The great fire of poetic justice

Battle of Vienna Yes, today is still the anniversary of the Charlottetown Accord’s referendum defeat, and a jolly good reminder of why we should get to vote on fundamental changes to our Constitutional order. But since we did that last year, I want to celebrate a grim deed for which a guy actually got his comeuppance.

On Oct. 26, 1689, an Austrian General named Enea Silvio Piccolomini, leading an army counterattacking following the repulse of the Turks from the gates of Vienna, ordered the town of Skopje, the current capital of Macedonia, burned to the ground. Supposedly he did it to prevent the spread of cholera of which it was a hotbed, though there is some suspicion that it was partly retaliation for the siege of Vienna.

Either way it was an awful thing to do. One of very many that happen in history including war, to be sure. How many towns and cities have been sacked, their inhabitants massacred, ravished or both, I do not care to consider. And it’s especially bitter because the perpetrators, in a great many cases, got away with it or suffered some subsequent fate that was about equally likely to befall someone who had not taken part in such an event. Certainly the burning demolished much of Skopje and killed or drove out most of its inhabitants (the latter maybe not the best way not to spread cholera) and it never really rebounded.

In this case, not only was his army subsequently defeated. Piccolomini himself died soon afterward. Of cholera. And yes, it served him right.