I hear with my little ear: Podcasts 17-24 March 2021

Emperors of Rome. At this stage, the ‘Emperors of Rome’ podcast and the ‘History of Rome’ podcast part ways. Episode CLXIX – Gallus sees Trebonianus Gallus appointed by his troops in June 251 after Decius and his son Herennius Etruscus died during a battle with the Goths. Decius’ son remaining son Hostilianus died of the Cyprian Plague, which was ravaging the Empire. (Kyle Harper has written about this plague in The Fate of Rome: Climate, Disease and the End of an Empire, which sounds quite interesting). During Gallus’ two year reign, there were uprisings East and West. Aemilian, the governor of Moesia Superior and Pannonia, defeated the Goths and was declared emperor by his troops. Somehow or other Gallus ended up dead, but Aemiliain lasted only 88 days before he was murdered by his own forces. Valerian became emperor and ruled for 15 years, ending a phase of short-lived emperors.

History of Rome. 116- Here Come the Illyrians sees the start of a string of Illyrian emperors. Some people mark this as the end of the ‘real’ Roman Empire, but Mike Duncan asserts that they saved the empire. Claudius Gothicus had no aristocratic links at all. He had been Gallienus’ trusted general. Maybe he wasn’t actually involved in the assassination of Gallienus, but he probably would have known about it. Nonetheless he exiled or executed the ringleaders to ‘prove’ his clean hands. He was worried about the East and the rise of Zenobia, but he had to deal with the Goths first. He oversaw a change in policy of treatment of defeated enemies, which allowed the Goths to settle on land, as long as they provided men for the army. Claudius also defeated uprisings in Germany, and then turned to the Vandals. An emperor’s work is never done. The future Emperor Aurelian was 2nd in charge when Claudius died of the plague in 270 AD. In Episode 117- Aurelian’s Walls, Mike Duncan raises the question: when you say that someone is ‘the greatest’ do you mean that they were the greatest at their peak, or do you look at their whole career? Duncan reckons that Aurelian was ‘peak emperor’ between 270 and 275, when he consolidated power in Italy, then went off to battle the Vandals. He employed the tactic of withdrawing all resources into a village, and then defending that village. When he defeated tribes, he insisted on a quota of soldiers, which eventuated in the Germanization of the Legions.

Despite his victory on the field, when he returned in triumph to Rome, he was faced with riots because people were unnerved by earlier defeats under Aurelian’s leadership; bread prices were high, and there was corruption over the mint. The old tactic of garrisoning the frontiers employed by Augustus and Hadrian no longer worked, because the invasions were bigger and it was the emperor (rather than a general) who was rushing around at the head of the army. Cities were vulnerable and needed their own walls, so Aurelian ordered a big wall around Rome (as the old 4th BCE wall was no longer sufficient. It was constructed rapidly, using existing buildings where possible, and using civilian rather than military labour. Nonetheless, the walls took 5 years to complete.

The Daily (New York Times) Ukraine Puts Putin’s Playbook to the Test (March 24, 2022) features NY Times journalist Carlotta Gall, who covered the Chechen conflict 30 years ago. She believes that there are real similarities between the two, so much so that when she hears Ukranian citizens vowing to remain, she wants to warn them just how dire it will become in the face of Russia’s ruthlessness. However, factors in Ukraine’s favour are: first, that it is much bigger than Chechnya with a population of 40 million as opposed to 1 million; second that it is already an independent country; third that it has Western recognition and finally that there is an adjoining country that fighters can withdraw to when the going gets too tough. But she reckons that if Putin follows the same strategy, it will get tough.

Australia If You’re Listening (ABC) Even though I’m a big Matt Bevan fan, I didn’t really particularly fancy this season about Australia’s politics of climate change. But when the first episode was inserted into the Coronacast podcast, I started listening (which just goes to show how hijacking an episode of a program can work). Episode 1 The legacy of our first decisions on climate change points out that warming of the environment through burning coal was first publicized in 1912. The tenor for Australia’s approach was set by none other than Labor minister Roz Kelly, who promised that Australia would not move faster than any other developed country – and we haven’t. The program looks at a big conference held in 1987 where, for the first time, scientists discussed climate change, then moves onto Kyoto and the significance of the ‘Australian clause’ over land-clearing. Interestingly, Roz Kelly defends Robert Hill, the Lib/NP Minister for the Environment who led Australia’s delegation to Kyoto- lauded by John Howard as a great result for Australia. Humpf.

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