Category Archives: Podcasts 2021

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

The Ancients (History Hit) Well, it’s heading up to Christmas, so how about a podcast about King Herod? This episode features Holy Land archaeologist Dr Jodi Magness who, as you might expect, takes a rather archaeological approach. However, there’s not much in written sources to go on anyway- just that mention in Matthew alone (not the other gospels) and Josephus, who was born thirty years after Herod died. Herod was half-Jewish through his father (not his mother) and his family had been forcibly converted. There is no evidence that the Massacre of the Innocents ever occurred and it is not recorded elsewhere, although Herod was ruthless with his brothers-in-law and sons and executed them for fear that they would challenge him. He was a great builder in the Roman tradition. He built Caesarea (where they found a whole lot of artefacts recently) and built his own mausoleum at Herodium. It was uncovered in 2007 Israeli archaeologist Ehud Netzer, who had been working on the site for forty years, although there is now doubt whether Herod himself is buried there. (Actually, I read elsewhere that this excavation is contested by the Palestinian National Authority). Herod tried by bolster his Jewish legitimacy by rebuilding the Temple, and by placing Herodium close to Bethlehem, in the hope that he could share some of King David’s glory.

Democracy Sausage In this final episode for 2021, The second (and possibly last) Annual Democracy Sausage Awards Mark Kenny is joined by historians Frank Bongiorno and Chris Wallace, and fellow ANU researcher Marija Taflaga. The episode is not a very good demonstration of democracy at work, because Mark Kenny seems to have kept the agenda a secret, and everyone is too easily swayed by everyone else so that they reach a rather predictable consensus. They discuss the biggest backflip (Morrison on EVs), the most effective political leader (Matt Canavan), the maddest thing in Trump’s America (6th January attack on the Capitol) and the most hopeful development (the rise of Independents).

History of Rome Episode 97 The Fall of Hercules. What’s Hercules doing here? you may wonder. Well, it was just one of the delusions of grandeur that Commodus indulged in, and he ordered statues of himself to be made decked out in a lion’s skin, carrying a club. There were two assassination attempts against Commodus and finally the second one was successful, carried out in his bath by his wrestling partner Narcissus after his lover’s attempt to poison him failed. Mike Duncan goes into more detail about Commodus’ predilection for gladiatorial contest – something really low-class and particularly bloodthirsty when he was involved, not against fellow gladiators (whose surrender he accepted) but against exotic animals and disabled people. And so just as Nero wrecked the Julio-Claudian dynasty; Domitian wrecked the Flavian dynasty; and now Commodus drove the Antonine dynasty straight into the wall.

Emperors of Rome Episode LXXVII Such was the End of Commodus reinforces the almost inevitability of Commodus’ assassination what with the ongoing perverse bloodbath in the colloseum and endless purges of the senate. No wonder they got him in the end, and that was the end of the Antonines.

This is the last of Dr Rhiannon Evans’ podcasts on the Emperors chronologically, because the series is moving chronologically out of her area of expertise. So she’s handing the Emperor part over to Dr Caillan Davenport from Macquarie University, while she goes back with some social history.

So, faced with a little hiatus, I backtracked to listen to Episode CLIII – Livia (with Sian Phillips) because I’m just about finished watching I, Claudius. This is a reply of episode XXV (from 2016), followed by an all new interview with Sian Phillips who played Livia in The BBC’s ‘I Claudius’ in 1976. Dr Evans is quite fond of Livia, despite the calumnies that the author of I, Claudius mounts against her. It was interesting to hear Sian Phillips speak of I, Claudius as “a play”. The episodes were filmed consecutively, each taking about 3 weeks.

Then all of a sudden I found myself in a series about the Empresses of Rome. I thought that I´d follow it through until I catch up with whoever comes after Commodus. I backtracked a bit to Episode CLII The Roman Empress where Dr Rhiannon Evans spoke generally about the role of the Empress in the Roman Empire. Basically, if her husband had a failed reign, then she would be blamed. Women were more attached to their father’s family than their husbands, and so they would be pushing their own family’s interests. Their most important qualities were chastity, fidelity, fecundity and being dutiful. Divorce was very easy.

Which leads of course to Messelina, who according to Tacitus, Pliny and Juvenal (and hence Robert Graves in I, Claudius) was neither chaste, loyal nor dutiful. In Episode CLIV – Messalina Dr Evans notes that all the sources are hostile, and she doesn’t really believe that Messelina did everything she was accused of. However, even if the facts are exaggerated, it is obviously code for highly inappropriate behaviour. Sex workers were the lowest of the low, and for Messelina to want to be a sex worker would be incomprehensible (and if you have seen I, Claudius, the number of men is 25). And Robert Graves, as Dr Evans points out, wanted to rehabilitate the reputation of Claudius, and what better way than to traduce Messelina.

Agrippina gets two episodes, featuring Dr Emma Southon (Historian and author of Agrippina: Empress, Exile, Hustler, Whore).Episode CLV – Agrippina, Wife of Claudius points out that Agrippina was linked to four emperors: she was Augustus’ grand-daughter, Germanicus’ daughter, Claudius’ wife and Nero’s mother. Dr Southon has a fairly negative view of Claudius, arguing that Agrippina was a strong leader in her own right, fierce in her protection of her family, and it was she who made Claudius look good. This all fell apart in Episode CLVI – Agrippina, Mother of Nero when Nero ascended to power after the death of Claudius, in which Dr Southon accepts Agrippina played an active part. Her first mistake was to bring back the philosopher and advisor Seneca, who rewarded her patronage by advising Nero to sideline her. Nero knew that Agrippina was popular, so he couldn’t just kill her off. So it had to look like an accident: her roof fell in, the boat she was travelling in collapsed and when all else failed he accused her of treason and she ended up stabbed. Interestingly, Agrippina actually wrote her own autobiography (so Claudius wasn’t the only family historian) but only two segments remain. Overall, Dr Southon sees Agrippina as an agent of stability, and argues that Claudius wouldn’t have lasted as long as he did without her.

Domitia was princess of the Julio-Claudians, and ended up married to the tyrant Domitian. Episode CLVII – Domitia features Dr Trudie Fraser (Honorary Fellow, School of Historical and Philosophical Studies, University of Melbourne). It’s a hard act to follow Messelina and Agrippina, and Domitia mainly kept her head down, after having experienced many purges and deaths. Dr Fraser rejects the hypothesis that Domitia was involved in Domitian’s assassination, arguing that it would have been too dangerous for her. The written sources are largely silent about her, and we are reliant on coins and portraits. Nonetheless, these show us the way that the Emperor wanted the Empress to be portrayed, which is an interesting perspective.

Twenty Thousand Hertz. The Gift is an old 2017 episode from Twenty Thousand Hertz that was featured by this week’s ‘History This Week’. Now- pay attention because you’ll need this one day in a trivia quiz- “The horse eats no cucumber salad”. These were reportedly the first words transmitted through electronic reproduction by Johann Philipp Reis in 1861 some thirteen years before Alexander Graham Bell’s invention. On Christmas Eve 1906 morse code operators were warned to get ready to take a message, and over the airwaves came the sound of ‘O Holy Night’ through Reginald Fessenden’s work on radio broadcasting. But the emphasis of this program is on Amar Bose – yes, he of the Bose speakers- whose father emigrated to America from India, and who worked at MIT on a range of sound technologies. He was frustrated by the business practice of buying up (but not using) patents and the short-termism of many companies. So he developed his own company and gifted it to MIT so that it can maintain its emphasis on research and development. This podcast is supported by Bose, and despite the presenter’s claims to the contrary, it does come over as one long advertisement for Bose but it’s still a good story.

