1877: Arthur Tooth is taken into police custody. He was born in 1839 in Kent, England. He was educated at Trinity College, Cambridge and graduated with a degree in science in 1862. He traveled around the world twice and was known as an accomplished horseman and a crack shot. During his travels, he became interested in the priesthood and took an interest in Ritualism. He became an ordained vicar and was assigned to a local parish, but he and his vicar disagreed on how to serve the parishioners. Tooth became an ordained priest in 1864 and served at several different churches. By 1868, he had been assigned to St. James’s Hatcham, a working class parish in southeast London.
His work there began to attract large congregations. He was an inspired preacher and introduced several more ritualistic practices within the parish. He also developed programs to help the more needy and established the Guild of All Souls at St. James’s in 1873. The Public Worship Regulation Act was passed 1874. This act, introduced by the Archbishop of Canterbury, had as its purpose the limitation of growing ritualism within Anglo-Catholicism and the Oxford Movement within the Church of England. Benjamin Disraeli, then Prime Minister, supported the bill as did Queen Victoria. Arthur Tooth did not and he continued his practice as he had.
On July 13, 1876 his case came before Lord Penzance at Lambeth Palace. Tooth did not appear before the court although he had been charged with using incense, vestments and altar candles. He ignored the entire proceeding in spite of getting legal counsel to submit. His services were now constantly being disrupted, not by parishioners, but by outsiders who were hired by his opponents for the sole purpose of disruption. After repeatedly ignoring the decisions of the Court of Arches, he was brought in for contempt of court and imprisoned at Horsemonger Lane Gaol in London. He was immediately cast into the position of martyr and his story became headline news. Due to public outcry, the Public Worship Regulation Act came into disrepute (although it was not repealed until 1965) and Tooth’s conviction was overturned on a technicality.
He lived for another 52 years but his health was adversely affected for the rest of his life. He was never again given his own parish to run but he had no desire for any further fame or notoriety. He established a chapel, convent, and orphanage school on property he purchased in 1878 and spent the rest of his life in the pursuit of helping disadvantaged children. In 1927, he moved his school to a new location and brought his 27 boys plus three religious sisters to Otford Court near Sevenoaks. The school became St. Michael’s Preparatory School and still exists today.
Tolerance implies no lack of commitment to one’s own beliefs. Rather it condemns the oppression or persecution of others. – John F. Kennedy
Religious tolerance is something we should all practice; however, there have been more persecution and atrocities committed in the name of religion and religious freedom than anything else. – Walter Koenig
In politics, as in religion, it is equally absurd to aim at making proselytes by fire and sword. Heresies in either can rarely be cured by persecution. – Alexander Hamilton
Once you attempt legislation upon religious grounds, you open the way for every kind of intolerance and religious persecution. – William Butler Yeats
1861: Jefferson Davis resigns from the US Senate. Davis was an American politician born in Mississippi in 1807 or 1808, giving both years as his birth date, the youngest of ten children. His ancestors had emigrated from Wales in the early 1700s and arrived in the colonies before the family finally settled in the Georgia colony. Since international slave trade ended in 1808, the family used domestic slaves to work their acreage. When the father of the family died, Joseph, the eldest brother and 24 years older than Jefferson, took over his upbringing and encouraged his further education. Joseph got his baby brother into West Point in 1824 and he graduated 23rd out of a class of 33 in 1828.
Davis married Sarah Taylor, daughter of the commander of his first assignment and future President of the US Zachary Taylor. In order to do so, he had to resign from his Army career. They went to Louisiana in the hopes of beginning a life together and instead, they both caught malaria or yellow fever. Sarah died just three months after they were married. By 1840, plantation and slave owner Davis entered politics when he was surprisingly chosen as a delegate to the state’s convention in Jackson, Mississippi. He entered his first political race and lost but became an exemplary Democrat, campaigning for James Polk in 1844. That same year he met the future second Mrs. Davis when he was 35 and she was 17. They married in 1845. Later that year, he was elected to the House of Representatives.
