sarpedon and Rhadamanthis.

So myth tells us. The truth of the matter may never be known, but from what we know of Minoan culture (named for Europa’s son), the bull was an important part of it, featuring in their religious and cultural ceremonies. The myth seems than an attempt to rationalise curious aspects of Cretan culture by mainland Greeks.

Europa’s three sons, in the myth, all became kings, Minos in Crete, Sarpedon in Lycia and Rhadamanthus in Boetia. Europa herself gave her name to the entire continent of Europe. Myth is with us, always.

circa 1323 BCE — Tutankhamen dies

The best known of all of the Egyptian Pharaohs, largely due to the sensational circumstances of his tomb’s discovery in 1924. At the time he was placed in it, Tutankhamen is believed to have been about 18 years old, and to have been Pharaoh for about a decade. His age has led many to speculate that he may have been assassinated by his regents, who wished to keep power and legally would not be able to do so once the Boy King reached adulthood.

However, recent research points at a combination of diseases (chiefly malaria, which he seems to have suffered from several times in his short life) and congenital defects (most likely due to the inbreeding that was common in many pharaonic dynasties) as the actual cause of his death – although the political advantages remain the same regardless of the cause.

circa 1270 BCE — Minos begins feeding the Minotaur captured Athenians

The Minotaur was not the son of king Minos of Crete, but no doubt he felt responsible for it – it was the child of his wife and a sacred bull of Posiedon (or possibly a god in the form of said sacred bull). But it was too dangerous to let roam free; too holy to kill. Minos, along with his advised Daedelus, devised a solution: they would imprison the creature in a maze, the original Labyrinth.

The question still remained of what to feed the beast. Fortunately, at around this time, Minos won a war with Athens, and as part of the terms of surrender, he required them to send a dozen Athenian youths each year – which he then deposited in the Labyrinth: meat for the beast. This plan could have gone on for ever, but a young Athenian of dubious morality and considerable political skills by the name of Theseus got in the way of it.

Tondo Minotaur London E4 MAN.jpg
By © Marie-Lan Nguyen / Wikimedia Commons, CC BY 2.5, Link

As mentioned in:

Minotaur — Clutch

1246 BCE — The Voyage of the Argo

Jason was a little-known hero who, in order to win the throne of Iolcus (in Thessaly), recruited a mighty crew and set sail in the Argo in search of the Golden Fleece. They found it only with the assistance of the goddess Hera and the princess Medea, who betrayed her father and eloped with Jason and the Fleece. Jason made it safely home, claimed the throne and married Medea. This did not end well for either of them.

Jason’s crew was a who’s who of Ancient Greek heroes. It included Hercules, Theseus, Castor, Pollux, Laertes (father of Ulysses), Bellerophon, Iolaus, Nestor, Orpheus, Deucalion, Asclepius, Atalanta, Peleus (father of Achilles) and Autolycus. In fact, not counting the heroes of the Trojan War (who were mostly not yet born at this point), the only significant Greek hero not to participate was Oedipus.

circa 1232 BCE — Zeus seduces Leda

One can’t help thinking that Leda knew more than she was telling. Legendarily one of the most beautiful women in ancient Greece, this queen of Sparta dallied with a swan (who, it turned out, was actually Zeus in disguise), and gave birth to perhaps the only woman to be more beautiful than her: Helen (later of Troy).

In fact, she gave birth to four children, two sets of twins. Half of them were mortal, the children of Tyndareus (her human husband), and half were half-divine, the children of Zeus. Which children are descended from which father is inconsistent across the various tellings of the myth, although a majority of versions record that Helen was half-divine (accounting for her legendary beauty).

The abduction of Europa
By Jean-Baptiste Marie Pierre – picture by alexmarie28, painting at the Dallas Museum of Art, Public Domain, Link

As mentioned in:

When You Sleep — Cake

1182 BCE — Odysseus braves the song of the sirens

Call him Odysseus or Ulysses, there’s never been any denying his cunning or his pride – and this particular incident in his legend displays both to full advantage.

It so happened that Ulysses’ ship was on course to pass by the island of sirens – horrible monsters who used their bewitching song to lure sailors to their deaths (they ate them, and not in the good way). Ulysses decided that he wanted to be the first man to hear their song and live.

This is how he did it: he commanded his men to tie him to the mast, then to stop their ears with wax, and to neither remove the wax nor let him loose until such time as the island was out of sight. His plan worked to perfection, and he remains the only man to have heard the sirens sing and lived to tell the tale.

Odysseus Sirens BM E440 n2.jpg
By Siren Painter (eponymous vase) – Jastrow (2006), Public Domain, Link

As mentioned in:

Golden Brown — The Stranglers
Tales Of Brave Ulysses — Cream

1117 BCE — Delilah cuts Samson’s hair

Samson is one of the great heroes of Judges era of the Isrealites. A judge and priest, he was also a mighty warrior, gifted by God with powers and abilities far beyond those of mortal man. (I don’t describe him this way by accident – Samson was explicitly one of the inspirations for Siegel and Shuster in creating Superman.) He had strength and skill at arms that made him a great hero to his people at a time when they were under constant attack from the Phillistines.

His great success came at a price, however. It’s fairly well-known that his power would desert him if he shaved or cut his hair. Less well-known is that he was also forbidden to drink alcohol. But maybe it was worth it to him. This is a man who once tore a lion apart with his bare hands. Who smote the Phillistines ‘hip and thigh’ – on one occasion, using ‘the jawbone of an ass’ as a weapon – and mowed through their armies like the Rambo of his day. Who, on one particularly slow day, tied flaming torches to the tails of no fewer than three hundred foxes, and drove the panicked animals through the farms of his enemies.

