Coin depicting Nero.
Roman Emperor Nero's last words were "Qualis artifex pereo"—roughly, "What an artist dies in me". (source)
Hypatia (ca. 355 or ca. 370–415 A.D.) was a soaring figure of beauty, eloquence, and learning, and the last recorded member of the great Library of Alexandria and the only noted woman scholar of antiquity. She taught Neoplatonism (hence, she was a pagan) and helped to demonstrate Euclid's ideas. Although Christian bishops were among her pupils, she was the subject of violent antagonism on the part of zealots. She was murdered in 415 by rioting fanatic monks, under the leadership of bishop Cyril, who brutally sliced her body to pieces with oyster shells gathered from the Alexandrian harbour. (source)
Pope Adrian II (also known as Hadrian II), pope from 867 to 872, was the last married pope. He had married before he was elected pope, and refused to put away his wife Stephania when he became pope. For a while he, his wife, and a daughter lived in the Lateran Palace together. Interestingly enough, several subsequent popes, though unmarried, fathered children. (source)
View more facts about: Popes
The lions used by the Romans in the Colosseum were Barbary lions, whose manes covered nearly half of their bodies. While the export of lions to Rome threatened their population, greater damage was done after Roman times, when they were killed by Arabs, encouraged by governments that exempted tribes that killed lions from taxation. The Barbary lion's last stronghold was in the Atlas Mountains, where the last true Barbary lion was killed in 1922. (source)
The passenger pigeon, which became extinct on September 1, 1914, when the Cincinnati zoo's specimen, Martha, died, was the most abundant bird in the world in the nineteenth century and the most abundant ever in North America. Scottish-American ornithologist Alexander Wilson once watched a 250-mile-long flock pass over his Kentucky home for two whole days. In 1813, naturalist John James Audubon saw a flock that flew past at an estimated 300 million birds per hour for three days, blotting out the sun. However, due to vigourous hunting and destruction of their habitat, by the 1860s the birds had disappeared from the American east coast and were quickly disappearing everywhere else. The last big pigeon hunt took place in 1878 near Petoskey, Michigan, killing one billion birds. The last wild passenger pigeon was shot in St. Vincent, Quebec, on September 23, 1907. In 1909, a reward of $1,500 was offered for information on a nesting pair, and while it was believed for a few years that it might be possible to find the passenger pigeon in the remote Lake of the Woods region, none were found; the species was extinct. (source)
Ludwig Van Beethoven's last words were: "I shall hear in heaven!". Beethoven was deaf for the last few years of his life. (source)
View more facts about: Music
The last occasion on which professional scientists took any serious notice of an alchemist's claim to have turned lead into gold happened in 1783. The Royal Society in London called on one of its Fellows, James Price, to show how he had achieved the alchemist's dream. But Price failed to replicate his successful experiment and, before the eyes of three colleagues, drank prussic acid and died.
Oscar Wilde's last words were, as he was asking for a final champagne, "I am dying, as I have lived, beyond my means". (source)
In Santos, Brazil, there is a thirty-two-storey tall building that serves as a cemetery. It is outfitted with over 14,000 tombs. (source)
Great Britain's last battle with the United States took place after the War of 1812 was concluded with the Treaty of Ghent on December 24th, 1814. News travelled so slowly in those days that, on January 9th, 1815, British General Sir Edward Pakenham, unaware of the peace treaty, launched an assault on American fortifications near the mouth of the Mississippi River. The American defenses were almost unassailable, however, and Pakenham was killed along with several hundred of his men. Under the command of General Lambert, the British retreated and captured Fort Mobile in Alabama on February 11th before learning that the war was over. (source)
Slavery ended in the British Empire on August 1, 1834, when legislation passed in 1833 took effect. The legislation specified an apprenticeship scheme for the freed slaves that in some cases resulted in them being treated harsher than before, but slavery in any form in the Empire ended by August 1, 1838. The legislation also compensated slave-owners with £20,000,000; the slaves received nothing besides their freedom. (source)
The last battle ever fought on British soil took place on May 31st, 1838, when John Nicholl Thom, who had proclaimed himself to be the Messiah and led a group of disaffected farm labourers to rebel, fought the 45th Regiment of Foot in Bosenden Wood near Canterbury. While the rebels initially killed the commanding officer and were able to fight off the much better equipped soldiers, they were eventually outclassed and overwhelmed. Thom himself was killed and the rebellion ended. (source)
