112 episodes

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.

The Partial Historians The Partial Historians

    • History

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.

    A Tribute to Kirk Douglas

    A Tribute to Kirk Douglas

    Join Dr Rad as she reminiscences about one of her film favourites and pays tribute to the man that has unwittingly dominated her life for over a decade.

    Special Episode - A Tribute to Kirk Douglas

    2020 has been on my radar for a while, listeners, as it marks sixty years since the iconic movie Spartacus was released. However, just a few days before the Oscars, the star of this film has passed away at the age of 103. Given the helicopter crash, the strokes, it is amazing that he lived this long, but I still feel very melancholy that a film star of his stature is no more.

    The Chin Dimple that COULD launch a thousand ships. Kirk Douglas' magnificent face-acting during the famous 'I'm Spartacus' scene. Image courtesy of https://hollywoodrevue.wordpress.com/2016/12/11/simpson-sunday-cartoon-without-pity/

    I have a strong affinity for Issur Danielovitch (Kirk Douglas) and not just because I grew up watching his movies (which I did). Loyal listeners will be aware that I ended up studying the production of Spartacus (1960), the historical film based on the famous slave revolt against Rome. As the titular hero, but more importantly as the producer of this film, Douglas played a key role in shaping the representation of the rebellious gladiator.

    Indeed, it was quite an accomplishment that this movie made it to the screen at all, as film star/producer Yul Brynner was also championing a Spartacus project at the same time. On top of this rivalry, Douglas' project was plagued with personality clashes and squabbles about the overall vision for the film. This led to constant changes to the script, and Douglas did little to contain this, earning the nickname 'General Mixmaster' on set.

    Douglas in costume on set talking to his young, and not particularly well-known, director Stanley Kubrick. The men had worked together previously on Paths of Glory, but the tensions over Spartacus would cause a rift to open between them. Image courtesy of https://www.rapportoconfidenziale.org/?p=36320

    However, it is undeniable that Douglas' drive is one of the most important factors that led to the completion and success of this film in 1960.

    The movie is largely remembered these days for the iconic 'I'm Spartacus' scene and its' status as the film that finally broke the blacklist (in America at least). The real story about the breaking of the blacklist is a little more complicated, which you can read about here.

    During this dark time in America, screenwriters were some of the only professionals in this environment who could potentially evade the restrictions placed on their employment. One such blacklistee, Dalton Trumbo, had been hired by Bryna (Douglas' production company). Trumbo had been working tirelessly to see his name restored to the credits by the time he started writing the Spartacus script. Douglas probably did not intend to grant this desire during the early days, but he had changed his mind by the time of the premiere.

    Kirk Douglas spent hours trying to get his scene on the cross just right. Whilst he may have been one of the causes of confusion on set, no one could question his dedication to Spartacus. Image courtesy of https://www.nieuwsblad.

    • 21 min
    Episode 101 – Talk to the Tree

    Episode 101 – Talk to the Tree

    It can be quite insulting to be told to 'talk to the hand' and, for the Romans, it would seem that being told to 'talk to the tree' is just as problematic. In this episode, we explore the tail end of 459 BCE and enter 458 BCE. It's fair to say that some mud is being flung between Rome and her neighbours...

    Episode 101 - Talk to the Tree

    The Trouble with


    Livy and Dr Rad have some excellent details to offer about the ongoing and troubling ambiguity surrounding the plebeian push for the 'the law about the laws'. This ongoing issues between patrician interests and the tribunes fighting for greater transparency is soon waylaid, however, by concerns pertaining to the recent accusation of murder! Dr Rad delves into the murky narrative and Livy's account of the affair.

    New Year, Same


    Intrigues and law cases regarding potentially spurious accusations of murder give way to new elections and we find ourselves in c. 458 BCE. Both Verginius and Volscius make it back it into the tribuneship!

    Listen out for Dr G forgetting Volscius (awkward for everyone) and temporarily being unable to read a map (to clarify, the Sabines and the Aequians are both East of Rome, North and South respectively).

    Trouble in the South

    It isn't long before Rome learns of Aequian incursions into Tusculum, which is a huge surprise given the peace treaty concluded between Rome and the Aequians just the year before. Listen in to find out how:

    * Rome reacts to threats from the south * the fetiales get involved * and oak trees take on an important cameo role

    While Dionysius of

    Halicarnassus gets swept up in the military narrative, Livy seeks to

    balance the challenges the Rome faces externally and internally...

