Monday, September 27, 2010

August 20th in History

Khalid ibn al-Walid
636    Battle of Yarmouk: Arab forces led by Khalid ibn al-Walid, one of the great tacticians of history, take control of Syria and Palestine away from the Byzantine Empire defeating a numerically superior force. It marked the first great wave of Muslim conquests and the rapid advance of Islam outside Arabia, occurring after the death of Mohammad. 

I particularly include this, because in this era of 'Islamophobia' over mosques and cultural centers in the United States, I am angered and disappointed, frustrated and saddened, at the ignorance we generally have about Islam - when it began, how it started, its precepts and teachings, its schisms and sects, and perhaps most importantly the highs and lows of the historic interactions between Islam and Christianity and other faiths and politics.  Both Christianity and Islam encourage conversion of others, which makes competition if not conflict inevitable, unlike some other major world religions - Buddhism, Hinduism, Judaism come to mind as three major world religions, as examples.

illuminated manuscript
capital letter
of St. Stephen of Hungary
Blessed Queen Giselle

1000   The foundation of the Hungarian state by Saint Stephen, born Vajik, Grand Prince of the Hungarians from 997 to 1,000, later King of Hungary from 1,000 to 1038 when he died. Sometimes called the first King of Hungary, although that could also be a claim for Attila the Hun, called 'the Scourge of God'.  King Stephen introduced Christianity to Carpathia. The date is celebrated as a National Day in Hungary.  When his father died, Stephen claimed the throne, by divine right through the ''Doctrine of the Holy Crown"; his uncle, who was not Christian, claimed the throne through the traditional magyar agnatic seniority, where the throne passes to the next eldest brother not the son.  So Uncle and Nephew fought it out for the throne; Stephen had the advantage because of the German knights that came with his Christian wife. Pope Silvester II and the Holy Roman Emperor Otto III. Conveniently, the next Holy Roman Emperor was also King Stephen's brother-in-law Henry II, who also became a saint, as did his wife, St. Cunegunde of Luxembourg. King Stephen's wife almost made it to saintly status in the 18th century, but is only known as Blessed Giselle of Bavaria. 

St. Emeric of Hungary
King Malcom & Queen St. Margaret

1083   Canonization of the first King of Hungary, Saint Stephen and his son Saint Emeric. Saint Emeric's sister, Princess Agatha, married Edward the Exile, and HER daughter became St. Margaret of England, who was the second wife of King Malcolm III of Scotland, the royal family made famous in the fictional Shakespeare play MacBeth and in a lot of factual Scottish history.  Hungary has been a Christian country, except when it was Moslem, under the expansions of the Ottoman empire.  Isn't it fun how the threads of history all tie together, even if sometimes it is in a bit of a granny knot.

1391   Konrad von Wallenrode becomes the 24th Hochmeister (Grand Master / High Master) of the Order of the Teutonic Knights of St. Mary's Hospital in Jerusalem - Teutonic order for short - a German Roman Catholic crusading military order in the Middle Ages.  They were formed in the middle east, in Acre, where they were based until the Christians were defeated in 1211 by the Moslems and thrown out.  Then they moved to Hungary (see, these threads of history just keep bunching up together!) in order to stop the incursions of the Kipchak Turks, who were not part of the invading Moslems. They were part of the invading Mongol Golden Horde, who eventually converted to Islam, under the empire of the Mameluks in Egypt.  The Hungarians eventually threw out the Teutonic Order, in 1225, but kept some of the Kipchaks on as mercenaries.  The Teutonic knights then conquered Prussia, parts of Poland and Lithuania and Latvia, turning it into a monastic state, the Ordenstaat.  Which is pretty much where Konrad von Wallenrode was when he became 24th Hochmeister, and got involved with the commercially successful Hanseatic league.  (See Riga, in a recent today in history).  One of the grand-masters converted to Lutheranism in 1525; and turned the formerly monastic state into a secular one. The Roman Catholic Teutonic Order continues, under a Grand Master, as a purely clerical, religious order presumably now more concerned with the Kingdom of Heaven, and less so,  with the earthly 'staat'.

1775   The Spanish establish a presidio (fort) in the town that became Tucson, Arizona.

1794   Battle of Fallen Timbers – American troops force the retreat of Shawnee, Mingo, Delaware, Wyandot, Miami, Ottawa, Chippewa, and Potawatomi warriors, an early pan-tribal confederacy with the common goal of opposing European immigrant expansion.  The battle took place near what is now Toledo, Ohio.  The American forces were lead by the famous American Revolutionary General 'Mad Anthony' Wayne who led a numerically superior force with better weapons, and cavalry, which the Native American forces lacked.  The Indians had the nominal support of the British, who let them down at critical moments.

1804   Lewis and Clark Expedition: the "Corps of Discovery", exploring the Louisiana Purchase, suffers its only death when sergeant Charles Floyd dies, apparently from acute appendicitis.

1858   Charles Darwin first publishes his theory of evolution in The Journal of the Proceedings of the Linnean Society of London, alongside Alfred Russel Wallace's same theory.

