Italy

The First Parachute Jump. October 22, 1797.

By the dawn of the 19th century, ballooning had become a staple of popular culture. No féte or celebration was complete without at least one ascent. Aeronauts, both male and female, rose majestically from pleasure grounds and gardens all over Europe. Tivoli Gardens in Paris, was one of the most popular spots for this entertainment and soon became the playground of the “flying” Garnerin family. Andre-Jacques Garnerin was the greatest French aeronaut to follow J.P. Blanchard, and during his aerostatic career he was accompanied and abetted by his wife Jeanne-Genevieve (the first woman parachutist, 1798) and niece Elisa (who learned to fly balloons at age 15 and became the first professional parachutist, making 39 parachute descents from 1815 to 1836). Garnerin had made his first balloon ascen...

The Columbus Day. October 12, 1492.

Columbus Day is a national holiday in many countries of the Americas and elsewhere which officially celebrates the anniversary of Christopher Columbus‘s arrival in the Americas on October 12, 1492. Christopher Columbus was an Italian explorer on behalf of Spain, who set sail across the Atlantic Ocean in search of a faster route to the Far East only to land at the New World. His first voyage to the New World on the Spanish ships Santa María, Niña, and La Pinta took approximately three months. Columbus and his crew’s arrival to the New World initiated the Columbian Exchange, also known as the Columbian interchange, named after Christopher Columbus. It was the widespread transfer of plants, animals, culture, human populations, technology, and ideas between the Americas, West Afric...

The Sacrifice of Stamira. September 1, 1173.

Emperor Frederick Barbarossa bore a long-standing grudge to Ancona, one of the Italian Maritime Republics, for its assertion of independence. Ancona had already stubbornly and successfully resisted an earlier attempt of Imperial occupation in 1167. Moreover, to counterbalance the power of the Holy Roman Empire, the Anconitans made a voluntary submission to the Byzantine Emperor Manuel I Komnenos, and the Byzantines maintained representatives in the city. In the later part of May 1173 the Imperial forces, commanded by Christian von Buch, Archbishop of Mainz, laid siege to Ancona. In preparation for this step, the imperial troops had previously requested and obtained the naval alliance of the Republic of Venice. Despite the ongoing conflict between the Empire and the Italian cities associate...

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...

The death of Agrippa Postumus. August 20, 14 AD.

Agrippa Postumus was the youngest son of Marcus Vipsanius Agrippa and Julia the Elder, the daughter and only biological child of the Roman Emperor Augustus. Augustus initially considered Postumus as a potential successor and formally adopted him as his heir. In AD 6, an uprising began in the Roman province of Illyricum. Augustus sent Tiberius to crush the revolt with his army, and after a year of delayed results, he sent Germanicus in his capacity as quaestor to assist in bringing the war to a swift end. The reason, Dio says, that Germanicus was chosen over Postumus is because Postumus was of an “illiberal nature”. Postumus was known for being brutish, insolent, stubborn, and potentially violent. He possessed great physical strength and reportedly showed little interest in anyt...

Tempio dei Diosuri. July 15, 484 BC.

The Temple of Castor and Pollux (Tempio dei Dioscuri) is an ancient temple in the Roman Forum in Rome. It was originally built in gratitude for victory at the Battle of Lake Regillus (495 BC). Castor and Pollux (Greek Polydeuces) were the Dioscuri, the “twins” of Gemini, the twin sons of Zeus and Leda. The last king of Rome, Lucius Tarquinius Superbus, and his allies, the Latins, waged war on the infant Roman Republic. Before the battle, the Roman dictator Aulus Postumius Albus Regillensis vowed to build a temple to the Dioscuri (Castor and Pollux) if the Republic were victorious. According to legend, Castor and Pollux appeared on the battlefield as two able horsemen in aid of the Republic; and after the battle had been won they again appeared on the Forum in Rome watering thei...

The end of Placidia´s Regency. July 2, 437.

