This show is focused on the history and myth of the Cradle of Civilization, bronze age Mesopotamia, beginning with the dawn of writing. The show will cover the full history of Mesopotamia, from Gilgamesh to Nabonidas, a span of some 2500 years, with myths of heroes and gods, and tales of daily life peppered throughout. New episodes every Wednesday. Online at oldeststories.net. I hang at a discord at https://discord.gg/q8XPnpg
OS 85 - New Cities and New Villains
Everyone is excited for the buildup to the great battle of Kadesh, but before we get to the battle itself, there is quite a lot going on in the reign of King Muwatalli that often gets overshadowed in the rush to the greatest battle of the late bronze age. Muwatalli is going to build a new capitol city, Tarhuntassa, which will be hugely unpopular and risk splitting the empire in half. In the west, meanwhile, we have the appearance of a famous and mysterious new renegade named Piyramaradu, who will also bring the story of the Greeks, and maybe even the tale of the Trojan War, into our story as well for the first time. But, of course, there will still be plenty of time for all the buildup to the conflict with Pharoah Ramesses II as well. Online at oldeststories.net
OS 84 - Mursili's Plague
While he can easily be overshadowed by the military accomplishments of his father Suppiluliuma and his son Muwatalli II, Mursili II is one of the most significant kings in Hittite History, and one of the most well documented. Unlike most kings, for whom we have pretty much just state records, we have personal details of Mursili's life and reign, telling us things like how he felt when he took the throne, and how much he loved his wife. Today we look at Mursili II's accomplishments and writings, all of which take place in the backdrop of one of the most significant plagues of the late bronze age.
OS 83 - Vengeance, Mortal and Divine
We have a bit of a hodge podge here as we finish up the reign of Suppiluliuma and move into his successors, Arnuwanda II and Mursili II. But there is a common thread of vengeance woven throughout. We will see the level of violence rise, both in terms of more combat which has been recorded and in the brutality that gets pulled out to deal with the defeated side in these wars. We will talk a little bit about military trends, particularly the balance of siegecraft and city defense, and some of the reasons for Hittite military dominance. Mursili is an interesting fellow, a mix of remarkable brutality and unusual piety, and the gods himself will treat with him in remarkable ways.
OS 82 - Suppiluliuma Irritates Egypt
In the aftermath of one of the greatest campaigns of the bronze age, Suppiluliuma's Hittites need to consolidate control over Syria. This is complicated by matters of Egyptian and Mitanni politics, as well as the endless politicking of the tiny Syrian states, but it turns out if you have a massive army and a military genius, than many political problems have a way of simply resolving themselves. We will also see one of the strangest events in bronze age political history, and we will see how it goes sour and launches a multi-generational feud between Egypt and the Hittites. Online at oldeststories.net
OS 81 - King Tushratta Begs and Runs Away
Today we will start the great and storied reign of Hittite Great King Suppiluliuma I and his campaigns against the Mitanni. However, because this happens to be the age of Amarna, we are in the unusual position that his opponent in Mitanni is not a faceless non-entity. There is a fair bit we can say about the Mitanni king Tushratta, and so before we start wrecking the Mitanni kingdom, we are going to learn a bit about Tushratta and his role in shifting the balance of power in the near east. Online at oldeststories.net
OS 80 - The Storm Before The Calm
Today the Hittite Empire will fall, pretty much completely, and be replaced by the western Anatolian state of Arzawa. We have seen the Hittites beaten pretty badly before, and this is about as bad at it has ever gotten, with even the capitol Hattusa sacked and burned to the ground. But no matter how hard the Hittites get hit this episode, they have a secret weapon in their back pocket, king Tudhaliya III's son and heir Suppiluliuma. Online at oldeststories.net
A Phenomenal Raconteur
James breathes life and personality into ancient history in a way I have never before experienced. He is the professor I wish I’d had in university and the bard we are so very fortunate to hear now.
Almost flawless, highly recommended for anyone with interests in myth/ancient history
This is a truly excellent podcast. Even with a lifelong interest in mythology and decent background in ancient history I have learned a lot from each episode. This podcast has made me think a lot more deeply about the innovations of ancient cities (how they departed from earlier human societies, how they influenced later periods and what they tell us about human nature). I never before considered how strange and important some aspects of this period are (e.g. campaign seasons vs imperial expansion, deep rift between shepherds and farmers, tension between religious and military authority). The storytelling is also gripping and tightly written and demonstrates clear familiarity with sources, with great contextualization. Unlike most podcasts I give this one my full attention rather than listening while doing other things. This podcast reminds me of the 1902 Georges Méliès film A Trip to the Moon, which feels truly weird to me compared to most films because it preceded the canalization of cinematic conventions. You can see how film might have gone in other directions. This podcast has taught me about how human civilizations could have turned out differently.