This Week In History

War of Candia – September 27, 1669 AD

Most of Crete had been conquered by the Ottoman Empire during the early part of the war against the Republic of Venice and its allies, which was the fifth Ottoman-Venetian War, and began in 1645. The capital of Crete, the fortress of Candia, managed to hold off the Ottomans in their prolonged siege of the city until the last two bloody years, finally resulting in a negotiated surrender on September 27, 1669. The Venetians lost Cyprus to the Ottomans in the fourth war (1570-1573), making Crete the last major overseas territory of their republic. The Ottomans were expanding their empire and wanted Crete for its strategic location. Although Venice and the Ottomans were technically in a period of peace, the Ottomans were still allied with Barbary pirates. When the Venetian fleet attacked and d...

The Western/Papal Schism and the End of Papal States – September 20, 1378 AD and September 20, 1870 AD

Robert of Geneva was the son of Amadeus III, Count of Geneva. He was born in 1342 AD in Chateau d’Annecy, in the county of Savoy, then part of the Holy Roman Empire. In 1361, he became the Bishop of Thérouanne; the Archbishop of Cambrai in 1368 and a cardinal in 1371. From 1376-1378, he was serving as papal legate in Upper Italy and during that time, he was called upon in 1377 to suppress a rebellion in the Papal States. He personally led forces against the city of Cesena in Forlì, which was resisting being annexed into the Patrimony of Peter, during the War of the Eight Saints (1375-1378). The Papal States were territories in Italy under the direct sovereignty of the Pope, from the 700s-1870, ending when the unified Kingdom of Italy laid siege to the city of Rome and Pope Pius XI. On Sept...

The Invincible Armada – September 15, 1588 AD

Philip II of Spain co-ruled England with his wife, Mary I, after the death of Mary’s half-brother, Edward VI, a Protestant. Mary was the daughter of Henry VIII and Catherine of Aragon and a devout Roman Catholic. Philip and Mary ruled from 1553-1558, persecuting and burning at the stake Protestants and religious dissenters in the name of restoring Roman Catholicism in England, earning her the title “Bloody Mary”. Upon Mary’s death in 1558, Elizabeth I, daughter of Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn, was crowned Queen of England. Elizabeth had been imprisoned for almost a year under Mary’s reign, on suspicion of supporting the Protestant rebels. Upon ascending the throne, Elizabeth went about reversing the Roman Catholic spread under Philip and Mary, and established an English Protestant church wit...

An Empire Reunited – September 6, 394 AD

In 392 AD, the Roman Empire was split into the Eastern and Western empires. Valentinian II led the west, while Theodosius I was in charge of the east. Both emperors favored Christianity over the old pagan gods, causing tension between the two rulers and members of the Senate. Although there was wide-spread violence on a small scale throughout the empire over the two main religions of the empire, for the most part the debate of Christianity versus Paganism was theological and academic. That all changed when Valentinian was found dead in his residence on May 15, 392. This is a category of  roman empire coins. Arbogast, a Frankish general, was the magister militum of the Western empire, making him the de facto ruler upon the death of Valentinian. He immediately sent word to Theodosius, saying...

Even Old New York Was Once New Amsterdam – September 5, 1664 AD

The Italian explorer, Giovanni da Verrazzano, discovered a part of the new world in 1524 AD, and called it New Angoulême, in honor of his patron, King Francis I of France. The Dutch arrived to the area in 1609, on the Halve Maen, captained by Henry Hudson. Hudson was in service of the Dutch Republic, through Maurice of Nassau, Prince of Orange. Although the emissary of Maurice, Hudson was covertly trying to find the Northwest Passage for the Dutch East India Trading Company (also known as VOC). He traversed what he named the Mauritius River, modern day Hudson River. When he returned, he brought news of the abundance of beaver in the area, whose pelts were prized in Europe because they could be felted and made waterproof. Beaver also was used to make castoreum, used in medicine and perfume....

Hell on Earth – August 24, 79 AD

“Broad sheets of flame were lighting up many parts of Vesuvius; their light and brightness were the more vivid for the darkness of the night… it was daylight now elsewhere in the world, but there the darkness was darker and thicker than any night.” –Pliny the Younger, describing the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in the early afternoon of August 24, 79 AD, from around 18 miles away in Misenum. This is a category  titus denarius. The volcano erupted in two dramatic, and very deadly, phases. The first, an eruption which shot columns of gas, pumice and volcanic ash into the stratosphere had a shape like a pine tree, and was subsequently named after Pliny the Elder (today called Plinian eruptions). This first phase, lasting 18-20 hours, punished the area with spewing its cloud 20+ miles upwa...

