January 1 marks the first day of the new year according to the Gregorian calendar, which is the most widely used calendar across the globe. The arrival of January 1 is a cause for celebration in many countries, but the first day of the year has also played host to its fair share of history. This year, New Year’s revelers might want to reflect on some of the more notable events that have taken place on January 1 as they pop some champagne corks and count down to the dawn of 2018.
42 B.C.: Julius Caesar becomes the first historical Roman to be deified. This honor is bestowed posthumously by decree of the Roman Senate.
1068: Romanus IV is crowned Byzantine Emperor. His reign would prove to be relatively brief, as he was captured and held prisoner by the Turks in 1071. Romanus IV was eventually released, only to be overthrown by a coup and forced to retire. Despite agreeing to retire to a monastery, Romanus IV suffered one additional indignity when he was intentionally blinded. The injuries ultimately became infected, costing Romanus IV his life in 1072.
1502: Present-day Rio de Janeiro is first encountered by Portuguese explorers. The timing of this discovery contributed to the city’s name, which translates to ‘January River’ in English.
1515: Francis I succeeds to the French throne. Francis I’s reign lasted 32 years, during which he is credited with initiating the French Renaissance that brought many Italian artists, including Leonardo da Vinci, to France.
1772: The London Credit Exchange Company issues the first traveler’s cheques. The cheques, which can be used in 90 European cities, were designed to offer travelers more financial security than cash.
1773: The lyrics to ‘Amazing Grace’ are used in a prayer meeting for the first time. The lyrics were written by Englishman John Newton, who worked as a captain of slave ships and had a reputation for being profane.
1804: French rule in Haiti ends. This makes Haiti the first independent nation of Latin America and the only nation in the world that was established thanks to a successful slave revolt.
1863: The Emancipation Proclamation, an executive order that immediately changed the federal legal status of more than three million enslaved persons in the United States, goes into effect. The proclamation was issued during the American Civil War and proclaimed the freedom of slaves in 10 states that were still rebelling against Union forces.
1908: The Times Square Ball is dropped for the first time to commemorate the dawn of a new year. The ball has dropped every year since, with the exception of 1942 and 1943, when blackouts related to World War II had been instituted.
1959: Cuban dictator Fulgencio Batista is ousted by Cuban revolutionaries led by Fidel Castro. Remarkably, Castro would retain his leadership until 2008, when his deteriorating health led him to retire. Castro’s brother unanimously won election as president in February of 2008.
1990: David Dinkins is sworn in as Mayor of New York City, becoming the city’s first black mayor.