The Mayan calender prophecy is the latest in a long line of cosmic events that were said to spell the end. Here are some of the most anticipated apocalypses in history – all of which, needless to say, fizzled.
2800 BC: An Assyrian clay tablet is inscribed with the words: “Our earth is degenerate in these latter days. There are signs that the world is speedily coming to an end.” Almost five millennia later, we’re still waiting.
634 BC: A mystical number revealed to Romulus makes the Romans believe their empire would fall 120 years after it was founded. They still had 1000 years to go.
30 AD: Jesus dies on the cross; his followers prepare for the Messiah’s Second Coming, Judgment Day and a new era of peace on earth.
90: The Book of Revelation outlines the Armageddon-to-come, starring the Four Horsemen and the Antichrist.
500: It’s time for some mid-millennium panic, with anti-papal Christians like Hippolytus of Rome predicting the end – or is it the beginning?
968: An eclipse is interpreted by Emperor Otto III of Germany as the prelude to Armageddon.
1000: European Christians go mad for the apocalypse; they invade non-Christian countries in an effort to convert everyone in time for the Second Coming. Many give their life savings to the church, but get nothing back when JC doesn’t show.
1346: The Black Death kills almost a third of Europe. Many saw this unprecedented pestilence as a prelude to the end.
1669: Twenty thousand apocalyptic Russian Orthodox ‘old believers’ burn themselves to death to avoid facing up to the Antichrist.
1843-44: American evangelical leader William Miller expects Armageddon in 1843, but postponed it a year when life went on. Up to 100,000 people quit their jobs and sold all their possessions in preparation for the big event. They soon suffered what was called The Great Disappointment.
1850: Ellen White, founder of the Seventh-Day Adventists, makes the first of many end-time predictions.
1945: A Protestant minister in Hiroshima confuses the atomic bomb dropped on August 6 as a sign of God’s final judgment.
1973: David Berg, leader of the Children of God cult, prophesizes the arrival of a very destructive comet; he flees the US in 1973 to avoid its imminent effects.
1992: The Korean Hyoo-go (“Rapture”) movement anticipates the end on October 28, predicting World War III and hundreds of millions of deaths. It was feared many would commit suicide when the date passed, but most just wept, crying out “God lied to us”.
1993: David Koresh, the doomsday prophet inspired by the Seventh-Day Adventism, and 75 of his followers meet their maker after their compound is burnt to the ground by the FBI (a.k.a. Satan?).
2000: Y2K, or the “Millennium Bug”, prepares to do God’s work by bringing about the collapse of the modern world.