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Slave Trade Begins, European

The European slave trade began after Jean de Bethencourt’s discovery of the Canary Islands for Spain in 1402. He and some of his men captured the native Guanches and took them from their home to become slaves in Europe. Eager to get a colony of their own, the Portuguese, too, ventured to Africa for slave raids. They captured West Africans and sold them in Europe during the mid-1400s.  These events are recorded on the Biblical Timeline with World History during that time.

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The Canaries: Forgotten Islands

The Canaries are a group of islands located around 62 miles off the coast of Morocco. The Greek geographer Strabo mentioned the islands in his Geography as the “Islands of the Blest.” The Carthaginian sailors visited the islands when they dominated Africa, while Lusitanian sea captains visited the Lanzarote and Fuerteventura islands during the Roman times.

The Numidian king Juba II also sent explorers to the island. After their voyage, they reported to the king that the “Fortunate Islands” were uninhabited but abundant in sugarcane. They also found a stone temple on the island, while explorers of the Canaria reported seeing large dogs. They later brought these dogs back to their king. The island they visited was also abundant in apples, pine nuts, dates, papyrus, and honey.

The Muslim sailors and explorers from Al-Andalus named the islands “Khaledat.” Apart from accidental landings made by sailors and pirates, the Canary Islands were largely forgotten. In 1341, King Alfonso IV of Portugal allowed the Genoese navigator Nicoloso de Recco to explore the Canary Islands. He reported that he saw a lot of goats and other animals in the Canary Islands when he returned to Europe.

He also reported seeing the first inhabitants of the Canary Islands and they would later be called as the Guanches. The Guanches were related to the Berbers of North Africa, and they were ruled by a “prince.” Some of them were friendly and dared to swim out to the ships, but the few brave souls were carried off to Europe by de Recco’s men. They also saw a stone statue which they removed from its place and carried it off to Lisbon.

The Castilian captain Francisco Lopez landed in the Canary Islands after rough seas brought his ship there. He and his men befriended some natives, and they stayed there for seven years. For some reason, the natives turned on them and killed some of the captain’s men. The occasional merchants and pirates were the only ones who ventured into the islands since.

Jean de Bethencourt and the Start of the Slave Trade

Jean de Bethencourt explored the Canary Islands in 1402.

In 1402, the French nobleman Jean de Bethencourt assembled a group of men to explore the Canary Islands. He and his men left La Rochelle in France on May 1, 1402, and sailed to Corunna. From there they sailed to Cadiz, then to Graciosa in the Azores, and finally to the island of Lanzarote where they built the Rubicon fortress. They ran out of provisions and de Bethencourt’s men started to rebel, so their leader decided to leave and return to the continent for provisions. De Bethencourt left one of his men as temporary leader of the crew in Lanzarote.

De Bethencourt traveled to the court of King Henry III of Castile with the Guanches that he captured upon his return to Spain. He also asked to be recognized as the “king” of the Canary Islands, and in return, he would acknowledge the Spanish king as his overlord. Pleased with de Bethencourt’s discovery of the islands, King Henry III agreed to his offer.

The king commanded de Bethencourt to return to the islands and convert the native Guanches to Christianity. De Bethencourt also established colonies in the islands of Ferro and Palma in the years that followed. He returned to Spain where he was given a letter of commendation by the king. He traveled to Rome where the pope received him warmly. He returned to France after his trip to Rome and lived there until his death in 1422 or 1425.

The lucrative Spanish slave trade stopped briefly when Pope Eugene IV issued a papal bull which forbade the capture and enslavement of the Guanches. The papal bull also commanded that the Guanches should be freed and returned to their homes. Anyone who defied the bull would be punished with excommunication.

The Portuguese, too, took part in the European slave trade in the early 15th century. To even up the score, the ambitious Portuguese started their own African campaign by conquering the Marinid-held stronghold of Ceuta in 1415. It was in Ceuta that the Portuguese first heard of the trans-Saharan gold and slave trade. The Portuguese prince Henry (later called the Navigator) became curious. He told his men to go to the Western African trade centers, but crossing the Sahara desert was a big challenge. He then decided that his men should travel by sea. Portuguese ships sailed closely along the northwest coast of Africa in search of these trade centers. The explorers found miles and miles of uninhabited coast until they finally met native Africans.

Motivated by profit, Henry’s sailors captured hundreds of West Africans and brought them to Portugal to be sold as slaves. This practice continued for many years. The slave trade even prospered after Pope Eugene IV granted Prince Henry of Portugal the right to raid non-Christians of West Africa on the pretext of a holy crusade. Muslims and pagans were fair game, and they were all sold as slaves in Europe. By 1444, hundreds of West African men, women, and children landed in Lagos in Portugal after they were captured by the Portuguese and sold into the European slave trade.


Picture by: Baltasar Moncornet (16??-1668), Public Domain, Link

Bontier, Pierre, Jean Le Verrier, and Richard Henry Major. The Canarian: or, Book of the Conquest and Conversion of the Canarians in the Year 1402 by Messire Jean de Bethencourt, Kt. London: Printed for the Hakluyt Society, 1872.

De, Abreu De Galindo Juan, George Glas, James Dodsley, Robert Dodsley, and Thomas Durham. The History of the Discovery and Conquest of the Canary Islands: Translated from a Spanish Manuscript Lately Found in the island of Palma: With an Enquiry into the Origin of the Ancient Inhabitants: to Which is Added, a Description of the Canary Islands, Including the Modern History of the Inhabitants, and an Account of their Manners, Customs, & Trade. London: Printed for R. and J. Dodsley in Pall-mall, and T. Durham in the Strand, 1764.

Gambier, J. W. The Guanches: The Ancient Inhabitants of Canary. 1896.

Saunders, A. C. de C. M, A. A Social History of Black Slaves and Freedmen in Portugal, 1441-1555. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1982.

Thomas, Hugh. The Slave trade: The Story of the Atlantic Slave Trade, 1440-1870. New York, NY: Simon & Schuster, 1997.

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Europe, Turkish Domain in

The Byzantine Empire experienced a disastrous civil war and an equally destructive earthquake during the mid-1300s. These two events contributed to the fall of Thrace to the Ottomans and gave them the first Turkish domain in Europe between 1354 and 1357 where it is recorded on the Biblical Timeline with World History. The Ottoman Empire steadily advanced into Europe in the years that followed. Its borders swept past the Balkans and even reached beyond Budapest in Hungary at its height in the fifteenth century.

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New Emperor, Old Problems

On the 10th of December 1354, the Byzantine Emperor John VI Kantakouzenos left his throne in disgrace to live a quiet life as a monk. The Turks led by Orhan’s son, Suleyman Pasha, had occupied a great part of the Gallipoli Peninsula after a major earthquake shattered its cities. The displaced Greeks asked the emperor for help, but John VI knew any appeal to Orhan would be useless. He abdicated instead and left the throne to his rebellious co-emperor John V Palaiologos.

“Pope Innocent VI”

Before the earthquake, John V had waged a civil war against his co-emperor in a bid to wrest the throne away from him. He finally got what he wanted in 1354 after John VI’s abdication. There was no victory for John V as the “empire” he received was poor, powerless, and swarmed by Turks who were eager to migrate westward. In his desperation, the new emperor sent a letter to Pope Innocent VI requesting soldiers and warships. In exchange for the Pope’s help, he promised to convert to Catholicism and to dissolve the Orthodox Church. He also sent his son Manuel to the Pope in Avignon as an insurance.

Pope Innocent VI could do something about John V’s desire to convert to Catholicism. There was, however, little that he could do about the emperor’s need for soldiers. The Pope requested some soldiers to the rulers of Genoa, Venice, and Cyprus but none of his letters were answered.

Meanwhile, Suleyman Pasha had asked for more Turkish soldiers and civilians to come over and occupy Thrace. They drove out Arab nomads from a place called Karasi and resettled them in Rumelia (Bulgaria and Turkish Thrace). It was said that these new residents arrived every day on the shores of Thrace in 1357.

The year 1357 was not a good one for the Ottoman bey. His son Khalil was kidnapped by Phocaean pirates, while his favorite son Suleyman Pasha also died in the same year. These events pushed Orhan to come to terms with John V, and temporarily stop the resettlement of and expansion in Thrace. Prince Khalil was rescued in 1358. John V immediately arranged his engagement to his daughter, Irene. Unfortunately, this plan was bound to fail as Khalil died the following year. The fierce Prince Murad soon replaced his brother as commander of the Turkish army in Thrace.

