Here are 10 Cool Moments in History.
01. The Battle at Teutoberg Forest
In 9 AD, Quintilus Varus was marching through a Germanic forest with his three legions, a few units of cavalry and some auxiliaries. Their marching line was stretched to about 15-20 kilometers. At this point the Romans were ambushed by Germans. Under heavy losses and pouring rain, the Romans managed to set up a fort for the night. The next morning, two attempts at escaping were met by heavy losses. The following night, they did a night march to escape, but were met with another trap by Ariminus, who had been raised in Rome and knew Roman tactics. The Romans made some desperate attempts to break through the ambush and failed. At that point, some Roman official committed suicide, like Varus himself, while others died fighting or surrender with their units. The destruction was complete. When Augustus, the Roman emperor, learnt of the defeat, it is said that he wandered the palace at night, banging his head on the walls, shouting: “Quintilus Varus, give me back my legions!.”
02. The Battle at Aegos Potamoi
This battle took place during the Peloponnesian War (431 BC-404BC). This was a conflict that encompassed most of Greece, Sicily and Asia Minor. The two alliances who fought were led by the Spartans and the Athenians. In 405 BC, the Athenians and the Spartans were about to have a naval battle in Aegos Potamoi, which were in Asia Minor. Every day, they would deploy for battle, and the Athenians would wait for the Spartans to move. But the Spartans didn’t. Instead, their leader, Lysander sent his fastest ship to monitor the Athenian actions. Every day, the Athenians grew more bold and would go farther from their ships after each time they deployed. After all, they were Athenians, the best sailors in the ancient world. What had they to fear? After some days, Lysander told the ship he was sending to signal the rest of the fleet when the Athenians disembarked. At that point, Lysander attacked. The Athenian demise was complete. Out of 170 ships, only 20 returned to Athens.
Most of you know this one. About 7,000 Greeks held back 70,000 to 300,000 Persians. The first day, the Greeks supposedly cut down the first wave with barely a couple losses. Afterwards, the Persian King, Xerxes, sent 10,000 immortals. The Greeks used the tactic of feigning retreat, and then, when the enemy’s line was broken from running after them, they’d turn around and slaughter them.
The second day, Xerxes assumed that the Greeks were now injured and the few were left, so he sent the infantry once again. And again, they were cut to ribbons. After a while Xerxes called the attack off. It was at that point that he was approached by a Greek called Efialtes, who knew another passage into Thermopylae, which led behind the Greek lines. (fun fact, Efialtes means Nightmare in English)
At dawn in the third day, Leonidas learnt the the Persians would have them surrounded soon. So, he ordered the Greeks to leave. Of the 7,000, only 300 Spartans remained, 400 Thebans and 700 Thespians stayed. Also, the Helots, the Spartan slaves, stayed behind, because they were slaves, they had no other option. When the Persians attacked, the Greeks actually sallied out, in order to kill as many as they could. They fought with spears until they broke, and then carried on with swords. It was then that Leonidas died. Afterwards, the Greeks retreated to a hill to make a last stand. It was then that the Thebans surrendered. (this caused them much dishonor and disdain later, although they were redeemed). The remaining Greeks were said to have fought with swords teeth and nails, until they all died.
This battle was fought during the Sengoku Jidai in Japan. Ieyasu Tokugawa faced Takeda Shingen. Shingen, using his cavalry, the best in Japan, demolished the Tokugawa forces. Tokugawa retreated to Hamamatsu castle, with only five men following him. At this point, most samurai would commit seppuku (suicide). But not Tokugawa.
He ordered the castle gates to remain open, while he sent one of his men to beat a war drum outside them. When the Takeda vanguard approached them, they thought it was a trap, so they waited outside and made camp for the night. During the night, Tokugawa sent a group of ninjas led by Hanzo Hattori (otherwise known as the most badass ninja of the era) These ninjas proceed to do some damage to the Takeda army. The following day, Shingen, worried that reinforcements would soon arrive, and uncertain of the strength of the Tokugawa army, retreats back to his home province of Kai.
05. Megalopolis and Agis the Third
Agis was a Spartan king during the times of Alexander. He revolted against him and besieged Megalopolis, a city in the Peloponesse. The city managed to hold out until a Macedonian general, Antipater, came to its aid. In the battle that ensued, Agis lost, despite doing great damage to Anipater. During the retreat, when it became apparent that the Macedonians would catch up to the Spartans, Agis, who had taken many wounds across his face, chest and legs, ordered his men, who were carrying him, to let him down and continue retreating. Agis, unable to even stand, stood on his knees and waited for the Macedonians. He managed to kill quite a few of them and slow them down, until a javelin went through him, You would think his massive balls of steel would have stopped it, but what can you do.
06. The Battle of Hastings
This battle changed the face of Britain forever. The English King, Edward, died childless in January 1066. Soon after, Harold II was crowned king. However, he had to face three pretenders: His brother, Tostig, King Harald Hardrada of Norway and Duke William of Normandy. Tostig and Harald formed an alliance to place Harald on the throne. While they had some initial success, beating the English in the battle of Fulford, they lost in the battle of Stanford Bridge (which included a Viking holding off the English alone on a bridge with his axe until he died)
Afterwards, Harold turned to face William, who had landed on England’s southern shores. The two forces met in Hastings. Harold’s forces consisted mainly of infantry, while William had infantry, archers and cavalry. Initially, Harold tried to surprise William, but failed. Afterwards, the Normans pummeled the English lines, to no avail. So they adopted the classic tactic of “pretend to run then turn and stab you”, also used successfully by people like the Mongols and the Spartans. Near the battle’s end, Harold was either hit by an arrow in his left eye or ridden down by a Norman knight, maybe both. Thus, his men broke. William won, and by Christmas of the same year, he was king of England.