In 1846, he resigned his seat in the House in order to fight in the Mexican-American War. He rose to the rank of colonel and after successfully leading his troops, President Polk offered him a commission as brigadier general, but Davis declines, pointing out that militia appointments were to come at the state level. After the war, Governor Brown of Mississippi offered the recently vacated Senate seat of Jesse Speight to Davis. He was then elected to the Senate and did a remarkable job. In 1853, President Franklin Pierce made Davis Secretary of War. Throughout the country, the question of slavery escalated. After the Dred Scott case was decided, Davis once again returned to the Senate.
Davis spent the summer of 1858 in Maine and wrote anti-secessionist works and gave a speech on July 4, pleading for unity. He spoke with Southerners about holding fast. But the 1860 presidential elections brought Abraham Lincoln to the Presidency. South Carolina adopted an ordinance of secession on December 20, 1860. Mississippi followed on January 9, 1861. With a heavy heart, Jefferson Davis tendered his resignation on what he called “the saddest day of my life” as he delivered his farewell address and then returned to Mississippi. He would go on to be the one and only President of the Confederate States.
Neither current events nor history show that the majority rule, or ever did rule.
I worked night and day for twelve years to prevent the war, but I could not. The North was mad and blind, would not let us govern ourselves, and so the war came.
If the Confederacy fails, there should be written on its tombstone: Died of a Theory.
Everyone must understand that, whatever be the evil of slavery, it is not increased by its diffusion. Every one familiar with it knows that it is in proportion to its sparseness that it becomes less objectionable. Wherever there is an immediate connation between the master and slave, whatever there is of harshness in the system is diminished. – all from Jefferson Davis
250: Decius issues an edict. Trajan Decius was the 34th Roman Emperor and ruled from 249 until his death in June 251. In an effort to return Rome and her Empire to former glory days, the leader opted to return to the old ways and this included restoring public piety and adhering to the State religion. To that end, he sent out an impressive edict which is referenced in many surviving Egyptian texts. The gist of the edict was that all inhabitants of the Empire were compelled to make a sacrifice before the magistrate by a certain date which seemed to have been based on when the message arrived in a particular area. When the citizen made the appropriate sacrifice to the Roman gods, a certificate of libellus was issued, recording the sacrifice and the person’s loyalty to the old gods as demonstrated by eating and drinking the sacrificial food.
There is some supposition that Decius was not attempting to force the superiority of the Roman pantheon, but was simply trying to reaffirm his conservative vision of the Pax Romana and hoping to make all citizens of the Empire feel secure. The actual consequences were different. The newly flourishing sect, called Christians, were not totally aligned with the Old Testament but did adhere to the rule of not practicing idolatry. Because of this belief, many refused to perform the sacrifice and eat the blessed food and drink. For this offense, many were killed. Pope Fabian was among these, dying on this day although it does not seem he was executed, but rather that he died in prison.
Rather than being used to promote the State religion, the new edict was used to begin a pogrom to rid the region of the Christians. The edict remained in effect for eighteen months and while many Christians were killed, many more survived by simply performing the sacrifice and other rituals and then returning to their own faith. Fabian had miraculously been chosen as Pope in 236 when a dove descended and alit on his shoulder, a Christian symbol of selection by the Holy Spirit. During most of his reign as Bishop of Rome, he got along well with the secular rulers of the Empire.
During his time at the head of the Church, he divided Rome into deaconates in order to help with the task of cataloging all the activities of a growing religion. He is given credit for establishing four minor clerical orders in order to help with this work. He was also responsible for sending out apostles as missionaries. He got along well enough with the local rulers to assure that two previously exiled saints could be returned to Rome and given a proper burial. However, when Decius demanded that the leader of the Christians bow and sacrifice to the Roman gods, Fabian refused. He died as a martyr on this day and is now buried at St. Sebastian at the Catacombs in Rome (San Sebastiano fuori le mura) as Sebastian was also martyred on this day.
