Category Archives: Podcasts 2021

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

John of Gaunt. Wikimedia

Travels Through Time I recently read Barbara Tuchman’s A Distant Mirror: The Calamitous 14th Century and I’m on a little bit of a medieval kick as a response. Helen Carr has recently released a book on John of Gaunt called The Red Prince and she features in a couple of podcasts as part of her publicity campaign. I listened to this podcast after the History Extra one, but because this podcast is longer and more detailed, you’d be better off listening to this first. John of Gaunt suffered ‘3rd living son of a King’ syndrome, being the son of Edward III, uncle of Richard II, Father of Henry IV and progenitor of the Tudor dynasty. Carr chooses 1381, a year when the Peasant Army blew up his home the Savoy Palace, and when his nephew Richard II rejected his assistance.

History Extra Podcast also had a session with her in John of Gaunt: prince without a throne. It is a bit shorter, and I felt that it didn’t go back and start from the beginning as well as the Travels Through Time podcast did.

The History of Rome. I’m about a quarter of the way through! Maybe I will finish it in 2021! Episode 50 The Donations of Alexandria sees Mark Antony having another crack at Parthia, but he had to withdraw. After that he went back to Egypt, and Cleopatra (even though he was still married to Octavia, Octavian’s sister). He started putting his own children in positions of power. Meanwhile Octavian was off fighting in the Balkans, something that redeemed his pretty shonky reputation as a general. His friends and advisors were Maecenas and Agrippa, and together they plotted war against Mark Antony. The 10-year old Second Triumvirate was dissolved, and after Octavian got hold of Mark Antony’s will that was stored with the Vestal Virgins and learned of Mark Antony’s plans to put his family into power, war was declared. Episode 51 Actium starts off with Mike Duncan reflecting on how people during the 1century BC kept being forced to take sides in a series of civil wars. Mark Antony and Cleopatra escaped battle at Actium in 31BC but by now Octavian was determined to annex Egypt completely. The suicide pact between Mark Antony and Cleopatra veers into Romeo and Juliet territory, although she ended up outliving him. Octavian insisted on having Alexander the Great’s mausoleum opened. Even though most people were humbled by how much the 33 year old Alexander achieved, in the case of Octavian (who was also 33) he used the example of Alexander to promote his sense of destiny. In Episode 52 Caesar Augustus, the victorious Octavian was determined to completely expunge Mark Antony’s name. He embarked on a marketing campaign, with Virgil writing The Aeneid and the construction of two temples, one to Apollo and the Pantheon. When he threatened to retire, the Senate begged him to remain, and the Senate bestowed upon Octavian the title Caesar Augustus during the constitutional settlement of 27 BC. Four years later Augustus and the Senate altered their power sharing agreement. He changed his name to Augustus (meaning ‘revered one’) but even he realized that ‘Princept’ (i.e. first citizen) might be a better title. In Episode 53 Reigning Supreme, we see Augustus with 90% of the power he needed. First he turned his mind to foreign affairs by neutering (although not actually defeating) Parthia, then he turned to internal matters. He tried to reduce the size of the Senate from 1000 to 300 by increasing the wealth requirement (not completely successful in this) , he had the Praetorian guard under his control, and he instituted pro-family, anti-adultery measures. As the wealthiest man in Rome, he personally bankrolled roads and communication improvements. Episode 54 All in the Family sees Augustus looking to his grandsons through Julia and Agrippa to continue the line. But they were too young so he appointed his stepsons, Livia’s sons Tiberius and Drusus to high office long before they were technically eligible. He had a plan that the Elbe and Danube Rivers form the boundary of the Empire, and he sent them off to fight there. His friend Agrippa died, and he forced Tiberius to divorce his wife in order to marry the widowed Julia- neither Tiberius nor Julia wanted this marriage- and so Tiberius went into self-imposed exile, and Julia embarked on a series of adulterous affairs. His friend Maecenas died too, then his stepson Drusus died from a horse-fall. Episode 55: Teutoburg Nightmares. Augustus was having a rough time personally: his daughter Julia was exiled as a punishment for her promiscuity, and both his grandsons Lucius and Gaius died, leaving Tiberius the last one standing. He was getting a bit tired of exile, so he came back. Mike Duncan just teases with the question of whether Tiberius’ mother Livia really did kill off all the opposition to smooth the way for her son- he says that there is no real evidence beyond the fact that she did promote her sons (which any mother would do). Meanwhile, there was an uprising in Germania and a severe loss for the legions in the Teutoburg Forest, which Germans in the 19th century used as a historical high point. This marked the end of expansion on the Rhine- Augustus was happy to let the German tribes squabble amongst themselves.

C-Span Podcasts in History Edward Ball has written two books springing from his own family history. The first, Slaves in the Family seems to have disappeared completely, even though it won the National Book Award in 1998. His most recent book Life of a Klansman was published in 2020, and it looks at another branch of his family where, as with his estimate of 50% of white Americans alive today, he has a white supremacist ancestor. There are 2 podcasts in this long (1 hr 50 min) episode Edward Ball: Slaves in the Family and Life of a Klansman. The first one, dealing with Slaves in the Family seems to be a Zoom-based symposium with students who have used his book as a text, and the second one, which has much better sound quality, looks at his most recent book.

Conversations (ABC) Jimmy Barnes: A Broken Homecoming One of the joys of lockdown has been watching Jimmy Barnes perform in his kitchen/lounge/bedroom with his wife Jane. I just loved his Working Class Boy (which I was sure that I had read, but could only find my response to the documentary here). This interview traverses some of the same material from Jimmy’s early childhood, but then extends later into the time dealt with in his later books (which I must read). Gees- he could talk the leg off a chair, this bloke!

