June 18

Time to consider some last words of famous folk in history.

“Draw thy sword, and slay me, that men say not of me, A women slew him.” Abimelech, king of Schechem, wounded by a stone thrown by a woman during the siege of Thebez, 12th century BC

“Heaven has turned against me. No wise ruler arises, and no one in the Empire wishes to make me his teacher. The hour of my death has come.” – Confucius, 479 BC. The Chinese sage and philosopher was, like Plato, often asked to consult on political matters and suggest reforms but, like Plato, saw few of his suggestions implemented.

 

Acta est fabula, plaudite.”  “Have I played the part well? Then applaud, as I exit.” Emperor Augustus, 14 AD

Seventeen centuries later, Samuel Johnson made this comment, alluding to the last words of Augustus:

A little more than nothing is as much as can be expected from a being who, with respect to the multitudes about him, is himself little more than nothing. Every man is obliged by the Supreme Master of the universe to improve all the opportunities of good which are afforded him, and to keep in continual activity such abilities as are bestowed upon him. But he has no reason to repine, though his abilities are small and his opportunities are few. He that has improved the virtue, or advanced the happiness, of one fellow-creature; he that has ascertained a single moral proposition, or added one useful experiment to natural knowledge, may be contented with his own performance; and, with respect to mortals like himself, may demand, like Augustus, to be dismissed at his departure with applause. 

“Vicisti, Galiaee.” “And yet Thou hast conquered, O Galilean!”

Julian the Apostate, Roman emperor (26 June 363 CE), mortally wounded in battle in battle against the Persians. Christian legend says that he was stabbed in the midst of the battle by the ghost of St. Longinus, the centurion who had supervised the execution of Jesus. His alleged last words were meant to acknowledge the triumph of Christ over Julian’s paganism.

I have now reigned above fifty years in victory or peace; beloved by my subjects, dreaded by my enemies, and respected by my allies. Riches and honours, power and pleasure, have waited on my call, nor does any earthly blessing appear to have been wanting to my felicity. In this situation, I have diligently numbered the days of pure and genuine happiness which have fallen to my lot: they amount to fourteen:—O man! place not thy confidence in this present world!

Abd al-Rahman III, Caliph of Córdoba, 961 was the founder of a new caliphate in Andalusia. He was a very successful politician and general, the scourge of the Christian kingdoms in Spain.

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