Picture By Henri Segur – Own work, Public Domain, Link
Fleet, Kate. The New Cambridge History of Islam: The Western Islamic World, Eleventh to Eighteenth Centuries. Edited by Maribel Fierro. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2010.
Setton, Kenneth M., Harry W. Hazard, and Norman P. Zacour, eds. A History of the Crusades: The Impact of the Crusades on Europe. Vol. VI. Univ of Wisconsin Press, 1990.
Shepard, Jonathan. The Cambridge History of the Byzantine Empire C. 500-1492. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2008.
Uyar, Mesut, and Edward J. Erickson. A Military History of the Ottomans: From Osman to Atatürk. Santa Barbara, CA: Praeger Security International/ABC-CLIO, 2009.
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Fall of the Songhai Empire

The Songhai Empire flourished in the western Sahel region of Africa between AD 1400 and 1600. Sonni Ali, the paramount chief of the Sonni Dynasty, led the Songhai people in conquering the former territories of the Ghana and Mali Empires. The power, wealth, and influence of the Songhai Dynasty increased over the years, but it started to unravel during the chaotic reign of the Askia Dynasty. Finally, in 1591, the Songhai Empire fell to the hands of the army under the Saadi Dynasty of Morocco.  This event is recorded on the Biblical Timeline with World History during that time.

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The Rise of an Empire

The Songhai Empire was built upon the ashes of the great Mali Empire when it disintegrated in the early 1400s. The Songhai state which was ruled by the Sonni Dynasty rose several years before the fall of the Mali Empire, but it emerged as a strong independent force when the empire finally crumbled. By the mid-1400s, the great city of Timbuktu was reduced to a tributary of the Tuareg who ruled the city through an appointed Berber governor. Across the Niger River, the Songhai people under the leadership of Sonni Ali (1464-1492) were already consolidating power.

The citizens of Timbuktu and the Songhai people lived side by side for many years until the Tuareg launched a bloody takeover of the city. The residents of Timbuktu soon appealed to Sonni Ali to deliver them from the Tuareg and offered their submission to the Songhai ruler in exchange for protection. Sonni Ali agreed to help them drive the Tuareg out and brought the ancient city into the orbit of the Songhai state.

After the conquest of Timbuktu, Sonni Ali launched a campaign to take the surrounding areas. He extended the state’s borders as far west as the Massina and Djenne Djenno areas through the Niger waterways and reduced the town of Oualata into a Songhai garrison. During the expansion, the Songhai army was able to decimate the Fula people and Tuareg-sympathizers. Although Sonni Ali claimed to be a Muslim, he still practiced paganism and did not hesitate to order the execution of any Muslim who sympathized with the Tuareg.

Mathematics and astronomy manuscripts found in the city of Timbuktu.

Sonni Ali spent most of his life conquering the areas along Niger River. Centered in the city of Gao, the Songhai state had been transformed into an influential and powerful empire with borders that extended into some portions of northern Nigeria. The people he conquered breathed a sigh of relief when he died in 1492.

His son, Sonni Baru, succeeded him as king but did not inherit his father’s talent and luck in war. He was defeated twice by Muhammad Ture (one of his father’s generals) who launched a rebellion against him. In November 1493, Sonni Ali went into exile and was succeeded by Muhammad Ture as ruler of the Songhai Empire.

The devout Muslim leader then adopted the name Askia Muhammad and soon transformed the empire into a haven for Islam in the western Sahel region. The king expanded the empire further into the Futa Tooro region in the west and as far east as Agadez. Sonni Ali treated the Tuareg as enemies, but the Askia reversed this by turning them into trade partners. They soon became the empire’s allies against Arab tribesmen and Moroccans who raided the valuable salt mines in Taghaza.

By 1515, the Songhai Empire had reached its peak, but it would soon enter into a decline. Askia Muhammad maintained numerous concubines and the equally numerous (and jealous) sons they produced played a part in the empire’s downfall. In 1528, a son named Musa rebelled against their elderly and blind father along with some of his brothers. Askia Muhammad was forced to abdicate so that his rebellious son, Askia Musa, could reign.

Askia Musa’s reign was off to a bad start when his own brothers rebelled against his rule. Battles raged between his troops and his brothers, but he still emerged as the victor. Those who were not killed in battlwere driven into exile. He killed the rest of his brothers in Gao and ruled the empire until he, too, was killed in 1531.

A cousin named Askia Muhammad Benkan succeeded the tyrannical Askia Musa. Although not as evil as his cousin, the new Askia angered Askia Muhammad’s son Ismail when he sent the elderly ruler to an isolated island. He was deposed by Ismail, and he soon traveled to Mali to seek refuge.

Little is known of Ismail’s reign except that he restored his father in Gao. He died of natural causes in 1539 and was succeeded by another brother, Askia Ishaq I. Ishaq’s reign also became bloody because of his suspicious nature. He died a natural death and was succeeded by Askia Dawud in 1549.

The Songhai Empire experienced a renaissance during Askia Dawud’s reign. He subdued the Fula, Mossi, Borgu, and Gurma peoples. He also led a successful campaign in Mali and subdued the Arab tribesmen who lived near the empire. The Songhai Empire was at its most prosperous during his reign. A devout Muslim, Askia Dawud helped Timbuktu retain its title as the center of Islamic studies in the Sahel region during his reign.

Askia Dawud, with his numerous sons, was bound to repeat Askia Muhammad’s mistake. He died in 1582, and two of his sons immediately scrambled for the throne. His son, Askia Muhammad al-Hajj, emerged as the victor, but he was met with another rebellion led by his brother just one year into his reign. He ruled the Songhai Empire for another three years until he was deposed by his brothers in 1586.

The former emperor’s brothers then elected another brother named Muhammad Bani as the new Askia. He turned out to be not only foolish but also cruel. His brothers rebelled against him and plunged the Songhai Empire into civil war once again. Askia Muhammad Bani died in 1588, and his courtiers immediately announced another brother named Ishaq as the new Askia. The supporters of a rival brother named Sadiq declared him the new Askia, but he and his troops were quickly defeated by Ishaq.

The Moroccan Invasion and the Fall of the Songhai Empire

During the reign of Askia Muhammad al-Hajj, the Saadi sultan of Morocco Ahmad al-Mansur sent an influential merchant as a spy in Gao. While the civil war raged on in 1589, the merchant convinced one of Muhammad Bani’s brothers to leave the area and live in Morocco in peace. However, this misguided prince was immediately arrested when he reached Taghaza and was sent to Marrakesh as a prisoner. The Moroccan authorities then forced the prince to write a letter to the sultan, asking him to depose Askia Ishaq II and take over the Empire.

Sultan al-Mansur then sent an ultimatum to Askia Ishaq II, but was ignored. The Askia was in a campaign in a far-off province when news of the Moroccan invasion reached him. He scrambled to gather allied tribal chiefs, but his messengers were killed along the way. He went back to Gao and hastily assembled an army.

 Moroccan forces led by Judar Pasha at Tondibi in 1591.

Ishaq ordered a herd of cattle to be released in the battlefield to confuse the Moroccan army. This strategy backfired and it was his troops instead who became confused during the melee. The Songhai troops were routed that day, and the survivors (military and civilians) had to flee for their lives to the other side of the Niger.

The Moroccan army entered the deserted Songhai capital of Gao soon after their victory in the Battle of Tondibi. Ishaq offered to become Morocco’s tributary—an offer which Judar Pasha wanted to accept. However, the sultan wanted the gold mines of the empire for himself and refused Ishaq’s offer when it reached him. Al-Mansur then recalled Judar Pasha and replaced him with another official as governor of the once-mighty Songhai Empire.

Ishaq was then deposed by his own people as Askia and replaced by a man named Muhammad Gao. The reduced Songhai state continued to be ruled by Askias even after the end of the independent empire.


Picture by UnknownEurAstro : Mission to Mali, Public Domain, Link

Levtzion, Nehemiah. The Cambridge History of Africa: From c. 1050 to c. 1600. Edited by Roland Oliver. Vol. 3. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1977.

Terdiman, Moshe. Encyclopedia of African American History. Edited by Leslie Alexander. Santa Barbara, CA: ABC-CLIO, 2010.


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Christianity Introduced by Francis Xavier

In 1549, the Jesuit priest and missionary Francis Xavier landed in Kagoshima on the island of Kyushu. With him were two Jesuit missionaries, three Japanese converts (including their translator Anjiro), and one Chinese convert. Despite the danger of evangelizing in a war-torn country and the language barrier, it was not long before this small yet hardy group gained their first few converts.  These events are recorded on the Biblical Timeline with World History during that time period.

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The First Jesuits in Japan

In 1543, a couple of Portuguese traders landed on the island of Tanegashima and became the first Europeans to establish contact with the Japanese. Although they did not stay long, they made a lasting impact in war-torn Japan when a local warlord bought the arquebus they brought along for the trip. The warlord ordered his craftsmen to copy the arquebus, and the result was the Tanegashima, the firearm used widely by samurais during the conflicts of the Sengoku period (1467-1603).