Understandably, he did not endear himself to the Phillistines, but they were unable to defeat him by force of arms. And so they resorted to guile.

Samson’s wife, Delilah, was approached by the Phillistines and bribed to cut his hair. Thus weakened, Samson was easy prey for his foes, and was captured, blinded and imprisoned in one of their temples where anyone could mock or hurt him without penalty. To the extent that his story has a happy ending, it is that many years later, God answered his prayers to restore his strength long enough for him to pull down the temple on top of himself and all his foemen inside it.

1063 BCE — David kills Goliath

Chapter Seventeen of the First Book of Samuel describes Goliath thusly:

And there went out a champion out of the camp of the Philistines, named Goli’ath, of Gath, whose height was six cubits and a span.
And he had a helmet of brass upon his head, and he was armed with a coat of mail; and the weight of the coat was five thousand shekels of brass.
And he had greaves of brass upon his legs, and a target of brass between his shoulders.
And the staff of his spear was like a weaver’s beam; and his spear’s head weighed six hundred shekels of iron: and one bearing a shield went before him.

6 Cubits and a span is 2.97 metres (or 9 foot 9 inches, if you prefer). Fortunately for the Israelites, it turns out that this Schwarzenegger of the ancient world has a glass jaw, or rather, a glass forehead. (And a suspiciously convenient gap in his helmet of brass.)

David, our Israelite hero, is able to slay the Phillistine man-mountain with a single well-cast stone, that cracks open his mighty head and kills him stone dead. David goes on to become King of all Israel; Goliath doesn’t go on at all.

1035 BCE — King David first sees Bathsheba

One of the great beauties of the Old Testament (and of antiquity in general), Bathsheba was a woman from the same tribe as King David, whose husband was Uriah the Hittite. Uriah was a mighty warrior, one of David’s 37 Mighty Men, an elite group within his armies. But when David first saw Bathsheba bathing, and lusted after her, the king quickly seduced the beauty. So far, so good – but then Bathsheba got pregnant.

Unable to compel Uriah to sleep with his wife (even a King’s power only goes so far) and thus obscure the date of the conception, David instead contrived to place Uriah in the thick of battle as many times as it took to kill him. The Hittite’s death accomplished, David married Bathsheba, and their child would become David’s heir, Solomon. But not before God sent the prophet Nathan to upbraid David for his deeds.

Bethsabée, by Jean-Léon Gérôme.jpg
By Jean-Léon Gérôme – Derived from Sotheby’s, Public Domain, Link

As mentioned in:

Hallelujah — Leonard Cohen

1015 BCE — Solomon becomes King of Israel

Solomon, legendarily the wisest man in all of antiquity, was the son of King David of Israel. He ascended to the throne after his mother Bathsheba and the prophet Nathan prevailed upon the elderly (and possibly senile by that time) David to name him heir ahead of his brother Adonijah (who was the heir-apparent). Adonijah, for some reason, reacted badly to this, and led a brief rebellion that ended in his arrest and execution.

Solomon would go on to write the soft porn classic “The Song of Songs”, to oversee the building of the Temple in Jerusalem, to found the Freemasons, and to take a total of 700 wives (and 300 concubines), suggesting that his legendary wisdom was exceeded only by his horniness (and love of goat skin aprons and funny handshakes). He ruled for 41 years, dying at the age of 80 and being succeeded by his son Rehoboam.

Cornelis de Vos - The Anointing of Solomon.jpg
By Cornelis de VosKunsthistorisches Museum, Public Domain, Link

As mentioned in:

Ah Yeah — Krs-One

668 BCE — Ashurbanipal becomes King of Assyria

When Ashurbanipal inherited the throne of Assyria from his father, Esarhaddon, he also inherited the war between Assyria and the alliance of Egypt and Nubia. Ashurbanipal was a etter general and king than his father, and defeated the Egyptians handily in a series of battles. By 660 BCE, he ruled almost all of the Middle East with the exception of southern Arabia.

Ashurbanipal was renowned for his cruelty to his defeated enemies. It was not enough to take their lands and sell them into slavery (although he did that too), Ashurbanipal was notorious for the sadism and brutality of his tortures – and this in an age where torture was considered more or less normal. Perhaps because of this, he was the last strong ruler of Assyria.

627 BCE — King Ashurbanipal of Assyria dies

Legend says that he was the only king of Assyria who ever learned to read or write. Be that as it may, it is known that Ashurbanipal gathered one of the world’s greatest libraries of cuneiform tablets in his palace at Nineveh. However, although he was apparently unusually literate, Ashurbanipal was also an unusually cruel king (which is saying something, since Assyria was noted as an unusually cruel realm even in its barbarous day).

When Ashurbanipal died in 627 BCE, strife was already rising in Assyria, and outright civil war soon broke out – in less than two decades after his death, the Neo-Assyrian Empire over which he had ruled – and which had lasted three centuries by that time – was gone, never to returned, subsumed into the Persian Empire and its successor states.

circa 605 BCE — The Hanging Gardens of Babylon are constructed

One of the Seven Wonders of the World (the original seven, now usually called the wonders of the Ancient World), the Hanging Gardens of Babylon were built during the reign of Nebuchadnezzar II. Of all the Seven Wonders, they are one of the only two to be secular (along with the Lighthouse of Alexandria) and the only one to be famous as much for the living entities in it as its architecture.