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

History of Rome Podcast. We left Julius Caesar with his one legion, banned from returning to Rome until he stood down his men. In Episode 43 Insert Well Known Idiom Here, Caesar feared that if the Senate found him guilty of bribery, then his political life would be over. (Everyone bribed everyone else, but they were more subtle about it). So he crossed the Rubicon (a small river) to invade Italy. But the Senate and Pompey had already decamped for Capua so it was a bit of a fizzer. In Episode 44 Caesar Triumphant he pursued Pompey and the Senate over to Brundisium and then to Greece, leaving Mark Antony in charge of Rome (big mistake). Pompey escaped to Egypt, but the Egyptians, hoping to curry favour with Caesar, killed Pompey when he got into the small boat to convey him to land. Caesar was furious (Pompey was, after all, part of the First Triumvirate) so Caesar supported Cleopatra, who had been tricked out of her claim to the Ptolemy throne. They became lovers, and when Caesar sailed back to Rome he left Egypt as a client state (rather than a colony) with Cleopatra in charge. Episode 45 The End of the War sees Caesar taking the overland route back from Egypt back to Rome and along the way pacifying what little resistance he came across. After a brief stay in Italy he sailed for North Africa where he defeated the regrouped Republican army (after a rather inglorious stumble onto the beach- he claimed he was ‘hugging’ Africa. I must remember to do that if I fall.) Having emerged from the Civil War triumphant he returned to Rome and began his ambitious reform programs. Although Cicero acquiesced, Cato killed himself. The conservatives were becoming uneasy at Caesar’s self-aggrandizement. Episode 46 Sec Semper Tyrannis Caesar was trying to get his internal reforms passed but he had to go to Spain to fight the Sons of Pompey who had raised an opposition force. He also planned a Parthian campaign to avenge Crassus’ death in the east, and to circle round and take Germania while he was at it. He had himself declared Dictator for ten consecutive terms, but went one further by having himself declared Dictator for Life. After all these centuries, people were still wary of Kings, and there were rumours that he wanted to become King. His enemies began conspiring and planned (and carried out his assassination on 15 March- the Ides of March). He probably didn’t say ‘et tu Brutus’ and Brutus didn’t say ‘Sec Semper Tyrannis’ either. So there, John Wilkes Booth (Lincoln’s assassin- he claimed to have said it as he attacked Lincoln). Episode 47 Octavius- Octavian. The now-dead Caesar had a little surprise for Mark Antony, who fully expected to be named Caesar’s heir in his will. No, instead it was his 19 year old great nephew Gaius Octavius. Caesar adopted him posthumously (can you do that?) and he changed his name to ‘Octavian’ to denote that he was adopted (he would later change it again to Augustus). Both Mark Antony and Octavian vied for the loyalty of the legions. Even though he was no great fan of either man, Cicero spoken out against Mark Antony who was trying to usurp Octavian’s popularity. In Episode 48 The Second Triumvirate, Marc Antony, Octavian and Marcus Lepidus formed the Second Triumvirate in 43 BC. After using the tried and true method of proscriptions to raise funds through land and wealth confiscations and as a way of purging their enemies, the Triumvirs headed east, where they defeated Brutus and Cassius at Philippi. Then Mark Antony headed off to Parthia, where he was hoping to reinforce his authority by beating them, and then he wouldn’t have to work about this pesky Second Triumvirate any more. Episode 49 Apollo and Dionysus sees Mark Antony and Octavian circling round each other warily. After winning the Battle of Philippi Antony and Octavian divided the empire into two halves. Antony took control of the east where he formed an alliance with Cleopatra (who was in need of powerful patrons now that Caesar was dead), while Octavian commanded the west. They extended the Triumvirate for a further term, but neither trusted the other.

Nothing on TV Enough Rome. I want to hear something Australian, and nothing sounds more Australian than Robyn Annear! In What is Really Real, Robyn has been given some more recent REAL crinkly newspapers instead of having to scroll through on Trove. She starts off talking about the moon landing and ends up talking about girdles- as you do. She then looks at the Advertiser, the forerunner to the Leader newspaper group, from the 1930s. I was excited about this, because the Advertiser (formerly the Evelyn Observer) covered the Shires of Eltham and Whittlesea and the City of Heidelberg- why, it’s my home turf. This episode differs from her other ones, because there is no over-arching theme, but it was good fun and especially being local (to me!)

The History Hour (BBC) My son was in Nairobi in September 2013, and I remember the fear I felt on hearing of the Westgate Mall attack. On my later trips, I didn’t ever visit Westgate, but I visited enough other shopping malls to be able to imagine what this must have been like (hint- they are very much the same as shopping centres in Melbourne). This episode Kenya: Westgate Mall Attack also has a story about a 1990s ‘miracle water’ craze just outside of Mexico City, and the poisoning of Alexander Litvinenko. Plus the amazing story of how a journalist revealed the secret romance between Aristotle Onassis and Jackie Kennedy, and, with the launch of the new James Bond movie, a segment on how James Bond has changed since Ian Fleming first created him in 1953! God, he’s older than I am.

Blindspot: The Road to 9/11 Episode 2 The Mole features Emad Salem, an ex-soldier from the Egyptian Army, who had migrated to America. He maintained his hatred for Omar Abdel-Rahman — known as The Blind Sheikh– for orchestrating the assassination of the Egyptian president Anwar el-Sadat. When he is approached by NYPD Detective Louis Napoli and FBI Special Agent John Anticev who ask him to infiltrate the Brooklyn mosque led by the Blind Sheikh, he accepts. But then Napoli and Anticev are forced to pull him from the job, even though the members of the mosque were clearly plotting something. Meanwhile, you find yourself shaking your head at how these terrorists managed to get into America.

