History, Holidays & Observances on January 16

The Roman Empire, Ivan the Terrible, Council of Nablus, Medici Bank, Don Quixote, Act of Union, Midnight Battle, Civil Service, Samoa, Iran

Major Events on January 16

27 B.C. – Gaius Julius Caesar Octavianus is granted the title Augustus by the Roman Senate, marking the end of the Roman Republic and the beginning of the Roman Empire.

When our Founding Fathers looked to history for a governing model to build upon, they rejected the democracy of Greece. They embraced the Republic of Rome.

The Roman Republic endured for close to five centuries, from 509 BC–27 BC, proving remarkably resilient. During virtually the entire time of the Republic, Rome was in a state of warfare, at first with its immediate neighbors, and then with major competitors, such as Rome’s three wars with Carthage for dominance in the Mediterranean. Throughout it all, the Republic weathered major challenges and defeats.

For almost two and a half centuries after Rome’s founding by Romulus and Remus, Rome had been a monarchy. In 509 B.C., the monarchy was overthrown and the major families of Rome created a Republic, the Constitution of which was based on customs rather than a written document. Rome divided their Republic into three branches:

    • the Assemblies, composed of the people, which served as the supreme repository of political power and had the authority to elect magistrates, accept or reject laws, administer justice, and declare war or peace;

    • the Senate, which advised the magistrates, acting primarily not on legal authority per se, but rather with its influence, and
    • the magistrates, elected by the people to govern the Republic in their name, exercising religious, military, and judicial powers, along with the right to preside over and call upon the assemblies

A complex set of checks and balances developed between these three branches. For example, the assemblies theoretically held all power, but were called and governed by the magistrates, who, controlling discussion, exercised dominating influence over them. Similarly, to check the power of the magistrates, each magistrate could veto one of their colleagues and the plebeians elected tribunes who could intercede and veto the actions of a magistrate.

The Republic’s constitution slowly evolved over time. Starting from a period of patrician domination, the Conflict of the Orders eventually granted plebeian citizens equal political rights, while also creating the tribunate to check patrician power and empowering the Plebeian Council, an assembly composed of the plebeians of Rome, with full legislative authority.

The beginning of the Republic’s end came with the rise of Julius Caesar. The Senate and his jealous enemies treated Caesar as a threat to the Republic. Whether he was or not, the Senate created a self-fulfilling prophecy when Caesar, rather than returning to Rome to face certain arrest, crossed the Rubicon in 49 B.C. and started the first of a period of civil wars that would last, on and off, for nearly twenty years. When the civil wars concluded about 31 B.C., Julius Caesar was dead, murdered by several of the Senators, and his adopted son Octavian was the undisputed power in Rome. Over the next four years, Octavian quietly manipulated the Senate until, on this day in 27 B.C., the Senate officially recognized him as Rome’s emperor with the title, Augustus.

1547 – Grand Duke Ivan IV of Muscovy becomes the first Tsar of Russia, replacing the 264-year-old Grand Duchy of Moscow with the Tsardom of Russia.

In the 16th century in England, government norms of rule of law and representative government were developing. The opposite was true in Russia, where oriental despotism had been the norm since Mongols invaded Russia in the early 13th century. The government by terrorism that the Mongols imposed externally was about to become internalized in Russia with Grand Duke Ivan IV of Muscovy’s ascension to power. At his coronation this day, he took the title of Tsar of all Russia. He would be better known in history as Ivan the Terrible.

Ivan’s reign was characterized by Russia’s transformation from a medieval state into an empire under the Tsar, though at immense cost to its people and its broader, long-term economy. In the young years of Ivan, there was a conquest of the Khanates of Kazan and Astrakhan. After consolidating his power, Ivan got rid of the advisers from the “Chosen Council” and triggered the Livonian War, which ravaged Russia and resulted in the loss of Livonia and Ingria, but allowed him to establish greater autocratic control over Russia’s nobility, whom he violently purged in the Oprichnina. The later years of Ivan’s reign were also marked by the Massacre of Novgorod and the burning of Moscow by Tatars. . . .

Historic sources present disparate accounts of Ivan’s complex personality: he was described as intelligent and devout, but also prone to paranoia, rages, and episodic outbreaks of mental instability that increased with age.

Notable Events on January 16

1120 – The Council of Nablus is held, establishing the earliest surviving written laws of the Crusader Kingdom of Jerusalem. The council established the first written laws for the kingdom. It was probably also where Hugues de Payens obtained permission from King Baldwin II of Jerusalem and Warmund, Patriarch of Jerusalem, to found the Knights Templar.

1412 – The Medici family was the wealthiest in Europe and, in 1397, opened the Medici Bank. On this date, the bank was appointed official banker of the Papacy. It was the Medici Bank that would fund the building of St. Peter’s Basilica and fund much of Leo X’s (himself of the Medici family) patronage of the arts that adorns the Basilica today.

