This Week In History: July 9-15


This week in history: Burr & Hamilton duke it out, Caesar is born, and the Rosetta Stone is (re)discovered. Read more below and dive deeper with The Great Courses Plus.

July 11, 1804 – Alexander Hamilton Mortally Wounded in a Duel

On this fateful day in 1804, Alexander Hamilton would be fatally shot in a duel with longstanding rival Aaron Burr and die. Before he was a Broadway star, Hamilton was a major figure in the founding of our nation, and is credited with developing the National Bank and ending the international slave trade. He made his fair share of enemies among the Founding Fathers, however, chief among them former vice president Aaron Burr. When Burr would attempt to run for governor of New York in 1804, Hamilton would actively campaigned against him, proclaiming Burr unworthy of the position. Offended, the former vice president issued a challenge to a duel. Hamilton’s journal seems to indicate that he was intending to throw away his shot; after the paces were measured both Burr and Hamilton would fire, with Burr striking Hamilton dead on. It was unclear who shot first, though Hamilton’s bullet would fire up into the trees. He would die the next day from his injuries in Greenwich Village and be buried in Manhattan.

Learn more about Alexander Hamilton in America’s Founding Fathers

July 13, 100 BC – Julius Caesar is Born

One of the most enduring figures in the history of ancient Rome, Julius Caesar would be born on this day in 100 BC. A politician, decorated general, and eventual dictator, Caesar would be instrumental in the sudden shift of Rome’s political structure from a republic to an empire. After a lengthy civil war orchestrated by Caesar on his return from his campaign in Gaul, he would crown himself “dictator for life.” Though he was immensely popular with the general populace of Rome, a group of Roman senators were less than enthused about Julius’s sudden changes and would conspire to assassinate him. Lead by Marcus Junius Brutus, these senators would ambush and stab Caesar multiple times, killing him on the Ides of March in 44 BC. Though he was brutally murdered, Caesar’s image and legacy would endure, with all subsequent Emperors being referred to as “Caesar” in his honor.

Learn more about the development of the Roman Empire in A History of the Ancient World: A Global Perspective

July 15, 1799 – The Rosetta Stone is Rediscovered

Unearthed while Napoleon’s forces were reinforcing the defenses of Fort Julian in Rosetta, Egypt, the Rosetta Stone would prove to be one of the major archaeological finds in the 18th century. A fragmented stele carved from black granodiorite, the stone contains inscriptions in Ancient Egyptian hieroglyphs at the top, Demotic script in the center, and Ancient Greek on the bottom. The decree, issued on behalf of King Ptolemy V in 196 BC, is mostly the same in all three languages and would represent a breakthrough moment in Egyptology. For the first time in modern history, archaeologists were able to decipher the previously unreadable pictographic language of the Ancient Egyptians that were found on the walls of temples and burial tombs throughout the desert, leading to greater understanding of the ancient civilization.

Learn more about hieroglyphs and how to decipher them in Decoding the Secrets of Egyptian Hieroglyphs