History of Rome Episode 159 The Divine Winds. Arbogast, Theodosius and Eugenius finally confronted each other at the Battle of the Frigidus River in 394 CE. Arbogast and Eugenius’ troops wore pagan symbols (perhaps- all of the information for this is pretty dicey) but it was not a religious war- it was about power. Arbogast had taken control of the terrain, and Theodosius’ troops were restive because the Goths who made up their ranks felt that they had been used as cannon fodder. It all looked as if Theodosius was doomed until the Bora winds blew up, making it hard for Arbogast and Eugenius’ troops to fight because it was blowing directly into their faces. Eugenius was captured and executed, and Arbogast did the right thing and committed suicide, which left Theodosius the last emperor standing. He was staunchly anti-pagan, so the Altar of Victory disappeared at this time, never to reappear. However, in mid 395 Theodosius died, leaving his 16 year old son Arcadius and 11 year old son Honorius in charge. They were too young to rule in their own right, so they were being manipulated by advisors- Stilicho and Rufinis the Pretorian Prefect. How to judge Theodosius? Well, he wasn’t truly great, and as an anti-pagan, he allowed Bishop Ambrose a degree of autonomy which was to set up relations between church and state for centuries. His decision to deal with the Goths through diplomacy saved the Empire, but it had serious consequences.
Episode 160 East Vs West Rufinis was assassinated by local enemies, and Arcadius’ wife Eudoxia was becoming more powerful than her weak husband. Now the empire was divided three ways: East, West and Constantinople. Taking advantage of the power vacuum, there was a Visigoth uprising in 395, led by Alaric. Meanwhile a Berber General in North Africa, Gildo, was a supporter of Theodosius and he began withholding grain shipments. Stilicho, who was by now Honorius’ father-in-law used Gildo’s brother Mascezel to fight against him (the two brothers were enemies) Gildo committed suicide and the eunuch Eutropius, another court official, had himself declared consul. Arcadius just disappears from the scene. Really, I’m losing track of all this. Suffice to say Arcadius and Honorius are too weak as emperors, and the officials are taking advantage of it.
Episode 161 The Swamps of Ravenna. In 402 Alaric, leader of the Goths goes on the offensive and crosses the Alps unchallenged because the Western troops were engaged elsewhere. He mounted a siege of Milan, not because he thought he would succeed, but to spook Honorius. This worked, and Stilicho moved the seat of the western court from Milan to Ravenna where it was surrounded by swamps. And then the Huns and Allamani were on the move again – the Barbarians are at the gate!!
File on 4 (BBC) Ukraine: War Stories was released on 15 March 2022 and so it captures the early weeks of the war on Ukraine. The BBC has arranged for ‘ordinary people’ to record audio diaries on their phones as their cities are bombed and families torn apart. So we hear model and dancer Mari Margun in Chernihiv who starts off confidently, but becomes increasingly shattered as the bombs fall; we hear a young woman just about to give birth, crowded into the basement of a maternity hospital; we hear of a young beautician learning to fire an AK47- the only weapon she has ever held; we hear a doctor reluctant to leave the children’s hospital until all the children are taken care of, and we hear the fear of families being separated with some desperate to leave, others too frightened to leave.
New Books Network. I subscribe to several feeds on the New Books Network, and I noticed on the Australian and New Zealand section that Marilyn Lake had recorded an interview on Nov 16 2021 about her not-so-new book Progressive New World: How Settler Colonialism and Transpacific Exchange Shaped American Reform. I was rather startled that it appeared on the ‘New Books in Native American Studies’ section, with an American interviewer who seemed rather unprepared to discuss anything other than the American connections in the book. It’s one of those books that I know I should read, but probably won’t- and at $61.00 it has always been prohibitively expensive. (It is available as an e-book at SLV). This interview sums up the book pretty well, I think. She starts the interview talking about progressivism, which was embraced by both Australia and U.S. who saw themselves as ‘new’ countries (dispossession of 60,000 year old custodianship in Australia notwithstanding) with a strong political subjectivity of seeing themselves as white, pioneering men (largely) on the frontier. Exclusion was built into progressivism, and in Australia’s case it was baked into a form of state socialism and maternalism. Her book examines progressivism through particular individuals like Charles Pearson and Alfred Deakin, and the challenge that rose in both US and Australia in the early 20th century when indigenous people challenged progressivism to recognize cultural difference and the importance of the past, using the language of Woodrow Wilson’s ‘self-determination’.
Strong Songs. When I realized it was July, I wondered if there was going to be a Most Wuthering Heights Day Ever in Melbourne this year because I was interested in doing it (lack of fitness, complete inability to dance and sore knees permitting). Short answer- not on 31 July, when it seems to be held elsewhere. This started me thinking about what a complex song Wuthering Heights is, but I lack the music theory to explain why. So I turned to Kirk Hamilton’s recent episode on Wuthering Heights, which he actually recorded some time ago but has repeated because of the recent success of ‘Running Up That Hill’. It’s a very American-centric recording (he had barely heard of Kate Bush) and he had never read Wuthering Heights. Nonetheless, he gives a good breakdown of the instrumentation and musical shifts in the song, using terminology far beyond me. Actually, I’ve never been able to understand the words in Kate Bush’s song when she sang it, and when I looked at them more carefully, it’s hard to believe that it was written by an 18 year old:
Out on the wily, windy moors /We’d roll and fall in green
You had a temper like my jealousy /Too hot, too greedy
How could you leave me /When I needed to possess you?
I hated you, I loved you, too
Bad dreams in the night /They told me I was going to lose the fight
Leave behind my Wuthering, Wuthering,Wuthering Heights
Heathcliff, it’s me, I’m Cathy /I’ve come home, I’m so cold/ Let me in your window
Ooh, it gets dark, it gets lonely/ On the other side from you
I pine a lot, I find the lot/ Falls through without you
I’m coming back love, cruel Heathcliff
My one dream, my only master
Too long I roam in the night/ I’m coming back to his side to put it right
I’m coming home to Wuthering, Wuthering Wuthering Heights
Ooh, let me have it/ Let me grab your soul away
Ooh, let me have it/ Let me grab your soul away
You know it’s me, Cathy
Heathcliff, it’s me, I’m Cathy/ I’ve come home, I’m so cold /Let me in your window