The History of Rome Podcast Episode 74: Friends I Have Wasted a Day looks at the two-year reign of Titus. He had been groomed for the role by his father and so there was a smooth transition between emperors. Initially there were fears that he would be like Nero, but instead he came to the role as a mature soldier and experienced administrator. The destruction of Pompeii and another fire in Rome occurred during his reign in A.D.80, but he proved himself to be a good and generous leader. He officially opened the Flavian Ampitheatre (which we now know as the Colosseum) with 100 days of games. During his reign, governor Agricola tried his best to Romanize Britain. But Titus was carried off by an infection (at least it wasn’t murder this time). Episode 75 The Forgotten Son introduces Domitian, whom I had never heard of, who was Titus’ brother, who took over after Titus’ untimely death. Definitely suffering from Second-Son Syndrome, there was no expectation that he would ever be emperor, and he was consciously discouraged from gathering administrative and military experience by his father, who blithely assumed that Titus would reign for decades. Once emperor, he decided that he would model himself on Augustus, but he did not share Augustus’ strategy of making the Senate feel that they were in charge (even if it was not true). Episode 76: Mock Triumphs. Domitian set about revaluing the currency (because he said it reflected badly on the Empire having a devalued currency) and tried to revitalize Augustus’ legislation about morals, bringing about the return of the Lex Julia forbidding adultery etc. The elites hated him, but he had the support of the common soldier, whose wages he increased by 1/3. He threw a fairly questionable triumph for himself after a campaign against the Chatti, but oversaw the worst defeat since the Teutoburg Forest against the Dacians. He brought Agricola (whose name Mike Duncan has learned to pronounce) back from Britain, and followed Augustus’ policy of not expanding the frontier. His focus on frontier defense brought charges of cowardice and his treaty with the Dacians was seen as a humiliation. This isn’t going to end well.
Travels Through Time takes us back to the year 1540 with The Dissolution of the Monasteries, with historian James Clark spruiking his recent book The Dissolution of the Monasteries: A New History. 1540 is at the end of the four-year process, but he chose 1540 because it was also the year that Henry married both Anne of Cleves and Catherine Howard, and Thomas Cromwell the Untouchable finally fell. He points out that monasteries were not the remote, forbidding places that we imagine today: instead, they were everywhere like Tesco supermarkets, and often were the town. He starts in Easter 1540 with the monks at Canterbury Cathedral waiting around, uncertain what was to happen to them. Episode 2 is in May 1540 at Clerkenwell Priory, the headquarters of the medieval order of the Knights of St John, also known as the Knights Hospitaller. The shock of the closure caused the collapse and death of the Grand Prior of the Order, William Weston, the last man to be buried as a monk in England. Episode 3 is Newgate gaol in August 1540 where Thomas Epsam, a monk of Westminster Abbey, was taken from his cell and publicly stripped of his monk’s habit.
Australia vs the Climate (The Guardian) It seemed hopeful there for a minute. Part 3: Paris and the fall sees Australia signing up for 1.5 degrees. At last. And then we have ScoMo and his lump of coal….and we all know how this is going to end. When you listen to these podcasts one after the other, you realize just how intransigent Australia has been.
The History Listen (ABC) It’s the 150th anniversary of the Art Gallery of New South Wales this year. Although it’s getting a new expansion, for many years it was dark and dingy, with the Board very much looking after the interests of themselves and their friends. The building that we think of as the Art Gallery was built in the 1890s. 150 years at the Art Gallery of NSW looks at the building, the Board, and the directors but it touches only lightly on the controversy over the construction of the new gallery.
Boyer Lectures (ABC) John Bell from the Bell Shakespeare Company is giving the Boyer Lectures this year. The first lecture Soul of the Age – Life lessons from Shakespeare with John Bell is mainly an introductory lecture and a bit disappointing. He draws links between the characters depicted in Shakespeare’s plays and current political players (to the detriment of the current politicians)
The Documentary (BBC) I had forgotten about ‘Climategate’ in 2009 where the University of East Anglia was hacked and emails talking about “the trick” were publicized world wide. I’d forgotten, too, that 2009 was when the Copenhagen COP was held, generally viewed as being a backwards step in terms of response to climate change. This episode The Hack That Changed the World goes back to investigate whether the Russians were behind it, or whether it was a sole actor associated with various climate-change-sceptical blogs.