1866   President Andrew Johnson formally declares the American Civil War over.

1882   Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky's 1812 Overture debuts in Moscow.  Unrelated to the U.S War  of 1812 with Britain, the Overture was written in honor of the Napoleonic Wars, and the Battle of Borodino, and includes cannon in addition to the more usual orchestral instruments .

Emin Pasha

1888   Mutineers imprison Emin Pasha at Dufile. Emin Pasha was an interesting character; he was born into a Germano-Jewish family as Isaak Eduard Schnitzer in Silesia; his family moved when he was a small child to Poland.  When he was five, after his father died, at the age of five, his mother remarried and the family converted to the Lutheran faith, and baptized as Eduard Carl Oscar Theodor Schnitzer, beginning his collection of names. He went to University to become a doctor, but then lost his medical privileges, so he intended to go to Constantinople, but got distracted in Montenegro. Bonus geography points if you know where Silesia and Montenegro are. He then moved to Albania, with the Pasha of the Ottoman Emperor. When the Pasha died, he took the widow and children of the Pasha with him back to Poland representing they were his own family.  He then suddenly left Poland again, and went to Cairo, Egypt in 1875; from there he went to Khartoum,the capital of Sudan, meeting up with the legendary "Chinese Gordon", aka "Gordon of Khartoum", aka Charles George Gordon of England.  In Cairo and Khartoum 'Emin Pasha', as he was now known was presumed to be Muslim, not Jewish or Lutheran. He appeared to have changed both names and religion rather easily.  He began working with and for Gordon, and collected plant, bird and animal specimens for museums on the side.  The uprising resulted in Emin Pasha being cut off with a small military force.  Sir Henry Morton Stanley, the adventurer  journalist who rescued Dr. Livingstone in Africa, decided to rescue Emin Pasha. Stanley had been born in Wales, but not with the last name of Stanley. He emigrated to the U.S. when he was 18, and became friendly with a sort of unofficial adoptive father, casually adopting the last name of Stanley and tried to pretend he wasn't foreign.  During the Civil War Stanley joined the Confederate Army, was captured, and promptly switched sides to the Union Navy, and deserted a second time.  Like Emin Pasha, Stanley was something of an opportunistic individual who adapted quickly. He got himself hired as a journalist, and had a variety of adventures in Africa, including rescuing Emin Pasha and claiming the Congo for Belgium.  In the course of his African adventures, he made the statement regarding the native Africans, "the savage only respects force, power, boldness, and decision."  Stanley was known for brutality and causing numerous deaths. Then he returned to England, married, was elected to
 Parliament, and awarded the Order of the Garter, living happily ever after.  Emin Pasha did not.  Instead of staying rescued, he signed on with the German East Africa Company, and was killed by arab slave traders.

1920    The first commercial radio station, 8MK (WWJ), begins operations in Detroit, Michigan.

1940    British Prime Minister Winston Churchill paid tribute to the Royal Air Force, saying, "Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few."
            In Mexico City exiled Russian revolutionary Leon Trotsky is fatally wounded with an ice axe by Ramon Mercader. He dies the next day.

1944    WWII: 168 captured allied airmen, accused of being "terror fliers", arrive at Buchenwald concentration camp.

1955   In Morocco, a force of Berbers from the Atlas Mountains region of Algeria raid two rural settlements and kill 77 French nationals.

1968   200,000 Warsaw Pact troops and 5,000 tanks invade Czechoslovakia to end the "Prague Spring" of political liberalization.  A Czech joke in the face of the military occupation was "Do you consider the Warsaw Pact troops as your friends, or your family? (implying those were the only two options which could be said aloud) The answer was "Family of course! Your friends you choose."

1975   Viking Program: NASA launches the Viking 1 planetary probe toward Mars.

1977   Voyager Program: NASA launches the Voyager 2 spacecraft.

1982   Lebanese Civil War: a multinational force lands in Beirut to oversee the PLO's withdrawal from Lebanon.

1986  I n Edmond, Oklahoma, U.S. Postal employee Patrick Sherrill guns down 14 of his co-workers and then commits suicide, the first in a string of postal employee murder-suicides, giving rise to the term 'going postal'.

1988   Iran–Iraq War: a cease-fire is agreed after almost eight years of war.

1991   Collapse of the Soviet Union, August Coup: more than 100,000 people rally outside the Soviet Union's parliament building protesting the coup aiming to depose President Mikhail Gorbachev.
           Estonia secedes from the Soviet Union.

1993   After rounds of secret negotiations in Norway, the Oslo Peace Accords are signed in an attempt to establish an Israeli Palestinian Peace.  It is followed by a public ceremony in Washington, D.C. the following month.

1997  Souhane massacre in Algeria; over 60 people are killed and 15 kidnapped.

1998   The Supreme Court of Canada rules that Quebec cannot legally secede from Canada without the federal government's approval.
           U.S. embassy bombings: the United States military launches cruise missile attacks against alleged al-Qaida camps in Afghanistan and a suspected chemical plant in Sudan in retaliation for the August 7 bombings of American embassies in Kenya and Tanzania.

2002   A group of Iraqis opposed to the regime of Saddam Hussein take over the Iraqi Embassy in Berlin for five hours before releasing their hostages and surrendering.

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