This Week In History

The Battle of Arausio. October 6, 105 BC.

The Battle of Arausio took place on October 6, 105 BC in the midst of the Cimbrian Wars, 113-101BC. This battle was a confrontation between the Roman Republican legions, led by the consul Gnaeus Mallius Maximus and the proconsul Quintus Servilius Caepio, and the Germanic tribes (mainly the Cimbri, Teutoni and Ambri) led by the Cimbri King Boiorix and Teuton King Teutobod. It took place between the village of Arausio (in today’s Vaucluse) and the River Rhodanos (Rhône). As a consequence of the division of the Roman forces in two armies, due to the bad relations that existed between the two leaders, the battle was an utter catastrophe for the Republic. In 111 BC, the Ambri and the Cimbri arrived in the southwest of Germania Magna, where the Teutoni and Tigurini joined them. They were looking...

The beginning of the Norman conquest of England. September 27, 1066.

Since 1050, William had been the pretender to the English throne, at the time in the hands of his cousin, Edward the Confessor, who had no descendants. However, he was not the only one to claim the English throne. His most powerful rival was an English count, Harold Godwinson, who was appointed successor by the Edward himself on his deathbed in 1066. William argued that Edward had promised the throne to him earlier, and that Harold had sworn support. Because of this “betrayal”, the Norman duke activated a military intervention. He prepared a great fleet that set sail from the mouth of the Somme River, and on September 27, 1066, one of the most powerful armies ever seen landed on Pevensey, in the south of England and defeated Harold´s army in the Battle of Hastings on October 14. Harold had...

The last Roman emperor elected by the Senate.

Marcus Claudius Tacitus Augustus, known as Tacitus, was the last Roman emperor elected by the Roman Senate, and served only for a short period of time, between 275 and 276 AD. Little is known about Tacitus´ career before his reign. Some sources suggest he served in the Danube Legions before becoming a senator. We do know he held the office of Senate consul, rising to the highest Senate rank, princeps senatus, an office he held at the time he reluctantly accepted to be the next emperor by acclaim of the Senate. After the assassination of Aurelian, an eight-month long interregnum took place. During this time, the army, who normally would proclaim the next emperor,  decided to cede their right to the Senate, due to their remorse over the death of the popular emperor, Aurelian, who had died wi...

The Grito de Dolores. September 16, 1810.

The Grito de Dolores (Cry of Dolores) is considered to be the act that triggered the Mexican Independence War. According to Mexican tradition, a priest called Manuel Hidalgo y Costilla, together with Ignacio Allende and Juan Aldama, called his parishioners to rise up against “New Spain”. There is no documentation of who all the participants or direct witnesses were in the first hours of the independentist movement. The only thing we can be sure about is that in the morning of September 16, 1810, Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla summoned the people of Pueblo de Dolores and its surroundings by ringing the bells of the Parish of Pueblo de Dolores, today called Dolores Hidalgo, in Guanajuato. According to tradition, on the night of the 15th to the 16th of September, Hidalgo and other leaders of the r...

The Battle of Frigidus. September 6, 394.

The Battle of Frigidus, or the Battle of the River Frigid, took place between September 5 and 6, 394, pitting the Roman Emperor Theodosius I´s army against the army of the western usurper, Eugenius. As a result of Eugenius and his Frankish magister militum, Arbogast´s, defeat, the Roman Empire was in the hands of a sole emperor for the last time in its history. As a Christian, Theodosius was enraged by the pagan awakening that was taking place in the West under the reign of Eugenius. Furthermore, the death of Valentinian remained unsolved, and Eugenius had deposed all the civilian offices appointed by Theodosius when he ceded the western part of the empire to Valentinian II, leaving him with no control over the western Roman Empire. When a Western embassy arrived at Constantinople to reque...

Paris is well worth a mass. August 18, 1572.

Henry of Bourbon, King of Navarre under the name of Henry III from 1572 and 1610, lived for some time in Lower Navarre, a similar territory to the current Navarre, in Spain, although he spent most of his life in Bearne, later becoming king of France from 1589 to 1610. He was the first claimant from the House of Bourbon to reign in France, where he was known as Henry the Great (Henri le Grand) or The Good King (Le bon roi Henri). Nevertheless, history records him as a capricious nobleman, as well as  tremendously opportunistic. He is often considered by the French as one of the best rulers they ever had, always trying to improve the lives of his subjects. His phrase “one chicken in the pot of all, every Sunday”, exemplifies his policies to make his people happy, not only by the means of con...