One of the taller buildings in the world – at that time – the Hanging Gardens were like overgrown version of the classic Sumerian ziggurat. They were famous for their beauty, but as a royal preserve, they were more the kind of tourist attraction one gazes at longingly rather than actually walks through.

Hanging Gardens of Babylon.jpg
By Unknown author – http://www.plinia.net/wonders/gardens/hgpix1.html, Public Domain, Link

As mentioned in:

The Miracle — Queen

469 BCE — Socrates is born

Socrates is one of the most influential, and also most enigmatic, figures in Western Philosophy. An Athenian who lived at the dawn of both writing and philosophy, if he wrote anything himself it has not survived, and today he is known only for the works of others that mention him. Foremost among these are the works of his student, Plato, similarly influential in philosophy, but also prone to idealize his master.

Socrates was particularly noted for his contributions to the field of ethics, and for his creation of the Socratic Method, a philosophical tool no less useful today than it was 25 centuries ago. He was also, if the writings about him are to be believed, a great fan of irony. He was, of course, executed for heresy, although his trial and death appear to have been the result of political infighting, and thus the charge may not accurately reflect the true reasons for his downfall.

circa 221 BCE — The Analects of Confucius are first completed

One of the most influential works in Chinese history, the Analects of Confucius were written over a period of several decades during the Warring States period.

Ever since copies of the Analects first begin to be distributed, over 2000 years ago, it has shaped Chinese society, teaching the Confucian virtues to generation after generation. Its influence has also been felt in other parts of Asia, as it slowly diffused into other nations and cultures.

Even today, the Analects remains one of the canonical texts that any serious Chinese scholar (or scholar of China) must read and understand in order to be considered properly educated.

221 BCE — Qin Shi Huang orders the construction of the Great Wall

The self-proclaimed First Emperor of China, Qin Shi Huang is one of the most important figures in Chinese history. Under his leadership, massive reforms to the legal and economic systems took place – and, not incidentally, numerous scholars and writers were outlawed or executed, and their books burned. He also decreed vast infrastructure projects, including a massive program of road-building, and the creation of the Great Wall of China.

Huang was not responsible for the entire wall, but rather, for the construction of links between pre-existing sections and extending the ends of the them. The project was a long one, and would be completed for centuries, but it sure kept thousands of peasants to busy to rebel for generations at a time, and may have even served some defensive purpose (which is usually considered to be the reason for its construction).

218 BCE — Hannibal’s army crosses the Alps

Not many people in the world would be crazy enough or determined enough to invade the Italian peninsula by traveling over the Alps from what is now France. They certainly wouldn’t do it with an army traveling variously on foot, on horseback or on elephant-back. But the Carthaginian general Hannibal was that crazy, that determined – and that brilliant. Known as “the father of strategy”, Hannibal wasn’t just one of the greatest military tacticians of his age, he was one of the greatest of all time.

No one in Rome thought he’d be able to muster much of a force, having traveled overland fighting the Roman rearguard all the way from Spain. Hannibal led a force of 38,000 infantry, 8,000 cavalry, and 37 war elephants to the foot of the Alps, and crossed them with a massive loss of life, including almost all of the elephants. But the losses were not as high as his enemies had assumed they’d be. 20,000 infantry and 4000 cavalry survived, and the subsequent invasion of Italy was a bloodbath for the Romans.

Hannibal crossing the Alps into Italy.jpg
By Publisher New York Ward, Lock – https://archive.org/details/illustratedhisto01newyuoft, Public Domain, Link

As mentioned in:

Born fe Rebel — Steel Pulse

146 BCE — Carthage is destroyed by Rome

In the final engagement of the Punic Wars, the Roman forces brought to war to the very doorstep of Carthage. From 149 BCE until the spring of 146 BCE, they laid siege to the city itself, which is located near the site of modern Tunis. The Romans could probably have won sooner, but incompetent commanders hamstrung their efforts. By the time they finally breached the walls and poured into the city, the Carthaginians had turned every building into a fortress, and armed every citizen.

However, the battle was never seriously in doubt. Although both sides suffered terrible losses, a Roman victory was inevitable once the city itself was invaded. The fall of Carthage represented the demise of the last organised opposition to Roman expansion in the Mediterranean, as the Carthaginians were their major rivals in the early days of Roman civilisation.

Although it is commonly taught that the Romans plowed Carthage under and sowed salt in the new fields, this claim does not appear in any contemporary sources, and appears to be an invention of nineteenth century historians.

41 BCE — Mark Antony and Cleopatra first meet

She was the widowed queen of Egypt and mother of the heir by birth of Julius Caesar; he was the man who had exposed and shamed the conspirators that killed Big Julie. She was the last of the last: the last descendent of Ptolemy I, of the thirty-third and final dynasty to rule Egypt independently. They were, legend tells us, besotted with each other at first sight.

Never mind that Mark Antony was married to the sister of his fellow Triumvir, Octavius. Never mind that his dallying in Egypt made it possible for Octavius to raise an army against him in Rome, and lead it to a decisive naval victory over Antony’s forces at Actium in 31 BCE. Never mind that Cleopatra, queen of Egypt, was herself the mother of one of those who stood between Antony and the imperial throne.

Because the heart wants what the heart wants, and for a decade, the hearts of Antony and Cleopatra got what they wanted.

