March Madness

Blog 4 - History, K12
The third month of the year in both the Julian and Gregorian calendars, March’s name is derived from Martius, the first month of the earliest Roman calendar. It was named after Mars, the Roman God of War, who was (as per mythology) the ancestor of the Roman people through his sons, Romulus and Remus.

No wonder March has seen some very interesting events transpire. Here are a few of them that caught our attention.

2nd March, 537 A.D.: Belisarius saves Rome from the Goths.

In one of the greatest underdog stories of all time, 537 A.D. saw the people of Rome waiting nervously for an attack.

Rome had fallen to the Goths in the fifth century but at the end of 536 A.D., Constantinople’s greatest general Belisarius retook it. However, since he had limited men, he’d have struggled to keep the city. Facing an enemy with an army that was 10 times as big as his, and one which was equipped with vast siege engines, Belisarius stood his ground for 374 days and refused to panic even as his city starved.

Belisarius had secretly sent his general John to seize the towns in the Goths’ rear. While the enemy was focused on Rome, John had decimated Rimini, leaving John barely a day’s march from their capital Ravenna.

4th March 1918: ‘Spanish’ flu strikes and kills 100 million.

Private Albert Gitchell woke up on the 4th of March, 1918 feeling awful. A company cook at Fort Riley, Kansas, Gitchell was tasked with serving breakfast to hundreds of young American recruits waiting to be shipped off to the battlefields of France. However, the doctors found out he was running a 103-degree fever and was in no state to work in the mess.

Soon after, Corporal Lee Drake staggered into the hospital with similar symptoms. Followed by another, Sergeant Adolph Hurby. The men kept coming. By lunchtime, there were 107 and 500 by the end of that week. At the end of the month, 1,127 men at Fort Riley had come down with flu – and 46 of them had died.

10th March 1880 – The Salvation Army was founded in the United States.

The Salvation Army is a Protestant Christian church and an international charitable organisation with a global membership of over 1.7 million. It consists of ‘soldiers, officers and adherents’ collectively known as Salvationists. Dedicated to bringing salvation to the poor, destitute, and hungry by meeting both their “physical and spiritual needs”.

The origin was in London’s East End in 1865 by one-time Methodist Reform Church minister William Booth and his wife Catherine as the ‘East London Christian Mission’, in 1880 the Salvation Army went overseas to three new countries that needed its help: Australia, Ireland, and the United States.

31st March 1889 – France’s iconic Eiffel Tower opens.

Conceived by engineers Maurice Koechlin and Emile Nouguier as the centerpiece of the 1889 Paris Universal Exposition, and eventually built by the celebrated bridge-maker Gustave Eiffel, the Eiffel Tower had a troubled birth.

The pushback they faced was that most of the French intellectual establishment hated the idea, calling it “useless and monstrous”. Some even went as far as calling it a “hateful column of bolted sheet metal”, taking it a step further with a petition which was signed by some 300 writers and artists.

Regardless, the tower was built and became an instant hit. Illuminated every night by gas lamps, it dominated not just the Exposition, but Paris itself!

Now you know some of the most interesting things that happened in March. We hope you enjoyed the month, knowing it had a unique impact on the history of the world.