Monday, September 27, 2010

August 4th in History

  70CE   The destruction of the Second Temple in Jerusalem by the Romans, in conjunction with the First Jewish-Roman War which began under the reign of Nero. It was the first declaration of the arrival of the messiah in the context of a Roman War (there was another messiah claim with the Third Jewish-Roman War).
  It led to the second major diaspora.  It was during this period that the region shifted from being the vassal Kingdom of Herod to being a Roman province, and also during this period that the events at Masada occurred.  The Titis Arch was the model for the Arc de Triomphe in Paris, minus the Sack of Jerusalem ornamentation.

Sack of Jerusalem, bas relief,  from the Arch of Titus,
the presiding Roman general of the military operation,
which is still standing in Rome

Dr. Christopher Merret
1614 - 1695

1693   Dom Perignon, a benedictine monk, is credited with inventing Champagne, named for a region in France.  Dom Perignon was the celler master of the Abbey of Hautvillers, where he was cellar master.  The Abbey engaged in an extensive expansion of their vineyards during this period.  Wines in the region were primarily red, and still.  Dom Perignon attempted to prevent the seasonal refermentation of bottled wine which turned the bottles into exploding bombs of glass, hazardous to the remaining bottles and to the vintners.   It is a refermention that causes the wine to be sparkling, not still.  Dom Perignon did not actually make the statement "Come quickly, I am drinking the stars."  And Dom Perignon did not actually invent Champagne or any other sparkling wine; he attempted to refine wine made from pinot noir grapes (a still red wine).  Sparkling wines like Champagne were actually the invention of an Englishman, a scientist and medical doctor, Dr. Christopher Merret.  Sparkling wine did not become popular as a beverage until the mid-1800s, well after Dom Perignon's time.  The myths about Dom Perignon and Champagne are attributed to one of his successors at the Abbey, Dom Groussard circa 1821, as a marketing attempt to promote his church and product.  Dom Groussard created an entire mythology of stories about Dom Perignon and champagne, not only that he was the inventor.  Because we like to fact check here at Penigma, I give you the attribution and the facts about the invention of sparkling wine. There do not seem to be any images of Dom Perignon, so we leave you with the portrait of Christopher Merret instead.

USRC Gallatin

1790   A newly passed tariff act creates the Revenue Cutter Service (the forerunner of the United States Coast Guard).

1824    Battle of Kos is fought between Turks and Greeks. Kos is a Greek Island approximately 3 miles off the coast of Turkey.  Historically, it dates back to before the Trojan War.  It has belonged at various times to the Greeks, the Venetians, the Knights Hospitallers, the Ottoman Empire, Italy, and the UK......who gave it back to Greece after WW II.  This apparently famous battle is listed in nearly every 'day in history' source I checked. 

Venn diagram
courtesy of ''

What makes it fun to include here - I couldn't find a single source that identified what the battle was about specifically, or who won it, which begs the question of why it was important enough to be mentioned so often.  It appears to be part of the Greek War of Independence against the Turks that took place between 1821 and 1830.

1834   Birth of John Venn, English mathematician (d. 1923), who gave his name to the Venn diagram.

1912    Birth of Raoul Wallenberg, Swedish diplomat who was responsible for saving the lives of tens of thousands of Jews from the Holocaust. He disappeared when the Soviet forces took control of the city of Budapest in 1945, and was reported to have died in March of 1947, but no clear details of what happened to him have ever been uncovered, and the circumstances of his life and death after 1945 are still in question.  Beginning in 1985, a Raoul Wallenberg Award is given to humanitarian individuals and organizations in his name by the Raoul Wallenberg Committee of the United States to commemorate his efforts.

1914    World War I, Germany invades Belgium. In response, the United Kingdom declares war on Germany. The United States declares its neutrality.

Flag of the British Virgin Islands
Flag of the U.S. Virgin Islands

1916 The United States reached agreement with Denmark to purchase the Danish Virgin Islands for $25 million.  Not to be confused with the British Virgin Islands.  In both the British and United States Virgin Islands, traffic drives on the left-hand side of the road.  Most of the vehicles have the steering wheel on the left, American style.  The United States dollar is the official currency of both the United States Virgin Islands and the British Virgin Islands, and both countries speak English. The Passage Islands, belonging to Puerto Rico, are sometimes called the Spanish Virgin Islands, where they speak Spanish, and drive on the right hand side of the road, just to keep the whole Virgin Island designation interesting.

