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Wednesday, September 07, 2011

History geek me

Courtesy of Liam, here's a list of ten historical battles. Why is a peacenik like me interested in battles? I don't know but I have always been :) (see my past post on 10 war movies).

The list below is from a post at TopTenz - Top 10 Most Important Battles in History. Best to read the whole thing for details on the battles, as I'm just posting the list itself with my own commentary on the battles I know something of ....

1. Adrianople, 718 ... Arabs defeated by Byzantines and Bulgarians.

2. Battle of Salamis, 480 BCE ... Greeks beat the Persians on the sea. This is one battle I know a bit about, having read Herodotus in school. It takes place just after the Battle of Thermopylae. You can listen to an interview at NPR with the author of Salamis: The Battle That Saved Western Culture. And here's a short fun (to me anyway) video from the History Channel about the battle and the general who made it happen, Themistocles ....

3. Yorktown, 1781 ... in the Revolutionary War, the US and French trounce the British.

4. Battle of Vienna, 1683 ... the Holy Roman Empire and the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth beat back the Ottoman Empire.

5. Battle of Tours, 732 ... this battle I'm familiar with too - Charles the Hammer (grandfather of Charlemagne) defeated an invading Muslim army.

6. Gettysburg, 1863 ... the North ends the South's advance in the Civil War.

7. Waterloo, 1815 ... Wellington defeats Napoleon. Everyone knows about this battle, even me, having read Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell and having watched the movie Waterloo

8. Actium, 31 BCE ...

- The Battle of Actium by Lorenzo Castro

This is a battle with an interesting backstory - Cleopatra and her then boyfriend Mark Antony fight and lose a sea battle against Octavian/Augustus. Julius Caesar had been murdered, and his nephew (and adopted son) Octavian was called to Rome to join up with Mark Antony (a friend of Caesar's who gave that famous speech at his funeral - Friends, Romans, countrymen, lend me your ears) and Marcus Aemilius Lepidus in a military dictatorship, after wiping out Caesar's assassins. The relationships eventually began to deteriorate, with Lepidus being exiled and Mark Antony hanging out with Cleopatra (who had had a previous relationship and son with Caesar). BTW, Mark Antony, a general, at this time captured Jerusalem and surrounding areas in 37 BC ... he installed Herod as puppet king of Judaea (link). But anyway, things fell apart between Octavian and Mark Antony and they went to war. Mark Antony lost the battle of Actium, he and Cleopatra retired to Egypt, and both eventually committed suicide (or, some say, MA was actually murdered). The latest movie I've seen which touches on these events was Julius Caesar.

9. Midway Island, 1942 ... the US Navy defeats the Japanese Navy.

10. Stalingrad, 1942-1943 ... Russians stop the German advance in WWII. I'm familiar with this battle because I recently saw a film about it - Enemy at the Gates - and posted about it here. I wrote this about the film ...

The movie begins by introducing Vasily (Jude Law) as a young Russian shepherd who gets sent to a horrifically besieged Stalingrad that's burning like Gehenna, where many of his comrades are killed by German bombers before leaving their transport, and where many more are shot by their own troops for retreating in the face of brutal German fire -- all in the first ten minutes. It was a Saving Private Ryan beginning, and though I've read that it's unlikely this kind of thing actually occurred at the Battle of Stalingrad, Wikipedia states: "The Battle of Stalingrad ... was amongst the bloodiest battles in the history of warfare with the higher estimates of combined casualties amounting to nearly two million deaths."

- Motherland Calls ... a statue in Mamayev Kurgan in Volgograd, Russia commemorating the Battle of Stalingrad. It was designed by sculptor Yevgeny Vuchetich and structural engineer Nikolai Nikitin.


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