Travels Through Time In this episode, Journey into Deep London: Tom Chivers 62AD author Tom Chivers, who wrote London Clay: Journeys in the Deep City takes a psycho-geological approach to London (which has been studied many,many times before). He chooses 62 AD as ‘his’ year, but it’s all a bit arbitrary because his book is far more about geology, and its effect on development, rather than human actions in recorded history. His three episodes were: a walk along the river Walbrook; a walk through the marshy wetlands of the “Westminster Delta” and the burial and later discovery of Harper Road Woman, a Romano-Brit whose skeleton was dug up in Southwark. I live on the other side of the world, so I was not familiar with many of the places he talks about, but a Londoner would really enjoy this, I think.

Sweet Bobby. The Guardian chose this as their top podcast for 2021. Sweet Bobby is a six-part true crime podcast about Kirat, a successful marketer and DJ who embarks on a relationship with Bobby, the brother of a former boyfriend of a cousin. Within the London Sikh community, everyone knows everyone and she has a tumultuous relationship with Bobby, only to find that she is the victim of a ‘catfishing’ scam. This was very drawn out- I could have read it much faster- but it was good for listening while on a very l-o-n-g trip to the Mornington Peninsula by public transport.

I hear with my little ear: 16-23 December 2021

Delacroix Massacre at Chios

History Extra Podcast This year was the bicentenary of the 1821 Greek War of Independence, or as Historian Mark Mazower prefers to call it,The Greek Revolution. In the episode Triumph against the odds: the 1821 Greek Revolution, he counts it as a ‘revolution’ alongside the American, French and Napoleonic revolutions which occurred not that much before. He sees the path to revolution more as a chain of events rather than adopting Marxist or nationalistic explanations. It was a bad time to have a revolution, because the European powers had come to a consensus that there would be no more revolutions after Napoleon. It was public opinion, often based on the enthusiasm for Classical Greece among Romantics and intellectuals, that led to the European powers finally becoming involved. It started in Romania, not Greece, against an Ottoman empire that was having trouble, having extended itself too far into Europe. In many ways, the changes that it prompted in the Ottoman Empire were as important as the territory gained by the Greek state. The 150th anniversary was claimed by the military junta in power in 1971, which took a bit of a shine off it. This 200th anniversary was affected by COVID, and has taken the form more of art exhibitions and conference rather than a display of strength.

The Real Story (BBC) Just to add to my unease about the emergence of right-wing populist politics world-wide here’s What’s going wrong with the Balkans? featuring Alida Vračić Co-founder and head of the Bosnia-based thinktank Populari; Ivan Vejvoda – Head of the Europe’s Future programme at the Vienna-based academic institution The Institute for Human Sciences (IWM); and Charles Kupchan Formerly Director for European Affairs on Bill Clinton’s National Security Council, Senior Director for European Affairs during the Obama administration – now a Senior Fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations and Professor of International Affairs at Georgetown University. The rise of Serb nationalism, with its downplaying of massacres on the grounds that ‘other sides did it too’ and the linking of support from other right-wing populists, is chilling.

Stuff the British Stole (BBC) In 1977 five-year old Graziella Ortiz-Patino was kidnapped in Geneva. Her Mafia-linked abductors demanded a $2 million dollar ransom, which her wealthy art-collector father paid. To do so, he had to sell objects from his collection, including the Montunui epa, five intricately carved wooden panels that had briefly appeared, then disappeared, in the early 1970s. This episode The Abductions explores this dual abduction of the epa and a little girl – although this time there is a happy ending.

The Emperors of Rome Well, Marcus Aurelius has shuffled off this mortal coil, so I’ll listen to my two ‘Rome’ podcasts in tandem. Episode LXXII – On Behalf of the State deals with the uprising by Cassius, a formerly loyal governor in Syria. Was Marcus’ wife Faustina in on it? Probably not, thinks Dr Rhiannon Evans, who sees it more as a matter of fake news. Certainly not, thought Marcus Aurelius himself, who wouldn’t hear a word against her. But Cassius was killed by his own troops, riding out to meet with Marcus Aurelius who wanted to talk with him. And soon Marcus Aurelius really was dead. Which brings us to Commodus. Episode LXXIII – From a Kingdom of Gold sees the 19 year old Commodus become emperor, as Marcus Aurelius had wanted. After all, he’d been pushing him up the ladder of success all along, making him a consul at just 15. Why? Dr Evan’s suggests that Dio, a major source, is making a bigger argument about blood not necessarily being the best qualification for leadership (Dio champions the 5 good emperors, none of whom were direct heirs). Nonetheless, it would be a really big thing to pass over your own son in the line of succession. Marcus Aurelius was said to have died not from his disease (which was probably the plague) but at his doctors’ hands. In judging his significance, Dr Evans notes that he satisfied the Senators, didn’t alienate anyone and that he did as well as he could. (I think he’s a bit better than this lukewarm praise. You’ve got to love a leader who THINKS, don’t you?) Episode LXXIV – Iron and Rust deals with his 12 year reign. Edward Gibbons in The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire starts off the decline with Commodus, arguing that immorality and the loss of power are linked. Dr Evans sees it as bad leadership and what has been left to him. Commodus mixed up the public and the private e.g. he put his freedman lover Saoterus into his rather prematurely granted triumph. The first assassination attempt on his life came after just two years, where the assassin stuffed up by theatrically declaring “Here’s the dagger the Senate sends you” before stabbing him and getting himself arrested. Episode LXXV – Flying Too Close to the Sun looks at the fate of Commodus’ right hand men who ran the empire while he was off indulging his desires. Saoterus withdrew ended up getting killed after the assassination attempt. Perennis, a Praetorian Prefect took over, and was not incompetent but when British troops decided to choose their own emperor, Perennis ended up being put to death on the accusation, led by Cleander that he was plotting against Commodus. Cleander was a freed man, which the Senators hated, and after getting rid of Perennis, he took power, selling positions to the highest bidder (another no-no as far as Edward Gibbons is concerned. Commodus was becoming increasingly paranoid, and there was daily, if not hourly, turnaround of the people he trusted. He was also a populist, and when the people protested against food shortages, they set up children to begin chanting against Cleander, then the adults took up the cry – and so Commodus got rid of him too. Episode LXXVI – It’s Good to be the King looks at the sources, which are unanimously against Commodus. That might be expected, but we have coins and statues to back up their claims of his meglomania. He wanted everything named after him- the months, even Rome itself! But he slummed it too, which was unforgivable, by becoming a gladiator, something that Dr Evans likens to Queen Elizabeth going on Big Brother. He killed lots of animals- hippos, elephants-, modelled himself on Hercules, and was downright intimidating.

The History of Rome Podcast Episode 96 The Most Aptly Named Emperor introduces the 19 year old Commodus, the first direct heir emperor in a long time- he was ‘born to the purple’. He was likened by his enemies as Nero and Caligula combined, but the general population liked him, because he gave them games. He was quick to withdraw troops from the Danube, thus securing the support of the soldiers. However, Commodus’ reign marked the end of the line for the Senate. When his sister Lucille unsuccessfully conspired against him in 182, the cycle of purge and proscription against wealth senators recommenced. However, Commodus chose well in his right hand man Perennis, who was pretty competent.

Boyer Lectures (ABC) Episode 4 Imaginary Forces starts off by considering the importance of reading and listening in the past, compared with today where visual is king. Shakespeare’s audiences generally came long prepared to listen rather than watch. His characters often announce where they are, and Shakespeare puts in their words vivid descriptions of what the audience is to imagine. He also conveys the emotional timbre of the play through light and dark (his comedies take place during the day where his tragedies take place at night) and through climate (Romeo and Juliet is set in hot Verona, Macbeth in on a blasted heath, the final scene of Lear is in a storm). I think that I liked this episode best out of the four, but can I confess to being just a bit disappointed in the whole series?

