History of Rome Podcast. Episode 144 The Road to Constantinople Even though he had not been brought up in the military, Julian had good success against the Germans and Franks- so much so that he was acclaimed as Augusta by his troops. But, at this stage, he declined the offer, saying that Constantius was the only Augusta. Instead of stripping the Gauls of everything in order to pay for his victory, he had the idea of cutting taxes on them, but actually collecting them, instead of allowing them to accrue debt and then write it off in a fit of debt-forgiveness. Meanwhile, over in the east, Sharpoor and the Sassanids became active again in Syria, so Constantius ordered Julian to send his troops east. But his troops didn’t want to go and Julian wasn’t prepared to force them, and this time when they urged Julian to be Augusta, he accepted, thus setting himself up for war against Constantius. Constantius was becoming increasingly paranoid after his wife (who had always championed Julian) died. Constantius was en route to engage in battle with Julian, when he died, leaving Julian as sole emperor. Once Julian arrived in Constantinople in
Episode 145 Julian the Apostate, he cleared the imperial court of his enemies, after appointing an ostensibly ‘independent’ commission. He looked back to the 100s C.E. and the Antonine dynasty as a model, cutting the bloat in the court and administration, and abandoning all that talk of “Living God” stuff. He kept control of defence and taxation but devolved power back to the local magistrates. He had always been a pagan behind the scenes, having rejected the Christianity of his upbringing, but now he embarked on re-paganizing the Empire. Despite his name, he didn’t make Christianity illegal. However, he opened up the civil service to pagans, and sacked the Christians, and announced that all religions were now seen as equal, which set the Christians against each other as now all sorts of heresies could arise. He didn’t actually ban Christian schools, but he banned the use of classical texts by Christian teachers, and Roman families who wanted their sons to get ahead withdrew them from Christian educators so that they could receive a proper education. Julian looked at the community and social support aspects of Christianity and tried to emulate it by uniting pagans into one Paganism- but that was never going to work. In Episode 146 The Spear of Destiny Constantius was dead, but Julian was determined to go to war against Sharpoor and the Sassanids. At first he was quite successful, but then he failed. The Sassanids engaged in a scorched earth policy, which led to starvation amongst Julian’s troops. However, he continued to lead, and it was while leading that he was speared (no-one knows by whom) because he rushed out without wearing his armour. He probably didn’t think that he was going to die, but after lingering a couple of days, he did- without appointing a successor. He was 31 years old, and had ruled for about 18 months. He dreamed big, and died young. Superficially, he was like Elagabalus in that he tried to reform religion, but he was more important than that. It’s one of the big ‘What Ifs’ of history- if he had ruled for longer, would Christianity ever re-established itself? Would the whole of European history changed?
The Real Story (BBC) China vs. the West in the East is interesting because it takes a European/BBC approach to the ‘Far East’ , which is of course Australia’s closest area of influence. It features Jonathan Pryke – Director of the Pacific Islands Program at the Lowy Institute, an Australian think tank; Dr George Carter – A Samoan Research Fellow in Geopolitics and Regionalism at the Department of Pacific Affairs at the Australian National University (ANU) and Judith Cefkin – Former US Ambassador to Fiji, Tonga, Tuvalu, Nauru and Kiribati. All speakers were keen to emphasize the multiplicity of languages, cultures and states within the Pacific, and the inappropriateness of China wanting to deal with them as a block. Dr Carter pointed out that there is no Pacific immigration at all into China, and that these family ties are important in relationships with Australia and New Zealand.
Things Fell Apart (BBC) Episode 7 A Secret Room behind a Fake Wall tells the story of Isaac Kappy, a film producer from Albuquerque whose career fell apart and ended up in Hollywood. Always attracted to conspiracy theories, he became engrossed in Pizzagate, and then went onto Alex Jones Infowars to claim a widespread Hollywood pedophilia network. He died by falling from a bridge, obviously troubled and probably by suicide, but his cause was taken up by QAnon and lawyer Lin Wood, one of Donald Trump’s ‘outside’ lawyers.
History Extra Podcast There have been fairly muted celebrations of the Queen’s 70th Jubilee here in Australia but I did listen to Britain’s transformation during the Queen’s Lifetime, featuring historian Dominic Sandbrook. Starting off with the Queen’s birth in 1926, he and interviewer Rhiannon Davies give us a picture of British life and politics decade by decade of the Queen’s life. There were no Roaring Twenties in Britain, where the ’20s were largely an extension of the pain of WWI. Perhaps that’s why the Depression did not figure as much in people’s consciousness as it did in US, although there were very different experiences in the North and South. WWII in the 40s was a seismic event, and Princesses Elizabeth and Margaret became patriotic icons. The 50’s -especially the second half- were marked by consumerism, brighter clothes, youth culture and full employment. Televisions and washing machines in particular changed society. The 60’s for families in the suburbs were not particularly ‘swinging’, and were more an extension of the 50s. Large-scale immigration from the Caribbean and India/Pakistan began in this decade, and it was unpopular from the start. The 1970s were marked by strikes, discontent and IRA bombings, co-existing with increasing affluence. The arrival of Thatcher during the 1980s accelerated changes which were already under way, but de-industrialization and austerity deepened social divisions. The 90s brought New Labor, and in many ways Thatcher had fought many of the battles for them. With the death of Diana, the Queen seemed to be a bit of a relic, but Brexit and the Queens neutrality about it, was good for the Royal Family. She was embraced again with her COVID speech, and I think that Paddington Bear endeared her to us further.
99% Invisible. Divining Provenance examines the looting of Syrian artefacts since the start of the Syrian War. Syria, of course, is replete with archaelogical sites, which have been looted for decades. But with the arrival of ISIS (many of whom were not Syrian), this looting and trafficking became a major source of funding. Over the last ten years, ordinary people have been doing it too. The UN introduced Provenance law in 1970, which made trade of anything uncovered since 1970 illegal, but different countries apply the law differently. Although buyers will turn themselves inside out proving authenticity (because who wants to buy a fake) but provenance is another matter, especially when goods are presented in a job lot. Facebook, where much of the selling takes place, claims to have a take-down policy, but it in effect leaves the whole question of provenance (or not) to the seller.