On the 1st of October 331bce, Alexander the Greats army versed Darius III Persian army on the plains of modern day Iraq.
According the Graeco-Roman historian Arrian, Darius III had 40,000 cavalry, 1,000,000 infantry and 200 scythe-bearing chariots. However the logistics of this make it unlikely that any army in antiquity could have commanded more than 50,000.
Alexander had at his command seasoned warriors inherited from his father Philip II amounting to 40,000 infantry, 7,000 cavalry with the elite force that Alexander led personally, the Companions.
Alexander the Great, King of Macedon had already inflicted two defeats upon the Persian King, but on both these occasions it was said that the battle ground had been chosen in favour of the Macedonians where Darius could not exercise his full military power. As such Alexander let Darius choose the battle ground for their third conflict, where the Persian King would have the advantage of using his scythed chariots which needed level ground to operate.
The night before the battle Alexanders generals tried to persuade their king to launch a night attack on the camping Persian army, but Alexander replied stating that he would not steal his victory like a thief in the night.
Having already scouted the battle grounds Alexander devised a plan to counteract Darius’ chariots. On the day he placed his forces slightly to the left of the Persian centre, and when he advanced he did so on the oblique moving further to the left. This caused Darius’ own strategy into disarray and he launched his chariots prematurely, depriving them of the cavalry cover they needed for protection.
(Pictured above. The mosaic from Pompeii, 1st century. Showing Alexander perusing a fleeing Darius.)
When the Persians made a break in the front line and in consequence the cavalry was launched in confusion to assist those surrounding the right wing, Alexander having previously drawn away part of the Persian cavalry in chase wheeled around towards the gap in the Persian front. Charging ahead with his Companions and the Phalanx that was stationed there, Alexander engaged in hand-to-hand combat and fought his way through towards Darius. There are two accounts of Darius reaction, one suggested by Arrian is that Darius fearing for his life fled, however Diodorus Siculus writes Darius as ‘raining javelins on his enemies’ and ‘as the two kings closed…a javelin hurled by Alexander missed Darius by impaled the chariot driver beside him’. Either way the outcome was that Darius did indeed flee the battle ground.
It is said that the casualties among the Macedonians reached 300, while the Persian casualties reached 35,000.
King Darius had lost the battle and more importantly lost his entire empire in that single day. Alexander thus won an empire stretching from Sahara to the Himalayas.
Alexander perused Darius afterwards, but the Persian King was assassinated by his own generals.
Watch this to see an accurate and brilliant recreation of the battle from the film ‘Alexander’.
September 29th 1829: Metropolitan Police founded
On this day in 1829 the Metropolitan Police of London was founded as part of the Metropolitan Police Act. The institution was pushed for by Home Secretary Robert Peel who wanted an official and accountable police force, as opposed to the shambolic and ineffective law enforcement of the day. His involvement gave police officers the nicknames ‘peelers’ and ‘bobbies’. The police took some time to come into its own, as it was initially regarded with suspicion by many Londoners as an intrusive and aggressive force. However it has since become a respected and effective British institution which is highly valued by Londoners.
September 27th 1960: Sylvia Pankhurst dies
On this day in 1960 the prominent English suffragist Sylvia Pankhurst died in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia aged 78. Pankhurst was famous for her efforts to achieve female suffrage through peaceful means, unlike the more radical suffragettes. She was also an outspoken champion of left wing communist policies and anti-fascism. Pankhurst was a vocal opponent of British colonialism and it was in this capacity that she spent her final years in Ethiopia after becoming a champion of their cause for liberation. She refused to marry and take a man’s name but did have a long term partner and a son.
September 25th 1066: Battle of Stamford Bridge
On this day in 1066 the Battle of Stamford Bridge occurred between the English, led by King Harold Godwinson, and the invading Norwegian forces led by King Harald Hardrada and Godwinson’s brother Tostig. The battle was a decisive English victory, seeing the deaths of thousands of Norwegians including Hardrada himself. However in mid-October that same year Godwinson was defeated by the Normans, led by William the Conqueror, at the Battle of Hastings. Stamford Bridge is often considered the last battle of the Viking age.
