28 September 1975: A Spaghetti House hostage crisis grips the nation
The Spaghetti House siege took place between 28 September and 3 October 1975. An attempted robbery of the Spaghetti House restaurant in Knightsbridge, London, went wrong and the police were quickly on the scene. The three robbers took the staff down into a storeroom and barricaded themselves in. They released all the hostages unharmed after six days. Two of the gunmen gave themselves up; the ringleader, Franklin Davies, shot himself in the stomach. All three were later imprisoned, as were two of their accomplices.
Davies was taken to St George’s Hospital where he underwent an operation; the bullet was not removed during the process. The hostages were also taken to the same hospital for a check-up, but none needed treatment. They then gave preliminary statements to the police at Cannon Row police station.
While on remand, Davies went on hunger strike. He was visited regularly by Giovanni Scrano, one of the hostages from the siege, who had built up a relationship with Davies during the incident; the relationship was later identified as an example of Stockholm syndrome.
25 September 480 BC: Greece defeats Persia, once and for all
In the summer of BC 481, a delegation from Athens arrived at Delphi in central Greece to consult with the oracle of Apollo. The Sanctuary was always crowded with people seeking advice from the god, or perhaps a glimpse into an uncertain future. The oracle was located in the temple of Apollo, a building perched on a slope that was reached by a winding Sacred Way. The Sacred Way was lined with splendid marble buildings, including treasuries where votive offerings and other objects of value were stored.
The battle of Salamis, fought between the invading fleet of the Persian ruler Xerxes and his allied Greek adversaries, has gone down as one of the most famous naval engagements in history. For Xerxes, this was the moment when he would crush Greek resistance and cement his control of the enemy mainland. But as the Persian ships sailed into the narrow straits, they were doing precisely what the Athenian general, Themistocles, wanted.
It was a combination of Athenian-led Greek bravery and skill, together with Persian miscalculation, that saw the loyalist Greek side win its famous victory. Persian emperor Xerxes turned tail and fled. Athenian playwright Aeschylus later celebrated with his tragic drama, The Persians.
But the war was not yet won that happened the following year, thanks mainly to the massive land battle of Plataea, in Boeotia, which saw an alliance of Greek city states – including Sparta and Athens – destroy the remnants of the Persian army.
BORODINO: Napoleon’s grand entrance into Moscow turns to ash and ruins
SEPTEMBER 5–7, 1812
The first French troops to enter the city sent back strange reports. The place was empty, save for peasants and foreign residents. And then, on the first night of the French occupation, came the first reports of fire in the Kitay-gorod bazaar.
In just four days ¾ of the city went up in flames: of the 9,158 residential buildings more than 6,500 were burned to the ground. Napoleon lost the winter housing he had hoped for. Yet the French Emperor retained the illusion that his campaign was close to the expected outcome and that the Russian Empire would sign a peace treaty with him at last. On September 18, he decided to stay in the city and dedicate himself to formulating his “November plan” for a march on St. Petersburg.
Even as Napoleon rode into the Kremlin, the fire spread. Some French – and even Russian – officers suggested it had been started deliberately as part of a campaign of Russian resistance, by arsonists equipped with flammable materials.
The Russian troops’ continued retreat was annoying not only for Napoleon, but also for some Russian generals, too. Many argued the absence of a single commander-in-chief was the root cause of the problem. What was the Russian commander-in-chief’s aim when he suddenly led the army off the Ryazan road to the road to Kaluga? Firstly, he blocked Napoleon from the economically unharmed southern provinces of the Russian Empire (including the strategically important weapons plant in Tula). Secondly, he kept under threat the reserves and supply lines of the Grand Army stretching way back to Smolensk. And, the most important aim of all, in this way he hoped to force the enemy out of Moscow. The plan succeeded.