This Week in History, Feb 12 - Feb 18
Feb 12, 2002
Milosevic goes on trial for war crimes. Former Yugoslav president Slobodan Milosevic goes on trial at The Hague, Netherlands, on charges of genocide and war crimes in Bosnia, Croatia and Kosovo. Milosevic served as his own attorney for much of the prolonged trial, which ended without a verdict when the so-called "Butcher of the Balkans" was found dead at age 64 from an apparent heart attack in his prison cell on March 11, 2006.
Feb 13, 1633
Galileo in Rome for Inquisition. Italian philosopher, astronomer and mathematician Galileo Galilei arrives in Rome to face charges of heresy for advocating Copernican theory, which holds that the Earth revolves around the Sun. Galileo officially faced the Roman Inquisition in April of that same year and agreed to plead guilty in exchange for a lighter sentence. Put under house arrest indefinitely by Pope Urban VIII, Galileo spent the rest of his days at his villa in Arcetri, near Florence, before dying on January 8, 1642.
Feb 14, 278
St. Valentine beheaded. Sometime around the year 278 A.D., Valentine, a holy priest in Rome in the days of Emperor Claudius II, was executed.
Feb 15, 1898
The Maine explodes. A massive explosion of unknown origin sinks the battleship USS Maine in Cuba's Havana harbor, killing 260 of the fewer than 400 American crew members aboard. One of the first American battleships, the Maine weighed more than 6,000 tons and was built at a cost of more than $2 million. Ostensibly on a friendly visit, the Maine had been sent to Cuba to protect the interests of Americans there after a rebellion against Spanish rule broke out in Havana in January.
Feb 16, 1923
Archaeologist opens tomb of King Tut. At Thebes, Egypt, English archaeologist Howard Carter enters the sealed burial chamber of the ancient Egyptian ruler King Tutankhamen. Because the ancient Egyptians saw their pharaohs as gods, they carefully preserved their bodies after death, burying them in elaborate tombs containing rich treasures to accompany the rulers into the afterlife. In the 19th century, archeologists from all over the world flocked to Egypt, where they uncovered a number of these tombs. Many had long ago been broken into by robbers and stripped of their riches.
Feb 17, 1904
Madame Butterfly premieres. Giacomo Puccini's opera Madame Butterfly premieres at the La Scala theatre in Milan, Italy. The young Puccini decided to dedicate his life to opera after seeing a performance of Giuseppe Verdi's Aida in 1876. In his later life, he would write some of the best-loved operas of all time: La Boheme (1896), Tosca (1900), Madame Butterfly (1904) and Turandot (left unfinished when he died in 1906). Not one of these, however, was an immediate success when it opened. La Boheme, the now-classic story of a group of poor artists living in a Paris garret, earned mixed reviews, while Tosca was downright panned by critics.
Feb 18, 1885
Twain publishes The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. Mark Twain publishes his famous--and famously controversial--novel The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. Twain, aka Samuel Clemens first introduced Huck Finn as the best friend of Tom Sawyer, hero of his tremendously successful novel The Adventures of Tom Sawyer (1876). Though Twain saw Huck's story as a kind of sequel to his earlier book, the new novel was far more serious, focusing on the institution of slavery and other aspects of life in the antebellum South.