On August 16, 1549, Father Francis Xavier and two fellow Jesuit missionaries landed in Kagoshima. Two years before their arrival in Japan, Francis Xavier had met a Japanese fugitive-turned-pirate named Anjiro (Yajiro) in Malacca. He was able to convert Anjiro to Christianity and the new convert soon took the name “Paulo de Santa Fe.” Xavier naively believed the good things he heard from Anjiro about Japan and its people.

Xavier was able to convert the pearl fishermen of southwest India to Christianity, but he believed that Portugal’s exploitative colonization was incompatible with the message of the gospel. He had been thinking of leaving the Jesuit base in Goa and establish instead a new mission in another country. The arrival of Anjiro gave him the perfect opportunity to travel to Japan and introduce Christianity to its people.

A depiction of St. Francis of Xavier baptizing a Japanese man.

After wrapping up his work in Goa, Francis Xavier and his companions stopped briefly in Malacca and then sailed to Japan. With him were two European Jesuits, Anjiro, two other Japanese converts, and another Chinese convert. His first convert, Anjiro, would serve as his translator.

He was surprised the moment he and his companions arrived in one of Japan’s southernmost islands. Kagoshima, a port city on the island of Kyushu and Anjiro’s hometown, was far from Japan’s then capital of Kyoto. Xavier learned later on that although an emperor ruled Japan, he was virtually impoverished and that local warlords held the reins of power. Wars were the norm, and he did not encounter the Japanese equivalent of European universities.

Despite the shock, Francis Xavier and his companions were welcomed warmly by Anjiro’s family and the townspeople. The newly arrived Europeans were fascinated with Japan and its people, and the feeling was returned by the people they encountered. It was not long before Xavier was able to convert Anjiro’s mother and sister to Christianity.

With the help of Anjiro, Francis Xavier was able to secure an interview with the young and curious daimyō Shimazu Takahisa. The daimyō, himself a devout Buddhist, became fascinated with the image of the Virgin and Child that the priest brought along as a present for the emperor. He saw its similarity to the goddess of mercy Kannon and proceeded to worship the image. Members of the daimyō’s household soon followed suit. More than a month after their arrival in Japan, the daimyō allowed his vassals to convert to Christianity.

Francis Xavier and Father Cosme de Torres wrote down everything they thought the Japanese people needed to know about the Christian doctrine during the winter of 1549. Anjiro translated the text to his own language, but it was not known how well he translated the text. Their translator’s daughter soon converted to Christianity, and she was followed by a ronin the Europeans later named “Bernardo.” “Bernardo the Japanese” later became one of Xavier’s first disciples. He would later travel to Europe in 1552 but died in Coimbra seven years later.

Xavier gained converts, but his inadequate knowledge of the language hampered his efforts. Buddhist monks of the Shingon sect also forced daimyō Takahisa to withdraw his support from Christianity, so the missionary left in a hurry for Kyoto (Miyako or capital). He left Anjiro behind to carry on his mission in Kagoshima while he traveled northward to secure an audience with Emperor Go-Nara. Cosme de Torres, the lay brother Juan Fernández (who, by then, had become quite fluent in Nihongo), and the Japanese converts Bernardo and Matteo accompanied him on his journey north.

They stayed for a while in Hirado Island where Portuguese traders docked their armed and richly-laden ships. In a letter written later in 1552, he boasted that he managed to convert more people in Hirado than in Kagoshima. They soon left Hirado and continued north to the city of Yamaguchi to seek an audience with the shogu Ōuchi Yoshitaka who was a known intellectual and scholar. He was known to welcome Confucian, Buddhist, and Shinto scholars in his domain, so Xavier thought that there was no reason for him to deny access to Christianity. He left Torres behind in Hirado, while the rest of the companions traveled with Xavier during the winter of 1550. They arrived in Yamaguchi in late January 1551 and preached to the inhabitants of the city as soon as it was possible.

They were summoned by the shogu Ōuchi Yoshitaka to explain their reasons for coming to Japan. Xavier discussed the Christian doctrine to the shogu for an hour but made the fatal mistake of criticizing the ruler’s dissolute lifestyle. His group was soon dismissed, and they were forced to leave Yamaguchi after seeing that only a few people converted to Christianity. The journey to Kyoto was difficult because they made it in the dead of winter. The roads were also full of danger as fighting flared out every now and then, as well as the presence of bandits in the countryside.

They reached Kyoto, but Emperor Go-Nara refused to see them (possibly because of his shame in his poverty). According to Xavier, the Emperor was “not obeyed by his own people” so they stopped seeking an audience with him. The shogun Ashikaga Yoshiteru was equal to the emperor in prestige, but he, too, held little sway among the daimyōs. Children followed and mocked them on the streets, while monastery doors remained closed to them.

The trip was a failure for Xavier and his companions, but not a total waste of time. He returned to Yamaguchi and stayed there for a while to ponder where they did wrong. He realized that in Japan the people considered them “barbarians,” or outsiders. He had to adapt to its culture if he was to successfully evangelize in the country.

After a brief stay in Yamaguchi, the group returned to Hirado to take back the luxurious gifts from the Viceroy of the Indies and the Governor of Malacca which they left behind for safekeeping. They then returned to Yamaguchi and gave these gifts to shogu Ōuchi Yoshitaka. The governor was impressed this time, and he allowed them to preach on the streets of Yamaguchi. He also allowed the group to occupy a monastery where they preached and discussed various topics (even science) with the ever curious and perceptive Japanese audience. The number of Christian converts in Yamaguchi increased, but the Jesuits failed to convert the shogu who did not want to let go of his concubines.

Language and miscommunication remained one of the greatest obstacles in Xavier’s mission. Fernández was still the only person who could speak, read, and write in both languages, and the rest remained monolingual. They also started to attract the jealousy of the local priests whose food and clothing depended on the alms given by the people.

In the middle of September 1551, Xavier received a letter from Otomo Yoshishige, the yakata of Bungo province. He was being summoned to Oita (Funai) where a Portuguese ship captained by Duarte da Gama just docked. He was welcomed warmly by da Gama when he arrived in Oita, and he soon became friends with Otomo (Sorin) Yoshishige. He received from da Gama the news that he was being recalled by the authorities in Europe and they would set sail for Goa in two weeks.

He received distressing news while staying in Oita. A rebellion led by Sue Takafusa had flared up in Yamaguchi and their patron, Ōuchi Yoshitaka, had been deposed. Xavier was able to breathe a sigh of relief when he heard that his Jesuit friends were safe after they were sheltered by the wife of a nobleman. Luckily, the regime that replaced Yoshitaka’s was also friendly to Christianity.

The Japanese converts Bernardo, Matteo, Antonio, and Joane sailed with him to Goa on November 21, 1551. An ambassador sent by Otomo Yoshishige also accompanied them, but Xavier left Torres and Fernandez behind in Japan to continue the mission. By early 1552, his group had arrived in southwest India. He wanted to establish a new mission in China and he left India once again in late 1552. The Chinese authorities refused to grant him entry upon his arrival off the coast of Guangdong. While waiting for his permit to enter China, Francis Xavier suddenly fell ill and died on December 3, 1552, in Shangchuan Island. His remains were then taken back to Goa. Japan’s first evangelist was 46 years old when he died.


Picture by: Isaac Wong (惡德神父) – Isaac Wong (惡德神父), CC BY-SA 3.0, Link

Elisonas, Jurgis. The Cambridge History of Japan: Early Modern Japan. Edited by John W. Hall. Vol. 4. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2006.

Lacouture, Jean. Jesuits: A Multibiography. Translated by Jeremy Leggatt. Washington, DC: Counterpoint, 1995.

Toon, S., and David Michell. The New International Dictionary of the Christian Church. Edited by J. D. Douglas and Earle E. Cairns. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1996.

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Alexander I Reigns 1801

Alexander I of Russia started his reign after the botched coup and assassination of his father in 1801. He was born in 1777 and was raised by his formidable grandmother, Catherine the Great. He spent most of his years as Russia’s Emperor fighting (and occasionally befriending) Napoleon Bonaparte between the Second and Seventh Coalition Wars. He rejected liberal ideas after seeing the effects of the French Revolution and became increasingly conservative during the later years of his reign.  These events are recorded on the Biblical Timeline with World History during that time.

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Early Years

Alexander I, Emperor of All Russia, was born on December 24, 1777, in St. Petersburg. He was the eldest son of Tsarevich Paul by his wife Maria Feodorovna, the former Sophia Dorothea of Wurttemberg. Nine more children followed his birth, but Alexander remained the favorite of his grandmother, Catherine the Great.

