A look at some of the history and holidays on November 27
Feast of Vergilius of Salzburg, an 8th century Irish missionary and astronomer. In 745, he left Ireland for the Holy Land, but made it no further than France where he became a favorite of King Pippin III. At some point, Vergilius’s observation of the sky led him to conclude that the earth was a sphere. A contemporary, (later St.) Boniface, accused Vergilius of teaching against Church Doctrine. Records have been lost of how the matter was handled, though we can assume Vergilius defended himself adequately before the Pope, for he was later promoted to Bishop of Salzburg.
602 – Emperor Maurice is forced to watch his five sons be executed before being beheaded himself.
It always seemed strange to me that the Muslim armies of 7th century Arabia, a backwater at most, were able to expand so rapidly to the north and east against two of the greatest powers in the world at the time, Byzantium and Persia. The story of Byzantine Emperor Maurice is the starting point to understand what happened.
Maurice had become emperor of Byzantine in 582, A general, he spent most of reign waging successful wars. He earned a notable victory in the Balkans against the Avars – pushing them back across the Danube by 599. His biggest victory, though, was his defeat of Sasanian Persians. For the first time in nearly two centuries, the Romans were no longer obliged to pay the Persians thousands of pounds of gold annually for peace.
In 602, a disgruntled general, Phocas, led a coup against Maurice. Capturing the Emperor and his family, Phocas forced Maurice to watch as Phocas executed Maurice’s five sons, and then finally beheaded Maurice as well. The Persians, humiliated and cowed by Maurice but not by Phocas, renewed their war with Byzantium. What followed was the brutal Byzantine–Sasanian War of 602–628. a war that proved devastating to both empires. When it ended, both empires were too weak to withstand the onslaught of the Arab Muslims. Byzantium lost territory and, though it survived for another five centuries against the Arabs (only to fall in the 15th century to the Muslim Turks), it became a weak shadow of its former self. Persia disappeared entirely. The great Persian culture and traditions of an empire that had vied with Ancient Greece and Ancient Rome, fell to Arab Muslims in 651 A.D.
As part of the vast conquests by Arab Muslim armies in between 622 A.D., and 750 A.D., the entire Middle East, which was then largely Christian and Jewish, fell to the conquerors. That said, at least in the case of Jerusalem, the Arabs promised religious toleration in order to end a siege of the city in 638. They were true to their word. But by the year 1009, a new Muslim Caliph, Al-Hakim bi-Amr Allah undertook an offensive to destroy all Christian places of worship in Palestine and Egypt. That included, in 1009, burning to the ground Christianity’s holiest site, the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, in Jerusalem.
Against that backdrop, Pope Urban II had received an appeal from the Byzantine Emperor, Alexios I Komnenos, to send military support to Byzantine as they attempted to recapture Anatolia from the Seljuq Turks. The Pope convened the Council of Clermont for that limited purpose. The attendees at the Council were a mix of high Church officials and layman. When the Pope called for the formation of a Crusade on this date, the attendees were expected to spread the word throughout Kingdoms of Europe. The response was much greater than expected. Eventually, four armies formed, all from France and Norman England.
[The four armies] started out in late summer of 1096 and arrived at Constantinople between November 1096 and April 1097. The crusaders marched into Anatolia, capturing Nicaea in June 1097 and Antioch in June 1098. They arrived at Jerusalem in June 1099 and took the city by assault on 7 July 1099, massacring the defenders. A brief attempt by the Saracens to recapture Jerusalem was repulsed at the Battle of Ascalon.
During their conquests, the crusaders established the Latin Rite crusader states of the Kingdom of Jerusalem, the County of Tripoli, the Principality of Antioch, and the County of Edessa. This was contrary to the wishes of the Eastern Rite Byzantines, who wanted the land that the Muslims took from them returned, rather than occupied by Latin Catholics. After the retaking of Jerusalem, most of the crusaders returned home. This left the crusader kingdoms vulnerable to Muslim reconquest during the Second and Third Crusades.
1895 – At the Swedish–Norwegian Club in Paris, Alfred Nobel signs his last will and testament, setting aside his estate to establish the Nobel Prize after he dies.
Alfred Nobel was a brilliant chemist. In 1867, he invented dynamite, and in subsequent years, he patented numerous other explosive compounds. Nobel was thinking of mining and other civilian applications with his creations, but the military applications were obvious.
In 1888, Nobel’s brother died. A French newspaper, thinking it was Alfred Nobel who had passed, wrote an obituary for Alfred Nobel — an obituary that Alfred read while in town for his brother’s burial — stating that “[t]he merchant of death is dead.” Below that line, the paper explained that “Dr. Alfred Nobel, who became rich by finding ways to kill more people faster than ever before, died yesterday.”
Alfred Nobel suddenly became concerned for how he would be remembered in history, Thus, on this date in 1895, he wrote a new will providing for the Nobel Prize to be administered and awarded by a Swedish Board in five areas:
The first three of these prizes are awarded for eminence in physical science, in chemistry and in medical science or physiology; the fourth is for literary work “in an ideal direction” and the fifth prize is to be given to the person or society that renders the greatest service to the cause of international fraternity, in the suppression or reduction of standing armies, or in the establishment or furtherance of peace congresses.
A sixth prize category for economics was added in 1969,
The three prizes in science have been legitimate awards to people who have made significant contributions. When it has come to the subjective however, the Nobel Prize has been a bad joke. The award for literary work now seems to be based on a left wing political litmus test. And the “peace prize” has been a joke ever ever since it was awarded to John Kellog for drafting a treaty to outlaw all future war. As to the economics prize, just four words: two of omission — Thomas Sowell; and two of commission — Paul Krugman.
Notable Events on November 27
1839 – In Boston, Massachusetts, on this day in 1839, there was a 100% chance that the American Statistical Association would be founded.
1975 – The Provisional IRA assassinates Ross McWhirter, after a press conference in which McWhirter had announced a reward for the capture of those responsible for multiple bombings and shootings across England.
1380 – King Ferdinand I of Aragon, a consequential and successful King most notable for his role in deposing the Antipope Benedict XIII, thereby ending the Western Schism that had divided the Roman Catholic Church for four decades.
1940 – Bruce Lee, the man who started the martial arts craze on-screen and in America.
8 BC – To quote Horace, the great Roman poet who died this day in 8 BC, “Mediocrity in poets has never been tolerated by either men, or gods, or booksellers.” I suspect he and Ben Franklin would have gotten along very well.
511 – Clovis I, king of the Franks who consolidate France under his rule and converted to Christianity.
1934 – Baby Face Nelson, bank robber and Public Enemy No. 1, died from wounds sustained in a shoot-out with FBI this day.