September 9, 490BC Marathon

‘With you it rests, Callimachus, either to bring Athens to slavery, or, by securing her freedom, to be remembered by all future generations…We generals are ten in number, and our votes are divided: half of us wish to engage, half to avoid a combat. Now, if we do not fight, I look to see a great disturbance at Athens which will shake men’s resolutions, and then I fear they will submit themselves. But, if we fight the battle…we are well able to overcome the enemy.’

200 years before the classical age of Greece, King Darius I, third King of the Persian Achaemenid Empire, ruled over an area stretching from North Africa to the Indian sub-continent, from Kazakhstan to the Arabian Peninsula.   Several Anatolian coastal polities rebelled in 499BC, with support and encouragement from the mainland city states of Athens and Eritrea.

Achaemenid_Empire
Achaemenid Empire

This “Ionian Revolt” lasted until 493BC.  Though ultimately unsuccessful, the Greeks had exposed themselves to the wrath of Darius.  Herodotus records that, every night before dinner, Darius required one of his servants three times, to say to him “Master, remember the Athenians“.

Darius
Darius I

The Persian “King of Kings” sent emissaries to the Greek city states, demanding gifts of earth and water, signifying Darius’ dominion over all the land and sea. Most capitulated, but Athens put Darius’ emissaries on trial and executed them.  Sparta didn’t bother with a trial.  They threw Darius’ ambassadors down a well. “There is your earth”, they said. “There is your water”.

Athens and Sparta were now effectively at war with the Persian Empire.

2507 years ago, Darius sent an amphibious expedition to the Aegean, attacking Naxos and sacking Eritrea.   A force of some 600 triremes commanded by the Persian General Datis and Darius’ own brother Artaphernes then sailed for Attica, fetching up in a small bay near the town of Marathon, about 25 miles from Athens.

An army of 9,000-10,000 hoplites (armored infantry) marched out of Athens under the leadership of ten Athenian Strategoi (Generals), to face the 25,000 infantry and 1,000 cavalry of the Persians.  The Athenian force was soon joined by a full muster of 1,000 Plataean hoplites, while Athens’ swiftest runner Pheidippides was dispatched to Lacedaemon, for help.Pheidippides

The festival of Carneia was underway at this time, a sacrosanct religious occasion during which the Lacedaemonian (Spartan) army would not fight, under any circumstance.   Sparta would be unavailable until the next full moon, on September 9.  With 136 miles to Marathon, Spartan reinforcement was unlikely to arrive for the next week or more.

The Athenian force arrived at the Plain of Marathon around September 7, blocking the Persian route into the interior.

Facing a force more than twice as large their own, Greek Generals split 5 to 5 whether to risk battle.

Greco Persian

A “Polemarch” is an Athenian civil dignitary, with full voting rights in military matters.  General Miltiades, who enjoyed a degree of deference due to his experience fighting Persians, went to the Polemarch Callimachus, for the deciding vote.

The stakes are difficult to overstate.  Arguably, the future of Western Civilization hung in the balance.

With Athens behind them now defenseless, its every warrior here on the plain of Marathon, Miltiades spoke.  ‘With you it rests, Callimachus, either to bring Athens to slavery, or, by securing her freedom, to be remembered by all future generations…We generals are ten in number, and our votes are divided.  Half of us wish to engage, half to avoid a combat. Now, if we do not fight, I look to see a great disturbance at Athens which will shake men’s resolutions, and then I fear they will submit themselves. But, if we fight the battle…we are well able to overcome the enemy.’

With less than a mile between them, the two armies had faced one another for five days and five nights.  On September 12, 490BC, the order went down the Athenian line.  “At them!”

Marathon ChargeWeighed down with 70lbs per man of bronze and leather armor, the Greek line likely marched out to 200 yards, the effective range of Persian archers.  Greek heavy infantry closed the last 200 meters at a dead run, the first time a Greek army had fought that way.

