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June 20, 2010


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is there a reason this hasnt gone to I-tunes yet ?


Lance Darnell

I just bought the History of Rome app off of iTunes and the new episodes seem to show up on the app faster than they do on iTunes.

I cannot believe you are already at the Severans, Mike! :)


I have finally caught up to this episode. Thank heaven.


Nice podcast.

I wonder how long it would take to get a degree in history and what you could do with it afterwords. What level of mastery does a successful career as a historian require?

(cross posted from http://historyofrome.wm.wizzard.tv)


Another fantastic podcast. I'm only sorry to say that I've now caught up and must therefore limit my listening enjoyment to once a week instead of 5 or 6 episodes per day. This series is a tour de force -- thank you!


Hi, I'm way behind (still on the Caesar Augustus episodes) but I enjoy your podcasts very much. You insert some dry commentary in there but never do you dumb it down. Thanks for the efforts and I will keep working my way through these episodes.


Thankyou very much, I've listened for over a year, but I've never commented before. Thankyou for this entertaining and informative podcast, we're all very grateful.

Just out of interest, of all the people you've covered, throughout ancient Rome and its enemies, which would you have liked to be?


Hmm, it seems to me that choosing the best and brightest to make up the Praetorian Guard is just good common sense. Especially since the last crop of guards were all self-serving opportunists. I would think that quadrupling the size of the Guard (in addition to skimming the top of the talent pool) was probably the problematic issue. 4,000 talented individuals is likely somewhat a drop in the bucket compared to the size of the legions overall, but 16,000 talented individuals probably starts to be significant. Just my musings, but I'd submit them for consideration.

Are all of the provincial governors who were hailed as imperator by their troops included by historians as part of the "Year of the Five Emperors?" Because it seems to me that after Pertinax, old Severus pretty much had things well in hand. Silly historians. Probably just trying to sell books.


Just as a matter of interest - was there any major underlying political difference between the Praetorian Guard and the Urban Cohorts? Was one more or less loyal to the emperor/senate/plebs than the other? [Obviously aside from Didius Julianus].



The problem with using your best soldiers for guard duty is that the fronts tend to suffer more.

When I play Rome: Total War, I garrison my cities with cheap Town Watch and use my best units to crush my rivals and expand the frontier. You don't get to Urban Cohorts and Praetorian Guard until later in the game. That last thing you want to use those elite units for is guarding your inner cities.

It would be as if we tried to use Navy Seals and Special Forces to police Washington D.C rather having him on them deployed to a war zone.



I think that while it probably doesn't help to use your best soldiers to garrison the city and protect you, Severus lived in a period when people only wanted power regardless of stability.

He had just become emperor by declaring that he was, and marching his legions to rome. There was no legitimacy in that kind of power grab, and any general witth half an army would have no reason not ti make a power grab. Remember, he had also not finished his war as he still had to face Pescennius Niger.

His position in rome was not safe, and having a guard that was 4 times larger that the previous and entirely composed of loyal, elite soldiers was one of the few ways he could dissuade opposition. Julius Caesar accomplished much with 15,000 hardened veterans.

I also want to ask Mike (or anyone here who has an idea) a Question. I was looking at the names of the emperors from septimius severus onto his children and beyond, and it seems that after ascension, they took the name of a previous emperor who hadn't adopted them, like Pertinax being used by Sep. Sev., Antoninus Pius being used also, and most frequently Marcus Aurelius. Why was this done? I've tried-and failed- to come up with a suitable explanantion.


I guess to clarify what I was trying to say, I don't think it was so much that the front was losing valuable talent as much as the fact that Severus suddenly quadrupled the amount of talent that he was pulling off his front-lines.

If each centuria lost one or two of its most talented troopers they could probably still be fine, but when they lose eight, I think it really starts to impact things.

It's probably smart to have a small ensemble of crack troops to protect you (like Alexander's Companions), but let's emphasis a reasonable size.

Mike L

A question for Australians: Does Julia Gillard's rise to be PM remind anybody else of Pertinax' ascension to the purple, assisted / forced by the Praetorian Guard (read: Labor Right / union heavies)? Obviously with the caveat that the assassination wasn't a literal assassination. I wonder if it will end any better if she doesn't bow to the whims of the AWU?


@ Mike L
Nice analogy but not quite accurate. 'Assasination' of PM Rudd came about because he had lost popularity with the plebs and had no internal power base within the ALP factions to counterbalance his fall in the polls. The history of ALP power politics shows that when the factions lose sight of how minute they are in relation to the general electorate they lose elections so they have tended to be more behind the scenes, jockeying for cabinet positions & preselection of candidates etc. rather than influencing actual policy positions (hence the general disdain for them within the electorate). Main thing to remember about Australian politics is that voting is compulsory so unions & other power bases are not needed to get people to turn up to the ballot box (which is why they are always held on a Saturday in good weather).

