Democracy Sausage (ANU) Lying with a Smile takes us over to the UK with Elizabeth Ames, Board Director of the Britain-Australia Society, and Chair of the Menzies Australia Institute at King’s College London, to talk about Boris Johnson. How does anyone support this clown? Sleaze, lies, bombast and a complete failure to take responsibility for anything.
The Philosopher’s Zone (ABC) I don’t very often listen to this program but, knowing my newly-aroused interest in translation, my husband suggested that I listen to Yan Fu: China meets Western liberalism. Yan Fu was a late 19th century naval officer and writer who was fascinated with Western philosophy. His translations of works by Thomas Huxley, Adam Smith, John Stuart Mill and others were celebrated successes in China. However, in making these texts comprehensible to a Confucian culture, he has been accused of mistranslation – e.g. Huxley’s ‘Ethics of Evolution’ became translated as ‘Heaven’s Progress’. Still, he was hugely influential- in fact, Mao Tse-tung read his works in Yan Fu’s translation. At the end of his life, he eschewed Western liberalism and returned to Confucianism. I wonder what he would make of China today?
Women, the alt-right and the liberal centre is an episode from 1st August 2021. The promotion for this episode is “Why do women join white nationalist and other far-right movements?”. I’ve wondered that too. This episode features Louise Richardson-Self, lecturer in Philosophy and Gender Studies from the University of Tasmania, and Tracy Llanera, Research Fellow, Institute for Ethics and Society, University of Notre Dame. Neither of them have any time for the Alt-right at all. One of them has based her study on reading the comments on The Australian’s website, particularly the resistance to the idea of quotas in political representation.
History of Rome Podcast Episode 91- Marcus and Lucius and the Parthians. Antoninus favoured Marcus as his successor and gave him good opportunities to develop his bureaucratic skills, but because Antoninus didn’t go anywhere, neither did Marcus. He was attracted to Stoic philosophies, and when Antoninus died, it was Marcus who insisted that the terms of the will be complied with and that Lucius co-govern with him. Perhaps this way from a sense of duty, or perhaps because he realized that the empire was becoming too big for one man. Almost immediately war with the Parthians broke out. At this point, Mike Duncan backtracks to explain who the Parthians were i.e. they were one of the tribes that took over the Persian empire, which was very dependent on the Silk Road for its economic strength. As soon as Vologases IV of Parthia realized that there were two militarily inexperienced emperors in charge, the Parthians went to war. Episode 92 The Parthian War Severanius, the Governor of Cappadocia in Albania, on the front line was convinced by the prophet Alexander of Abonoteichus (whose Glycon cult was then as popular as the Christian cult) that he would have a stunning victory so he launched an attack against the Parthians, but he was defeated. It looked as if the Parthians would defeat Rome but Marcus shuffled generals and legions around, and sent the party boy co-emperor Lucius to take charge. Meanwhile the Antonine plague broke out, and there was unrest on the Danube border where the Goths were causing a refugee crisis. In Episode 93 The Marcomannic Wars, the tribes above the Danube, which had previously been kept weak by Rome’s divide-and-conquer strategy began joining together. The Marcomanni were just one of the tribes who began resisting Roman rule. Marcus had to take control of the legions himself, even though he was known more as philosopher than fighter. Fortunately for him the Miracle of the Lightning and then the Rain Miracle bolstered his reputation as the gods’ favourite. However, the Antonine Plague was running rampant through the legions, especially as they crossed back and forth across the empire to quell problems in the east, then back in the north and to make matters worse the Tiber flooded as well. As well, there was refugee pressure from people fleeing the Goths who were pushing down from the north.Then news came from the east of an uprising in Syria led by Avidus Cassius, a formerly loyal Senator who had been given Imperium over all of the eastern provinces of the Roman Empire. Episode 94 Revolt and Meditations looks at Cassius’ revolt against Marcus in 175 AD. This might have been a case of ‘fake news’ because, now that Lucius had died, there was no clear succession because Marcus’ son Commodus was not old enough to take over. It is suggested that Cassius had heard from Marcus’ wife Faustina that Marcus was about to die, and that he declared himself emperor to forestall any civil unrest. Or not. Mike Duncan then goes on to talk about Marcus Aurelius’ Meditations, a series of short notes to himself based on Stoic philosophy. Episode 95 The Beginning of the End takes us to Marcus Aurelius’ death and thus, the end of the Five Good Emperors. His son, Commodus (unfortunate name- it sounds like an invalid aid) was the first biological heir since Vespasian back in 79AD- all the rest of the emperors had been adopted sons. Marcus allowed Commodus to become a troop mascot, just as Caligula had been – never a good move. His father pushed him up the ladder, and became co-ruler with him (although Marcus retained ultimate authority). When Marcus died, Commodus was only 18. I’ve got a feeling that this isn’t going to end well.
Emperors of Rome Podcast. There’s a bit of an interlude with Episode LXVI – Fronto who was a senator appointed as tutor to both Marcus Aurelius and Lucius Verus, but Marcus got more benefit from Fronto’s wisdom than his brother did. He tutored them in rhetoric and oratory and remained in contact with Marcus for the rest of his life. We know about their correspondence because 200 letters were recovered in the 19th century, having been written over by a council making use of good parchment. The episode features Dr Callain Davenport (ARC DECRA Senior Research Fellow at the University of Queensland). Episode LXVII Heir and a Spare introduces the two co-emperors Marcus and Lucius. Hadrian seemed to have a bad touch choosing heirs because they tended to die, so he hedged his bets by choosing two. Marcus was from Spain, continuing the heavy influence of Spain in imperial circles. They point out that in today’s British Royal family we see a similar pattern of Very Serious Heir and Playboy Spare (think Charles and Andrew; William and Harry). Episode LXVIII – Never Underestimate the Parthians The first threat the empire encounters comes from the east, where the long-time enemy of the Romans, the Parthians, make their move. They were encouraged by Alexander, who they liken to one of the cult leaders in Monty Python’s Life of Brian holding the shoe with a crowd following him. Still, he was a popular cult leader, so it was not unusual that he was convincing. The Parthians moved on Armenia first, then Mesopotamia. Marcus sent Party Boy Lucius to the front, where he acted more as supervisor than warrior. Episode LXX – The Marcomannic Wars sees Marcus go to the front himself. There had been a long standing fear of the people from the north (Dr Rhiannon Evans prefers ‘people’ to ‘tribe’), and it was to be a long term malaise, coming to a head two centuries later. The northern people first mounted in an incursion into Roman territory, then went on to invade Italy itself and at this point Marcus himself took charge.
At this time of the year, it’s easy for we bloggers to think that we are talking to ourselves, so I’m here to let you know that you are not!
I may have said this before, but I am a great fan of Marcus Aurelius. When work was intolerably stressful, Marcus was on my bedside table, and I found his words consolatory and calming. Just recently, with good timing because C-19 makes us all anxious, a friend gave me a translation that I didn’t have, and once again I find his stoicism a useful guide to keeping a sense of perspective.
Best wishes for the festive season,
And best wishes to you too! I had heard of Marcus Auerlius, and knew about his connection to Stoicism, but very little else. These Roman podcasts are certainly emphasizing how little I know! LOL