121 episodes

Dr Rad and Dr G explore all things ancient Rome. With source analysis, interviews with experts, and looking at how the ancient world appears in popular culture, we take you you through the sources for ancient Rome while having a good laugh along the way. Dr Rad is an expert on Kubrick's Spartacus and Dr G is an expert on the Vestal Virgins.

The Partial Historians The Partial Historians

    • History
    • 4.6 • 34 Ratings

Dr Rad and Dr G explore all things ancient Rome. With source analysis, interviews with experts, and looking at how the ancient world appears in popular culture, we take you you through the sources for ancient Rome while having a good laugh along the way. Dr Rad is an expert on Kubrick's Spartacus and Dr G is an expert on the Vestal Virgins.

    Mopping Up Maelius

    Mopping Up Maelius

    The Aftermath of a Murder

    Rome has just experienced a scandal like no other. A terrible famine had hit in the years 440-439 BCE, and this had caused political chaos. The patrician appointed to secure grain, Lucius Minucius, had not experienced much success. Into the void stepped a wealthy equestrian named Spurius Maelius.

    Maelius either allowed his newfound popularity as the bringer of grain to go to his head and started plotting to seize control of Rome, or he was foisted into power by the people. Either way, his journey ended in a bloody stabbing, thanks to Master of the Horse, Servilius Ahala. Did Maelius incite the violence, or was Ahala a secret assassin? It is no wonder that we have some mopping up to do. Things are very messy.

    Episode 128 - Mopping Up Maelius

    Some classical reception in action with this Statue of Cincinnatus at his plough in Cincinnati, Ohio, Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

    Get the Mop, and the Bulldozer

    Cincinnatus, our possible dictator for 439 BCE, gave instructions for the house of Maelius to be destroyed and turned into a memorial to his crazy plans. The site became known as the Aequimaelium, and it was located on the Vicus Iugarius. The man who revealed Maelius' treachery, Lucius Minucius, received his own ox and a gilded statue outside the Porta Trigemina.

    Less pleasantly, the severed heads of the traitors were placed on display by a pool in the Forum (the Lacus Servilius). What better place to reflect on poor choices.

    There are strange parallels in this history and other periods in Roman history which can make one dubious of this whole affair. However, mopping up Maelius seems to have produced a number of physical reminders that were still a feature of Rome many centuries later.

    Snitches Get Stitches?

    On top of the statue, Lucius Minucius was transferred to the plebeian class and made a tribune of the plebs. Record scratch! Are snitches supposed to get lots of honours? They do if it benefits the powers-that-be in Rome! This might be a sign that the patricians were still wary after Maelius and wanted one of their men on the inside. One who was known to be a tattle-tale.

    That's One Way to Say No

    The political scene might have settled down in the city, but Rome was about to be dealt a brutal blow from a colony. Fidenae decided to throw their lot in with Veii, an Etruscan city under the control of King Lars Tolumnius.

    Rome could hardly ignore such a betrayal and despatched four envoys. The people of Fidenae were not familiar with the saying, 'Don't shoot the messenger' and executed these men. There is some confusion over their extreme actions. Lars Tolumnius was suspected of having orchestrated the deaths in an attempt to bind Fidenae closer to Veii.

    How will Rome respond to such an insult? Tune in to find out!

    Our Players 439 BCE


    * Agrippa Menenius T. f. Agripp. n. Lanatus (Pat.)* T. Quinctius L.f. L.n. Capitolinus Barbatus (Pat.) – Cos. 471, 468, 465, 446, 443.

    • 54 min
    The Assassination of Spurius Maelius

    The Assassination of Spurius Maelius

    Famine Strikes

    After a peaceful year in 441 BCE, the Romans are in for nasty shock over the course of 440 and 439 BCE. It all begins with a crippling famine, and there seems to have been signs of problems ahead before the food shortage really set in. In Pliny the Elder, there is a reference to an aedile of the plebs (Marcus Marcius) selling grain to the poor at a very low price.