    Our Players

    459 BCE



    Q. Fabius M.

    f. K. Vibulanus


    L. Cornelius

    Ser. f. P. n. Maluginensis Uritinus

    Prefect of the City



    Lucretius (Tricipitinus)


    * Aulus Verginius * Marcus Volscius Fictor (maybe a tribune)







    Servilius (Structus Priscus?)





    458 BCE



    C. Nautius

    Sp. f. Sp. n. Rutilus - cos II


    L. Minucius

    P. f. M. n Esquilinus Augurinus

    Prefect of the City


    Q. Fabius



    * Aulus Verginius * Marcus Volscius Fictor



    M. Valerius

    M'. f. Volusi Maximus


    T. Quintius

    Capitolinus Barbatus

    Roman Embassy


    Q. Fabius

    Vibulanus (also Prefect of the City)


    P. Volumnius

    Amintinus Gallus


    A. Postumius

    Albus Regillensis

    Aequian Leader




    Claude Lorrain 1682 Ascanius Shooting the Stag of Sylvia,

    • 49 min
    Episode 100 – The Consulship

    Episode 100 – The Consulship

    We've reached a huge

    milestone! One hundred episodes is quite something and we're super

    chuffed to have made it this far. To celebrate we've put together a

    very special episode for you on the consulship.

    Episode 100 - The Consulship

    While our narrative history of Rome is still very much in the early republic, the consul is a position that many aficionados of ancient Rome are familiar with. But how much do we know about the consul especially in the early years of the republic? We're here to sift through the evidence!

    After the Kings

    After the expulsion of the Tarquins, Rome is left facing a crisis of governance. How best to restructure the state in the wake of the collapse of monarchy?

    The Romans innovative solution was to divide the powers of the rex between two men, thereby saving the populace from the tyranny of a sole ruler. But to claim that the Romans came to this decision cleanly, and with a clarity of what this would really look like, is to miss the fascinating complexities of the way the role developed over time.


    Makes a Consul?

    In this special episode we'll trace the some of the key features of the consulship and explore what the position entailed in the early republic, the late republic, and the early empire. There's plenty to enjoy here including:

    * a return to the relationship between magistracies and assemblies;* the role of consuls in war;* and the consuls' relationship with the gods.

    Alexandre Jacovleff 'Ancient Roman Senators' illustration for The General History Edited by Satyricon (1911)


    Interested in learning more about the consulship? These are the major sources we consulted in preparation for this episode and we definitely recommend them for getting a handle on the subject!

    Beck, H., Duplá, A., Jehne, M., & Pino Polo, F. 2011. ‘The republic and its highest office: some introductory remarks on the Roman consulate’ in Beck, H., Duplá, A., Jehne, M., Pina Polo, F. (eds) Consuls and Res Publica: Holding High Office in the Roman Republic (Cambridge University Press), 1-15.

    'Consul' in Pauly's Realencyclopadie der classischen Altumsumswissenschaft Band IV, 1, col. 1112-1138 (1900).

    Eck, W. 2019. 'Suffect consul' in Cancik, H., Schneider, H., Salazar, C. F. (eds) Brill's New Pauly (Last accessed 29/9/2019)

    Drogula, F. K. 2015. Commanders and Command in the Roman Republic and Early Empire (University of North Carolina Press)

    Gizewski, C. 2019. 'Consul(es)' in Cancik, H., Schneider, H., Salazar, C. F. (eds) Brill's New Pauly (Last accessed 29/9/2019)

    Hölkeskamp, K. 2011. ‘The Roman republic as theatre of power: the consuls as leading actors’ in Beck, H., Duplá, A., Jehne, M., Pina Polo, F. (eds) Consuls and Res Publica: Holding High Office in the Roman Republic (Cambridge University Press), 161-181.

    Hurlet, F. 2011. ‘Consulship and consuls under Augustus’ in Beck, H., Duplá, A., Jehne, M., Pina Polo, F. (eds) Consuls and Res Publica: Holding High Office in the Roman Republic (Cambridge University Press), 319-35.

    Malik, S.; Davenport, C., ‘Mythbusting Ancient Rome – Caligula’s Horse’ (4/5/2017), The Conversation (Last accessed on 5/10/2019)

    Scullard, H. H.

    • 57 min
    Episode 99 – Tusculum and Antium

    Episode 99 – Tusculum and Antium

    It is c. 459 BCE and Rome faces the consequences of the Capitol having been seized and a consul killed in the previous year. The challenges come on two fronts: Tusculum and Antium.