The Roman Empire was very, very much like us. They lost their moral core, their sense of values in terms of who they were. And after all of those things converged together, they just went right down the tubes very quickly. – Ben Carson
I got to thinking about the Book of Revelation that was written by a Jewish prophet who was also a follower of Jesus who hated the Roman Empire. I realized that the Book of Revelation could be a way to reflect on the issue of religion’s relationship to politics. – Elaine Pagels
The Papacy is not other than the Ghost of the deceased Roman Empire, sitting crowned upon the grave thereof. – Thomas Hobbes
I am utterly struck how, 300 years after his execution, Christianity became the official religion of the Roman Empire. – Peter Jennings
1607: San Agustin Church or Immaculate Conception Parish Church of San Agustin is declared officially complete. The Roman Catholic church was built by the men of The Order of St. Augustine inside the historic walled city of Intramuros – the oldest walled portion of present day Manila in the Philippines. The building standing on the UNESCO site today is actually the third Augustinian church built there. The first church was built of bamboo and nipa leaves and was completed in 1571. It was destroyed by fire in December 1574 when the island was invaded. A second church was built, this time made of wood and it, too, was destroyed by fire. This time the blaze was caused when drapery caught fire during the funeral of the Spanish Governor-General.
After the second fire, it was decided to rebuild using stones. Rather than just build a church, the monks opted to also build a monastery with construction starting in 1586. The design was by Juan Macias who chose to build with adobe stones quarried from some distance away. Work was slow due to the lack of funds, materials, and competent stone artisans. The monastery was operational in 1604 and the church itself was finally declared complete on this day. Macias died prior to the church’s completion. The new church was named St. Paul of Manila with the Augustinians giving Macias official recognition as the builder of the edifice.
During the Seven Years’ War, the British forces occupied Manila and while there, looted the church. In 1854, the church was renovated under the watchful eye of Laciano Oliver. On June 3, 1863, the strongest earthquake to hit Manila (at that time) destroyed much of the city. The church was the only public building left undamaged. More earthquakes hit in 1880 and they along with the aftershocks left a crack in the left bell tower which was eventually repaired. Since then, the tower has been permanently removed for safety reasons. The Church was the site for the official surrender of the Philippines to the US at the end of the Spanish-American War. It was used by the Japanese as a concentration camp during World War II.
Today, known as Iglesia de la Inmaculada Concepción de María de San Agustín, the church is the oldest still standing church in the Philippines. It was one of four churches built during the Spanish colonial period and designated as World Heritage Sites by UNESCO in 1993. It had already been named a National Historical Landmark by the Philippine government in 1976. Built in the Baroque style, the church remains in use. It boasts a grand pipe organ, beautiful painting and woodwork, and 16 huge chandeliers.
I love you when you bow in your mosque, kneel in your temple, pray in your church. For you and I are sons of one religion, and it is the spirit. – Khalil Gibran
I have devoted my energies to the study of the scriptures, observing monastic discipline, and singing the daily services in church; study, teaching, and writing have always been my delight. – Venerable Bede
The way to preserve the peace of the church is to preserve its purity. – Matthew Henry
When I go to Rome, I fast on Saturday, but in Milan I do not. Do you also follow the custom of whatever church you attend, if you do not want to give or receive scandal. – Saint Ambrose
1915: Japan issues Twenty-One Demands to the government of China. During World War I, the Empire of Japan had Ōkuma Shigenobu as Prime Minister. He sent a list of demands to China which would extend Japanese control of Manchuria as well as increase control over the economy. The Japanese had gained a great deal of influence in northern China and Manchuria during the First Sino-Japanese War and the Russo-Japanese War. At the time, Japan ranked with European imperialist powers in their quest to take control of China. The Qing dynasty was overthrown and a new Republic of China was created under General Yuan Shikai. Japan saw this development as a way to increase her own power on the mainland.
Early drafting of the demandswas done by Shigenobu and Foreign Minister Katō Takaaki, who would later serve as Prime Minister of Japan. They were presented to the Genrō and Japanese Emperor Taishō. They went next to the Diet who approved the list of demands after which they were presented to Shikai on this date. Along with the demands came threats of dire consequences if they were not met. The demands were divided into five groups.
