Header_5

Header_5

Friday, January 16, 2015

Episode B7 - Tropaion

Synopsis:  The death of Gaius Caesar, and Juba’s return to Mauretania. 

Tropaion (Greek):  A battlefield monument, erected at the “turning point” where the enemy’s phalanx broke.
 
http://s407341505.onlinehome.us/Episode_B7_Tropaion.mp3

Friday, January 9, 2015

Crossing the Dateline

Episode B6, Eurus (“East Wind”) represents a milestone of sorts, in that it took the story from 1 BC to 1 AD.  Actually, it’s even a bit more poignant, since Juba & company were marching around near, or sailing close by, Judea that year.  Very “right place, right time” of them!  It also represents another milestone, in that it’s around the middle of the first story arc of the series, covering Juba, Selene and Ptolemy of Mauretania.  After the first dozen-or-so episode arc is complete, I’ll probably be taking a month or two off to relax, recoup and prepare for the next story arc.

Episode B6 was also significant for another reason.  Episode 36 of the original series left off with the conquests of Alexander the Great in the late 4th century BC.  Since the current series will be spending a lot of time in the Near East, I wanted to bring everyone up to speed on (1) what does the Near East look like now and (2) how did it get that way from Alexander’s time?  There were a number of possible approaches, ranging from going country by country and giving a synopsis, to just having the characters “show up” places without giving much historical background. 
My choice was to strike a “middle ground”, starting around 90 BC and projecting each major Near Eastern country both backward and forward.  Using this approach, I was able to bring us up to date with Pontus, Armenia, Media, Parthia, Cappadocia, Judea and Nabatea – the big Near Eastern players of the day – while also placing incidents related earlier in the series in a bit more context.  And for those who were a bit overwhelmed by the names and dates, just be glad I didn’t get into Sophene, Commagene, Osrhoene, Cilicia, Bithynia, Iberia, Lycia or Colchis.  You’re welcome!
Eurus will serve as the “connective tissue”,“primer coat”, etc. for the ongoing storyline.  Many of the characters introduced will pop back up, family dynasties will continue to intertwine, and different regions will have their moment (or longer) in the spotlight.  Also, as we spend more time in particular countries, I’m planning to more fully flesh them out, historically, geographically and culturally.  Next episode, we cover the remainder of Gaius Caesar’s Eastern imperium.  HINT:  When Armenian rebels invite you up to the city walls to “talk,” send a centurion in your place.  And not your favorite one.
Thanks again for listening!
Scott C.

Friday, January 2, 2015

Episode B6 - Eurus

Synopsis: Juba accompanies Gaius Caesar on his Eastern expedition. 

“Tigranes…marched forth with an army of such huge proportions that he actually laughed heartily at the appearance of the Romans present there.  He is said to have remarked that, in cases where they came to make war, only a few presented themselves, but when it was an embassy, many came.”  - Cassius Dio, Rome, Book 36 

“Pompey…announced to his soldiers that Mithridates was dead…Upon this the army filled with joy and, as was natural, gave itself up to sacrifices and entertainments, feeling that in the person of Mithridates ten thousand enemies had died.”  - Plutarch, The Life of Pompey 


Map of the Near East c. 1 BC:

Near East Family Trees:

Saturday, December 27, 2014

Queens of the East

or "Hey Scott, what is this new series all about , anyway?"

As historian Warwick Ball put it, “History can never resist a warrior queen” – and, well, neither can I.  Of course, since most ancient societies were patriarchal, the most common way for women to exercise political power was through their children or husbands.  When first listening to Mike Duncan’s “The History of Rome” (THoR) podcast series, I remember being intrigued by the characters of Julia Domna and Julia Maesa.  For years, I’ve been playing with the idea of writing a book on that family, who had so much influence on Roman affairs during the Severan Dynasty.  A few months ago, when this thought had bubbled up again, it was countered, for the first time, by another thought – “I don’t write books, I do podcasts.”  Which was actually a fruitful admission, since it got me thinking about the subject in new ways.