Temple of Divus Julius – August 18, 29 BC

After Julius Caesar was murdered by Brutus, Cassius, and the others on the Senate floor in 44 BC, the Senate deified Caesar in 42 BC. Octavian, Caesar’s adopted heir, began construction of the Temple of Divvs Ivlivs (Temple of the Divine Julius Caesar) after the deification. It was completed and dedicated in Rome on August 18, 29 BC, after the Battle of Actium, with the defeat by Octavian of Marc Antony and Cleopatra. The temple stands on the site of Caesar’s cremation. This is a category of  julius caesar coins. After some time after the death of Caesar, a comet appeared and was clearly visible for seven days. The comet appeared for the first time during the ritual games in front of the Temple of Venus Genetrix, the fabled ancestor of the Julii, of which Caesar was part. The Romans though...

Battle of Thermopylae – August 9, 480 BC

The Greek region of Ionia had been conquered by Persia around 540 BC and the city-states were ruled by Persian tyrants from then on. Darius I was a usurper, becoming the third king of the Persian Empire by overthrowing Gaumata through the assistance of six noble families, in September 522 BC. In 499 BC, the Greek city-states of Athens and Eritrea encouraged the Ionian Revolt against the Persians. The Ionians attacked and burned Sardis, and Darius responded by following them back to Ionia, defeating them in the Battle of Ephesus in 498 BC. The Persians then responded with a three-pronged attack in 497 BC, capturing the outlying areas of the rebellion. The forces stalemated in 496-495 BC when the Greeks consolidated into Caria. In 494 BC, the Persian army and navy regrouped and attacked Mile...

A New World – August 3, 1492 AD

“In 1492, Columbus sailed the ocean blue….” The poem is correct in that the first voyage of Christopher Columbus began on the evening of August 3, 1492. However, it was a bit of work for Columbus to get that expedition underway. The goal was to find a quicker way to the Orient via the Atlantic Ocean, instead of using the land trade routes that were becoming increasingly treacherous because of the Ottoman Turks and the fall of Constantinople in 1453. In 1470, Paolo dal Pozzo Toscanelli, an astronomer from Florence, proposed to King Alfonso of Portugal that sailing west to the Spice Islands would be faster than around Africa. The king rejected the idea and his successor, John II, tasked Bartolomeu Dias to explore the Africa route, going around the Cape of Good Hope. While Dias was work...

Thessalonica Sacked – July 31, 904 AD

Leo of Tripoli was born in or near Attaleia, in modern-day Turkey. He was captured in a raid by Arabs and brought to Tripoli. While in captivity, he converted to Islam and began serving his captors in the capacity of a seaman. His name was changed to Arabic as Rashīq al-Wardāmī or Lāwī Abū’l-Hārit and given the title ghulām Zurāfa, meaning servant of Zurafa. Zurafa may have been his first Muslim master, but it is unknown. Leo’s early life and career are unknown, but he apparently rose quickly through the ranks on the sea. The historian Mas’udi met him and described him as one of the best navigators of the time. Arabic sources list Leo as commander or admiral, as well as the governor of Tripoli and deputy-governor of Tarsus. Both Tripoli and Tarsus were important Muslim strategic cent...

Disaster in Alexandria – July 21, 365 AD

In Alexandria, Egypt, the historian Ammianus Marcellinus described the events of July 21, 365 AD as “slightly after daybreak, and heralded by a thick succession of fiercely shaken thunderbolts, the solidity of the whole earth was made to shake…and the sea was driven away. The waters returning when least expected killed many thousands by drowning. Huge ships…perched on the roofs of houses… and others were hurled nearly two miles from the shore…”. The epicenter of the undersea earthquake was near the plate boundary called the Hellenic Arc, near Crete, and scientists propose it might have actually been two tremors in succession, the larger possibly being a magnitude of 8.0 in modern measurements. Nearly all of the coastal towns in Crete were destroyed by the earthquake as it pushed up parts o...

Ludi Apollinares – July 13

In 212 BC, during the Second Punic War, the Romans were suffering crushing defeats against Hannibal and the Carthaginians, despite one good victory at Syracuse. Frustrated, they consulted with Marcius, an ancient seer, for his reading of the Sibylline Oracles and the Carmina Marciana. He advised them to hold games in honor of the Greek god of the sun, Apollo, for his aid in banishing the Carthaginians from Italy. The games were called the Ludi Apollinares. This  is a category of  roman republic coins. The oracle laid out the management of the games. The praetor urbanis was responsible for supervising the games. Ten men were assigned the sacrifices according to Greek rites. The senate, under advisement of the oracle, set the payment to the praetor as 12,000 ases to be used for the sacrifice...

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