The Empress’s relationship was never genial in the first place, so she decided to send Paul and his family to the distant Gatchina estate. In 1781, Catherine sent Alexander’s parents on a European tour. She then took a page from Empress Elizabeth’s playbook and kidnapped young Alexander and his younger brother Constantine from Gatchina. She took them to her home in Tsarskoye Selo and there took charge of their education. The parents protested when they came back, but their tears and entreaties did not move the Empress. The episode only deepened Paul’s anger for his mother.

Catherine started to groom the young Alexander as her heir. His military education was entrusted to General Nikolay Saltykov, while the cosmopolitan Father Andrew Samborsky instructed him in religion. However, the person who made the greatest impact on the young Alexander was the Swiss tutor Frederic-Cesar de La Harpe who was a disciple of the leading philosophers of the Age of Enlightenment, including Rousseau, Voltaire, and Montesquieu.

LaHarpe instructed the boy in science, language, philosophy, and history. Paul imbibed from him the liberal and humanist ideals which tempered his traditional Russian religiosity. The liberal LaHarpe slowly fell from grace after the outbreak of the French Revolution in 1789 and had to leave the court after the French revolutionaries guillotined King Louis XIV. LaHarpe and his charge parted ways in tears when he left Tsarskoye Selo in December 1794.

Alexander’s adjutant Adam Czartoryski filled the hole LaHarpe had left behind. This Polish nobleman became a hostage in Russia after the Third Partition of Poland and was later assigned as the prince’s tutor. Like LaHarpe, he was cosmopolitan and intelligent. The two young men respected each other, and it was to Czartoryski that Alexander first confided that he did not want to be Tsar.

The Empress arranged 16-year old Alexander’s marriage to the beautiful 15-year old Elizabeth Alexeievna (former Princess Louise of Baden). Now considered adults, Catherine soon allowed the brothers to visit Gatchina more often to their parents’ delight. Paul guided his sons in drilling the troops, but it was Constantine who stood out. Both sons, however, soon took a liking to their father’s penchant for military parades and Prussian-style uniforms.

 Catherine suddenly died in 1796, and against her will, the crown passed to her mentally unstable son. This began Paul’s mad and bloody reign. The Emperor slowly became unpopular among the military after he insisted that they get rid of the practical uniform Catherine reintroduced. He then insisted that they wear the tight-fitting Prussian-style uniform that he favored. He also had his father’s remains exhumed and reburied it with his mother’s corpse. He instituted several reforms, but his unstable personality made him tyrannical. His paranoia worsened when the Russian armies suffered defeats during the first two Coalition Wars.

Paul appointed Alexander the governor-general of St. Petersburg soon after his accession to the throne. This position, however, came at a price. His father would often berate Alexander in front of their soldiers and compared him to the younger Constantine. He planted spies everywhere and suspected Alexander of plotting to depose him. The prince naturally denied any wrongdoing, but the Emperor remained suspicious.

In March 1801, groups of soldiers led by the recalled Zubov brothers and Count Peter von der Pahlen stormed Paul’s Mikhailovsky Castle. Alexander agreed to go along with the coup on the condition that his father would live and would only be isolated in his castle for the rest of his life. Pahlen’s drunken soldiers, however, botched the plan and ended up killing Paul instead. The grief-stricken Alexander was proclaimed Tsar soon after.

Alexander, Emperor of All Russia

Alexander I ruled Russia from 1801 to 1825.

Paul was mourned by his wife and children, while courtiers, military officers, and the common people breathed a sigh of relief. But the guilt and remorse of having been a part of his father’s death hounded Alexander, so he immediately sent the ringleaders into exile. He then recalled the men exiled by his father, including his friend and his wife’s former lover Adam Czartoryski. He also recalled the Russian army which was on its way to attack India.

Alexander then established the Private Committee to address the situation of the serfs. It was made up of the Emperor’s four other friends who shared the same liberal ideals and led by Czartoryski himself. In 1802, he traveled to Prussia and met with the King Frederick William III and his wife Louise. The Emperor and the King then signed a treaty of alliance in hopes of stopping Napoleon Bonaparte and the French expansion. To this end, he also made peace with Austria and England.

The Coalition Wars

In early 1804, the French authorities arrested the suspected participants of the Cadoudal Conspiracy. These men were accused of conspiring to depose Napoleon Bonaparte and attempting to restore a member of the House of Bourbon to the throne. One of the suspected ringleaders was the Duke of Enghien, a member of the House of Bourbon who lived in exile in Baden and one of the possible claimants to the French throne. Napoleon sent his soldiers to Baden to arrest the Duke and had him brought back to Paris to be tried. The innocent Duke of Enghien was tried immediately after his arrival in Paris and hanged on the day of his sentencing. With his power secure, Bonaparte soon crowned himself the Emperor of France.

The death of the Duke of Enghien alarmed Alexander especially after he was taken from his Empress’s homeland. His death, as well as Napoleon’s interest in the Mediterranean and the Balkans, finally cemented Alexander’s decision to go to war against the French Republic. In 1805, Russia, Britain, and Austria agreed to renew their coalition against France. Prussia, meanwhile, remained neutral.

In the same year, Napoleon decided to dissolve the Italian Republic and bring the peninsula into the fold with him as its king. The alarmed Austrians mobilized their army in preparation for the attack, but this move only gave Napoleon a reason to order his own army to cross the Rhine. The French Grande Armee and the Austrian army led by Baron Karl Mack von Leiberich met at Ulm on October 16, 1805. General Mack miscalculated by refusing to wait for the arrival of his Russian allies led by General Mikhail Kutuzov, so his vastly outnumbered troops were soon hemmed in and destroyed. Mack surrendered before the arrival of the Russian reinforcements.

The Russians led by General Kutuzov finally joined what remained of the Austrian army after the Battle of Ulm. Alexander also arrived and despite his lack of experience, he disregarded the elderly yet experienced Kutuzov and assumed command of the army at the Battle of Austerlitz. He also allowed the equally inept Holy Roman Emperor Francis II to direct the maneuvers instead of relying on Kutuzov.

On December 2, 1805, the Russian-Austrian Coalition and Napoleon’s Grande Armee met at Austerlitz. The Coalition initially occupied Pratzen Heights but abandoned it to attack the French army’s seemingly weakened right flank. With Pratzen heights abandoned, the Russian-Austrian army exposed the vulnerability of its center. Napoleon then took them by surprise when a French contingent appeared behind the Coalition army and attacked its center. The Coalition army was decimated with thousands killed or wounded. The Russians, including the hapless Alexander, fled the battlefield and were forced to return to their homeland in utter defeat.

Alexander shouldered all the blame for the humiliating rout, but it did not stop him from going after his arch nemesis. In the following year, Russia and Prussia agreed to create the Fourth Coalition. Russia decided to enter the fray once again after Bonaparte encouraged the Ottomans to reclaim Wallachia and Moldavia. Prussia, meanwhile, agreed to go to war after Napoleon had the Nuremberg bookseller Philipp Palm executed for releasing a subversive tract.

Napoleon’s Grande Armee, however, was able to defeat the Prussians at the Battle of Jena (October 14, 1806). Alexander responded by sending Levin Bennigsen and the Russian army to fight the Grande Armee at Eylau (February 7, 1807) and at Friedland (June 14, 1807). Both battles resulted in an overwhelming French victory although the body count was high on both sides. With these losses, Alexander finally realized that he had no choice but to make peace with Napoleon.

The Treaty of Tilsit

They met on a raft which floated in the middle of the Niemen River and immediately started the peace negotiations. Napoleon dazzled Alexander with his wit and the Emperors became temporary friends. The Emperor of France was not overly impressed with Alexander but admired him to a certain extent. King Frederick William III, meanwhile, was left on one of the banks of the river to await the fate of his country while Alexander negotiated on his behalf.

 The result of this negotiation was the Treaty of Tilsit which was signed on June 25, 1807. The treaty allowed the King of Prussia to retain his throne but left him with a significantly diminished territory. Russia also agreed to renounce its claim on the Ionian Islands and recognized Napoleon’s brothers as rulers of Naples and Westphalia. Alexander also agreed to Napoleon’s Continental System which favored French trade interests over British commerce. With this agreement, Russia started to block English trade ships in the Baltic. Alexander was also forced to agree to the creation of the Saxon Duchy of Warsaw in Poland.