Persian shafts flew by the thousands, yet the heavy armor and wooden shields of the hoplite formation, held.  Bristling with arrows yet seemingly unhurt, the Greek phalanx smashed into the Persian adversary, like an NFL front line into an ‘Antifa” demonstration.

Tom Holland, author of Persian Fire, describes the impact.  “The enemy directly in their path … realized to their horror that [the Athenians], far from providing the easy pickings for their bowmen, as they had first imagined, were not going to be halted … The impact was devastating. The Athenians had honed their style of fighting in combat with other phalanxes, wooden shields smashing against wooden shields, iron spear tips clattering against breastplates of bronze … in those first terrible seconds of collision, there was nothing but a pulverizing crash of metal into flesh and bone; then the rolling of the Athenian tide over men wearing, at most, quilted jerkins for protection, and armed, perhaps, with nothing more than bows or slings. The hoplites’ ash spears, rather than shivering … could instead stab and stab again, and those of the enemy who avoided their fearful jabbing might easily be crushed to death beneath the sheer weight of the advancing men of bronze“.

Darius’ force was routed, driven across the beach and onto waiting boats.  6,400 Persians lay dead in the sand, an unknown number were chased into coastal swamps, and drowned.  Athens lost 192 men that day, Plataea, 11.

Marathon Battle

In the popular telling of this story, Pheidippides ran the 25 miles to Athens and announced the victory with the single word “Nenikēkamen!” (We’ve won!”), and dropped dead.

That version first appeared in the writings of Plutarch, some 500 years later.  It made for a good story for the first Olympic promoters, too, back in 1896, but that’s not the way it happened.

Herodotus of Halicarnassus, described by no less a figure than Cicero as the “Father of History”, tells us that Pheidippides was already spent.  No wonder.  The man had run 140 miles from Athens to Lacedaemon, to ask for Spartan assistance.

Despite the exhaustion of battle and the weight of all that armor, the Athenian host marched the 25 miles back home, arriving in time to head off the Persian fleet.  The Spartans arrived at Marathon the following day, having covered 136 miles in three days.

Though a great victory for the Greeks, Darius’ loss at Marathon barely put a dent in the vast resources of the Achaemenid Empire.  The Persian King, would return.

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September 8, 480BC (est.) Thermopylae

Simonides’ famous encomium to the dead was inscribed on a commemorative stone at Thermopylae, atop a hill on which the Greeks made their final stand. “Go tell the Spartans, stranger passing by, that here, obedient to Spartan law, we lie.”

In 490BC, Persian King Darius I sent an amphibious expedition into the Aegean, only to be defeated by a far smaller force of Athenians at the Bay of Marathon.

As Achaemenid Emperor, leader of the most powerful state of his time, King Darius I was sovereign over 21 million square miles and more.  He had more to deal with than a handful of malcontents in the Peloponnese.  At the moment, Darius had an Egyptian revolt to put down, but the “King of Kings'” would be back.  He had a score to settle with the Greeks.   King Darius died before he was through, so it was that the Persian King Xerxes would return to finish what his father had begun, ten years earlier.

In 480BC, news of a massive Persian army on the move reached Lacedaemonia, principal region of the Spartan state.  De facto military leaders of the Greek alliance, the Spartans were then celebrating the religious festival of Carneia.  Spartan law forbade military activity at this time, the same reason they had shown up late at Marathon, ten years earlier.   Spartan leaders went to the Temple of Apollo at Delphi, for advice.

The-Oracle-of-Delphi-Apollo-Talks-2
The Temple of Apollo, at Delphi

The Oracle at Delphi was a seer, usually selected from among epileptics, as the Greeks believed seizures were evidence that the person was in touch with the Gods. A careful ritual was observed, before the Priestess would speak.  First she would bathe in the Castalian Spring, before drinking from another stream. A priest would then pour ice water over a goat, to determine the presence of Apollo. The goat’s shivering was understood to indicate that the God was present, and that he had invested his powers in the Oracle. If the signs were fortuitous, the Oracle would then inhale the gas emitted from a chasm near the temple.  With volcanic gasses rising from the ground beneath her, the “Pythia” would then mount to the Tripod.  Only then would she speak.

