On This Day
1347 – The Byzantine civil war of 1341–47 ends with a power-sharing agreement between John VI Kantakouzenos and John V Palaiologos.
The Byzantine civil war of 1341–1347, sometimes referred to as the Second Palaiologan Civil War, was a conflict that broke out in the Byzantine Empire after the death of Andronikos III Palaiologos over the guardianship of his nine-year-old son and heir, John V Palaiologos. It pitted on the one hand Andronikos III’s chief minister, John VI Kantakouzenos, and on the other a regency headed by the Empress-Dowager Anna of Savoy, the Patriarch of Constantinople John XIV Kalekas, and the megas doux Alexios Apokaukos. The war polarized Byzantine society along class lines, with the aristocracy backing Kantakouzenos and the lower and middle classes supporting the regency. To a lesser extent, the conflict acquired religious overtones; Byzantium was embroiled in the Hesychast controversy, and adherence to the mystical doctrine of Hesychasm was often equated with support for Kantakouzenos.
As the chief aide and closest friend of Emperor Andronikos III, Kantakouzenos became regent for the underage John V upon Andronikos’s death in June 1341. While Kantakouzenos was absent from Constantinople in September the same year, a coup d’état led by Alexios Apokaukos and the Patriarch John XIV secured the support of Empress Anna and established a new regency. In response, Kantakouzenos’ army and supporters proclaimed him co-emperor in October, cementing the rift between himself and the new regency. The split immediately escalated into armed conflict.
During the first years of the war, forces of the regency prevailed. In the wake of several anti-aristocratic uprisings, most notably that of the Zealots in Thessalonica, a majority of the cities in Thrace and Macedonia came under regency control. With assistance from Stefan Dušan of Serbia and Umur Beg of Aydin, Kantakouzenos successfully reversed these gains. By 1345, despite Dušan’s defection to the opposition and the withdrawal of Umur, Kantakouzenos retained the upper hand through the assistance of Orhan, ruler of the Ottoman emirate. The June 1345 murder of megas doux Apokaukos, the regency’s chief administrator, dealt the regency a severe blow. Formally crowned as emperor in Adrianople in 1346, Kantakouzenos entered Constantinople on 3 February 1347. By agreement, he was to rule for ten years as the senior emperor and regent for John V, until the boy came of age and ruled alongside him. Despite this apparent victory, subsequent resumption of the civil war forced John VI Kantakouzenos to abdicate and retire to become a monk in 1354.
The consequences of the prolonged conflict proved disastrous for the Empire, which had regained a measure of stability under Andronikos III. Seven years of warfare, the presence of marauding armies, social turmoil, and the advent of the Black Death devastated Byzantium and reduced it to a rump state. The conflict also allowed Dušan to conquer Albania, Epirus and most of Macedonia, where he established the Serbian Empire. The Bulgarian Empire also acquired territory north of the Evros river.
Born On This Day
120 – Vettius Valens, Greek astronomer, mathematician, and astrologer (probable; d. 175)
Vettius Valens (February 8, 120 – c. 175) was a 2nd-century Hellenistic astrologer, a somewhat younger contemporary of Claudius Ptolemy.
Valens’ major work is the Anthology (Latin: Anthologia), ten volumes in Greek written roughly within the period 150 to 175. The Anthology is the longest and most detailed treatise on astrology which has survived from that period. A working professional astrologer, Valens includes over a hundred sample charts from his case files in the Anthology.
Although originally a native of Antioch, he appears to have traveled widely in Egypt in search of specific astrological doctrines to bolster his practice. At the time Alexandria was still home to a number of astrologers of the older Babylonian, Greek and Egyptian traditions. He published much of what he learned from the tradition and through his practice in his Anthology, written in an engaging and instructional style. The Anthology is thus of great value in piecing together actual working techniques of the time.