I hear with my little ear: Podcasts 8-15 December 2021

Democracy Sausage (ANU) Lying with a Smile takes us over to the UK with Elizabeth Ames, Board Director of the Britain-Australia Society, and Chair of the Menzies Australia Institute at King’s College London, to talk about Boris Johnson. How does anyone support this clown? Sleaze, lies, bombast and a complete failure to take responsibility for anything.


The Philosopher’s Zone (ABC) I don’t very often listen to this program but, knowing my newly-aroused interest in translation, my husband suggested that I listen to Yan Fu: China meets Western liberalism. Yan Fu was a late 19th century naval officer and writer who was fascinated with Western philosophy. His translations of works by Thomas Huxley, Adam Smith, John Stuart Mill and others were celebrated successes in China. However, in making these texts comprehensible to a Confucian culture, he has been accused of mistranslation – e.g. Huxley’s ‘Ethics of Evolution’ became translated as ‘Heaven’s Progress’. Still, he was hugely influential- in fact, Mao Tse-tung read his works in Yan Fu’s translation. At the end of his life, he eschewed Western liberalism and returned to Confucianism. I wonder what he would make of China today?

Women, the alt-right and the liberal centre is an episode from 1st August 2021. The promotion for this episode is “Why do women join white nationalist and other far-right movements?”. I’ve wondered that too. This episode features Louise Richardson-Self, lecturer in Philosophy and Gender Studies from the University of Tasmania, and Tracy Llanera, Research Fellow, Institute for Ethics and Society, University of Notre Dame. Neither of them have any time for the Alt-right at all. One of them has based her study on reading the comments on The Australian’s website, particularly the resistance to the idea of quotas in political representation.

History of Rome Podcast Episode 91- Marcus and Lucius and the Parthians. Antoninus favoured Marcus as his successor and gave him good opportunities to develop his bureaucratic skills, but because Antoninus didn’t go anywhere, neither did Marcus. He was attracted to Stoic philosophies, and when Antoninus died, it was Marcus who insisted that the terms of the will be complied with and that Lucius co-govern with him. Perhaps this way from a sense of duty, or perhaps because he realized that the empire was becoming too big for one man. Almost immediately war with the Parthians broke out. At this point, Mike Duncan backtracks to explain who the Parthians were i.e. they were one of the tribes that took over the Persian empire, which was very dependent on the Silk Road for its economic strength. As soon as Vologases IV of Parthia realized that there were two militarily inexperienced emperors in charge, the Parthians went to war. Episode 92 The Parthian War Severanius, the Governor of Cappadocia in Albania, on the front line was convinced by the prophet Alexander of Abonoteichus (whose Glycon cult was then as popular as the Christian cult) that he would have a stunning victory so he launched an attack against the Parthians, but he was defeated. It looked as if the Parthians would defeat Rome but Marcus shuffled generals and legions around, and sent the party boy co-emperor Lucius to take charge. Meanwhile the Antonine plague broke out, and there was unrest on the Danube border where the Goths were causing a refugee crisis. In Episode 93 The Marcomannic Wars, the tribes above the Danube, which had previously been kept weak by Rome’s divide-and-conquer strategy began joining together. The Marcomanni were just one of the tribes who began resisting Roman rule. Marcus had to take control of the legions himself, even though he was known more as philosopher than fighter. Fortunately for him the Miracle of the Lightning and then the Rain Miracle bolstered his reputation as the gods’ favourite. However, the Antonine Plague was running rampant through the legions, especially as they crossed back and forth across the empire to quell problems in the east, then back in the north and to make matters worse the Tiber flooded as well. As well, there was refugee pressure from people fleeing the Goths who were pushing down from the north.Then news came from the east of an uprising in Syria led by Avidus Cassius, a formerly loyal Senator who had been given Imperium over all of the eastern provinces of the Roman Empire. Episode 94 Revolt and Meditations looks at Cassius’ revolt against Marcus in 175 AD. This might have been a case of ‘fake news’ because, now that Lucius had died, there was no clear succession because Marcus’ son Commodus was not old enough to take over. It is suggested that Cassius had heard from Marcus’ wife Faustina that Marcus was about to die, and that he declared himself emperor to forestall any civil unrest. Or not. Mike Duncan then goes on to talk about Marcus Aurelius’ Meditations, a series of short notes to himself based on Stoic philosophy. Episode 95 The Beginning of the End takes us to Marcus Aurelius’ death and thus, the end of the Five Good Emperors. His son, Commodus (unfortunate name- it sounds like an invalid aid) was the first biological heir since Vespasian back in 79AD- all the rest of the emperors had been adopted sons. Marcus allowed Commodus to become a troop mascot, just as Caligula had been – never a good move. His father pushed him up the ladder, and became co-ruler with him (although Marcus retained ultimate authority). When Marcus died, Commodus was only 18. I’ve got a feeling that this isn’t going to end well.

Emperors of Rome Podcast. There’s a bit of an interlude with Episode LXVI – Fronto who was a senator appointed as tutor to both Marcus Aurelius and Lucius Verus, but Marcus got more benefit from Fronto’s wisdom than his brother did. He tutored them in rhetoric and oratory and remained in contact with Marcus for the rest of his life. We know about their correspondence because 200 letters were recovered in the 19th century, having been written over by a council making use of good parchment. The episode features Dr Callain Davenport (ARC DECRA Senior Research Fellow at the University of Queensland). Episode LXVII Heir and a Spare introduces the two co-emperors Marcus and Lucius. Hadrian seemed to have a bad touch choosing heirs because they tended to die, so he hedged his bets by choosing two. Marcus was from Spain, continuing the heavy influence of Spain in imperial circles. They point out that in today’s British Royal family we see a similar pattern of Very Serious Heir and Playboy Spare (think Charles and Andrew; William and Harry). Episode LXVIII – Never Underestimate the Parthians The first threat the empire encounters comes from the east, where the long-time enemy of the Romans, the Parthians, make their move. They were encouraged by Alexander, who they liken to one of the cult leaders in Monty Python’s Life of Brian holding the shoe with a crowd following him. Still, he was a popular cult leader, so it was not unusual that he was convincing. The Parthians moved on Armenia first, then Mesopotamia. Marcus sent Party Boy Lucius to the front, where he acted more as supervisor than warrior. Episode LXX – The Marcomannic Wars sees Marcus go to the front himself. There had been a long standing fear of the people from the north (Dr Rhiannon Evans prefers ‘people’ to ‘tribe’), and it was to be a long term malaise, coming to a head two centuries later. The northern people first mounted in an incursion into Roman territory, then went on to invade Italy itself and at this point Marcus himself took charge.

I hear with my little ear: Podcasts 1-7 December 2021

Emperors of Rome. I’m really enjoying this Australian podcast, with the interplay between the presenters, Dr Rhiannon Evans (from my very own La Trobe University) and Matt Smith. So I’m five years behind- doesn’t matter. Episode LII Hadrian the Little Greek goes through Trajan’s search for a successor. His wife was pushing for Hadrian, but Trajan wasn’t completely won over and made sure that Hadrian went through the usual career path (military, governor etc). As usual, Dr Rhiannon Evans is very concerned with sources, noting that with Hadrian we actually have a biography (however biassed) to draw on. Episode LIII Rome Welcomes Hadrian sees him take over power, although he got off to a bad start by having four prominent senators assassinated. Not a good start. He pulls back troops from Parthia, which doesn’t go down well either. Episode LIV There and Back Again (An Emperor’s Tale) sees Hadrian taking the scenic route of about four years to tour his empire, planting cities and planning building projects. While withdrawing troops into defensible areas, he fortified the walls to the north (Hadrian’s Wall) and south (in Africa). These walls were part of the cultural declaration of Roman power, and they made a finite line on a map as well as keeping the Army busy as peacekeepers. He finally finished off the Temple of Olympian Zeus, 638 years after it was started. Did I mention that Hadrian really liked Greece?

