Major historical figures conspicuously absent at major historical events...

Right now, I’m thinking about the trial of Christ.

And Gamaliel, who was probably the most prominent rabbi in Judaism at the time.

"Um, fellas, we don’t actually have the full Sanhedrin here. We don’t even have what our Roman ‘friends’ would call a quorum. Also, where are the accusing witnesses? And no fair going out and trying to round them up after the fact. And isn’t he supposed to have defense witnesses? And is there a reason we’re having this trial at night? That’s kind of in violation of the Law, too, you know.

Also, a lot of people hold that this Jesus guy is a prophet, maybe the Messiah even. I figure, if God isn’t with him, his little movement will go the way of the dinosaur in about a New York Minute, but if this dude is God’s Messenger, there won’t be anything we can do to stop him. I think we’d better let him go."

A couple of hours later, a lone figure ditches his eleven remaining pals and returns to Gethsamane, kneels beside a stone and prays, “Father, I think we’re going to have to implement Plan B…”

I’ve been wondering lately why Gamaliel wasn’t at the trial. I suppose it’s possible that he wasn’t in town at the time, but that seems unlikely. More like, if a bunch of Jewish priests are going to railroad a guy in a trial that is in violation of Jewish Law from top to bottom, Gamaliel is probably someone you definitely would not want to have around.

Am I full of beans on this? Any Jewish Dopers who know more about the life and teachings of Gamaliel want to weigh in on this?

And, actually, the main thrust of the thread is,

What other historical events would have turned out significantly differently if some prominent figure of the day who was absent from the proceedings had been on the scene?

Actually, I was out of town at the time, and when I got back, let me tell you, I was pissed off. :mad:

I guess if Lee Harvey Oswald had actually been in the book depository, things might’ve been different… :smiley:

Apparently he wasn’t TOO well known, considering the soldiers couldn’t pick him out from 11 other guys without him being pointed out.

If Charles Martel hadn’t been at the battle of Tours in 732, would Europe have had a larger muslim presence? Or would little have changed?

Or perhaps if Hitler hadn’t survived the 1924 Munich Beer hall Pusch, then the 20th century from 1933 onward probably would been quite different.

If Stonewall Jackson hadn’t been where he was at Challorsville, the Civil War might have turned out quite differently.

Well, it wasn’t like they had mass media back then. The soldiers would most likely have heard of him, but if they had never actually seen him in person, no, they would not likely have known what he looked like.

Back in those days, about the only famous people that the average person would have know what they looked like would have been current or fairly recentrulers of whatever country-empire they happened to be a resident of, and maybe the guy’s wife and/or heir apparent, because the images would have been stamped on the coins. Urban dwellers might also see statues of some noteworthy figure in front of government buildings.

Outside of that, the only way someone your average schmuck would have had of recognizing a famous person would have been by either having actually taken a gander at said person, or maybe having a friend who was a really good artist draw a picture of them.

Just to note that the OP makes a lot of major assumptions. There is no reason to believe that the accounts given in the NT are historical. In fact, questions like the OP strongly suggest otherwise.

Who was where doing what during those few days? We have no idea. All we know is that certain people wrote later a story that reflects what they wanted others to believe. Why did John’s timeline differ so much from Luke’s, etc.? Because they aren’t historians.

Such questions need to be rephrased in terms of “Why did the writer want us to think that Gamaliel wasn’t there?”

Seeing he thwarted the execution Peter & co later on, maybe.

OK folks, lets try to get this thread back on track. The question is, whose ** absence ** where they were supposed to be present affected the course of history. (The absent man theory of history)

Don’t think you can include failed assassination attempts because one can come up with an endless stream of scenarios were had X been present Y would have knocked him off and the history of the world would have changed. (Suppose Hitler was at the other end of the table).

On the other hand, there is John Parker and the Lincoln Assassination.

IMHO battles would be problematic because there would be a question whether the absence of a force was a blunder or the result of a bad strategy. (eg JEB Stuart at Gettysburg), the Hapsburgs at the battle of Mohacs (despite what my Hungarian history prof claimed, the Hungarian army knew they were going into battle without support from the rest of the Western world), Task Force 34 at the battle for Leyte Gulf, ooooh touchy subject, the whole Japanese navy was practically wiped out anyway.

Darned if I can think of anyone. But then IMHO individuals do not direct the flow of history, rather the preponderence of conditions and ideas determine success. In other words, if the conditions are ripe, ideas prevail, otherwise they fail.

But somebody must be able to some up with somone.

Thomas Jefferson was in France during the Constitutional Convention. I have no clue how the document would have been different had he been present. But he would certainly have had an influence.

Octavian (later Augustus) Caesar often developed sudden and mysterious illnesses on the eve of major battles. Which conveniently kept him out of harm’s way during the fighting. Had he been killed in one of the early battles, the entire course of Western Civilization would have taken a different course.

One which leads to both an important absence and a “what if:”

After successfully driving Napoleon’s forces from the Peninsular and the South of France, The Duke of Wellington was offered the command of all British Forces in the American War (War of 1812).

He turned the offer down.

Which begs the questions:

  1. What would have happened in America if he had been in command?*

  2. What would have happened at Waterloo if Wellington had been in America at the time?

*Interestingly, one of the reasons why he turned down the command was because the British Government refused to let him negotiate with Congress on his own terms.

What if Sam Houston had led forces to meet Santa Anna at the Alamo rather than wait?

Would Houston have had a San Jacinto-like victory at the Alamo, rescuing the defender of the Mission? or did San Jacinto have to happen at San Jacinto in order for Santa Anna to have been defeated?