Tag Archives: Germany

Finalwords

6 Mythical Final Words of Famous People

Many of the ‘‘last words”, allegedly left by the great men and women of the human history, were actually never said.

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Johann Wolfgang Goethe

Johann Wolfgang Goethe

Who Was He: German writer and politician

”More light!”(”Mehr licht!”)

Throughout his life, Johann Wolfgang Goethe was often fascinated by the physical and philosophical effects of the light on human beings. This may lead us to believing, that it was a last plea for a greater enlightenment before his death, however, these alleged last words of Goethe, were a result of misinpretation. Moments before his death, Goethe actually said: ”Please open the second window of the bedroom so that more light can enter.”

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Gaius Julius Caesar

Gaius Julius Caesar

Who Was He: Roman general, statesman and consul

“And you too, Brutus?”(”Et tu, Brute?”)

Although this sounds as the perfect dramatic thing Julius Caesar could say moments before his brutal death, the truth appears to be more prosaic. According to historical evidence, he never said these famous last words at the moment of his assassination.

Ancient Roman historian Plutarch reports, that Caesar didn’t say anything and just pulled his toga over his head when he saw Marcus Brutus in the group of conspirators. Fame of this alleged Caesar’s quote is mostly attributed to its occurrence in the theatrical play Julius Caesar, by William Shakespeare, written in 1599.

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Emperor Nero

Nero Claudius Caesar Augustus Germanicus

Who Was He: Roman Emperor

“What an great artist the world loses in me!”(Qualis artifex pereo!)

Emperor Nero, who lived during the Imperial era of the ancient Rome, indeed considered himself a great artist. Apparently for that were these last words attributed to Nero by ancient Roman historian Suetonius.

In reality, Nero, when he was finally found by the Praetorians in the puddle of his own blood, had already slashed his trachea, and was so weakened by his unsuccesful suicide attempt, that he probably managed only to incoherent babbling sounds.

In addition, according to numerous writings by his biographers, his alleged last words were not “What an great artist the world loses in me!”, but instead ”What a fidelity!”, after one of the centurions removed the dagger from his wound, and tried to stop bleeding with his tunic. Nero didn’t know, that the centurion had been ordered to bring him to the jury alive.

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Frederick the Great

Frederick the Great

Who Was He: King of Prussia, known for his great military achievements

”I am tired of ruling over slaves”(Ich bin es müde, über Sklaven zu herrschen. )

These alleged last words of the Frederick the Great, the King of Prussia, were likely taken from his letter adressed to Count von Golz in Königsberg, in which Frederick demanded, that ”Peasants who settle on the newly dried swamplands, must be sole owners of all their property, they must not be people in servitude or subjugation.”

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Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel

Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel

Who Was He: German philosopher, one of the founders of German Idealism.

Only one of my students has ever understood me… and even he got it wrong.”

According to contemporary sources, these were the last words of great German philosopher Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel. The ”student” mentioned was allegedly Johann Philipp Gabler(1786-1853). These words, which perfectly describe the nature of Hegel’s philosophy, were probably made up later by his followers. His wife, only person who was with Hegel during his last hours, never mentioned any of these words being said by her dying husband.

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Dylan Thomas

Dylan Thomas

Who Was He: Welsh poet and writer

“I’ve had 18 straight whiskies. I think that’s the record!”

Famous Welsh poet Dylan Thomas reportedly said these words. However, according to available witnesses, he didn’t say them at the day of his death, but right after he returned from his last drinking spree in Hotel Chelsea, New York. He died few weeks later, as a direct result of his long-term alcohol abuse.

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Witch

Were Witches Really Burned in the Middle Ages?

So-called “Middle Ages”, European historical period from 5th to 15th century, have quite a disrepute in the modern times. We don’t consider it one of the periods which majority of us, civilized and enlightened people of modern age, would sincerely like to visit.

However, we often overlook one important fact; that one of the darkest episodes in human history, the witch-hunt hysteria of centuries long-gone, has actually nothing to do with the Middle Ages.

In fact, first major witch hunts appeared at the very end of the medieval period, in the Renaissance era, and continued until the end of the Enlightenment age. During the times of Galileo, Luther or Gutenberg, probability of being burned at the stake as a witch or wizard was the highest in history.

Although executions by burning were fairly common in the Middle Ages, they were reserved only to heretics and other people who disobeyed the Catholic church. Witch trials, as we see them in the movies, with their absurd accusations of weather manipulation, satanic worship and child sacrifices, never happened before year 1400.

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Burning of the witches in Baden, 1585

In the year 1419, the word “hexereye(witchcraft)” was first used in Valais during a trial, and in year 1431, Joanne of Arc was executed, after being accused of witchcraft. However, true witchhunt hysteria didn’t begin until year 1487, when the book ”Malleus Maleficarum”, written by Heinrich Kramer, was published for the first time.

This book, and many similar works, were written to quasi-scientifically prove that witches do exist.In scientific and judiciary terms, they explained the imminent dangers of the witchcraft to the society, and the ways it should be coped with. In subsequent decades, witch-hunting was being gradually more and more endorsed by the state and church. However, the true witch-hysteria didn’t begin until the years 1560-1630.

Feast of the devils and the witches. Wood engraving, date and author unknown

At the time, most of the scientists, university professors, theologists and philosophers started to consider the existence of witches being factual, although the idea had been dismisssed by the church long centuries before. Even famous doctor Paracelsus and many reformators, including Martin Luther, explicitly endorsed the persecution of witches. Oftentimes, the most educated people of the society stridently demanded no mercy for the witches, because their crimes were allegedly feats of the devil.

Probably the most zealous man among all of these people was French reformator John Calvin. Before his arrival to the Geneve, local witch-trials always resulted in relatively mild punishments, such as financial penalties or expulsion from the city. In the years 1495 – 1531, less than one dozen of witches were executed burned at the stake in Geneve. However, after John Calvin had arrived, more than 500 people convicted of witchcraft were executed during a period of only two years. In contrast with other city councillors, he strictly insisted on burning all people even accused of witchcraft.

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Portrait of John Calvin, by Hans Holbein

Exact cause of this explosion of collective hysteria remains unknown to the present day. But one thing is for sure; this dark time in human history has nothing to do with the Middle Ages.

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