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

The History of Rome Episode 39 The Young Julius Caesar Chronicles goes back to Julius Caesar’s childhood and early career. His Aunt Julia was Marius’ wife, which meant that when Sulla took power he put Julius Caesar onto the list of 1500 nobles to be killed. But Sulla was persuaded to remove him from the list and Caesar kept his head down. He served in Asia Minor until Sulla died, then returned to Rome to work as a lawyer. While travelling, he was captured by pirates and joked with them that he would crucify them all one day. He wasn’t joking: after the ransom was paid he sailed back and captured them and crucified them all (although he did cut their throats before hanging them on crosses). When his widowed aunt Julia died, he took advantage of the funeral procession to display images of her former husband Marius, reminding people of Marius’ good points and his family relationship with him. He was appointed as quaestor to Spain, where he was successful. He supported Pompey, and was starting to put himself forward for election as Consul. Cato the younger tried to thwart him, but too late! Episode 40 In the Consulship of Julius and Caesar is a bit of an in-joke. Even though Caesar had a co-consul, Bibulus, really he was the only one who counted. He arranged with Crassus and Pompey that they would have each other’s back (later known as the Triumvirate) and he embarked on land reform. When Cato the younger fillibustered in the Senate to stop the reform, Caesar had him thrown in jail for a while, and then decided to bypass the Senate completely. Once his year of consulship was over, he made sure that his father-in-law would be the next Consul, in order to protect him from any revenge and he went up to Gaul, where he was governor. In Episode 41a The Gallic Wars, the Helvetians who lived beside Lake Geneva decided that they would come down into Roman territory, but the Romans built a wall! So, unable to enter Rome, they pushed up into Gaul instead. Caesar was asked by the Gauls to kick them out. Then the Germans over the Rhine tried to invade, so he defeated them too. The Gauls were grateful, but ready for the Romans to go back home, but Caesar had other ideas and decided that the legions should stay there on a permanent basis. In Episode 41b The Gallic Wars, now firmly ensconced in Gaul, Caesar crossed the Rhine by building a bridge in 10 days, defeated the Germans, then destroyed the bridge on the way back. He also went up into Belgium and defeated rebel tribes up here too. He made two inconsequential forays into Britain but the proper invasion would have to wait. The triumvirate hung together for a while with Caesar up in Gaul, Pompey in Spain and Crassus in Syria. But Crassus was killed, and the family connection between Caesar and Pompey was severed when Caesar’s only child, Julia, died in childbirth. Pompey started becoming more conservative and moved towards the Senate. Episode 42 Meanwhile Back in Rome starts off with Caesar up in Gaul, itching to come home. Clodius (i.e. Publius Clodius Pulcher) had been made Tribune of the Plebs with Caesar’s connivance, was running amok with his gang of thugs. Pompey had gone over to the Senate by now and he and Caesar were in a standoff, with the Senate threatening to arrest Caesar and charge him over all the dodgy things he had done if he dared come back with his army.

The Ancients (History Hits). While I’m learning about Clodius, by coincidence what should pop up in my feed for The Ancients than Murder in Ancient Rome: Milo and Clodius. In an interview with a rather giggly Dr, Emma Southon, this tells the story of Clodius, who she sees as a horrible character, and how he came to be killed. I don’t really know that she backs up that he was SO terrible, but certainly the republic is falling down around their ears.

Lit Century (Lit Hub) In this podcast series, the hosts Sandra Newman and Catherine Nichols discuss over one or two sessions one book for each year of the 20th century. For 1922 they chose Sigrid Undset’s Kristen Lavransdatter. I’m just about the only person that I know has read Kristen Lavransdatter, so I jumped onto these podcasts when I saw them. On Desire (and its Absence) discusses the novel as a romance (a bit problematic given that we’re talking about the 13th century) and the second episode On Catholicism and Doomscrolling includes author Timothy Paulson in the discussion. They talk about Lutheranism and Catholicism (and how many readers at the time felt betrayed by Kristen’s conversion to Catholicism) and whether it is a feminist novel (probably not, in the same way that Prohibition was not a feminist policy, but it benefited women).

Revisionist History Thanks, Mum, for training me to do my laundry the ‘right’ way. In Laundry Done Right, cold water washing gets a big tick. Doesn’t everybody separate their whites and coloureds? Doesn’t everybody hang their washing on the line?

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

Background Briefing (ABC) When I went to the ABC website to get the link for Unmasking Monsters, there he was – Dr Bob Montgomery, just as I remember him. Handsome, a bit of a larrikin and supremely confident: he is certainly a fallen man now, imprisoned for four years for historical sex abuse charges. He was my 1st Year psychology lecturer, I attended his ‘sex’ classes (which I must admit taught me more about sex than any other source of information), and I remember discussing the Milgram experiment, although I can’t recall if I actually participated. I’m not completely surprised by this podcast, although I didn’t realize that he was so brazen.

The History of Rome Podcast In Episode 34 No Greater Friend, No Worse Enemy Sulla comes back into Rome, and the nobles who had previously backed Marius began changing sides. That didn’t stop Sulla from putting 1500 of them onto a death list, ending up with about 9000 deaths. He had himself made Dictator, not just for a 6 month stint, but for life. There goes another Roman Republic principle. He was a conservative, and wanted to put an end to the populism that the Gracchus brothers had ushered in. He put all sorts of obstacles of age, career path, enforced breaks in the provinces etc. to make sure that there was no quick route to the Consulship, and then he retired. But all his changes were overruled anyway. Episode 35 Crassus and Pompey introduces two of the men who will later form a triumvirate with Julius Caesar. Crassus was really rich and Pompey was a golden general who just had good fortune fall in his lap. He was very ambitious, and determined to circumvent all Sulla’s plans to stop ambitious men. Episode 36 I am Spartacus introduces Spartacus. Confession here- I have never seen the Spartacus movie. In fact, I wasn’t really sure who he was. He was a slave gladiator at the gladiator school at Capua, and in 73BC broke out with 70 other slaves, was joined with others to make 7000 and ended up with perhaps 70,000 other slaves (although these numbers are pretty dodgy). He and his troops headed south, wanting to go to Sicily, but he was betrayed by pirates. They were defeated by Crassus, who saw this as a route to the Consulship. A small group escaped, and they were overcome by Pompey, who took all the credit. In Episode 37 Go East Young Man Pompey cleaned up all the pirates in the Mediterranean and polished off Mithridates for good. While he was in the neighbourhood, he marched on Jerusalem, where two Jewish families were fighting each other, made sure that his favoured family won, and then went home. The Roman Empire now stretched from Gibraltar to Jerusalem. Episode 38 The Catiline Conspiracy reinforces that by the 1st Century BC, the example of Marius and Sulla had reinforced that power came from the sword. Cataline came from an aristocratic family that hadn’t done anything for 300 years, combining entitlement and ambition. In 73 BC he was accused of adultery with a vestal virgin but was acquitted, probably because of dodgy dealings. In 63 BC he conspired to overthrow the Roman government but was stopped by Rome’s greatest politician and orator, Marcus Tullius Cicero. He ended up in exile and was killed. Having seen with Sulla the potential power of a returning general, Cicero wanted to clean up domestic politics in Rome before Pompey got back.