The first group demanded that Japan’s seizure of German ports and operations be recognized along with control over infrastructure in the Shandong Province. Groups two and three sequentially granted Japan a wider sphere of influence over greater territories and natural as well as manmade resources. Group four barred China from making similar deals with other foreign powers. And the most aggressive and final list demanded China hire Japanese advisors who would take control of China’s finances and police as well as freedom to build their own infrastructure. They attempted to keep this last section secret while putting pressure on the new Chinese government.
A new list of Thirteen Demands was sent on May 7, almost two weeks after China’s rejection of the first list. Shikai was not in a strong enough position, since he was still in battle with other warlords over total control of China and he capitulated and signed the reduced document on May 25, 1915. The consequences for Japan were mainly negative. The signing of the demands did little to increase the de facto power Japan already had in China but it did greatly antagonize relations between Japan and the US and Great Britain who had been Japan’s greatest ally up to this point. The British Foreign Office was dismayed by Japan’s overbearing and bullying behaviors. The Chinese themselves organized a total boycott of all Japanese imports and the economic consequences were considerable.
Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will. – Frederick Douglass
As soon as the land of any country has all become private property, the landlords, like all other men, love to reap where they never sowed, and demand a rent even for its natural produce. – Adam Smith
Freedom is our most precious commodity and if we are not eternally vigilant, government will take it all away. Individual freedom demands individual responsibility. – Lyn Nofziger
No person is your friend who demands your silence, or denies your right to grow. – Alice Walker
1852: The United Kingdom signed the Sand River Convention. The Dutch East India Company was formed in 1602 as they began their quest for colonial and imperial trade in Southeast Asia. In 1648, one of their ships was stranded in Table Bay (a natural bay on the Atlantic Ocean, near present day Cape Town in South Africa) and the shipwrecked crew found an impressive amount of natural resources to sustain themselves until they could be rescued several months later. They liked it so much, the Dutch built a fort and began settlement of Cape Town in 1652. The natives in the area were part of the community. The Dutch and Afrikaans word for farmer is boer, and the residents and their descendants were called Boers.
The Dutch East India Company continued to rule until the United Kingdom took over the region. Boers who were not happy under British rule moved outward and settled in the Orange Free State, Transvaal, and even as far as Natal. The Boers were able to remain outside British control when they settled near the Vaal River in 1835, but it wasn’t long until the British were able to gain control of this region as well. The Dutch had allowed each Bantu village to be ruled by their own chief whereas the British wanted a more hands on type of governance. While everyone was willing to tax the locals for the benefit of the Europeans, the day to day ruling was in contention.
On this day, William Hogge and Mostyn Owen signed for Great Britain while Andries Pretorius signed the Sand River Convention for the Boers and on behalf of the new country. Great Britain granted farmers across the Vaal River to govern themselves, free of any British interference along with several more points of interest. The new country, the Zuid-Afrikaansche Republiek or ZAR, held their first election in 1857 and had Marthnius Wessel Pretorius (son of Andries) elected as President. The capital of the new country was located in Potschfstroom and later it was moved to Pretoria. The 24 member Parliament was called the Volksraad.
While free of British rule, the ZAR was still ruled by Dutch oversight. They became fully independent and changed their name to the South African Republic in February 1884. European interference continued and in November, another convention was signed to help distance themselves from overseas control. The land was contested and more conflict was to follow. After the Second Boer War, 1899-1902, the ZAR came under the rule of South Africa and were once again part of the British Empire.
What light is to the eyes – what air is to the lungs – what love is to the heart, liberty is to the soul of man. – Robert Green Ingersoll
There is no easy walk to freedom anywhere, and many of us will have to pass through the valley of the shadow of death again and again before we reach the mountaintop of our desires. – Nelson Mandela
Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction. We didn’t pass it to our children in the bloodstream. It must be fought for, protected, and handed on for them to do the same. – Ronald Reagan
Freedom means you are unobstructed in living your life as you choose. Anything less is a form of slavery. – Wayne Dyer
1862: The Hartley Colliery disaster occurs. Also known as the Hartley Pit or Hester Pit disaster, it was a coal mining disaster in Northumberland, England. The coal mining venture began at the Hartley old pit near the coastline with earliest extant records dating from 1291. Because of the location near the North Sea, flooding became an ever increasing problem and by 1760 the first atmospheric engine was installed. This was an ingenious method of using a steam engine to pump water out of mines, developed in 1712. Even with improved engines, the old pit was finally abandoned in 1844 due to the incoming water. However, the coal deposits were still valuable enough to drop a new shaft and continue mining. A new seam was opened on May 29, 1846 and a village grew up around it. Since women and children were not permitted to be miners, the standard of living was greater than normal and the families thrived in this new location.