07. The Edict of Milan
In 313 AD, the Western Roman Emperor, Constantine, and the Eastern Roman Emperor, Licinius, met in Mediolanum, modern day Milan. In Greek, this Edict is called Διάταγμα της Ανεξιθρησκείας. This pretty much translates to the Edict of worship what you want. And this is important to reference because it is commonly thought that the Edict promoted only Christians, which is not true. Lactantius in his book states:
“When you see that this has been granted to [Christians] by us, your Worship will know that we have also conceded to other religions the right of open and free observance of their worship for the sake of the peace of our times, that each one may have the free opportunity to worship as he pleases; this regulation is made that we may not seem to detract from any dignity of any religion.”
So, essentially, this Edict was one of the first to promote free faith. While it didn’t last for long, it was quite a step forward, since the next big similar edict happened in the UN in 1948.
08. The Battle of Tours/Poitiers
This battle occurred in France in October 732. It was a battle between the Ummayad Caliphate and the Franks, led by Charles Martel. The two armies met in an area of Charles’ choice, which made Abd-Al-Rahman (let’s call him Rahman), the Muslim leader, uneasy. So, for a full week, the two armies engaged only in minor skirmishes, while Rahman recalled all his troops, being unsure of Charles’ strength, since his troops were well hidden in the forested terrain he had chosen. This also allowed Charles to reinforce himself too.
Neither of the commanders wanted to attack, but Rahman felt obliged to, since his men wanted to loot Tours, which they could only do if they won against the Franks. When the Ummayads attacked, they did so with a cavalry charge. Charles’ heavy, experienced infantry managed to withstand the charge, something few infantry units did in the Middle Ages. As the battle progressed, a rumor spread that some Franks were threatening the loot they had in their fort. This was true, as Charles had sent them, hoping to divert their attention.
At once, a chunk of the force broke off to guard the loot, which seemed to the rest like a retreat, which it soon became. During that retreat, Rahman himself died, trying to rally the men. The Ummayads, now leaderless, had no choice but to leave France. This battle is commonly thought to have saved Christianity, while also being a prequel to the rise of the Carolingians. (Charles was Charlemagne’s grandfather)
09. The Treaty of Verdun
After Charlemagne’s death, his Empire went through an unstable period during his son’s, Louis the Pious’, reign, since his sons kept rebelling against him. After Louis died, he left the Empire to his firstborn son, Lothair, while his other children, Charles and Louis, held their own realms of Aquitaine and Bavaria inside the Empire. These two quickly formed an alliance against Lothair. They soon went to war, and in 841 beat him in Fontenay, while also declaring Lothair unfit to rule in 842. After that, the three met in Verdun to reach an agreement for the splitting of the Empire.
According to the treaty of Verdun:
- Lothair kept the title of Emperor, while also retaining his hold over Italy, the Low Countries, Lorraine, Alsace, Burgundy and Provence. His realm was called Middle Francia.
- Louis got all the lands east of the Rhine and north of the Alps. These lands would later become the kingdom of Germany.
- Charles got the west portion of the Empire, which is modern day France.
Why it’s important: This treaty is pretty much why nations such as France and Germany exist. Also, some years later, Middle Francia crumbled into smaller kingdoms, one of which was Lotharingia. Lotharingia became disputed between East and West Francia. This conflict would last until the end of WWII. So we see that treaties that happened hundreds of years ago still affect us today.
10. The Siege of Constantinople (1204)
In 1204, Byzantium (or the Empire of Constantinople, or the Roman Empire) had fallen on hard times. It was threatened on all fronts, by Normans, Bulgarians and Muslims. Also, the current dynasty, the Aggeloi, was probably the worst dynasty to ever be on the Byzantine throne. They oppressed the common people, committed debauchery, and were also cowards. Also, for some reason, they were known to send blind generals to fight for them. These generals, while really brave, (there’s an occasion of one, who, when he learnt his men were losing, got on a horse, turned to the enemy’s direction and shouted “follow me” as he charged alone.) were useless.
The reasons that the Crusaders attacked were:
- The schism of the two Christian churches.
- An exiled Emperor (Isaac) asking for their help.
- The booty.
- The strategic location
- Venice’s want to get the city’s ports
Once the Crusaders arrived, carried by Venetian fleets, they besieged the city and put Alexios IV and Isaac on the throne. Isaac quickly died and Alexios was quickly deposed by Alexios V, who executed Alexios IV, which caused the Crusaders to declare war on him. The city resisted the first assault, but succumbed to the second, although the fighting was fierce, especially between the Crusaders and the Varangian Guard.
After the Crusaders took the city, they looted it for three days. Great works of art were destroyed, churches were pillaged, as well as the Library of the city. Also, statues and paintings were carried off to the Crusaders’ homelands. (the most common example being the bronze horses of the Hippodrome, that still adorn the St. Mark’s Basilica in Venice today). Afterwards, the Byzantine Empire was split between the Crusaders, while Greeks still retained control over some areas.
In 1261, the city was retained by the Empire of Nicaea, and the Empire was restored. However, both the city and the Empire never recovered. A shadow of their former selves, they both fell in 1453.
However, let’s say here that Crusader conquest of the Empire wasn’t only negative. The Crusaders taught the people of mainland Greece how to fight, which led to them resisting the Ottoman yoke and forming guerilla parties. It is these parties that helped the Greeks in the revolution of 1821 against the Ottomans.