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Today in History: October 6-9
The Yom Kippur War begins, the Battle of Tours saves (?) Europe, and more
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October 6, 1973: The Yom Kippur War begins with an Egyptian surprise attack against unprepared Israeli military units in the then-occupied Sinai Peninsula and a Syrian attack on Israeli units in the Golan. Egyptian President Anwar Sadat was the primary driving force behind the move against Israel, both in an effort to regain the Sinai and to remove himself from the shadow of his domineering predecessor, Gamal Abdel Nasser. The war ended almost three weeks later in a tactical Israeli victory—it was only the timely intervention of US Secretary of State Henry Kissinger that kept the Israelis from completely annihilating the entire Egyptian Third Army—that nevertheless sparked a wave of domestic criticism over the intelligence failure that left the Israelis so unprepared for the initial attack. Israeli Prime Minister Golda Meir’s government fell not long after as a result. Despite Egypt’s eventual defeat, that initial success was celebrated back home and gave Sadat (at Kissinger’s urging) the political capital to shift Egypt’s Cold War orientation toward the US and begin the negotiations that would eventually lead to the Camp David Accords.
October 6, 1981: Members of Egyptian Islamic Jihad assassinate Egyptian President Anwar Sadat during the annual “Military Day” parade celebrating the anniversary of the Yom Kippur War. EIJ targeted Sadat over his diplomatic outreach to Israel after the war, most especially the aforementioned Camp David Accords in 1978.
October 7, 1571: A Holy League fleet wins a major victory over the Ottoman Empire at the naval Battle of Lepanto in the Gulf of Corinth. The combined Christian fleet greatly outclassed the Ottomans in its use of galleasses, one of the first true ships of the line and a ship class that held vastly more guns than the Ottomans’ galleys, and firearms for ship-to-ship fighting. The Ottomans lost some 200 ships to the Christians’ ~50 and although they built new vessels their navy after Lepanto was never quite the Mediterranean power it had been before. The victory has been widely celebrated in Europe as one of the most important naval battles in history, though its impact on the tactics of naval warfare may have been more important than its immediate geopolitical impact.
October 7, 2001: The US begins its invasion of Afghanistan. Though it replaced Afghanistan’s Taliban-led government with a friendly regime within weeks, the US finally left Afghanistan nearly 20 years later (in August 2021) with the Taliban back in control of the country.
October 8, 451: The Council of Chalcedon opens, with the aim of settling the Christological debates embroiling Christianity. The council repudiated the 449 Second Council of Ephesus, which concluded that Jesus had one nature that was both human and divine—the miaphysite position. Chalcedon took a dyophysite position, declaring that Jesus had two natures, one fully human and one fully divine, joined in a “hypostatic union.” This became the orthodox position on the nature of Christ, though it didn’t really settle the issue.
October 8, 1856: Chinese authorities storm a British-flagged ship, the Arrow, in Canton harbor on suspicion of piracy. What probably didn’t seem like a big deal at the time wound up kicking off the Second Opium War, which ended with China ceding additional territories to Britain’s colony at Hong Kong and parts of Outer Manchuria to Russia.
October 8, 1912: Montenegro declares war against the Ottoman Empire, beginning the First Balkan War. In a sign of how far the empire had fallen, its forces were both outmanned and outgunned by the Balkan League (Bulgaria, Greece, Montenegro, and Serbia, backed by Russia), which won a decisive victory. The Treaty of London, signed on May 30, 1913, ratified Albania’s independence, with its borders to be determined by the “Great Powers” (Austria-Hungary, Germany, Italy, Russia, and the United Kingdom). They did such a good job creating the new Albania that some 40 percent of the Albanian population in the Balkans was left out, causing problems that have lingered to the present day. The treaty also forced the Ottomans to cede the rest of their Balkan territory to the League and give up the island of Crete, which promptly formalized its annexation to Greece. Bulgaria emerged as the new dominant Balkan state, which created an imbalance of power that ultimately led to the Second Balkan War, pitting Greece and Serbia against Bulgaria.
October 9, 1740: Dutch colonial authorities and native sympathizers brutally suppress an uprising among ethnic Chinese citizens of the Indonesian city of Batavia (modern Jakarta). By the end of the massacre, on October 22, more than 10,000 people were dead—nearly all of them Chinese—and the city’s remaining Chinese residents were moved into a “Chinatown” outside the city that functioned more as a detention camp than a residential neighborhood.
October 9, 1967: Ernesto “Che” Guevara is executed by Bolivian authorities one day after being captured while attempting to foment a communist revolution.
October 10 (maybe), 732 (again maybe): A Frankish Merovingian army under Mayor of the Palace and de facto ruler Charles Martel (namesake of the future Carolingian Dynasty) defeats an invading Arab-Berber army at the Battle of Tours in what is today western France. Not terribly much is actually known about this battle, at least not that can be disconnected from the legends that grew up around it. In the European consciousness Martel would be credited with saving Latin Christendom from certain annihilation at the hands of a massive conquering Islamic army. Modern historians question whether the army was really all that massive and whether its aim was really conquest or just raiding and pillaging. Whatever the reality, Tours did play some role in stopping Muslim expansion at the Pyrenees Mountains and defining the western limits of the Umayyad caliphate.
October 10, 1911: An uprising in the city of Wuchang (which is now a part of the city of Wuhan) led by the Tongmenghui movement leads to the Xinhai Revolution. It ended in February 1912 with the toppling of the Qing Dynasty and the formation of the Republic of China. This marked the end of thousands of years of imperial Chinese rule. Commemorated today in Taiwan as the National Day of the Republic of China.
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