1605 – The first edition of El ingenioso hidalgo Don Quijote de la Mancha (Book One of Don Quixote) by Miguel de Cervantes is published in Madrid, Spain. Don Quixote is regarded as the first novel produced in the Western world. It gained popularity throughout Europe and is the most popular piece of Spanish literature ever produced.

1707 – The Scottish Parliament ratifies the Act of Union, paving the way for the creation of Great Britain. Whatever Scotland once was, today it is a bastion of neo-Marxism, with the Scottish National Party led by a troll of a woman, Nicola Sturgeon. Their fondest desire is to undo the Act of Union and have a Scoxit.

1780 – The Midnight Battle takes place between British and Spanish ships off of Cape St. Vincent. The American Revolution had become a world war for Britain. In the Midnight Battle, the first major naval battle of the world war, the British won, “proving the value” of their decision to copper the hulls of their ship.

1883 – The Pendleton Civil Service Reform Act, establishing the United States Civil Service, is passed, the purpose of which was to end the spoils and patronage system for non-political government jobs. After AG Durham completes his investigation of the deep state scandal that has rocked our nation since 2016, it might well be time to revisit this Act.

1900 – The United States Senate accepts the Anglo-German treaty of 1899 by which the United Kingdom renounces its claims to the Samoan islands. The U.S. retains the American Samoan Islands as a U.S. territory to this day. American Samoa is noted for having the highest rate of military enlistment of any U.S. state or territory.

1919 – The United States ratifies the Eighteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution, requiring Prohibition in the United States one year after ratification. It was an early exercise in Nanny state-ism and, despite its vast failures, Progressives have run wild with the notion ever since.

1964 – Hello, Dolly! opened on Broadway, beginning a run of 2,844 performances. Carol Channing spent a good portion of her career starring in the stage version of the play, but Barbara Streisand starred in the movie version.

1969 – Soviet spacecraft Soyuz 4 and Soyuz 5 perform the first-ever docking of manned spacecraft in orbit, the first-ever transfer of crew from one space vehicle to another, and the only time such a transfer was accomplished with a space walk. Very impressive, though not as impressive as landing on the moon.

1979 – The last Iranian Shah flees Iran with his family for good and relocates to Egypt. The Shah might have been able to remain in power if supported by Jimmy Carter, but Carter chose to support Khomeini. We’ve been paying for Jimmy Carter’s mistakes for over four decades.

1991 – Operation Desert Shield comes to a close this day, to be followed by Operation Desert Storm, the combat phase of the Gulf War. The vaunted army of Iraq lasted five weeks.

1992 – El Salvador officials and rebel leaders sign the Chapultepec Peace Accords in Mexico City, Mexico, ending the 12-year Salvadoran Civil War that claimed at least 75,000 lives. Given that there was no clear victor, it is almost a minor miracle that the peace has held since.

2006 – Liberia was started as a nation for American slaves who wished to return to Africa. It fell to a coup in 1980 and then experienced an on again, off again Civil War. On this day in 2005, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf is sworn in as Liberia’s new president. She becomes Africa’s first female elected head of state. She stabilized the nation during her two terms as President.

Born on January 16

1626 – Lucas Achtschellinck, a Flemish landscape painter. He is counted among the landscape painters active in Brussels referred to as the School of Painters of the Sonian Forest who all shared an interest in depicting scenes set in the Sonian Forest, near Brussels.

1908 – Ethel Merman, an American of German descent, who “sang with the world’s biggest voice” in a career that spanned nearly five decades, from 1930 to 1979. Her signature song was “There’s no business like show business,” from Irving Berlin’s Annie Get Your Gun. Incidentally, Ethel Merman was not Jewish, although many assumed she was, especially because of her closely her career was associated with Berlin.

1948 – John Carpenter, a director of popular horror, science fiction and action films. He directed a few commercially successful movies measured at their release, such as Halloween, and several others that have become cult classics, such as The Thing, Christine and Prince of Darkness.

Died on January 16

1794 – Edward Gibbon, an exceptional historian whose determination to rely on primary sources helped to guide the future of historical research. Gibbon’s magnum opus was his multi-volume series, The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire. While he brought extraordinary knowledge to the book, he was lacking as an analyst. He allowed his deep antipathy to Christianity to color his research and guide his conclusions. Gibbon would have been more at home in France, where that same hatred for Christianity were rising to the surface of the French Revolution.

1901 – Arnold Böcklin, a Swiss symbolist painter and academic.

1936 – Albert Fish, one of America’s most gruesome criminals, was a serial killer, a rapist and a cannibal. His victims were young children. On this day in 1936, Fish was fried.