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August 07, 2011


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Alan Hoch

Your recommendation of "1421" is a rare mistake on your part. The book is WIDELY held to be pseudo-history built from misinterpreted data and even just flat out make-believe. Honestly, it is no more accurate than a piece of bad historical fiction that only pays lip service to getting the history right.

Just check out Wikipedia and other similar sources and the criticism of "1421" they list. Mr. Menzies is another classic example of someone making a lot of money because he is a talented charlatan who got really lucky, not because he is a skilled historian who earned his success.

Otherwise, your latest episode is as great as ever!


There is no history in this work of fiction!!


There is one tragic/farcical account of Julian getting speared in the back by one of his own men as he led the attack against the Persians. Sadly, it was not the heroic 'death in battle' that a traditional Roman would have wished. In any case, it was a silly way to die in a pointless war. The Emperor Heraclius will eventually show Julian, Valerian, Mark Antony and Crassus how war with should have been conducted.


Ironically, the Emperor that Julian resembles most is Constantine, I think. Both men believed they had divine inspiration, wanted to overthrow the religion of the Empire and were determined to war with Persia. Both at some point may have believed they were reincarnations of Alexander. With a little more guile on the part of Julian and a little less on the part of Constantine, we may have been hearing about St Julian the Great and Constantine the Heretic in these podcasts.

Scott Scheule

1421 is garbage. See: http://www.chinaforeignrelations.net/node/1001

Bob Darrah

First, I am glad to finally post a comment. I have spent the last 8 months catching up on the podcast with only one disappointment and that is I hadn't started THOR sooner. Now that I am current I am excited to finally join the conversation often referred to in the podcast. Second, I am sad, however, to discover today's conversation is about the audible pick. Seriously? No disrespect to Alan Hoch, Founder, and Scott Scheule's perspective but their comments seem like a distraction to the podcast itself. Meanwhile, Mike, Mark, and Bertrand, cheers!

Alan Hoch

Bob, if you want people to take the podcast seriously it can't be endorsing pseudo-history by a proven charlatan.

It's the sort of mistake that can destroy a podcast's credibility -- if I didn't already know how great "The History of Rome" was and had heard this endorsement of "1421" at the start of my first taste of this podcast I'd probably would have turned it off right then and there. It would be like listening to a biology podcast only for the first thing you hear to be the author endorsing some book on creationism!

It makes the presenter and the podcast look bad -- there are a number of podcasts out there that present themselves as "authorities" on a given subject only to really just be cranks trying to push pseudo-history and/or science. Give people a reason to think you are one of them and your podcast fails before it's begun!

Afer all, we don't want people mistaking "The History of Rome" as a home for crank history!

Matt, NL

I don't know why there's so much commotion about some book. Even if it isnt a credible book, that doesnt say anything about this podcast.. I mean, a THOR-endorsement isn't an endorsement from Harvard or Yale, so lets just leave it at that..

OT: Mike just keeps cranking out great stuff, this one is another fantastic addition, I really hope a book is in the works..

Alan Hoch

Matt: But, people can easily THINK it says something about this podcast when it endorses a fraud.

Yes, "The History of Rome" is a great podcast that I've listened to for YEARS, but -- as I said -- if I had just started with this episode and heard a recommendation for such a well known travesty as the first matter of business I would have turned it off RIGHT THEN. So may other people anyway. If nothing else, it's really embarrassing!

I consider this important, so much so that next episode an apology/retraction should be given. If listeners start to think that Mike believes in/endorses crank history then they may start to distrust anything he says on the podcast. Just one dumb mistake can cost you years of good will...

And, remember, "1421" isn't just a piece of bad research or just a matter of opinion. It is a complete fraud full of nonsense reasoning, made up facts, and crank history. For a history podcast to endorse it amounts to an astronomy podcast endorsing a book on astrology!

I honestly think people are doing Mike a disservice to suggest he should just ignore this issue. He can win a lot of good will by reputiating his recommendation -- and gain a lot of bad will if he were to act like the only problem is with those of us complaining. For everyone who posts a comment there are going to be hundreds who feel the same way, but who don't bother.


@ Mark. Your Julian-Constantine comparison is interesting and apt, although neither emperor would be flattered by it. In some of his writings, Julian seems to follow Neoplatonism, a philosophy that has more in common with Christianity (ie. belief in a single infinite Source that gives life to all things) than with Polytheism. His frugality and rectitude resembles a Christian Acetic more than a pagan priest. However at other times, he seems to endorse Theurgy, the idea that religious rituals can shape the future.

I think one reason for his failure to galvanise paganism is that he tried to make it appear more 'Christian'- more unified across cities and provinces with charitable institutions, an established set of doctrines and an agreed hierarchy.


Definitely agreed, Alan. It's nonsense and should be dismissed as such until the author can actually prove any of his flat-out assertions. It also goes far beyond merely "maybe made it to the Americas". "Somewhat speculative" doesn't come close.