The standard of the time called for a single shaft twelve feet wide to be dug for access to the seam of coal, deep underground. The shaft also was where the pumps were located and the means of getting fresh air to the miners. Since this was a single shaft colliery, a timber brattice (a dividing wall where fresh air goes down one side and stale air is removed from the other) was built. The pit was called a wet pit and was known for flooding, so keeping the pumps functional was a priority. They were also in the shaft, uploading water and keeping the miners safe. On this day, the men were switching positions of front team to back team at 10:30 AM. The first eight men were ascending the pit when the beam of the pumping station snapped and fell down the shaft, destroying most of the brattice in the fall. Four of the men fell; four of the men held on to the snapped cable.
The beam jammed into the shaft and debris fell, causing a blockage 90 feet deep. Rescue efforts began immediately when Matthew Chapman, a deputy just off shift, heard the noise and hurried back to the mine. He attempted to enter the shaft, lowering himself on a rope and to clear the way using an ax. Soon more help arrived and efforts began in earnest. The plight of the trapped men was twofold, lack of fresh air and impending flooding. Speed was of the essence but the volume of the collapse was daunting. By Friday, the men were about 30 feet apart, with those from the top digging down and those from the bottom, digging upwards. The another collapse let more debris into the pit.
By Tuesday, the air was so bad, rescuers could only work in twenty minute shifts, but work continued. More help arrived and eventually it was possible to lower food to the trapped miners. When they finally broke through on Wednesday, the air was so filled with carbon monoxide, the rescuers were forced back. Rather than an rescue, it now became a recovery event. In all, 204 men and boys were killed in the accident. England’s law for coal mines was amended to include the need for a second shaft or outlet to be part of every mine, allowing for escape for those in the pits. Parliament passed this law less than six months after the inquest suggesting such and not only all new mines, but also all existing mines were required to have an escape route available.
The Jury cannot close this painful inquiry without expressing their strong opinion of the imperative necessity that all working collieries should have at least a second shaft or outlet, to afford the workmen the means of escape should any obstruction take place. – Inquest verdict
Coal mining is an industry rife with mismanagement, corruption, greed and an almost blatant disregard for the safety, health and quality of life of its work force. Everyone knows this. Everyone has always known it. – Tawni O’Dell
Mining is like a search-and-destroy mission. – Stewart Udall
I’m lucky to have a job doing something I really love to do, and I’m happy to accept the pressures of relentless deadlines or reader expectations as necessary evils. It’s probably not as stressful as mining coal or leading men into battle. – Grant Morrison
1919: Boston, Massachusetts is the site of the Great Molasses Flood. The Purity Distilling Company, a subsidiary of United States Industrial Alcohol Company, was located at 529 Commercial Street in Boston’s North End. They used large tanks (50 feet tall and 240 feet in circumference) which held as much as 2.3 million gallons of molasses. Molasses can be fermented to produce rum and ethanol, the active ingredient in alcoholic beverages. It is also a major part of producing ammunition. Winter in Boston is cold and it had been freezing for quite some time. However, on this date, the temperature rose rapidly to over ⁰F 40 and around 12.30 PM the fermenting goo suddenly expanded enough to start popping the rivets on the vat. There was a preceding growl, a noise like a thunderclap, and then pops like a machine-gun being fired as the rivets popped.
