This Week In History

The Walls of Constantinople collapse. November 6, 447.

Like Severus before him, Constantine began to punish the city for siding with his defeated rival, but soon he too realized the advantages of Byzantium‘s location. During 324–336 the city was thoroughly rebuilt and inaugurated on 11 May 330 under the name of “Second Rome“. The name that eventually prevailed in common usage however was Constantinople, the “City of Constantine” (Greek Κωνσταντινούπολις, Konstantinoupolis). The city of Constantine was protected by a new wall about 2.8 km (15 stadia) west of the Severan wall. Constantine’s fortification consisted of a single wall, reinforced with towers at regular distances, which began to be constructed in 324 and was completed under his son Constantius II (r. 337–361). Only the approximate course of the wal...

King Cyrus and the Temple of Jerusalem. October 29, 538 BC.

Cyrus the Great figures in the Hebrew Bible as the patron and deliverer of the Jews. He is mentioned 23 times by name and alluded to several times more. According to the Bible, Cyrus the Great, king of Persia, was the monarch under whom the Babylonian captivity ended. In the first year of his reign he was prompted by God to decree that the Temple in Jerusalem should be rebuilt and that such Jews as cared to might return to their land for this purpose. Moreover, he showed his interest in the project by sending back with them the sacred vessels which had been taken from the First Temple and a considerable sum of money with which to buy building materials. In 538 BC, there was a revolt in Southern Babylonia, while the army of Cyrus entered the country from the north. In June the Babylonian ar...

The Vision of Constantine. October 27, 312.

Constantine was the son of Constantius, who had served as a Caesar (a junior emperor) of the Western Roman Empire under Maximian before succeeding Maximian as Augustus (senior emperor) in 305. Constantius’ death in 306 sparked a conflict over who would succeed him. Though Constantine had the support of his father’s army, he allowed Severus, his father’s Caesar, to become Augustus. Maxentius, the son of Maximian, was angered that he was passed over and declared himself Augustus. He defeated the Severus and Galerius, the Augustus of the East, in 306 and 307. In 311, Maxentius declared war on Constantine, the greatest threat to his power. In the spring of 312, Constantine led his army toward Maxentius in in Rome. After routing Maxentius’ forces in northern Italy, Constantine approached Rome i...

Neville´S Cross. October 17, 1346.

On 7 October the Scots invaded England with approximately 12,000 men. Many had modern weapons and armour supplied by France. A small number of French knights marched alongside the Scots. It was described by both Scottish and English chroniclers of the time, and by modern historians, as the strongest and best equipped Scottish expedition for many years. The border fort of Liddell Peel was stormed and captured after a siege of three days and the garrison massacred. Carlisle was bypassed in exchange for a large indemnity and the Scottish army moved east, ravaging the countryside as they went. They arrived outside Durham on 16 October and camped at Beaurepaire Priory, where the monks offered the Scots £1,000 (£910,000 as of 2019) in protection money to be paid on 18 October. The invasion had b...

The Battle of Lepanto. October 7, 1571.

Venice had attempted to check Ottoman expansion in the eastern Mediterranean until 1540 but then, exhausted and despairing of support, made a humiliating peace with Süleyman I. His successor, Selim II, was determined to acquire the Venetian outpost of Cyprus and, when the Venetians refused to cede the island, invaded it in 1570. Venice appealed for help to Pope Pius V, who had tried since 1566 to form an alliance of Roman Catholic states. France and the Holy Roman Empire were preoccupied with the sweeping changes wrought by the Reformation. Spain offered hope, but Philip II, with an empty treasury, was faced with revolts in Andalusia and the Netherlands. Venice also deeply distrusted Spanish influence in Italy. Pius, however, was committed to drawing Spain, Venice, and the smaller Italian ...

The Battle of Arnemuiden. September 23, 1338.

The Battle of Arnemuiden was a naval battle fought on 23 September 1338 at the start of the Hundred Years’ War between England and France. It was the first naval battle of the Hundred Years’ War and the first recorded European naval battle using artillery, as the English ship Christophe had three cannons and one hand gun. In the early 14th century, France and England were pitted against each other over claims to the French throne. The House of Plantagenet which ruled England claimed the throne while the ruling House of Valois in France was determined to oppose the claim at all costs. This led to a protracted military conflict between the two kingdoms. Most of the battles of the Hundred Years´ War were fought on mainland Europe although a few, including the Battle of Arnemuiden,...

