1. The Battle of Tsushima, 1905: the fall of Russia and the rise of Japan
In the early 1900s, Japan wanted to divide Manchuria and Korea into separate spheres of influence. However, their visionary plan was turned down by Russia. This fired up the Japanese and, on the 8th of February, 1904, they attacked Port Arthur, a Russian naval base in China. The Russian fleet was decimated during its first battle of the twentieth century.
Russians had underestimated the military potential of their opponent. That caused them a series of losses against Japan. The Russian ground forces and the naval base of Port Arthur were taken over by Admiral Heihachiro Togo of Japan, in January 1905. The following March, Russian troops were crushed by Japanese Field Marshal Iwao Oyama at Shenyang, China.
Despite the series of losses, Russian Czar Nicholas II was positive that the Russian Baltic fleet headed by Admiral Zinovy Rozhestvensky could easily overpower Admiral Togo’s fleet. However, his confidence was crushed along with thirty Russian ships during the two-day Battle of Tsushima Strait that began on the 27th of May.
While the world quietly observed the series of wars between the two countries, the former U.S President Theodore Roosevelt convinced Russia to agree to a peace treaty. The treaty was mediated at Portsmouth in the following August of 1905. In this treaty, Russia agreed that Japan had the dominant power over Korea and handed over Port Arthur, the southern half of Sakhalin Islan, and the Liaotung Peninsula regions.
Winning this Battle made Japan the world’s first modern non-western power. By this time, Japan also began its imperial expansion. On the other side, Russia’s terrible performance became the starting point of the Russian revolution.
2. The Battle of Hastings, 1066: the coloniser became the colonised
The Battle of Hastings was fought between the Duke of Normandy, William, and the overthrown King Harold Godwinson, for England’s throne.
On the 12th of October 1066, King Harold’s army settled on the Senlac Hill, near Hastings, before the battle. The Saxon troop was already exhausted because of a previous battle they had fought just a few days earlier. The tired army was all on foot, fighting behind their shield wall in the classic English manner. Their opposing army not only had the upper hand in terms of energy and valour, but they also had both cavalries as well as infantry in their troop.
Their fighting lasted a whole day, no damage occurring to Godwinson’s shield wall. Seeing the mighty English army standing behind the wall and their own fallen men, the Normans started leaving the field. The sight of their retreat lured the English to come out of their former positions. They slowly moved away from their defensive ranks to go after their enemy.
However, once the English ranks were broken, they became vulnerable to unforeseen attacks. The Normans saw this opportunity and attacked them without a warning. This uncalculated risk by the English cost them their leader, King Godwinson, who was shot in the eye and killed. One by one, the entire English army was slain.
This single battle changed the course of entire European history. England was ruled by an oppressive foreign aristocracy which influenced not only their social and political hierarchy but also their religious systems as we know them today.
3. The Battle of Lechfeld, 955: the birth of Germany
The Magyar horsemen of Hungary were big plunderers who looted Central Europe for over fifty years. People feared them to the extent that they gave their belongings to them for free or paid them to go away. Over the years, their negative influence dimmed. Still, they looked out for any change in the lands of the East Franks, the eastern area of the old Empire of Charlemagne. Any conflict between the local warlords could prompt the Magyar to attack again.
In 936, a Saxon leader named Otto was crowned the ruler of both the East Franks and the Saxons. He claimed to be a descendent of Charlemagne and forced his power over his subordinates. Even the Church was forced to obey Otto. His rule slowly developed into a dictatorship. Much later, in 953, Otto’s own son, Liudolf of Serbia, along with his brother-in-law, Conrad of Lorraine, revolted against the tyrant ruler. Seeing the rebels rising from within Otto’s own household, other Lords joined them. This unrest caused the Magyars to storm through Bavaria and Franconia in 954. They caused major havoc in north-eastern France and also looted Burgundy and Lombardy before their return.
Within a few months, they returned to cause devastation in the Swabian land. Seeing the rampant raids, Otto’s son-in-law decided that something had to be done and reached a truce in their internal conflicts. Gathering an army from Bavaria, Swabia, Bohemia, and Lorrain, Otto then led a great attack against the Magyars. In their fierce encounter with the looters, Conrad of Lorraine was slain. Otto’s men, however, didn’t stop. They chased every last one of the Magyars and killed them over the following three days of the battle.
Apart from putting the Magyars to an end, the Battle of Lechfeld also strengthened Otto’s reign over the kingdom. In 962, Pope John XII crowned Otto the Emporer of Rome. This way, the Saxon leader not only created modern-day Germany but also revived the Roman Empire.
4. The Battle of the Metaurus, 207 B.C.: the rise of the Romans
The Battle of Metaurus, in 207 BC, was a turning point not just for the Romans, but also for the entire civilisation as we know it. In 207 BC, the world superpowers Rome and Carthage (modern-day Tunisia) broke into another war. The Battle of Metaraus was one of the little battles that took place during the Second Punic Wars.
Carthago’s army was led by Hasdrubal Barca, the Carthaginian general’s brother. While the Romans were led by Gaius Claudius Nero and Marcus Livius, who later came to be known as Salinator. Both armies were aggressive, well-organized, hard-working, and well-led. Despite their planning, plotting, and their inherent need to be a step ahead from their archnemesis, Rome won each of the three wars by a minute margin.
Perhaps, that’s why you know about Romans and probably never heard of the Carthaginians before.
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