37 CE — Caligula becomes Emperor of Rome

One of the most notoriously debauched and wicked Roman Emperors, over the course of his reign, Caligula’s name would become a byword for evil. One of the two joint heirs of Tiberius, Caligula may have ordered the murder of his predecessor and definitely ordered the disinheriting of his co-heir. Although Caligula started off popular with the people, his mood soured after an illness later in the year of his ascension to the throne and the deaths of beloved family members.

A financial crisis brought on by Caligula’s over-spending made him unpopular with both the Senate and the people of Rome, especially after it escalated into a famine. His lowered reputation, as sexually predatory, a drunkard and a killer with a hair-trigger temper, date from this time, and their veracity in unclear. What is certain is that Caligula’s reign lasted only until 41 CE, when he was assassinated and succeeded by Claudius.

Referenced in:

Imperial Rome — Aska

1621 — Squanto makes contact with the Pilgrim settlers in Plymouth

Tisquantum – better known to history as Squanto – was an Indian of the Patuxet tribe who learned to speak English after being abducted into slavery in 1614. Eventually winning his freedom and making his way back to the region of what is now New England where his people lived, he discovered that the Patuxet were almost extinct. They had succumbed to a plague (likely smallpox caught from European settlers) in his absence, as had many of the neighbouring tribes.

Squanto settled at one of the Pilgrim encampments on March 16, 1621, where he became very popular amongst his new neighbours when he taught them how to farm maize after the harsh winter of 1620-21, an act which many people believe may have made the difference between the success or failure of the colony.

Referenced in:

Black Man — Stevie Wonder

1968 – The Massacre at My Lai

The Mỹ Lai Massacre is the best known American military atrocity in history. It was committed by U.S. Army soldiers from the Company C of the 1st Battalion, 20th Infantry Regiment, 11th Brigade of the 23rd (Americal) Infantry Division. Estimates of the total death toll vary from 347 (the American estimate) to 504 (the Vietnamese estimate), and included men, women, children and infants. Some of the women were also raped.

The army initially was quite successful in covering up the massacre, and it was not until October 1969 that the first reports of it appeared in the American media. Public outcry was swift and vociferous. 14 officers were court-martialed for the killings, but only one – by the merest coincidence, the same one who had talked to the media – was convicted. Lt. William Calley was convicted on 20 charges of murder, and served a total of three and a half years for these crimes before being paroled.

Referenced in:
The Battle Hymn Of Lt. Calley — C. Company
Everybody’s Got A Right To Live — Pete Seeger

1978 – The Amoco Cadiz oil spill

The Amoco Cadiz was a tanker of the VLCC (very large crude carrier) class, which ran aground on Portsall Rocks, off the coast of Brittany, France, in the early hours of March 16, 1978 after encountering Force 10 winds and high seas in the English Channel. At the time, the ship was carrying a quantity of over 1.6 million barrels of oil (and a barrel is 42 US gallons), all of which spilled out into the ocean as the storm battered the Cadiz so hard that she broke into three pieces. There was no loss of human life during the ship’s demise, but the oil spill was catastrophic.

The toll of the oil on the local marine life – and local in this case means in the oceans off more than 200 miles of Atlantic coastline – was enormous. More than 20,000 seabirds and over a million molluscs and fish were recorded as killed (and these are only the bodies that washed up on the shores somewhere – many more would not have made it that far). In addition, the physical damage to beaches and coasts was extreme, while the isolated location and bad weather made it the spill hard to clean up before more damage was done. In some of the affected locations, the impact of the spill is still plainly visible today, nearly forty years later.

Referenced in:
Amoco Cadiz — Speedy J
The Oil Song 2010 — Steve Forbert