Justinian I (from "Have To" History)

Three Big Things:

Justinian I (Byzantine Emperor)

1. He remains in many ways a convenient personification of the Byzantine Empire (which lasted over a thousand years) and came closer than any other ruler to rebuilding the Roman Empire, both in terms of geographical reach and monumental architecture like the Hagia Sophia – a massive, beautiful Greek Orthodox church which later became a mosque and is now a museum and one of Turkey’s most-visited tourist destinations.

2. He compiled, edited, and rewrote centuries of Roman statutes and case law to bring order and predictability to the courts and law schools. “Justinian’s Code” stabilized and standardized law across the empire and shaped the future of European jurisprudence.  

3. He married Theodora, a former child actress and prostitute. Together they were reform-minded and brutal, progressive and vicious. Whatever their naughty-to-nice ratios, they certainly accomplished plenty of stuff.  

Mansa Musa (Extended Version from "Have To" History)

Stuff You Don’t Really Want To Know (But For Some Reason Have To)

Mansa Musa HeadThree Big Things:

1. By most accounts the single richest individual ever in all of world history. The Mali Empire over which he ruled produced lots of gold. Unmeasurable amounts of gold. All the gold. Oh, and salt. But also lots of gold.

The Epic of Gilgamesh (from "Have To" History)

Epic of Gilgamesh1. The oldest surviving work of literature from anywhere in the world – put into writing nearly 4,000 years ago. 

2. Gilgamesh was most likely fictional. If he did exist, it’s unlikely he was called “Gilgamesh” or lived in Sumer or did any of the things attributed to him here or in other Mesopotamian fragments. Unless maybe he did. If he existed. Which he probably didn’t

3. The Gilgamesh story contains the earliest known account of a huge flood wiping out all life on earth except for one man and his immediate family and every variety of animal in order to repopulate the earth. Sound familiar? 

Ashurbanipal the... Librarian? (From "Have To" History)

Ashurbanipal1. The world’s oldest known librarian – or at least the driving force behind the world’s oldest known library. And it was a big one.

2. King of Assyria (Mesopotamia) during its zenith, but educated with the assumption he’d never actually assume the throne.

3. Collection includes the oldest surviving tales of Creation, the Great Flood, and other suggestions the Old Testament might have borrowed a bit from prior cultures. This occasionally leads to hostility and inflamed passions as history and theology rub one another the wrong way.

Hammurabi, King of Babylon (from "Have To" History)

Three Big Things:

Hammurabi Blue

1. Responsible for the best-known and arguably most influential set of legal codes in the ancient world. Key issue: they were written down and publicly posted. 

2. Brought Mesopotamia together as a more-or-less united empire (this time with Babylon as the seat of central authority) for the first time since Sargon six centuries prior. 

3. Seriously, the written law thing. It’s just huge. “An eye for an eye”? That was his. Innocent until proven guilty? Punishment fitting the crime? Throwing people in rivers to see if they float? That’s Hammurabi, baby. 

Sargon of Akkad (from "Have To" History)

Three Big Things: 

Sargon of Akkad1. Arguably the oldest individual identifiable by name in all of known history. If you read every biography ever written in chronological order, his will be first. 

2. Formed the first real empire in all of human history (Mesopotamia) – a civilization made up of different peoples and cultures but still forming a coherent whole. 

3. For centuries after his death, his military success, his rule as king, and his general self-proclaimed awesomeness set the standard for all subsequent generals and monarchs. He was Alexander the Great, Napoleon, and Patton, all rolled together. (Or was he?)

The Second Great Awakening (from "Have To" History)

FinneyAs Americans entered their first real generation as a “free” people (I know, I know – but it was still a huge leap forward in terms of natural rights and government of-the-by-the-for-the), the ideals of the Enlightenment which had shaped their founding documents were impacting personal worldviews as well. For thousands of years, the circumstances into which you were born largely dictated your life; now, it seemed anything was possible with good choices and hard work.

The Seneca Falls Convention of 1848 (from "Have To History")

Seneca FallsElizabeth Cady Stanton, who was a Quaker, and Lucretia Mott, who was not, were part of a group who travelled to London to take part in the first World’s Anti-Slavery Convention. While allowed to attend, they were forced to sit in the balcony and could not speak or participate. The decided that if women were to have meaningful impact in various other areas of reform, they would first need a little social and political efficacy of their own.

The Great Depression / The Dust Bowl (from "Have To" History)

Black Tuesday NewspaperOn October 29, 1929, the bottom fell out of the stock market. There’d been signs – the previous Thursday had almost been the day, but a handful of big money types shored up confidence by buying shares in major industries at well-above market value. It didn’t hold. “Black Tuesday” set off a domino effect of selling, panic, business failures, bank runs, and even a few suicides. It wasn't what you'd call a "good day" for America.

What Started the Civil War? (From "Have To" History)

Am I Not A Man...Even before declaring independence in 1776, slavery had been a controversial topic in the American colonies, but it was not a strictly North/South issue. Over time, the North became increasingly industrialized while the South grew more and more reliant on large-scale cash crops. Slavery ceased to make economic sense in the North, allowing ideological concerns to eventually prohibit it altogether.

As the cotton gin made the institution wildly profitable and seemingly essential to the South, slavery was increasingly promoted as a positive good for all involved – including the slaves themselves.