Russia If You’re Listening (ABC) Episode 3: Why It’s So Hard to Fight When You Don’t Know Why. The episode starts with Matt Bevan reminding us that the beautiful rich soils of Ukraine turn to mud twice a year, and now that the war is extending to 9 months, the soldiers there will have experienced this phenomenon twice. In fact, they experienced it earlier than they would have because this year the muddy season came early. He tells the story of two men: one Ukrainian and the other Russian. ABC reporter Isabella Higgins met 52 year old “Dad soldier” Taris as he was enlisting in the Ukrainian army from the reserves. The Ukrainian army had been modernizing since 2014, when Russia invaded the Donbass region. The Russian army, on the other hand, was poorly trained, corrupt and poorly provisioned. The second man, Vadim, is a 21 year old Russian boy who lives five days away from Moscow who is now imprisoned for 15 years for war crimes committed when he shot a man on a bicycle. He, and his fellow soldiers, were told that they would only be in Ukraine for three days, and that their mission was to terrorize the Ukrainians and their authorities sufficiently that they would surrender.
Emperors of Rome Episode XV The Assassination of Caligula takes us further in to the strange world of Caligula. Was he mad, or was he just taking the mickey? He certainly seemed to be: he faked a battle with the Germani; sent his troops ‘over the seas’ and got them to bring back shells and seaweed, and later brought his uncle Claudius into public view after his family had kept him away, (perhaps because they were ashamed of him?) Caligula brought back the treason trials with a vengeance, and there were admittedly a lot of plots against him. He was attacked at the theatre and killed, and this time the plot went beyond the Senate to men of different ranks opposed to him. Episode XVI Claudius the Unlikely Emperor sees Caligula’s uncle step into the breach when Caligula is killed, along with his wife and baby daughter (just to make sure that there was no heir lurking around). Claudius does seem to have had some sort of physical disability and a stutter, and Dr Rhiannon Evans suggests gently that perhaps, had he been born to any other family, he might have been exposed at birth. He was a scholar, and was friends with Livy. When Caligula died, the Senate could have reasserted their authority, but they dragged their feet. Claudius didn’t subject Caligula to “Damnatio memoriae” (i.e. expunging his memory) but he didn’t pursue the assassins either. Episode XVII Claudius Conquers Britain (or as Dr Rhiannon Evans prefers, Brittania) celebrates Claudius’ big moment in returning to Brittania for the first time in 100 years. Augustus had been more concerned about stability in the empire, and there was no great hunger for the resources that Britain offered (even though the Romans were happy to take them later). At first Claudius sent Plautius over, but then he himself crossed the Channel, even though he wasn’t particularly well known as a soldier. He got his triumph in Rome after the successful invasion, but even here he showed mercy to Caratacus who led the residence, by allowing him to live in peace in Rome. Episode XVIII The Life of Claudius looks at how Claudius was received by the Romans, once he became emperor. The Senate was ambivalent: they were still a bit piqued that they weren’t consulted about who should follow Caligula. Claudius put their noses further out of joint by bringing Gauls into the Senate, and appointing freedmen (i.e. former slaves) into acting as a sort of ministry with a secretary, treasurer etc. He became involved in the law, forbidding slaveholders from killing or torturing their slaves at will, and famously allowed flatulence. His building activities mainly involved repairing shabby buildings and constructing infrastructure like the Aqua Claudia aqueduct (which still stands). He had four wives, and was criticized for liking being married too much and under his wives’ influence. He had to execute his third wife Messelina because of treason in her affair with the most handsome man in Rome Gaius Silius. He then married his niece Agrippina the younger who possibly murdered him to promote her son Nero. After his death, Claudius was deified, and his 20th century reputation was resuscitated by Robert Graves’ I Claudius.
The History Listen (ABC). Fitzroyalty- a short history of Brunswick Street. This episode looks at the transformation of Brunswick Street Fitzroy during the 1980s and 90s. As a child, I remember Brunswick Street as being rather noisy and rundown. My mum, who used to assiduously note down all the supermarket specials in the paper on a Tuesday, would go to Sims Markette which was either in Smith Street or Brunswick Street. I remember her leaving us in the car while she ‘nicked in’ for a few specials, and the smell of Weetbix or some other cereal and roasted coffee wafting in through the windows. Somehow I don’t think that parents would do that now. And as for when Brunswick Street became cool? I think I must have been off having babies and toddlers at that time and I missed it- although I met my current husband at the Fitz, and I always loved the Brunswick Street Bookstore. But I rarely go there now, because parking is just too hard and as they say in the episode, Brunswick Street is a victim of its own success, being largely just a promenade of coffee shops now.
Conversations (ABC) Niki Savva’s brutal assessment of Scott Morrison. Knowing that she used to work as Peter Costello’s press secretary, I’ve never really trusted Niki Savva, seeing her as a Liberal Party apologist. However, I’m relishing her takedown of Scott Morrison in Bulldozed: Scott Morrison’s Fall and Anthony Albanese’s Rise . As usual, Richard Fidler asks good questions and I feel as if there’s no need for me to read the book (which was probably not Savva’s intention at all!)
Nikki Savva’s book “The Road to Ruin” about how Tony Abbott and Peta Credlin ruined their own government is another of her books to relish.