army

The last Roman emperor elected by the Senate.

Marcus Claudius Tacitus Augustus, known as Tacitus, was the last Roman emperor elected by the Roman Senate, and served only for a short period of time, between 275 and 276 AD. Little is known about Tacitus´ career before his reign. Some sources suggest he served in the Danube Legions before becoming a senator. We do know he held the office of Senate consul, rising to the highest Senate rank, princeps senatus, an office he held at the time he reluctantly accepted to be the next emperor by acclaim of the Senate. After the assassination of Aurelian, an eight-month long interregnum took place. During this time, the army, who normally would proclaim the next emperor,  decided to cede their right to the Senate, due to their remorse over the death of the popular emperor, Aurelian, who had died wi...

The Battle of La Rochelle. June 22, 1372.

The Battle of La Rochelle took place on June 22, 1372 between the Castilian fleet and the English fleet along the coast of the city of La Rochelle, France. This battle was the first phase of what would lead to the siege of La Rochelle by the French, when terrestrial and naval forces of France and Castille took the city that had been in English hands. In 1369, Charles V of France broke the Treaty of Brétigny, therefore renewing hostilities of the Hundred Years War after a nine-year respite. In great measure, the King of France took this decision counting on the support of Henry II of Castille, who had a powerful army that made the offense more likely to be successful. The French king, following his strategy to take English strongholds, e intensified his blockade over La Rochelle, the key po...

The Fifth Crusade. May 27, 1217.

The Fifth Crusade (1217-1221) consisted of a series of military actions initiated by Western Europe in order to recover Jerusalem and the rest of the Holy Land, by first trying to conquer Cairo under the control of the Ayyubids. Pope Innocent III and his successor, Honorius III, summoned the crusaders, led by the forces of Andrew II of Hungary and Duke Leopold VI of Austria. They tried to attack Jerusalem, but ultimately left the city in Muslim hands. In 1218 two armies, one led by Oliver of Cologne from Germany, and another by William I of Holland, composed of Flemish, Dutch and Frisian soldiers, joined the Crusade. They allied forces with the Seljuk Sultanate of Rum in order to attack Damietta (Egypt). The Seljuks launched an attack on the Ayyubids in Syria, trying to free the crusaders ...

The Death of Caracalla. April 8, 217.

His father, Roman emperor Septimius Severus initiated the Severan Dynasty, a dynasty of military emperors. Caracalla´s birthname was Septimius Severus Bassianus, but became known by the agnomen Caracalla because after the Danube wars he started wearing a hooded Gallic tunic called “caracallus”. Septimius Severus ruled over Rome for 18 years with iron fist and decided to split power between his two sons, Geta and Caracalla, which proved to be a huge mistake, being both corrupt and evil. Caracalla in the end killed Geta in February 212 and made up a story in which a band of assassins managed to get to Geta´s quarters and he had tried to defend him heroically but was finally defeated and his brother killed. Of course, nobody believed him, but as he was now the sole emperor, nobody could do an...

The Battle of Towton. March 29, 1461

The Battle of Towton took place on March 29, 1461 in the city of Towton, Yorkshire, during the English Wars of Roses. It is now considered by historiographers the biggest and bloodiest battle in English territory with Yorkist victory. Edward had advanced from the west to the outskirts of London, where he joined his forces with Warwick´s. This coincided with the withdrawal of Queen Margaret to the north to Dunstable, and so, Edward and Warwick entered London with their army, where they were greeted with enthusiasm, money and supplies by most people in the city, that were Yorkists. With his brother and father both dead in battle, war was by that time a pure dispute for the crown, as Edward of York could no longer argue that he wanted to free his father from his “bad advisors”. The need for E...

Commodus sole Emperor. March 17, 1180 AD.

Marcus Aurelius´ reign was characterized by continuous wars. In March 17, 180 AD, after two years leading the campaigns in the Danube himself, he died leaving his son Commodus as sole emperor of the Roman Empire. Therefore, although Commodus´ reign was more or less peaceful if compared with his father´s, it was terribly unstable and turbulent in political terms. His reign was subject to his own infatuations and needs instead of the needs of his people. In words of Dio Cassio: Commodus´ reign marked the transition a golden and silver age to that of rust and iron. This phrase has defined what many modern historians call the Decadence of the Roman Empire. Commodus stayed with his army in the Danube until he proposed a peace treaty to the Germanic Tribes, which didn´t hesitate to accept the Em...

Bardas Phocas against Basil II. February 7, 987.

Bardas Phocas was descendant of the Phocas Clan, an aristocratic family who consistently produced very competent generals that acted supplanting the actual heirs of the Macedonian Dynasty by acting as the authentic rulers of the Byzantine Empire. Let´s not forget that the Byzantine Empire at this time (during the second half of the tenth century) was characterized by long periods of military campaigns and many territories were conquered during this period. When Basil II ascended to the power at the death of his brother John I Tzimiskes in 976, tensions began to surface between the court and the emperor, that tried to rule without any exterior influence. This situation finally resulted in a major rebellion led by Bardas Phocas the Younger, the most powerful man left of the old Phocas Clan. ...

The Murder of Caligula. January 24, 41 AD.

Formally known as Gaius (Gaius Caesar Augustus Germanicus), but better known as Caligula, the third Roman emperor, from 37 to 41 AD, was born to the Julio-Claudian dynasty. He was son of Germanicus, one of the greatest generals of Roman history and adoptive son of Emperor Tiberius. His mother was Agrippina the Elder, a fiercely independent woman, who was married to Germanicus by order of Tiberius in order to bring him closer to the Julian family. As a child he accompanied his father on campaigns in the north of Germania, where he received the nickname of Caligula meaning “little (soldier’s) boot” in Latin, after the small boots (caligae) he wore… a nickname he grew to hate. Germanicus died in Syria, possibly poisoned by order of Tiberius, who saw him and his descendants a...

The Conquer of Mecca. January 11, 630.

The Conquer of Mecca meant the fall of this city (in actual Saudi Arabia) to the hands of Muslims lead by Prophet Muhammad in January 630 AD (8 AH). In 628, the Meccan tribe of the Quraysh and the Islamic community of Medina had signed a truce for 10 years, the Treaty of Hudaybiyyah. According to the terms of the Treaty, the Arabic tribes were offered to join whatever side they chose, either the Muslims or the Quraysh. If any of the tribes was attacked, its allies had the right to retaliate. As a consequence, the Banu Bakr aligned with the Quraysh and the Khuza´ah joined Prophet Muhammad. Peace reigned for some time, but motives with origins that date back to pre-islamic era, triggered hostilities that lead to the Banu Bakr attacking the Banu Khuza´ah disregarding the dispositions of the t...

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 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 Vision of Constantine. October 27, 312.

Constantine was the son of Constantius, who had served as a Caesar (a junior emperor) of the Western Roman Empire under Maximian before succeeding Maximian as Augustus (senior emperor) in 305. Constantius’ death in 306 sparked a conflict over who would succeed him. Though Constantine had the support of his father’s army, he allowed Severus, his father’s Caesar, to become Augustus. Maxentius, the son of Maximian, was angered that he was passed over and declared himself Augustus. He defeated the Severus and Galerius, the Augustus of the East, in 306 and 307. In 311, Maxentius declared war on Constantine, the greatest threat to his power. In the spring of 312, Constantine led his army toward Maxentius in in Rome. After routing Maxentius’ forces in northern Italy, Constantine approached Rome i...

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