September 22nd 1827: Smith finds the golden plates
On this day in 1827, Joseph Smith Jr. claimed to have found the golden plates on which the third book of the Bible is written. Smith said he was visited by an angel called Moroni who told him where they were buried. He then supposedly translated the golden plates and had them published as ‘The Book of Mormon’ and thus founded the Latter Day Saint movement. Mormons believe that Jesus came to America and the Book tells the history of an ancient Judeo-Christian civilisation in America. Smith never allowed anyone to see the golden plates, and so many question whether they ever existed. Smith led his followers West, but along the way encountered much hatred from Christians and Smith was eventually killed by a mob in 1844 aged 38.
September 20th 1973: ‘Battle of the Sexes’
On this day in 1973 female tennis player Billie Jean King defeated Bobby Riggs in the ‘Battle of the Sexes’ tennis match. She defeated him 6-4, 6-3, 6-3 before a crowd of over 30,000. The match, the second in the ‘Battle of the Sexes’, took place in Houston, Texas. King was the No. 2 female tennis player and Riggs a retired male Wimbledon champion. Riggs had defeated Margaret Court in the first match and proceeded to taunt female players as he was expected to win. King challenged him to a nationally televised match and defeated him, thus cementing her status in the history of tennis.
September 18th 1837: Tiffany and Co. founded
On this day in 1837, the jewelry retailer Tiffany and Co. was founded by Charles Lewis Tiffany and Teddy Young in New York City. The first Tiffany store was marketed as a “stationery and fancy goods emporium”. In 1862 during the American Civil War, Tiffany supplied the Union army with swords, flags and surgical equipment. From then onwards Tiffany continued to make a name for itself as a high quality retailer, especially after winning accolades at the 1867 Paris World’s Fair. Due to its popularity the company received several notable commissions, including designing the New York Yankee’s ‘NY’ logo, revising the Seal of the United States in 1885 and the Navy’s Medal of Honor in 1919, and designing the White House china in 1968. Tiffany is today best known for its diamond jewelry and is based at 727 Fifth Avenue, New York City.
September 16th 1620: Mayflower sets sail
On this day in 1620, the Mayflower started her voyage from Great Britain to North America. She carried 102 passengers, many of whom were pilgrims who later settled in Plymouth, Massachusetts. By November they sighted land and landed at Cape Cod and proceeded the settle there, though around half died during the first harsh winter in the New World. The site where the Mayflower pilgrims landed at Plymouth is marked today by ‘Plymouth Rock’. The Mayflower left for England the next April. The journey of the Mayflower is considered a major and symbolic event in American history as the ship carried the some of the first European settlers to America’s shores.
September 30th 1955: James Dean dies
On this day in 1955, the American film star James Dean died in a car crash aged just 24. His famous roles include Jim Stark in ‘Rebel Without a Cause’ and Cal Trask in ‘East of Eden’. Dean, a keen motoring enthusiast, died in a car accident which occurred on the way to a motor racing event in Salinas, California. The car he was driving at the time of the incident was his Porsche 550 Spyder which he named ‘Little Bastard’. After his death he became the first person to receive a posthumous Academy Award nomination for Best Actor. James Dean’s legend only grew upon his death and he remains a prominent cultural icon. In 1991 the American Film Institute ranked him the 18th best male movie star of all time.
September 28th 551 BC: Confucius born
On this day in 551 BC, the Chinese philosopher Confucius (or, K’ung Fu-tzu in Chinese) was supposedly born. His philosophy, based on social correctness, respect and sincerity, was very influential in China and aimed to promote a way of living where everyone could live in peace. He is attributed to many classic Chinese texts and is considered one of the greatest thinkers in Chinese history. Confucianism shaped China and the surrounding area for thousands of years, and continues to do so today. One of the main principles of Confucianism is “Do not do to others what you do not want done to yourself”, which is similar to Jesus’s Golden Rule. Confucius died in 479 BC aged 71 or 72.
