History of Rome. I can’t believe it- I’m nearly at the end! Episode 162 Opening the Floodgates sees Flavius Claudius Constantinus, a Roman general who rose to power in Brittania, declaring himself Constantine III (even though he was no relation to the other Constantines), overthrowing Gratian and taking all his troops to Gaul (bad mistake) where the Barbarians were running amok. Although we talk about ‘The Barbarians’, they were not a single group, and Constantine was able to pick off some of the Barbarian leaders. Stilicho was ordered by Honorius to go after Constantine, which also diverted attention away from the Barbarian threat. Alaric, the Goth general, and his troops had been dispensed with after the death of Arbogast, although he was able to demand and receive compensation. Meanwhile, Arcadius in Constantinople died, leaving a vacancy because his son Theodosis II was too young. There were rumours that Stilicho was angling to get control of Constantinople, and Honorius believed those rumours. There was a revolt and Stilico, the Vandal, was executed – one of the last few competent leaders.
Meanwhile in Episode 163 Theodosius’ Walls we return to the eastern part of the empire. The Eastern provinces were more stable than the western ones and the truce with the Sassanids held. Arcadius and his wife Eudoxia reigned, but as a weak emperor, he was strongly influenced by the Bishop of Constantinople, John Chrysostom. John was very devout, very ascetic and very critical of Eudoxia. Eudoxia tried to get John banished, but mob unrest and an untimely earthquake meant that he was brought back. She succeeded the next time she tried to get him banished, but then she died of a pregnancy-related illness. Into the power vacuum stepped the Praetorian Prefect Anthemius. His legacy lives on in the Theodosian Walls that he constructed, comprising three layers of stone wall, each taller than the next, to repel invaders from Constantinople. Enough of the East- let’s go back to the messy West. With Stilicho dead, Olympius stepped in to the vacancy and ordered the murder of the Goths, who fled to Alaric and boosted the numbers in his army. Alaric invaded Italy (the Romans were too scared to confront them) and went straight to Rome, more as a bargaining chip to ensure his recognition within the Empire, rather than with a view to sacking Rome (at this stage). When Honorius and Olympius refused, Alaric invaded Rome again, so Honorius decided to recognize the usurper Constantine III to bolster his forces. Alaric lessened his demands but was refused again, so he went back a third time. He chose Priscus Attalus to be ’emperor’ (something not really within his power to do) and this time he really did sack Rome.
Episode 164- The Sack of Rome. So Constantine III found himself recognized as an emperor at last, but there was rebellion in Spain and Britain went its own way once Constantine left, taking all his troops with him. There was a battle between Constantine and Honorius, which Honorius won. Alaric was forced to depose his hand-picked Attalus, who was getting too big for his boots- but he’ll be back. And so we come to the sack of Rome, which was last sacked 800 years ago. It wasn’t a complete scorched-earth type sack: Alaric was a Christian, just like Honorius was, and he declared churches and the people sheltering in them off-limits for any wanton sacking. The people of Rome were plunged into despair, and many became refugees, leaving only 20,000 people in Rome by the Middle Ages. Alaric went to North Africa for grain supplies (that his ‘friend’ Attalus had been holding out on) but a storm caused him to turn back. In 410 Alaric died and his brother Ataulf took over. Meanwhile Constantius III (a general under Honorius) was appointed in 411 to take down Constantine III (really, this is getting too confusing for words). Constantine III found himself beseiged by Constantius, and he surrendered when promised that he could live. Tricked you!- they killed him anyway. This left Constantius III but new usurpers were popping up in a game of whack-a-mole, and the Goths were heading for Ravenna.
Rear Vision (ABC) Papua New Guinea’s Elections. It has been disturbing to the see the violence in PNG during their recent elections. But what a challenge- the elections take place over three weeks, there are literally hundreds of different languages, and electors vote for the ‘big man’ in their village, or people who are linked to them by locality or family. The political system is based on the Westminster system, but the elections have been becoming increasingly corrupted. There are no parties as such, united by policy priorities, but instead they have shifting coalitions of interests.
Rough Translation (NPR) Miles to Go Before I’m Me looks at female long-haul truck drivers in America. Jess Graham started truck driving with her 10 year old daughter, in order to escape an abusive domestic relationship. Eventually she kept driving, without her daughter, but found that it was a lonely job, and the tolerance and friendship towards her that her young daughter had attracted, had dissipated. Meanwhile Brandie Diamond, another long-haul driver, found the mobility made it possible for her to transition – although being ‘outed’ by another truck driver expedited her decision to live as a transsexual.
History Extra Fifteen minutes of fame: Marie Tharp. You’ve never heard of her either? Born in 1920, she was an American-born geologist and ocean cartographer, and she was the person who proposed the theories of continental drift and plate tectonics, radical ideas at the time. She was working in a male-dominated profession where her name was mysteriously omitted from jointly-written research papers. she was not allowed to go on research ships, and so she had to work on-shore analysing data collected by her colleague Bruce Heezen with whom she had a love/hate relationship professionally. She has received more recognition posthumously than she received while she was alive.
The Latin American Podcast. I haven’t listened to this podcast in ages, and when I returned to it, I found that it has been discontinued since 2021. I wonder what happened? Anyway, the The Conquest of Peru Part I starts off by pointing out that Spanish colonization depended on individuals who proposed expeditions in order to enrich themselves and then gathered the funding. They were often from the Army and had served on other expeditions before heading off on their own. This episode introduces Diego de Almagro, Hernando de Luque and of course Francisco Pizarro – who is the best known of the three. Episode 2 Westwards goes through the two previous expeditions from Panama. The first retraced the footsteps of Pascual de Andagoya who had had to abandon his expedition from Panama after falling into a river and becoming seriously ill. This expedition sailed down the coast of Colombia, but had to be abandoned because they ran out of supplies. His second expedition also went south, where Pizarro met a tribe that had been conquered by the Incas. His expedition was thwarted by the new Governor of Panama so Pizzaro went back to the King, who gave him six months to raise the manpower he needed. He had to inveigle his two brothers into the group of 180 who sailed off, not strictly within his charter. Almagro and de Luque, who were waiting back in Panama, distrusted Pizzaro, suspecting him for having presented himself as the leader and downplaying their role. (Which he probably did)