For Americans, the 4th of July is one of the most significant dates in history. Yet, what many may not know is that a host of other historically significant events also occurred on this particular day. Here are ten of the most important for world history, arranged chronologically.
10. The Battle of Mantinea (362 BC)
In a battle of Greek city-states, the Thebans, led by Epaminondas, actually managed to defeat the famed Spartans. Epaminondas won the battle while fighting in the front line, resulting in him sustaining a fatal wound. To make matters worse for the “victors,” the two Theban leaders whom he intended to succeed him perished. A dying Epaminondas thus instructed the Thebans to make peace, despite having won the battle.
As a consequence, Theban hopes for hegemony faded, while the Spartans were unable to replace their losses. Because both sides had lost their most capable leaders at Mantinea and its aftermath, the battle paved the way for the Macedonian rise as the leading force in Greece. An ascendant Macedon went on to unite most of Greece, in a campaign under Alexander the Great that conquered most of the Persian Empire, including Egypt.
9. A Major Turning Point In The Crusades (1187)
During the Crusades at the Battle of Hattin, Saladin defeated and captured Guy of Lusignan, King of Jerusalem. French knight Raynald of Châtillon died in the aftermath, personally beheaded by Saladin. The Muslim victory set the stage for their march on Jerusalem, which they besieged successfully a few months later in the Autumn of 1187.
These two victories destroyed the Crusader Kingdom of Jerusalem, and thereby directly resulted in the coming Third Crusade, a major event in world history in which the Holy Roman Emperor joined with the kings of England and France to attempt to retake Jerusalem. They failed and as such, Saladin’s destruction of the Crusader army at Hattin, capture of Jerusalem’s king, and conquest of Jerusalem itself had long-lasting consequences for Middle Eastern history. If somehow Guy would have triumphed instead and prevented Saladin from moving on Jerusalem, the history of the Crusades and, therefore, of Christian and Muslim relations could have been quite different.
8. THE 4th of July (1776)
During the American Revolution, The United States Declaration of Independence was adopted by the Second Continental Congress. Yet, American independence was not immediately recognized by the British. So, in 1778, American forces under George Clark captured Kaskaskia during the Illinois campaign, one of many victories that would eventually encourage the British to acknowledge America’s independence. The result meant that the United States Declaration of Independence would go down as one of the most important documents of American times.
At least two dozen countries around the world drew upon this document when drafting their own declarations of independence, in the nineteenth through twentieth centuries. Moreover, that it inspired Americans to successful liberate themselves from British rule was not only a hallmark in notions of human rights, but also in ideas of democracy. Consider the number of absolutist governments in the centuries before 1776 versus the increasing number of constitutional governments in the years afterwards. America’s success inspired many other countries’ elder statesmen, whose words regarding freedom bear obvious resemblance to that established by Adams, Jefferson, and Monroe.
7. The Deaths of America’s Founders (1826 and 1831)
Thomas Jefferson, third President of the United States, died the same day in 1826 as John Adams, second president of the United States, on the 50th anniversary of the adoption of the Declaration of Independence. Just a few years later, fellow founding father, and fifth President of the United States, James Monroe passed away on July 4th, 1831. That three of the first five American presidents died on the 4th of July is not only obviously symbolic, it also reflects something of the end of an era for the first leaders of one of history’s most powerful countries. Their passing was not just the deaths of well-known American politicians, but giants of Western civilization whose legacy still appears visually in numerous monuments, films, and even on currency.
6. Alice First Entered Wonderland (1862)
On July 4th, 1862, Lewis Carroll told Alice Liddell a story that would grow into Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and its sequels. Wonderland was subsequently published on July 4th, 1865. The number of adaptations of the book and its sequel, in films, television, and video games is enormous. Allusions to Carroll’s stories in popular culture are incredibly pervasive, especially throughout the Anglophone world, but also in non-English speaking cultures as well. Stories about Alice rival the Oz books and the writings of Jules Verne as far as being regularly adapted in various media over the years is concerned.
5. The Turning Points Of the American Civil War Concluded (1863)
During the American Civil War, Vicksburg, Mississippi was surrendered to Ulysses S. Grant after 47 days of siege, while 150 miles up the Mississippi River, a Confederate Army was repulsed at the Battle of Helena in Arkansas. On the same day, The Army of Northern Virginia withdrew from the battlefield after its loss at the Battle of Gettysburg, signaling an end to the Southern invasion of the North. These three defeats represented the turning point of the American Civil War. They prevented any remaining chance that a European power might intervene militarily on the South’s behalf. They also demonstrated decisively that the South could not successfully invade the North. For the remainder of the war, the South was now entirely on the defensive and, although she held out for two more years, they were two disastrous years that resulted in the deaths of numerous Southerners.
4. The New Colossus Enlightened the World (1884)
The people of France offered the Statue of Liberty Enlightening the World to the people of the United States on July 4th, 1884. The two allies participated in this symbolic act nearly a hundred years after both of their revolutions began in (1776 for America, and 1789 for France.) The erection of the sculpture symbolized the triumph of Enlightenment ideas of liberty, ideas that continue to enrapture large chunks of humanity. Moreover, the magnificence and endurance of the sculpture has led many to refer to it as a “wonder of the modern world,” and “The New Colossus.”
3. The End Of A Dynasty (1918)
When Bolsheviks killed future Orthodox saints Tsar Nicholas II of Russia and his family, they effectively ended the Romanov dynasty that ruled the Russian Empires, one of the largest countries in human history after centuries of rule. The event also foreshadowed the end of other European dynasties amidst the cataclysmic First World War. Following the Russian examples, the Habsburgs of Austria, the Hohenzollerns of Germany, and the Ottomans of Turkey were also toppled by their people in rapid succession.
2. Modern Warfare Was At Its Most Massive Scale (1943)
During World War II, the Battle of Kursk (the largest full-scale battle in history and the world’s largest tank battle) began at Prokhorovka Village on July 4th, 1943. The battle resulted in over a million casualties on both sides (Germans versus Soviets) and the loss of over 10,000 tanks, guns, and aircraft. This decisive Soviet victory crippled Germany’s offensive power in the East, in what was Germany’s final strategic offensive on that front, and thus the final realistic chance for them to turn the tide on the Eastern Front.
1. Filipino Independence Achieved (1946)
After 381 years of near-continuous colonial rule by various powers, the Philippines attained full independence from the United States. The independence of the Philippines coincided with a global trend in the years following World War II in which many African and Asian countries, previously colonized by Western powers, achieved their independence after centuries of Western domination. The end of Western Empires in the post-war era, beginning with the independence of the Philippines in 1946, was one of the major turning points in world history.
By Dr. Matthew D. Zarzeczny, author of Banned From The Internet