The Treaty of Tilsit became unpopular back in Russia. In late 1808, Alexander and Napoleon met once again in a summit near Erfurt, but this time their meeting was less pleasant. Alexander grumbled about the blockade’s negative effects on the Russian economy and the fact that Russia did not benefit from Napoleon’s Continental System. He also raised the threat of the presence of thirty thousand French troops in the Saxon Duchy of Warsaw which Napoleon had folded into the Confederation of the Rhine. Napoleon tried to pacify him by offering Moldavia and Wallachia and encouraged him to take the Swedish Duchy of Finland.

Temporarily pacified, Alexander returned to Russia and started his conquest of Swedish-held Finland. His father’s trusted general Aleksey Arakcheev took over when the campaign floundered and soon brought Sweden to heel. Russia then transformed Finland as its own duchy.

The Fifth Coalition War

Austria once again declared war against France (War of the Fifth Coalition) in 1809. Austrian soldiers then invaded Bavaria while most of the French forces were fighting in the Iberian peninsula. Napoleon hastily recalled his soldiers from Spain but was initially unsuccessful at overpowering the Austrians. To Napoleon’s dismay, Alexander proved to be an unreliable ally. He called upon the Emperor to send in some troops but was forced to wait seven weeks before additional Russian reinforcements arrived. Finally, on July 6, 1809, Napoleon once again showed his enemies that he was Europe’s most brilliant general by routing the Austrians in the Battle of Wagram. The Austrians were forced to sue for peace and limp home in defeat. Napoleon and Alexander’s brief friendship ended soon after and bitter hostilities returned.

The Sixth Coalition War

In 1808, Napoleon invaded Portugal and Spain as part of its war against the British. Despite his unpopularity because of the strain of the prolonged conflicts, he unwisely declared a new war against Russia in 1812. The main reason for the war was Russia’s unsatisfactory performance in the Continental System that he imposed in 1807. In 1810, Russia finally discarded the Continental System and ended their alliance with the French. For Napoleon, it was time to bring Russia to heel.

Prussia and Austria, repeatedly crushed by Napoleon years prior, had no choice but to send their armies to the frontline to support France’s invasion of Russia. Russia, meanwhile, sealed an alliance with Sweden after Alexander promised to help the kingdom annex neighboring Norway (then held by Denmark). Alexander himself wanted to lead the army, but his sister Catherine restrained him since she knew that he was not a brilliant commander and he did not inspire trust in the battlefield.

 Around 600,000 French, Dutch, German, Swiss, Italian, and Polish soldiers marched to occupy Smolensk starting in June 1812. They arrived in Smolensk in August, but Napoleon’s army already suffered from diseases, hunger, and the heat. The indecisive Russian generals knew their chance of overcoming Napoleon’s army was low, so they abandoned the city to the invaders with little resistance. Napoleon had planned to spend winter with his army in Smolensk, but then unwisely decided to follow the enemy deeper into Russia.

The Russian army led by General Kutuzov and Napoleon’s army finally met at the Battle of Borodino on September 7, 1812. Casualties were high on both sides, and the result was a stalemate (although both sides claimed victory). The Russians prudently retreated deeper into their territory. Napoleon decided to push into Moscow but found that the city had been abandoned by the Russians upon their arrival. Fires had broken out in the deserted city (possibly set by its own inhabitants) and soon turned it to ashes. The devastation did not deter Napoleon from occupying Moscow, but the victory was hollow.

Alexander, meanwhile, stayed in St. Petersburg during the French occupation in Moscow. This made him unpopular among his people as news of the disasters of the war trickled in. Several of his advisers and members of his own family asked him to sue for peace, but he steadfastly refused to give in. Napoleon, on the other hand, was growing despondent in Moscow. His supplies had run low and he feared that the arrival of the harsh Russian winter would decimate his army further. He decided that it would be prudent to order his troops to march back west.

The journey home was a disaster of epic proportions. The dreaded Russian winter soon set in and made the journey back to Smolensk hellish. Only half of the original 600,000 men remained by the time Napoleon’s army reached Smolensk, but their numbers would be reduced further. In November 1812, the French army tried to cross the Berezina River, but they were fired upon by Russians positioned on both banks. Many were killed, while some were taken as prisoners. By the time they set foot on their homeland, Napoleon’s army was down to its last 100,000 men.

Napoleon’s disastrous retreat from Moscow in 1812 made Alexander ecstatic. But he realized that Russia would never be at peace as long as Napoleon remained as ruler of France. The Emperor then made it his ultimate goal to bring Napoleon down.

In 1813, Alexander, the Russian army, and some Swedish reinforcements marched east to join the Prussian army. Although Napoleon led a significantly smaller force made up of French and Polish soldiers, he was still able to rout the Coalition at Lutzen (May 2, 1813) and Bautzen (May 20-21, 1813). But the tide soon turned on him, and the allies won most of the minor battles thereafter. Napoleon sued for peace, but his unwillingness to compromise meant that he and the allies would have to meet on the battlefield once again.

Napoleon’s second wife Marie Louise was an Austrian archduchess, but it did not stop her fellow Austrians from joining the Coalition during the latter half of 1813. Napoleon’s army defeated the Coalition’s forces in the Battle of Dresden on August 26, 1813, but it was one of his last significant victories. The Coalition finally crushed the French forces at the two Battles of Kulm (August 29 and September 17) and at the Battle of Leipzig (October 16-19, 1813).

Fresh from these victories, the Coalition’s army then marched west to pursue Napoleon and arrived in France in middle of March 1814. Alexander wanted his troops to storm Paris, but he was restrained by the Austrian minister Klemens von Metternich and the British diplomat Viscount Castlereagh who only wanted to force Napoleon to abdicate as Emperor in favor of his half-Austrian son.

Napoleon had escaped to Fontainebleau where he tried to mobilize another army to no avail. Meanwhile, in Paris, Napoleon’s duplicitous Minister of Foreign Affairs Talleyrand soon announced his removal as Emperor of France. He finally gave up the fight and offered to abdicate in favor of his son. The allies refused this offer and soon exiled him to the remote island of Elba off the western coast of Italy.

The Congress of Vienna and the Last Coalition War

Upon Napoleon’s abdication, the allies agreed to restore the House of Bourbon to the throne through King Louis XVIII (brother of the executed King Louis XVI). They also agreed to meet once again in Vienna later that year to decide the fate of France and of greater Europe.

On September 13, 1814, Alexander and his entourage arrived in Vienna as promised. Representatives of Prussia, Britain, France, and Austria also converged in the capital to hammer out the details on how to maintain the balance of power among the European powers. Their main goal was to prevent another political revolution from happening, as well as to prevent the rise of another Napoleon. Austria was represented by the experienced diplomat Klemens von Metternich, while Viscount Castlereagh represented Britain. Prussia’s Prince Karl August von Hardenburg’s deafness hindered his participation in the Congress and therefore he could not obtain a good bargain for his country. Prince Talleyrand was also invited to the Congress as a representative of France and its newly-restored monarch.

The partition of the Kingdom of Saxony was one of the thorny issues tackled in the Congress of Vienna. Alexander wanted Poland as a Russian territory, while Prussia wanted to bring the Kingdom of Saxony into its fold. These territorial ambitions did not sit well with Austria, France, and Britain so their representatives protested. It was Prince Talleyrand who saved the negotiations when he proposed a new war against Russia and Prussia if they did not agree to a compromise.

After months of bargaining and bullying, the allies forced Alexander to accept a palatable partition of the Kingdom of Saxony. He gave up his claims to Galicia and gave it to Austria, and accepted instead the Duchy of Warsaw as a Russian client state. King Frederick Augustus (who, at that time, was a prisoner of Prussia) retained his title as ruler of Saxony. However, he was forced to cede a significant portion of his territory to Prussia.

The Last Coalition War

The negotiations were not yet finished when the representatives received news that Napoleon had escaped from Elba on February 26, 1815. French soldiers quickly abandoned their posts and joined the charismatic general when he reached mainland France. Alexander and his allies had no choice but to mobilize the allied armies once again to face Napoleon. Despite his resistance, Napoleon’s fate was already sealed. The allied forces defeated him at the Battle of Waterloo and he was sent to the remote island of St. Helena where he died in 1821.

 Alexander had become smitten with Christian mysticism and this influenced his political decisions. He proposed a Holy Alliance with his allies which would use the precepts of Christianity to guide their conduct. Austria and Prussia saw no harm in joining, but Britain’s Prince George IV made up excuses so he would not be compelled to sign the alliance.

Alexander’s Russian Projects and His Abandonment of Liberalism

Alexander started out as a liberal thinker thanks to LaHarpe’s influence but became a staunch conservative and autocrat later in his reign. He first freed the serfs of Livonia but backtracked after asking his nobles to submit plans to free the serfs in Russia proper. He then created settlements where soldiers and their families lived and farmed but appointed the brutal Arakcheev as the project’s administrator. Forced into years of hard labor and subject to Arakcheev’s cruelty, thousands of soldiers soon revolted in 1819. The rebellion, however, was brutally crushed by Arakcheev. Despite his belief in Christian mysticism, the Emperor wholly approved Arakcheev’s ruthless way of quashing the rebellion.