History Hit- The Ancients. Enough of all this Roman fighting! How about some sex instead? This episode Sex in Ancient Rome features L.J. Trafford, the author of the upcoming book Sex and Sexuality in Ancient Rome. Of course, the written sources that have come down to us are all written by men, and if their reporting on war and slaughter is anything to go by, not very reliable. However, penis sculptures and drawings seem to be everywhere throughout the empire, and sex was often the source of humour. There were strict rules about who could sleep with whom, especially under Augustus who yearned for a simpler, more honourable Roman past. She deals with adultery, contraception, prostitution etc. but mainly emphasizes how hard it is for us to enter into their pre-Christian mentality about sex.

And speaking of Spartacus, Spartacus Life or Legend has an Australian historian Dr Fiona Radford who studied the Kirk Douglas movie (which I haven’t seen) and the historic sources for her Ph.D. She’s very enthusiastic about the movie, which was produced during the Cold War competing with Ben Hur and another Spartacus movie being produced at the time. She points out that Spartacus has been picked up by multiple political movements since the enlightenment- the French Revolution, the Risorgimento in Italy in the 19th century, and the Spartacus League with Rosa Luxemburg Post WWI.

Blindspot: The Road to 9/11 Being the 20th anniversary, 9/11 is everywhere. Episode 1 The Bullet starts in an unusual place: in a Midtown Manhattan hotel ballroom where the radical, anti-Muslim Jewish rabbi Meir Kahane is assassinated by El-Sayyid Nosair who had become radicalized at a Brooklyn mosque.

New York Times: The Daily Journalist Dan Barry reads his article “What Does it Mean to ‘Never Forget’?” This essay explores the nature of memory during trauma. Interesting that graduate students who interviewed people in the days immediately following 9/11 found that when they re-interviewed their informants a year later, 40% had changed their memories of where they were and how they learned about the Twin Towers.

History Extra As a Good Unitarian Girl, I’m always delighted to hear podcasts about 19th century Unitarians. In this podcast Wedgwood: The Radical Potter Tristram Hunt, author of The Radical Potter discusses the business and politics of Josiah Wedgwood. I bet you never thought ‘Josiah Wedgwood’ and ‘Steve Jobs’ could go in the same sentence! Another book to add to the burgeoning To Be Read list.

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

The History of Rome Podcast Well, I had hoped that I had got past all the war and fighting, but not so it seems. Episode 28 Taking Stock gave me hope of a more social approach. He points out that what had held Roman society together had been the unity of the elites, and economic conditions for the everyday Roman being benign enough that there would be no unrest from below. But with the increased wealth flowing into Rome from elites stationed in the colonies, and the influx of slaves brought in to Rome by these same elites, many landowners lost their land and flowed into the cities as a discontented landless populace. Episode 29 Tiberius Gracchus introduces the populist Tiberius, Tribune of the Plebs in 133BC. Banking on the support of this large landless segment, he proposed agrarian reform which was strongly opposed by the Senate. To get the legislation passed, he sacked the other Tribune Marcus Octavius and brought Roman commerce and society to a standstill. Even though the Romans had instituted single-term Tribuneships, Tiberius stood for a second term but he got killed in a riot instead. Ten years later Tiberius’ younger brother became Tribune too Episode 30 Gaius Gracchus and HE managed to get a second term. Gaius went even further than his brother in social reforms, including food distribution to the poor and popular army reforms. The Senate turned on him too, and he committed suicide with the aid of his faithful slave in a murder-suicide pact. Episodes 31a and 31b introduce Gaius Marius who became Consul SEVEN times (so much for one-term positions!). He was known as a ‘new man’ because his family was not part of the ruling elite (although he married into it). He came up through the army and by now external wars were brewing again. He reformed the Roman Legion’s fighting strategy – a brave move given how successful it had been. He got his soldiers to carry all their equipment to toughen them up before battle, leading to them being disparaged as “Marius’ mules” (until they won). Episode 32 The Social War sees the former Italian allies rising up because they wanted (and were denied) Roman citizenship. The Samnites, who had been discontented ever since the Third Samnite War, and the Marsi led a revolt over 4 years, but the Romans ‘bought off’ the support of the other Italian allies by giving Roman citizenship to the peoples and cities who remained loyal or surrendered to Rome. By 87 BC Roman victory meant that all of the Italian boot (although not the islands) was Romanized. In Episode 33 Marius and Sulla we see the Romans turning on themselves with Sulla marching on Rome not once but twice. Sulla had served under Marius, and brought the Social War to an end. He then headed off to fight Mithridates in the Hellenic States, and then fought in Anatolia. In the meantime, Marius was serving his 7th stint as Consul, and Cinna was enjoying his 4th, and they ganged up together to exile Sulla. Once he finished fighting, Sulla headed towards Rome for the second time.

God Forbid (ABC) The episode Examining Fringe Beliefs features two journalists who podcast about sects and conspiracy theories, and a Professor of Religious Studies in the Department of Studies in Religion at the University of Sydney. One thing that I took from this podcast was that we can look at the way that fringe groups treat those who do not follow their beliefs. I think of shunning, calling people ‘sheeple’, proselytising, damning to hell. How do I, as a Unitarian, respond to beliefs that I see as ‘fringe’? Quite a challenge.

Rear Vision (ABC) The episode Afghanistan- the land of failed invasion was first aired in November 2006, but it holds up well fifteen years later. It describes the various occupations by the British, Soviets and Americans over the past 200 years (in fact, there were five invasions) and highlights the importance of Pakistan in the analysis of the Soviet invasion.

The History Listen (ABC) I was so discouraged and angry after listening to Seachange: 20 years on from the Tampa Affair. Twenty #@** years. Listening to Ruddock et al fudging on facts when it didn’t suit their narrative, listening to Beazley’s discouragement when he realized the electoral implications, and the thought that the “never by boat” mantra is still affecting people’s lives today.

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

History this Week I’m not really clear about the connection between the book “Goodbye Christopher Robin” by Anne Thwaites and the movie of the same name that was written by someone else, but this episode The True Winnie-the-Pooh features Anne Thwaites, who sounds rather elderly. The ‘true’ Winnie was a Canadian bear, purchased from a railway station in Winnipeg by the military veterinarian as the mascot for his troop of Canadian soldiers during WWI. Of course, ‘Winnie’ couldn’t accompany them to the Somme, so he ended up in a London zoo, loved by the children who came to see him. There he was seen by Christopher Robin Milne, who named his own bear after her. When his father A. A. Milne drew on the bedtime stories he told his son to write a children’s book, Winnie-the-Pooh was born.

