120 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
    • 4.4 • 115 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.

    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
    Special Episode – Early Rome with Emeritus Professor Tim Cornell

    Special Episode – Early Rome with Emeritus Professor Tim Cornell

    There is much less scholarly work on the early Roman Republic than there is on periods like the late Republic or early Empire. This is understandable as there are fewer primary sources, and what we have does not always seem quite as reliable. There are still people who have chosen to focus on this era, and one of our major scholarly sources has been the work of Emeritus Professor Tim Cornell.

    Special Episode - Early Rome with Emeritus Professor Tim Cornell

    Professor Cornell has held many prestigious academic posts in his long career, working at Christ’s College, Cambridge, the British School at Rome, University College London, the University of Birmingham, the Institute of Classical Studies, and he is currently the President of the Society for the Promotion of Roman Studies. His book The Beginnings of Rome: Italy and Rome from the Bronze Age to the Punic Wars (c. 1000-264 BC) (1995) is an incredible resource. Another of his major contributions to scholarship was overseeing the multi-volume Fragments of the Roman Historians (2013) which brings all the fragments of scholars for whose works are not extant together in one collection. In short, Cornell's work has had a huge influence on the field of early Roman history!

    We were blown away that Professor Cornell agreed to sit down and chat to us about all the most confusing parts of early Rome. He helped us to address issues such as:

    * What were battles really like?* What was the structure of the government in this period?* What on earth was going on with the Conflict of the Orders?* And most importantly, who really is the better historian, Dionysius or Livy?

    We hope that you enjoy this episode as much as we enjoyed recording it. It certainly helps to draw together a lot of the themes in our episodes so far and paint a more complete picture of this first phase of the Roman Republic.If you are interested in reading more of Professor Cornell's work, please check out his profile on Academia.Edu. 

    Cornell's work on early Rome is pretty amazing and we recommend you check it out!

    View of the Roman Forum from Via di Monte Tarpeo (2017) by Marcel Roblin and courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

    • 1 hr 8 min

Customer Reviews

4.4 out of 5
115 Ratings

115 Ratings

Jehmag ,


Writing a review halfway through the first “real” episode because I don’t know I’ll make it any further. Subject matter is interesting so far and they seem knowledge but the constant “stupid girl” laughing is so irritating it’s hard to concentrate on the subject at all. Going to try and give them a chance with hopes they chill after a couple of episodes.

Update- I did make it through the entire podcast to date (November 2020). They did work out a lot of the early “jitters”; still a lot of loud laughter but it’s much better and they seem move away from the mic when they laugh now which helps a lot. I have enjoys the episodes to date and will continue to listen. Update rating to 4 stars from 1, would be 5 if they hadn’t added a random ranking session at the end of each episode that just didn’t make a lot of sense with the little amount of source material. Also added long stretches of random music.

KatMP1 ,

Roman history as rollicking good fun

Discovering this podcast has made routine tasks some of the most appealing parts of my day, because I get to listen to another installment of Roman history as told by Drs. Rad and G. They take the accounts of different ancient historians and bring them to life in such a fun way. It’s a combination of learning (quite a lot) about Roman history and just hearing and enjoying some rollicking good tales. The seem effortlessly knowledgeable and not too worried about being taken seriously to have some fun. Love it!

eat chapstick ,

Yeah. Yeah. Yeah.

One of the hosts basically says yeah every two seconds and it makes listening to this show unbearable. Too bad, the subject matter is super interesting.

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