    Episode 127 - The Assassination of Spurius Maelius

    There are some startling differences in our source material this episode. What we can agree on is that the crisis was so severe, Lucius Minucius was appointed as Prefect of the Grain, aka The Nacho King of Rome. His job was to track down some corn and get it the Romans ASAP.

    Image of a random assortment of grains courtesy of www.themindfulword.org

    Emergency Relief

    Unfortunately, Minucius seems to have been incompetent and the famine dragged on. To try and help out his fellow Romans, a wealthy equestrian named Spurius Maelius made use of his extensive connections to secure the needed grain. He succeeds where Minicius had failed, and even worse, he distributes the corn for FREE to the populace. Nothing makes you so popular as distributing free food, especially if it’s amid a famine.

    There's Only So Much Room at the Top

    Maelius’ actions highlight the enormous power that the aristocrats of Rome still wielded thanks to their wealth and the practice of patronage. However, Maelius does not seem to have been one of the ‘club’. He does not seem to have been one of the patricians. Exactly what impact this had is difficult to determine.

    * Did his popularity go to his head and lead to schemes of restoring the monarchy? * Was Cincinnatus dusted off and brought out of retirement to deal with this threat? * Did the people seize control and replace Minicius with Maelius? * Was there a senatorial conspiracy to kill those who spoke out against the government… including Maelius? * Are we dealing with a state-sanctioned assassination? Or is this an elaborate cover-up?  (Hello, JFK conspirators? We've got another one to add to the list....)

    We will leave that to you to decide. All we can say for certain is that this episode is full of intrigue. Never has Ancient Rome seemed more like a gangster film. Get ready for the assassination of Spurius Maelius!

    Things to Look Out For

    * The young patricians* Roman units of measurement* The return of the butcher’s stand in the Forum  * Cincinnatus possibly pulling a Lethal Weapon* When Dr Rad accidentally says that Minucius was rescued by Coriolanus instead of Cincinnatus back in 458 BCE* A Master of the Horse with a name that we just can’t leave alone!

    Our Players 440 BCE


    * Proculus Geganius – f. – n. Macerinus (Pat.)* T. Menenius Agripp. F. Agripp. n. Lanatus (Pat.) – Cos. 452


    * L. Menenius T. f. Agripp. n. Lanatus (Pat.)

    Aedile of the Plebs

    * M. Marcius

    Praefectus Annonae

    * L. Minucius (Esquilinus Augurinus) (Pat.) – Cos. Suff. 458

    Wealthy Equestrian - Giddyup!

    * Spurius Maelius

    Our Players 439 BCE


    * Agrippa Menenius T. f. Agripp. n. Lanatus (Pat.)* T. Quinctius L.f. L.n. Capitolinus Barbatus (Pat.) – Cos. 471, 468, 465, 446, 443.


    * L.

    • 1 hr 16 min
    Special Episode – Ancient Athenian Women with Associate Professor Rebecca Futo Kennedy

    Special Episode – Ancient Athenian Women with Associate Professor Rebecca Futo Kennedy

    We sat down recently with Associate Professor Rebecca Futo Kennedy to talk all about Ancient Greek women, specifically in relation to Athens.

    Futo Kennedy teaches in Classical Studies, Women’s and Gender Studies, and Environmental Studies at Denison University. Kennedy holds a BA in Classical Studies, an MA in Greek and Latin, and completed her PhD on the representation of Athena in the tragedies of Aeschylus and Sophocles at Ohio State University. Kennedy’s most recent monograph is entitled Immigrant Women in Athens: Gender, Ethnicity, and Citizenship in the Classical City.

    Special Episode - Ancient Greek Women with Rebecca Futo Kennedy

    In this conversation we explore the terminology and semantic fields of meaning connected with women in Ancient Greece including some of the persistent misconceptions and assumptions that come along with language. For example, the word hetaira is quite well-known, but what did the ancient Greeks really mean when they used the term?