September 26th 1960: First televised debate
On this day in 1960 the first televised debate took place in Chicago between US presidential candidates Richard Nixon and John F Kennedy. The debate drew an audience of 66 million viewers and is one of the most widely watched broadcasts in US history. The debate arguably determined the outcome of the election, and signified a shift to more image-centred politics. Radio listeners thought the Republican Nixon had won the debate on the substance of his arguments, but television viewers believed it to be the young, attractive Democrat Kennedy, rather than the sweaty and uncomfortable Nixon. Kennedy went on to win the 1960 election and televised debates are now a central part of presidential campaigns.
September 24th 1877: Battle of Shiroyama
On this day in 1877, the conclusive battle of the Satsuma Rebellion took place in Kagoshima, Japan. The Meiji Restoration of 1868 had seen the end of the almost 250 year rule of the Tokugawa Shogunate and restored imperial rule to Japan. The powerful Satsuma samurai clan rebelled against the Meiji government, whom they had initially worked with, and organised an army to fight against imperial forces. They resented the government because of the attack on their traditions and sudden change in their status, as they lost a lot of political and economic power in the first years of the Meiji government. The rebellion was led by Saigō Takamori and several other prominent samurai figures who had previously worked within the Meiji government. The rebellion only lasted a few months, and the samurai fought bravely against the vastly superior imperial army, who had higher numbers and more advanced weaponry. Takamori’s forces were eventually outnumbered and defeated at the Battle of Shiroyama. By six o’clock in the morning only forty rebels survived. Takamori, already gravely wounded, asked a loyal friend to carry him to a place for him to die. By some accounts Takamori committed seppuku - the samurai act of ritual suicide - though others say he died of his injuries. After the death of their leader, the remaining samurai led one final suicide charge against their foe, and with their deaths the Satsuma Rebellion ended. Despite being a rebel, Saigō Takamori was a important Japanese hero, and was posthumously pardoned by Emperor Meiji in 1889.
September 21st 1866: H.G. Wells born
On this day in 1866, the English science fiction writer H.G. Wells was born in Bromley, Kent. Sometimes called ‘the father of science fiction’, Wells is best known for his works ‘The War of the Worlds’ and ‘The Time Machine’. Wells was also a socialist and a pacifist, and his political views colored much of his later work. In 1938 Orson Welles broadcast his radio play of ‘The War of the Worlds’ as a series of news bulletins which led many Americans to fear a Martian invasion. H.G. Wells died in London in 1946 aged 79.
September 19th 1970: First Glastonbury
On this day in 1970 the first Glastonbury Festival was held in Michael Eavis’s farm in Glastonbury, England. The festival was inspired by the hippie and free festival movements. Eavis decided to host his own festival after seeing Led Zeppelin at the Bath Blues Festival, hoping the event would help him pay off his mortgage. Tickets to the first Glastonbury cost £1 and 1,500 tickets were sold to the festival which was headlined by T-Rex, who replaced original headliners The Kinks. Glastonbury remains one of the world’s most famous music festivals and has greatly expanded since 1970, making it one of the UK’s biggest festivals.
September 17th 1787: US Constitution signed
On this day in 1787, the United States Constitution was signed in Philadelphia. The document was thus adopted by the Constitutional Convention, which included George Washington, Alexander Hamilton and Benjamin Franklin. It was later ratified by the states and came into effect on March 4th 1789. The Constitution sets out the rules and principles that govern America to this day, and defines the powers of the three branches of federal government and the states. The first 10 amendments, known as the Bill of Rights, were ratified in 1791 and established basic rights of citizens, including freedom and speech and religion. The Constitution has since been amended 17 times, giving a total of 27 amendments. America’s is the oldest written constitution still used today.
“We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America”