Dr Fiona Radford is an expert on Rome on film and wrote her thesis on Kubrick’s Spartacus. Dr Radford is exponent of not only Ancient History, but also Reception Studies.
Dr Peta Greenfield is an expert on the Vestal Virgins. Dr Greenfield’s research interests include: religion and politics in Rome, the late republic and Augustan period, and the role of women.
Special Episode – The Reception of Cleopatra
Cleopatra looms large in the imagination, but her legacy is often overshadowed by the western cultural tradition. It turns out that there are many ways to understand the last Pharaoh of Egypt.
Special Episode - The Reception of Cleopatra with Yentl Love
We were thrilled to sit down with Yentl Love to discuss the Islamic reception of Cleopatra. Love is known for her work in making ancient history and classics accessible through her blog the The Queer Classicist. Love has been studying Ancient History and Classics for a number of years and is now bringing the ancient world to life for readers across the globe.
Egypt's last pharaoh has a rather negative reputation in the western tradition. A classic example is the characterisation of her as a poisoner. Alexander Cabanel, Cleopatra Testing Poisons on Condemned Prisoners, between circa 1845 and circa 1887. Wikimedia Commons
Cleopatra VII was the last Pharaoh to rule Egypt. She was part of the Ptolemaic dynasty, descendants of one of Alexander the Great’s generals. She experienced her fair share of family drama. One of her sisters was executed for seizing the throne from their father! It may not have been a relaxing childhood, but it did prepare her for a political career when she became pharaoh at just eighteen, alongside her younger brother, Ptolemy XIII.
In this episode, we discuss Cleopatra’s journey and her encounters with some of the most famous Romans in history, including Julius Caesar, Mark Antony and Octavian (later Augustus!), and how these relationships would impact the way she was represented in the surviving sources.
There are many Greco-Roman sources that refer to Cleopatra, and these include histories, biographies, poems and letters. One factor that they have in common is the negative portrayal of the Egyptian Pharaoh. This is in contrast to the archaeological record, such as coins, statues and buildings.
One of the most arresting portraits is by Artemisia Gentileschi, Death of Cleopatra, 1613 or 1621-1622. Here we see a woman in middle age, stripped bare of all the insignia of power in her final moment of defiance.
Cleopatra the Scholar
We explore some of the reasons behind the differing portraits that have survived of Cleopatra, before delving into the Islamic source tradition. Produced much later than the Greco-Roman sources or the archaeological material, the Islamic sources provide a distinct portrayal of Egypt's last queen; one that is not bound up in her relationships with men or her appearance.
Cleopatra the scholar? Elizabeth Taylor in the title role of the 1963 film with writing implement in hand!Image courtesy of www.mediafactory.com.au
Join us for this episode about the historiography of Egypt's last pharaoh; a woman whose fame deserves to include more than just her Roman lovers.
Ashton, S. Cleopatra and Egypt. Malden: Blackwell Publishing, 2008.
El-Daly, O. Egyptology: The Missing Millenium: Ancient Egypt in Medieval Arabic Writings. London & New York: Routledge, 2016.
Gillett, M. “Goddess, Whore, Queen and Scholar.” Teaching History 51, no. 1 (March 2017): 19-23.
Episode 110 – The Mask Comes Off
The First Decemvirate was a big success, so much so that Rome opts for a Second Decemvirate!
The decemvirs were popular figures in Rome and during 451 BCE they produced the Ten Tables. This initial set of law codes was positively received by the population, but there was something missing... MORE LAWS!
But it isn't too long before some red flags appear...
Episode 110 - The Mask Comes Off
Wait a Second... Decemvirate
Appius Claudius campaigns hard to get himself re-elected, along with some of his patrician buddies. There are also some new and unusual names that appear in the list for the Second Decemvirate - we might have some plebeian magistrates on the team. Gasp!
As soon as they are confirmed in their positions, the charismatic, approachable and charming Appius reveals his true self and his real intentions. Tyranny!
Life in Rome quickly becomes extremely unpleasant for everyone as the decemvirs and their thugs flex their muscles, but it's especially tough if you are one of the less privileged persons in the populace. This a dark time for Rome. Join us to find out how they deal with the infamous Second Decemvirate!
The Cancelleria relief, frieze B. This piece is a relief from the rule of Domitian so far ahead of where we are in the narrative, but it does include a lictor carries the fasces with the axe. The first complete figure from the right is a lictor holding the fasces in his left hand.