    How did women fit into the social structures and hierarchies of the ancient Greek city of Athens? What were women's lives like and what does the remaining evidence suggest about how they lived and the meaning they saw in their own experiences?

    We also delve into the complexities attendant upon understanding metics - foreigners in Athens and what this category meant when you were also a woman. And the conversation rounds out with a consideration of poverty in ancient Athens and the challenges in studying this subject.

    Some Sources

    A number of sources and scholars are mentioned in this episode. Here's a few that come up: 

    Jean-Leon Gerome Greek Interior 1848

    * Brown, Peter 1989. The World of Late Antiquity: AD 150-750 * Cecchet, Lucia 2015. Poverty in Athenian Public Discourse: From the Eve of the Peloponnesian War to the Rise of Macedonia* Meyer, Elizabeth A. 2010. Metics and the Athenian Phialai-inscriptions: A Study in Athenian Epigraphy and Law * Osborne, Robin 1997. 'Law, the Democratic Citizen and the Representation of Women in Classical Athens' Past and Present 155, pp 3-33* Pomeroy, Sarah B. 1995. Goddesses, Whores, Wives, and Slaves: Women in Classical Antiquity  - pretty readable, we recommend it if you're looking for a way to dip further into this subject.* Taylor, Claire 2017. Poverty, Wealth, and Well-Being: Experiencing Penia in Democratic Athens 

    Woman playing kottabos. Painting attributed to the Bryn Mawr Painter, c. 480 BCE

    Sound Credits

    Thanks to the thrilling Bettina Joy de Guzman for our theme music.


    We're playing around with auto-generated transcripts.

    • 1 hr 9 min
    Episode 126 – How to Win Land and Influence Ardea

    Episode 126 – How to Win Land and Influence Ardea

    In around 443 BCE Rome is navigating its relationships with its neighbours. Last time we caught up with Rome they became involved in the affairs of the nearby city of Ardea. The conflict seems to have centred around a very attractive plebeian woman whose name has not been recorded in the annals of history. It’s this meddling in Ardea which sets the scene for 442 BCE...

    Episode 126 - How to Win Land and Influence Ardea

    The challenges of 442 BCE

    The consuls of 443 had such a great year that the incoming consuls for 442 BCE knew they had a lot to live up to. There’s a sense that the successes over Ardea were substantial but there are mixed feelings about how this all come about….

    The complexity lies in the nature of the history of conflict with Ardea. The Romans sense that they have actually made some mistakes in how they have dealt with Ardea and the Rutilian people. The Rutilians are the people of this region and Ardea is their capital.

    In order to determine how best to proceed they opt to form the triumviri coloniae deducendae “the group of three men for the commission of the settlement”. Their task to solve the problem of land allotment in relation to Ardea. A colony might just solve their concerns, but what should that colony look like? We explore the details!

    Ardea, the central settlement of the Rutilians was south of Rome.

    Rome and 441 BCE

    It’s a brand new year and it’s time for some games, apparently. There are rumours that the decemvirs had promised the people a set of games, and it now seems to have fallen to the tribune of the plebs, Poetilius to get this event off the ground. 

    Beyond the issue of games at Rome, there’s some interesting rumblings far to the south of Italy in Magna Graecia that might also become important later on.

    Polychromatic terracotta head of a woman with brown hair and pale skin. From Taranto (Magna Graecia) end of 4th century BCE. Antikenmuseum Basel und Sammlung Ludwig, Inv. Kuhn 35. Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

    Our Players

    The Consuls 

    442 BCE

    * Marcus Fabius Q. f. M. n. Vibulanus* Postumus Aebutius - f. - n. Helva Cornicen

    441 BCE

    * Gaius Furius - f. - n. Pacilus Fusus* Manius (or Marcus) Papirius - f. - n. Crassus 