The Battle of Teutoburg Forest. September 11, 9 AD.

The Battle of the Teutoburg Forest, described as the Varian Disaster by Roman historians, took place in the Teutoburg Forest in 9 CE, when an alliance of Germanic tribes ambushed and destroyed three Roman legions and their auxiliaries, led by Publius Quinctilius Varus. The alliance was led by Arminius, a Germanic officer of Varus’s auxilia. Arminius had acquired Roman citizenship and had received a Roman military education, which enabled him to deceive the Roman commander methodically and anticipate the Roman army’s tactical responses. Despite several successful campaigns and raids by the Romans in the years after the battle, they never again attempted to conquer the Germanic territories east of the Rhine river. The victory of the Germanic tribes against Rome’s legions in...

The Battle of Actium. September 2, 31 BC.

The Battle of Actium was the decisive confrontation of the Final War of the Roman Republic, a naval engagement between Octavian and the combined forces of Mark Antony and Cleopatra on 2 September 31 BC, on the Ionian Sea near the promontory of Actium, in the Roman province of Epirus Vetus in Greece. Octavian’s fleet was commanded by Agrippa, while Antony‘s fleet was supported by the power of Queen Cleopatra of Ptolemaic Egypt. Octavian’s victory enabled him to consolidate his power over Rome and its dominions. He adopted the title of Princeps (“first citizen”) and some years later was awarded the title of Augustus (“revered”) by the Roman Senate. This became the name by which he was known in later times. As Augustus, he retained the trappings of a ...

Geoffrey Plantagenet. August 24, 1113.

Geoffrey V, called the Handsome or the Fair and Plantagenet, was the Count of Anjou, Touraine, and Maine by inheritance from 1129 and then Duke of Normandy by conquest from 1144, and was born on August 24, 1113. By his marriage to the Empress Matilda, daughter and heiress of Henry I of England, Geoffrey had a son, Henry Curtmantle, who succeeded to the English throne as King Henry II (1154–1189) and was the first of the Plantagenet dynasty to rule England. His ancestral domain of Anjou gave rise to the name Angevin for three kings of England (Henry II his son and heir, and Henry’s sons Richard and John), and what became known as the Angevin Empire in the 12th century. Geoffrey was the elder son of Fulk V of Anjou and Ermengarde of Maine. Geoffrey received his nickname from the yellow...

First evidence of HMS Erebus found. August 15, 1855.

The search by Europeans for a western shortcut by sea from Europe to Asia began with the voyages of Christopher Columbus in 1492 and continued through the mid-19th century with a long series of exploratory expeditions originating mainly in England. These voyages, when to any degree successful, added to the sum of European geographic knowledge about the Western Hemisphere, particularly North America, and as that knowledge grew larger, attention gradually turned toward the Arctic. By 1800, the discoveries had already showed conclusively that no Northwest Passage navigable by ships lay in the temperate latitudes between the Pacific and the Atlantic Oceans. In 1804, Sir John Barrow became Second Secretary of the Admiralty, a post he held until 1845, and began a push by the Royal Navy to comple...

Il Duomo. August 7, 1420.

By the beginning of the 15th century, after a hundred years of construction, the structure was still missing its dome. The basic features of the dome had been designed by Arnolfo di Cambio in 1296. His brick model, 4.6 metres high, 9.2 metres long, was standing in a side aisle of the unfinished building, and had long been sacrosanct. It called for an octagonal dome higher and wider than any that had ever been built, with no external buttresses to keep it from spreading and falling under its own weight. The commitment to reject traditional Gothic buttresses had been made when Neri di Fioravanti‘s model was chosen over a competing one by Giovanni di Lapo Ghini. That architectural choice, in 1367, was one of the first events of the Italian Renaissance, marking a break with the Medieval ...

Octavian enters Alexandria. August 1, 30 BC.

The breach between Antony and Octavian prompted a large portion of the Senators, as well as both of that year’s consuls, to leave Rome and defect to Antony. However, Octavian received two key deserters from Antony in the autumn of 32 BC: Munatius Plancus and Marcus Titius. These defectors gave Octavian the information that he needed to confirm with the Senate all the accusations that he made against Antony. Octavian forcibly entered the temple of the Vestal Virgins and seized Antony’s secret will, which he promptly publicized. The will would have given away Roman-conquered territories as kingdoms for his sons to rule, and designated Alexandria as the site for a tomb for him and his queen. In late 32 BC, the Senate officially revoked Antony’s powers as consul and declared ...

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