Zheng He is impressive, no doubt, but let's stick to the ones we actually know visited the Americas, like the natives, Norse and post-Columbians. Not write pure fiction based on "what-if" due to NOT having data about a specific point and then try to pass it off as hard historical fact......and then go on to give all the credit of the Renaissance to "Chinese sailors coming to Europe". Is there ANYTHING he thinks wasn't done by Chinese Sailors? Sheesh.

Why not just say that the Crisis of the Third Century was so poorly documented because all the Romans were chilling with the Cherokee at the time, if not having evidence means you're in the Americas.. ;)


I came here just to complain about the 1421 recommendation, but I see you guys have it covered!!

Scott Scheule

I said nothing on the actual meat of the podcast because it had nothing objectionable. I commented only on the book pick, because it was the objectionable part of the podcast--and, though it doesn't please me to say it, it makes me suspicious of the podcast in general that its producer could recommend such schlock.

To create a history podcast, one must be able to distinguish between good and bad sources. The fact that the author would recommend such a poor book indicates he's unable to make those kind of distinctions, and thus draws the podcast itself into doubt.


Jeez, is this going to turn out like the Zinn thread ?

Bill from Philly

Any chance we can have a series of THORs on the evolution and quiet disintegration of sub-imperial gov't (say the consulship?)


Cheers on the update, Mike! Thank goodness you just didn't know about it rather than actually believing it. ;D

Love the rest of the episode as well and sad to see Julian go so soon, but history marches on.

Michael C

uh oh ... what's wrong with "History of the World in 100 Objects?" I've been enjoying that podcast too. Certainly it's not another 1421, or piece of Star Wars fan fiction?


There is a wealth of historical material in this great podcast to discuss and debate yet the discussion seems to be stuck on 1421, which was clearly acknowledged as "highly speculative". The podcast has covered its bases well and lost none of its credibility.


I, at least, learn most of the things I know about Roman history from this Podcast, Ies, so I don't have a tremendous amount of external commentary beyond pondering what Mike presents. This episode seems to-the-point enough that there's not much to interject with besides "Enjoyed it. :)". :)

Now of course there's all the stuff about speculative alternative history that naturally accompanies figures like Julian the Apostate and Blot-Sven (proclaimed king over Sweden, ruled the eastern half, and rejected Christianization before it was rooted in the country. He was killed by his dishonourable christian Brother-in-Law after they set fire to his house in the night and killed him when he escaped the flames. The Brother-in-Law had previously ruled both areas, but was run out when he demanded conversion and banned sacrifices and Blot-Sven was proclaimed King).

I'm under the impression that Christianity was on much firmer footing in the eastern half of the Empire (is that correct in general terms?), so it'd be interesting to see Julian live a long life and be partially successful (stemming the tide of Feudalism for the time being and stopping the march of Christianity in at least the western half). Probably would lead to a break between East and West earlier, though. Not that the natural progression had long to go by this point anyway.


Downloaded the new version, replacing the previous one. "1421" never happened. The podcast is great, as usual.

Luise (Tasmania,Australia)

Mike, don't feel bad about the 1421 thing. Yes, it is "pseudohistory", at best speculative and at worst a pile of crap. However, I found a link with the concept of "storytelling" and the many and speculative stories of Julian's demise. For many things you have told us about..the founding of Rome, the kings of Rome, even histories written by the ancient historians are flawed. Donald Kagen, eminent historian and Yale professor says that there are parts of history we can only speculate about.
1421 should be read (if at all) for what it is, an historical theory which when subjected to peer review, does not stand up. History, science and indeed life in general is littered with such trash. To discern the useful from the unhelpful it helps to know what they both look like.
I for one have read 1421 and found it full of holes.

Luise (Tasmania,Australia)

oops! I meant to add that I'm currently reading (not via Audible, its a hardcover book) The Great Sea: A Human History Of The Mediterranean by David Abulafia. I am enthralled! This book sits nicely with THoR Podcast, tracing what is known of the Mediterranean and civilizations around it drawing on archeology, language and research. This will be one book I keep in my collection. It is a worthy rival to Gibbon and (in my humble opinion) in the same league as Donald Kagan's work. 5 Stars *****


I also listen to "The History of the World in 100 objects" inbetween episodes of THOR. Seems ok to me.

This week's episode (i think it was this week) mentioned Ctesiphon. I kept thinking to myself...why does that sound so familiar? Then I remembered I took a "photo" of it the last time I flew over it in 2005. I will try to post a Flickr link to it.


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Without a doubt concurred. It's gibberish and might as well be released as being what is indicated until the creator can as a matter of fact confirm any of his level-out declarations.


About the episode, rather than the forgotten recomendation, I get the feeling Mike has a soft spot for Julian. Are you a closet pagan?
I am back listening through old episodes and remembered a story about Pompey. As you know he had a remarkable career up until he forced himself into the "Holy of Holies" in Jerusalem, after this his victories quickly dried up, coincidence or the power of the monotheistic God? Interesting to speculate that if he had avoided this confrontation he may have succeeded in halting Caeser's rise to dictatorship.


Too late, I just now read the whole book and told everyone I know all about it.


