Thursday, September 2, 2010

September 2nd in History

harvested fennel, root, stem
and leaves
 490 BC  Death of Pheidippides, (530 BC - 490 BC) the ancient Greek hero of the Battle of Marathon during the First Persian Invasion of Greece under Darius I.  Pheidippides, as an official herald, ran from Athens to Sparta, a distance of 150 miles, in two days.  He then ran another 25 miles from the Marathon battlefield where the Persians had landed, back to Athens with the news of a Greek victory, according to legend dropping dead on the spot after uttering the word in Greece for 'we have won'.  The story of Pheidippides extraordinary feats were compiled by Herodotus, the 'Father of History' some 50 years later from multiple less-than-reliable sources. The Greek word 'marathon' translates as fennel, the herb common in Mediterranean cooking, medicine (and later in specialty beverages like absinthe).

 According to Herodotus' version, on his way to Sparta, Pheidippides met the Greek God Pan, who wanted to know why he wasn't accorded more respect and attention from the Athenians. In return for promises of more honor to him from the Athenians, Pan then in turn supposedly fought on the side of the Athenians  by using one of his special attributes, the ability to instill unreasonable fear - or PANic - in the enemy combatants.  In appreciation, the Athenians afterwards held an annual festival that included sacrifices - and a race.  This legend was the inspiration for the 'marathon' race in the modern Olympics, and  other long races of 26 miles and 385 yards. Although a great legend, it does not have a very good probability of being factual. (Not to be confused with the comic character of Pheidippides in Aristophanes' 'The Clouds'.)

  1031     Death of Saint Emeric of Hungary, variants Emmerich, Emericus or Americus.  He was killed while hunting wild boar, and afterwards healing miracles were attributed to his grave site.  So his bones were dug up and he was canonized, along with other members of his family.

  1666    The Great Fire of London breaks out and burns for three days, destroying 10,000 buildings including St Paul's Cathedral.  The fire started at the bakery of one Thomas Faryner on a street with the prosaic name "Pudding Lane".  Because of the inaction of the Lord Mayor, Sir Thomas Bloodworth, it spread, becoming a firestorm (a technical term with a very specific meaning) when wind spread the fire to buildings built too close together, and nearly all made of wood with thatched roofs that were highly combustible.  Accusations that the fire had been set by 'foreigners' intent on a diversion to promote invasions led to the lynchings of French and Dutch immigrants. In the recent civil wars, and the 'restoration' era of Charles II, there were also fears of another Guy-Fawkes-like Gun Powder Plot. (Where have we heard in our own time of irrational and unsubstantiated fear of immigrants, and even resultant threats and violence, or crazy conspiracy theories?)  The fire was eventually stopped in part because it ran out of city to burn, and because the wind stopped, -- and because of some nifty fire-fighting by the Tower of London garrison creating fire-breaks using gun-powder for effective demolition of areas creating zones the fire couldn't jump.
illustration of the Great London Fire firestorm
And then London was rebuilt with pretty much all of the same characteristics that had made it a fire-trap in the first place.

   1752    Great Britain adopts the Gregorian calendar, nearly two centuries later than most of Western Europe.

    1789   The United States Department of the Treasury is founded.

    1792    During what became known as the September Massacres of the French Revolution, rampaging mobs slaughter three Roman Catholic Church bishops, more than two hundred priests, and prisoners believed to be royalist sympathizers.

    1807   The English Royal Navy bombards Copenhagen with fire bombs and phosphorus rockets to prevent Denmark from surrendering its Dano-Norwegian fleet to Napoleon - so the British could seize it. At the time, Denmark included not only modern Denmark, but also Iceland, and Schleswig-Holstein, and could have potentially completely closed the Baltic to the English shipping, navy, and access to the English allies against Napoleon, Sweden (which at the time included modern Finland), Prussia, and Russia.  The English forces were commanded by ....General Wellesely, who hadn't been elevated to the Duke of Wellington title yet. (see a recent 'day in history, the Peninsular Wars).