France was ruled once again by a monarch, but the liberal ideals of the Revolution slowly made its way into other parts of Europe. Uprisings inspired by the French Revolution flared out in Spain, Germany, and Portugal, and alarmed Alexander and other conservative European leaders. When a revolution engulfed Naples in 1820, Alexander immediately summoned a congress to address this new threat. Austria’s Metternich proposed that the Holy Alliance intervene to quash the rebellion. The Tsar initially opposed this, but news soon reached him that his own Semyonovsky Regiment rebelled in response to the brutality of Arakcheev’s protege. The Emperor allowed Arakcheev to crush the rebellion with severe ruthlessness.

Later Years and Death

In 1819, Alexander’s beloved sister Catherine died in Wurttemberg. Her death devastated the Emperor who was already tired of the wars he experienced and of ruling his vast empire. He finally verbalized his desire to leave the throne in 1820, but his lack of heir stood in the way of his abdication. Alexander’s marriage with Elizabeth did not produce children, so he was hard-pressed to find a suitable heir. He had several children by his mistress Maria Naryshkina, but they were immediately disqualified because of their illegitimacy. The ruthless Constantine had already renounced his claim to the throne, so the Tsar privately appointed his younger brother Nicholas as his successor in 1823.

In 1824, his daughter by Maria Naryshkina died and the young lady’s death was soon followed by Elizabeth’s illness. The Tsar, recently reunited with his wife, suggested that they travel south to the Sea of Azov so she could recuperate. On September 1825, the Emperor left with a small group of servants and settled in a villa in Taganrog. His wife later followed him in the seaside villa.

The Emperor contracted typhoid fever on October 27 and frustrated his doctor by refusing to take any medication. He recovered little by little but suddenly fainted in the middle of November. He sank into a coma three days later and died on the 19th of November, 1825. He was forty-seven years old.


Picture by: George Dawe – Белый Городъ, Public Domain, Link

 Breunig, Charles. The Age of Revolution and Reaction: 1789-1850. New York: Norton, 1977.

Dziewanowski, M. K. Alexander I: Russia始s Mysterious Tsar. New York: Hippocrene Books, 1990.

Lieven, Dominic, ed. The Cambridge History of Russia. Vol. 2. The Cambridge History of Russia. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2006. doi:10.1017/CHOL9780521815291.

Montefiore, Simon Sebag. The Romanovs: 1613-1918. New York, Vintage Books, 2017.







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Connecticut Settled by the Dutch and the English 1633

In 1633, the first Dutch and English colonists settled along the banks of the Connecticut River. Although the Dutch got a head start by building the Huys de Hoop outpost in as early as 1623, the English settlers quickly caught up when they created two settlements ten years later. Huys de Hoop, the first European settlement in Connecticut, was seized by the English later on.  These events are recorded on the Biblical Timeline with World History during that time.

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The Dutch Settlement Along the Connecticut River

The Dutch fur-trader and explorer Adriaen Block was the first known European to explore the coast of Connecticut from the Long Island Sound in 1614. Block and his crew came upon a river that the native Pequot named Quinnehtukqut (“the long tidal river” in Algonquin). Apart from the Pequot, Block recorded that the area was also home to other Algonquian peoples, such as the Mohegan and the Paugussett.

Block and his men were able to sail upriver until they reached the location of present-day Hartford. He then claimed the area for the Netherlands, but it remained safe from colonization for many years. It would not be until 1623 that the Dutch West India Company sent men to build a trading outpost and fort there.  The Dutch named the area Huys de Hoop (House of Hope) and used it as a base for the fur trade. It later expanded into a city and was renamed as “Hartford” when it was seized by the English.

English Settlements in Connecticut

After being banished from Plymouth Plantation, colonist John Oldham ventured out to explore the Connecticut River.

War broke out between River Indians and Dutch-supported Pequot in 1631. To counter the Pequot, the River Indian chief Wahginnacut decided to make an alliance with the English settlers. He and his men first traveled to the Massachusetts Bay Colony and appealed to Governor Winthrop for support. Wahginnacut appealed to the governor by telling him how fertile their land was in hopes of enticing him to build a settlement there. Winthrop listened, but he was not keen on making an alliance with them.

Wahginnacut then traveled to the nearby Plymouth colony and appealed this time to Governor Edward Winslow. The governor was more receptive to Wahginnacut’s appeal, and he soon organized an expedition with his men to the Connecticut River. It remains unclear whether it was Winslow or William Holmes who established the town of Windsor around 1632. The English town was built just beyond the Dutch fort in Hartford which was finished in 1633. The English also cemented their alliance with the displaced River Indians by bringing them back to the area.

Around the same time, a settler named John Oldham left Plymouth with his men and explored the Connecticut River. Oldham was at the center of a disagreement among the settlers of Plymouth, so he was eager to escape the colony and look for a place to call their own. The news of a fertile land along the banks of the Connecticut River and the chance to escape the conflicts of the colony seemed too good to be true. The possibility of benefitting from the fur-trade with the River Indians was an additional bonus.

Oldham and his men saw that the land indeed was fertile. They returned to Plymouth and reported it to the settlers. In 1633, Oldham and his companions sailed into the Connecticut River and established Watertowne (present-day Wethersfield). The new English town was just a stone’s throw away from the Dutch-controlled Hartford and the town of Windsor. The three towns established an alliance in 1636 and created the Colony of Connecticut.


Picture by: NancyOwn work, GFDL, Link

“Connecticut’s Oldest English Settlement.” Accessed August 01, 2017.

Rich, E.E. The New Cambridge Modern History: The Decline of Spain and the Thirty Years War 1609-48/59. Edited by J.P. Cooper. Vol. 4. London: Cambridge University Press, 1971.

Winthrop, John. History of New England from 1630 to 1649. Vol. 1. Phelps and Farnham, 1825.

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Ottoman-Venetian Wars (1st through 6th)

The Republic of Venice was one of the Ottoman Empire’s most important trade partners in the Mediterranean during its early years. In 1460, this relationship turned sour when the Ottoman Empire attacked and conquered the Peloponnese Peninsula (Morea). The first war between the rivals in the Mediterranean flared up three years later. It was followed by a series of Ottoman wars with Venice between the 15th-century and into the 17th-century. The last Ottoman-Venetian War (the sixth) was concluded only in 1699 when the two sides signed the Treaty of Karlowitz.  These events are recorded on the Biblical Timeline with World History.

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The Struggle for Supremacy: The First and Second Ottoman-Venetian Wars

The Republic of Venice possessed one of the most formidable navies in the Mediterranean during the 15th century. But over in Istanbul, Sultan Mehmed I (1413-1421) decided to improve the Ottoman fleet. The rulers of Venice knew that they would soon have a powerful rival in the occupation of the eastern Mediterranean, and they were not mistaken in their assumption.

The Ottoman occupation of Morea in 1460 and the possible loss of its colonies in Greece drove the Venetians to declare war against the Turks in 1463. It marked the First Ottoman-Venetian War which lasted for 16 more years. The loss of its Crimean trading ports to the Ottomans forced Venice to sue for peace in 1479.

The Second Ottoman-Venetian War flared up in 1499 after Sultan Bayezid II’s navy attacked the Greek city of Nafpaktos (Lepanto).  The navy’s close proximity to Venice’s Morean colonies forced the Republic to declare another war against the Ottomans. This did not end well for the Venetians as the Ottomans successfully took the trading ports of Modon and Coron from them in 1500. In the same year, the Ottomans drove out the remaining Venetians from the Peloponnese Peninsula and occupied it as their own. In 1503, Venice once again sued for peace.

The Battle of Lepanto was the site of a major skirmish between the Ottoman and Habsburg fleets.

Third Ottoman-Venetian War

During his reign, Suleiman I entered into an alliance with the French king Louis XI to counter the threat posed by the Habsburg ruler Charles V. The sultan also offered this alliance to the Venetians, but they refused it as they feared the Habsburg king. While this conflict continued to rage, the navies of both sides continued to fight minor battles in the Adriatic. By 1537, the skirmishes turned into the Third Ottoman-Venetian War when Suleiman decided to launch an attack on Rome.

Suleiman’s trusted admiral Hayreddin Barbarossa gathered his forces near Vlore in Albania. He led the Ottoman navy in attacking Otranto, while Suleiman led the assault on the Venice-held island of Corfu. The Venetian defenders of the island fought hard, so the sultan had no choice but to retreat.