80 CE — The first Games of Flavian Ampitheatre are held

The Flavian Ampitheatre – better known today as the Colosseum in Rome – was constructed between 72 and 80 CE. It is called Flavian because that was the name of the Imperial House that built it, Emperor Vespasian and his sons and successors Titus and Domitan being the three Emperors most associated with the building.

In addition to the gladiatorial contests, chariot races and executions that it is remembered for, the Colosseum was also the site of animal hunts, mock naval and land engagements (often re-enactments of famous battles) and theatrical presentations. It could seat 50,000 people at peak capacity, and continued to be used as a site for entertainments after the fall of Rome.

It was later used variously as a quarry, a fortress, housing, workshops and religious shrines. Today, it is an archaeological and tourist site, one of Rome’s premier attractions from the Imperial Roman era.

Colosseum in Rome, Italy - April 2007.jpg
By DiliffOwn work, CC BY-SA 2.5, Link

As mentioned in:

In The Colosseum — Tom Waits

circa 900 CE — The earliest cigarettes are invented by the Maya

The scourge of the world, the cause of oh so many cases of lung cancer and emphysema, cigarettes were first invented by the Maya people of pre-Columbian Meso-America. They apparently used them in religious ceremonies, a use that was later taken up by the Aztecs and other peoples of the Americas. Famously, it was then introduced to the Court of England by Sir Walter Raleigh, and quickly spread to Europe as well.

The Maya and Aztec civilisations featured short enough lifespans to probably not notice the effects of long term smoking, and the ritual nature of their tobacco use kept it reasonably infrequent too. It would take the mass production and consumer culture of Western Civilisation to truly bring cigarettes to their full disease-causing potential.

Maya deities
By Unknown (Dresden Codex), William E. Gates (drawing), FAMSI (digitisation), El Comandante (image editing). – FAMSI, Public Domain, Link

As mentioned in:

Smoke! Smoke! Smoke! (That Cigarette) — Tex Williams

1212 — The Children’s Crusade sets out for the Holy Land

The Children’s Crusade is the name given to a variety of fictional and factual events which happened in 1212 that combine some or all of these elements: visions by a French or German boy; an intention to peacefully convert Muslims in the Holy Land to Christianity; bands of children marching from various other European nations to Italy; and finally, the children being sold into slavery and failing entirely in their admittedly unlikely and quixotic mission.

It has become a byword for tragedy, waste, naivete and religious stupidity, although of course, since it was never officially sanctioned by Rome, the Catholic Church denies all responsibility for it.

1516 — Da Vinci completes the “Mona Lisa”

One of the most famous paintings of all time, Leonardo da Vinci’s “Mona Lisa” or “La Gioconda” is an oil portrait of Lisa Gherardini, the wife of Francesco del Giocondo – at least, that’s the most popular suspect. The identity of La Gioconda is a mystery to this day – and her enigmatic yet knowing smile only feeds the intrigue.

The portrait itself hangs in the Louvre in Paris, where it has hung since the French Revolution (with a few minor interruptions either for its own protection or on tours of other galleries), where it has been a popular target for vandals and writers of shitty novels.

1586 — Sir Walter Raleigh introduces tobacco to England

It’s not true to say that Sir Walter Raleigh – privateer, nobleman, favourite of Queen Elizabeth I, soldier, sailor, explorer and unsuccessful quester for the fabled city of El Dorado – killed more men than cancer.

However, as the man generally credited with the introduction of tobacco products to England – where they became popular at court, thus guaranteeing their spread throughout the rest of the nation and rival European courts (fashion is a harsh mistress) – he should at least be thought of as one of cancer’s most able accessories before the fact.

It would be nice to say that he died of lung cancer, but actually, he was beheaded in what many believe to have been a political maneuver aimed at placating the Spanish (whom Raleigh had fought during the Armada incident and the related war), and something of a miscarriage of justice (since King James, Elizabeth’s successor, did not have much love for her former favourites).

1628 – Oliver Cromwell becomes MP for Huntingdon

Considering his later prominence, Oliver Cromwell’s first stint in Parliament was surprising undistinguished. Perhaps his relative youth (he was in his late twenties at the time) caused him to be over-awed by his more senior colleagues, and certainly the dissolution of this Parliament by King Charles I (and the fact that he did not call another until 1640) aside, records exist of only one speech given by Cromwell, and that was poorly received by the chamber.

Cromwell would return to Parliament in 1640, this time for the electorate of Cambridge, in which he would serve for the entire 1640s. He would entirely fail to make the Irish hate him until some time later.

Westminster 16C.jpg
By H J Brewer – First published: The Builder magazine, 1884 / Republished: parliament.uk, PD-US, Link

As mentioned in:

Oliver Cromwell — Monty Python

1653 — The Taj Mahal is completed

Generally acknowledged as one of the most beautiful buildings in the world, the Taj Mahal is a mausoleum built in honour of Mumtaz Mahal, the third wife of Shah Jahan, by her husband. He was an Emperor of the Mughals, and the Taj is built in the distinctive Mughal architectural style, harmoniously combining influences from Persia, India and Ottoman Turkey.

It was built in several stages over more than two decades, and the total cost of the construction was about 32 million rupees – at that time, not adjusted for three and half centuries of inflation. Over twenty thousand workers toiled to build the complex, guided by a small committee of architects.

When he died, the Shah Jahan was buried in the Taj Mahal also, next to his beloved wife.