1930   Birth of Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, Iranian shia cleric living in Iraq, leader of the Hwaza.  He is the highest ranking Ayatollah / Shia cleric in the world, and considered the most influential figure in post-invasion Iraq.. 

Metaxas, center, receiving
Hitler-style salute from his military

1936    Prime Minister of Greece Ioannis Metaxas suspends parliament and the Constitution and establishes the 4th of August Regime.  The August 4th Regime was an authoritarian, pro-fascist, pro-Nazi repressive government, in which Metaxas ruled with the cooperation of the King of Greece.  Prince Phillip, consort of Queen Elizabeth II of the UK was an heir to that dynasty, as well as being another descendant of Queen Victoria; he renounced his claims to the throne of Greece and changed his name, upon marrying Queen Elizabeth.  The 4th of August Regime nearly ended when Italy attempted to re-establish a Roman Empire in the Mediterranerean by invading Greece, but was defeated; and then the Germans invaded and occupied Greece in 1941.  So much for Metaxas being pro-Fascist and pro-Nazi.
1944   The Holocaust: a tip from a Dutch informer leads the Gestapo to a sealed-off area in an Amsterdam warehouse where they find Jewish diarist Anne Frank and her family.

1955    Birth of Alberto Gonzales, disgraced 80th U.S. Attorney General under President George W. Bush.

1961    Barack Obama, 44th President of the United States, Nobel Peace Prize laureate

1964    American civil rights workers Michael Schwerner of New York who was in Mississippi with his wife; both were white. Andrew Goodman was also white and from New York. James Chaney was a native of Mississippi and black. All three men were found dead in Mississippi after disappearing on June 21. The three were killed by the members of the Philadelphia, Mississippi Klu Klux Klan because of their civil rights work on behalf of the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE).  The event became the basis for the fictional account in the 1988 movie Mississippi Burning. The FBI investigation revealed that the local sherriff had worked with the KKK, and that there was state-level complicity in the murders and an attempted cover-up. Initially the Federal government charged ten men, resulting in convictions of seven for civil rights violations, but not for murder. In 2005, Edgar Ray Killen was arrested and prosecuted by the State AG for Mississippi, and convicted of three counts of manslaughter, 41 years later to the day of the murders. The reinvestigation of the murders by journalist Jerry Mitchell, and an Illinois high school teacher, Barry Bradford who worked on the investigation as a National History Day competition project, are credited with bringing about the reinvestigation and later trial of Killen.
            Controversial Second Gulf of Tonkin Incident; United States destroyers USS Maddox and USS Turner Joy report coming under attack in the Gulf of Tonkin. Daniel Ellsberg revealed in the Pentagon Papers that no such attack took place.

1969    Vietnam War: at the apartment of French intermediary Jean Sainteny in Paris, U.S. representative Henry Kissinger and North Vietnamese representative Xuan Thuy begin secret peace negotiations. The negotiations failed.

1974   A bomb explodes in the Italicus Express train at San Benedetto Val di Sambro, Italy, killing 12 people and wounding 22.  The attack was attributed to a far-right, neo-fascist domestic terrorist group, 'Ordine Nero'.  We tend to forget how common it was for terrorist attacks, especially domestic terrorist attacks such as bombings and the taking of hostages, took  place world-wide before 9/11.

1975   The Japanese Red Army takes more than 50 hostages at the AIA Building housing several embassies in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. The hostages include the U.S. consul and the Swedish chargĂ© d’affaires. The gunmen win the release of five imprisoned comrades and fly with them to Libya.

1977   US President Jimmy Carter signs legislation creating the United States Department of Energy.

1987   The Federal Communications Commission rescinds the Fairness Doctrine which had required radio and television stations to present controversial issues "fairly".

1995    Operation Storm begins in Croatia, resulting in a military victory for the Croation forces over the Serbs.  U.S. Peace Negotiator, Richard Holbrooke (now special Ambassador to Pakistan and Afghanistan), described the military victory as essential to diplomatic resolution.  It also led to indictments for ethnic cleansing, war crimes and crimes against humanity in the Hague of the three Croation Generals responsible for the Operation by the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia.

Phoenix launch

2007    NASA's Phoenix spaceship is launched.  The Phoenix lander was a robot  
Mars Lander
exploring for microbial life on Mars from between May, 2008 and May 2010.

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