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March 14, 2010


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mike jones

thanks mike.
this is a truely wonderful series.
yours is the only podcast i will download as soon as it appears on my aggrevator.
this investigation into the psyche of the romans is one of the many tributaries i realy enjoy.
yes it's lots of fun that julius did this on such date, but WHY? is the fascinating bit.
i will not offer a question at this time but i will put my vote in that THOR never pod fades.
congrats to you and your lovely bride on your recent nuptuals.
hope the move went well.
thankyou mrs THOR for sharing your time with mike with us nameless history junkies
with love and appreciation
mike (-- yeah another one!)


For those who haven't realised it: today is the 2054th anniversary of the death of Julius Caesar.

To History!

ps. It's also the six month anniversary of the Forum Gallorum. Thank you to all who have signed up.


Shouldn't that be the 2053rd? There was no year 0 after all.

I always remember that, since today is my birthday. One rather dubious advantage is that I always get to go first at UBI, only played it twice though and lost both times.

Keep up the great work Mike, still yet to find a more interesting podcast.

Jackson Heights

I can't wait to catch up to these episodes! :oD

Andrew Austing

is it possible to get recommendations for further research on the patron/client relationship?
Thanks and awesome podcast!

Grandpa D

Mike: this is a top 5 episode. Right up there with our personal fav: Roman marriage customs. As the BBC "Knowledge" magazine said, "Never less than fascinating." Well done.


Is it me or does anyone else hear Mike disapproving of a criticizing Christianity nearly every time he mentions it? I am worried that this will become a more overt we move forward.


Yeah, me too. Calling it a "cult", for example, is a little sketchy. From a purely objective standpoint I could see that, but there's miles of difference between a religion of peace, universal brotherhood and equality, and one that requires someone to walk backwards on Thursdays. My guess is that Mike is trying to be 100% objective and unbiased. I hope.

Mike does a great job, and he's entitled to his opinion\analysis.


If anyone is interested, a web site that is not so much about podcasts, but free audio books.


My first suggestion is:
"A short history of the US" by Edward Channing.



A 'cult' is defined by Webster's as "1: formal religious veneration, 2: a system of religious beliefs and ritual, also its body of adherents, 3: a religion regarded as unorthodox or spurious." Mainstream Roman society regarded it as unorthodox and spurious at this time, so all three definitions fit. It should be kept in mind that it was one of several eastern religions that had percolated into Roman society at this time. Moreover, the word 'cult' gets used a lot in English-language works on classical history - in my experience it seems to denote the adherents of a specific object of veneration or a specific system of rites rather than a broad generality like 'the Greco-Roman religious tradition.'


Thanks. That does make more sense in light of his use of the term. I still don't agree with the exact way he goes about his discussion of Christianity, but that's my opinion and I hope Mike doesn't derive any offense from it-- none is certainly meant. This is an outstanding podcast.

Mike: If you feel like answering a question from a badger, can you tell me to what extent Rome has contact with Asia at this point in their history? Have the spice trade lanes, for example, been established, or are we still a few decades/hundreds-o-years off from that?


Fantastic! This episode stands out as a superb example of thought provoking podcasting at it's very best. Mike, you've exceeded yourself. Wax slate and stylus, the rise of eastern mysticism and perpatetic philosopher grunge - Stoic, Epicurean, Christian or Capitalist you cannot but admire the parallels between a typical 2nd century Roman synapse and those that go into deciding wether the iPad is really worth a week or two's entire salary.

On the issue of Christianization, I think Mike pays the early church a huge compliment noting that it was only the innate egalitarianism of early Christian teaching that offered the impoverished mass any notion of personal worth. That all people were of equal spiritual value and that all labour had it's price, cost and value. No matter what your religious views, I think it's partly thanks to Jesus Christ I can afford to buy myself a home. And as a confirmed Humanist I mean that in the strictest economic sense.

Great work Mr Duncan!


mike is telling it the way the Roman's saw it. They saw Christianity as a "cult" that eventually interfered and took over they way they all lived
Constantine embraced Christianity because he saw which way the wind was blowing and went with the flow of the day.
Christianity is one of the reasons for their Fall


I hereby declare my support to label this a top 5 episode.

