Examples of Historical Allusion

The Historical Allusion is a reference to some historical events of the period. It makes the reader dive into the ocean of history and finds some pearls of culture, persons, places, and events and grasps their importance in the text. In order to understand the historical allusion, the reader must be aware of its significance and place in history. They have an important part in literature and give a deeper understanding of an author’s message. These are just clues to the author’s intention now its reader’s work, and understanding to get his point and ideas. These allusions help to develop characters and enhance the frame of storylines. It is also a source of association with some well-known work. Some Historical Allusions are discussed below:

Example -1 Waterloo

The battle of Waterloo was a final military action of the French emperor Napoleon. In the end, his troops were crushed by a coalition of European forces. Waterloo has become a term referring to a decisive, crushing defeat of any sort.

SentenceSusan met her Waterloo in Chess.

Example -2 Sybaritic

The Greek city of Sybaris was founded in 820B.C and destroyed in 510 B.C. it was inhabited by wealthy people who deal in luxury and indulgence. Accordingly, Sybaritic is somebody devoted to luxury and pleasure.

SentenceThe sybaritic banquet included the most expensive bottles of wine with each course.

Example -3 Sell down the river

During the early –to- mid 19th century in America, slaves were transported down the Mississippi River for sale to the plantation where the work was harder than other counties. To sell the person down the river is to betray him for his own benefit.

SentenceThe company sold its employees down the river by cutting their bonuses for its benefits.

Example -4 Benedict Arnold

He was a successful general for American colonies during the Revolutionary War. Later he was proved as a traitor and switched the sides. It means someone who betrays or changes sides.

Sentence: Everyone called him Benedict Arnold when, for money, he changed his hosting channel and shared some secrets.

Example -5 Casanova

He was a famous Venetian adventurer and writer who romanced over 100 women during the early1700s. Calling someone a Casanova can be a compliment and an insult also. It means a charismatic man with a reputation for having too many romantic relationships.

SentenceShe knew that he was Casanova, but she couldn’t resist his stares.

Example -6 Donnybrook

It is the name of a village in Ireland that was home to an annual fair beginning in 1204. It was famous for drunken brawling that led to the fair being banned in 1855.  A free-for-all brawl is now known as Donnybrook.

Sentence: Nobody knows how the Donnybrook started, but it landed three partygoers in the hospital.

Example -7 Fiddling While Rome Burns

It was believed that Roman emperor Nero displayed indifference during 64 A.D. Great Fire that consumed much of Rome, even to the extent of finding merrily. As it happens, the fiddle hadn’t been invented yet, and it’s uncertain how Emperor Nero reacted. This allusion means to waste time on unimportant or self-interested matters during a time of crisis.

SentenceThe city has its highest unemployment rate in decades, while the mayor attends upscale parties; she’s fiddling while Rome burns.

Example -8 Boycott

Captain Charles Cunningham Boycott was an English land agent who deals in Ireland. Over the controversy of the ‘Irish Land Question’, he and his family were ostracized by the community. An organized refusal in dealing is now referred to as boycott.

SentenceThe traders decided to boycott the new price of refined oil.

Example -9 Rich as Croesus

Croesus, the king of Lydia, was famous for being wealthy. So this became a reference that to be Croesus means to be a man with great wealth.

SentenceBill Gates is the Croesus of this decade.

Example -10 Mother Teresa

A  Roman Catholic religious sister who lived in India served humanity throughout her life. Her selfless act of charity made her a symbol of sacrificial love and selflessness.

SentenceAlsa is such a Mother Teresa when she comes to the orphanage.

Example -11 WaterGate

The scandal during the 1970s resulting from the break-in at the headquarter of the Democratic National Committee. An author might refer to a character’s lying and secrecy as ‘another Watergate’. So this allusion means a scandal based on secrecy.

SentenceHer lie slowly unraveled like Watergate.

Example -12 Bowdlerize

Thomas Bowdler is best known as the editor of “The Family Shakespeare,” a popular edition in which those words and expressions were omitted, which cannot be read aloud in a family. So to Bowdlerize is to remove potentially offensive passages from any piece of literature or drama work.

SentenceA bowdlerized edition of his noel is going to be published next week.

Example -13 Draconian

A lawmaker in Athens in the 7th century B.C. Draco’s legal code was unusually severe, meting out the death penalty for minor offenses. Laws are referred to as Draconian when they are offering excessively harsh penalties.

SentenceThe Protestants are emphasizing the change of Draconian law of inheritance.

Example -14 The Great Depression

In the past, the economic depression occurring in many countries was preceding World War ll. It spanned almost a decade (1930-1940) People had to live without essential needs. So the prolonged period of depression and despair or also decline is associated with this allusion.

Sentence: Due to the widespread Corona Virus, the whole world is living through the Great Depression.

Example -15 Pyrrhic victory

Pyrrhus (318-272 B.C.) won many battles but overextended himself. After defeating the Romans, he sustained very heavy losses, but he declared ‘one more such victory and I am lost’. So Pyrrhic victory is a victory won at too great a cost.

Sentence: In Pyrrhic Victory, he managed to get the last ticket also but he lost the goodwill of his friends.

Example -16 Uncle Sam

It was supposedly used for Samuel Wilson, came into use during the war of 1812. Samuel Wilson owned a meat packing business with his brother. During the war, he supplied food for American soldiers. The food barrels had the U.S. on them for the United States. So this allusion is used for the government of people of the United States.

SentenceThey owed $3000 tax to Uncle Sam.