Before the double assaults, the Venetian had always been hesitant in confronting the Ottomans head-on. Any full-scale war with the Ottomans was a venture that they could not afford. The attacks on Otranto and Corfu, however, sealed their decision to join the alliance offered by the Pope and the Holy Roman Emperor, Charles V.

On September 27, 1538, a combined fleet led by the Genoese Admiral Andrea Doria faced off with the Ottomans off the coast of Preveza. The European fleet was crushed, and the disappointed Venetian rulers agreed to sign a peace treaty in 1539. It was finalized in 1540, and the Venetians finally gave up some of their last few ports in Greece. They were also forced to pay a hefty compensation to the Ottomans as part of the new peace treaty.

Suleiman I died in 1566, and he was succeeded by his son, Selim II.  Like his father before him, Selim II’s reign was plagued by naval wars.

Fourth Ottoman-Venetian War

The Lusignan kings of Cyprus had ruled the island since the time of the Crusaders. But everything changed when the last potential Lusignan king died in infancy. Because of this, the administration passed on to his Venetian mother, Caterina Cornaro. With no one to help her, the queen was later forced to give the island up to the Venetian rulers who took over in 1489. Venice ruled Cyprus until the Ottoman navy wrested the island from them during the Fourth Ottoman-Venetian War.

The island of Cyprus was one of the few Mediterranean islands that belonged to the Venetians after the last war. This changed when the Ottomans learned that the Venetians in Cyprus protected the corsairs who attacked Ottoman ships which passed by the area. For the Ottomans, this act was a direct violation of the peace treaty the two parties signed years before. The Ottomans finally decided to take the island from the Venetians to prevent them from disrupting trade and communication with Egypt.

Preparations for a new naval attack against Cyprus took place in 1569.  Lala Mustafa Pasha led the Ottoman army, while Admiral Muezzinzade Ali Pasha led the naval forces. He was assisted by Piyale Pasha.  Rumors of the attack reached the Venetian rulers, so they hurriedly fortified Cyprus between 1568 to 1569. In 1570, the dreaded letter from Selim II arrived in Venice. As usual, the sultan demanded that the Venetians give up Cyprus which Venice refused to do. But it was already too late as the Ottoman forces had already occupied Nicosia in Cyprus in the same year.

The rulers of Venice had no one in Europe to turn to except for the Pope. The powerful Habsburg rulers were unwilling to help them as the Venetians could not be counted on to take their side in the past wars. In addition, there was simply no incentive for the House of Habsburg to join a costly war. But in 1571 the Pope arranged an alliance between the House of Habsburg and Venice. The condition, however, was that the Republic would help Habsburg Spain in North Africa. The rulers of Venice agreed.

On September 1571, Charles V’s son Philip II and his half-brother Don Juan of Austria sailed from Italy to Cephalonia in Greece. But by late 1571, the Ottomans had already occupied some important areas in Cyprus so the Habsburg fleet’s main task was now to recapture the island. The fleet tried to continue to Cyprus, but they encountered the Ottoman warships in the Gulf of Patras. The encounter resulted in a major naval battle when the two sides finally faced off near the coast of Nafpaktos (Battle of Lepanto).

The result was an overwhelming victory for Don Juan’s fleet. The Ottoman navy suffered heavy casualties, and among the dead was Muezzinzade Ali Pasha. He was replaced by Kilic Ali Pasha at the helm. Naval battles off the coast of Morea continued in 1572, but there was no decisive winner. In 1573, the beleaguered Venice once again sued for peace and was forced pay another compensation to the Ottomans.

Fifth Ottoman-Venetian War

The Fifth Ottoman-Venetian War flared up more than seventy years after the last peace treaty between the two powers. The Mediterranean had long been plagued by pirates, and some of the most notorious were the Maltese corsairs. In 1644, some Maltese pirates attacked an Ottoman fleet bound for Mecca off the island of Karpathos. On board were some important Ottoman pilgrims from whom the Maltese pirates stole some treasures. They later sold the booty on the island of Crete which was then held by the Venetians.

The attack provoked the Ottomans who saw this as a violation of the treaty they signed more than seventy years before. The Venetians were not eager to face the Ottomans in another naval battle as they could not expect help from the Cretans who resented their rule. But the Ottomans had already sent their fleet to Crete, and their forces arrived on the 26th of June, 1645. The defenses of Crete were no match for the Ottoman fleet, so the invading forces immediately occupied Chania. Many of the island’s churches were converted into mosques during the occupation.

The Ottomans took Rethymno in 1646, while Iraklion fell the following year. By 1648, the Ottomans occupied a large part of Crete, but they were often harassed by small Venetian ships which lurked off the coast. To counter the Ottomans and prevent them from resupplying troops in Crete, the Venetians sent a fleet to blockade the Dardanelles. The Ottomans were forced to move their base to the port of Cesme on the Aegean to bypass the blockade.

It was not only the Venetians who were having problems. The Ottoman power had deteriorated over the years, and it was no better when Sultan Ibrahim (the Mad) took the throne. Palace intrigues, a weak economy, banditry in the Anatolian countryside, and rebellions in Istanbul plagued the empire. The Janissary corps who were resettled in Crete were also unhappy in the island. They rebelled and promptly went home. This left the island open once again to the Venetians.

The battles between the Ottomans and the Venetians continued in the next few years. The Venetians scored victories in 1651 off the coasts of Naxos and Santorini. In 1654, the Ottomans won a naval battle in the Dardanelles, but they also lost the actual battle that the Ottomans negotiated with the ambassador of Venice. In this treaty, the Ottomans would let Venice keep Iraklion, but they would have to pay a hefty compensation plus annual tributes. Cash-strapped Venice refused.

The Grand Vizier Fazil Ahmed Pasha led thousands of Ottoman soldiers from Edirne, Istanbul, and Peloponnese peninsula to attack Crete. They besieged the Venetian stronghold in Iraklion between 1667 and 1668. The defense could only hold for so long, and Venice (once again) sued for peace in 1668. The Ottomans, however, refused to negotiate. The Venetians had appealed to Louis XIV of France for help, so he sent his navy to help them in 1669. The French navy fought against the Ottomans for one month until it had to limp home in defeat. The Ottoman navy was just too strong.

Francesco Morosini, the leader of the Venetian defenders in Crete, finally surrendered to the Ottomans in 1669. The Ottomans allowed the Venetians to keep the fortresses of Suda, Spinalonga, and Gramvousa.

Sixth Ottoman-Venetian War

The Ottoman Empire was plagued with wars on almost all fronts during the latter part of the 17th century. Internal problems and a powerful European alliance (the Holy League) threatened the Ottoman power in Europe and the Mediterranean. They were forced to retreat after the disastrous Battle of Vienna in 1683. Sultan Mehmed IV was later deposed by his court, but their problems were far from over as he was succeeded by weak rulers.

In 1684, the Venetians joined the Holy League led by the House of Habsburg. They were emboldened when they saw that the Ottoman troops had somewhat weakened, so they took the opportunity to attack Ottoman ports in Morea, Dalmatia, and Albania. By 1685, they had a solid foothold in Dalmatia and in Athens itself. The naval and land battles which went on between 1688 and 1695 mostly took place in Crete. The Venetians also besieged Ottoman-held Lesbos, Bozcaada, and some territories in Dalmatia.

In 1699, the hard-pressed Ottomans were forced to surrender a large part of their European territories to the members of the Holy League. Venice regained Morea, Dalmatia, and other Aegean islands in the Treaty of Karlowitz. This ended the series of wars between Venice and the Ottoman Empire.

Picture by:UnknownNational Maritime Museum (BHC0261), Public Domain, Link
Carsten, F. L., ed. The New Cambridge Modern History, The Ascendancy of France: 1648-88. Vol. 1. Cambridge University Press, 1961.
Faroqhi, Suraiya, ed. The Cambridge History of Turkey: The Later Ottoman Empire, 1603–1839. Vol. 3. Cambridge University Press, 2006.
Finkel, Caroline. Osman’s Dream: The Story of the Ottoman Empire, 1300-1923. NY, NY: Basic Books, 2007.
Kia, Mehrdad. The Ottoman Empire. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 2008.
Shaw, Stanford Jay. History of the Ottoman Empire and Modern Turkey : Empire of the Gazis: The Rise and Decline of the Ottoman Empire, 1280-1808. Vol. 1. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1977.
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Ottomans on the Danube

From the time of the Romans to the domination of the Byzantine Empire, the Danube River served as a natural marker of the Balkan region. Its banks were already lined with ports and fortresses during the Medieval Period. The Ottomans had conquered a great part of Thrace during the mid-1300s, but they did not stop there. Hungry for land, the Ottomans then pushed north and eventually conquered many territories on the Danube starting in 1388. The Ottomans on the Danube is recorded on the Biblical Timeline Chart with World History during 1336.