If you think this was ugly we have seen much worse. A PM serves as the leader of his/her party - when the party's MPs can't make up their minds or when there is a fight over the leadership it can paralyse/distract government for months. This happened with the last conservative government and the previous labour government.

Steve O'Grady

Hi Mike
This is not really a direct comment on the episode, although it does meet with your usual high standard, but more a suggetion on the future of the Podcast as a whole.
Some time ago you addressed the issue of turning the Podcast into a book, but you were concerned that it was written to be spoken, and may not work in written form without major work. I beg to differ, and would strongly advise that you look at this again very closely.
Do you want to produce a work that can fit neatly onto an already overstocked shelf of retellings of Roman history? Does the world really need another standard format book on Rome, with the standard photo's and artwork?
You have produced a masterpiece.
You make 'Twelve Bizantine Rulers' by the great Lars Brownworth, in itself a wonderful publication, look like a pamphlet.
You should really think about a direct transcription, word for word. Right down to the detail on the 100th episode, and the contribution by Mrs History-Of-Rome. You should use your early hand-drawn diagrammes and maps. You should let it stand on it's own merit instead of trying to be something that it was never intended to be. It would certainly be a unique addition to the History shelf, and a talking point for the community on the whole.
Don't put down this wonderful thing you have created by trying to 'fit in'.
Well, there you go. My opinion, for what it's worth.


Hi there, I have just come across your website, via a homeschooling forum. Would you be able to let us know what age you think that these recordings are most appropriate for?

Thank you

Luise (Tasmania,Australia)

Hi All!
I was a school girl when Govenor General Kerr sacked the Whitlam government and installed a liberal caretaker. I thought the world would end in war! We hadn't had television for very long and it all played out on our black and white screen. I remember the grownups all talking about it for weeks. I had nightmares. I'm sure this is one of those events Nicole means when she says "....we have seen much worse...". The recent leadership spill in Australia, though dramatic, was much less messy. I can not imagine the HORROR of a leaders assasination, as our American friends have experienced in their history. This brings me to my point, the stress we live under today in everyday modern life can't possibly match that experienced by the people under the empire's yolk, the uncertainty, the fear of being captured and sold into slavery, the shortness of lifespans and high infant mortality. This is still occurring in some places around the world to some degree. We are the fortunate ones in many ways.

ps I agree with Steve O'Grady


This podcast has become a big thing for me. I'm kind of a Roman history nut, and this really turned it from "kind of interesting" to "life altering interest" for me. I've been listening since episode 23 or so and one of the highlights of my week is when a new episode comes out.

I'll be honest, I have every episode of this podcast along with Lars Brownworth's Byzantine podcast, and a couple of other snippets of other podcasts in a big play list(in chronological order from the beginning of
your podcast to the end of 12 Byzantine Rulers, which on days where there isn't new content I just pick a random old episode and listen til I get up to do something else.

I know that's more than just a little bit nerdy of me, but I'm currently unemployed and can't afford a car in a rural area with nothing to do. This podcast brings more than a little bit of happiness to my life because I see it as one big story to be told. All the world truly is a stage and Mike you make a wonderful narrator for this masterpiece. Roman history is something extremely meaningful to me.

I know you said it was highly unlikely, but I can't convey in verse how much it would mean to me if you kept going into the Byzantine era with your podcast. That would truly be, in my opinion, a brilliant piece of art in the historical field rivaling even Gibbon's Decline and Fall. If you do what Steve O'Grady suggested and leave everything in the format you have it now when you make that book it would be a work of art. It would be utterly unique in its field.

Just imagine, a history of the Roman Empire from beginning to end in both a book and a podcast. It's brilliant. I believe this would mean a lot to many more people than just me.

For the record, I just graduated high school and got my diploma yesterday. I'm 18 as of a few months ago. Don't ever underestimate the impact your work makes on people. THoR is part of life because history is now one of my biggest hobbies.

So Mike, thank you. Apologies to everyone else about possibly being overly sentimental about a podcast.


Hey Mike

Firstly thank you for the best podcast on I-Tunes. I have enjoyed this for years now and it is the highlight of my commute into work.

Really enjoyed the Praetorian Guards version of The Price Is Right, but I have to ask, when Rome was in turmoil (and indeed in the reign of nutters like Caligula and Commodus) was there really no other world power that didn't use the opportunity to grab some of the Empire for itself?

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