Priestess of Delphi
Oracle at the Temple of Apollo, at Delphi

“Hear your fate”, she said. “O dwellers in Sparta of the wide spaces.  Either your famed, great town must be sacked by Perseus’ sons, or, if that be not, the whole land of Lacedaemon shall mourn the death of a king of the house of Heracles. For not the strength of lions or of bulls shall hold him, strength against strength; for he has the power of Zeus, and will not be checked until one of these two he has consumed.”

For King Leonidas of Sparta, the meaning was clear.  He himself would have to die, to fulfill the Oracle’s prophesy.

Leonidas gathered up a small blocking force of 300 Spartan Peers, all of them “Sires”. This was understood to be a suicide mission. Leonidas wanted only those warriors who would leave behind, a son.

Several Greek city states were technically at war with one another in 480BC, but that was dropped, as preparations were made for a two-pronged defense. An allied Greek navy would meet the Persian triremes at the straits of Artemisium, while an army of Hoplites, Greek heavy infantry, would meet the Persian army at the narrow pass known as the “Hot Gates”.  Thermopylae.

Thermopylae topoThe 300 marched out at the head of an allied army of 7,000, to meet a Persian army which modern estimates put at 100,000 to 150,000. A native of Trachis told the Spartan General Dienekes, that Persian archers were so numerous their arrows would block out the sun. “Good”, replied Dienekes. “Then we shall fight in the shade”.

When the overwhelming Persian army demanded the Spartans lay down their arms, Leonidas’ response was short and sweet.  “Molon Labe”, he said.  Come and get them.

The two armies collided, on or about the 8th of September, 480BC.  Thermopylae, a mountain pass delineated by the Phocian Wall on one side and the Aegean Sea on the other, measured the width of two carts abreast. Great piles of Persian dead choked the pass by the end of the 9th, but nothing that Xerxes could throw at the Greek heavy infantry could break their phalanx.

A traitor to his people then rose among the local population, Ephialtes of Trachis, who led the Persians through a narrow path to come around behind the Greek line.

ThermopylaeKnowing he was betrayed and would soon be surrounded, Leonidas sent most of the allied soldiers away.  They would be needed for the battle yet to come.

On day three, King Leonidas was left with his 300 Spartans, 700 Thespian allies, and an unreliable contingent of 400 Thebans.  True to form, the Theban band defected en masse to the Persian side, at the earliest opportunity.  Still, the hordes of Xerxes were unable to break through the Greek line, even on two fronts.  They backed off and rained down arrows from a distance, until no Greek was left standing.

Artemisium devolved into a meaningless stalemate, yet the Greek alliance had demonstrated itself more than capable of standing up to the mightiest empire of its time.   Athens, lacking the manpower to fight simultaneously on land and sea, abandoned their city to be burnt to the ground.  The regrouped Greek Navy crushed the Persians at Salamis.  The last Persian invader was driven off the Greek mainland the following August, following the Greek victory at Plataea.

Simonides’ famous encomium to the dead was inscribed on a commemorative stone at Thermopylae, atop a hill on which the Greeks made their final stand.  The original stone is gone now, but the epitaph was engraved on a new stone in 1955.

“Go tell the Spartans, stranger passing by, that here, obedient to Spartan law, we lie.”

battlefield-of-thermopylae

September 7, 70 The Jewish-Roman Wars

Built under the reign of King Solomon in the 10th century BC, Solomon’s Temple was the first holy temple in ancient Jerusalem.  According to Rabbinic sources the temple stood on part of the Temple Mount, also known as Mount Zion, for 410 years, before being sacked and burned to the ground by Babylonian King Nebuchadnezzar II, in 587 BC.

Built under the reign of King Solomon in the 10th century BC, Solomon’s Temple was the first holy temple in ancient Jerusalem.  According to Rabbinic sources the temple stood on part of the Temple Mount, also known as Mount Zion, for 410 years, before being sacked and burned to the ground by Babylonian King Nebuchadnezzar II, in 587 BC.Solomons TempleSo important is this event to the Jewish people that it is commemorated still as the saddest day of the Jewish calendar.  A day of fasting and mourning known as Tisha B’Av.