Temple of Olympian Zeus- Wikimedia

Episode LV What Hadrian Loves Best looks at the three things he loved most. First, building big buildings. He built the Temple of Venus and Roma in Rome itself (thus bringing together his love of Greek and Roman ideas) on the last bit of land remaining from Nero’s Golden Palace, and he rebuilt the Pantheon for the third time (it had burnt down twice). He didn’t tend to put his own name on buildings. His second love- well, maybe- was his wife Vabia Sabina, although it didn’t seem to be a particularly happy marriage. His third love was his young lover Antinous, who died in controversial circumstances although no-one seems to think that Hadrian was behind it. Some say it was form of self-sacrifice. Anyway, how he died is not that important, but Hadrian’s action in deifying him afterwards is, especially as it was the first time that someone outside the imperial family was deified, and very quickly. Episode LVI May His Bones Rot deals with Hadrian’s treatment of Judea and Jerusalem. Titus had wrecked Jerusalem, and Trajan was struggling to put down a Judean Revolt. He had to deal decisively with Judea. He sacked it, rebuilt it as a Roman City, forbade Jews from entering it and banned circumcision. No wonder Simon Bar Kokhbar rose up as a messianic leader (something that the Christians weren’t keen on) and a guerilla fighter. It was a bloody 3.5 year war, even for the Romans, and the market was flooded with Jewish slaves. Just as with the Daicians, they were completely dispossessed, but the Jews managed to keep their culture intact. Episode LVII Little Soul, Little Wanderer, Little Charmer brings Hadrian’s life to a tetchy close. He executed Apollodoris, the architect (who had mocked Hadrian, long before he was emperor, as the designer of ‘pumpkins’, given his penchant for domes) as well as Fuscus and Servianas. He took a long time to die.

Then, because History of Rome podcast has moved onto Antoninus Pius, I thought I’d catch him on Emperors of Rome as Well. In Episode LXV Anoninus Pius they deal with him in one episode (think, twenty two years of power for one measly episode). Still, he only became emperor in 138CE as a means of keeping the empire safe until Marcus Aurelius and Lucius Verus came of age.

Things the British Stole (ABC) This episode The Headhunters discusses the trade in decapitated, dried, and tattooed Māori heads that has led to their presence in museums across the world. The British, prompted by Joseph Banks, were an insatiable market for these ‘curiosities’, which were often obtained by other Maori tribes and exchanged for weapons. Meanwhile Ta moko facial tattoos, once synonymous with Maori urban gangs, are now becoming popular again as a sign of cultural identity. As with Australian indigenous artefacts and human remains, there is now an indigenous-led movement to get the objects and remains repatriated home.

Boyer Lectures 2021 (ABC) Soul of the Age- Shakespeare’s Women Of course, women were not allowed to act on the stage in Shakespeare’s time, so all the parts written for women were done so with a male actor in mind. He goes through the different types of women in Shakespeare’s work- comedic characters, gender-bender confusions, women showing up the men in wisdom and empathy, women ‘unsexing’ themselves to become like men. He considers Cleopatra to be the best female Shakespearean character. It’s a shame he spoiled it by drawing an unduly long bow at the end of his talk to linking Shakespeare’s women to “issues of domestic violence, predatory male behaviour in the workplace, be it on the factory floor or in Parliament House. It forces us to confront the issues of equal pay, equal opportunity and redefining of male/female roles in our society.”

The History of Rome Podcast Episode 85- Antoninus the Dutiful. At least Hadrian had worked out the succession before he died, and Antoninus was embraced by the Senate as being a Senator’s Senator. This is generally seen as the “Golden Age” of the Roman Empire, because it was stable, although in many ways Antoninus just kicked the can further down the road. He was 51 years old when he came to power and lived and thus ruled for much longer than people thought he would. He was called Antoninus Pius either because he lobbied hard for Hadrian to be deified (because it reflected on his own legitimacy) OR because he stopped persecuting individual senators. Either way, he didn’t travel around like Hadrian did and was an Italian homebody. Despite skirmishes on the borders (e.g. he had to build a second wall further north in Scotland called the Antonine Wall), there was no big war and continuity was valued. In Episode 86 Wealth and Class, he draws breath at last to compare life in Second Century Rome with late republican Rome (he last did this in Episode 28, so it has been a while). There was real inequality, with the wealth of the emperors increasing with expansion. Society was divided between slaves, freedmen, and free citizens of every economic class. Despite the influx of Jewish slaves after Hadrian razed Jerusalem, there was a low birth rate among the slaves, and it was a sign of status that you could afford to manumit your slaves. Freedmen remained in a client relationship with their former owners. Free farming families were pushed to the cities by large slave-owning families, although many peasants stayed in their birth place. The poor urban masses were provided with grain and games, but the lower middle class had to scape by. Actually, it all sounds a bit grim really. Episode 87- Thinking and Feeling goes through the pretty soul-destroying education system in the Second Century, where fathers no longer educated their sons but instead outsourced it first to educated Greek slaves, and then to schools. At primary level both girls and boys were drilled in the 3Rs, while secondary school concentrated on grammar and then rhetoric. It was all so stultifying that no wonder they looked to philosophy and religion for meaning. The Romans had always been polytheistic, and now Eastern mystical religions were added to the mix. Christianity was one of these cults (and lots of American Christians are taking offence in Mike Duncan’s comments feed about Christianity being called a cult). Christianity was particularly problematic because it insisted on just one god, and attracted the underclass, who were the majority. Philosophy attracted the higher, leisured classes, in particular the Stoics (where reason overcame emotion) and the Epicureans (who believed that if something caused you pain, you should stop doing it). Both philosophies led to peaceful citizens, but they were derided at the time. Episode 88- A Day in the Life is about everyday life in Rome, which is more or less why I started listening to this podcast in the first place. A Roman day went from sunrise to sunset, because there was no street lighting and the streets were dangerous and full of delivery vans at night. So all that sitting around in the bath-house and lounging over a meal took place during the day. Episode 89 Provincial Matters takes us on a whirlwind tour of the Antonine empire, following Hadrian’s route previously. There were more or less 42 provinces, which were either Senatorial or Imperial Provinces (i.e. under the direct control of the emperor, with legions stationed there). I really enjoyed this, although it would have been better if I had the map (on his webpage) with me while I was listening.