The Second Decemvirate
* Appius Claudius. Ap. f. M. n. Crassus Inregillensis Sabinus Pat – Cos. 471, 451* Marcus Cornelius - f. Ser. n. Maluginenesis Pat* Marcus? Sergius Esquilinus Pat* Lucius Minucius P. f. M. n. Esquilinus Augurinus Pat – Cos. 458* Quintus Fabius M. f. M. n. Vibulanus Pat – Cos. 467, 465, 459* Quintus Poetelius Libo Visolus* Titus Antonius Merenda* Caeso Duillius Longus?* Spurius. Oppius Cornicen* Manius Rabuleius
* Cornell, T. J. 1995. The Beginnings of Rome* Eder, W. 2005. ‘The Political Significance of the Codification of Law in Archaic Societies: An Unconventional Hypothesis’ in K. Raaflaub (ed) Social Struggles in Archaic Rome: New Perspectives on the Conflict of the Orders* Forsythe, G. 2005. A Critical History of Early Rome* Momigliano, A. 2005. ‘The Rise of the Plebs in the Archaic Age of Rome’ in K. Raaflaub (ed) Social Struggles in Archaic Rome: New Perspectives on the Conflict of the Orders* Perello, C. F. A. 2020. ‘The Twelve Tables and the leges regiae; A Problem of Validity’ in S. W. Bell & P. J. du Pleissis (eds) Roman Law Before the Twelve Tables: An Interdisciplinary Approach* Raaflaub, K. 2005. ‘From Protection and Defense to Offense and Participation: Stages in the Conflict of the Orders’ in K. Raaflaub (ed) Social Struggles in Archaic Rome: New Perspectives on the Conflict of the Orders* Scullard, H. H. 1935. A History of the Roman World 753-146 BC
Sound Effects: Fesliyan Studios, Sound Bible, BBC.
Original Music: the fantastic Bettina Joy de Guzman
Special Episode – The Twelve Tables
The Twelve Tables are a landmark moment of early Republican Roman history. The lex duodecim tabularum see the codification of Rome's laws!
The name 'The Twelve Tables' is derived from the idea that these laws were inscribed on to twelve oak tablets. We happen to know quite a lot about the content of the tables, even though they have not survived in epigraphic form. The evidence for the tables comes from extant literature.
Special Episode - The Twelve Tables
The main literary sources that we're reading at the moment, Livy and Dionysius of Halicarnassus, place the landmark moment of the codification around 450 BCE. The process is not a smooth one from their perspective! Normal magistracies are suspended in favour of a specially selected cohort of ten men who are granted authority to put together the law code.
Believe us when we tell you that the drama associated with the decemvirate has only just begun to be revealed in Episode 109.
The End of Long Struggle?
According to our literary sources, both of whom are writing hundreds of years after the events they describe, the Twelve Tables are the result of the Struggle of the Orders.
This ongoing rift between sections of the Roman population is contentious in its own ways, so it is worth considering the content of the Tables as a point of comparison. The difference between what we might expect of a law code that is the result of a class struggle and the laws themselves is quite something.
So that's just what we're going to do in this special mini-episode! Join as we dip into the details of the law code and some of the fascinating details we learn from this document
Roman civilians examining the Twelve Tables after they were first implemented. Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.
Looking to explore the Twelve Tables in more detail? You can read them all here!
Other readings to consider:
* Forsythe, G. 2006. A Critical History of Early Rome: From Prehistory to the First Punic War. University of California Press - contains a chapter on the Twelve Tables and how the politics unfolds
* Bell, S., du Plessis, P. (eds.) 2020. Roman Law Before the Twelve Tables: An Interdisciplinary Approach. Edinburgh University Press - this one is hot off the press and we're super excited to jump in and read it soon!
This shows the forum in ruins, but it is in this space that the Twelve Tables would have been present to the populace. Image curtesy of Wikimedia Commons, by Kimberlym21
The Partial Recap – the 460s BCE
The history of Rome is complex, even in the early Republic. Sometimes it's hard to keep all the details straight so we thought it might be a good time to try something new.
The Partial Recap series will be a scripted overview of each decade of Roman history. First cab off the rank is the decade of the 460s BCE. This is the last complete decade we've covered in our Foundation of Rome series, and we'll be working through the previous decades over the next few months.
Part of the benefit of these episodes will be to help refresh the memory of the key events of each year. We're also trying out a scripted style that easy allows us to share a transcript, which is a good step forward in terms of accessibility for our podcast. As technology progresses, we're hoping to automate accurate transcripts for our conversational episodes.