Taj-Mahal.jpg
By Joel GodwinOwn work, CC BY-SA 4.0, Link

As mentioned in:

The Miracle — Queen

1689 — Pompeii is rediscovered

When Mount Vesuvius erupted in 79 CE, it did so with considerable force. The very shape of the mountain was changed, and the course of the nearby Sarno river was altered. For these reasons, Pompeii – and the neighbouring town of Herculaneum – were lost for centuries.

But in 1599, a attempt to dig an underground channel to modify the river’s course stumbled upon the buried ruins of Pompeii. Over the next few centuries, it would become one of the most well-known archaeological sites in the world, and provide an incredible window back into a time when the Roman Empire was in its heyday.

S03 06 01 024 image 3137.jpg
By William Henry Goodyear – Brooklyn Museum, Public Domain, Link

As mentioned in:

Cities in Dust — Siouxsie and the Banshees

1742 — Thomas Gray writes “Ode on a Distant Prospect of Eton College”

Hardly anyone at all knows it, but this ode of Thomas Gray’s is the origin of one of the English language’s most often quoted aphorisms: “ignorance is bliss”. One rather wonders if Thomas Gray himself would still agree, at least insofar as ignorance covered his works or his self. To be fair, Gray was not praising ignorance, but rather, the innocence of childhood.

Gray was an academic and a poet. He studied and worked at Cambridge most of his adult life, and was regarded as one of the greatest poets of his age during his lifetime, even though his total works amount to less than a thousand lines of poetry – whatever else can be said of him, Gray clearly favoured quality over quantity. His wordsmithing was not limited to the occasional aphorism: Gray is the originator of several phrases that are now horribly time-worn cliches, including “far from the madding crowd”, “kindred spirit” and “the paths of glory”.

Portrait by John Giles Eccardt, 1747–1748
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Til The Ocean Takes Us All — The Cat Empire

1789 — Marie Antionette (allegedly) says “Let them eat cake”

The French phrase “Qu’ils mangent de la brioche” is usually translated as “Let them eat cake”, and is widely attributed to Marie Antionette.

However, in the original – Jean-Jacques Rousseau’s Confessions, which he finished writing in 1769, when Marie Antoinette was 13 – the remark is attributed only to “a great princess”. The phrase was attributed to Marie Antionette only after the Revolution began, and many citations for it exist prior to this, and not referencing her. In fact, the emerging consensus among historians at this time is that the Rousseau was referring to Marie-Thérèse, the wife of Louis XIV, and pre-dates Marie Antionette by at least a century.

1911 — Jimmy Sharman’s Boxing Tent begins at the Ardlethan Show

Jimmy Sharman’s Boxing Tent is perhaps the best known – and most notorious – of the various travelling outback boxing shows that once went from town to town in Australia. It put on displays of bare-knuckle boxing as well as occasional bouts where locals could try their luck against the professional boxers.

It was a brutal sport, and often exploitative – but it was also one of the few ways a black man could make a living, albeit a dangerous one that might leave you maimed. The outback boxing circuit flourished for a few decades, but it largely faded away by the time of World War Two.

1942 — Franz Werfel’s “The Song of Bernadette” is published

A Jew from Prague who fled the Aunschluss in 1938, Franz Werfel was also a playwright noted for his satirical plays about the Nazis (written before 1938). He and his wife Alma (the widow of Gustav Mahler) fled to Paris, where they were safe until the Nazi invasion of France in 1940 – when they fled once more, going into hiding and eventually reaching Portugal, from whence they took ship to New York. It was during this period, sheltered by assorted sympathisers, that Werfel learned the story of St Bernadette Soubirous, who had reported 18 separate visions of the Virgin Mary while at Lourdes. Some of this was told to him by people who had actually met Bernadette, although it is likely that their accounts were somewhat embroidered.

Werfel wrote the saint’s story largely as a tribute and thanks to the people who had helped them in France, Spain and Portugal (something he had promised them while fleeing the Nazis), and it was published in 1942 and spent more than a year on the New York Times bestseller list, including 13 weeks at the top of it. In 1943, it was adapted as a film which was nominated for 8 Oscars and won 4 of them.

TheSongOfBernadette.jpg
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Alma — Tom Lehrer

1949 — Georgia O’Keeffe moves to New Mexico

After her first visit in 1929, painter Georgia O’Keeffe became enamoured of the landscapes and colours of the American South West. She spent at least a part of each year there. Many of her paintings, including some of her best known, such as Summer Days (1936).

In 1945, she bought a property at Ghost Ranch, north of Abiquiu, New Mexico, and began renovating it. In 1949, she permanently relocated there, producing numerous paintings, sketches and sculptures. She eventually moved to Santa Fe as old age took its toll on her health, where she died in 1986. Her artistic legacy is vast and she is particularly noted for her contributions to abstract landscape painting.

O'Keeffe-(hands).jpg
By Alfred Stieglitzhttp://www.artic.edu/aic/collections/citi/images/standard/WebLarge/WebImg_000053/78993_349420.jpg, Public Domain, Link

As mentioned in:

Splendid Isolation — Warren Zevon

I have been unable to pin this down any more clearly than August 1940 – if anyone out there knows the correct date, please let me know.

1950 — Ray Bradbury publishes “The Martian Chronicles”

A collection of some 28 short stories that loosely tell the story of the human colonization of Mars between the years 1999 and 2057, Ray Bradbury’s “The Martian Chronicles” is one of the classics of science fiction, and one of the first science fiction books to be seen as art. Bradbury’s lyrical prose style illuminates these tales, elevating them above the work of his contemporaries.