I hear with my little ear: Podcasts 24-30 November 2021

Wikimedia Commons

History of Rome Podcast Episode 81 The Greekling introduces us to Trajan’s younger cousin, Hadrian. He had been adopted by and brought up in Trajan’s house after his father died when Hadrian was 10. Even though Trajan didn’t push him forward as a successor, Trajan’s wife Pompeia Plotina was very ambitious for him and may have even manipulated the news of Trajan’s death to present his accession as a fait accompli. He was Governor of Syria when Trajan died, and he immediately ordered the withdrawal of troops from the recently acquired territory in the east- a very unpopular decision. But this ‘highly aggressive defence’ of the empire by withdrawing from contested and unruly territories marked his rein, and really annoyed the Senate who took pride in ‘Big Empire’. Episode 82 Hadrian’s Walls – The Romans had a god called Terminus, the god who protected boundary markers, and Hadrian today is best known for his boundaries- especially Hadrian’s wall (which was originally white-washed with a very different appearance to today) and also in North Africa, although in both cases the walls were as much for population control as anything else.. Hadrian’s reign started off with him putting down the Second Judean War, where the rather anti-semitic sources depict the Jews as being the main aggressors. After putting it down and securing Judea, he decided to reign in the Eastern boundaries and even made a settlement with the Parthians- a very unpopular policy given that the Empire had reached its widest extent under Trajan. He got off to a bad start with the senate with a string of assassinations of four ex-consuls who were accused of conspiracy against him, and the senators feared a second Domitian. However, he worked hard to appease the senate, and instituted popular acts like debt forgiveness and lots of games to win over the populace. Unlike Trajan, he micromanaged the provinces, spending a lot of his reign travelling around checking on his governors. Episode 83 May His Bones Be Crushed deals with Hadrian’s homosexuality. In many ways Hadrian was not a “roman” Roman. He loved Greek culture, he was Spanish, and he had a beard. Two things that were immediately dispensed with on his death were: 1 the amalgamation of the 17 provinces into just 4, making Rome just another province 2. The Pan-Hellenic League, a project to support the Greek city states coming together to make a powerful state. He fell in love with Antinous, a young boy (14?), who became his constant companion. But Antinous drowned in Egypt, and the grieving Hadrian deified him (which really annoyed the Senate) and started a cult of Antinous which almost rivalled the cult of Jesus. In 132 there was the second Jewish-Roman war led by Simon bar Kokhba, who claimed the independence of Judea. Hadrian crushed the revolt, in an act of cultural genocide, burning the Torah, banning circumcision and renaming it Syria Palaestina. Every time his name was mentioned, Jewish people would add “May his bones be crushed”. Episode 84 Longing for Death sees off Hadrian, dying of congestive heart failure. He had been obsessed with security and peace during his reign, and now he had to choose a successor. He overlooked his great-nephew Fuscus, fearing that he would be another Nero. He really wanted Marcus Aurelius, but he was too young. So he chose sickly, nondescript Lucius instead who died before Hadrian did. Then he chose the fairly unambitious Antoninus Pius, on condition that he adopt Marcus Aurelius and Lucius Verus. He did indeed long for death, and died aged 62, after ruling for 21 years.

Democracy Sausage with Mark Kenny. Lies, damned lies, and election campaigns addresses the question of civility, cynicism and truthfulness in politics. With a very good panel of Judith Brett (emeritus professor La Trobe University), Bernard Keene (Crikey) and regular podleague Dr Marija Taflaga, they come to the conclusion that things went downhill with Tony Abbott, both as opposition leader and then Prime Minister. An interesting episode.

Stuff the British Stole (ABC) It’s a living thing this time, but it was stolen anyway. Best.Named.Dog.Ever. is about the Pekingese owned by Queen Victoria, who was given a dog stolen as part of the sacking of the Old Summer Palace in Beijing in retaliation for the imprisonment and torture of diplomats in the wake of the Second Opium War in 1860. Check out the Old Summer Palace – it’s incredible, and is now more a tourist destination for Chinese people than western tourists because it has been incorporated into the Chinese ‘Century of Humiliation’ story. And what did Queen Victoria call her dog? You’ll have to listen yourself.

Boyer Lectures (ABC) Lecture 2: Soul of the Age- Order vs Chaos looks at Shakespeare’s ideas about power. Bell reminds us that Shakespeare was writing during tumultuous political times, with Mary Queen of Scots challenging Queen Elizabeth, and the Guy Fawkes terrorist plot. Shakespeare has ideas about Kingship (with Henry V his go-to guy), populism and order that he often had to drape in the clothes of past or distant civilizations. A better lecture than the first one- more specific, with better supported examples.

History This Week (History Channel) Here in Australia we always think that we are so important, and it’s always rather amusing to see how little we matter to the rest of the world. Freedom Rides Down Under looks at the Freedom Rides, based on the American example, that took off from the University of Sydney in late 1964/5 to visit outback towns in NSW. Anne Curthoys and Peter Read are featured, and there is sound footage from the time, capturing the anger in Walgett and Moree (rather oddly pronounced by the American host) when the embedded racism of the towns was publicized.

I hear with my little ear: Podcasts 17-23 November 2021

The History of Rome Podcast Episode 77 What Time Is It? follows through on Domitian, who after a rising in Germany led by Governor Saturninus in 89 AD, became even more paranoid and dictatorial than he was before. As a result, there was an explosion of edicts against him by the Senate, although the rank and file of the Praetorian Guard and the Legions remained loyal to him. He had been warned by a soothsayer that he would die at noon, and each day asked “What time is it?” and heaved a sigh of relief when noon had passed. In the end he was assassinated by court officials, who lied about the time. He was 45 years old, and had ruled for 15 years. Like Augustus, he was broad in his approach but he never had Augustus’ gravitas, and as soon as he was killed there was a concerted campaign to impugn his reputation. In Episode 78 Imperial Stopgap, the Senate now had to decide who to have as emperor, because Domitian had no sons. What the Senators really wanted was a childless old man who might choose one of their sons to be his successor. They settled on Nerva, who fitted the bill, but was never accepted by the troops of the Praetorian Guard or the troops of the Legions, with whom he had a strained relationship. He was a populist, with policies like low taxes and giving people stuff, but the economy faltered. He melted down statues and cancelled the games. The best thing he did was choose Trajan as his successor (and for this he is known as the first of the Five Good Emperors) and at least he died of natural causes, after 15 months. And hooray! We’ve reached the 2nd century A. D. (or C.E) Episode 79 The Dacian Wars sees Trajan biding his time while Nerva was still alive, and not appearing to be too eager when taking power. He was actually born in Spain, not Rome and was the second of the Five Good Emperors and officially acclaimed by the senate as optimus princeps (“best ruler”). He was an army man, but he knew that armies need good infrastructure, and this is what he is best known for building the Trajan Forum, the Trajan Market and the Trajan Column (which still stands). He defeated the Dacians (present day Transylvania) and incorporated it into the empire as an imperial province in 106CE. Episode 80 Optimus Trajan goes through the many good things that Trajan did: infrastructure, keeping the peace, and supporting the provincial governors to use their own initiative as long as it was for the common good. He was a friend of Pliny the Younger, and much that we know of him comes from the letters between them. He advised Pliny to give the troublesome Christians (who seemed to be spreading) an opportunity to recant without penalty, but if they refused, then to execute them. He launched another war against the Parthians, prompted by conflict over Armenia, and reduced it to client kingdom status. He reportedly said that he wished he was younger, so he could keep going to India, like Alexander the Great had done. But he wasn’t young, and he got sick and died at the age of 63 after a reign of nearly twenty years.

By Tataryn – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0,

Emperors of Rome Is it very naughty of me to cheat on Mike Duncan by listening to another podcast about Rome at the same time that I’m listening to his? I confess to feeling a bit apprehensive that all this Roman history is just washing over me- especially as all these emperors seem to have variations on about five names- and so I’d really like some of this information to ‘stick’. I had seen the Emperors of Rome podcast on my podcast feed, but I wasn’t expecting it to be Australian! And, even better, from ‘my’ university just up the road, La Trobe University. It’s presented by Dr Rhiannon Evans and Matt Smith, which means that there’s a nice interaction between them as presenters. You can really tell that Evans has academic chops compared with Mike Duncan, because she is very concerned with sources and documentation, whereas Duncan’s is more of a chronological, survey approach. Given that I’m up to Trajan with Mike Duncan, I launched right in to episode XLV In Trajan We Trust where I learned that Trajan is one of the emperors where most of our information comes from material ruins, rather than written sources. Episode XLVI – Trajan vs Dacia explained that Dacia is where Romania is today. Episode XLVII Pliny the Younger sidetracks a bit to go into the life of Pliny the Younger, the nephew of Pliny the Elder, who gave us probably the best account of the eruption at Pompeii. Episode XLVIII – Trajan: Optimus Princeps sums up Trajan’s life, and gives him a pretty good score. I’m delighted to have found this series. Even though these episodes were recorded in May 2016, the podcast is still going! They have a Facebook page with all their episodes too.

