Today in History: September 5-8
The Victoria circumnavigates the Earth, the Crusaders win the Battle of Arsuf, and more
This is the web version of Foreign Exchanges, but did you know you can get it delivered right to your inbox? Sign up today:
REMINDER: Foreign Exchanges is on a break this week. I hope you’re all doing well and look forward to resuming regular programming on September 13. Thanks for reading!
September 5, 1905: The Russo-Japanese War ends with the signing of the Treaty of Portsmouth, negotiated with the mediation of Teddy Roosevelt (who won the 1906 Nobel Peace Prize as a result). The Russians were obliged to evacuate Manchuria, acknowledge Korea as within Japan’s sphere of influence, and turn over a couple of Pacific islands to Tokyo. The war marked Japan as a rising power and contributed to growing political discontent in Russia that wasn’t resolved until 1917.
September 5, 1972: Members of the Palestinian terror group “Black September” kill two members of the Israeli delegation and take nine more hostage during the 1972 Summer Olympics in Munich. A poorly handled rescue attempt at the Munich airport by West German police the following day ended with the nine hostages killed as well as five of the attackers and one police officer.
September 6, 1522: The Victoria arrives at the Spanish port of Sanlúcar as the first ship to successfully circumnavigate the earth. It had set out as one of five vessels in Ferdinand Magellan’s expedition in 1519 and was the only ship to survive the journey. In that sense it fared better than its admiral, Magellan, who was killed after picking an ill-advised fight with a group of indigenous people in the Philippines. And its haul of spices in particular was worth more than the other four ships combined, so investors still came out ahead. The Victoria would fully complete its trip around the world two days later by returning to the port whence it departed, Seville.
September 6, 1955: The two-day Istanbul Pogrom begins amid news reports that the Turkish consulate in Thessaloniki (which happened to be the home where Turkey’s founding father, Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, was born) had been bombed by Greek agents. A mob began attacking Greeks in Istanbul and then expanded its scope to include Armenians and Jews. Between 13 and 30 people are said to have been killed in the violence and the incident began a process of Greek emigration that played out over the next several years. In reality, the consulate was fine and the whole thing was a planned operation by Turkey’s two “Operation Gladio” organizations, the Tactical Mobilization Group and Counter-Guerrilla. They were responding to the rise of Greek unionist sentiment (Enosis) in Cyprus and were likely also working on a longer-term project to “encourage” minority emigration and thereby “Turkify” Turkey.
September 7, 1191: Richard the Lionheart’s Crusader army defeats the Ayyubid army commanded by Saladin in the “Third Crusade’s” Battle of Arsuf. Saladin, who’d harassed the Crusaders as they marched south from Acre on the way to Jaffa, chose Arsuf as the place where he intended to force Richard into a pitched battle. But Richard’s effectiveness as a battlefield commander thwarted Saladin’s efforts to isolate parts of the Crusader force and eventually the Ayyubids routed, taking heavy losses. The Crusaders were subsequently able to take Jaffa and Saladin was forced to withdraw from much of the southern Levant. Though the Third Crusade did not retake Jerusalem as had been its goal, it is nevertheless considered a success in that Richard’s victories salvaged and secured the Crusader kingdoms just as they’d been on the verge of falling to Saladin.
September 7, 1822: Brazilian Independence Day—Portuguese prince and Brazilian regent Dom Pedro (the future Pedro I of Brazil) declares Brazil’s independence from Portugual. The ensuing war, which had already begun at a low level in early 1822, ended in 1825 with a Brazilian victory.
September 7, 1901: The Boxer Rebellion ends with the defeat of the Yìhétuán rebels and the signing of the Boxer Protocol. Under the treaty, the Chinese government was obliged to pay an indemnity to the Allies—Austria-Hungary, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States—as well as Belgium, the Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Spain, and Sweden, and to take steps to diminish its military capabilities.
September 8, 617: Rebels led by the Duke of Tang, Li Yuan, defeat an imperial Sui Dynasty army by luring it out of the city of Huoyi in northern China. The victory left Li Yuan preeminent among the many nobles who were in rebellion against the Sui, and the following June he had himself crowned Emperor Gaozu of the new Tang Dynasty. The Tang ruled China for almost 300 years, from 618 to 907, with a brief 690-705 interregnum during which Empress dowager Wu Zetian declared herself the ruler of China at the head of a “restored” Zhou Dynasty.
September 8, 1380: With a well-timed cavalry charge against the Mongolian flank, an army of united Russian principalities under the command of Prince Dmitry of Moscow defeats the Golden Horde army under the command of a tribal warlord named Maimai at the Battle of Kulikovo. Ironically the battle left the Golden Horde in a stronger position, because the death of Maimai’s puppet khan left the empire under the control of a rival prince, Tokhtamysh. In 1382 Tokhtamysh besieged Moscow and violently sacked the city, and he brought stability to the Golden Horde before frittering it away in a doomed conflict against Timur. The battle is nevertheless noteworthy in that it showed the relative decline of Mongolian power and the corresponding rise of Moscow as a center of resistance to the “Tatar yoke.”
September 8, 1566: An Ottoman siege of the Hungarian city of Szigetvár ends with the Habsburg garrison, under the command of Croatian Ban Nikola IV Zrinski, defeated (and almost completely wiped out) and the Ottomans in control. Szigetvár is remembered today as a tactical victory for the Ottomans but a significant strategic setback, and is especially commemorated in both Hungarian and Croatian national histories. The badly outnumbered garrison (perhaps as many as 3000 men, of whom some 600 survived, against an Ottoman force of around 100,000) put up surprising resistance, holding out for over a month and causing the deaths of more than 20,000 Ottomans through a combination of combat and disease. Among the final Ottoman casualties was none other than Sultan Sulayman himself, who died in his tent two days before the siege ended at the age of 71.
Ottoman officials concealed the news of Sulayman’s death for fear of demoralizing the army, but the combination of his passing, their heavy overall losses, and the delay the siege caused forced the Ottomans to abandon plans to march on Vienna that year. The Ottomans and Habsburgs subsequently negotiated the 1568 Treaty of Adrianople, forestalling any new campaign against Vienna. There is thus a reasonable argument to be made that Szigetvár, while technically an Ottoman victory, prevented a potential imperial capture of Vienna and advance into central Europe.
Thanks for reading! Foreign Exchanges is a reader-supported publication. To receive new posts and support my work, consider becoming a free or paid subscriber.