On this date in the year 314 – (1,702 years ago) – two rival Roman emperors met in battle on a field in what is now Croatia. The armies of Licinius and Constantine fought all day until Constantine led a cavalry charge that turned the tide. Twenty thousand of Licinius’s men were killed, along with an unknown number on Constantine’s side. But after nightfall, Licinius managed to retreat and escape with remnants of his army. For the next ten years, the two co-emperors would maintain an uneasy truce in the sprawling, fragmented empire. But in the year 324, another civil war would erupt between them. Once again, Constantine defeated Licinius, and this time he had him imprisoned. A year later, he had him hanged. Constantine was later declared a saint by the Orthodox, Anglican, and Byzantine churches, for having decriminalized Christianity in the Roman Empire.
On this date in 1871 – (144 years ago) – a fire broke out in Chicago that would burn down the city center over the next three days. The Great Chicago Fire killed some three hundred people in the city, destroyed a third of its real estate, and left more than one hundred thousand people homeless. To this day, its original cause remains unknown, despite many theories advanced by historians. The popular myth of Mrs. O’Leary’s cow kicking over the lantern was debunked long ago. Several other major fires occurred on the same day in Michigan and Wisconsin — including a forest wildfire in and around Peshtigo, Wisconsin, that was far more deadly than the one in Chicago, killing an estimated two thousand to twenty-five hundred people. Some people have speculated that the simultaneous fires across the Great Lakes region were perhaps ignited by red-hot meteorite fragments fallen through earth’s atmosphere from an exploding comet. But scientists have pointed out that hot meteorites cool off before reaching the ground, and that the fires were probably just due to high winds in the region following an unusually dry summer.
On this date in 1952 – (63 years ago) – during the morning rush hour at the Harrow and Wealdstone station in London, a high-speed express train arriving from Scotland plowed into the rear end of a passenger train standing at a platform. Within moments, another express train came smashing into the other two. Sixteen train cars were destroyed, 112 people were killed, and another 340 were injured. Since the driver and crew of the second train were killed in the accident, a cause was never established for certain — but investigators concluded that human error was most likely to blame. At the time, railroad safety still depended mainly on engineers seeing and obeying visual signals. But the London accident spurred British Railways to speed up its introduction of a new automated warning system.
Rotten History is written by Renaldo Migaldi