    Episode 99 - Tusculum and Antium


    * Quintus Fabius M. f. K. n. Vibulanus cos. III * Lucius Cornelius Ser. f. P. n. Maluginensus Uritnus

    Trouble at the Margins

    The Latins and

    Hernicians (Rome's allies) come to Rome to report that the Volscians

    and the Aequians are still causing trouble at the edges of allied

    territory. Rome sends some troops to Antium.

    The Aequians

    surprise attack Rome's friend Tusculum. According to Dionysius this

    involves enslaving many of the women but leaving many of the men

    untouched. The Romans are pretty upset by this turn of events and

    throw themselves into action.

    These tussles lead to military actions in Algidum and Ecetra, both of which are near the territory of the Aequians and the latter is described by Dionysius as the "most prominent city of the Volscian nation" (Dion. Hal. Ant. Rom. 10.21.3).

    How Do You Solve a

    Problem Like Antium?

    Rome has been raiding Antium for the past few years and recently converted the city into a Roman colony. None of these measures can be considered wholly successful.

    As news of the seizure of Rome's Capitol reaches south, it seems like a good time to revolt. This is spearheaded by the Volscians, which makes perfect sense as Antium is part of their historical sphere of influence.

    Livy and Dionysius of Haliarnassus disagree on a range of details about how this conflict unfolds so it's fair to say that we're less than impressed with our narrative sources right now! Nevertheless, what they do tell us is very interesting:

    * Livy has Rome heading in with a force made up of Romans and allies and devastating the Volscian camp by surprising them. * Dionysius offers us a tale of Rome turning Antium into a camp by surrounding it with palisades!

    Who's Doing The

    Fighting Anyway?

    Despite Rome facing

    a war on two fronts this year, Livy suggests that when the forces are

    drawn up, they are mostly comprised on allied troops, with only a

    third of the manpower offered by Rome herself. Is this a sign of

    Rome's growing hegemony over her immediate neighbours?

    Join us for some

    very conflicting accounts from Livy and Dionysius of Halicarnassus as

    we delve into the complicated relationships between the Romans,

    Volscians, Aequians, Tusculans, Latins, and Hernicians!

    P.S. Be on the listen for our podcat Hamish who makes a guest appearance!

    An artistic impression of what early Republican soliders may have looked like (right). If you know the artist, please let us know so we can credit them appropriately.

    Our Sources:


    Dr G is

    reading Dionysius of Halicarnassus Roman Antiquities 10.20-21



    R is reading Livy Ab

    Urbe Condita 3.22-24

    Selected Secondary Sources:


    Broughton, T. R. S. 1951. The Magistrates of the Roman

    Republic,Volume I (American Philological Association)


    Lomas, K. 2017. The Rise of Rome: from the Iron Age to

    the Punic Wars(1000-264 BC) (Profile Books)

    Sound Credits:

    Additional sounds were provided by:

    • 41 min
    *Special Episode* What Does Your Toga Say About You?

    *Special Episode* What Does Your Toga Say About You?

    Dr Amy Place from the University of Leicester sits down with Dr Rad to discuss the humble Roman toga, fashion and social identity, and everyday life in late imperial Roman North Africa!

    On a recent tour to Australia, Place presented a paper for the SPQR Roman History Forum at Macquarie University on the representation of fashions in Late Roman North Africa. The Partial Historians we lucky enough to grab the chance to chat.

    *Special Episode* - What Does Your Toga Say About You?

    Late Roman North Africa is a time period and an area that is understudied, but just as fascinating as Italy. Place is particularly interested in how clothing is represented and how it was used to express social identity.

    Dominus Julius Mosaic from Carthage, Bardo Museum. Copyright credit: Sean Leatherbury/Manar al-Athar

    When are we talking?

    Dr Place’s research focuses on 200-550 CE. The late Roman empire is full of intrigue and was a time of great change. While there was some stability under the emperor Septimius Severus, who ruled from 193-211 CE, with his death and the succession of his son Caracalla, a century of turmoil began.

    Amidst the political chaos that characterised much of this century, the Christians rose in prominence. By the beginning of the fourth century, Rome would have its first Christian emperor, Constantine I. This emerging system would rapidly became established as the exclusive religion of the empire as Rome entered the fifth century.

    Where are we talking?    

    The focus of Place’s research has been the coastal regions of North Africa, examining an area that spans Namibia to Morocco. Parts of North Africa began to be acquired by Rome in the 2nd century BCE with the end of the Third Punic War. Roman influence continued to expand in this region throughout the late Republic and into the Empire.

