THE HISTORY – AND PREHISTORY- OF A TRADITION
753 BC Customary date for the founding of the city of Rome
c. 500 BC The festival of Saturnalia is first celebrated, according to the Roman historian Livy
c. 2 BC Modern scholarly consensus for the birth of Jesus
c. 30 AD According to the gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke, Jesus fasts in the desert for 40 days and rejects the temptations of Satan. Episode is later seen as the inspiration for Lent.
c.170 In The Golden Ass, the writer Apuleius describes a procession honoring Isis, an Egyptian goddess revered throughout the Mediterranean world. As recounted, the ritual has much in common with later Carnival parades.
312 After a mystical vision on the eve of a major battle, the Roman emperor Constantine embraces Christianity
453 Initial settlement of Venice
1341 First written reference to Karneval in the German city of Cologne
1348 The Black Death – bubonic plague — ravages western Europe
1401 European conquest of the Canary Islands begins
1436 Mask-makers’ guild recognized by the Venetian government
1492 Following the final expulsion of the Moors from Spain, Queen Isabella and King Ferdinand commission Christopher Columbus to seek a western sea-route to China
1500 Portuguese settlement of Brazil begins under Pedro Alvares Cabral
1517 Martin Luther publishes his 95 Theses, beginning the Protestant Reformation.
1520 The New World’s first Carnival is observed in the town of La Vega, now part of the Dominican Republic
1531 Tomasso da Vico institutes the “Bacchanal of Gnocchi” as part of Verona’s pre-Lenten celebrations.
1559 Pieter Bruegel the Elder paints The Battle of Carnival and Lent
1592 The island of Trinidad is settled by Spanish colonists
1637 The first commercial opera is staged in Venice. Within 5 years the art form becomes a fixture of il Carnevale.
1699 While exploring the Mississippi delta on behalf of the French crown, Pierre LeMoyne d’Iberville observes Mardi Gras some 19 years before the founding of New Orleans
1701 Mobile declared capital of La Louisiane
1725 Birth of Giacomo Casanova
1783 Spanish authorities issue the Cedula de Poblacion, inviting Catholics from other nations to settle in Trinidad. French planters — and their enslaved workers — introduce many Carnival customs that persist to this day.
1789 Beginning of the revolution in France, which will lead to the suppression of many of that country’s Carnival traditions
1797 Trinidad is captured by the British and becomes a crown colony. Within a month, the new administration enacts laws limiting when and where slaves can dance… Forces under command of Napoleon Bonaparte invade Venice, abolishing the Republic and its ancient Carnival rites
1803 After the Haitian revolution deprives France of its most valuable colony, Napoleon sells the vast Louisiana territory to the United States — ensuring a vibrant Carnival culture in the new nation.
1822 Brazil becomes an independent nation under Emperor Dom Pedro I — formerly the crown prince of Portugal
1834 Slavery is abolished throughout the British Empire. Emancipated Trinidadians begin to foster a more urban celebration.
1849 Trinidad’s colonial authorities issue an ordinance designed to keep Carnival revelry to two days. It doesn’t work.
1857 The Mistick Krewe of Comus forms in New Orleans
1861-1865 The American Civil War leads to the end of slavery and the occupation of southern states by federal troops
1867 The Lost Cause Minstrels, led by confederate veteran Joe Cain, parade in Mobile
1872 The Krewe of Rex forms in New Orleans
1888 Abolition of Slavery in Brazil. Afro-Brazilians from the rural northeast begin migration to Rio de Janeiro and other large cities
1890 Brazil becomes a republic
1909 First Mardi Gras appearance of the Zulu Social Aid & Pleasure Club
1910 Inaugural Carnevales in Panama City
c. 1912 Early recordings of calypso standardize the genre, derived from earlier francophone idioms
1914-1918 World War One
1917 “Pelo Telofone”, considered the first samba tune, composed by Donga
1930 Authoritarian president Getulio Vargas takes power in Brazil. Rio’s Carnaval culture adapted in service of Estado Novo ideology
1933 The newly elected Nazi regime allows the continuation of Karneval in Cologne, but prohibits the tradition of ritual cross-dressing
1939 In the wake of the Spanish Civil War, fascist generalissimo Francisco Franco assumes power. Carnival will be officially banned for the duration of his 36 year regime.
1939-1945 World War Two
1940 The Destroyers For Bases Agreement leads to a significant U.S. Military presence in Trinidad
1943 The calypsonian Lord Invader writes “Rum & Coca Cola” in time for that year’s Carnival
1949 Fulfilling what he calls a “life-long ambition”, jazz legend Louis Armstrong is selected as king of Zulu’s parade on Fat Tuesday… Filhos de Gandhy debut in Salvador da Bahia
1950 Establishment of the T&T Steelband Association (later Pan Trinbago)
1956 Orfeu de Conceicao by Vinicius de Moraes staged at Rio’s Teatro Municipal
1959 Black Orpheus, inspired by de Moraes’ play, wins the Academy Award for best Foreign Language Film
1960 Brazil’s capital relocates from Rio de Janeiro to the planned city of Brasilia
1965 The Dixie Cups have a top 20 hit with “Iko Iko”, based on traditional chants of Mardi Gras Indians
1968 Krewe of Bacchus founded
1974 Cain’s Merry Widows parade for the first time in Mobile
1976 After the death of Francisco Franco, Spaniards freely celebrate Carnival for the first time in decades
1978 Tobago’s Calypso Rose chosen as the first female Calypso Monarch
1979 Spearheading the samba reggae movement, Olodum forms in Salvador… Venetian Carnival revived after a hiatus of nearly two centuries.
1984 Inaugural parade of samba schools at the Sambadromo Marques de Sapucai
1993 Superblue wins the first International Soca Monarch award with “Bacchanal Time”
2006 Despite the destruction and dislocation caused by Hurricane Katrina six months earlier, Carnival is celebrated around the U.S. gulf coast. Signs in New Orleans proclaim “Nothing stops Mardi Gras. Nothing.”