    1820   Death of Jiaqing, Sixth Qing dynasty Emperor of China (b. 1760).  He was significant in Chinese history for his relationship with Europeans, especially in his efforts to prevent opium being smuggled into China by the British to offset their balance of trade deficits from importing tea.  (See Opium Wars) From 1796 to 1804 Jiaquing contended with the White Lotus Rebellion, an uprising primarily in the southwestern Szechuan province, that started as a tax protest by a secret 'White Lotus Society', with overtones of religion promising personal salvation to its followers, and advocating a sort of nationalistic patriotism desiring to restore an earlier 'more Chinese' dynasty, the Ming Dynasty, to power. The White Lotus Society also predicted the coming of the Buddhist 'Maitreya' which has some parallels to the modern western 'end days' eschatology. Although the Jiaqing military was effective in ending the White Lotus Rebellion, it cost the lives of 16 million people, and weakened the country which never fully recovered.

U. S. Marines overthrowing
the Hawaiian Government
in 1893, in front of the
Honolulu Hotel
    1838   Birth of Liliuokalani of Hawaii, last Queen of Hawaii (d. 1917)  In 1887, the 'Bayonet Constitution' was forced on Hawaii by militant anti-monarchist white settlers.  It created a constitutional monarchy which stripped actual power from the reigning traditional native Hawaiian dynasty.  The principle author of the Bayonet Constitution was Lorrin A. Thurston, grandson of the first American Christian missionaries to Hawaii, and a member of the 'Hawaiian League' which was pressing for annexation by the United States. Thurston became the Interior Minister in the new government that was created.  Provisions of the new constitution removed the previously existing right to vote from Asian males, restricting it to American, European and Hawaiian males who met certain financial and literacy requirements.  Native Hawaiians comprised half or less of the total population. Under the Bayonet Constitution criteria for the franchise, about 75% of Native Hawaiians were denied the vote.  In 1893, Thurston and his co-conspirators overthrew the government entirely in an American led coup d'etat, supported by U. S. marines.  In 1898, the U.S. formally annexed Hawaii.  In 1993, 100 years later, Congress passed, and President Bill Clinton signed, Public Law 103-150, known as the 'Apology Resolution', an official apology for the role of the U.S. government in the overthrow of the lawful government of Hawaii.

    1859   A solar super storm affects electrical telegraph service.

    1862   American Civil War: President Abraham Lincoln reluctantly restores Union General George B. McClellan to full command after General John Pope's disastrous defeat at the Second Battle of Bull Run.

    1885    Rock Springs massacre: In Rock Springs, Wyoming, 150 white miners, who are struggling to unionize so they could strike for better wages and work conditions, attack their Chinese fellow workers, killing 28, wounding 15, and forcing several hundred more out of town.

    1898   Battle of Omdurman – British and Egyptian troops defeat Sudanese tribesmen and establish British dominance in Sudan.

    1901   Vice President of the United States Theodore Roosevelt utters the famous phrase, "Speak softly and carry a big stick" at the Minnesota State Fair.

    1910   Death of Henri Rousseau, French painter (b. 1844)  A post-impressionist, he was self-taught. Some of his favorite subjects were very mannered, stylized jungle scenes, although Rousseau never left France.  He was inspired by botanical gardens and conservatories with exotic plants, and from taxidermied exotic animals in museums.  The painting at right is his final work, The Dream,  from 1910, in the collection of the Museum of Modern Art (MOMA) in New York City.  The painting was accompanied by this poem:

Yadwigha, falling into sweet sleep,
heard in a lovely dream
the sounds of a musette
played by a kind enchanter.
While the moon shone
on the flowers, the verdant trees,
the wild snakes lent an ear
to the instrument's gay airs.
To view the complete works of Henri Rousseau, see them here   

1918   Birth of Martha Mitchell, nee Beall, notorious Watergate figure.  Wife of Attorney General John Mitchell, Martha became famous for her phone calls to the press about the events the Watergate co-conspirators were trying to keep secret. In the famous David Frost interviews, President Richard Nixon
said, "If it hadn't been for Martha Mitchell, there'd have been no Watergate.", a sentiment both unfair, and unduly optimistic.
The epitome of the proverbial loose cannon, Martha lived up to the verse in her high school year-book: 

I love its gentle warble,
I love its gentle flow,
I love to wind my tongue up
And I love to let it go.   
1925   The U.S. Zeppelin the USS Shenandoah crashes, killing 14.

