History for the Rest of Us

Abraham Lincoln’s ‘House Divided’ Speech

Abraham Lincoln’s ‘House Divided’ Speech

Jun 16, 2015

Abraham Lincoln delivered his ‘House Divided speech, one of the best known of his career, on June 16, 1858 in the Illinois State Capitol in Springfield. He had won the Republican Party’s nomination as Illinois’ US Senator. He was unsuccessful in his campaign for the seat which was held by Stephen A. Douglas, a campaign memorable for the...

Theodora – Byzantine Empress or Crazy Woman

Theodora – Byzantine Empress or Crazy Woman

May 9, 2014

Procopius, the principal historian of the 6th century, became disillusioned with the Empress Theodora and her husband Justinian and wrote the following (doubtfully true) story in his Secret History about the Empress Theodora: ‘Often, even in the theatre, in the sight of all the people, she removed her costume and stood nude in their midst, except for a...

Zenobia, Queen of Palmyra – Summary

Zenobia, Queen of Palmyra – Summary

May 7, 2014

Zenobia had a deep understanding of affairs of state, and her husband’s successes (recovery of the Roman East), were said to have been due to her counsel. She became Queen of Palmyra when her husband died in 267. Within two years she had conquered Egypt and expelled the Roman prefect, who was beheaded when he attempted to reclaim the territory. Zenobia...

Theodora, Empress of Byzantium – Summary

Theodora, Empress of Byzantium – Summary

May 5, 2014

When the Nika riots broke out in the hippodrome of Constantinople in January 532, Theodora saved her husband Justinian’s throne. Public buildings were set on fire and Hypatius proclaimed the new emperor. Justinian and his officials were ready to flee, but Theodora convinced them that ‘royal purple is the noblest shroud’. Justinian took courage...

Cleopatra VII, Pharaoh – Summary

Cleopatra VII, Pharaoh – Summary

May 5, 2014

Cleopatra (at age 18) began to assert herself as sole ruler of Egypt at the expense of her co-ruling brother Ptolemy XIII (10), but within three years her enemies placed Ptolemy on the throne as the sole ruler. Thinking he would please Caesar, Ptolemy instead angered him by murdering the great Roman military and political leader Pompey. Cleopatra saw an...

Hatshepsut, Pharaoh – Summary

Hatshepsut, Pharaoh – Summary

May 5, 2014

Hatshepsut, fifth pharaoh of the eighteenth dynasty of Egypt, was one of the most prolific builders of ancient Egypt. She constructing more grand and more numerous buildings than her Middle Kingdom predecessors. Her mortuary temple was her masterpiece. Located near the entrance to the Valley of the Kings, and the first to be built in the area, the grandeur of...