This Week In History

The Battle of Yamen. March 19, 1279.

The Song troops were prepared for a small skirmish, not a large assault. Waves of arrows hit the Song ships. Caught off guard, the Song fleet immediately lost seven ships, along with a great number of troops in the process. The ill and weakened Song soldiers were no match for the Yuan troops in close combat, and the chaotic environment made battle command impossible. The chained Song ships could neither support the middle nor retreat. After the Song troops were killed, the bloody slaughter of the Song court began. Seeing that the battle was lost, Zhang Shijie picked out his finest soldiers and cut about a dozen ships from the formation in an attempted breakout to save the emperor. The Yuan forces quickly advanced to the center and to Emperor Huaizong, killing everyone in their way. There, ...

Maximinus Thrax and the Year of the Six Emperors. March 19, 325 AD.

  “The Romans could bear his barbarities no longer — the way in which he called up informers and incited accusers, invented false offences, killed innocent men, condemned all whoever came to trial, reduced the richest men to utter poverty and never sought money anywhere save in some other’s ruin, put many generals and many men of consular rank to death for no offence, carried others about in waggons without food and drink, and kept others in confinement, in short neglected nothing which he thought might prove effectual for cruelty — and, unable to suffer these things longer, they rose against him in revolt.” —    Historia Augusta. The emperor at the beginning of the year was Maximinus Thrax, who had ruled since March 20, 235. Later sources claim he was a cruel tyrant...

Beware the Ides of March. March 15, 44 BC.

“Cowards die many times before their deaths. The valiant never taste of death but once. Of all the wonders that I yet have heard, It seems to me most strange that men should fear, Seeing that death, a necessary end, Will come when it will come.” Julius Caesar (Act II, Scene 2, Julius Caesar, William Shakespeare)   By 44 BC Gaius Julius Caesar was the most famous and controversial man in Rome. A populist political star and great writer, he excelled in the military realm as well, pulling off a lightning conquest of Gaul – roughly, France and Belgium – as well as invading Britain and Germany (58–50 BC). When his enemies, the old guard in the Senate, removed him from command, Caesar invaded Italy. He went on to total victory in a civil war (49–45 BC) that ranged across the Mediterranean. ...

The Bureau of Indian Affairs. March 11, 1824.

Agencies to handle relationships with Native Americans had existed in the U.S. government since 1775, when the Second Continental Congress created a trio of Indian-related agencies. Benjamin Franklin and Patrick Henry were appointed among the early commissioners to negotiate treaties with Native Americans in order to obtain their neutrality during the American Revolutionary War. In 1789, the U.S. Congress placed Native American relations within the newly formed War Department. By 1806 the Congress had created a Superintendent of Indian Trade, or “Office of Indian Trade” within the War Department, who was charged with maintaining the factory trading network of the fur trade. The government licensed traders to have some control in Indian territories and gain a share of the lucrat...

The Battle of Aegates. March 11, 241 BC.

The Battle of the Aegates was fought off the Aegadian Islands, off the western coast of the island of Sicily on 10 March 241 BC. It was the final naval battle fought between the fleets of Carthage and the Roman Republic during the First Punic War. The result was a decisive Roman victory which forced an end to the protracted conflict, to the advantage of Rome. From 242 BC Rome eventually decided to build another fleet and regain naval supremacy, as the ships it had possessed at the beginning of the First Punic War had been largely destroyed in the Battle of Drepana and in the storm that followed. The new fleet was completed in 242 BC and entrusted to the consul Gaius Lutatius Catulus, assisted by the praetor Quintus Valerius Falto. The reversals of fortune and difficulties suffered in past ...

The Siege of Athens. March 1, 86 BC.

The Siege of Athens and Piraeus was a siege of the First Mithridatic War that took place from Autumn of 87 BC to the Spring and Summer of 86 BC. The battle was fought between the forces of the Roman Republic, commanded by Lucius Cornelius Sulla Felix on the one hand, and the forces of the Kingdom of Pontus and the Athenian City-State on the other. The Greek Pontian forces were commanded by Aristion and Archelaus. In the spring of 87 BC Sulla landed at Illyria. Asia was occupied by the forces of Mithridates VI of Pontus, under the command of Archelaus. Sulla’s first target was Athens, ruled by the tyrant Aristion. Sulla moved southeast, picking up supplies and reinforcements as he went. Sulla’s chief of staff was Lucullus, who went ahead of him to scout the way and negotiate with Bruttius S...

