hippodromes

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January 13th 532: Nika riots begin

On this day in 532 AD one of the deadliest riots in history, the Nika riots, began in Constantinople, the capital of Byzantium (the Eastern Roman Empire). The chaos emerged from long-standing sporting rivalries between opposing chariot racing teams - the Blues and the Greens - each of whom attracted fanatical support that often spilled over into violence. The divisions may have gone further than sport, as it has often been suggested that the Blues and the Greens essentially represented opposing political parties in the Byzantine Empire. The riots occurred during the reign of the unpopular Emperor Justinian, whose military endeavors were having a heavy burden on increasingly disgruntled taxpayers. Justinian’s wife, the Empress Theodora, was a controversial figure because of her humble working class origins and her political influence over her husband. The tensions came to a head when Justinian sent in troops to quell fighting between Greens and Blues, and condemned the ringleaders to death, thus ending his support for the Blues. When both a Green and a Blue escaped their execution, the factions were united in the cause to have the men pardoned. On January 13th, during a race at Constantinople’s Hippodrome stadium, both factions vented their anger at the emperor with chants of "Nika!" (‘Conquer/Win’). Five days of rioting ensued, which saw the mob burn down large portions of the imperial capital and call for the emperor to be deposed. Justinian wanted to flee the city, but Theodora rebuked him for his cowardice, and he therefore stayed and approved a plan to isolate the rioting factions in the Hippodrome. The imperial forces descended on the stadium, killing 30,000 of the rioters, which was around 10% of the city’s population at the time. With the violence of the Nika riots in the past, change came to Byzantium in the form of a decline in both the power of the factions and the prominence of chariot-racing.

"Those who have worn the crown should never survive its loss. Never will I see the day when I am not saluted as empress"
- Theodora dissuading Justinian from fleeing the city

okay so i forgot to tell y’all a few weeks ago in baltimore i mentioned to ja/cob ke/mp how much we all liked that photo where he was not quite in his costume yet. and after momentary requisite embarrassment, he said basically that they tried to protest that they weren’t ready yet, but when zachary decides it’s time for a selfie, there’s just no stopping it. 

and i thought that was beautiful.