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Romanus Pontifex and the Age of Imperialism. January 8, 1455.

From the point of view of European History, the coast of Guinea has always been mainly associated to slavery. In fact, one of the names used commonly for this region is “The Slaves Coast”. When Portuguese arrived at the Atlantic coast of Africa around 1430, they were mainly interested in gold. Since Mansa Musa´s, king of the Empire of Mali, hajj to Mecca in 1325 with 500 slaves and 100 camels, each of them loaded with gold, the region was famous for its richness. The commerce of Subsaharan Africa had been until then controlled by the Islamic Empire that extended along the north of Africa. The commercial routes of the Muslims crossed the Sahara Desert. These routes had existed for centuries and the main goods were salt, textiles, fish, grain and slaves. When the Portuguese extended their in...

Mount Vesuvius on the feast of Vulcan. August 23, 79 AD.

The eruption of Mount Vesuvius in AD 79 destroyed the Roman cities of Pompeii, Herculaneum, Oplontis and Stabiae, as well as several other settlements. The eruption ejected a cloud of stones, ashes and volcanic gases to a height of 33 km (21 mi), erupting molten rock and pulverized pumice and ultimately releasing 100,000 times the thermal energy released by the Hiroshima-Nagasaki bombings. More than 1,000 people died in the eruption, but exact numbers are unknown. The only surviving eyewitness account of the event consists of two letters by Pliny the Younger to the historian Tacitus. On August 23, Mount Vesuvius begins stirring, on the feast day of Vulcan, the Roman god of fire. The Vulcanalia was the annual festival held August 23 in his honor. His Greek counterpart is Hephaestus, the god...

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 Adoration of the Magi. January 6.

In the time of King Herod, after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea, wise men from the East came to Jerusalem, asking, “Where is the child who has been born king of the Jews? For we observed his star at its rising, and have come to pay him homage.” When King Herod heard this, he was frightened and all Jerusalem with him; and calling together all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Messiah was to be born. They told him, “In Bethlehem of Judea; for so it has been written by the prophet: ‘And you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; for from you shall come a ruler who is to shepherd my people Israel.'” Then Herod secretly called for the wise men and learned from them the exact ...

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...

Hernán Cortés and Moctezuma. November 8, 1519.

Upon entering the city of Tenochtitlan, on November 8, 1519, the meeting between Moctezuma and Hernán Cortés took place, with Doña Marina (La Malinche) as translator. Moctezuma II thought Spaniards had been sent by the god that would come from the East (Quetzalcóatl) and so, he was a magnificent host. He even presented Cortés, among other things, with the Headpiece of God Quetzalcóatl, also known as the Moctezuma Crest, wich was sent among other gifts, to the Imperial Spanish Court of Charles V. Moctezuma lodged the Spanish soldiers in the temple of his ancestor Axayácatl (Moctezuma´s father), and they spent the following days visiting palaces and temples as well as the city of Tlatelolco. Upon the request of Cortés of building a catholic chapel, Moctezuma allowed them to do so, inside the...

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