The Twenty-Eighth Day of May

Two thousand six hundred two years ago, the Medes and the Lydians were enmeshed in all-out war. While the two sides had much to war over, what had finally brought the two sides to raise arms against each other was the murder of the Lydian prince. A group of Scythian hunters had been hired by King Cyaxares. When they returned from their hunt empty-handed, the king insulted them. The hunters killed his son and, as part of their revenge, served him up to the Medes as a meal.

In the sixth year of the war, on May 28, 585 B.C.E., a solar eclipse turned night into day. The warring parties stopped and watched the sky in awe. The eclipse had been prophesied by the Greek philosopher Thales of Miletus. It was on that day that the Medes and the Lydians stopped fighting and began peace talks, settling their disputes for the time being.

History is cool. Mining history for story material is part of what I do as a writer of urban fantasy. As I'm developing my magical world, I look to the past for ideas and for background. Humanity has been doing a lot of stuff for as long as we've had history, and we did some cool stuff even before then, too. We should be studying the past anyway, to learn from it, but if we get something else out of it, all the better.

It's remarkably easy to do. Every day in human history is full of activity.

For example, on May 28, 1533, the newly appointed Archbishop of Canterbury Thomas Cranmer declared that King Henry VIII's marriage Anne Boleyn was valid, after having declared his marriage to Catherine of Aragon null and void only five days earlier. All this unmarrying and remarrying led to the pope excommunicating both the king and the archbishop, which led to the formation of the Church of England.

Two hundred sixty-nine years later, on May 28, 1802, Louis Delgrès, who believed that Napoleon had betrayed everything that his French Republic stood for by reinstituting slavery, held his ground against the might of the French Empire. When he saw that defeat was inevitable, Delgrès and his followers ignited their gunpowder stores. Four hundred slaves lost their lives in the explosion.

And then there's Volkswagen, founded on May 28, 1937.

These would not exist without May 28th.

These would not exist without May 28th.

So much can happen in a day. Now imagine thousands of years of the same day. That's a lot of days. Take a look at history the next time you're stumped. You might find something useful. Even edifying.