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October 30, 2011


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*does a somersault for history of rome

Neil Lee

10 bonus cool points for the Indiana Jones reference! :)

Wade Steel

The Indiana Jones references are getting more frequent. I wonder if Mike is trying to tell us something!


Correct me if I'm wrong but there's a typo in the title here; you've got an extra t. It's penitent you mean surely...

I love the Indy references - great scene!


Re. the chariot race story. Today is the first Tuesday in November and I am in Melbourne Australia enjoying a public holiday because this afternoon The Melbourne Cup (horse race) is being run. The rest of Australia may not get a day off, but at 3 o'clock everyone will stop to watch it on TV as it will be broadcast on all stations.

Luise (Tasmania,Australia)


A link to interesting finds dating back to 11-7BC. I'm not watching the Cup...my horse isn't ruunning :(


Do you not mean Henry II rather than Henry IV?

Damir (ex Panonia)

One thing that I would like to hear a little bit more. In the comming years there will be sacking of the roman empire.

I come from the place that was south Panonia and I really do not know anything about the history of these places between late roman empire while it was still working till the Karlo the Great which is few centuries of total black hole.
What was with the people and economy of these places after this place was sacked by Goths and then Huns and Avars and at the end Slavs. This place was like highway between Constantinopol and Italy/Rome.


hi - for some reason i can't email mike, but i was going to suggest the unabridged version of the decameron it's in the audible library, i love this book, an tho it's not classical, lots of the stories have roots in classical stories...

horrary for Mike, thank you so much - i love the podcast and have been listening for ages! unfortunately the itunes doesn't allow me to organize them on my ipod in order, don't understand why?? but i run through them as i am renovating my house...plus been recommending the cast to everyone i meet...

hope you will eventually sort out a book to accompany the pod cast, I know that's a tall order...
thanks again and cheers!

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You seem to be leaning too heavily on Gibbon; his anti-Christian bias is showing in your narrative. The events leading to the destruction of the Serapeum were far more complex than you led on. And it's generally accepted now, is it not, that Gibbon was wrong in saying the mob also destroyed the Alexandrian daughter library?


I don't know where you're getting that from, sdf. There's only half of a sentence on the wiki that even suggests that it isn't a plausible explanation and it has a [Citation Needed] tag for not showing a source for that claim. As far as I know no-one has evidence for how the library came to it's end and that it survived in one crippled version after another with successive events. Whether the Christian riots were the final death-stroke or not, it does seem a reasonable candidate (where-as the Islamic conquest being set as the date is usually considered propaganda?).

(And you note his Anti-Christian bias, but keep in mind that there'll also be incredibly heavy pro-Christian bias in other histories. Especially when written and copied by Christian institutions for millennia.)


As a Catholic priest, I've noticed that what is sometimes called an "Anti Christian" bias is, in fact, a cultural bias. We take the values we have learned and hold now and wonder how anybody could have missed this before.
Based on Mr. Duncan's extremely respectful handling of Christian/Theological issues in the past, I would consider the possibility of a cultural bias long before I would consider an anti Christian one. Just my two cents.


I was referring to Gibbons' (undeniable) anti-Christian bias, not accusing Mr. Duncan of holding one himself. Over-reliance on Gibbon for the historical narrative concerning the early Christians is going to unavoidably carry the echo of his bias (and some of his resulting false conclusions, e.g. concerning the destruction of the Alexandrian library).


Heh. Yeah, I'll agree with Joe on that point. It's very often values dissonance causing a new look on ancient individuals, even if in this case he did blame the Christians as part of the reason (and a sickness at the root of maintaining the Empire) for why it fell, since he considered them to have lessened their concerns for the here and now, since it was fairly commonly believed that the second coming was right around the corner and even if it wasn't the earthly life was irrelevant anyway.

I also don't like the fact that he personally didn't suck up to the faction he believed was a cause of the decline and fall being stated as a "bias" (even if it was quite possibly incorrect, given how the East lived on, but we'll never know. *Waves goodbye to Julian*). It was just a conclusion that he reached when he saw the start of the decline and what effects he considered Christianity to have.