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The Danube: Central and Eastern Europe’s Link

The Danube River was one of the most important waterways in Europe during the Medieval Period. The source of the mighty river come from the Black Forest in Germany. Its waters flow east into ten countries to eventually drain into the Black Sea. The Romans were the first to use it as a border. It was then used by the Byzantines as a buffer between them and the northern tribes during the early part of Medieval Period.

“Where the Danube Meets the Black Sea “

The Byzantine Empire became smaller and less powerful during the latter part of the Medieval Period. Several kingdoms also appeared along the banks of the Danube in the Balkans just when the Byzantine Empire had weakened. Some of the kingdoms eventually turned into present-day Serbia, Hungary, Bulgaria, and Romania. Their nearness to Constantinople meant that they would eventually come face to face with the powerful Ottomans who, at that time, were on a conquest spree.

The Ottomans entered Thrace during the mid-1300s. It was only a matter of time before they advanced north. During the reign of Sultan Bayezid I (1389-1403) the Ottomans first conquered their territories along the banks of the Danube. In 1393, Bayezid seized the region of the Bulgarian ruler John Shishman along the Danube. The Bulgarian territories of Ruse and Silistra fell to the Ottomans earlier in 1388. The fall of Vidin, Oryahovo, and Nicopolis followed in 1396.

The Ottoman civil war period (1402-1413) gave some principalities along the Danube a break from invasions. This was broken when the Ottomans were reunified during the reign of Mehmed I (1413-1421). He was succeeded by his son, Murad II, who pushed north into Wallachia. He conquered the Wallachian strongholds of Isaccea and Tulcea on the Danube during the early years of the 1420s. He later turned west and captured the Golubac fortress in 1427. The Serbian cities of Smederevo and Belgrade fell between 1438 and 1440.

Picture By NASA – NASA Earth Observatory: Where the Danube meets the Black Sea, Public Domain, Link
Finkel, Caroline. Osman’s Dream: The Story of the Ottoman Empire, 1300-1923. New York: Basic Books, 2006.
Fleet, Kate. The New Cambridge History of Islam: The Western Islamic World, Eleventh to Eighteenth Centuries. Edited by Maribel Fierro. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2010.
Mikaberidze, Alexander. Conflict and Conquest in the Islamic World: A Historical Encyclopedia. ABC-CLIO Interactive, 2011.
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Osman Invades East Rome (Byzantine Empire)

The Turkish leader Osman rose to prominence after he conquered a great part of the territories of the Byzantine Empire starting in 1299. This is recorded on the Biblical Timeline with World History during that time. The Byzantine emperor, Andronikos II Palaiologos, tried his best to contain Osman and the Turks. But in the end, the Byzantine defences were helpless against the mighty Ottoman army. By the time of Osman’s death, the Ottomans had conquered much of the western coast of Anatolia. They added these territories to their own beylik that was centered in Sogut.

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The Mighty Osman

Osman Gazi (the Warrior) was the son of Ertugrul, the bey (leader) of the Turkish Kayi tribe who migrated from Central Asia. Osman inherited leadership when his father died in 1280. Since then, the young bey started to conquer one territory after another in Asia Minor. He began his raids on small Greek settlements near Sogut and Nicomedia between 1299 and 1301. Nicomedia itself remained free from Ottoman rule well beyond Osman’s death in 1326. On the 27th of July 1302, Osman defeated the Byzantine army in the Battle of Bapheus. The Turks then pushed into the southwest coast of Anatolia and conquered many Byzantine cities.

In Constantinople, Emperor Andronikos II Palaiologos knew that Osman would try to press into the Byzantine capital. He inherited a weak, unstable, and impoverished empire from his father, Emperor Michael VIII Palaiologos. Andronikos was also a poor strategist, so the Byzantines lost more territories during his time. He placed his son as the commander of an army that he hoped would defeat the Turks. His son, however, lost heart even before the battle began because his army was outnumbered.

“An imagined portrait of Osman I.”

Roger de Flor and the Catalan Company

Andronikos then hired European mercenaries to counter the Turkish threat. The emperor learned from the disastrous results of the Crusades two centuries before. Roger de Flor, a Sicilian mercenary was booted out of the Knights Templar after he was accused of robbery. Many Aragonese men joined him as mercenaries for hire. They were later called the Catalan Company. As much as 6,000 to 8,000 men led by Roger de Flor arrived in Constantinople in September 1302. This turned out to be a big mistake.

The Catalan Company defeated the Turks led by Osman and pushed them back to their beylik. But to Andronikos’ dismay, they also raided Greek settlements in Anatolia. The regretful emperor refused to pay the mercenaries because of this, so Roger threatened to attack the Byzantines instead. The emperor sent another set of mercenaries to follow Roger and the Catalan Company to the island of Gallipoli where they spent winter of 1304. They killed Roger de Flor. Then the Byzantine army appeared to kill the remaining men of the Catalan Company.

His latest venture had ended in failure, so Andronikos was at wit’s end. He offered his daughter in marriage to the Ilkhan ruler Oljeitu in order to gain a powerful ally. Oljeitu accepted his offer and in return, he provided the troops Andronikos needed. Although they were successful in pushing the Turks back temporarily, Osman and his men were unstoppable. He continued to conquer one Byzantine territory to another. His ultimate prize was the city of Brusa (Bursa) in 1326. He died the same year, and was succeeded by his son, Orhan, as bey.

Picture By Bilinmiyor – [1], Public Domain, Link
Finkel, Caroline. Osman’s Dream: The Story of the Ottoman Empire, 1300-1923. New York: Basic Books, 2006.
Fleet, Kate. The New Cambridge History of Islam: The Western Islamic World, Eleventh to Eighteenth Centuries. Edited by Maribel Fierro. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2010.
Muntaner, Ramon. The Chronicle of Muntaner. Translated by Anna Goodenough. Farnham, Surrey: Ashgate Publishing Limited, 2010.
Shepard, Jonathan. The Cambridge History of the Byzantine Empire C. 500-1492. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2008.
Uyar, Mesut, and Edward J. Erickson. A Military History of the Ottomans: From Osman to Ataturk. Santa Barbara, CA: Praeger Security International/ABC-CLIO, 2009.
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Chimu Culture in Northern Peru, Collapse of

Peru was the home of several civilizations that rose and fell as hundreds of years passed. The Chimu civilization of northern Peru was no different when it fell to the expanding Inca empire in 1470. The collapse of the Chimu Culture in Northern Peru is located on the Biblical Timeline with World History during that time. The Inca expansion ended the 500-year dominance of the Chimu in northern Peru. Its collapse made the Inca people the undisputed masters of Peru in the fifteenth century.

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Topa Inca Yupanqui and the Fall of the Chimu

Topa Inca Yupanqui was born in 1440 to the great Inca king Pachacuti and his wife, Mama Anahuarque. He was the youngest of his father’s legitimate sons.  The boy was born in his father’s old age. By the time of his birth, the Inca empire had become a prosperous state and had a strong army. Pachacuti, however, felt that there was no need for him to expand the empire, so he passed this responsibility to his son Topa Inca Yupanqui.

“Map of the expansion of the Inca Empire under Topa Inca Yupanqui”

In 1463, Topa Inca became his father’s co-emperor, but his father felt that his son still needed to experience warfare to be worthy of the throne. Pachacuti promoted the young warrior as the army’s commander-in-chief. Topa Inca led his army north of Cuzco for his first military conquest. He first conquered the Cañari and the powerful Quitu people of the north, then turned his sights on the equally powerful Chimu civilization of northern Peru. After some resistance, he finally conquered the Chimu Empire in 1470 and resettled Incas in the areas previously held by the Chimor. Unlike other empires, the Incas did not stamp out the Chimu culture. Instead, they used Chimu art styles in their pottery and paintings.

After his son’s successful conquest of the northern tribes, Pachacuti felt that Topa Inca Yapanqui was ready to become the emperor. Pachacuti abdicated in 1471. The new emperor started his reign with a campaign to conquer the Amazon tribes of the east. He also put down a rebellion led by the Omasuyu, Lupaqa, Pacasa, and Qulla tribes. Topa Inca Yupanqui’s reign was considered as the Inca’s golden age. The empire’s borders at that time stretched from Ecuador in the north and Chile in the south.

Picture: Public Domain, Link
Brundage, Burr Cartwright, and Arnold Toynbee. Empire of the Inca. Norman, OK: University of Oklahoma Press, 1963.
Del_Testa, David W., John Strickland, and Florence Lemoine. Government Leaders, Military Rulers and Political Activists. Westport: Oryx Press, 2001.