But, of course, Mike had already covered the Emesa clan both so well in THoR that there was no point in revisiting the topic unless I thought I had something new and interesting to contribute.  During my initial research, my memory was jogged by a few offhand remarks connecting the Emesa clan with both Queen Zenobia of Palmyra and Queen Cleopatra of Egypt.  Didn’t Zenobia claim to be descended from Cleopatra, and wasn’t Emesa supposed to provide some of the “connective tissue” between these two legendary Queens of the East?
This was the moment of “inspiration” (typically defined as “the split-second between having a great idea and realizing there is no way it will work”).  When I started to “connect the dots” I expected to find enormous, unbridgeable gaps that would make any connection between Cleopatra and Zenobia implausible at best.  But, much to my surprise and growing excitement, I found more (and more solid) connections that I’d expected, and the thought began to cross my mind that I just might be on to something.
The centerpiece of the series was, and is, Emesa – modern Homs in Syria.  During most of Roman history, Syria always seemed to exist on the periphery – an alien land from which victorious Roman generals (like Vespasian) or horrible Roman Emperors (yes, I’m looking at you Elagabalis) emerged, to take their central place in the story of Rome.  But the history of the whole Syrian region, from the Assyrians, to the Chaldeans, to the Persians, to the Macedonians, to the Arabs and Romans, always seemed interesting enough to me to warrant its own podcast series. 
One of my earlier ideas for a follow-on series to The Ancient World was to cover the history of the ancient Near East between 500 BC and the Muslim conquest - but that always seemed too complex and daunting a project.  Months ago, I started thinking of the possibility of covering the same time-period through the lens of a particular city – say Babylon, Antioch, or Aleppo – as waves of conquerors and immigrants washed back and forth across the region.  But now suddenly, I thought there might be an even better lens – why not tell the history of the ancient Near East from the perspective of a particular family?  And what if that family also happened to be the same bloodline that connected Cleopatra to Zenobia?
A single series that could combine my love of the Near East, my desire to cover a different historical period, and my interest in the Emesa clan?  And one that could leverage the history already covered in my earlier podcast, as well as in THoR, to build on?  Well, ideas that bring that many mental threads together don’t come along every day, so I obviously dove in with a vengeance.  Even off the bat, the story of Cleopatra’s daughter Selene seemed insanely compelling.  In 4 years, she went from future Queen of Crete and Cyrenaica to Roman prisoner, then bounced back to run a major North African kingdom.  I mean…what??  All of this really happened??  Does nobody know about this??   Because this is a story that deserves to be out there, or at least better known.  As a bonus, it also meant that I got to research and write about Roman North Africa, about which I knew next to nothing.
Other descendants have their own interesting stories to tell, all of which will be revealed in time.  The beginning of the series has been fairly Rome-heavy, mainly due to Selene’s adoption into Octavia’s family, and the fact that both she and Juba were raised alongside so many famous figures.  In the next generation, Ptolemy of Mauretania is a direct blood-cousin of Germanicus (for instance), which also keeps the Rome connection fairly strong.  But as both physical distance, and the distance of generations, increases, my plan is to give Rome comparable treatment to Parthia and other Eastern kingdoms.  In the meantime, I’m attempting to provide enough general Roman history for any listeners who may not have heard THoR without belaboring a subject that Mike Duncan has already covered so well.
One of the original ideas I toyed with for the series name was “Queens of the East.”  The reasons I decided against it were, first, there were a lot of connecting generations where the heir in question was male and, second, I didn’t want to give away the game too quick.  But now that all stands revealed, I’m proud to announce the unofficial tag-line for the series: “Cleopatra to Zenobia or Bust!”
Thanks for listening, and hope you enjoy the trip!
Scott C.

Friday, December 19, 2014

Episode B5 - Eclipsis

Synopsis: The birth of Juba and Selene's children, Ptolemy and Drusilla, and the death of Cleopatra Selene.

“The moon herself grew dark, rising at sunset,
Covering her suffering in the night,
Because she saw her beautiful namesake, Selene,
Breathless, descending to Hades,
With her she’d had the beauty of her light in common,
And mingled her own darkness with her death.” – Crinagoras of Myteline, Epigram for Cleopatra Selene 


Updated Octavian Family Tree:
 
http://s407341505.onlinehome.us/2_Octavian_Clan_1BC.pdf

Friday, December 5, 2014

Episode B4 - Limitem Mundi

Synopsis: Juba and Selene begin their rule of Mauretania.

“Cato said…they must make no prayer for him; prayer belonged to the conquered, and the craving of grace to those who had done wrong; but for his part he had not only been unvanquished all his life, but was actually a victor now as far as he chose to be, and a conqueror of Caesar in all that was honorable and just.” – Plutarch, The Life of Cato the Younger

“My husband has died and I have no son.  They say about you that you have many sons.  You might give me one of your sons to become my husband.  I would not wish to take one of my subjects as a husband... I am afraid.” – Queen Ankhesenamun of Egypt, Letter to King Suppiluliuma I of Hatti

Map of Mauretania:
 
http://s407341505.onlinehome.us\Mauretania.jpg

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Episode B3 - Ephebus

Synopsis: Juba accompanies Octavian during the conquest of Egypt.

“Thus was Egypt enslaved.” – Cassius Dio, Rome, Book LI

http://s407341505.onlinehome.us/Episode_B3_Ephebus.mp3

Octavian Family Tree:

http://s407341505.onlinehome.us/Octavian_Clan.pdf