    The triumviri coloniae deducendae

    * Agrippa Menenius (Lanatus)* Titus Cloelius Siculus* Marcus Aebutius Helva

    Tribune of the Plebs

    * Poetilius


    * Dr G reads Diodorus Siculus 12.34-5* Dr Rad reads Livy ab Urbe Condita 4.11-12.* Broughton, T. R. S., Patterson, M. L. 1951. The Magistrates of the Roman Republic Volume 1: 509 B.C. – 100 B.C. (The American Philological Association)* Cornell, T. J. 1995. The Beginnings of Rome: Italy and Rome from the Bronze Age to the Punic Wars (c. 1000-264 BC) (Taylor & Francis)* Forsythe, G. 2006. A Critical History of Early Rome: From Prehistory to the First Punic War(University of California Press) 

    Sound Credits

    • 34 min
    Special Episode – Roman Republican Coinage with Professor Liv Yarrow

    Special Episode – Roman Republican Coinage with Professor Liv Yarrow

    We were absolutely delighted to sit down recently with Professor Liv Yarrow to talk all about ancient Roman coinage from the republican period.

    Special Episode - Roman Republican Coinage with Professor Liv Yarrow

    Liv Yarrow is a professor at the City University of New York (CUNY). She holds a BA from the George Washington University and an MPhil and DPhil from the University of Oxford. Her scholarship spans the areas of ancient historiography and numismatics. In 2006 she published Historiography at the End of the Republic: Provincial Perspectives on Roman Rule (Oxford 2006) and in 2020 her book The Republic to 49 BCE: Using Coins as Sources came out with Cambridge University Press. She is also a co-director of the Roman Republican Die Project with the American Numismatic Society.

    What's Coming up with Roman Coins!

    In this conversation we explore a range of topics, including:

    * how to approach the study of coins (numismatics) - it is a very specialised field!* how the questions we ask of evidence changes affects our inferences and ideas* what makes a coin particularly beautiful* how coins can help us understand society, architecture, politics, and iconography* some of the amazing fashion you might spot on coins!

    Coins to Keep in Mind!

    Yarrow weaves a number of coin issues into the conversation, here's some examples that we discuss: 

    Denarius of Sulla. ANS 1944.100.1502. Obverse: L·MANLI [PRO]·Q - Helmeted head of Roma right. Border of dots. Reverse: L·SVLLA·IM - Triumphator, crowned by flying Victory, in quadriga right, holding reins in left hand and caduceus in right hand. Border of dots. 

    Silver tetradrachm of Mithradates VI, Pontus, 120 BC - 63 BCE. 1944.100.41480. Obverse: head of Mithradates VI. Reverse: stag feeding 

    Silver Coin, Rome, 55 BCE 1944.100.2636 ANS 1944.100.2636. RRC 428/3. Obverse: Head of Genius Populi Romani right, with sceptre over shoulder. Border of dots. Reverse: Q·CASSIVS - Eagle on thunderbolt right; on left, lituus; on right, jug . Border of dots. Just one example of a wild haired deity on Roman coinage, echoing Mithridates’ aesthetic! 

    Silver Coin, Rome, 97 BCE 1937.158.59. Obverse: L·POMPON·MOLO - Laureate head of Apollo right; around, inscription. Border of dots. Reverse: NVMA·POMPIL - Lighted altar; to left, Numa Pompilius holding lituus; to right, youth (victimarius) leading goat. Border of dots. Numa sacrificing with his head unveiled in the Greek fashion. 

    Silver Coin, Rome, 64 B.C. 1944.100.2352. Obverse: L·ROSCI - Head of Juno Sospita right; behind, control mark . Border of dots. Reverse: FABATI - Girl and snake facing each other; on left, control mark. Border of dots. 

    • 56 min
    Episode 125 – Big Trouble in Little Ardea

    Episode 125 – Big Trouble in Little Ardea

    Do you get excited by a trip to the office supply store? Is The Home Edit your favourite show on Netflix? Then this is the episode for you! The Romans are in an organisation frenzy. Grab your red tape, post-its, a sword, and we’re off to 443 BCE. Expect some bureaucracy and civil war in Ardea.