The last person to be publicly guillotined in France was Eugene Weidmann, who had been found guilty of strangling Jean De Koven, an American tourist. Although the execution was held at 4:50 on a Saturday morning (June 17, 1939), it attracted a large crowd. The guillotine was so efficient that few saw anything, but photographs that found their way to the front page of French newspapers so outraged the public that, the next week, a law was passed forbidding public executions. (source)
Pope Gregory XIII introduced the Gregorian Calendar in 1582. To correct the time error in the Julian calendar, which had been in use since 46 B.C., it was decreed that ten days (October 5–14, 1582) were to be omitted and it was ordained that, thereafter, years divisible by 100 but not divisible by 400 would not be leap years. Most Roman Catholic countries accepted these changes immediately. Protestant countries delayed for a while (for example, England waited until 1752). Other countries delayed even longer. For example, Greece didn't adopt the Gregorian calendar until 1912, and the last country to change over was Turkey, in 1927. (source)
Albert Einstein's last words will never be known. He spoke them in German, but the attending nurse didn't know German and so couldn't recall what was said. (source)
The last person on the moon was Eugene Cernan. He and fellow explorer Harrison Schmidt left the moon at 5:40 A.M. GMT, December 13th, 1972. No humans have visited the moon since then.
When Thomas Edison died in 1931, his friend Henry Ford trapped the inventor's last breath in a bottle. Ford counted it among his most prized possessions until his own death in 1947. (source)
Babe Ruth's last home run was hit in 1946, when the owner of the Veracruz Blues of the Mexican League hired the 51-year-old Ruth for $10,000 to bat once in a game against the Mexico City Reds. The pitcher, Ramon Brazana, threw three balls before being replaced with a relief pitcher. The reliever threw his first pitch straight down the middle, and Ruth hit the pitch into the right-field bleachers. (source)
The last person to contract smallpox through natural transmission was Ali Maow Maalin, a hospital cook in Somalia who contracted it after coming into contact with an infected child in 1977. Maalin survived. In 1978, Janet Parker, an English medical photographer, was exposed to smallpox through a laboratory accident, and subsequently died. The laboratory's virologist felt so guilty that he later committed suicide. On May 8th, 1980, the World Health Organization declared smallpox eradicated, although some samples remain in laboratories in Atlanta and Moscow. (source)
The last United States president to be born in a log cabin was James Garfield, born on November 19th, 1831, in Orange, Cuyahoga County, Ohio. (source)
Witchcraft was not legalised in Great Britain until 1951. The last person in Great Britain to be convicted under the Witchcraft Act was Jane Rebecca Yorke, who was convicted in September 1944. She received a lenient sentence and a fine. (source)
The last American pirate to be hanged was Nathaniel Gordon, who was hanged in "the Tombs" in New York City on February 21, 1862. Previously, while captain of the ship Erie, his ship was captured by the American ship Mohican. An inspection revealed 967 blacks aboard who were to be sold into slavery. Conditions were so bad aboard that 300 died before they could be returned to Africa. Gordon was charged with piracy and found guilty. In addition to being the last American pirate to be hanged, he was the first, and only, American slave trader to be executed for being engaged in the slave trade. (source)
Possibly the shortest last will ever was written by Karl Tausch, a German businessman who died in 1967. Its contents are "Vse zene", Czech for "all to wife". (source)
The last auroch, the wild ancestor of the cow, was killed in 1627 by a poacher on a Polish hunting preserve. (source)
The last hand-cranked, party-line telephone system in the United States was retired on July 12th, 1990, when it was replaced by private-line, touch-tone technology. This system had served eighteen residents of Salmon River Canyon, near North Fork, Idaho. (source)
The last execution in the Tower of London occurred on August 14th, 1941, when Josef Jakobs, a captured German spy, was shot by a firing squad. (source)
The last shot fired in World War II was a torpedo, not a bullet. It was fired from the U.S. submarine Torsk at 9:17 p.m., August 14, 1945 (just before the official end of the war at 11:00 p.m.), during a battle against several Japanese ships. The shot sank a Japanese coastal defense frigate. (source)
The last time the United States declared war was on June 5, 1942, during World War II, when it declared war on Hungary, Romania, and Bulgaria.