Australia vs the Climate (The Guardian) Part 4: Fossil Fuels looks at the influence of the fossil fuel lobby on the Morrison government- although it has been a potent force in Australian politics for decades. Most insidious is its inclusion in government climate change policy announcements- and sure enough, who is sponsoring Australia’s stand at Glasgow but Santos.

Conversations (ABC) The frequency of cleft lip or palate in Australia is 1:800 births. I’m often mystified: why don’t you see prominent people with them? As a person with a cleft lip and palate myself, I notice instantly when I meet someone else who has one (and I bet they notice mine too). But why aren’t they in Parliament, or on television, or writers at Writers Festivals? Good on you, Wendy Harmer, for being right out there. In The Trailblazer: Wendy Harmer Richard Fidler, a fellow comedian, talks with Wendy about her childhood, her surgeries, her career and her success.

Lit Hub The very scratchy Lit Century podcast looks at Freud’s 1930 book Civilization and its Discontents in the episode How Has Freud Changed the Way We Tell Our Stories. I haven’t read this book, and I don’t know if I particularly want to after listening to this podcast which made it sound Damned Hard Work. The podcast features Jessica Gross, the author of the novel Hysteria about a young woman’s relationship with Freud. They note the irony of Freud’s contention that with aggression curtailed, it turns inward- just as the world was to embark on another aggressive world war. Basically, they argue that Freud encourages us to ask why we, or a character in a story, are the way we are. Freud takes an idea which, self-deprecatingly he says is nothing new, then turns it upside down or pushes it out of shape. Both Jessica and the interviewer Catherine Nichols observed that they would be exhilarated and challenged by new ideas, but on shutting the book would be hardpressed to explain the idea to anyone else. But I really do wish they’d buy a proper microphone.

I hear with my little ear: Podcasts 9-16 November 2021

The History of Rome Podcast Episode 74: Friends I Have Wasted a Day looks at the two-year reign of Titus. He had been groomed for the role by his father and so there was a smooth transition between emperors. Initially there were fears that he would be like Nero, but instead he came to the role as a mature soldier and experienced administrator. The destruction of Pompeii and another fire in Rome occurred during his reign in A.D.80, but he proved himself to be a good and generous leader. He officially opened the Flavian Ampitheatre (which we now know as the Colosseum) with 100 days of games. During his reign, governor Agricola tried his best to Romanize Britain. But Titus was carried off by an infection (at least it wasn’t murder this time). Episode 75 The Forgotten Son introduces Domitian, whom I had never heard of, who was Titus’ brother, who took over after Titus’ untimely death. Definitely suffering from Second-Son Syndrome, there was no expectation that he would ever be emperor, and he was consciously discouraged from gathering administrative and military experience by his father, who blithely assumed that Titus would reign for decades. Once emperor, he decided that he would model himself on Augustus, but he did not share Augustus’ strategy of making the Senate feel that they were in charge (even if it was not true). Episode 76: Mock Triumphs. Domitian set about revaluing the currency (because he said it reflected badly on the Empire having a devalued currency) and tried to revitalize Augustus’ legislation about morals, bringing about the return of the Lex Julia forbidding adultery etc. The elites hated him, but he had the support of the common soldier, whose wages he increased by 1/3. He threw a fairly questionable triumph for himself after a campaign against the Chatti, but oversaw the worst defeat since the Teutoburg Forest against the Dacians. He brought Agricola (whose name Mike Duncan has learned to pronounce) back from Britain, and followed Augustus’ policy of not expanding the frontier. His focus on frontier defense brought charges of cowardice and his treaty with the Dacians was seen as a humiliation. This isn’t going to end well.

Wikimedia. St John’s Gate, Clerkenwell priory

Travels Through Time takes us back to the year 1540 with The Dissolution of the Monasteries, with historian James Clark spruiking his recent book The Dissolution of the Monasteries: A New History. 1540 is at the end of the four-year process, but he chose 1540 because it was also the year that Henry married both Anne of Cleves and Catherine Howard, and Thomas Cromwell the Untouchable finally fell. He points out that monasteries were not the remote, forbidding places that we imagine today: instead, they were everywhere like Tesco supermarkets, and often were the town. He starts in Easter 1540 with the monks at Canterbury Cathedral waiting around, uncertain what was to happen to them. Episode 2 is in May 1540 at Clerkenwell Priory, the headquarters of the medieval order of the Knights of St John, also known as the Knights Hospitaller. The shock of the closure caused the collapse and death of the Grand Prior of the Order, William Weston, the last man to be buried as a monk in England. Episode 3 is Newgate gaol in August 1540 where Thomas Epsam, a monk of Westminster Abbey, was taken from his cell and publicly stripped of his monk’s habit.

Australia vs the Climate (The Guardian) It seemed hopeful there for a minute. Part 3: Paris and the fall sees Australia signing up for 1.5 degrees. At last. And then we have ScoMo and his lump of coal….and we all know how this is going to end. When you listen to these podcasts one after the other, you realize just how intransigent Australia has been.

The History Listen (ABC) It’s the 150th anniversary of the Art Gallery of New South Wales this year. Although it’s getting a new expansion, for many years it was dark and dingy, with the Board very much looking after the interests of themselves and their friends. The building that we think of as the Art Gallery was built in the 1890s. 150 years at the Art Gallery of NSW looks at the building, the Board, and the directors but it touches only lightly on the controversy over the construction of the new gallery.

Boyer Lectures (ABC) John Bell from the Bell Shakespeare Company is giving the Boyer Lectures this year. The first lecture Soul of the Age – Life lessons from Shakespeare with John Bell is mainly an introductory lecture and a bit disappointing. He draws links between the characters depicted in Shakespeare’s plays and current political players (to the detriment of the current politicians)

The Documentary (BBC) I had forgotten about ‘Climategate’ in 2009 where the University of East Anglia was hacked and emails talking about “the trick” were publicized world wide. I’d forgotten, too, that 2009 was when the Copenhagen COP was held, generally viewed as being a backwards step in terms of response to climate change. This episode The Hack That Changed the World goes back to investigate whether the Russians were behind it, or whether it was a sole actor associated with various climate-change-sceptical blogs.

I hear with my little ear: Podcasts 1-8 November 2021

Australia vs. the Climate. (The Guardian) Episode 2:Copenhagen takes us back to the election of Kevin Rudd in 2007. How excited I was! How disappointed I ended up being! This episode gives us a behind-the-scenes view of the maneuvering around the very disappointing Copenhagen COP. Kevin Rudd has much to say (in his typical Ruddesque way, highlighting his own importance) but other speak too, like Penny Wong, the Australian bureaucrat who attended, and the representative from Tuvalu. All crammed into a tiny room, not enough tickets, backroom meetings…and this is how our future is decided. Meanwhile, we have Abbott taking leadership of the Liberal Party, and the whole thing turned to custard.

