Real people, real stories – more than just dates and boring facts
177 Commodus, son of Emperor Marcus Aurelius becomes consul (the highest elected public official of the Roman Republic) for the first time at 15 then youngest in Roman history. He is best known for his passion for the gladiatorial games, which he took so far as to take to the arena himself, dressed as a gladiator. His eccentric behaviour raises the ire of many in Rome, and leads to his assassination.
1487 Bartolomeu Dias enters a wide bay (Luderitz Bay) after sailing for three weeks along the arid coast of south-west Africa and raises a stone cross. It is called Angra Pequeña, until bought by Adolf Luderitz in 1883.
1515 Francis, Duke of Angouleme succeeds King Louis XII as Francis I of France, the first king from House of Valois, also known as Francis of the big nose. As a humanist and the man credited with bringing the Renaissance to France, he encouraged the arts. He provided Leonardo da Vinci with a pension and bought the Mona Lisa.
1583 First day of the Gregorian calendar goes into effect in Holland and Flanders, the first to adopt it. The calendar was announced in October 1582 in a papal bull by Pope Gregory XIII to replace the Julian calendar. The main change was to space leap years differently to make the average calendar year more closely approximate the ‘solar’ year.
1700 Russia begins using the Anno Domini era and no longer uses the Anno Mundi (year after creation) era of the Byzantine Empire.
1880 Building of the Panama Canal, which opens in 1914, begins. The 82km waterway connects the Atlantic and Pacific oceans.
1906 A despised poll tax of £1 per head on all adult male inhabitants of Natal, except indentured Indians and married Blacks, becomes payable.
1928 The first US air-conditioned office building opens in San Antonio, Texas.
1939 Hewlett-Packard is founded by Bill Hewlett and Dave Packard in a garage in Palo Alto, “the birthplace of Silicon Valley”, California.
1985 The Internet’s Domain Name System (DNS) is created. The DNS works much like a phone book by managing the mapping between names and numbers. DNS servers translate requests for names into IP addresses, controlling which server an end user will reach when they type a domain name into their web browser.
1986 South Africa closes its borders with Lesotho, cutting off food and fuel supplies, after Lesotho refuses to sign a non-aggression pact.
1992 The Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic is renamed the Russian Federation, becoming the successor to the Soviet Union. It is the largest country in the world by area, extends across 11 time zones, and shares land boundaries with 14 countries. Russia is 14 times bigger than South Africa and half as large as Africa.
2006 Sydney, Australia swelters through another of its hottest New Year’s Days with the temperature peaking at 45ºC, equal to that of the same date in 1939, and sparking bushfires and power outages.
2019 Qatar introduces a 100% tax on alcohol and other ‘health-damaging goods’, doubling the price of alcohol, tobacco, energy drinks and pork.
2022 State Funeral in Cape Town for anti-apartheid leader Archbishop Desmond Tutu.