A second temple was built on the site in 516BC, and expanded during the reign of Herod the Great. This second temple stood until the Roman sack of Jerusalem in 70AD, according to Jewish tradition falling on the same day as the first temple.

The first Roman involvement with the Kingdom of Judea came in 67BC.  The client Kingdom of the Herodian Dynasty became a Roman Province in the year 6AD.

Long standing religious disputes erupted into a full scale Jewish revolt in 66. Thousands of Jews were executed in Jerusalem and the second temple plundered, resulting in the Battle of Beth Horon, in which a Syrian Legion was destroyed by Jewish rebels. The future emperor Vespasian appointed his son Titus as second in command, entering Judea in 67 at the head of four legions of Roman troops.

Arch_of_Titus_Menorah
“Depiction of the Roman triumph celebrating the Sack of Jerusalem on the Arch of Titus in Rome. The procession features the Menorah and other vessels taken from the Second Temple”. H/T Wikipedia

A three year off and on siege followed, with Vespasian being recalled to Rome in 69 to become Emperor. The Great Jewish Revolt was now Titus’ war.

The Jewish historian Josephus acted as intermediary throughout much of the siege, though his impartiality has been questioned since he was both friend and adviser to Titus. At one point Josephus entered the city to negotiate, but later fled, wounded by an arrow in a surprise attack which almost caught Titus himself.

Roberts_Siege_and_Destruction_of_Jerusalem
The Siege and Destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans Under the Command of Titus, A.D. 70, Oil on canvas by David Roberts, 1850

A brutal siege of Jerusalem followed through most of the year 70, in which Jewish Zealots burned their own food supply, forcing defenders to “Fight to the End”. During the final stages, Zealots following John of Giscala still held the Temple, while a splinter group called the Sicarii (literally, “Dagger Men”), led by Simon Bar Giora, held the upper part of the city. The Second Temple, one of the last fortified bastions of the rebellion, was destroyed on Tisha B’Av, July 29 or 30, 70AD. By September 7 the Roman army under Titus had fully occupied and plundered all of Jerusalem.

Masada
Mountain fortress of Masada. Note the siege ramp to the right, by which the besieging force gained access to the top. The Romans built that.

The first Jewish-Roman war would last for three more years, culminating in the Roman siege of the mountain fortress of Masada, in which defenders committed mass suicide in April of 73 rather than being conquered by the Romans.

There would be two more Jewish-Roman wars:  Kitos War (115–117), sometimes called the “Rebellion of the Exile”, and the Bar Kokhba Revolt of 132 through 135. The wars had a cataclysmic impact on the Jewish people, the resulting diaspora changing them from a major Eastern Mediterranean population into a scattered and persecuted minority. The Jewish people would not reestablish a major presence in the Levant until the constitution of the State of Israel, in 1948.

Emperor Justinian built a Christian church in the 530s on the ruins of the Second Temple, which was burned to the ground by Sassanid Emperor Khosrau II early in the 7th century. The Umayyad Caliphate built the “Farthest”, or “al-Aqsa” mosque and the Dome of the Rock on the site, following the Islamic conquest of Jerusalem in 637.  Islamic authorities have ruled over the city ever since, with the exception of an 88-year period following the First Crusade, 1099-1187.

The Jerusalem Islamic “Waqf”, a religious trust acting as civil administrators for the old-city“Haram esh-Sharif” ( “The Noble Sanctuary”), or “Temple Mount” to Christians and Jews.  The Waqf has held administrative authority over the holy sites of Jerusalem since the Muslim reconquest of the city in 1187.  The most recent Waqf was established by the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, following the 1948 war.  Israel recaptured the old city after the 6-day war in 1967, when they informed Waqf authorities that it would be allowed ongoing control over the old parts of the city.

