30 BC – Cleopatra VII Philopator, the last ruler of the Egyptian Ptolemaic dynasty, commited suicide, allegedly by means of an asp bite.
1198 – Battle Of Llanbedr Castell-Paen, Radnorshire. One of the bloodiest and decisive battles in Welsh history, an English army under William de Breos slaughtered 3000 Welsh of the army of Gwenwynwyn, Prince of Powys, thereby putting paid to the latter’s hopes for a united Wales.
1827 – William Blake died. English poet, painter, and printmaker. Largely unrecognised during his lifetime, Blake is now considered a seminal figure in the history of both the poetry and visual arts of the Romantic Age. His prophetic poetry has been said to form “what is in proportion to its merits the least read body of poetry in the English language”. His visual artistry has led one contemporary art critic to proclaim him “far and away the greatest artist Britain has ever produced”.Although he lived in London his entire life, except for three years spent in Felpham, he produced a diverse and symbolically rich corpus, which embraced the imagination as “the body of God”, or “Human existence itself”.
Considered mad by contemporaries for his idiosyncratic views, Blake is held in high regard by later critics for his expressiveness and creativity, and for the philosophical and mystical undercurrents within his work. His paintings and poetry have been characterised as part of both the Romantic movement and “Pre-Romantic”, for its large appearance in the 18th century. Reverent of the Bible but hostile to the Church of England – indeed, to all forms of organised religion – Blake was influenced by the ideals and ambitions of the French and American revolutions, as well as by such thinkers as Jakob Böhme and Emanuel Swedenborg. Despite these known influences, the singularity of Blake’s work makes him difficult to classify.
1831 – Helena Blavatsky born. A scholar of ancient wisdom literature who along with H.S Olcott and Anagarika Dharmapala was instrumental in the Western transmission and revival of Theravada Buddhism. In 1875 Blavatsky and Olcott established a research and publishing institute called the Theosophical Society. Blavatsky defined Theosophy as “the archaic Wisdom-Religion, the esoteric doctrine once known in every ancient country having claims to civilization,” and her extensive research into the many different spiritual traditions of the world led to the publication of what is now considered her magnus opus, The Secret Doctrine, which collates and organizes the essence of these teachings into a comprehensive synthesis. Blavatsky saw herself as a missionary of this ancient knowledge and one of the main purposes of the Theosophical Society was “to form a nucleus of the Universal Brotherhood of Humanity, without distinction of race, creed, sex, caste or color”. Blavatsky’s other works include Isis Unveiled, The Key to Theosophy, and The Voice of the Silence.
1960 – Echo-1, the first successful communications satellite, launched.
1981 – IBM released their first personal computer.
1992 – John Cage died. American composer, music theorist, writer, and artist. A pioneer of indeterminacy in music, electroacoustic music, and non-standard use of musical instruments, Cage was one of the leading figures of the post-war avant-garde. Critics have lauded him as one of the most influential American composers of the 20th century and he was also instrumental in the development of modern dance, mostly through his association with choreographer Merce Cunningham, who was also Cage’s romantic partner for most of their lives.