History of Rome Podcast. Episode 153 Adrianople takes up with the Goths angry and their armies on the loose. Valens left a skeleton force of troops in the East after a shaky truce with Sharpoor, which allowed him to free up troops to head back west. He went to Constantinople where he received a frosty reception, and decided not to wait for Gratian to quell the Allemani but rode out by himself. The battle of Adrianople started prematurely, but the Romans were in front until an extra contingent of Goth cavalry arrived, and the Romans were defeated. Valens was killed in battle. Duncan refutes the idea that it was the horses that swayed the battle, noting that the Romans had been using the cavalry for 100 years. But certainly, it was the worst crisis that the Empire faced since the Battle of Cannae in 216 BCE (wow- that’s going back 500 years!) and it left a 19 year old and a 7 year old as emperors. Episode 154 The Gothic War. So who are you going to call in this parlous situation? Why- a successful general, that’s who. The only problems was that Theodosius Snr, who had previously been the go-to general had been executed in Africa, probably as part of the post-Valentinian political realignment. Fortunately he had a 32 year old son, also called Theodosius, who was brought back as military commander to restore order. In 379 CE Theodosius was made Augustus of the Eastern Empire. The Gothic War was at a stalemate. The fortified cities held, but the Roman army was stretched by a general manpower shortage across the Empire, exacerbated by the big landowners who kept their best workers from the reach of the army. By continuing the Gothic War, the Roman Army was on a hiding to nothing. So when Athanaric, the King of the Goths, came to Theodosius and asked asylum from the Huns, Theodosius seized the olive branch. The Goths and Romans contracted a peace treaty which allowed the Goths to live in large groups under their own internal leadership- a big change to the old policy of scattering and Romanizing the enemy. Episode 155 The New Bishop of Rome takes us back to Brittania, where Magnus Maximus, a Roman general, led a revolt against Gratian, who had never been a soldiers’ soldier. Gratian ended up being executed by Maximus’ troops after his own troops deserted him. Maximus’ way was smoothed by Ambrose, the former Consular-Prefect, who was now the Bishop of Milan, even though he had never been a priest and was more-or-less coerced into the position. Ambrose negotiated an arrangement with Theodosius I and Valentinian II whereby Maximus was recognized as Augustus in the West.
Things Fell Apart (BBC). This final episode, made in March 2022, features an interview between Jon Ronson and Louis Theroux, two documentary makers who have a similar approach to similar themes. It’s a bit of a re-hash of the whole series, and you’d probably be better off listening to the series itself rather than this rather cozy summing up.
Sydney Writers Festival. A few weeks back I posted a review to Hanya Yanagihara’s weighty tome To Paradise. I enjoyed this podcast from 22 June 2022 where she talks about the book, and her previous equally weighty tome A Little Life. And how good that the question time was dominated by women, reflecting the demographics of a writer’s festival audience.
The Ancients (History Hit) I really enjoyed the episode The Image of God, featuring Professor Francesca Stavrakopoulou, whose latest book ‘God: an Anatomy’ has been shortlisted for the Wolfson prize. She points out that the Old Testament is actually an anthology of writings from the 8th Century BCE through to the 2nd Century CE. The God we find in these writings is an anthropomorphic god, with footprints, hands and a body real enough that Moses had to go into a cave where God covered him with his hand so that Moses would only see the back of him. He was a mobile god, who could slip away from temples when they were destroyed, and his image gradually changed from a good looking, red-coloured god to an old man with a beard. I found this fascinating: I think I’ll look for the book.