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Abelard to Azeglio
Abelard, Peter (1079-1142)

"I don't know."

Peter Abelard was the most noted philosopher of the first half of the 12th century.  He spent many years as a teacher of philosophy and is credited with establishing the University of Paris. Abelard's consistently questioning methods of teaching irritated the Church, and his writings were banned for much of his life. Abelard is best remembered today for his ill-fated love affair with his student, Heloise, which resulted in his castration by angry family members.

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Adams, John (1735-1826)

"Thomas Jefferson still survives."

John Adams represented Massachusetts as a delegate at both the first and second Constitutional Conventions and played a significant role garnering European support for the American Revolution.  He represented the United States during peace negotiations with Britain, served as George Washington's Vice-President, and was elected as the second United States President.  Following his presidency, he retired to his farm in Quincy and began a lengthy correspondence with Thomas Jefferson that would last over twenty-five years.  Although in his nineties and gravely ill, he resolved to live until the fiftieth anniversary of the Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1826.  That morning he was awakened by his servant who inquired if he knew what day it was.  "Oh, yes," Adams replied, "it is the glorious fourth of July.  God bless it.  God bless you all."  He then lapsed into unconsciousness.  Later that afternoon, he awakened briefly to mumble "Thomas Jefferson still surv. . . ." before dying.  Actually, Thomas Jefferson had died earlier that day.

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Adams, John Q. (1767-1848)

"This is the last of earth!  I am content"

John Quincy Adams was the son of John Adams and the sixth President of the United States.  Following his defeat by Andrew Jackson in 1828, he was elected by his home district to serve as a member of the House of Representatives where he tirelessly fought for the abolition of slavery.  He collapsed on the floor of the House from a stroke in 1848 and was carried to the Speaker's Room where he died two days later. 

John Quincy Adams's last words have also been recorded as "This is the end of the earth, but I am composed."

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Addison, Joseph (1672-1719)

"See in what peace a Christian can die."

Joseph Addison was an English politician and member of a literary clique that included Jonathon Swift.  He was co-author, along with Richard Steele, of two famous series of periodical essays, The Tatler and The Spectator.  Addison was preoccupied with manners and religion for much of his life.  He summoned his wayward stepson, Lord Warwick, while on his deathbed and challenged him with his dying words. 

Some have suggested that this tale is inauthentic as there is little evidence that Lord Warwick led anything but a proper life, and rumors existed that Addison's death was expedited by a fondness for brandy.

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Adolphus, Gustavus II

"I have enough.  Save yourself, brother"

Known as "the Lion of the North," Gustavus Adolphus led the Swedish Army in victory after victory against the Danes, Poles, and Russians almost from the day of his accession to the crown.  Once Sweden was finally secure and peace was at hand, Gustavus turned his attention to south and the Protestants in Germany, who were being persecuted since counter-Reformation had gained momentum within the Holy Roman Empire.  He entered the Thirty Years War in support of the German Protestant princes and soon became the leader of the cause against the Imperial Army of the joint Holy Roman Empire and the Catholic League.  In 1632, the forces met in a horrendous battle at Lutzen near Leipzig.  Although the Protestants won a major victory, Gustavus was killed.  While personally leading a decisive charge in the fight, he was wounded in the shoulder by an Imperial sharpshooter.  As he and his small group of bodyguards attempted to retire so the wound could be treated, they became disoriented and found themselves in no man's land between the lines.  A troop of Imperial cuirassiers discovered them and gave chase firing their pistols.  One bullet struck Gustavus at the base of his spine and he fell from his saddle.  One of his bodyguards wheeled to face the charging cavalrymen and was promptly cut down, while another attempted to reseat Gustavus.  Realizing the situation was hopeless, Gustavus encouraged his aide to flee.

Traditionally, Gustavus's last words have been recorded more nobly and much more unlikely as "I seal with my blood my religion and the liberties of Germany."  One account of his death states that when the cuirassiers surrounded Gustavus as he lay prone on the the ground, they demanded to know who he was.  "I am the King of Sweden," he painfully but proudly declared, and the soldiers immediately fired their pistols into his head.

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Alexander the Great (356-323 B.C.)

"To the strongest." 

Numerous theories, to include poisoning and a malarial relapse, have been proposed as the cause of Alexander's on a June afternoon in the Babylonian palace of King Nebuchadrezzer II.  What is known for certain is that following a banquet and drinking party hosted by his friend, Medius of Larissa, about a week before, Alexander fell seriously ill and took to bed.  Despite (or perhaps because of) self-medicating himself with Hellebore, a small plant that was alternately used as a cure-all and a poison, Alexander's condition worsened.  He lost the ability to move, except for his right arm, and could barely speak.  When it became apparent that his death was at hand, his generals filed in to pay their last respects.  One of his marshals asked Alexander to whom he wished to bequeath his empire since he had no acceptable heirs.  Alexander replied "Kratisto" (to the strongest) or "Krat'eroi" (to the stonger). 

