I hear with my little ear: Podcasts 17-24 August 2022

History of Rome Podcast. I’m getting so close to the end that I can almost taste it! Episode 174 The Sack of Rome Part II We left off with the ascension of Petronius Maximus as emperor in 455AD. He ruled for 77 days only, and his main effect was to provoke the Vandals to sack Rome. As a way of cementing his legitimacy, he forced Eudoxia to marry him (after murdering her husband Valentinian) and wanted to marry his son off to Eudoxia’s daughter who was already betrothed to the son of the Vandal king Genseric. Genseric was not amused. On hearing that the Vandals were heading towards Rome, Petronius Maximus advised the resident of Rome to “run away!”, which they did, murdering him on the way. The Vandals sacked Rome for the second time over a period of two weeks, and although the name ‘Vandal’ has gone down in history for thoughtless destruction, perhaps it wasn’t as bad as it sounds- there is no archaeological evidence for wanton obliteration. Genseric went back to North Africa, taking Eudoxia with him. Meanwhile, the Gallo-Roman Avitus, who had been sent by Petronius Maximus to Theodoric II to get the support of the Goths, learned about Maximus’ death, and Theodoric suggested that Avitus become emperor. Theodoric might have thought that this was a good idea, but Emperor Marcian in the East wasn’t sure; Genseric started raiding again and the Italians were resentful about the ascent of the “Gallo-Roman” emperor. So Ricamer and Majorian deposed Avitus, but didn’t kill him immediately, making him Bishop of Piacenza instead, perhaps because they didn’t want Marcian to get angry, or to keep Gothic support.But then Marcian died anyway, and Avitus was killed soon after.

Episode 175 Trying to Take it All Back sees Majorian marching around trying to reassert Imperial authority over the provinces while Ricimer remained in Italy. Ricimer knew that he couldn’t become emperor in his own right because of his Germanic background so Majorian was proclaimed emperor with Ricimer behind the scenes. They wanted to “make the empire great again” and they reinstituted the navy and Majorian invaded Gaul and defeated the Goths. The Gallic nobles acquiesced when they found out that their tax debts would be waived. Majorian then turned his eyes to Spain, as a step in his broader plan of invading North Africa. But Genseric, knowing that they were coming, destroyed his own province Mauritania in a scorched-earth policy that would make an invasion difficult and infiltrated the ship-building port to destroy Majorian’s navy. The North African invasion was shelved. Ricamer and Majorian had a falling out, and Majorian was murdered on Ricimer’s orders.

Episode 176 The Quote Unquote Emperor. Well, the murder of Majorian didn’t go down well with a number of generals (especially Aegidius in Gaul and Marsellinus in Dalmatia) or the Vandal King Genseric in North Africa. Ricamer sent off old Agrippinis to his native Gaul, where he offered the Goths the region of Narbonne, which they jumped at because they had been wanting a Mediterranean port for ages. The rebel general Aegidius and Agrippinis met in battle, and Aegidius won. Meanwhile, the Vandals were still skirmishing and Genseric was starting to make Attilla-the-Hun type demands on the fortune of the Theodosian women that Genseric had taken back to North Africa with him, claiming that because he was protecting them, the fortune should go to him. After the murder of Majorian, Ricamer wanted someone pliable, so he appointed Emperor Severus, who was very weak and ended up dying anyway (possibly at Ricamer’s hand too). Ricamer took his sweet time in appointing a replacement.

Lives Less Ordinary (BBC) The Family That Went to War with a Dictatorship tells the story of Moshood Abiola, also known as MKO, a wealthy businessman who stood as presidential candidate in 1993, in the brief hiatus between military dictatorships in Nigeria. He was arrested and imprisoned for his efforts. His daughter Hafsat Abiola Costello and her mother agitated for his release, but both women paid a price, in different ways. This reminded me a bit of Gillian Slovo’s Every Secret Thing (my review here) in that politics can extol a high price from the family- and it certainly happened here.

New Books Network. Australian and New Zealand books don’t often feature in the New Books Network, so when Alastair Paton’s Of Marsupials and Men was featured, I decided to listen. I must admit that I hadn’t heard of this book, which is marketed as “the fascinating and often hilarious history of the men and women who dedicated their lives to understanding Australia’s native animals.” The author is a journalist rather than historian, and it sounds a rather breezy read, full of anecdotes. It seems to cover early attempts to draw animals, the acclimatization movement, collecting and sale of ‘exotic’ animals, and chapters on platypuses, sharks and snakes (not all of which are marsupials, the last time I looked). It sounds a pretty light read.

A narrow boat on one of Birmingham’s canals when we visited in July 2011

Archive on 4 (BBC). With the holding of the now-completed Commonwealth Games, Brum Britain looks at Birmingham, whose citizens hate being called the “second city”. It touches on the history of Birmingham, especially during the Industrial Revolution, but focuses mainly on the contribution of performers and comedians from Birmingham, including Ozzy Osbourne, Tony Hancock, Lenny Henry, and Julie Walters. Also thrown into the mix are Tolkien and Heavy Metal (Black Sabbath, Judas Priest, Led Zeppelin) to Duran Duran, UB40, and Peaky Blinders.

File on 4. Dementia: The Final Indignity. There’s no dignity in dementia, and it is exacerbated by the haste with which dementia patients are bundled into adult nappies and incontinence pants, often to make life easier for the carers who do not have the time or availability to take a frail older person to the toilet. This is particularly true when an older person is admitted to hospital. But the person behind the wish to go to the toilet is ignored, and the last shreds of dignity are often discarded. Very depressing.

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