While the Mars he depicts is very much an early twentieth century vision of Mars, with canals and Burroughsian Martian natives, it remains one of the greatest works of science fiction, and has never been out of print since its initial publication. About half the stories in it had been published previously as short stories; the other half were original, and later editions contained still more new stories of Bradbury’s Mars.

1951 — Ray Bradbury publishes “The Illustrated Man”

First published in February of 1951 (the exact day is, alas, lost to history), ‘The Illustrated Man’ is a volume of some eighteen short stories, loosely connected by a framing device: the title character. The Illustrated Man is a carny worker, and each of the stories in the book is represented by one of his tattoos.

Only one of the stories was original to the book, although several of them were revised by Bradbury to better fit the frame concept.

1953 — Ray Bradbury publishes “Fahrenheit 451”

Bradbury’s best known novel is a savage and dystopian satire of media trends in Bradbury’s day. He foresaw such implausibilities as wall-sized tv screens with hundreds of channels of aneasthetizing pap playing 24 hours a day, while literacy was not merely rare but close to outlawed. It was a world where firemen start fires instead of putting them out, but only to burn books.

As such, it played into the prejudices that every new medium has faced, that it would enfeeble the minds of those who followed it. “Fahrenheit 451” depicts a world where every channel is Fox News (or some close affiliate), and the only escape is to destroy it all and start anew in the ashes of the world – although Bradbury himself (an Emmy winner) presumably has a more nuanced attitude to the glass teat than this novel would indicate

1957 — Ray Bradbury publishes “Dandelion Wine”

Adapted from his 1953 short story of the same title, Ray Bradbury’s “Dandelion Wine” is one of his best known books. It consists of a series of short stories linked together by recurring characters and themes. The book follows the exploits of Douglas Spaulding, a 12 year old boy, across a summer in his small town named Green Town. It has a sequel, “Farewell Summer” and a related book of vignettes entitled “Summer Morning, Summer Night”. Thematically, it is also linked to “Something Wicked This Way Comes” which addresses similar ideas with a different set of characters.

It is widely considered Bradbury’s most personal work, and Douglas Spaulding is an obvious stand in for a young Bradbury. The book has been adapted into film and radio, and remains a good seller.

1962 — Ray Bradbury publishes “Something Wicked This Way Comes”

Like the related Dandelion Wine, Bradbury’s novel Something Wicked This Way Comes (a title taken from Macbeth) is largely inspired by his childhood fascination with travelling carnivals. In particular, when Bradbury was 12, a carnival magician named Mr Electrico exhorted him to “Live forever” – Bradbury began writing the next day.

The novel was a great success for Bradbury, both critically and commercially. It has been adapted for film, stage and radio – the first film adaptation was even written by Bradbury himself – and has greatly influenced the writers who followed Bradbury, especially those who, like him, blend horror and fantasy elements in their works. In particular, Neil Gaiman and Stephen King have both cited this novel as a major influence on their own writing.

July 1964 — Manufacture of the Neutron Bomb begins

When it was first created, the Neutron Bomb was hailed as a triumph of efficiency and progress. In theory, it would kill the population of its affected area, while leaving the buildings standing. The bomb would have a lesser degree of heat and concussive force than an ordinary nuclear bomb, but a greatly increased amount of radiation.

The bomb was never used in a combat situation, and its production has been largely discontinued. The United States, the Soviet Union, China and France all had developed neutron bombs, but no country is currently known to deploy them.

1966 — Ray Bradbury’s “S Is for Space” published

“S is for Space” is a collection of science fiction short stories written by Ray Bradbury and published by Doubleday. It was released in August 1966, and sold respectably (for a science fiction/fantasy hardcover).

It included 14 stories, including the classic “Dark They Were, And Golden-Eyed” (which later gave its name to a bookshop in London that specialised in science fiction and fantasy books).

1972 — Ray Bradbury publishes “The Halloween Tree”

Originally written in 1967, “The Halloween Tree”‘s first incarnation was a script that Bradbury planned to turn into an animated film in collaboration with Chuck Jones. When those plans fell through, Bradbury re-worked it as a novel, which was published in 1972.

Twenty years later, he finally got the chance to do it as the animated film he’d planned, although alas, Chuck Jones was not involved. Regardless of this, the animation was produced in 1993 with Bradbury himself providing the voice of the Narrator, and went on to be a commercial and a critical success. It also made Bradbury one of the few winners of a Hugo to also win an Emmy.

May 1979 — The Boys Next Door release “Shivers”

It’s probably a good thing that Nick Cave decided that suicide really didn’t suit his style. From relatively inauspicious beginnings, the members of the Boys Next Door would form the nucleus of the Birthday Party, Nick Cave’s first truly great band, who would in turn pave the way for the Bad Seeds.

“Shivers” remains a perennial favourite of fans of Australian goth and alternative music, and if JJJ hadn’t rejigged the Hot 100’s rules to make it a year by year thing, it would still be placing respectably in it each January.

1979 – The arcade game “Asteroids” is released

One of the earliest and best arcade games, infamous for its simple vector graphics and unjustly overlooked for the difficulty and depth of its game play, Asteroids was never as popular as Space Invaders or Pac-Man, although historically, it’s almost as iconic. But its simplicity ultimately worked against it: there was nowhere to go to build a franchise out of it, not even any easy way to create variant forms of it (there’s no game that serves as the Galaga to Asteroids’ Space Invaders, for example).