With about 2.3 million gallons of molasses now free, a wave reached a peak of 25 feet and moved as fast as 35 mph as it left the building. The Boston Elevated Railway at Atlantic Avenue had the girders buckled by the force of the wave and a train was momentarily tipped off the tracks. Many of the nearby buildings were wrenched from their foundations and crushed under the weight of the advancing molasses. The tide moved on and for several blocks, all open spaces were flooded with 2-3 feet of the sticky mess. Some people were picked up and swept along on the wave. Some were hurled into the air. Others were pelted with debris as it was moved by air currents in advance of the wave itself. The force was strong enough to pick up a truck and throw it into Boston Harbor.
There were about 150 people injured and 21 were killed. The dead ranged in ages from 10 to 76 with six of the dead from the North End Paving Yard. Many animals were also injured and several horses, still used for transportation, were killed. Some of the deaths were by crushing under the weight of the substance; some drowned in the sticky mess. In the days that followed, many of those near the wave were victims of coughing fits. The first to arrive on the scene were 16 cadets from the USS Nantucket, a training ship at the Massachusetts Nautical School. Under the leadership of Lt. Com. Copeland, the cadets ran to help and were tasked with keeping the curious out of the way of rescue workers. They also entered into the knee-deep goo to help where needed. The viscosity of the molasses made rescue efforts even more difficult.
Cleanup was horrific and more than 300 people worked for weeks on the initial cleaning. First salt water from fireboats was sprayed over the molasses and then sand was used to try to absorb the mess. It was washed into the harbor which remained brown until summer. While this initial work cleared the streets, it took much longer for the rest of Boston to recover. People had tracked the sticky mess over a much larger area – streetcars, subway platforms, pay telephone handsets, homes throughout the region. All over Boston, this sticky substance had to be cleaned and it was said that for years afterwards, on hot days, the city still smelled sickly sweet.
Molasses, waist deep, covered the street and swirled and bubbled about the wreckage … Here and there struggled a form—whether it was animal or human being was impossible to tell. – Boston Post
Only an upheaval, a thrashing about in the sticky mass, showed where any life was … Horses died like so many flies on sticky fly-paper. The more they struggled, the deeper in the mess they were ensnared. Human beings—men and women—suffered likewise. – Boston Post
Anthony di Stasio, walking homeward with his sisters from the Michelangelo School, was picked up by the wave and carried, tumbling on its crest, almost as though he were surfing. Then he grounded and the molasses rolled him like a pebble as the wave diminished. – an article in Smithsonian
He heard his mother call his name and couldn’t answer, his throat was so clogged with the smothering goo. He passed out, then opened his eyes to find three of his four sisters staring at him. – an article in Smithsonian
1973: Elvis Presley puts on a concert. The summer before, President Richard Nixon had visited China and there was immediate satellite images of his time there. Colonel Thomas Parker, Elvis’s manager, decided that Elvis could be seen worldwide as well and set up a way to make that happen. He wanted to share The King with the entire world and it was “impossible for us to play in every major city” so something else had to be done. It was hoped to have things in place by October or November at the latest, but it might have interfered with MGM’s release of a documentary, Elvis on Tour. On September 4, 1972 Parker made an announcement from Las Vegas telling of the future concert on this date. It was to be the first satellite broadcast of a concert and Parker hoped for 1 billion viewers. This was a bold statement because of the timing of the event and the time differences around the globe. Other performances had been broadcast live, including The Beatles and Maria Callas, but these were not concerts put on by a single artist.
Another thing mentioned at the announcement in Las Vegas, there was to be no admittance or cover charge at the door. Instead, people were asked to make a donation to charity to enter. Eddie Sherman, a columnist from the Honolulu Advertiser, asked Parker if the donations could go to the Kui Lee Cancer Fund since Lee was the writer of “I’ll Remember You” – a song Elvis was still singing. This was another chance for Parker to broadcast Elvis’s charitable efforts and agreed.
Marty Pasetta was chosen as the producer and director of the concert. He attended a concert in November and found Elvis “boring” and the event lacking in physical excitement. He brought ideas to Parker who refused. Pasetta, even though Parker said it was useless, approached Elvis and was pleasantly surprised to find the artist amenable to any suggestions which would make the concert better. A runway was added which let Elvis get closer to his audience. He did three shows in November in Hawaii, the original dates for the satellite date, and then gave another press conference and reiterated the charity sponsorship.