An uneasy status quo remains to this day, with Israel maintaining “overall sovereignty” and the Muslim authorities maintaining “religious sovereignty”, over the Old City of Jerusalem.  .9 square kilometers walled up within the modern city, the Old City is home to some of the most religiously significant sites, on the planet: the Temple Mount and Western Wall for Jews, the Church of the Holy Sepulchre for Christians, and the Dome of the Rock and al-Aqsa Mosque for Muslims.

September 6, 1673 (est), Des Moines

It is altogether possible: that the ‘ol Chief put one over on Father Marquette on this day 344 years ago, and the Capital City of Iowa bears the name of a centuries-old jest. 

Marquette_JolietOn May 17, 1673, Father Jacques Marquette set out with the 27-year old fur trader Louis Joliet to explore the upper reaches of the Mississippi River. Their voyage established the possibility of water travel from Lake Huron to the Gulf of Mexico, helping to initiate the first white settlements in the North American interior and bestowing French names on cities from La Crosse to New Orleans.

Relations with natives were mostly peaceful at this time, as several tribes jockeyed for advantage in the lucrative French fur trade.

On or about this day in 1673, Father Marquette asked the Chief of the Peoria about another tribe living down the river. Not wanting to effect his privileged position, the chief indicated that they didn’t amount to much, and weren’t worth bothering with. He called them “Moingoana”, a name which was later transliterated into French as “Des Moines”.Marquette Joliet Route

Marquette was expert in several native dialects by this time, but the chief may have been indulging in locker room humor, and the joke went over his head. The Miami-Illinois language is extinct today, but there is linguistic evidence suggesting that Moingoana derives from “mooyiinkweena”, translating politely, as, “those excrement-faces.”

There are alternate explanations of where the name comes from, but it is altogether possible:  the ‘ol Chief put one over on Father Marquette on this day 344 years ago, and the Capital City of Iowa bears the name of a centuries-old gag.

September 5, 1698 Death and Taxes

There have always been taxes, but over the years some governments have come up with truly imaginative ways to fleece their citizens.

It’s been said that there are only two sure things in life. None of us get out of here alive, and the government thinks it’s entitled to what you earn. Or something like that.

There have always been taxes, but over the years some governments have come up with truly imaginative ways to fleece their citizens.

In England, there is a “Telly Tax” paid in the form of a television license. There’s good news though; you only have to pay half if you’re legally blind. This is in addition to the council tax, income tax, fuel tax, road tax, value added tax, pasty tax, national insurance, business rates, stamp duty, and about a thousand other taxes. But hey, the health care is free.

Nebraska, $10 Tax Stamp on Illegal Drugs
Nebraska’s $10 Tax Stamp on Illegal Drugs

Tennessee passed a “Crack Tax” on illegal drugs in 2005, which drug dealers were expected to pay anonymously in exchange for a tax stamp (don’t ask).   The measure was found unconstitutional in 2009, on grounds that it violated the drug dealer’s fifth amendment right to protection from self-incrimination.

Milwaukee attorney Robert Henak became a collector of state drug tax stamps, not long after helping to overturn Wisconsin’s crack tax on similar grounds.

Undeterred, then-Governor Elliott Spitzer proposed a tax on illegal drugs as part of the Empire State’s 2008-9 budget, making the New York the 30th state to pass such a measure.   “Mr. Clean” stepped down in a hooker scandal, amid threats of impeachment by state lawmakers.  The state Senate passed a budget resolution the following day, specifically rejecting the crack tax.

Massachusetts will charge you a “meals tax” on five donuts, but not 6.  Handy to know, next time you want to plow into a box of donuts, in a sitting.

Illinois taxes candy at a higher rate than food. Any item containing flour or requiring refrigeration is taxed at the lower rate, because it’s not candy. So, yogurt covered raisins are candy, but yogurt covered pretzels are food. Baby Ruth bars are candy, but Twix bars are food. Get it?  Neither do I.FART Tax

New Zealand proposed a tax on bovine flatulence in 2003, to curb “Global Warming”.  New Zealand’s farmers made an almighty fuss over a tax on cow farts, and red-faced politicians quietly dropped the proposal.

