On this day in 532, the Nika riots occurred. Basically, it was a fight that broke out by different partisans in the big chariot races in Constantinople. Now these partisans were, among other things, political parties. And they were angry about the arrests, three days earlier, of members of the Blues and Greens for murders that had occurred at a previous chariot race.
During the chariot races on 13 January 532, the fans stopped chanting “blue” or “green” and started chanting, “Nika.” This more or less means “win.” The main thing is that the people had united in their anger against Emperor Justinian. But Justinian was no fool; he understood how to divide and conquer. He sent word and gold to the Blues, who abandoned the Greens, allowing the troops to come in and slaughter them. In the end, half the city was burned and 30,000 of the rioters were killed.
The Nika riots were clearly a political uprising, but the proximate cause was the chariot race. It does remind me of football hooligans. But it more reminds me of terrorism. I doubt anyone at the time thought it was really all about chariot races. Yet there are a whole lot of people around today who think that terrorism is all about Islam. In fact, I’m still stinging about an argument I had some time ago where I let off an Islamophobe because I didn’t want to offend someone whose work I had admired. Since then, he’s shown that he is quite clearly an Islamophobe. The distance between New Atheist and Islamophobe can be a hair’s breadth.
Anyway: rioting over chariot races. Quite interesting just because, well: chariot races. Who’d have thought?
On a personal note: my parents were married 55 years ago today. But my mother died over a decade ago.