The History of Rome So much fighting, extending over decades and generations. Episode 24 The Second Macedonia War sees Rome deciding to straight away launch into leveraging their big-boy status into a war with Philip V of Macedon. They were then dragged further east into the Syrian War in Episode 25: The Syrian War when who should they encounter again but Hannibal! He had gone into exile from Carthage, and he was engaged by Antiochus III the Great. There is a story that Hannibal and Scipio met at a banquet and Scipio asked Hannibal who he thought was the greatest general. Hannibal enumerated Alexander the Great (Scipio agreed) and then Phyruss (who fought against the Romans) and then himself. Scipio was not impressed. Hannibal himself is said to have committed suicide when he realized that Roman assassins were on his trail- or else he did of a wounded finger- take your pick. In Episode 26 The Third Macedonian War the sons of Phillip V and Antiochus the Great pick up their fathers’ mantles and start up the Third Macedonian War. Just like their fathers, they were soundly beaten, leaving Rome the unchallenged power in the Mediterranean. Episode 27 Mopping Up sees Rome going back to absolutely crush Macedon, and even more importantly Carthage. Back in the Roman Senate, Cato was going on and on about the dangers of Carthage, so Rome invaded it again and it is said (so may not be true) that they sowed their fields with salt, to make sure that nothing grew there. Either way, Carthage was completely destroyed and there was no other power left to threaten Rome. Now that there was no external enemy to fight, they could only fight among themselves.

Rear Vision (ABC) With the Taliban back in the news, Who are the Taliban? takes us back to the emergence of the Taliban from the rubble of the Soviet-Afghan War. It’s quite a condemnation that their straight-dealing, black-and-white, anti-corruption view of the world has led to people acquiescing to the thought that they couldn’t be worse than the existing Western-backed Afghan government. What a f**k-up.

Revisionist History Enough of all this war! How about Malcolm Gladwell deconstructing the Little Mermaid instead? In Little Mermaid Part I: the Golden Contract law professor Laura Beth Neilson points out that in the Disney version, the written contract is portrayed as all powerful (there was no contract in the original story). Worse still, it is an unconscionable contract where a legal child contracts away body parts into slavery. Little Mermaid Part 2: The Fairytale Twist looks at the uses of fairytales, and children’s responses to them, drawing on Bruno Bettelheim and Angus Fletcher. Finally in Little Mermaid Part 3: Honestly Ever After they re-write the ending of The Little Mermaid, avoiding Hans Christian Anderson’s sad ending but giving back Ariel her voice and her agency. And they got Jodie Foster and Glen Close to do the voices!

Democracy Sausage (Mark Kenny). This episode Britain’s ‘Freedom Day’ from 20 July 2021 interviews Europe Correspondent Bevan Shields and Atalanta’s Elizabeth Ames from England on Britain’s “Freedom Day”. Probably too early to know even now, a month later, what the effect will be. However, they both seemed to be fairly optimistic and rather nonplussed by excessive caution in Australia.

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

History of Rome Mike Duncan, the narrator of this series wanted to take advantage of the week before Christmas to talk about the co-option of Saturnalia by the newly converted Constantine in Episode 18 The History of Rome Christmas. Hah! He probably thought that he would be finished before the next Christmas – instead it took him three and a half more years! Christmas over, he launched into the Punic Wars. In Episode 19 Prelude to the First Punic War he explains that if we were consistent, we would be calling them ‘The Carthagenian Wars’ because they were waged against Carthage (near present-day Tunis in Africa) and the term ‘Punic’ refers to the Phoenician origins of the Carthagenians. He explains that Carthage only kept a mercenary army, unlike Rome, where serving in the Army was the highest form of service. Also, Carthage was an oligarchy based solely on wealth – if you became rich, you had access to power and privilege; if you lost your money you were not. The wars mainly took place in Sicily. Episode 20a First Punic War explains that, flushed with success, the Romans were not averse to expanding their territory further. However, they were inveigled into being involved in Sicily by the Mamertines, a group of Italian mercenaries who asked for their help. This first Punic War was a stuff-up on both sides because of poor decisions by both Carthagenian and Roman generals. In Episode 20b First Punic War, the Romans took advantage of a shipwrecked Carthagenian ship, pulled it apart to see how it worked, and then promptly built their first naval fleet (up until now they had been a terrestrial, but not naval force). They decided to invade Carthage in 256BC. The Romans were the more powerful force, so the Carthagenians sued for peace, but The Roman commander, Gaius Atilius Regulus demanded such harsh terms that the Carthagenians decided to fight on. They enlisted the help of the Spartan commander Xanthippus, who led the Carthagenians in battle and the Romans retreated, then their ships sank in a storm on the way home. Episode 21 Interbellum looks at the time between the 1st and the 2nd Punic Wars. Carthage made the mistake of not paying the mercenaries who fought for them, and got caught up with fighting their own soldiers. Rome, meanwhile, not content with having the whole of the ‘boot’ of Italy, decided to go after the Gauls for something to do.

Then follows a succession of episodes about the Second Punic War. Episode 22 Prelude to the Second Punic War makes the point that this was the closest the Romans came to destruction until 500 years later. It was also the end of the ideal of Roman frugality, virtue and nobility, replaced by excessive debauchery. The episode introduces 25 year old Hannibal, who took over after his father died. Episode 23a The War with Hannibal starts off for Rome from Spain on his 17 year war, marching on a 15-day crossing through the Alps with 50,000 men and his elephants. He had a crushing victory over the Romans at Lake Trasimine, and realized that you didn’t have to out-fight the Romans, you just had to out-think them. Episode 23b The War with Hannibal, Hannibal reaches the high point of his career with the Battle of Cannae but he doesn’t actually march on Rome- things might have been very different if he had. In Episode 23c The War with Hannibal the Romans didn’t lose heart, but the Senate and the elites did seize more control. So many young men had died in battle, that there was a turnover in leadership, based on merit rather than blood. The Romans even bought slaves from their wealthy citizens and enrolled them in the army. The fighting turned to Sicily. Hannibal negotiated with the nobles of Syracruse on (Roman controlled) Sicily to come over to the Carthage side. Archimedes of Syracruse contributed inventions to assist the Carthaginians, but the Romans were victorious, and Archimedes was killed in the looting that followed. In Episode 23d the tables had been turned, with the appointment of the 25 year old Publius Cornelius Scipio (later known as Scipio Africanus), who Mike Duncan describes as a mixture of Jim Morrison, Alexander the Great and Jesus. He detours into the First Macedonian War, but then returns to Spain. Scipio , taking a leaf out of Hannibal’s book, outsmarted the Carthaginians, by creeping up behind them, and swapping the composition of his fighting lines. The tide has turned. Episode 23e The War with Hannibal sees Hannibal’s brother Hasdrubal trying to join forces with Hannibal to create a super-Carthaginian army to invade Rome, but Hasdrubal was defeated at Battle of the Metaurus. Meanwhile, Scipio invaded Carthage itself and finally defeated Hannibal (who had been recalled from Italy) at the Battle of Zama. The Romans imposed very harsh punitive damages on Carthage. Scipio had brought about the idea of the ‘great man’ which would drive Roman politics in the future.