Lets have an episode on Mrs. THOR at the 100th anniversary^^


I was wondering if you could go into more detail on the day to day logistics of the Roman economy. How did grain move from Egypt to Rome, in a guarded convoy, or in single ships? Did specific businesses or market concerns (for example, millers) purchase raw materials from faraway parts of the Empire and have them brought to Rome, or did wholesalers purchase products and sell them to local businesses? How much food did it take a single day to feed Rome, and how was food brought into the city and distributed properly? Did Rome export a lot of goods to other parts of the Empire, or did the provinces trade amongst themselves? Was there a difference in how bulk goods and precious goods were transported? How about perishable/nonperishable goods? And how long did it take for products/materials to be transported from one end of the Empire to the other? Did most goods move across the Empire by land, by river, or by sea?

Michael D

My thoughts on Mike's "alleged" bias.

Kardinal's question and the responses were certainly asked and responded to in a respectful way and I'm sure there was no offense intended towards Mike but...

In calling Christianity a "cult", it seemed to me that Mike is merely using an editorial device and taking us into the mindset of the polytheistic Roman culture. Something Mike does quite a bit to varying degrees. Surely, a majority of the Romans must have thought of Christians as just that. A cult. Using devices such as this is what makes this podcast both interesting and unique.

Kenda of Southeast New Mexico

Mike has mentioned requests that he continue the podcast all the way to the fall of Constantinople? I'd like to join in that request. Mike might like to move on, but there are those of us who would miss it!


Yes please continue this podcast through to the fall of the byzantine empire. There's another podcast called "12 Byzantine Emperors" that is just absolutely terrible because its whole viewpoint is that Byzantium was a shining beacon that stopped the "evil brown musselmen" from getting into europe.

Would way rather listen to Mike's take on it.

Michael Kallikas

I would love to follow the narrative into the late Roman, or, Byzantine period. I find that Alex is wrong; Lars never refers to the Byzantines as combating either "evil" or "brown" "musselmen". Brownworth's research is actually quite admirable. Have you seen theodorechristou.ca? Teachers in New Brunswick (Canada) are similarly inspired...
Mike, your podcast is impeccable. Admirable. Best wishes.


On the issue of Christianity as a cult, keep in mind that early Romans, because of the liturgy surrounding the Eucharist, actually thought Christians ate babies. In Gaul there were some Christian communities who were persecuted essentially because they were thought to be committing acts of murder and cannibalism of children.

From the Roman perspective, that sure qualifies as a cult, even if we, with the benefit of being steeped in 2000 years of Christan culture, know better.

Peter Darby

Coming to this very late, but consider what "Cult" meant then, and means now.

Pre-Christian Roman religion essentially consisted of veneration of numerous, possibly innumerable, supernatural entities. While we user the term "gods" for them, sometimes these referred to "supernatural people writ large", as seen in both versions of Clash of the Titans, sometimes as personifications of abstract concepts (such as Janus and Terminus), sometimes as respected ancestors or former leaders (the "deified" Caesars). Sometimes this veneration was essentially as a mark of respect for what the entity stood for, sometimes as a request for intervention (or staying the heck away), sometimes as little more than just what we always do, sometimes as an excuse for a party.

Each of these sub-systems of veneration was bundled up as a cult, as in the meaning of a mini-religion. Some cults had heirarchies of priests, some had individual temples, nearly all had shrines of some kind.

Peter Darby


At the time this podcast talks about, the Eastern religious practices, particularly the mystery religions, were coming to the fore against this kind of veneration, and each of these practices, whether ascetic meditation, transcendental hedonism or, as the Romans misunderstood it, ritual symbolic cannibalism, was recognised by Romans as another cult, like their own, but you know, oriental and weird.

But cult doesn't have the modern pejorative meaning of a sinister, possibly brain washing, organisation led by charismatic hucksters with a messiah complex. You can probably mentally substitute any one of a number of words, such as practice, tradition or church, for the word cult, and have a pretty good picture of how the Romans would have used the word cult, and how it's used here.

Also, it's interesting to note that the modern "politically correct" word for what most people call cults in the 21st Centruy is simply New Religious Movement. If the ancient word "cult" is a good match for how Romans saw Christianity, then "NRM" is a VERY good match for how they viewed the mystery religions coming in from the East.

So when Mike calls Christianity a cult... well, that's what it was. Don't blame Mike for the word Cult not meaning what many people think it means.

PS Someone once tried to convince me that you classify a faith movement by size as one of (decreasing in size) faith, religion, movement, church, practice, sect, cult and crazy guy on the street shouting at the dogs in his head. I think he was trying to sell something.


I played the part about primary school to my kids ( ages 5 & 8). They have a new appreciation of their school.

חדרי תינוקות

Hi!! Fabulous! This episode definitely superb example of thought provoking podcast . Mike, you did really wonderful work. Your presentation about christianity really suits those days views, and very interesting .All the best!

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