If you look at the Wiki article for the fall of the Alexandrian Library, for instance since I just recently looked over it, then on the Talk-page there's a muslim complaining about it's "Islamophobic lies" because it, as it should, notes one of the major accounts in the histories. Not saying it is the correct one, just noting it. Because anything that doesn't hold their Jihadist conquerors up as beacons of enlightenment and perfect holy men is automatically bigoted or racist. It's the kind of attitude it breeds. Even if he's entirely wrong in his hypothesis that doesn't necessarily mean he was incapable of fair judgment due to pre-existing prejudice.

I'm not all that familiar with Gibbon's personal life, but whether that's the case or not just because someone disagrees with you doesn't mean they're biased. They could just be wrong (or right, naturally). :)

(But stop repeating that "False conclusion that the Christians ruined the library". Show an actual source. "[Citation Needed]" to assert that as true when it's such a non-settled issue.)

Rob Shinnick

Umm, Mike? It's "penitent", not "penTitent". At first I thought that was just a typo- you have it spelled correctly in your title, but not in the hyperlink. But then when I listened, you pronounced it "penTitent", too, with the extra "T" in there. Not that anyone else would have noticed this. Just thought you might wanna know, is all. Yeah, yeah, it's me, again, Mister Nitpicky Over Details Nobody Cares About. I'll shut up now. :-)

Rob Shinnick

Ah, never mind, then. I notice now that I wasn't the only one who picked up on the penitent/pentitent thing, after all. Proceed, then, and keep up the good work. Thanks.

Rob Shinnick

OK. Sorry for the triple reply, especially after promising to shut up. I've listened to the episode, now, and learned a bit- thanks.

@Chris- I thought he was referring to Henry II of England, too (there are parallels with THAT King Henry showing penitence after the whole Thomas à Becket debacle), but no, Mike was referring to Henry IV, Holy Roman emperor, of whom I had not heard. I had to Wikipedize (my new verb- like it?) ... I had to look "Canossa" up. Fortuitously, it mentions Henry IV in the article.


@Luise- thanks for the archaeological story link.

Mike Manfrin


Started listening about 6 months ago. Finally made it all the way through the archive!

Can anyone recommend any other podcasts to occupy my ears while I wait for new HoR episodes? I have a 20 minute walk to and from class daily, prime listening-time.


Mike, Dan Carlin (on Itunes)
N, Create a folder in Itunes, Drag the episodes into it in the order you want to listen ie the last episode you drag will be the last one played.

Carol A

To Mike Manfrin - try the History of Philosophy with No Gaps (Google that name!) and the BBC's In Our Time, especially as they now have all their archived podcasts in sections (history, philosophy etc)


Anti-Christian bias? Well the transformation of Christianity in the late empire is undoubtedly important, and to not take a position on it or ignore it seems absurd to me.

Such a huge transformation definately had some sort of effect on the stability of the late empire, and to simply ignore that seems to be putting one´s head in the sand. I suppose you might even be able to make a positive or neutral argument for what Christianity was to the Roman state in the end, but to simply blithely ignore it and accept it in itself as neutral strikes me as wrongheaded. You have to deal with it as the huge social and political transformation it was.

I, personally, think it probably was a toxic thing to the empire and toxic to the intellectual life of the west for thousands of years. Just ask Hypatia.


Dear Mike Manfrin - I second the Carlin recommendation, but also try "the History of England", "the China history podcast", or even "Europe from its Origins" (now that could get us into a +/- Christianity debate!) There are also several good index pages out there, eg.:


After work I'll pop in to our Temple of Isis here in downtown Mogontiacum, offer a sacrifice or two for your speedy recovery. If that spoilsport Theodosius doesn't catch me first...

Michael C

If it hasn't been put forward already, this would be the time to check out Agora (2009), a Spanish film about Hypatia of Alexandria.

And hope you're healing well! I don't want any barbarian general taking over the podcast.


For another podcast recommendation check out "History of the world in 100 objects" on the BBC


How does Indy know to roll forward to avoid the blade coming out of the floor in that scene?

Get well soon!


I said nothing about judging the effects of Christianity upon the empire, only warned against over-reliance on Gibbons concerning the early centuries of the Church. His naive infatuation with classical paganism and impenetrable cynicism regarding the Church's telling of its own history were the height of intellectual fashionability in his day so the blind spot is perhaps excusable; excusable or not, though, it tarnishes this portion of his narrative which shouldn't be relied on exclusively or uncritically.


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