    Episode 125 - Big Trouble in Little Ardea

    Struggle of the Orders? Or Struggle to find some Order?

    Last episode, there was a major shift with the introduction of military tribunes with consular authority. Our major narrative sources, Livy and Dionysius, would have us believe that this was all part of the so called ‘Struggle of the Orders’, a way for plebeians to have access to consular power with tarnishing the office of consul with their gross cooties. However, it seems that Rome might have been restructuring the state to better address their needs. They were living in a 440s world and needed a state structure to match.

    The Censor is Born

    In 443 BCE, the focus was on the census. The census had first been carried out by King Servius Tullius. Since then, a few have been carried out during the early republic.  But 443 BCE was a turning point. Everyone could see the need for a census. Gotta have that data! The consuls were not keen to take on this additional task. Acquiring enormous amounts of personal details takes time and effort. Just ask Google! It was also not exactly illustrious work. The consuls would much rather be charging off into battle or parading around the Forum in a fancy toga than crunching numbers.

    As a result, it was proposed that a new magistracy should be established. The censor and his band of assistants were officially in charge of regulating the census. Hopefully, there would not be any more large gaps in between censuses.  

    A map the region with Ardea and Rome highlighted.Source: Omnis Rereum Romanitatum

    Ardea Brings the Drama

    Ardea has been a theme over the last few episodes. Ever since the Roman people decided to seize some of their territory, Ardea has been a sore point. The Romans don’t usually feel this much guilt! They are very keen to help out when a civil war starts raging in the city.

    The domestic tension in Ardea began with a smoking hot plebeian girl. Isn’t it always the way? This nameless woman attracted the attention of a plebeian and patrician man. Her family disagreed about which man she should marry. The escalated quickly beyond a family dispute into total civil war in Ardea. Yep, that tracks. It's Big Trouble in Little Ardea.

    Will the Romans be able to prevent Ardea from total destruction? Tune in to find out!

    Our Players


    * M. Geganius M. f. – n. Macerinus (Pat.) – Cos. 447, 437* T. Quinctius L. f. L. n. Capitolinus Barbatus (Pat.) – Cos. 471, 468, 465, 446, 449


    * L. Papirius – f. – n. Mugillanus (Pat.) – Cos. Suff. 444* L. Sempronius A. f. – n. Atratinus (Pat.) – Cos. Suff. 444


    * Dr G reads Dionysius of Halicarnassus, Roman Antiquities, 11.63.* Dr Rad reads Livy ab Urbe Condita 4.8-10.* Broughton, T. R. S., Patterson, M. L. 1951. The Magistrates of the Roman Republic Volume 1: 509 B.C. – 100 B.C. (The American Philological Association)* Cornell, T. J. 1995. The Beginnings of Rome: Italy and Rome from the Bronze Age to the Punic Wars (c. 1000-264 BC) (Taylor & Francis)* Forsyt...

    • 45 min

Customer Reviews

4.6 out of 5
34 Ratings

34 Ratings

Stephanie201457 ,


I'm so glad I came across this podcast! You guys are great!!

Rollo Stanley ,

12 tables - Diligence needs to improve

It’s too lighthearted and lightweight for me. I listened to half of the 12 tables podcast and then had to turn it off. The episode could have benefitted from more historical context and in-depth analysis - (these two are meant to be academic doctors for heaven’s sake) - rather than reading out the lines, making quips about the contents of the lines in misplaced modern day contexts, and then laughing about it. And then there’s the old “I’m a feminist so I can have a sledge at men in any context I choose” attitude as well - I was disappointed in this show because the ancient Roman legal system could be a really great topic or series but it was just completely mishandled here in terms of a lack of academic rigour and alienating gender politics.

Rlcaust ,

Best Podcast

also great high school teacher ngl from Jayden and Jacinta!

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