By T8612 – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0,

History of Rome Podcast Episode 70 Galba and Otho sees the Generals competing against each other for power in what was known as the Year of Four Emperors. Galba was the governor of Spain, and a very harsh general who, unlike other generals, did not believe in bribing his troops. His off-sider promised the troops that they would receive a bonus, but Galba withheld it, both on principle and also because he was miserly. He was already an old man when he was made Emperor, and Otho, the governor of Lusitania, assumed that he would be chosen as his successor. But when Galba chose Piso instead, Otho led an uprising. Galba and Piso were both beheaded, and their heads put on pikes and kicked around. Episode 71 Otho and Vitellius sees Otho having to face the ongoing unrest up on the Rhine, led by Vitellius. Vitellius was thinking of overthrowing Galba, but when he heard that Otho had already done so, he decided to turn against Otho instead. Eventually the two Roman armies faced each other. After suffering a defeat at Bedriacum in April, Otho committed suicide having served as Emperor for just three months. Episode 72 Vitellius and Vespasian. Meanwhile, Vespasian had been in Judea, where he took very seriously the prophesy that the King of the World would come from Judea (of course, Christians came to interpret this differently.) So he just bided his time, and more and more troops came over to his side, leaving the unpopular Vitellius too weak to fight him. Vitellius tried to resign, but his forces wouldn’t allow him. The battle for Rome ensued, and Vespasian’s troops triumphed. Vitellius was executed soon after. Episode 73 The Only Man who Improved looks at Vespasian, who was in effect the last man standing. He ended up being a better emperor than people thought. He was a good propagandist, emphasizing that he had brought Peace and Victory after years of civil war, and had a self-deprecating nature (quite different to those neurotic Julian-Claudians). He was happy to circulate the prophesy about the King of the World from Judea, and rumours that he could heal people. He certainly healed the treasury by overhauling the taxes, even taxing the urine that was used in manufacturing processes, until he was advised that it was a bad look to tax toilets. He demolished the incomplete Golden Palace that Nero had commenced and built the Colosseum on the site. He reorganized the upper class ranks, getting rid of the corrupt, whether they were his supporters or not. His son Titus put down the Judean Revolt, leading to the burning of the temple against Titus’ orders and the mass suicide pact at the Siege of Masada. Vespasian actually died of natural causes, which was unusual after the suicides and poisonings of his predecessors as emperor.

Rear Vision (ABC) Did you know that the first ebook was created 50 years ago? EBooks: Winners and Losers looks at the changes that ebooks have brought to the publishing industry, with implications for booksellers and authors alike. I’m trying to stop cluttering my house with books, so I tend to borrow my paper-based books from libraries, knowing that at least the author will get a Lending Rights payment. However, I do buy ebooks when they are on special, or if no libraries hold the book I want to read.

History Workshop Podcast. I remember reading Sheila Rowbotham’s Hidden from History (1973) when I did a Women’s History subject at La Trobe back in 1975. This History Workshop interview with her in Daring to Hope: Sheila Rowbotham and 1970s Womens Liberation is almost an “in the family” interview, as Rowbotham was herself one of the founders of History Workshop. Rowbotham has recently released the second volume of her autobiography, where she talks about feminist activism and the 1970s. It seems to me that leftist historians have written more about the 1960s and 1970s and been embraced as part of the leftist historiographical movement than historians of the right (I’m thinking here of E.P. Thompson, and Eric Hobsbawm) and Australian feminists now writing the history of Australian feminism. Although probably I wouldn’t even be aware of memoirs and retrospectives by historians from the right.

I hear with my little ear: Podcasts 24-31 October 2021

The History of Rome Podcast. Episode 64- Smite my Womb sees Claudius dead and Nero moving smoothly into his position, aided mightily by the hand of his mother Agrippina. He was only 16 years old, had no experience whatsoever, and was really into the ‘entertainment industry’- something very much frowned upon by the patricians who had the time to sit around writing histories of the Roman Empire. He had his mother on one side, and his advisor Seneca (the Stoic philosopher) on the other. He decided to sideline his mother by sending her away, and when she seemed to be supporting his younger brother Brittanicus (son of Claudius and the adulteress Messalina) and later another cousin, she over-played her hand. Nero organized several unsuccessful attempts at matricide, and in the end sent an assassin to kill her, later claiming that it was a suicide. Her dying words were said to be ‘Smite my womb”. Thanks and goodbye, Mother. Episode 65- Burn it to the Ground turns to foreign policy between 58 and 63 AD, when both the Parthians and the tribes in Britain decided to take advantage of this newly-minted emperor and test him out. The Parthian conflict started over Armenia, while in Britain Boudica was fired up by the denial of her inheritance of the Icini tribal throne that had been left to her by her husband. She was flogged and her daughters raped by the Romans. She gathered huge numbers, and they engaged in a scorched-earth policy, burning down Londinium. Her troops massively outnumbered the Romans, but the Romans were always good at battle on an open field. The defeated Boudica drank poison and died. Episode 66 -666 I wonder if he planned for this episode to deal with the question: Was Nero the Anti-Christ? Nero was married to Claudia Octavia, but he started an affair with Poppaea, which didn’t go down well with the people. He divorced Octavia on grounds of infertility, and the populace started demanding that he bring Octavia back, instead of going off with Poppaea. So he had Octavia killed, and staged it as a suicide. Nero was extravagant, and surrounded himself with yes-men who encouraged his indulgence. His reputation was so poor that when the Great Fire broke out, there were rumours that he set it himself as a land-clearing exercise to build a new temple. However, Tacitus says that Nero wasn’t even in Rome when the fire began. He blamed the Christians, who were Capital O ‘others’, and they hated him too – and maybe this leads to the reference to the Anti-Christ 666 (which makes the name Nero if you sprinkle some numerology jiggery-pockery over it). A conspiracy led by Piso was mounted against him, but he was betrayed and Nero embarked on a series of treason trials, which eventually led to him being declared an enemy of the state. In Episode 67- What an Artist the World is Losing we finally bid farewell to Nero, who became increasingly unhinged. His wife Poppaea died, either in childbirth, or because he kicked her to death. Nice. Plunged into sorrow, he had her embalmed and kept her beside him. In 66 AD the Zealot-led Great Revolt broke out in Judaea, leading Nero to appoint Vespasian to crush the uprising. Governors started rebelling against him, largely on the basis of his tax policies. The Senate eventually declared him a public enemy and warned that he would be beaten to death if he was found. So he suicided instead, or maybe he got his private secretary to do it. Either way, he was dead, at the age of 30, having ruled for 14 years. This brings us to the end of the Julio-Claudian dynasty. In Episode 68- Three Emperors, Mike Duncan explores the question of where legitimacy was to come from, if there were no more Julio-Claudians left. Mostly it came from the Governors, who were powerful in their own right, but had all been equally subject to the Emperor. In this episode he introduces three of the four emperors who ruled in 69AD (the fourth one was Vespasian, introduced in the last episode). First there was Galba (June 68- January 69AD), who became emperor with the support of the Praetorian Guard. He had been governor of Aquitania, Upper Germany and Africa, and most recently Hispania. He was old, frugal, hated bribery and was a disciplinarian. The second was Otho, only 5 years older than Nero, who was convinced that Galba would adopt him, and that when Galba died (he was old, after all), he would take his place. then there was Vitellius, a lazy and gluttonous governor, who was popular with the troops.

History Lab. History Lab is a collaboration between the Australian Centre for Public History linked with UTS, and radio producers so, as you might expect, there’s no dodgy sound here (which is a relief, I must admit. COVID has not been kind to history podcast production values because recordings of Zoom talks sound pretty woeful). They are not prolific, but their podcasts are really well produced. Season 4 The Last Outlaws looks at the story of Jimmy and Joe Governor, who were fictionalized (to his later regret) in Tom Keneally’s The Chant of Jimmy Blacksmith. In Episode 1, the lead researcher and law professor Katherine Biber connects with Aunty Loretta Parsley, the great-granddaughter of Jimmy Governor to get a fuller, family-based perspective on the events that led to Jimmy and Joe’s crimes. In Episode 2, Jimmy and Joe are proclaimed outlaws but -rather surprisingly really- Jimmy is not killed (despite being proclaimed an outlaw), faces trial and is sentenced to death. His case becomes a lightning rod for how justice is to be dispensed in newly federated Australia. While awaiting sentence, Jimmy’s demeanour and behaviour is documented in the prison keepers’ diary (a log, really). Episode 3 follows up on Joe Governor, who was shot and killed near Singleton. He had been declared an outlaw, and the Wilkinson brothers, who shot him, were not charged. Photos were taken of Joe’s body at the inquest held at the Caledonian Hotel (a common place to hold inquests), and the photos were not removed until 2019. As for the ancestral remains that were removed for study, it’s not really clear whether they are still held somewhere or whether they are lost. They were sent to the University of Sydney and who knows where from there.

