Today in history: March 6-8

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March 6, 632 (give or take): The Prophet Muhammad delivers his final sermon, known as the Khutbatu’l-Wada or “Farewell Sermon,” at Mount Arafat while on Hajj. Based on the surviving accounts (which is must be said were recorded at the earliest more than a century after his death in June 632 based purportedly on oral transmission), Muhammad exhorted his followers to continue obeying his teachings and to maintain their community after his death.

March 6, 961: The Siege of Chandax ends with a Byzantine victory and their recovery of the island of Crete.

March 6, 1957: Ghana gains its independence from Britain, becoming the first British colony in sub-Saharan Africa to do so. Commemorated as Independence Day in Ghana.

March 7, 1573: The Fourth Ottoman-Venetian War ends with an Ottoman victory and a treaty that leaves the hitherto Venetian island of Cyprus under Ottoman control. Although this 1570-1573 war is best remembered for the 1571 naval Battle of Lepanto, which was a resounding victory for the Holy League, that victory came after the last Venetian city on Cyprus, Famagusta, had already fallen to an Ottoman siege. The treaty recognized the overall Ottoman victory and obliged Venice to pay a war indemnity in addition to its loss of Cyprus and some territory in Dalmatia.

March 7, 1799: Napoleon’s army successfully captures the city of Jaffa, whose site is part of modern day Tel Aviv, after a very brief siege. The engagement is perhaps best known for Napoleon’s decision to conduct a mass execution of the defeated Ottoman garrison, killing at least 2000 and by some counts more than 4000 men. He apparently hoped that his brutality here would encourage other cities along his march into Syria to surrender peacefully, but instead it prompted the garrison in Napoleon’s next target, Acre, to resist more vigorously.

The painting Bonaparte Visiting the Pesthouse in Jaffa, by French painter Antoine-Jean Gros, depicts Napoleon visiting an infirmary for plague victims after the battle (Wikimedia Commons)

March 7, 1936: The German government begins moving military forces into the Rhineland in violation of the Treaty of Versailles. German Chancellor Adolf Hitler cited the 1935 Franco-Soviet Treaty of Mutual Assistance as justification for the move, which both Britain and France decided to overlook rather than risk triggering a war. Regardless of their intentions, this became one of the many incidents that ultimately triggered World War II.

March 8, 1010 (or thereabouts): Persian writer Abu’l-Qasim Ferdowsi completes his monumental epic, the Shahnameh.

March 8, 1722: At the Battle of Gulnabad, a Ghilzai Afghan army under Mahmud Hotak defeats the Safavid army, inflicting heavy casualties. The Safavid defeat exposed their capital, Isfahan, to the Afghan forces, who now besieged it. The Safavids surrendered on October 23, for all practical purposes bringing their dynasty to a close.

March 8, 1963: Syria’s 8 March Revolution