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Time Capsule: 1703

Snapshots of the world from one year in the past

THE 47 RŌNIN PAY FOR THEIR CRIME

In early 1703, 46 out of the famed ‘47 rōnin’ (masterless samurai) committed seppuku, a ritual suicide by self-disembowelment. The warriors had become outcasts two years previous, after their lord had been forced to kill himself in the same way - his punishment for attacking an imperial official who had publicly humiliated him. To restore their honour, and that of their leader, the loyal rōnin plotted retribution. It came in January 1703, when they stole into the official’s residence and cut off his head. The rōnin knew they would be sentenced to death for the killing, but - rather than be executed as criminals - were permitted to commit seppuku, and thus have an honourable demise. Forty-six of them slit open their bellies, but the 47th was spared, possibly on account of his young age.

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About BBC History Revealed Magazine

In AD 79, Pompeii was wiped out by a huge volcanic eruption that buried it beneath a thick carpet of ash and debris. We look back at fateful day – the day an entire Roman city died – and find out how the ruins offer us a glimpse into the lives of everyday Romans. Plus: Globetrotter Marco Polo meets Mongol warlord Kublai Khan; how the Night of the Long Knives made Hitler untouchable; inside the Victorian freak show; and all you need to know to survive an Edwardian dinner party