The University of Constantinople. February 27, 425 AD.

Byzantine society was generally a quite educated one. Primary education was widely available, sometimes even at village level and uniquely in that era for both sexes. Female participation in culture was high and scholarship was fostered not only in Constantinople but also in institutions operated in such major cities as Antioch and Alexandria. Aelia Eudocia, Theodosius´ wife, had been raised and educated in traditional and classical sophist education from Athens, but her goal was to blend classical pagan education with Christianity. This was her way of using her power as Empress to honor teachers and education, something that was very important to her in her life. The original school was founded in 425 by Emperor Theodosius II at the urging of his wife Eudocia, with 31 chairs for law, phil...

Cato Street Conspiracy. February 23, 1820.

At the end of the 18th century and in the first three decades of the19th, Britain was still predominantly agricultural. But society was changing. Rural living was giving way to industrialization and urbanization. Hard economic times encouraged social unrest. The end of the Napoleonic Wars in 1815 further worsened the economy and saw the return of job-seeking veterans. King George III‘s death on 29 January 1820, created a new governmental crisis. This newly industrialized world produced inflation, food shortages and new patterns of factory employment, and it was during this time of social change that a climate of discontent and radicalism developed. A series of riots and industrial unrest occurred. The government responded with a series of repressive measures, including the Combinatio...

The Battle of Lugdunum. February 19, 197.

After the murder of Emperor Pertinax (193), a struggle began for the succession to the throne, the so-called Year of the Five Emperors. The new self-proclaimed Emperor in Rome, Didius Julianus, had to face the commander of the Pannonian legions, Septimius Severus. Before moving on Rome, Severus made an alliance with the powerful commander of the legions in Britannia, Clodius Albinus, recognizing him as Caesar. After eliminating Didius that same year and then defeating the governor of Syria in 194, Severus launched a successful campaign in the East in 195. Severus then tried to legitimize his power, connecting himself with Marcus Aurelius, and raising his own son to the rank of Caesar. This last act broke Severus’ alliance with Albinus, who was declared a public enemy by the Senate. I...

The Battle of Montereau. February 18, 1814.

The Battle of Montereau was fought during the War of the Sixth Coalition between an Imperial French army led by Emperor Napoleon and a corps of Austrians and Württembergers commanded by Crown Prince Frederick William of Württemberg. While Napoleon’s army mauled an Allied army under Gebhard Leberecht von Blücher, the main Allied army commanded by Karl Philipp, Prince of Schwarzenberg advanced to a position dangerously close to Paris. Gathering up his outnumbered forces, Napoleon rushed his soldiers south to deal with Schwarzenberg. Napoleon´s victory on this battle enabled him not only to hold Montereau, where three major roads crossed, but also to force the Army of Bohemia back towards Troyes, with the intent of pushing it out of France. Napoleon had turned to the south to face Field...

The death of Lady Jane, the Nine Days’ Queen. February 12, 1554.

The great-granddaughter of Henry VII through his younger daughter, Mary Tudor, Jane Grey was a first cousin, once removed, of Edward VI, King of England and Ireland from 1547. In May 1553, she was married to Lord Guildford Dudley, a younger son of Edward’s chief minister, John Dudley, Duke of Northumberland. While the 15-year-old king lay dying in June 1553, he wrote his will, nominating Jane and her male heirs as successors to the Crown partly because his half-sister Mary was Roman Catholic while Jane was Protestant and would support the reformed Church of England, whose foundation Edward claimed to have laid. Both Mary and Elizabeth had been named illegitimate by statute during the reign of Henry VIII after his marriages to Catherine of Aragon and Anne Boleyn had been declared void...

The Destruction of Baghdad. 10 February 1258.

In 1257, Möngke resolved to establish firm authority over Mesopotamia, Syria, and Iran. The khagan gave his brother, Hulagu, authority over a subordinate khanate and army, the Ilkhanate, and instructions to compel the submission of various Muslim states, including the Abbassid caliphate. Though not seeking the overthrow of Al-Musta’sim, Möngke ordered Hulagu to destroy Baghdad if the Caliph refused his demands of personal submission to Hulagu and the payment of tribute in the form of a military detachment, which would reinforce Hulagu’s army during its campaigns against Iranian Ismaili states. After defeating the Assassins, Hulagu sent word to Al-Musta’sim, demanding his acquiescence to the terms imposed by Möngke. Al-Musta’sim refused, in large part due to the infl...

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