Asteroids had a reasonable reign in the arcades, but even prettying up the graphics couldn’t do that much to keep it current as display technologies improved and newer games took over the marketplace. But to those of us who loved it, it will never die.

An arcade cabinet over a background of asteroids in rings around a planet. The Asteroids logo and details about the game are seen at the bottom of the flyer.
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Hyperspace — Buckner & Garcia

1980 — The arcade game “Defender” is released

One of the earliest side-scrolling arcade video games, and probably the best known and most successful side-scroller, Defender was the single best-selling game ever to come out of the Williams Electronics workshops. Defender was a legendarily difficult game, in which it was never possible to actually finish – the game just continued to scroll from right to left, with an endless stream of enemies appearing.

It was an important evolution in gaming: the horizontal scrolling of the game was a massive advance in gaming formats that paved the way for a multitude of successors, imitators and evolutions – few of which managed its challenging game play as well.

Artwork of a vertical rectangular poster. The poster depicts the upper half of a black arcade cabinet with the title "Defender" displayed on the top portion. Above the cabinet, the poster reads "First, the pinball universe. Now, the world of video. Once again, Williams reigns supreme."
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The Defender — Buckner & Garcia

1980 — The arcade game “Centipede” is released

One of the classic arcade shoot-em-up games, Centipede was released in June 1980. Its success can be roughly measured by the number of sequels, clones and ports that it spawned. Although not as large a franchise as Space Invaders, Pac-Man or Donkey Kong/Mario, it is still one of the few games to have survived from its arcade beginnings to all the current games platforms.

1980 — The arcade game “Berzerk” is released

One of the most fondly remembered arcade games of its era, Berzerk combined fast shooting action with (at the time) groundbreaking speech synthesis samples – many of which have been sampled in assorted songs and other video games in tribute to Berzerk. Most of these samples came from the robots who were the player’s main enemy in the game.

The main enemy of Berzerk, Evil Otto, appears to be a malign basketball, but he is also the only arcade game villain to have caused deaths in the real world, with two different people succumbing to heart attacks (as teenagers, yet) after marathon Berzerk sessions.

Berzerk arcade flyer.jpg
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1981 — Basia Bonkowski hosts the first episode of “Rock Around The World”

It was nothing short of a revelation.

A host playing music clips or having bands perform live in the studio was nothing new, but it was the way Basia went about it. For a start, she didn’t pass herself off as an expert, just an enthusiastic fan. And the music! At that time, Australian television played mostly mainstream acts from the UK, the US, or home. Basia took the title of her show as a mission statement: she didn’t care where in the world a piece of music came from, so long as it was good.

Fans responded to this approach, and the show rapidly went from playing once a week to screening four times a week. It only lasted three years, but those three years saw the Australian music landscape changed forever, with international influences becoming stronger, and local bands given a shot at reaching a national audience rather than just however many people could fit in the pub.

1981 — The arcade game “Mouse Trap” is released

Mouse Trap was a 1981 arcade game released by Exidy, A fairly obvious Pac-Man ripoff, it was successful enough that it was also ported to three different home game systems ColecoVision, Intellivision and the Atari 2600.

Mouse Trap did at least change up certain aspects of the game from Pac-Man – there were doors that players could open and close, it was possible to store power pills for later use, there were six rather than four hunters, and bonus items were available constantly rather than intermittently. The game had a small but devoted following, however, by 1999, very few of the arcade versions of it were still extant.

Mouse Trap arcade flyer.jpg
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Mousetrap — Buckner & Garcia

1981 — The arcade game “Frogger” is released

One of the all time classics of arcade gaming, Frogger is a simple enough game in its concept: you have to steer a frog across a busy highway. How hard could that be, right?

Produced by Konami, and distributed by Sega and Gremlin all around the world, it was very successful as an arcade game. So it’s no surprise that it would be ported to various computer and gaming systems. Perhaps more surprising, in thirty years, it hasn’t lost much in popularity – it’s now available for nearly any platform it can be, in a variety of remakes and sequels, most of them with greatly revised and improved gameplay.

1981 – The arcade game “Donkey Kong” is released

One of the most successful game franchises of all time – if not the most successful franchise – Donkey Kong originally started life as a Popeye game. Nintendo didn’t have the rights to Popeye, so they altered the characters into more original ones – although as the obviously King Kong inspired name of the game suggests, not that original. Still, it’s a good thing for them they did.

The Donkey Kong franchise has done very well itself, but Donkey Kong was also the origin of Mario, who would go on to become Nintendo’s flagship character and a highly successful game franchise in his own right. To date, across assorted media, there are more than 20 Donkey Kong games (depending on how one counts different versions of the same game), and another 30+ Mario games. It’s hard to imagine that a Popeye franchise would have been that popular.

1993 — Encarta is first published by Microsoft

Of all the events I’ve classified as Dateless here – meaning that, for one reason or another, no way existed to date them accurately, this is the most peculiar. But the information does not seem to be anywhere on the web – even Microsoft’s own site does not record the release date of this, the earliest version of their cd-rom encyclopaedia, Microsoft Encarta.

Encarta is in many ways a bridge between traditional encyclopedias such as the Britannica, and internet based encyclopedias such as Wikipedia. While its editing policies and hard-coded nature are in the tradition of the Britannica, its searchability represented a massive advance, as did its use of hyperlinking between articles and the inclusion of animations or archival footage to help illustrate articles.