Australia vs. the Climate Leading up to Glasgow, I’m listening to this Guardian series on Australia’s policy on climate change. Episode 1: Kyoto looks at the Kyoto COP and the backroom negotiations that led to Australia committing to increasing our emissions, and the ‘Australia clause’ that allowed us to count land-clearing that had already occurred. Then, after all that, Howard didn’t ratify it anyway. We are assholes, and shamefully, the Morrison/Joyce government is still claiming the free kick when boasting that we are “meeting and beating” our Kyoto targets.

Because of Anita Finishing off this podcast series, Episode 3: The Conversation features a conversation over Skype between Professor Anita Hill and Dr Christine Blasey Ford, who testified against Brett Kavanaugh when he was nominated for the US Supreme Court. There’s a lot of mutual admiration going on here, but you can hear how vulnerable Ford still is. Hill (I think) raises the point that there are few other occasions when people say “I believe you” when you tell them something, and what the unspoken part of that sentence is. Episode 4: The Movement looks at where we have come since Anita Hill’s testimony. Now there are 143 women in the Senate; Joe Biden called Anita Hill to apologize to her (as he should). But men’s reputations are still being protected, over women who were harmed (they don’t call them ‘victims’, but rather ‘women who were harmed’).

Stuff the British Stole (ABC) This is now in its second series but I’m going back to catch up on Series 1, of which I had only listened to the Gweagal shield episode. So, back to the beginning, the very first episode A Tiger and a Scream looks at Tipu’s Tiger (sometimes spelled Tippoo) a life-size wooden figure of a tiger eating an East India Company soldier, with a handle you can turn to play music. As the producer, Marc Funnell discovers, the figure is a big ‘F**k You’ to the British, created for Tipu Sultan, the Tiger of Mysore who was at that time fighting the British. The Tiger was looted and taken back to various British museums before ending up at the V&A where it has been restored, complete with the organ. Shashi Tharoor, author and Indian MP, who wrote Inglorious Empire: What the British Did to India is one of those who feel that the Tiger should be repatriated to India.

Here’s a video of the rather weird organ inside the Tiger

Episode 2: Blood Art tells the story of the Benin Bronzes, plundered from the Nigerian kingdom of Benin (as distinct from the country of Benin today). In 1898 the Oba of Benin warned the British vice consul general James Robert Phillips and a large entourage of over 200 not to enter the city because rituals were being conducted, but they entered anyway. Only two Europeans survived the resulting massacre. In retaliation, a punitive expedition was mounted that sacked and destroyed Benin City. The artwork was looted, with an eye to selling them to fund the expedition. The British Library contains a large quantity of the bronzes, and has resisted returning them. This episode also tells the story of two policemen, formerly stationed at Kensington Palace, who felt that the Bronzes should be returned and set up a website to highlight the issue. They were approached by a man from Oxford, who had two of them brought home by his father. Together they sought to return them to the Oba of Benin, without the then-President of Nigeria, Goodluck Jonathan, claiming the glory.

British Museum. Alan

I hear with my little ear: Podcasts 16-23 October 2021

The History of Rome Podcast. Episode 60 No Better Slave, No Worse Master The six months between Caligula’s taking power and getting sick was just a breather before Caligula embarked on his four-year reign of terror and madness. He was only 28 when the Senate and the Praetorian Guard and courtiers arranged to have him killed. Even allowing for the prejudices of the sources, he was Rome’s first really terrible emperor. We meet Claudius in Episode 61 What, me Claudius where the rather embarrassing and scholarly uncle of Caligula is chosen as the next Emperor. Expectations were at rock bottom after Tiberius and Caligula, but he turned out to be what Mike Duncan considers to be amongst the Top Ten of Emperors. He introduced bureaucratic reforms and oversaw the invasion of Britain, something that Julius Caesar had not managed. However, despite his victory of Caratacus in Britain, he made several unsuccessful marriages, as seen in Episode 62 Take my wife…please. He divorced his first wife Plautia Urgulanilla for adultery; he divorced the second Aelia Paetina because, as Sejanus’ relative she was a political liability. He then married Valeria Messalina who married her lover Silius while Claudius was at Ostia, so she and Silius were executed. Finally, he married Agrippina the Younger, his niece and Germanicus’ daughter. Episode 63 A Farewell to Claudius sees Claudius off the stage, helped it is said by Agrippina who had been raised by Livia and imbibed plenty of her strategies. Like Livia, Agrippina had her son Nero adopted by the emperor, and like Livia she was very ambitious for her son. Mike Duncan notes that there is no hard evidence that Agrippina poisoned Claudius, but he leans towards it. As for Claudius’ long-term legacy, he increased the size of the empire, and reinvigorated the role of censor to control his enemies in the Senate. He also made the Senate more multicultural, reflecting the increased size and diversity of the empire- something that probably contributed to its longevity.

Because of Anita In this second episode The Aftermath, three African-American women speak about the effect that the Anita Hill trial had on them. Professor Barbara Ransby rallied Black women in a historic show of visible support that still reverberates today by organizing for the publication a full-page advertisement with the signatures of (black?) women. Carol Moseley Braun ran for office—and won, becoming the first Black woman in the Senate (which until 1991 had only 2 white women). Drew Dixon, a young record producer grappling with sexual abuse in her own profession, had to make difficult decisions with the long shadow of the hearings looming over her. Through Anita Hill’s experience, she learned that Black people (both men and women) were critical of Black women who ‘dobbed’, thus giving succour to the ‘black rapist’ trope that could be used against all Black people. But she also learned that it takes courage to actually stand up and speak.

The History Listen (ABC) The Illusory Life of Esme Levante. Born in 1920 into a show-biz family, Esme performed from the age with her father The Great Levante. An escapologist, magician and cabaret artist, she travelled the world, first with her family, and then with her own show.

Background Briefing (ABC) Reconciliation gets pointy when it is your own family who was involved in massacres. The narrator of The Ghosts Are Not Silent Sam Carmody, is part of the Bussell family after which Busselton in Western Australia is named. The family had taken great pride in their ancestor John Garret Bussell, but they gradually became aware of stories that a member of the Bussell family had murdered a 7 year old girl, and that the surrounding area was known as a massacre site. Sam decided to speak to traditional owners, many of whom were reluctant to be

Second Boer War Source: Wikipedia

History Extra podcast. Apparently historians now prefer to talk about the ‘South African War’ rather than the Boer War (which is certainly the way it is remembered in Australian popular memory). The Boer War: Everything You Wanted to Know is an episode based around listeners’ questions through social media, so its structure and organisation is a bit haphazard. Saul Dubow is the Smuts Professor of Commonwealth History at the University of Cambridge and a Professorial Fellow of Magdalene College, Cambridge. I hadn’t realized that the trigger for the war was the British government’s desire to federate the separate colonies, charged by the discovery of gold and diamonds. He points out that the impetus for the concentration camps was to deprive the farmers of the ability to draw resources (physical and emotion) from ‘home’