April 07, 2013

April 7 Scenario Nuggets

Patrick Marren
Partner

Things that happened on April 7 through history that might pique the imaginations of those engaged in scenario planning.

451: Attila the Hun sacks the town of Metz. The attack was part of a campaign negotiated with the Western Roman Empire to subdue Gaulish tribes in 450. But it has become complicated by matters of the heart. Honoria, older sister of the western Roman emperor Valentinian III, was being forced into a marriage with a Roman senator. Desperate, she sent her engagement ring and a letter to Attila, pleading for help. Attila, not being the most nuanced of thinkers, and always alert for the main chance, sees this as a proposal of marriage, and accepts. Valentinian, enraged by his daughter, barely restrains himself from executing her, and decides to exile her. Attila insists that the proposal is genuine, and that when he is done punishing Gaul, he will be coming to Rome to collect his new bride. His subsequent 452 AD attempt to visit his in-laws has several large-scale impacts that most "Meet the Parents" scripts lack, including the founding of Venice, as the locals flee Attila to islands in the Lagoon, and the razing of the city of Aquileia (see yesterday's entry about Richard the Lionheart). Attila begins to fight his way down the Italian peninsula, but the Romans are saved by plague hitting Attila's troops, as well as by famine in Italy, which makes it difficult to feed an army on the march. Leo I, the Bishop of Rome (not yet recognized as anything more than another bishop of a backwater town, much less "Pope"), successfully negotiates peace on behalf of western Rome, and Attila decides he wants to attack the eastern Empire (again) instead. His empire at this point extends from present-day France to the Caspian Sea, but he dies in 453, his three sons fight amongst themselves, other tribes rise in rebellion, and by 469 the Hunnic Empire is no more. As for Honoria, spared marriage to Attila the Hun, no one really knows what happened to her; John of Antioch merely says, "And so Honoria was freed from her danger at this time." Her name is not listed by contemporary sources as among those carried off to Carthage by Alaric and the Vandals (great band name, by the way) when they sacked Rome in 455. It would be nice to think she made it out of Dodge before the end, rather than the more likely outcome of succumbing to infectious disease, intrigue, or the convent.

1541: Francis Xavier leaves Lisbon for the Portuguese East Indies, 20 years to the day after Magellan arrived in Cebu, Philippines during the first successful voyage around the world. Francis Xavier, like his mentor Ignatius of Loyola, is a Basque, and is the first Jesuit missionary. He almost converts Japan to Catholicism through a mistranslation of the word for God. Francis uses the word dainichi for God; the Shingon Buddhist monks interpret this to be the Vairocana Buddha, the "bliss body" of the historical human being Gautama Siddhartha. For better or worse, an early form of spell-check kicks in, and Francis changes his terminology from dainichi to deusu, which causes the monks to be not so receptive. Nevertheless, a few Christian congregations are established by Francis, who dies in 1552 awaiting permission to go ashore in China, and up to 300,000 Japanese are converted. However, ultimately, Christianity is driven underground, with 26 Christians crucified in 1597 at the orders of the shogun. When missionaries return two and a half centuries later, they find some Christians still practice their religion in secret, much as some marranos in Spain still practiced Judaism centuries after the expelling of Jews and Muslims from Spain by Ferdinand and Isabella.

1827: For the first time in human history, the question "Got a light?" can be answered in the affirmative. John Walker, an English chemist, sells the first friction match. 

1927: The first distance public television is broadcast, from Washington, D.C. to New York. It is a broadcast (by AT&T Bell Telephone Laboratories researcher Herbert Ives and his team) of Commerce Secretary Herbert Hoover. Think of it: if aliens are out there, the first television broadcast they will intercept from earth will be of Herbert Hoover. I think we may be safe from alien invasion at least until Milton Berle gets there. 

(Source: Wikipedia)

Thoughts?