1184 BCE — The Trojan War ends

At least, according to the calculations of Eratosthenes, it ended on this date.

You know the story: Paris and Helen, Menelaus and Agamemnon, Hector and Achilles, Ulysses and a huge wooden horse. Ten years of war before the walls of Troy, ended finally by gambling on a deception.

In the end, the Greeks swept in, destroying the city and leaving very few survivors. Legend holds that some of them went to Carthage, and then to found Rome; another group of survivors founded London. Being descended from a Trojan was like the first millennium equivalent of being descended from convicts in Australia is today – it was thought cool.

Referenced in:

I Stole A Bride — Hefner
Troy — Sinead O’Connor
And Then There Was Silence — Blind Guardian

323 BCE — Alexander the Great dies in Babylon

The reason for Alexander’s untimely end – he was one month short of his 33rd birthday – is unknown. The three leading theories are poisoning, a relapse of malaria or some sort of illness brought on by feasting on May 29. Alexander took ill right after that feast, and never left his bed again afterwards. He died on either the 10th or 11th or June.

Alexander’s death was also the death knell of his empire. Over the next five decades, the empire would fall into civil war, and by 270 BCE it would have devolved into three successor states, the Antigonid Empire in Greece; the Ptolemaic Kingdom in Egypt, Palestine and Cyrenaica; and the Seleucid Empire in Mesopotamia and Persia. The former two would be wholly absorbed by Roman expansion over the next three centuries, along with the western half of the territory of the Seleucid Empire.

Referenced in:

Alexander the Great — Iron Maiden

1837 – The Broad Street Riot breaks out

The Broad Street Riot was an outbreak of violence occasioned by racial tensions between Irish immigrants and native Bostonians. Fire Engine Company 20 was returning from a fire when they encountered an Irish funeral procession at the corner of Milk Street and Broad Street in Boston.

The initial groups weren’t particularly large, but both sides were reinforced by their respective countrymen as the afternoon drew on. All in all, about a thousand people were involved in the riot, and the army had to be called out to quell the disturbance. Incredibly, no one was killed in the riot.

Referenced in:
Riot on Broad Street — Mighty Mighty Bosstones

1962 – Frank Morris, John Anglin and Clarence Anglin become the only men to escape from Alcatraz

It remains unclear whether Frank Morris, John Anglin and Clarence Anglin actually escaped, or whether they drowned in the attempt. Even the FBI couldn’t figure it out for sure. What they do know is this:

Morris and the Anglin brothers had planned to escape with a fourth man, Allen West, but when West was unable to leave his cell, they decided to go without him. They had constructed an inflatable raft from prison rain coats and glue, but it turned out to be less safe than they had hoped. If the raft ever made landfall, it was never found, and neither were the escapees. But one way or another, the trio died free men.

Referenced in:
Frank Morris — Capital Lights

1979 – John Wayne dies

Marion Robert Morrison, better known as John Wayne, was the cowboy. In the course of his fifty year career, he appeared in more than 170 films such as “The Searchers”, “The Alamo”, “The Green Berets”, “High Noon”, “The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance” and “True Grit”. He was also instrumental in getting “Blazing Saddles” filmed, although he felt that he couldn’t appear in it without destroying his career – as the iconic cowboy, appearing the ultimate satire of the Western genre might not have gone over well with his fans.

Wayne had developed cancer of the lung in 1964, and while that cleared up, he then developed cancer of the stomach, which would prove fatal. While there is a persistent rumour that he developed cancer as a result of exposure to radioactive fallout while filming “The Conqueror” in 1956, Wayne himself blamed his six pack a day smoking habit.

Referenced in:
Asshole — Denis Leary