President Obama levied a 10% tax on indoor tanning in 2010, leading to 10,000 of the nation’s 18,000 tanning salons closing, with a loss of 100,000 jobs. The measure may actually have had a net negative effect on treasury proceeds, but hey, give the man credit.  He figured out how to tax white people.

Indoor Tanning Tax-10

In 1696, England introduced a property tax based on the number of windows in your home. Homeowners bricked up windows to avoid the tax, leaving them ready to be re-Bricked up windowglazed at some future date.

England repealed their window tax in 1851 and France in 1926, but there are still homes with bricked up windows. Perhaps they’re getting ready for window tax version 2.0. Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne proposed just that, as recently as 2012.

At one point, Holland levied a tax on the width of homes. Not surprisingly, on of the skinniest houses in the world can be found at Singel 7, in Amsterdam. It’s a meter across, barely wider than the door.Skinny House

On this day in 1698, Czar Peter I had just returned from a trip to Europe, and he was hot to “modernize” Russia. All those European guys were clean shaven, so Peter introduced a tax on beards.

When you paid your beard tax of 100 Rubles, (peasants and clergy were exempt), you had to carry a “beard token”. Two phrases were inscribed on the coin: “The beard tax has been taken” and “The beard is a superfluous burden”.  Failure to shave or pay the tax might lead to your beard being forcibly cut off your face. Some unfortunates had theirs pulled out by the roots, by Peter himself.

Beard_token
Czar Peter’s Beard Token

When King Henry I reigned over England (1100 – 1135), people who avoided military service were charged a “Cowardice Tax” called a”Scutage”. It was modest at first, but Richard Lionheart’s little brother John raised it by 300% when he became King, charging even his knights in years when there were no wars.  It’s no small part of what led to the Magna Carta.

Often, taxes are used to shape social policy.

CHINESE_COOLIESIn 1862, the California legislature passed a tax on Chinese residents, entitled “An Act to Protect Free White Labor against Competition with Chinese Coolie Labor, and to Discourage the Immigration of Chinese into the State of California.”

The new law levied a tax of $2.50 per month on every ethnically Chinese individual residing within the state, and followed a gold rush era measure levying a tax of $3.00 a month on all Chinese miners.  This at a time when the average gold miner made $6 per month.

Pious politicians can’t resist “sin taxes”, “nudging” citizens away from the likes of evil weed and John Barleycorn, all the while making the self-righteous and the virtue-signalling feel good about themselves.John Barleycorn Must Die

I wonder.  If cigarette taxes are supposed to encourage smoking cessation and taxes on Chinese were supposed to decrease competition from coolie labor, what are income taxes are supposed to do?

Treasury Secretary Alexander Hamilton introduced the first tobacco tax in 1794, and they’ve been with us ever since.

Federal and state governments both get their vig on a pack of cigarettes, ranging from 30 cents a pack in Virginia, to $4.35 in New York. Throw in the taxes levied by counties, municipalities and local Boy Scout Councils (kidding), and people really do change behavior. Just, not always in the intended direction. There is a tiny Indian reservation on Long Island, home to a few hundred and measuring about a square mile. Their cigarette taxes are near zero and, until recently, they “smoked” about a hundred million packs a year.

European governments levied a tax on soap in the middle ages, leading to memorable changes in personal hygiene, I’m sure.

In ancient Egypt, Pharoah levied a tax on cooking oil.  It was illegal to re-use the stuff, but no worries. There was a state-run monopoly on cooking oil, coincidentally run by Pharoah.

vespasianiIn the first century AD, Roman Emperors Nero and Vespasian levied a tax on piss. Honest.  In those days, the lower classes pee’d into pots which were emptied into cesspools.

Urine was collected for a number of chemical processes such as tanning, and it did a swell job whitening woolen togas. When Vespasian’s son Titus complained about the disgusting nature of the tax, his father showed him a gold coin, saying “Pecunia non olet”. “Money does not stink”.

