This Week In History

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 Raphia. June 22, 217 BC.

The Battle of Raphia, also known as the Battle of Gaza, was a battle fought on 22 June 217 BC near modern Rafah between the forces of Ptolemy IV Philopator, king and pharaoh of Ptolemaic Egypt and Antiochus III the Great of the Seleucid Empire during the Syrian Wars. It was one of the largest battles of the Hellenistic kingdoms and was one of the largest battles of the ancient world. The battle was waged to determine the sovereignty of Coele Syria. This is the only known battle in which African and Asian elephants were used against each other. Due to Polybius‘ descriptions of Antiochus’ Asian elephants (Elephas maximus), brought from India, as being larger and stronger than Ptolemy’s African elephants, it had once been theorized that Ptolemy’s elephants were in fact...

Juneteenth. June 19, 1865.

Juneteenth (a portmanteau of June and nineteenth; also known as Freedom Day) is an unofficial American holiday and an official Texas state holiday, celebrated annually on the 19th of June in the United States to commemorate Union army general Gordon Granger announcing federal orders in the city of Galveston, Texas, on June 19, 1865, proclaiming that all slaves in Texas were now free. Although the Emancipation Proclamation had formally freed them almost two and a half years earlier and the American Civil War had largely ended with the defeat of the Confederate States in April, Texas was the most remote of the slave states, with a low presence of Union troops, so enforcement of the proclamation had been slow and inconsistent. Although this day marks the emancipation of all slaves in the Conf...

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...

The Battle of Tsushima. May 27, 1905.

The Russo-Japanese War was fought during 1904 and 1905 between the Russian Empire and the Empire of Japan over rival imperial ambitions in Manchuria and Korea. The major theatres of operations were the Liaodong Peninsula and Mukden in Southern Manchuria and the seas around Korea, Japan and the Yellow Sea. Russia sought a warm-water port on the Pacific Ocean for its navy and for maritime trade. Vladivostok was operational only during the summer, whereas Port Arthur, a naval base in Liaodong Province leased to Russia by the Qing dynasty of China, was operational all year. Since the end of the First Sino-Japanese War in 1895, Japan feared Russian encroachment on its plans to create a sphere of influence in Korea and Manchuria. Russia had demonstrated an expansionist policy in the Siberian Far...

The Ashmolean Museum, the first university museum. May 24, 1683.

Its first building was finished in 1683 to house the cabinet of curiosities that Elias Ashmole gave to the University of Oxford in 1677 and opened its doors on May 24. Ashmole was an antiquary with a strong Baconian leaning towards the study of nature. His library reflected his intellectual outlook, including works on English history, law, numismatics, chorography, alchemy, astrology, astronomy, and botany. Although he was one of the founding Fellows of the Royal Society, a key institution in the development of experimental science, his interests were antiquarian and mystical as well as scientific. He was an early freemason, although the extent of his involvement and commitment is unclear. Throughout his life he was an avid collector of curiosities and other artefacts. Ashmole donated most...

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...

Cromwell, the Act of Grace. May 5, 1654

After the English invasion of 1650, and the defeat of the Scottish armies at the battles of Dunbar, Inverkeithing and Worcester, Scotland was placed under English military occupation with General Monck as military governor of the country. Up to the date of the Act of Grace the English army had been able to suppress the Scottish resistance to the occupation with relative ease and the occupation, with sporadic but ineffective resistance, would continue throughout the Interregnum up until the Restoration in 1660. Cromwell’s Act of Grace, or more formally the Act of Pardon and Grace to the People of Scotland, was an Act of the Parliament of England that declared that the people of Scotland (with certain exceptions) were pardoned for any crimes they might have committed during the Wars of...

Shahrbaraz, shah of the Sasanian Empire. April 27, 630.

Shahrbaraz belonged to the House of Mihran, a leading Iranian noble family, one of the Seven Great Houses of the Sassanid Persian Empire which claimed descent from the earlier Arsacid dynasty. He joined the Sasanian army, where he rose to high offices, and was appointed as spahbed (general) of Nēmrōz. He was even married to the sister of the Sasanian king Khosrow II, Mirhran. Shahrbaraz is first mentioned by chroniclers when Khosrow II started the last and most devastating of the Byzantine–Sasanian wars, which would last 26 years. Khosrow II, along with Shahrbaraz and his other best generals, conquered Dara and Edessa in 604, and in the north, the Byzantines were driven back to the old, pre-591 frontier, losing many of their territories. After this, Khosrow II withdrew from the battlefield...

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. ...

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...

Halley´s approach. April 10, 1910.

Comet Halley, officially designated 1P/Halley, is a short-period comet visible from Earth every 75–76 years. Halley is the only known short-period comet that is regularly visible to the naked eye from Earth, and the only naked-eye comet that might appear twice in a human lifetime. Halley last appeared in the inner parts of the Solar System in 1986 and will next appear in mid-2061 to 2062. Halley’s returns to the inner Solar System have been observed and recorded by astronomers since at least 240 BC. Clear records of the comet’s appearances were made by Chinese, Babylonian, and medieval European chroniclers, but, at those times, were not recognized as reappearances of the same object. The comet’s periodicity was first determined in 1705 by English astronomer Edmond Halley,...

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