Background Briefing (ABC) When I went to the ABC website to get the link for Unmasking Monsters, there he was – Dr Bob Montgomery, just as I remember him. Handsome, a bit of a larrikin and supremely confident: he is certainly a fallen man now, imprisoned for four years for historical sex abuse charges. He was my 1st Year psychology lecturer, I attended his ‘sex’ classes (which I must admit taught me more about sex than any other source of information), and I remember discussing the Milgram experiment, although I can’t recall if I actually participated. I’m not completely surprised by this podcast, although I didn’t realize that he was so brazen.
The History of Rome Podcast In Episode 34 No Greater Friend, No Worse Enemy Sulla comes back into Rome, and the nobles who had previously backed Marius began changing sides. That didn’t stop Sulla from putting 1500 of them onto a death list, ending up with about 9000 deaths. He had himself made Dictator, not just for a 6 month stint, but for life. There goes another Roman Republic principle. He was a conservative, and wanted to put an end to the populism that the Gracchus brothers had ushered in. He put all sorts of obstacles of age, career path, enforced breaks in the provinces etc. to make sure that there was no quick route to the Consulship, and then he retired. But all his changes were overruled anyway. Episode 35 Crassus and Pompey introduces two of the men who will later form a triumvirate with Julius Caesar. Crassus was really rich and Pompey was a golden general who just had good fortune fall in his lap. He was very ambitious, and determined to circumvent all Sulla’s plans to stop ambitious men. Episode 36 I am Spartacus introduces Spartacus. Confession here- I have never seen the Spartacus movie. In fact, I wasn’t really sure who he was. He was a slave gladiator at the gladiator school at Capua, and in 73BC broke out with 70 other slaves, was joined with others to make 7000 and ended up with perhaps 70,000 other slaves (although these numbers are pretty dodgy). He and his troops headed south, wanting to go to Sicily, but he was betrayed by pirates. They were defeated by Crassus, who saw this as a route to the Consulship. A small group escaped, and they were overcome by Pompey, who took all the credit. In Episode 37 Go East Young Man Pompey cleaned up all the pirates in the Mediterranean and polished off Mithridates for good. While he was in the neighbourhood, he marched on Jerusalem, where two Jewish families were fighting each other, made sure that his favoured family won, and then went home. The Roman Empire now stretched from Gibraltar to Jerusalem. Episode 38 The Catiline Conspiracy reinforces that by the 1st Century BC, the example of Marius and Sulla had reinforced that power came from the sword. Cataline came from an aristocratic family that hadn’t done anything for 300 years, combining entitlement and ambition. In 73 BC he was accused of adultery with a vestal virgin but was acquitted, probably because of dodgy dealings. In 63 BC he conspired to overthrow the Roman government but was stopped by Rome’s greatest politician and orator, Marcus Tullius Cicero. He ended up in exile and was killed. Having seen with Sulla the potential power of a returning general, Cicero wanted to clean up domestic politics in Rome before Pompey got back.
History Hit- The Ancients. Enough of all this Roman fighting! How about some sex instead? This episode Sex in Ancient Rome features L.J. Trafford, the author of the upcoming book Sex and Sexuality in Ancient Rome. Of course, the written sources that have come down to us are all written by men, and if their reporting on war and slaughter is anything to go by, not very reliable. However, penis sculptures and drawings seem to be everywhere throughout the empire, and sex was often the source of humour. There were strict rules about who could sleep with whom, especially under Augustus who yearned for a simpler, more honourable Roman past. She deals with adultery, contraception, prostitution etc. but mainly emphasizes how hard it is for us to enter into their pre-Christian mentality about sex.
And speaking of Spartacus, Spartacus Life or Legend has an Australian historian Dr Fiona Radford who studied the Kirk Douglas movie (which I haven’t seen) and the historic sources for her Ph.D. She’s very enthusiastic about the movie, which was produced during the Cold War competing with Ben Hur and another Spartacus movie being produced at the time. She points out that Spartacus has been picked up by multiple political movements since the enlightenment- the French Revolution, the Risorgimento in Italy in the 19th century, and the Spartacus League with Rosa Luxemburg Post WWI.
Blindspot: The Road to 9/11 Being the 20th anniversary, 9/11 is everywhere. Episode 1 The Bullet starts in an unusual place: in a Midtown Manhattan hotel ballroom where the radical, anti-Muslim Jewish rabbi Meir Kahane is assassinated by El-Sayyid Nosair who had become radicalized at a Brooklyn mosque.
New York Times: The Daily Journalist Dan Barry reads his article “What Does it Mean to ‘Never Forget’?” This essay explores the nature of memory during trauma. Interesting that graduate students who interviewed people in the days immediately following 9/11 found that when they re-interviewed their informants a year later, 40% had changed their memories of where they were and how they learned about the Twin Towers.
History Extra As a Good Unitarian Girl, I’m always delighted to hear podcasts about 19th century Unitarians. In this podcast Wedgwood: The Radical Potter Tristram Hunt, author of The Radical Potter discusses the business and politics of Josiah Wedgwood. I bet you never thought ‘Josiah Wedgwood’ and ‘Steve Jobs’ could go in the same sentence! Another book to add to the burgeoning To Be Read list.