    What is the source material like for fashion and togas?

    Place's research is based in part on literary sources but is supplemented with mosaics. She highlights the difficulties that come with using textual evidence to understand something that was visual. The terms used in the sources are not always easily matched to a surviving representation and it is extremely rare for any actual samples of clothing to survive to the modern day.  

    Matron at her Toilette Mosaic from Sidi Ghrib, Bardo. Copyright credit: Sean Leatherbury/Manar al-Athar.

    How did people in North Africa use clothing to construct and express their identity?

    Place’s research focuses on the impact that the growth of Christianity had on dress and identity. A particularly important author was Tertullian, a Christian writer who made some very vocal criticism of female dress in this region.

    Although Roman writers had been critical of women dressing too provocatively before the advent of Christianity, for Tertullian there was an extra moral imperative for women to dress modestly and plainly. Austerity was a means of advertising one’s commitment to the new religion, most especially if one was wealthy enough to have a choice.

    We see a stark contrast between words and deeds, however, when we consider the mosaics from the region. As Place notes, these don’t often show people have taken Tertu...

    • 30 min
    Episode 98 – Cincinnatus, Suffect Consul

    Episode 98 – Cincinnatus, Suffect Consul

    It's c. 460 BCE and

    this hectic year in Roman history continues! In this episode we

    consider Rome in the wake of the sneak attack on the Capitol by

    Herdonius' disaffected Sabines. During the challenges of wrestling

    control back, the Romans lose one of their own. The consul Publius

    Valerius Pubicola falls in battle. This is a tragic loss and opens

    the way for Lucius Cincinnatus to return to the narrative.

    Episode 98 - Cincinnatus, Suffect Consul

    Looking to catch up on the narrative before diving into this episode? You can find out more about the earlier events of this year here.

    Who's Who




    Valerius P. f. Volusi n. Publicola (cos II)



    Claudius Ap. f. M. n. Inrigillensis (or Regillensis) Sabinus

    Suffect Consul

    * Lucius Quinctius Cincinnatus

    Tribune of the Plebs






    Volscius Fictor

    A Man of the Land

    There's nothing

    quite like a man who farms. For fans of men of the land, Cincinnatus

    is here for you. We explore the important symbolism of Cincinnatus

    working the land and his reaction to learning about his election as

    suffect consul.

    A New Political


    Cincinnatus takes

    the opportunity to lead in a new way. With much rhetorical flourish,

    our new consul lays forth a plan that spells trouble for the

    plebeians and the ambitions of the tribunes. We dig into the

    discrepancies between our sources - Livy and Dionysius of

    Halicarnassus have different takes on the essential narrative. This

    is very revealing in terms of thinking about the aims of our written

    sources for this period.

    Things to Look

    Forward To


    a taking of



    a desire for

    a dictator



    senatorial love for our man Cincinnatus

    Alexandre Cabanel 1843. Cincinnatus receiving the ambassadors of Rome. Image Source: Wikimedia Commons

    Our Sources

    Primary sources


    Dr G is

    reading Dionysius of Halicarnassus Roman Antiquities




    R is reading Livy 3.19.1-3





    T. R. S. 1951. The Magistrates of the Roman Republic,

    Volume I

    (American Philological Association)



    W. (Colonge) 'Suffect Consul' Brill's New Pauly,

    Cancik, H. Schneider, H., Salazar, C. F. (eds.), accessed online




    K. 2017. The Rise

    of Rome: from the Iron Age to the Punic Wars (1000-264

    BC) (Profile Books)



    C. (Bochum) 'Q. Cincinnatus, L.'

    Brill's New Pauly,

    Cancik, H. Schneider, H., Salazar, C. F. (eds.), accessed online


    • 38 min

Customer Reviews

HPFan543 ,

Informative and engaging

Historical accuracy - ✔️
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Fresh and vibrant take on ancient history

I am very partial to the partiality of the partial historians. These professors do Ancient Roman history the way the ancient romans like Livy did history: full of personal reactions, judgements, vitality and life. Bonus: the partial historians organize their narrative chronologically (in this year these events happened). As a result their narrative has a more balanced focus, looking at the leadership, yes, but also the middle and lower classes of roman society.

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I like reading academic literature as much as the next guy, but sometimes I just want to kick it with my friends and gossip about Superbus. This podcast is the closest I get and I love them for it!

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