Join us for a Partial Recap of the 460s BCE!
The Partial Recap - The 460s BCE
"A view to the East over the Roman Forum with the Temple of Saturn on the left and the Palatine Hill on the right, showing the Temple of Castor and Pollux, the Arch of Titus, Santa Francesca Romana, and the Colosseum." Detail from the photograph by Nicholas Hartmann, June 1976. Image Source: Wikimedia Commons. Used under license.
FR - Welcome to the Partial Recap for the 460s BC!
PG - I’m Dr G
FR - and I’m Dr Rad
PG - and this is our highlights edition of the 460s in Rome. We’ll take you through from 469 to 460 in an epitome of our normal episodes.
FR - Perfect for those mornings when you don’t want some lengthy rhetoric with your coffee
PG - Get ready for a recappuccino.
In 469, the consuls were Titus Numicus Priscus and Aulus Verginius Caelimontanus.
* There were some domestic issues that surfaced as the plebeians were pushing for progress with the agrarian law - looking for a fairer share of the land.* They were quickly distracted by issues with the Volscians. The Volscians start making incursions into Roman territory and the consuls journey forward to meet the threat.* Numicius heads off to the belly of the beast - Volscian territory - and his forces pillage and capture coastal settlements as they go. Antium, a major Volscian city, is in their sights.* Verginius goes to deal with Aequians in the east. The Aequians are enemies of Rome and allies of the Volscians. After a bit of a rocky start, he defeats them in combat. He then turns around to deal with the Sabines. Turns out Rome is surrounded by enemies! * Meanwhile, back in Rome, the plebeians decide not to vote in the annual elections. They are tired of the lack of progress on the agrarian law, so what is even the point anymore? The agrarian reform the plebeians have been pushing for would mean a fairer distribution of public land for all Roman citizens. The elite patricians have been stalling, knowing it’ll mean a loss for them.
In 468 BCE, the consuls were Titus Quintius Capitolinus Barbatus (consul for the second time) and Quintus Servilius Priscus.
* Unrest between Rome and their neighbours continues. Rome is facing issues with the Sabines to the north east, and the Volscian-Aequian alliance which stretches from the south to the east. * Servilius is off campaigning against the Sab...
Episode 109 – The First Decemvirate
The Roman republic is in full swing and it's time for the first decemvirate! The growing discontent amongst the population is reaching breaking point according to our narrative sources.
Episode 109 - The First Decemvirate
This conflict is often referred to as the Struggle of the Orders. It's predicated on the idea that there is an ongoing tension between the patricians and the plebeians, two groups of Roman citizens at odds with each other. The patricians are the 'haves' and the plebeians are the 'have nots', but there are plenty of reasons to be wary of this division, since we're not quite sure what qualities firmly exclude someone from patrician status in this early period.
While modern scholars tend to see this division of the Roman population as a retrojection of our narrative and annalistic sources, this is nevertheless the lens through which Livy and Dionysius of Halicarnassus are navigating the early history of the republic. And where they lead, we shall follow.
In terms of chronology, it's 452 BCE, which means Rome is now over 300 years old! From here we begin to delve into the details of how the first decemvirate emerged.
To alleviate the concerns of the people, we see the rise of the decemvirs. The decemviri consulari imperio legibus scribundis 'the ten men with consular imperium for the writing down of the laws' have a very specific task. It is considered of such importance that normal governance is suspended while the decemvirs do their things. The task is to put down the best laws of Rome and Greece into a document that can be placed in public for use in perpetuity.
There are some concerns about what this decemvirate is designed to achieve from the out set. Livy suggests that there may have been legitimate concerns about this being a grab for power by the privileged patricians.
This is supported by the requests for the Icilian law and the land allotment on the Aventine that it provided to be kept in place (Interested in the details of the Lex Icilia de Aventino Publicndo? We explore all the details in Episode 104 - Aventine, Aventine).
There are also concerns that the decemvirate may attempt to dissolve the tribune of plebs, a magistracy that was hard won and often a thorn in the side of the patrician senate.
Appius "Building Unity" Claudius
When the consul for 452 BCE Menenius falls ill and is unable to fulfil his duties as consul, Appius Claudius (consul designate for 451 BCE) offers to support the remaining consul, Publius Sestius, by organising the decemvirate which is due to begin the next year.
He works closely with the tribunes and other inserted senators and seems very invested in harmony, peace, and ensuring the unity of the state as they embark upon the codification of the laws.