To this day, Italian public urinals are called vespasiani, in France they’re vespasiennes. And if you need to pee in Romania, you could visit the vespasiene.

My personal favorite might be the long distance tax that used to appear on your phone bill. It began as a “Tax the Rich” scheme, to pay for the Spanish-American war, in 1898.  Nobody ever had long distance phone charges but rich guys, right? The tax was discontinued in 2005, as the result of a lawsuit. We must not be too hasty about these things.

September 4, 1886 Chief of the Bedonkohe

The Spanish name for the 4th century Saint was often the last word to leave their lips: “Geronimo”.

He was born on June 16, 1829 to the Chiricahua Apache, in the Mexican-occupied territory of Bedonkoheland, in modern-day New Mexico. One of eight brothers and sisters, he was called by the singularly forgettable name “Goyahkla”, translating as “one who yawns”.

Geronimo, youngerMuch has been written of the conflict between Natives and American settlers, but that story has little to compare with the level of distrust and mutual butchery which took place between Mexico and the Apache.

First contact between the Crown of Castile and the roving bands of Apache they called Querechos, took place in the Texas panhandle, in 1541.

Initial relations were friendly, but 17th century Spanish slave raids were met by Apache attacks on Spanish and Pueblo settlements, in New Mexico

By 1685, several bands of Apache were in open conflict with the polity which, in 1821, would become known as the United States of Mexico.  Attacks and counter attacks were commonplace, as Presidios – Spanish fortresses – dotted the landscape of Sonora, Chihuahua and Fronteras. 5,000 Mexicans died in Apache raids between 1820 and 1835 alone.

Over 100 Mexican settlements were destroyed in that time.  The Mexican government placed a bounty on Apache scalps in 1835, the year that Goyahkla turned 6.

Goyahkla married Alope of the Nedni-Chiricahua band of Apache when he was 17.  Together they had three children. On March 6, 1858, a company of 400 Mexican soldiers led by Colonel Jose Maria Carrasco attacked the native camp as the men were in town, trading. Goyahkla came back to find his wife, children, and his mother, murdered. 01f/17/arve/g2061/052

He swore that he would hate the Mexicans for the rest of his life.

Chief Mangas Coloradas sent him to Cochise’ band to help exact retribution on the Mexicans.  It was here that Goyahkla earned a name that was anything but forgettable.

Ignoring a hail of bullets, he repeatedly attacked the soldiers with a knife, killing so many that they began to call out to Saint Jerome for protection. The Spanish name for the 4th century Saint was often the last word to leave their lips: “Geronimo”.

In 1873, the Mexican government and the Apache came to peace terms at one point, near Casa Grande. Terms had already been agreed upon when Mexican soldiers plied the Apaches with Mezcal.  Soon, soldiers began murdering intoxicated Indians, killing 20 and capturing many more before the survivors fled into the mountains.Geronimo Portrait

Geronimo would marry eight more times, but most of his life was spent at war with Mexico, and later with the United States. According to National Geographic, he and his band of 16 warriors slaughtered 500 to 600 Mexicans in their last five months alone.

By the end of his military career, Geronimo was “the worst Indian who ever lived”, according to the white settlers. He and his band of 38 men, women and children evaded thousands of Mexican and US soldiers.  Geronimo was captured on this day in 1886, by Civil War veteran and Westminster, Massachusetts native, General Nelson Miles. With the capture of Geronimo, the last of the major US-Indian wars had come to an end.Geronimo_in_a_1905_Locomobile_Model_C

Geronimo became a celebrity in his old age, marching in Theodore Roosevelt’s inaugural parade in 1905.  He converted to Christianity and appeared in county fairs and Wild West shows around the country.

Geronimo in old ageIn his 1909 memoirs, Geronimo wrote of the 1904 St. Louis World’s Fair:  “I am glad I went to the Fair. I saw many interesting things and learned much of the white people. They are a very kind and peaceful people. During all the time I was at the Fair no one tried to harm me in any way. Had this been among the Mexicans I am sure I should have been compelled to defend myself often”.

