August 25th 79: Pliny the Elder died

On this day in 79 AD, the famous Roman author and philosopher Pliny the Elder died. Pliny was a prominent Roman citizen, serving in the army and becoming a friend of Emperor Vespasian. Among his written works include his comprehensive Natural History which is the precursor for all modern encyclopedias. In his capacity as fleet commander of the Roman Navy, Pliny witnessed the eruption of Mount Vesuvius which destroyed Pompeii and Herculaneum. Following the eruption, Pliny crossed the Bay of Naples in an attempt to rescue a friend from the devastation and to observe the phenomenon directly. Despite the rubble raining down on his boat, Pliny pushed his boat onward and declared "Fortune favours the brave". Once he reached the shore and found his friend, Pliny’s party became stranded on the shore. The next day he collapsed and died, supposedly from the toxic fumes, however the rest of his party returned safely. In his will he legally adopted his nephew Pliny the Younger who also became a renowned philosopher and served as a provincial governor of Bithynia; his letters to Emperor Trajan provide fascinating evidence of the relationship between emperors and governors in the Roman Empire.

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Robin Williams is said to have suffered from severe depression before he took his own life. I’ve been in that boat for a long time myself as a bipolar person, and I cannot emphasize enough how much reaching out to people, and getting professional help helped me. I know how hard it is to find the…

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July 28th 1794: Robespierre et al. executed

On this day in 1794, Maximilien Robespierre, Louis Antoine de Saint-Just, Georges Couthon and many of their peers were executed by guillotine in Paris. Robespierre, Saint-Just and Couthon were leading figures in the French Revolution and were radical Jacobins. They served on the Committee of Public Safety, which ruled France during the bloody ‘Reign of Terror’ which saw mass violence and executions of ‘enemies of the revolution’. There was a coup against the Committee on July 27th 1794, which prompted a reactionary movement against the bloody policies of the Reign of Terror. For their role in the violence, Robespierre, Saint-Just and Couthon were executed.

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