Placidia was the daughter of Theodosius I and his second wife, Galla, who was herself daughter of Valentinian I and his second wife, Justina. She was regent to Valentinian III from 423 until his majority in 437, and a major force in Roman politics for most of her life. She was queen consort to Ataulf, king of the Visigoths from 414 until his death in 415, and briefly empress consort to Constantius III in 421. Coins issued in Placidia’s honour in Constantinople after 425 give her name as AELIA PLACIDIA; this may have been intended to integrate Placidia with the eastern dynasty of Theodosius II. There is no evidence that the name Aelia was ever used in the west, or that it formed part of Placidia’s official nomenclature. Placidia was granted her own household by her father in the...

The Battle of Antioch. June 8, 218.

By the early third century, the balance of power had shifted from the Senate to the army, and the position of the Senate was considerably weakened. The emperor of Rome was appointed by the support of the military, while the Senate existed solely to officiate state affairs without any real authority. Both Macrinus and later Elagabalus secured the support of the military while generally disregarding the opinion of the Senate. Macrinus was in dire circumstances after Elagabalus’ rebellion and had no other choice but to turn to the Senate for assistance. While in Antioch, Macrinus made one final attempt at securing support, this time from Rome. A combination of distrust from the Senate, insufficient funds, and Elagabalus’ impending approach, however, forced Macrinus to face Elagaba...

Maria Theresa, Queen. May 12, 1743.

She started her 40-year reign when her father, Emperor Charles VI, died in October 1740. Charles VI paved the way for her accession with the Pragmatic Sanction of 1713 and spent his entire reign securing it. Charles VI left behind a weakened and impoverished state, and upon his death, Saxony, Prussia, Bavaria, and France all repudiated the sanction they had recognised during his lifetime. Frederick II of Prussia (who became Maria Theresa’s greatest rival for most of her reign) promptly invaded and took the affluent Habsburg province of Silesia in the seven-year conflict known as the War of the Austrian Succession. In defiance of the grave situation, she managed to secure the vital support of the Hungarians for the war effort. Over the course of the war, despite the loss of Silesia an...

The Second Temple for Venus Erycina. April 23, 181 BC.

The Capitoline Hill was earlier known as Mons Saturnius, dedicated to the god Saturn. The word Capitolium first referred to the temple of Jupiter Optimus Maximus later built here, and afterwards it was used for the whole hill (and even other temples of Jupiter on other hills), thus Mons Capitolinus (the adjective noun of Capitolium). In an etiological myth, ancient sources connect the name to caput (“head”, “summit”) and the tale was that, when laying the foundations for the temple, the head of a man was found, some sources even saying it was the head of some Tolus or Olus. The Capitolium was regarded by the Romans as indestructible, and was adopted as a symbol of eternity. At this hill, the Sabines, creeping to the Citadel, were let in by the Roman maiden Tarpeia. ...

Triumph in North Africa. March 10, 298.

  Maximian was Roman Emperor from 286 to 305. He was Caesar from 285 to 286, then Augustus from 286 to 305. He shared the latter title with his co-emperor and superior, Diocletian, whose political brain complemented Maximian’s military brawn. The man he appointed to police the Channel shores, Carausius, rebelled in 286, causing the secession of Britain and northwestern Gaul. Maximian failed to oust Carausius, and his invasion fleet was destroyed by storms in 289 or 290. Maximian’s subordinate, Constantius, campaigned against Carausius’ successor while Maximian held the Rhine frontier. The rebel leader was ousted in 296, and Maximian moved south to combat piracy near Hispania and Berber incursions in Mauretania. With Constantius’ victorious return after he expel...

Risorgimento. February 18, 1861.

Italian unification, also known as the Risorgimento, was the political and social movement that consolidated different states of the Italian peninsula into the single state of the Kingdom of Italy in the 19th century. The process began with the revolutions of 1848, inspired by previous rebellions in the 1820s and 1830s that contested the outcome of the Congress of Vienna, and was completed when Rome became the capital of the Kingdom of Italy. The term, which also designates the cultural, political and social movement that promoted unification, recalls the romantic, nationalist and patriotic ideals of an Italian renaissance through the conquest of a unified political identity that, by sinking its ancient roots during the Roman period, “suffered an abrupt halt [or loss] of its politica...

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