Some scholars believe that Alexander may have actually said, "Krater'oi" (to Craterus), one Alexander's favorite and most able commanders.  Regardless, Craterus was assassinated before he assume control, Alexander's empire was split into four kingdoms.

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Allen, Ethan (1738-1789)

"Waiting are they?  Waiting are they?  Well--let 'em wait." 

Ethan Allen was a U.S. patriot and leader of the Green Mountain Boys during the American Revolution.  Allen's last words were a deathbed response to an attending doctor who attempted to comfort him by saying, "General, I fear the angels are waiting for you."

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Antoinette, Marie, Queen of France (1755-1793)

"Pardonnez-moi, monsieur."

Marie Antoinette was the wife of King Louis XVI.  She was convicted of treason following the Revolution and sentenced to death by beheading.  As she approached the guillotine, she accidentally stepped on the foot of her executioner.

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Archimedes of Syracuse  (298-212 B.C.)

"Wait 'till I have finished my problem!"

Archimedes was the leading mathematician of the Hellenistic Age.  During the Second Punic War after Syracuse sided with Carthage, it was besieged by the Roman army under the command of Marcellus.  For two years, between 214 and 212 B.C., the city fought off the Romans using many war engines invented by Archimedes including catapults and flame throwers.  Syracuse eventually fell through internal treachery and, during the sack of the city, Archimedes was captured and killed by a Roman soldier.

Archimedes last words have also been recorded as "Don't disturb my circles!" and "Stand away, fellow, from my diagram. . . .  Somebody give me one of my engines."

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Aretino, Pietro (1492-1556)

"Now I'm oiled.  Keep me from the rats."

Pietro Aretino was an Italian satirist and is often considered the father of pornographic writing.  He was known as the "Scourge of Princes" for his bitingly witty attacks on the aristocracy.  When his good friend, the painter Titian, came to him with a problem, Aretino was quick to offer assistance.  The Duke of Urbino had commissioned Titian to paint a nude portrait of his old and ugly wife.  As Titian feared the consequences, Aretino hired a beautifully proportioned prostitute to pose for the body and urged Titian to paint a flattering portrait of the duchess for the head.  The duchess was extremely pleased with the result, which Titain had named The Venus of Urbino. When the pair of friends presented the painting to the duke, he turned to Aretino and sighed, "If I could have had that girl's body, even with my wife's head, I would have been a happier man."  Aretino found the remark so exceedingly funny that he collapsed in a fit of laughter that provoked a stroke.  Aretino was unconscious by the time a priest was brought to administer the last rites.  No sooner had the priest finished, when Aretino opened his eyes, spoke his final two sentences, and expired. 

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Astor, John Jacob, IV (1864-1912)

"The ladies have to go first. . . .  Get in the lifeboat, to please me. . . .  Good-bye, dearie.  I'll see you later."

At the turn of the century, John Jacob Astor was the richest man in the world, owning over 700 prime Manhattan properties and serving as chairman for more than 20 different companies.  After divorcing his wife of many years, Astor married an 18 year old acquaintance, Madeline.  To escape the resulting scandal, the Astors took a two year holiday in Egypt and Europe.  When Madeline became pregnant while in England, the couple booked return passage to New York on the gigantic, ill-fated, new luxury liner, Titanic. After the ship struck its famous iceberg, the Astors were ushered to one of the last lifeboats.  As Astor started to enter, he noticed an approaching female passenger.  Turning to Madeline, he explained that he must give up his seat, and bid her farewell.  John Jacob Astor did not rejoin Madeline in New York for the birth of their son; he died, along with 1500 other passengers, when the ship sank.

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Astor, Lady Nancy Witcher Langhorne (1879-1964)

"Am I dying or is is this my birthday?"

Lady Astor was the first woman member of Parliament.  Noted for her biting wit, she occasionally got into verbal spats with Winston Churchill.  She spoke her last words when, on her deathbed, she momentarily awoke to find herself surrounded by her entire family.
Azeglio, Massimo Taparelli (1798-1866)

"Ah, Luisa, you always arrive just as I am leaving."

The Marchese d'Azeglio was an Italian statesman and writer of historical novels. He was a leader of the Risorgimento and served as the premier of Sardinia between 1849 and 1852.  Although in 1866 Azeglio had been separated from his wife, Luisa, for some time, when she heard he was dying she rushed to be with him.  Just as she arrived at his bedside, Azeglio died.