Famous Historical Events We Wish We Could Have Witnessed

Voting Rules
Vote up the historic moments you wish you could have seen firsthand.

Many individual moments in history have had profound consequences for the years, centuries, and even millennia that followed. Often, the only access to such moments is through the written record, in which those living at the time (or soon after) recorded their thoughts, impressions, and descriptions. While these sorts of documents have been invaluable for historians, they often leave us rather unsatisfied. 

In fact, many Facebook users have identified particular historical events they wish they could have visited. As their words reveal, witnessing history firsthand has a power no written record, no matter how vividly written, can ever hope to match.

  • Touring The Seven Wonders Of The World
    Photo: Maerten van Heemskerck / Wikimedia Commons / Public domain
    824 VOTES

    Touring The Seven Wonders Of The World

    From Facebook commenter Kyle Peterson:

    If it was prehistory, I'd choose the beginning. But I'll go with a leisurely tour of the Seven Wonders of the ancient world. Not an event, but an adventure.

    Context: The Seven Wonders are widely regarded as the pinnacle of human achievement in the ancient Mediterranean world. These included the hanging gardens of Babylon, the Mausoleum at Halicarnassus, the statue of Zeus at Olympia, the temple of Artemis at Ephesus, the Colossus of Rhodes, the lighthouse at Alexandria, and the pyramids of Giza. Despite some variation, these are the seven usually agreed upon, as drawn from the work of Antipater of Sidon.

    Today, the pyramids of Giza are the only Wonders to exist in any sort of complete form.

    824 votes
  • 2
    668 VOTES

    The Building Of Stonehenge

    From Facebook commenter Betsy Connolly:

    The building of Stonehenge (really any of the stone circles) and the ceremonies and ways they were used.

    Context: The stone monolith known as Stonehenge has become indelibly associated with England, and it has loomed on Salisbury Plain since approximately 2500 BCE. It was, and is, a marvel of construction, having been built before the arrival of metal tools or the wheel. 

    The stones used in its construction were transported over several miles, worked into shape, and, historians believe, fitted into place using wooden platforms and holes dug in the ground. After this, they underwent one final round of shaping. 

    668 votes
  • 3
    625 VOTES

    The Disappearance Of The Roanoke Colony

    From Facebook commenter Jackie Lyn Taylor:

    The vanishing of the Lost Colony. A mystery [to] this day.

    Context: The disappearance of the Roanoke Colony is one that has preoccupied historians and conspiracy theorists for centuries. Founded in what is today North Carolina by statesman and courtier Sir Walter Raleigh in 1587, it was the second such effort. 

    The governor of the colony, John White, returned to England in an effort to procure supplies. Unfortunately, his return was delayed by the outbreak of hostilities between Spain and England. By the time he returned, the colony had disappeared, with only the word “Croatoan” carved into trees to suggest their whereabouts. It remains unclear whether they traveled to the nearby island of the same name or some other tragic fate befell them.

    625 votes
  • The Eruption Of Mount Vesuvius In 79 CE
    Photo: Carlo Sanquirico / Wikimedia Commons / Public domain
    688 VOTES

    The Eruption Of Mount Vesuvius In 79 CE

    From Facebook commenter Jannette Sims:

    I would love to have witnessed Pompeii in 79 CE. Would really like to know why so many people stayed.

    Context: Few natural disasters have exerted quite a hold on the imagination as the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in 79 CE. The titanic explosion would bury two notable cities, Pompeii and Herculaneum, under tons of ash and volcanic debris, preserving them for millennia to come. 

    The residents of the towns had felt earthquakes for several days preceding the eruption but, since they were common, few took them for the harbingers of doom they were. Though it’s hard to say with precision, most historians believe the death count to be in the range of 13,000-16,000, which included the noted author Pliny the Elder (his nephew, Pliny the Younger, went on to write about the disastrous day).

    688 votes
  • The Romanovs' 1903 Costume Ball
    Photo: Unknown / Wikimedia Commons / Public domain

    From Facebook commenter Opal Rae Waters:

    The last winter ball of the Russian czar before the revolution. I'd love to have seen those clothes.

    Context: For centuries, the Romanovs exercised almost total control over Russia. As absolute monarchs, they believed firmly in their right to rule their people, and they acted like it. Famous for their luxury and power, the Romanovs were especially well-known for the 1903 costume ball. 

    The event, hosted at the Winter Palace, was the embodiment of the lavish lifestyle of the Russian elite, with elaborate costumes and two full days of celebrations. However, just a decade later, this would come to be seen as one of the last gasps of the monarchy’s power, as Nicholas II would be forced to abdicate, after which he would be slain on the orders of the Bolsheviks.  

    549 votes
  • The Crystal Palace Exhibition
    Photo: Peter Berlyn / Charles Fowler, Jr. / George Measom / Wikimedia Commons / Public domain
    512 VOTES

    The Crystal Palace Exhibition

    From Facebook commenter Alison Smith:

    The 1851 Great Exhibition at the Crystal Palace.

    Context: The 19th century was a golden age for expositions of various types, and one of the most notable was the Crystal Palace Exhibition of 1851. The brainchild of England's Prince Albert, the husband and consort of Queen Victoria, he intended it to be an international display. 

    With the backing of numerous subscribers, including the queen herself, it became one of the highlights of the age. Thousands of exhibits were sent from numerous countries, including France and the United States, which sent 1,760 and 560 exhibits, respectively. The building itself was a marvel, and even after the end of the exhibition, it was reconstructed elsewhere.  

    512 votes