I hear with my little ear: Podcasts 24-31 December 2022

Emperors of Rome. Episode XXII What an Artist Dies in Nero finishes off the Julio-Claudian empire. Dr Rhiannon Evans points out that Nero’s reign was essentially performative. Everything was theatre: he acted as if he were low-born; he acted as if he were a criminal. He constructed his Golden House, with a huge golden statue of himself inside – the Colossus of Nero (and hence the Colosseum which was erected on its site later on). The Pisoean conspiracy was revealed at this point, and from here on the generals started moving against him – a change in the nature of Roman politics. He fled Rome and ended up getting his private secretary to kill him. Although his reputation today is terrible, he was not universally reviled at the time, and for some time rumours abounded that he was still alive. But he wasn’t, and the Julio-Claudian empire came to an end. Episode XIII Romans vs. the Christians is a stand-alone episode. Reflecting the views at the time, Dr Evans refers to Christianity as a cult, pointing out that the Romans didn’t really have problems with the beliefs of cults, but they did have problems with the behaviors that sprang from those beliefs. The Christians had meetings (as distinct from the public performances of the Romans) and they refused to comply with the deification of the emperors, which led to fear of treason. So when the Christians faced punishment, it was on political grounds rather than on account of their beliefs. Tacitus has a throw-away line about Nero punishing the Christians after the fires, but there is no evidence that they ever appeared at the Colosseum. The Romans wanted to integrate the Christians, rather than punish them. Episode XXIV- Cicero is another stand-alone episode. He was born to the equestrian ranks (i.e. second rank, rich, noble) and trained in oratory. He became Consul in his own right in 63AD as the first man in his family to join the Senate. After executing the protagonists in the Cataline conspiracy without trial, he then had to convince the Senate that he acted appropriately. He was exiled for a year, but then returned. He had a love/hate relationship with Caesar, and was even offered a role with the Triumvirate (which would have made it a Quadvirate) but he refused and withdrew into writing philosophy. He was a vocal opponent to Mark Antony, who proscribed him and had him killed by a soldier. He is sometimes described as one of the Stoics, but he was more a questioner and nowadays he is more known as a statesman.

History Extra History Extra has started a series on Conspiracies (with a capital C) and it starts off with notable historian Richard J. Evans debunking the conspiracy theory that Hitler escaped to South America after WWII. Certainly, lots of other high Nazis did, but Evans is convinced by the testimony of his adherents who witnessed his body after his suicide with Eva Braun. He points out that Stalin was responsible for quite a few conspiracy theories, and probably started this one too. He reminds us that after WWII people had Napoleon in mind (who DID come back) and historian Hugh Trevor-Roper was dispatched to discover what happened in Hitler’s bunker. Evans has written The Hitler Conspiracies

Revolutions Podcast. I’ve been listening to this podcast for years and years, first listening to different Revolutions, then going back to the beginning to listen to History of Rome. It’s still on my Stitcher feed, and when I saw Final Episode- Adieu Mes Amis I just had to tune in. Yes, it’s over but wait there’s more. He’s going to co-host a conversational podcast about history books. I wonder if there’s a market for this one?

Swan Lake Ballet. Free image from Pixabay

Russia If You´re Listening (ABC) Episode 5: Has Putin finally pushed the Russian people too far? They say that intermittent punishment/reward is the most effective form of behaviour management. Putin seems to use it when faced with public dissent. Inconsistency and unpredictability is the key – and so Pussy Riot were imprisoned back in 2012, but the journalist who stepped behind the newsreader earlier this year holding a sign saying that the news was all lies was not. Despite the economic sanctions imposed by the West on Russia after the invasion of Ukraine, Putin’s popularity kept going up and up- until he conscripted ordinary Russian men. At this point, Putin’s attitude towards dissent hardened. Opposition newspapers and television programs were taken off air, choosing to view a scene of ballerinas dancing Swan Lake, a common message during Soviet times that that something’s happening. As Matt Bevin points out, historically the Imperial Family and the Soviet Union both seemed immovable, until suddenly support collapsed. With Putin’s declaration that more troops will be called up, will the same thing happen with Putin?

Lives Less Ordinary (BBC) The secrets of a slave ship in an Alabama swamp. The Clotilda was said to be the last slave ship that set off from Africa in 1860 with a consignment of enslaved people, even though the trade of slavery had officially been abolished in 1807. However, slaving continued illegally, and this last journey was largely the result of a bet. Once the 110 men women and children disembarked, the ship was burnt to remove all evidence, and the people marched through the swamp. However, the owner couldn’t help bragging about it even though he never kept the story straight about where the ship was scuttled, and the formerly enslaved people had their own stories about the burning of the ship. After emancipation, they established Africatown. Journalist Ben Raines decided to search for the wreck of the ship- and thought that he had found it – until it was ascertained that he had not. He kept looking, and….. (you’ll have to listen to it yourself).

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