In Our Time (BBC) I guess that podcasts about classical history don’t date! This podcast from 2012 Hannibal features three historians from the Classics departments of various British universities. After Mike Duncan’s relentless emphasis on individual battles, it was good to get this sweeping view of Hannibal’s life. Apparently the elephants weren’t the big African ones, but smaller forest elephants. And he came to a rather sad end- he fled into voluntary exile, and after being handed over to the Romans he poisoned himself to avoid the Romans getting him in the end.

Heather Cox Richardson I’ve been so caught up in Rome that I didn’t finish listening to her series of indigenous history. So I return to 18 June where she backtracks a bit to give the context for the creation of the Indian Schools. She starts off by noting that often bad things start from good intentions, and then goes on to talk about the way that originally ‘care’ of the Native American people was contested between the Dept of the Interior and the Dept of War. Indian Agents were set up to distribute food as part of the treaty arrangements, but it was a pretty corrupt system. When Ulysses S. Grant came in, he decided to put ‘care’ into the hands of the church instead, as a way of solving the tussle between the two bureaucracies. The intention was to deliver ‘care and Christianity’. Meanwhile the Comanche and Apaches were conducting their war against the settlers, and so Civil War veteran Richard Henry Pratt gets the job of guarding the prisoners in Fort Marion and he starts giving them some good old military discipline and Christianity. This is going to lead to the Carlisle Indian Industrial School. Actually, she goes off in lots of tangents in this one- I found it a bit hard to follow because I don’t know my Native American Tribes and geography very well.

Rear Vision (ABC). This episode was only four days old when I listened to it, and it was already out of date. Who are the Taliban? was recorded before the fall of Kabul, when a shared Taliban/Afghan govt was still a possibility, with the alternative of civil war. It gives the history of the Taliban, particularly its links with Pakistan and Pashtun nationalism. I’ve gotta say though- surely with the sound manipulation technology we have today, telephone interviews could be cleaned up so that they don’t sound as if they are coming from another planet- even when the female interviewee has that infuriating vocal fry.

History Hit While I’m in the mood for Afghanistan, I listened to Dan Snow’s History Hit podcast where he interviewed William Dalrymple in Afghanistan: History Repeating Itself. Dalrymple (who wrote The Anarchy about the East India Company – see my review here) talks about the first Anglo-Afghan War which ended in 1842 with the crushing defeat of the British forces. The British had been inveigled into placing a puppet ruler in Kabul by the East Indian Company claiming that Russia was going to invade (fake news) and when the Afghans attacked, only one man escaped. Dalrymple also talks about his own personal encounters with Hamid Karzai (who, believe it or not, is a direct descendent of the puppet leader in 1842 and for whom Dalrymple has quite a bit of admiration) and Ashraf Ghani (who Dalrymple thinks became too Westernized).

Offtrack. I hate mice. I remember about 20 years ago I went with a friend and her husband and all our kids up to a farmhouse for Easter. We didn’t mention to the kids that the place was over-run with mice: scuttling round the rooms, in their beds under the doonas- horrific. In Going home to a mice plague, reporter Rowdie Walden goes home for the last time to the family farm in regional NSW. His family- his mother in particular- just can’t stand the mice anymore, and they’re moving into town.

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

The History of Rome Episode 10: Barbarians at the Gate deals with the sack of Rome by the Gauls in 390AD. The Gauls besieged the Roman army in the Citadel, and in the end they had to pay their way out. It was the last invasion on Roman territory for 850 years. Episode 11: The Morning After The Gauls trashed the city so much that there was serious consideration of deserting Rome and settling in Veii instead (it was, after all, only 12 miles away and though deserted, still in good condition) but they decided to rebuild instead. They rebuilt in a hurry so that, even though the towns that Rome built throughout their Empire were to a standardized template, Rome itself was a hodge-podge. The Plebes and Patricians were still sparring with each other. The Plebes, saddled with debt from the reconstruction, forced through reforms in 367 BC that finally gave them access to the most powerful office of state: the Consulship. Then in Episode 12: The First Samnite War we have the Romans winning an inconclusive victory in a war against one of the surrounding hill tribes, the Samnites, in 343-341 BC. No sooner had the dust settled, in Episode 13: The Latin War, they are lured into fighting their Latin neighbors from 340-338 BC. This time they won more convincingly, and the Latin League was abolished. Episode 14 is in two parts as he breaks off to talk about military strategy. In Episode 14a A Phalanx with Joints, he notes that under Romulus, Roman armies just plunged headlong into battle. Then they adopted the Phalanx, a Greek strategy which worked well when you were fighting another army that had phalanxes on flat ground. However, with the Samnites, they were fighting on steep rocky ground, and the Samnites were able to get round the side of the phalanx, so they had to find another way. Episode 14b A Phalanx with Joints, they invented the Maniple formation, where they had long lines of soldiers, three deep. At the front were the young, inexperienced soldiers, then behind them veterans, and in the third line the seasoned, long-time soldiers.

