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The Nika riot began on Tuesday, January 13, AD 532. Three days earlier, several members of the Blue and Green factions, who had been arrested for an earlier disturbance, were to be hanged. But the execution was botched and two men survived and found sanctuary in a church, which then was put under guard. During the races in the Hippodrome, the crowd called on Justinian to show them mercy, chanting until the twenty-second race (of twenty four). But there was no response. Then, unexpectedly, another exclamation was heard: "Long live the merciful Blues and Greens!" (Malalas, XVIII.474). That evening, with Nika ("conquer," an exclamation used to encourage the charioteer) as their watchword, the two united factions demanded that the city prefect release the prisoners, setting fire to the Praetorium when he did not. The fire spread and others were set the next day, even though Justinian had announced additional races, a gesture that only emboldened the rioters, who set fire to the Hippodrome itself.
I am currently reading The Dark Tower series by Stephen King