I've been enjoying THOR all summer, and have been looking for other historical podcasts. I've just started listening to "The History of the World in 100 objects" and "Stuff you missed in History class".

Are such podcasts factually inaccurate, poorly researched, or was Mike making a joke?

Ben Nicholson

I THINK Mike was making a joke with the "The history of the world in a 100 objects" The podcast was good and I'm sure the research was up to a good standard as it was a guy from the british museum doing it for the BBC. I havn't bought the book to go with the radio series/podcast so I don't know what's like but if it's like any other books the BBC put out with there shows then it's probably doesn't go into a hugh amount of depth, but usually good if you want to know the basics. So I would leave it as a joke, similar to that Rome Vs Rome one, but not as good.

Alan Hoch

I just wanted to say "Bravo" for your "1421" correction. It's just yet another sign that this is the best history podcast on iTunes!

Val in Vancouver

I really enjoyed Julian, thanks Mike:)

@Sandy, I wouldn't speculate on any humans choice of gods however, if you go back to previous episodes you may find more evidence to support your belief ;)

I just want to say the thing about listener suggestions is Mike is busy. I also refer you to prior podcasts where he shares some of his personal business. I guess because of the most recent experience he'll have to do a little back checking before recommending.

I accept that we don't all hold similar knowledge and beliefs and therefore hope we can all hold fast to the gracious and grateful attitude of thankfulness to Mike for producing THoR.

Thank-you Mike for your work, time, sharing your knowledge and your humour.

Val in Vancouver

ps to the new listeners, sorry I forgot your handle, please consider joining the fan groups.

Listener Detlef started The Forum Galorum.
Listener Simon started the facebook PAGE, don't go to the group it's being archived, called Fans of The History of Rome.

Compilations of the book recommendations are listed for one which makes it easy to go search your local library:)

After being a THoR fan for so long, I was telling someone about it yesterday and realized it's been three years! I ony appreciate Mike more and the groups help us stay in touch and share our thoughts.

Be welcome:)


Poor old Mike - obviously, like about a thousand other listeners I nearly crashed the car when I heard you recommend "1421 - How Martians invented AIDS in order to persuade the Zionist-Masonic Conspirators to fly holographic aircraft into the WTC" (I forget the exact title). Not really in keeping with your exact and admirable brand of scholarship to say the least - but I reckon you've had enough of a kicking!
Apart from that, keep up the brilliant work!

Luise (Tasmania,Australia)

@ rm
Wow! What an amazing photo! Do you know what the building is? Searching the google images, seems to be an arch or the remains of an imposing palace. What an interesting story it would hold! Thanks for sharing!

Rob Shinnick

I was personally caught up in the "1421" thing when an old Chinese artifact I found while out metal detecting caused quite a stir. Check it out: http://forum.treasurenet.com/index.php?topic=45920.0

I even got an email from Gavin Menzies, once. Never read his book, though.

Greg Webb

Excellent podcast, Mike! I love The History of Rome.

Alan Hoch


It's the Taq-i Kisra -- see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Taq-i_Kisra for more info.

Luise (Tasmania,Australia)

@ Alan Hoch
Thanks! Its a beautiful thing!

Neil Lee

Thanks for the retraction and updated intro. Greatly appreciate your integrity for admitting you might have erred with 1421 (I did the same when I bought the book!). History of the World in 100 Objects is a great replacement.

Great podcasts by the way. I have yet to hear the Julian podcast (I am only up to Domitian. Keenly looking forward to the episode about Emperor Joachim Phoenix ;) - good to see Hollywood in ascendency after Kirk Douglas' stalled slave rebellion in 73BC)


History of the World in 100 objects is actually very good, I think. (Like THoR). :-)

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Update: OK, wow, passing along the recommendation for 1421: The Year China Discovered the World was a huge blunder. I have re-recorded the ad to correct the mistake. The embedded link reflects the newer version, so if you want to forget this grizzly business, just erase the episode you have and replace it with the one linked to above.

Alex Pozdnyakov

I listen to 1421 about a year ago and thought it must be funded by Chinese propaganda. It was pretty clear from the text that it is very speculative and full of unsupported conjectures. I deeply discounted its historical value.

It is, however, a sign of the times that people are trying to raise the historical profile of China. There will only be more revisionist history in this vein in the future. 1421 is pretty crude even for this genre.

I dont really fault Mike for passing along the recommendation someone else made. The prompt disclaimer neutralized any bad taste.

Vishnujana Dasa

Greetings Mike!

Thank you for the rich history lesson you put so much of your heart into.

I can't seem to get this particular episode to open properly; it seems to be missing.

Wishing you the best,

Vishnujana Dasa


Hi I was recommended this podcast by another one, and Being a big fan of Roman history, I'm quite exicted by this. unfortunately, this episode (146) dosen't appear to be in mp3 format it seems so I can't download it. Not sure if this is an error from the re-posting of the episode or something wrong with my browser. I'm not that dissapointed as I know a lot about Julian already plus I'm not a paying customer so I can't complain, but I would love to his this episode :)

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