Those Samnites didn’t lie down, and sure enough there was a Second Samnite War (Episode 15a). The Romans did well at first, but then they were handed a humiliating defeat at Caudine Forks. The fighting stopped for five years, and Rome emerged victorious in 304 AD (Episode 15b). During that five year hiatus Appius Claudius embarked on an infrastructure building spree that resulted in the Appian Way and the first aqueduct the Aqua Appia (not beyond a bit of branding, our Appius). He came from a prominent patrician family, and served as censor, consul and dictator. Finally in Episode 16 The Third Samnite War, Rome took on the combined army of Samnites, Etruscans, Umbrians and Gauls. At Sentinum, the two sides fought the largest battle in Italian history up to that point. Once the Samnites and Etruscans were seen off, Rome turned its attention to the Greek city-states (Magna Graecia) on the Italian mainland. They appealed for help to Greece, and it came in the form of King Pyrrhus of Epirus. This was the first time that the Maniple faced a tradition Greek phalanx, and the first time that the Roman army encountered elephants in battle. Episode 17: Phyrric Victories goes through the various battles between Phyrrhus and the Roman army. Phyrrus won the battles, but decided that it wasn’t worth it and sailed home. In effect, all he did was show the Romans how to fight Greek-style.

Time for a video interlude I think. Episode 2 of the TV documentary the History of Rome (narrated by Peter Coyote) took me too far ahead, right up to Augustus. I only want to hang around in the 3rd century BC.

99% Invisible A lavishly illustrated cookbook, The Book of Tasty and Healthy Food was produced in 1939 by the Soviet government to develop a ‘Soviet’ cuisine as a unifying feature of Soviet nationalism, even though it bore very little resemblance to the food that was actually available. It was developed by Anastas Mikoyan, who Stalin had named to be the People’s Commissar of the Food Industry in the 1930s. He travelled to America to investigate their mass-food industry, and took advantage of the opportunity on his return to build factories that produced hamburgers, orange juice, canned food etc., naming many of the products after himself. The podcast finishes with an extract from another podcast describing the communal kitchens in Soviet Russia – no glossy photos there!

The Daily (New York Times) The Daily sometimes has a reading of articles that appear in the New York Times Magazine, as is the case with The Sunday Read: He Wants to Save Classics From Whiteness: Can The Field Survive? As you know, I’m churning my way through Mike Duncan’s History of Rome podcast series because I feel that there is something lacking in my knowledge of –what? history? the world? my culture? — through never having studied any Roman history at all. So it’s a good time to listen to this podcast about Dan-el Padilla Peralta, a Classics scholar himself from the Dominican Republic, who is really challenging the field of Classics over its links with White Supremacy. The podcast starts off with a conference in 2019, where after giving his presentation, Padilla Peralta was strongly challenged by an ‘independent scholar’ in the audience, Mary Frances Williams, who attacked him for his views and very directly in a personal sense- it must have been quite a conference. I found this podcast really interesting and challenging. I wonder how Mary Beard (my idol) responded to his views?

Travels Through Time. This podcast keeps adding to my list of TBR books. This time it features Colin Jones, talking about his recent book The Fall of Robespierre. In this episode The Fall of Maximilien Robespierre, Jones chooses 9 Thermidor, Year II in the Revolutionary Calendar (27-28 July 1794) when, after giving a speech in the Convention and then in the Jacobin Club, Robespierre goes home to sleep. The next day the Convention turns against him and he was captured and wounded by a gunshot that has never been entirely explained. By the following day he was beheaded.

Conversations (ABC) I’ve just finished reading Dale Kent’s The Best I Could Be (review coming soon). I was hoping that Richard Fidler would conduct this interview, but it was Sarah Kanowski who spent too much time on being regaled with anecdotes. It made me realize that I had read most of these in the book, and that they come over well as after-dinner-tales, which is pretty much how they did in the book too.

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

The History of Rome. At least these podcasts are short. Episode 4: the Public Thing picks up after it was decided that they would appoint two consuls instead, for a period of only one year, so that they wouldn’t get too cozy in the job. (They were called praetors at first, but came to be known as consuls). Each consul could veto the decisions of the other They were drawn from the patrician class, which was sure to annoy the plebs. And sure enough in Episode 5: Trials and Tribunlations, the plebs refused to enrol in the army because they were being hounded over debts that were contracted while soldiers were off fighting war. Wars were brewing on the borders, so a dictator was appointed either for a specific task, or for a period of six months. He had almost unlimited power, but only for a short period of time. It was agreed that a new class of magistrates, called Tribunes, would be elected from among the plebians to protect their interests against the patricians. In Episode 6: The Twelve Tables a committee was ordered to compile and condense Roman Law (at that stage a mixture of documents, customs and patricians’ self-interested memories) into a single text called the Twelve Tables of Law. The laws were printed on twelve bronze tablets, which have unfortunately been lost. The impetus came from the plebians, and the tablets formed Roman Law for 1000 years. They laid down court procedures, established the legality of capital crimes, intentional homicide, treason, perjury, judicial corruption, and writing slanderous poems, and the rights of family heads, inheritance law, laws of acquisition and possession, land rights, public law and sacred law. Episode 7: The Roman Washington looks at the dictator Cincinnatus. He was not the first dictator, and he was a patrician, not a lover of the underdog. He had lost all his money because of his son’s recklessness, and when war and dissent arose, he left his farm to become dictator in 458BC. Most importantly, once things settled down again, he stood down and went back to his farm. He was called on again during times of crisis and again, reliquished his position afterwards. Americans (who had Roman delusions of their own) designated Washington a second Cincinnatus because he, too, returned to his farm after the War of Independence. They named Cincinnati after Washington (who they named after Cincinnatus).

And at this stage, I took a break and looked at a documentary – very American and rather too presentist for my liking – The Roman Empire Episode 1: The Rise of the Roman Empire available on YouTube. This first episode takes us up to Cincinnatus.

