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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 Fifth Crusade. May 27, 1217.

The Fifth Crusade (1217-1221) consisted of a series of military actions initiated by Western Europe in order to recover Jerusalem and the rest of the Holy Land, by first trying to conquer Cairo under the control of the Ayyubids. Pope Innocent III and his successor, Honorius III, summoned the crusaders, led by the forces of Andrew II of Hungary and Duke Leopold VI of Austria. They tried to attack Jerusalem, but ultimately left the city in Muslim hands. In 1218 two armies, one led by Oliver of Cologne from Germany, and another by William I of Holland, composed of Flemish, Dutch and Frisian soldiers, joined the Crusade. They allied forces with the Seljuk Sultanate of Rum in order to attack Damietta (Egypt). The Seljuks launched an attack on the Ayyubids in Syria, trying to free the crusaders ...

Byzantium, Nova Roma. May 11, 330.

Byzantium was the Greek capital city of Thrace, situated in the Western part of the entrance of the Bosphorus Strait, actually Istambul. It has occupied an outstanding part in History since its founding, around 668 BC, according to Herodotus. Byzantium suffered, as did all Greece, Rome´s tutoring. The city entered a period of decline, although all of the Greek cities in this period were well supplied. During the Macedonian Wars, between Rome and Philippus V, Romans awarded Byzantium with the title of confederate city for their help. In 191 BC the city was a Roman ally and acknowledged as a free city, although it lost this status in 100 BC. Emperor Claudius reduced the city taxes to make up for its losses in the war against Thrace. Vespasian integrated Byzantium in the Roman province of Thr...

The fratricidal Battle of Forum Gallorum. April 14, 43 BC.

The Battle of Forum Gallorum was fought on 14 April 43 BC between the forces of Mark Antony, and legions loyal to the Roman Senate under the overall command of consul Gaius Vibius Pansa Caetronianus, aided by his fellow consul Aulus Hirtius and the untested Caesar Octavian (the future Augustus). The consul Mark Antony, the erstwhile close ally of Julius Caesar had briefly dominated Rome shortly after the assassination of Julius Caesar, but had gradually lost power since the summer of 44 BC due to the increasing popularity among veterans and the Caesarian faction of the dictator’s young heir, Caesar Octavian, and the rebuilding of a Pompeian Senatorial faction led by Marcus Tullius Cicero. The coalition against Mark Antony also included some of Caesar’s murderers, including Deci...

The Capture of Sidon. December 4, 1110.

  The Siege of Sidon took place in the aftermath of the First Crusade. The coastal city of Sidon was captured by the forces of Baldwin I of Jerusalem and Sigurd I of Norway, with assistance from the Ordelafo Faliero, Doge of Venice. With Baldwin I as King of Jerusalem, the Egyptians failed to launch any major military campaigns against the Kingdom of Jerusalem, but they continually raided Baldwin‘s southern frontier. They massacred hundreds of pilgrims near Jaffa and defeated the governor of the town while Baldwin was fighting against Damascene troops in Galilee in October 1106. In 1107 the Egyptians attacked Hebron, but Baldwin forced them to lift the siege. The Egyptian raids did not prevent Baldwin from pursuing an expansionist policy. He compelled the governor of Sidon to pa...

Saint Paul´s Cathedral. December 2, 1697.

In the Great Fire of London of 1666, Old St Paul’s was gutted. While it might have been possible to reconstruct it, a decision was taken to build a new cathedral in a modern style. This course of action had been proposed even before the fire. The task of designing a replacement structure was officially assigned to Sir Christopher Wren on 30 July 1669. He had previously been put in charge of the rebuilding of churches to replace those lost in the Great Fire. More than 50 City churches are attributable to Wren. Concurrent with designing St Paul’s, Wren was engaged in the production of his five Tracts on Architecture. Wren had begun advising on the repair of the Old St Paul’s in 1661, five years before the fire in 1666. The proposed work included renovations to interior and ...

The Foundation of Baghdad. July 30, 762.

Located along the Tigris River, the city was founded in the 8th century and became the capital of the Abbasid Caliphate. Within a short time of its inception, Baghdad evolved into a significant cultural, commercial, and intellectual center for the Islamic world. This, in addition to housing several key academic institutions (for example, the House of Wisdom), garnered the city a worldwide reputation as the “Centre of Learning“. Baghdad was the largest city of the Middle Ages for much of the Abbasid era, peaking at a population of more than a million. The city was largely destroyed at the hands of the Mongol Empire in 1258, resulting in a decline that would linger through many centuries due to frequent plagues and multiple successive empires. The recognition of Iraq as an indepe...

Pizarro founds Lima. January 15, 1535.

When natives along the coast threatened his expedition to Panama, Pizarro moved inland and founded the first Spanish settlement in Peru, San Miguel de Piura. Atahualpa, the last Inca king, refused to tolerate a Spanish presence in his lands, but was captured by Pizarro during the Battle of Cajamarca on 16 November 1532. A ransom for the emperor’s release was demanded and Atahualpa filled a room with gold, but Pizarro charged him with various crimes and executed him on 26 July 1533, overriding his associates who thought he was overstepping his authority. The same year, Pizarro entered the Inca capital of Cuzco and completed his conquest of Peru. In January 1535, Pizarro founded the city of Lima, a project he considered his greatest achievement. Quarrels between Pizarro and his longtim...

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