The Great Famine. August 10, 315.

The Great Famine of 1315 to 1317 is the historical name given to  a catastrophic event that took place in the across northern Europe and Italy. The famine created a secular crisis known as the Crisis of the 14th century. Between 1310 and 1330, Europe experienced a long period of bad weather, with extreme temperatures in winter and cold and floods in summer. The combination of a global climate change and a population at historically unprecedented levels (which had been growing exponentially for several centuries) made the situation extremely dire. Even the slightest changes in the harvest could mean massive starvation. The famine occurred because of crop failure, the consequence of the bad weather that started in the spring of 1315, reaching its peak during the winter of 1315-1316, and last...

The Battle of Cannae. August 2, 216 BC.

The Battle of Cannae, an historic and decisive battle of the Second Punic War, took place on August 2, 216 BC between the Punic army, led by Hannibal Barca, and Roman troops, commanded by consuls Gaius Terentius Varro and Lucius Aemilius Paullus. The battle took place in the city of Cannae in the Apulian region to the southeast of the Italian Peninsula, and ended with the victory of the Carthaginian army, despite being clearly outnumbered by the Romans. After the Roman defeat, several city-states abandoned the Roman Republic side. Although the battle didn´t bring the Carthaginians final victory in the Punic War, it is nevertheless remembered as one of the most incredible battles in military history, and the biggest defeat of Roman history up until that moment, though the future would deliv...

The Revolt of the Batavi. August 1, 69 AD.

The Revolt of the Batavi took place in the Roman province of Germania Inferior between the years 69 and 70 AD. The revolt was led by the Batavi and other tribes from Germania and by the heir apparent Julius Civilis from Gaul, an official from the auxiliary troops. The revolt took advantage of the instability that was taking place in the Empire during the Year of the Four Emperors, with the Batavi managing to defeat two Roman legions and infringed humiliating defeats to the Roman army. The Batavi were highly skilled in war. Warriors were excellent horsemen, also were adept at swimming and boat managing (they were renowned for developing a technique of swimming in rivers while carrying all of their armour and weapons), so they became a desirable source for recruiting soldiers for the Empire....

The Great Fire of Rome. July 19, 64 AD.

The apocryphal image of Nero fiddling as Rome burned has long been burned into our minds, as well, but the lack of historical eyewitnesses has always made this event a controversial matter. The Great Fire of Rome took place, according to Tacitus, on the night of the 18th to the 19th of July 64 AD (he was only at the time seven years old at the time, but the date is not in dispute). What is known is the fire started in the Circus Maximus in the shops that sold flammable goods like ointments, spreading quickly, and burned for six days. The only living historiographer of that time who recorded the incident was Pliny the Elder, although he only mentioned it briefly, probably because he considered it “one of many” fires that blighted the city. Other contemporary writers, included the philosophe...

The Storming of the Bastille. July 14, 1789.

The Storming of the Bastille took place in Paris on July 14, 1789. Although the medieval fortress only guarded seven prisoners, its fall into the hands of the Parisian revolutionaries symbolized the end of the Ancien Régime, and was a flashpoint of the French Revolution. The surrender of the prison as a symbol of the monarchy´s power and despotism, sent shockwaves not only across France, but also throughout the rest of Europe, echoing as far as Russia. The importance of the Storming of the Bastille was not all that relevant, and its symbolic value overblown as the main representation of the fall of the monarchy´s absolutist power. Over time, the story took on legendary proportions over what really took place. It wasn´t an act as strategically or politically important as presented by romant...

The city of Tyre falls to the Venetian Crusade. July 7, 1124.

The Venetian Crusade, an expedition to Holy Land launched by the Republic of Venice at the request of the Pope, took place from 1122 to 1124 and ended in victory for the crusaders when they took the city of Tyre. This victory meant the start of a period in which the Kingdom of Jerusalem expanded to its largest size under the reign of Baldwin II. On February 15, 1124, the Venetians and the Franks laid siege to the port city of Tyre (now part of Lebanon). Tyre was at the time part of the territory under the control of the Atabeg of Damascus, Toghtekin. The Latin army was commanded by the Patriarch of Antioch, the Doge of Venice, Pons, Count of Tripoli and William I de Bury, the king´s constable. During this time, Baldwin II had been taken prisoner by the Artukid leader, Balak Ghazi, emir of ...

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