Back to the podcast! Episode 8: Decades of Gloom points out that the Patricians and the Plebs were at each others throats, the Plebs annoyed that the Patricians were hogging all the power, and the Patricians reluctant to give it up. There were real shortages of food, and Spurius Maelius, a wealthy Pleb, hoping to make himself popular, bought up huge supplies of grains as a populist measure. Despite populist acclaim, the Patricians suspected that Maelius had ambitions to have himself crowned King (they really were burned by their experience with kings). Cincinnatus had been reappointed dictator (again) because of the unrest, and he order Maelius to appear before him. When Maelius refused, he was slain by the Master of the Horse. There had been an ongoing and inconclusive war between Rome and Veii, an Estruscan city just 12 miles from Rome, and it finally came to a head because Rome wanted access to the salt on the north bank of the Tiber and because of land shortages in Rome. Episode 9: A Trojan War looks at the war against Veii, when Marcus Furius Camillus was appointed dictator and led the Romans to victory. The Roman war strategy up until this point had been to use overwhelming and unstoppable force, and have a ‘war season’ each year before going back to their fields. Under Camillus, they had a year-round paid army instead, and undertook seige warfare against Veii, and infiltrated the city by tunnelling into its drains.

The History Listen (ABC) In the 1970s I saw Peter Singer’s ‘Animal Liberation’ film, and decided to become a vegetarian. I probably only lasted a year or so. This episode Those Bloody Vegos- a short history of vegetarianism in Australia credits Peter Singer with this 1970s phase of vegetarianism, as part of a longer history. At first, vegetarianism was associated with Spiritualism but then was boosted by the Seventh Day Adventists and the “wellness” movement promoted by the Kellogg brothers (yes- the cereal ones). Vegetables were more accessible once the Chinese started market gardens, and WWII increased the growing of vegetables. Then there was the animal liberation argument, and now environmental and health grounds as well.

Big Ideas (ABC) I could listen to Gideon Haigh all day. He’s so articulate, so knowledgeable. His recent biography of H.V. Evatt is called The Brilliant Boy, but in this Big Ideas episode, he talks about ‘Doc Evatt’s great dissenting judgement‘ where Evatt wrote his opinion about another ‘brilliant boy’ who drowned in a drain in inner Sydney, and his mother sued the council for mental suffering. This is a fairly legalistic discussion, and very broad ranging, but it emphasized Evatt’s legal skill even if he is better known for heading Labor for years in the wilderness.

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

Nothing on TV. I just love these podcasts by Robyn Annear. The episode Buried Treasure is a little different from her other episodes in that she starts off with a newspaper article that is not in Trove, because it comes from the Sun News-Pictorial in March 1936 about a ‘foreign’ man who turned up in Richmond, wanting to dig up the back yard of a house in Canterbury Street. She riffs off this story to talk about overseas ‘swindlers’ who would send letters claiming that treasure was hidden nearby and that for a price, they would send the map (an early manifestation of the Nigerian scam email!). She then goes on to talk about other so-called buried treasure in Victoria. A lovely, chatty, discursive story.

History This Week I really don’t know much about Roman history, and I wish I knew more. Perhaps that might be a little project for me. Fiddling with the Truth is about Nero, and the story that he ‘fiddled while Rome burned’. This episode featured Anthony Barrett, author of Rome Is Burning: Nero and the Fire That Ended a Dynasty. It was all very clear, even for someone who knows little Roman history. He talked about how Nero got to be emperor (a grubby story) and what happened afterwards (another grubby story) and explained why this largely false story was created to meet the political needs of the time.

The History of Rome Podcast. I’ve done it. I’ve launched into Mike Duncan’s 170-odd episode podcast series on the History of Rome from start to finish! At least the episodes are much shorter in this series (about 10-15 minutes), although they may increase later on. In Episode 1 In the Beginning he traces through the Romulus and Remus myth (for myth it is). I didn’t realize that there was a supposed link to Troy, many generations previous. Episode 2 Youthful Indiscretions covers the remainder of Romulus’s life, his questionable morality and ultimate disappearance from the world of men. Really, the Romans were pretty warlike and dodgy. I always wondered what the Rape of the Sabines was about – it was a violent mass abduction to bring women (and children) to this male-dominated society. Episode 3a The Seven Kings of Rome looks at first three of Romulus’s successors to the throne: Numa Pompulius (715-673 BCE), Tullus Hostilius (673-642 BCE) and Ancus Marcius (642-617 BCE). They seem to alternate between warlike: religious: warlike: religious. Mike Duncan raises an interesting question: what is the difference when religion is introduced to a basically warlike society compared with introducing war and fighting into what had previously been a religious society? Episode 3b deals with the three Tarquin (Etruscan) kings: Tarquinius Priscus (616-579 BCE), Servius Tullius (578-535) and Tarquinius Superbus (535-510BCE) . The first was a wily, manipulative but essentially competent King who usurped the two sons of Ancus Marcius by sending them out of the country; the second was his adopted son, who came to power by pretending that his father was still alive and that he was acting in a temporary capacity only. The third, Tarquinius Superbus was a tyrant. He knocked off Servius Tullius (literally) and eventually the people decided that they didn’t want any more kings. The first built the Circus Maximus and started the tradition of the Triumph; the second started the census and the system of contributing to the army by social class and the start of representative democracy for some, and the third limited the power of the Senate. His son Sextus Tarquinis was even worse: he was the one who raped Lucretia. Tarquinius Superbus’ nephew Brutus got the support of the army, the aristocracy and the people, and they overthrew Tarquinius Superbus, the last of the Etruscan kings. They decided not to have any more kings: just two consuls. And all of this might be bullsh** anyway, because the sources all tell a different story.

Rear Vision (ABC) I really do not like Jair Bolsonaro, and this episode The Trump of the Tropics: Jair Bolsonaro reminds me why. He sat in Congress alone for years, mouthing off his anti-liberal policies, and came to power on a wave of anti-politician sentiment and the Beef, Bible and Bullets mob. None of the commentators on this program thought that he would be impeached, no matter how bad his handling of the pandemic, because Lula will want to keep his powder dry, and at the moment another centre right politician would replace him who might attract more support.

Outlook (BBC World Service) I was in 1st year uni in 1974 and I really don’t remember Frank Sinatra’s comeback tour. He didn’t really mean much to me: he was the sort of singer that my parents liked. Frank Sinatra’s Australian Showdown tells the story of his rambling conversation about the press during his opening show, leading to union bands and HAWKIE! This is a replay from 2018.

The Spies in my House tells the story of East German activist Ulrike Poppe who discovered, when the Berlin Wall fell, that she had been under surveillance for 15 years. She went through her files and was interested to find what they did, and what they didn’t know about her. She found the Stasi officer in charge of her case, and out of curiosity and a sense of injustice, she met with him.