" Standing armies can never consist of resolute robust men; they may be well-disciplined machines, but they will seldom contain men under the influence of strong passions, or with very vigorous faculties. "
Mary Shelley

Back in the day


Last Hanging at Tyburn Gallows

In 1571, a novel triangular gallows allowing for the hanging of several people at once was erected in the English village of Tyburn, which became so famous for its executions that thousands of paying spectators would turn out for hangings. During a 1649 mass execution, 24 prisoners were hanged there. The site became synonymous with capital punishment and was commonly invoked in euphemisms like "to take a ride to Tyburn," meaning to go to one's hanging. Who was "Lord of the Manor of Tyburn"?



Hanno the Elephant

Hanno was the pet white elephant of Pope Leo X, a member of the wealthy and powerful Medici family and one of the most extravagant Renaissance pontiffs. Hanno was given to Leo as a gift by King Manuel I of Portugal to commemorate the pope's coronation. A favorite of the papal court, Hanno was featured in processions in Rome. He contracted an illness after just two years there, however, and died in 1516. Hanno was the subject of a satirical pamphlet that helped launch the career of what author?

Born on a day like today


Vincenzo Bellini

Bellini was an Italian composer who was born into a musical family and began composing in his childhood. He wrote his first opera at age 24 and went on to complete nine more before his death at age 33. His most celebrated works, which rely strongly on beautiful vocal melody and include the operas Norma and La Sonnambula—Italian for "The Sleepwalker"—greatly influenced the work of Giuseppe Verdi. According to legend, what musical feat could Bellini perform at just 18 months of age?

Last updated on Wednesday, 3rd November 2010

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