Things to listen out for:
* The way the decemvirs share power* A day in the life of the decemvirs* The charisma of Appius Claudius* The Ten Tables!* Ager publicus (or the absence thereof)* Suppression of tribunician power
Consuls of 452 BCE
* Publius Sestius Q. f. Vibi n. Capitolinus(?) Vaticanus (Pat)* Lucius / Titus Menenius Agripp. f. Agripp. n. Lanatus (Pat)
The First Decemvirate of 451 BCE
Meet your decemvirs!
The decemvirs are led by the consul designates for the year 451 BCE
* Appius Claudius Ap. f. M. n.
Special Episode – The Year of the Four Emperors with Dr Rob Cromarty
We are thrilled to be joined by Dr Rob Cromarty, better known as Doc Crom, for this special episode on the Year of the Four Emperors. Doc Crom, is a teacher, author, and fellow fan of #PhallusThursdays and #FannyFriday over on twitter and we recommend you follow him for his excellent tweets about Latin literature and ancient artefacts.
In this very special episode we talk about his journey into Classics and his take on the personalities and power struggles involved in the aftermath of the death of the Emperor Nero.
Special Episode - The Year of the Four Emperors with Dr Rob Cromarty
What is ‘The Year of the Four Emperors’?
The Emperor Nero made several mistakes in the last few years of his reign. Following the brutal suppression of a serious conspiracy against him, Nero left Rome in the hands of his freedmen so that he could compete in the Olympic Games.
Back in Rome, the people were dealing with low grain supplies. The aristocracy had been alienated for years, and the increasing use of delatores (informers) only made matters worse. The army was also on edge after the execution of talented generals like Corbulo. The situation in early 68 CE was tense.
The extent of Roman power in the crucial years of 68 and 69 CE. Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.
The Year of the Four Emperors really kicks off with rebellion. In March, Caius Julius Vindex, then stationed in Gaul, revolted in protest against Nero’s tax policy. Some problems never change. Servius Sulpicius Galba, an old associate of some of the Julio-Claudians, was stationed in Spain and decided to throw his lot in with Vindex.
Vindex’s rebellion was put down by Lucius Verginius Rufus, and Galba was declared a public enemy. But that did not last long. The Praetorian Prefect, Nymphidius Sabinus, promised the guard a hefty donative to transfer their allegiance from Nero to Galba, and before long the Senate had made Nero himself a public enemy.
The First of the Four
Galba became emperor in June 68 CE after the suicide of Nero. As a stern, experienced candidate, he must have seemed like a promising choice. However, he soon acquired something of a reputation. According to sources, his assumption of power involved the death of many, and he was stingy with money. Most importantly, he did not provide soldiers with the bonuses they had been promised in exchange for their support. As Tacitus (Hist. 1.49.6) remarked, “…no one would have doubted his ability to reign had he never been emperor.”
Galba was also 73 years old and had no children. This didn’t bode well for stability, and so he decided to focus on improving his position in this area by adopting Lucius Calpurnius Piso in January of 69 CE, a deliberate snub to one of his most prominent supporters – Otho.
A portrait bust of the Roman emperor Galba. This piece is held in the Antiquities Museum in the Royal Palace, Stockholm. Photo credit to Wolfgang Sauber via Wikimedia Commons.
The Year of the Four Emperors, Take Two
To say that Otho was displeased is an understatement. He bribed the Praetorians to back his cause; after all, they weren’t getting bonuses from Galba! On the 15th of January 69 CE, Piso and Galba were assassinated in the forum. Otho thus became the first emperor to unequivocally acquire power by killing the previous emperor. Otho was well known as he had been a prominent member of Nero’s court; indeed, Nero’s most beloved wife, Poppaea Sabina,
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I enjoy having an easily digestible history podcast. One request: speak a little slower. I often listen to shows whilst travelling or multitasking, and the speed is such that it breezes too rapidly through details... lose focus for a second and it’s too late. I end up having to rewind, and then again, and then pause, and then stop and end up not coming back.
I rarely leave a review for anything these days, but honestly this has quickly become my favourite thing to listen to. Im currently in my final year of Classics and I chill out to this podcast at least once a day. The history is absolutely spot on and the humour of these two ladies is just so funny. They cheer me up and they remind me of why I love this subject so much. Now in the name of the Empire stop reading reviews and get listening to them!
Absolutely fabulous. I don’t enjoy gossipy contemporary news but presenting Ancient Rome in a tabloid style while managing to keep the scholarly aspects intact is a masterpiece. Highly encouraged for anyone with some initial level of pre existing knowledge of Ancient Rome