Emperors of Rome Podcast Episode LXII – Juvenal deals with the poet Juvenal. We don’t really know much about him, but he probably wrote between 96- 127 CE. He was the last and the greatest of the Roman satirical poets. He went out of fashion, but had a bit of a comeback in the English satirical tradition when Samuel Johnson became a big fan. Roman satire was written in hexameter meter, like the epics, and in a way they were a bit of a take-off of the epic tradition. His satires were very metropolitan, with their focus on the city of Rome. Juvenal was aware of the dangers of writing about current emperors, so he saved his venom for Nero and Domitian who were safely dead. There’s always a tension in writing satire: its observations about society need to be realistic enough to be recognizable, but they also need to be clearly satirical. Episode LXIII – Women Poets. Well, so far we’ve been doing all these men poets and writers and satirists- but what about the women? We have pictures of women writing, but little actual writing done by women exists. There were two women writers called Sulpicia, although the second one may have adopted the name as a pseudonym. The first lived in Augustan times and wrote elegiac (i.e. love) poems from a woman’s point of view. The second Sulpicia was mentioned by Martial as a poet. We have lists that include women orators, but none of their work. Then there are inscriptions written by women, as in the Column of Memnon where Julia Balbilla and Caecilia Trebulla both left poetic inscriptions. Not a lot, really.
History this Week The Tragic Life of London’s Favourite Clown tells the story of Joseph Grimaldi, who gave his last performance on the 17 March 1828 at the Sadler Wells theatre. He exemplified the comic/tragic nature of the clown. His father, ‘Senor’ was a famous clown, who started his son working at the age of three. It was Joseph Grimaldi who invented the white clown make-up, the floppy clothes and the ‘drunk’ routine. But he had a tragic life: his first wife died in childbirth, his son died, and he and his second wife were so unhappy that they devised a joint suicide pact, which was unsuccessful. The guests on this episode are Andrew McConnell Stott, author of The Pantomime Life of Joseph Grimaldi: Laughter, Madness and the Story of Britain’s Greatest Comedian, and Naomi Shafer, Executive Director of Clowns Without Borders USA.
Travels Through Time A Year of Great Promise 1480 Finally the Wars of the Roses were over, the plague had abated, and 1480 dawned as a year of promise. This episode features Nicolas Orme, who is a self-described ‘mosaic’ historian, who gathers his information about phenomena hiding in plain sight. His most recent book is Tudor Children, and he starts off talking about concepts of childhood in Tudor Times. Generally, 0-7 was seen as infancy; 7-14 as childhood; 14-21 as adolescence and 28 onwards as adult- quite late really, considering the short life span. He then goes on to talk about 1480. His first scene is William Caxton’s Printing Shop where, reflecting the fall from favour of French, 80% of his books were printed in English. His second scene is Oxford, where William Waynflete is opening his new grammar school, Magdalen College School.It taught classical Latin, which was seen as a unifying language force in Europe, and was the first school to use textbooks. The third scene is Bristol. William Worcester is measuring and describing the streets of the city: the first ever historical survey of an English town. He was a retired polymath, and he returned to his childhood city of Bristol, measuring the streets in what was a forerunner of later geographical surveys. In the meantime, his sister’s nephew was leaving the port of Bristol to look for ‘Brazil’- at that time, still just a fable, in a year that was on the cusp of being the Age of the Great Explorers.
Take Me To Your Leader (ABC) I should have listened to this earlier, as by now Episode 7 Sanna Marin is about an ex-Leader, having lost the leadership in the recent Finnish elections. The episode features Laura Liswood, (Secretary General of the Council of Women World Leaders) Salla Vuorikoski, (Finnish Journalist for Helsingin Sanomat and political commentator) and Herve Lemahieu, Director of Research, Lowy Institute. I hadn’t heard of the Council of Women World Leaders, which has 89 former and present prime ministers and presidents as its members. Liswood mentions the “crumbling cliff of women’s leadership” when women are only appointed after all hope is lost, but this wasn’t the case in Finland where the requirement of 40% of all cabinet positions to be allocated to each gender means that there is an ongoing stream of potential women leaders. Nonetheless, Sanna Marin copped flack for dancing at a nightclub, and for working as a checkout worker (‘chick’) in a supermarket, in comparison with Rishi Sunak, who uses his experience of waiting in an Indian restaurant as a badge of pride. Good on Jacinda Adern for slapping down the journalist who asked if she and Sanna they met together because they were both young, instead of because they were both leaders of their country.
A History of the Inca. Episode 5 deals with Los Nasca (in Spanish) who I only knew because of the Nasca lines (and isn’t there a car race of that name too? Oh. It has an ‘R’ at the end). It’s available in English here. I’m a little tempted to listen to the English episode as well, because I’m not sure if I understood the Spanish one completely. The episode talks about their ceramics and depictions of the Anthropomorphic Being (AMB) combining elements of animals like cats and monkeys, whales and plants. There’s some exploration of the ideas put forward to explain the Nasca lines from the God-type theories, to water channels, to ritual dance (which this program seems to favour). And then there’s the trophy heads, which have a range of explanations too- literally trophies from defeated foes, or perhaps fertility ritual objects. The site has a link to a story map (in English) which has some good images and explanations.
New Books Network. I keep my eye on the Australian and New Zealand books, and this time Elizabeth Elbourne’s Empire Kinship and Violence. I had come across Elizabeth Elbourne before, and it didn’t occur to me that she was Canadian. In her book Empire Kinship and Violence she looks at three families, the the Haudenosaunee Brants of northeastern North America from the American Revolution to exile in Canada; the Bannisters, a British family of colonial administrators, whistleblowers and entrepreneurs who operated across Australia, Canada and southern Africa; and the Buxtons, a family of British abolitionists. I guess that it falls under the ‘Australian and New Zealand’ label because of her treatment of Saxe Bannister, the first Attorney-General of NSW, who clashed with Governor Darling, and who participated in a duel with newspaper editor Robert Wardell. She chooses the time frame 1770-1842 so that she can start with the American War of Independence, and end with Buxton’s unsuccessful Niger Expedition. I like her approach. The book is available as an e-book from SLV (just as well, because the book costs $170. Cambridge University Press books are exorbitant. I can only imagine that people publish with them for the prestige, because few individual readers would buy them, only libraries)
I’ve been lucky to receive a review copy of the Cambridge Companion to the Australian Novel, and although I can’t get the page to load today, it’s my recollection that they have a sliding scale of prices that give you different levels of access, depending on how much you pay.