1939 World War II: Following the start of the invasion of Poland the previous day, the Free City of Danzig (now GdaƄsk, Poland) is annexed by Nazi Germany.

1944 Navy pilot George H.W. Bush was shot down by Japanese forces as he completed a bombing run over the Bonin Islands. The future president was rescued by a U.S. submarine.

1946 Interim Government of India is formed with Jawaharlal Nehru as Vice President. The Nehru-inspired jacket were a fashion fad failure in later years in the west.

1948 Birth of Christa McAuliffe, American schoolteacher and astronaut who died in the Space Shuttle Challenger disaster in  1986.
         Death of Sylvanus Morley, American archaeologist specializing in the pre-Columbian Mayan era, and  World War I spy in Mexico and Central America (b. 1883)

1960 The first election of the Parliament of the Central Tibetan Administration, in history of Tibet. The Tibetan community observes this date as the Democracy Day.

1963 Alabama Gov. George C. Wallace prevented the integration of Tuskegee High School by encircling the building with state troopers.      

1970  NASA announces the cancellation of two Apollo missions to the Moon, Apollo 15 (the designation is re-used by a later mission), and Apollo 19.

characteristic Hobbit-ually hairy feet
      1973  Death of J. R. R. Tolkien, CBE, British philologist and professor, poet and fantasy writer (b. 1892)  Trivia points (this is especially for my dear colleagues, Pen, ToE, TTuck) if you can correctly identify what the initials J. R. R. stand for in Tolkien's name.  A question for readers - how old were you the first time you read Tolkein? If you've read the author more than once - when was the last time you read him?

      1991  The United States recognizes the independence of the Baltic states: Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania.

1992  The United States and Russia agreed to build a space station.

1998 The UN's International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda finds Jean Paul Akayesu, the former mayor of a small town in Rwanda, guilty of nine counts of genocide     

2005 A National Guard convoy packed with food, water and medicine rolled into New Orleans four days after Hurricane Katrina.


  1. John Ronald Ruel, and yes, I had to go look, I remembered John as James but did remember Ronald, didn't remember Ruell

  2. I hoped it wouldn't be a question so easy that it insulted your knoweldge.

    I remembered John, and Ruel, but misremembered Ronald as Robert, and since I was posing the trivia question, I looked it up as well, to be sure of the correct answer.

    I hope the image of hairy "Hobbit" feet in the middle of more (sometimes less) serious history items and photos gave you a chuckle. I wanted to come up with something that was neither too cutesy-precious Lord of the Rings, nor too overly romanticized. Hairy feet a la theRing saga protagonists seemed just the thing.

  3. is a follow up question, indirect trivia of sorts, which I hope you and other Penigma readers will answer. (I will add it to the 'today in history' post itself also).

    At what age did you first read Tolkein - and which books?

    I was introduced to the Ring books in the fall of seventh grade by my school librarian, and began at the sort-of-beginning, with the Hobbit and then the three Ring saga books. I thoroughly enjoyed Tolkein's poetry.

    I st

  4. I stipulate my question, 'first time' reading Tolkein, as so many people I know who love the books have read them more than once.

    Perhaps i should also ask how many Penigma readers re-read Tolkein, and how recently?

  5. I believe I read "Bored of the Rings" in 7th grade, and then read "Return of the King" that same year. I saw the movie "The Hobbit" (animated) around that same time.

  6. For those not familiar with this secondary classic to Tolkein, a read of Bored of the Rings is worth the time. For those hazy on the details from reading it a lonnnng long time ago, Wikpedia does a good summary to jog one's memory:

    (Not sure why this is showing up as pen, but this is in fact DG)