If anyone reading this owns any copy of Encarta, I’d be curious to know whether Encarta’s entry for itself lists its original release date.

2139 — The Volunteers set sail

Brian May described this song as his own little science fiction story.

It concerns a group who set out in a space ship, sailing ‘across the milky sea’ (which is a reference to both the Milky Way and to a pre-Queen band of Freddie Mercury’s, Sour Milk Sea), in search of a newer and better world. Their quest is ultimately successful, but their return to Earth That Was sees them fall foul of relativistic time dilation.

Queen A Night At The Opera.png
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’39 — Queen

2239 — The Volunteers come home

Brian May described this song as his own little science fiction story.

It concerns a group who set out in a space ship, sailing ‘across the milky sea’ (which is a reference to both the Milky Way and to a pre-Queen band of Freddie Mercury’s, Sour Milk Sea), in search of a newer and better world. Their quest is ultimately successful, but their return to Earth That Was sees them fall foul of relativistic time dilation.

Queen A Night At The Opera.png
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’39 — Queen

2525 — Something happens. Really.

Today’s entry in the Rock ‘n’ Roll History of the World could just as easily find a home in the Daft Lyrics Database.

You see, although Zager and Evans were quite happy to prophesy on at 1010 year intervals from 2525, they seem to have somehow forgotten to specify just what would actuallly happen in that year.

Either that, or what man and woman will find in the year 2525 is the year 3535, which seems to suggest that 2525 will be the year in which the human race develops time travel, thus making the doom-saying of the rest of the song trivially easy to sidestep.

In the Year 2525 Single.jpg
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In the Year 2525 — Zager and Evans

3535 — Humanity embraces better living through neurochemistry

In the year 3535, it appears that humanity lives in a brave new world where psychiatric drugs are mandatory – not so much prozac nation as prozac planet. And these drugs, well, they make lying impossible, so either we’re all much more guarded or we’re all much more blunt.

Either way, it makes me think of the film Equilibrium, because you’d probably need that sort of police force to run such a state.

In the Year 2525 Single.jpg
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In the Year 2525 — Zager and Evans

4545 — Widespread unemployment for dentists forecast

It’s unclear whether or not Zager and Evans believe that there will be starvation in the year 4545 – they say there will be nothing to chew, but that could also mean that we take all our nourishment in pill form.

More disturbingly – for anyone who isn’t a musician, at least – apparently there will be nothing to see, implying that the year 4545 will be marked by a year long eclipse and blackout. Alternately, it’s possible that Zager and Evans were members of the music video backlash before there was music video, or that the future they project is simply so incredibly boring that one wonders why they bothered…

In the Year 2525 Single.jpg
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In the Year 2525 — Zager and Evans

5555 — We stop using our arms and legs

By the year 5555, two important questions will have been resolved for humanity:
1) the conflict between leisure and exercise will be decided in favour of leisure, as we substitute cute little mechanised karts (or possibly some form of un-armoured personnel carriers) for legs. Apparently, they will also feature Dr Octopus-like arms, too, as we will apparently not use any of our limbs.
2) natural evolution will finally lose its race with technologically-assisted evolution.

Of these, the first forecast seems less likely, unless teledildonics has also made incredible advances (not impossible in 2500 years, I guess…)

In the Year 2525 Single.jpg
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In the Year 2525 — Zager and Evans

6565 — Everyone’s a Test Tube Baby

Apparently, by the year 6565, genetic engineering will finally be caught up with by social change. Not only will it be possible to completely order up the genetic makeup you want in your… let’s call them offspring, shall we? – but there will apparently no longer be any stigma whatsoever attached to being a single parent.

Not only that, but it appears that people will actually not be as socially maladjusted as you might think from all of this – although we will not yet be immune to the sorrows to which humanity is heir.

In the Year 2525 Single.jpg
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In the Year 2525 — Zager and Evans

7510 — We stop waiting for God to show up

Zager and Evans rather depressingly assert that we’ll still be waiting for Judgement Day in 5000 years’ time. God, it seems, moves in ways that mysterious and ineffable, but above all, slow.

To be fair, Z&E also set this point as a deadline for God, and state that if he hasn’t made it be then, he might as well not bother, and we should stop waiting for him.

If they’re right, it would seem that there would never be a Rapture, which may or may not be good thing, depending on your beliefs.

In the Year 2525 Single.jpg
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In the Year 2525 — Zager and Evans

8510 — God has a decision to make

So it seems that there’s a deadline: God’s only going to give us 8510 years (plus however many there were BC, I guess), and then he’s going to pass judgement on the whole Human Race Project, and like as not toss the whole thing out and start over.

Or so Zager and Evans would have us believe. The fact that there’s a next verse to this song, taking us even further into the future, tends to belie the danger of God returning to square one here.

In the Year 2525 Single.jpg
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In the Year 2525 — Zager and Evans

9595 — Ecological catastrophe?

It turns out that Zager and Evans were more optimistic than Joss Whedon: he thought that Earth That Was would be used up more than 7000 years earlier. Still, it’s the same destination: Earth completely used up and nothing left, an ecological crash from which there is no recovery.

Indeed, there may not even be any humans left to see it – presumably 9595 is the point where the last microbes can no longer make it, either.

In the Year 2525 Single.jpg
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In the Year 2525 — Zager and Evans