Valens’ work is also important because he cites the views of a number of earlier authors and authorities, such as Teucer of Babylon, who would otherwise be unknown. The fragments from works attributed to the alleged pharaoh Nechepso and the high priest Petosiris, pseudepigraphal authors of the 2nd century BC, survive mainly through direct quotations in Valens’ work.
The three manuscripts of the Anthology all date from 1300 or later. The text, however, appears to be fairly reliable and complete, although disorganized in places.
Although Ptolemy, the astronomer, mathematician, astrologer of ancient Alexandria and author of Tetrabiblos (the most influential astrological text ever written), was generally regarded as the colossus of Hellenistic-period astrology in the many centuries following his death, it is most likely that the actual practical astrology of the period resembled the methods elaborated in Valens’ Anthology. Modern scholars tend to counterpoise the two men, since both were roughly contemporary and lived in Alexandria; yet Valens’ work elaborated the more practical techniques that arose from ancient tradition, while Ptolemy, very much the scientist, tended to focus more on creating a theoretically consistent model based on his Aristotelian causal framework. The balance given by Valens’ Anthology is therefore very instructive. No other Hellenistic author has contributed as much to our understanding of the everyday, practical astrological methods of the early Roman/late Hellenistic era.
Deciding that the traditional religion was useless, he found in fate a substitute religion. For him absolute determination gave emotional satisfaction and aroused an almost mystical feeling. Knowing that everything was already predetermined gave one a sense of freedom from anxiety and a sense of salvation.
Albert Finney (9 May 1936 – 7 February 2019) was an English actor, producer, and director of film, television, and theatre. He attended the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art and began to work in the theatre as a Shakespearean actor before attaining prominence on screen in the early 1960s, debuting with The Entertainer (1960), directed by Tony Richardson, who had previously directed him in the theatre. He maintained a successful career in theatre, film and television.
He is known for his roles in Saturday Night and Sunday Morning (also 1960), Tom Jones (1963), Two for the Road (1967), Scrooge (1970), Annie (1982), The Dresser (1983), Miller’s Crossing (1990), A Man of No Importance (1994), Erin Brockovich (2000), Big Fish (2003), The Bourne Ultimatum (2007), Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead (2007), The Bourne Legacy (2012), and the James Bond film Skyfall (2012).
A recipient of BAFTA, Golden Globe, Emmy and Screen Actors Guild Awards, Finney was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Actor four times, for Tom Jones (1963), Murder on the Orient Express (1974), The Dresser (1983), and Under the Volcano (1984); he was also nominated for an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor for his performance in Erin Brockovich (2000). His performance as Winston Churchill in the BBC–HBO television biographical film The Gathering Storm (2002) saw him receive a number of accolades.
John David Dingell Jr. (July 8, 1926 – February 7, 2019) was an American politician who served as a member of the United States House of Representatives from December 13, 1955, until January 3, 2015. A member of the Democratic Party, he holds the record for longest-ever serving Congressperson in American history, representing Michigan for over 59 years. He most recently served as the representative for Michigan’s 12th congressional district. A longtime member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, Dingell was a powerful chairman of the committee from 1981 to 1995, and 2007 to 2009.
Dingell began his congressional career representing Michigan’s 16th district by succeeding his father, John Dingell Sr., who had held the seat for 22 years. Having served for over 59 years, he has the longest Congressional tenure in U.S. history. He was also the longest-serving Dean of the U.S. House of Representatives and Dean of the Michigan congressional delegation. Dingell was one of the final two World War II veterans to have served in Congress; the other is Texas Representative Ralph Hall, who also left Congress in 2015.
Dingell announced on February 24, 2014, that he would not seek reelection to a 31st term in Congress. His wife, Debbie Dingell, ran to succeed her husband and defeated Republican Terry Bowman in the general election on November 4, 2014. He was the last member of Congress who had served in the 1950s and during the presidencies of Dwight D. Eisenhower and John F. Kennedy. President Barack Obama awarded him the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2014.
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