What happened on this day in history: Emperor Augustus dies in 14 C.E., legendary aviator and engineer Orville Wright is born, and more.
14 C.E.: Emperor Augustus Dies
After a 41-year reign, Augustus, the first Roman emperor, dies at the age of 75. Also known as Octavian, Augustus is cemented in history as one of the world’s most memorable leaders. Under his rule, the Roman Empire began a period known as Pax Romana, an era of relative peace. Augustus likely died from natural causes, though there are unfounded rumors that his wife Livia poisoned him. His famous last public words to the Roman populace were: “Behold, I found Rome of clay, and leave her to you of marble.”
1692: George Burroughs Is Hanged During The Salem Witch Trials
George Burroughs and four other victims of the Salem Witch Trials are hanged for witchcraft in one of the town’s many rounds of executions.
Burroughs, a minister, had been arrested in May after members of his congregation in Salem who had sued him for previous debts accused him of witchcraft. Burroughs shocked the crowd that had gathered to watch the execution when he recited the Lord’s Prayer, something that witches weren’t supposed to be able to do.
1871: Orville Wright Is Born
Orville Wright, American aviation pioneer and brother of Wilbur Wright, is born in Dayton, Ohio. Despite some competing claims, the Wright brothers are credited with inventing and flying the world’s first motor-operated airplane. Orville, the younger of the two brothers, became president of the family business, the Wright Company, upon Wilbur’s early death. Later in his life, Orville Wright expressed sadness that planes played such a huge role in bringing death and destruction during the World Wars.
1936: The Great Purge Begins In The Soviet Union
The Great Purge begins as an effort to rid the Soviet Union of Joseph Stalin’s political rivals’ influence. The purge saw the executions of old Communist Party leadership and government officials before expanding to certain ethnic minorities, peasants, intellectuals, and ordinary citizens who were in the wrong place at the wrong time. This period lasted about two years, during which an estimated 700,000 to 1.2 million people died.
1997: Don Lewis Is Reported Missing
Don Lewis, the millionaire husband of big cat enthusiast Carole Baskin, is reported missing from his Tampa, Florida home and wildlife sanctuary.
In an investigation detailed in the popular Netflix documentary series Tiger King, police searched for Lewis without finding any solid evidence related to his disappearance. Some believe Baskin killed him and fed him to their tigers, though she vehemently denies such accusations. Lewis was declared legally dead in 2002.