A taped version of the concert was made on January 12 just in case anything went wrong. Elvis appeared in both shows in his iconic American Eagle white jumpsuit designed by Bill Belew. Pasetta directed the concerts (he was also in charge of directing the Oscars during this time). There was no charge for either the January 12th or 14th concerts but still, $75,000 was raised for the Kui Lee Cancer Fund. The concert took place at the Honolulu International Center (now the Neal S. Blaisdell Center) and was aired in over 40 countries across Asia and Europe (where it was broadcast the next day and during prime time). In the US, it was not aired until April 4 because the concert date was the same as Super Bow VII which took precedence. According to Elvis Presley Enterprises, between 1 and 1.5 billion people watched the one-hour broadcast live, a world record.
Rhythm is something you either have or don’t have, but when you have it, you have it all over.
The image is one thing and the human being is another. It’s very hard to live up to an image, put it that way.
Every time I think that I’m getting old, and gradually going to the grave, something else happens.
From the time I was a kid, I always knew something was going to happen to me. Didn’t know exactly what. – all from Elvis Presley
532: The Nika riots begin in Constantinople. After the fall of the unified Roman Empire, the western Romans and the eastern Byzantines each had well-developed associations called demes. These supported different factions or teams and the various teams competed at events with a special love of chariot racing. There were four teams, at first, each with their own color – Blues, Reds, Greens, Whites – and the color was worn by the team members and their supporters. By the time the Empire split into two, the only teams left with any influence were the Blues and the Greens. Emperor Justinian I (Byzantium) was a Blues fan. The teams had become the focal point for nearly everything including politics, gangs, theology, and even claimants to the throne.
In 531, some members of both teams were arrested for a murder during rioting after a chariot race. At first, these riots were rather mild but things escalated over time, much like riots after sporting events today. The arrested men were to be hanged, but on January 10, 532 one member of each team managed to escape and were given refuge in a church which was surrounded by an angry mob. Justinian was in delicate negotiations with the Persians to secure peace and the public was upset by the high taxes to continue war. To appease the masses, he declared a race would be held on this day and the sentences would be reduced to imprisonment – the crowds wanted full pardons.
On this date, crowds streamed into the Hippodrome (next to the palace) for the races. The Emperor could watch from the safety of his palace, but the crowds were obviously unhappy with the ruler. By the end of the day, at race 22, the crowds had switched from yelling out their color to screaming in a unified manner “Nika” which means Win or Conquer. The crowds erupted into a riotous mass and attacked the palace. Over the next five days, the palace was under siege. Fires were intentionally set and destroyed much of the city including the pre-eminent church, the Hagia Sohpia – which Justinian would eventually rebuild. The crowd began to crown their own man, Hypatius, as emperor.
Justinian sent Narses, a loyal eunuch, into the Hippodrome alone and unprotected even though hundreds had already been killed there. The small man approached the leaders of the Blues with quiet determination and a bag of gold. He pointed out that Justinian favored the Blues. He also pointed out that Hypatius was a Green. He distributed his gold coins among the Blues who then encouraged their followers to leave the Hippodrome even as the ceremony to crown Hypatius was beginning. The Greens were stunned. After the Blues left, generals Belisarius and Mundus stormed the Hippodrome and killed the remaining rebels. In all, about 30,000 rioters were killed. Justinian had Hypatius executed and Senators who had supported him exiled.
Those who have worn the crown should never survive its loss. Never will I see the day when I am not saluted as empress. – Theodora, refusing to flee with her husband, Justinian
Royalty is a fine burial shroud. – Theodora
The limitation of riots, moral questions aside, is that they cannot win and their participants know it. Hence, rioting is not revolutionary but reactionary because it invites defeat. It involves an emotional catharsis, but it must be followed by a sense of futility. – Martin Luther King, Jr.
Riots born out of political issues aren’t the same as those born out of personal greed. – Ross Kemp