Geronimo was thrown from a horse in February 1909, and contracted pneumonia after a long, cold night on the ground. He confessed on his deathbed that he regretted his decision to surrender. His last words were to his nephew, when he said “I should have never surrendered. I should have fought until I was the last man alive”.

September 3, 1752  The Lost days

Tragically, the number of historians’ and geneologists’ heads to have since exploded, remains unknown.

If you were living in England or one of the American colonies 265 years ago, this day did not exist. When you went to bed last night, it was September 2.  This morning when you got up, it was September 14.

The “Julian” calendar adopted in 46BC, miscalculated the solar year by 11 minutes per year, resulting in a built-in error of 1 day for every 128 years.   By the late 16th century, the seasonal equinoxes were ten days out of sync, and that was causing a problem with the holiest days of the Catholic church.October 1582 missing days

In 1579, Pope Gregory XIII commissioned the Jesuit mathematician and astronomer Christopher Clavius, to devise a new calendar and correct this “drift”.  The “Gregorian” calendar was adopted in 1582, omitting ten days from that October, and changing the manner in which “leap” years were calculated.

The Catholic countries of Europe were quick to adopt the Gregorian calendar.  England and its overseas colonies continued to use the Julian calendar well into the 18th century, resulting in immense confusion.  Legal contracts, civic calendars, and the payments of rents and taxes were all complicated by the two calendar system. Military campaigns were won or lost, due to confusion over dates.

Between 1582 and 1752, some English and colonial records included both the “Old Style” and “New Style” year.  The system was known as “double dating”, and resulted in date notations such as March 19, 1602/3.  Others merely changed dates. Google “George Washington’s birthday”, for instance, and you’ll be informed that the father of our country was born on February 22, 1732.  The man was actually born on February 11, 1731, under the Julian Calendar.  It was only after 1752 that Washington himself recognized the date of his birth as February 22, 1732, reflecting the Gregorian Calendar.

virginia-almanack-1752
Virginia almanack of 1752

Tragically, the number of historians’ and geneologists’ heads to have since exploded, remains unknown.

The “Calendar Act of 1750” set out a two-step process for adoption of the Gregorian calendar.  Since the Roman calendar began on March 25, the year 1751 was to have only 282 days so that January 1 could be synchronized with that date.  That left 11 days to deal with.

So it was decreed that Wednesday, September 2, 1782, would be followed by Thursday, September 14.

You can read about “calendar riots” around this time, though they may be little more than a late Georgian-era urban myth.

Philip Stanhope, 4th Earl of Chesterfield, was a prime sponsor of the calendar measure.  His use of the word “Mobs” was probably a description of the bill’s opponents in Parliament.   Even so, there were those who believed their lives were being shortened by those 11 days, and others who considered the Gregorian calendar to be a “Popish Plot”.  The subject would become a very real campaign issue between Tories and Whigs, in 1754.

There’s a story concerning one William Willett, who lived in Endon. Willett wagered that he could dance non-stop for 12 days and 12 nights, starting his jig about town the evening of September 2nd 1752. He stopped the next morning, and went out to collect his bets. I was unable to determine, how many actually paid up.

The official start of the British tax year was changed in 1753, so as not to “lose” those 11 days of tax revenue.  Revolution was still 23 years away in the American colonies, but the reaction “across the pond” could not have been one of unbridled joy.

Turkey was the last country to formally adopt the Gregorian calendar, doing so in 1927.

ben franklinBenjamin Franklin seems to have liked the idea, writing that, “It is pleasant for an old man to be able to go to bed on September 2, and not have to get up until September 14.”

The Gregorian calendar gets ahead of the solar cycle by 26 seconds every year, despite some very clever methods of synchronizing the two cycles.  Several hours have already been added, and it will be a full day ahead by the year 4909.

I wonder how Mr. Franklin would feel, to wake up and find that it’s still yesterday.