We sat down recently with Stephen Guerra, the host of the History of the Papacy Podcast to talk all about the classic 1951 sword-and-sandals film Quo Vadis.
The Partial Historians are Dr Fiona Radford and Dr Peta Greenfield. They are both Roman historians and this podcast follows all manner of topics to do with the ancient Romans.
We’re very excited to bring you a special episode where we sit down with Cam from The Life of Caesar podcast! We’re talking about Tiberius Caesar Divi Augusti filius Augustus or ‘Tibbo’ as he’s affectionately known.
We’re jumping back into the narrative. The title might be a bit of a giveaway, yes yes, we’ll be talking about … pestilence! But before we get there we need to consider the circumstances. Rome has been having lots of problems with their neighbours, particularly the Aequians and we’ve seen a shift in tactics from Aequians engaging in guerilla style raiding to seeking out the Romans in pitched battle. To say that Rome has been…
In this special episode we get together with Rob and Jamie from Totalus Rankium to discuss Augustus – hear all the highs and lows here!
In this episode, we dip in the years c. 466-4 BCE to explore the continuing conflict between Rome, the Aequians, and the Volscians. These years are packed with drama, politics, and virtus!
This is a short blog post designed to accompany the release of the recent History by Hollywood podcast episode that features Dr Rad, which you can listen to HERE. Before the Blacklist In the mid-1920s, a young man from Grand Junction moved to L.A. with his family. For nearly a decade, he struggled to contribute to the family coffers, working in a bakery and dabbling in low-level criminal activities. This decade made him particularly aware of…
We are turning 90, which seems like a good time to take a break and go to the ballet. The Doctors are talking about Spartacus in tights this episode. The ballet version of Spartacus’ life is especially interesting as the production emerged from the other side of the Cold War. Everybody Loves Spartacus – especially the Soviets! The history of the slave revolt was reconsidered a number of times during the turbulent early 20th century…
We’re turning 90 and it’s time for a special episode on the reception of Spartacus! What better way to do this than to examine the history of Spartacus, the ballet. Dr Rad is our expert on the ground on all things Spartacus and reception. Dr G brings a wild curiosity and a small knowledge of ballet.
The gods have been smiling on us for the past year or two. As we have learnt more about the podcasting and popular history game, momentum has been building. One of the highlights has been our collaborations with TED-Ed. Dr G and I have been fortunate enough to contribute to a few projects on Roman History, such as the Vestals, the Emperor Augustus and the newly released Spartacus. Since beginning my postgraduate studies, classical reception…
We are very excited to share the NEW TED-Ed animation on Spartacus, that wily gladiator. Given their lengthy relationship, Dr Rad is especially thrilled to have played a small role in bringing Spartacus’ story to your screens in a new format. This video is based on a range of primary sources about Spartacus and the revolt that he led against Rome between 73-71 BCE. If you are intrigued by this slave revolt, perhaps you would…
It’s a brand new edition of the Partial Historians covering the Early Roman Republic™! And as the title ‘A Fabian Abroad’ hints, the Fabians are back in the political scene!
There’s nothing we enjoy more than some controversy in the source material and oooo boy does the narrative get hazy with the return of a Fabian back in the scene. We explore some of the challenges with this situation in order to get a better sense of what might be happening in the family history.
What kind of drama could follow the career of uber patrician Appius Claudius? As it turns out, those Romans are really all about battle after battle! We’ve reached a hazy period in our historiography where the narratives of Livy and Dionysius start to diverge on specifics; some events play out over different years depending on the author.
We are deep in the conflict between between patricians and plebeians. We jump back into the narrative part way through c. 471 BCE. Our consuls are Titus Quintius Capitolinus Barbartus and Appius Claudius Sabinus and they represent different approaches to political engagement with the plebeians.
Our jaunt through the history of ancient Rome continues apace! In this episode we cover c. 472-1 BCE. Dr Radness is reading Livy and Dr G is reading Dionysius of Halicarnassus and the comparisons of our sources is quite something! The main stars are the tribunes Volero and Laertorius.
When we left you at the end of the last episode, there was some major events afoot – there’s nothing like a murder in the city, particularly when the people turning up dead are Romans who hold a public magistracy! In this episode we consider the mystery concerning Gnaeus Genucius and the stories connected with Volero Publilius!
This has been a long time coming, but for those of you who enjoyed our episodes (numbers 18-21) on Spartacus, the 1960 film and the Starz series, here are some select sources to help you find out more about Spartacus on the small and big screen. Augoustakis, A.; Cyrino, M. (eds), Starz Spartacus: Reimagining an Icon on Screen (Edinburgh University Press, Edinburgh: 2016) Blanshard, A.; Shahabudin, K., Classics on Screen: Ancient Greece and Rome on…
In this episode, Drs R and G discuss the exploits of the Romans between c. 475-3 BCE. There’s plenty to consider: battles, consular successes, and looming ever larger in the narrative the call for agrarian reform which builds on the back of a grain crisis.
After the tragic demise of the Fabii gens, what happens next? The rivalry between Rome and her northern neighbour Veii continues! ‘If Only I Had Some Grain’ captures the spirit of this episode. We cover the years c. 476 BCE and part of c. 475 BCE. Is this a sign that our narrative is quickening up? Quite possibly! We face two strands of narrative: The developing grain crisis in Rome and the military consequences of the forces of Veii (aka the Tyrrhenians) on the Janiculum.
We return to the history of Rome from the founding of the City and that can only mean one thing – the Fabian family are back front and centre. And, yes, that episode title is a bit of a spoiler! We’re talking about the Fabian demise.
Would any Ancient Roman podcast hosted by two women be complete without a very special episode on one of the most famous women in the City’s history, Livia Drusilla? Obviously not and here we are 🙂
The Colosseum is the most famous example of a Roman amphitheatre and also the largest! The connection between competition, sport, and power is all up for grabs in this special collaboration between the Wonders of the World Podcast and Dr G from our very own Partial Historians. You can hear it all here. Enter Vespasian Stage Right Vespasian comes from a middling political family, who made his name as a commander of troops. So how…
Rome and the Fabians have developed a whole new military tactic by building a fortress near Veii. This is momentous! It allows Rome to station soldiers outside the City in preparation for battle. This force though is made up largely of Fabians and their supporters which will have implications.
Dr Radness makes a guest star appearance in an episode of the Wonders of the World Podcast hosted by Caroline Vahrenkamp. Herein they discuss Pompeii and Herculaneum! In this special collaboration, Caroline and Dr Radness explore just what happens when Mount Vesuvius erupts in 79 CE. You can listen to the whole episode here 🙂 The combination of the sultry tones of Caroline and the razor sharp intelligence of Dr R is sure not only…
In the wake of the horrific Battle of Veii in 480 BCE we head into c. 479 BCE. While we follow Livy and Dionysius of Halicarnassus predominantly at this time, we also see a little of the Fasti Capitolini creep in.
After a little bit of faffing about the consuls Caeso Fabius (cos. III) and Titus Verginius Tricostus Rutilus emerge – were these two just as in favour with the plebeians and the patricians? Livy has some details to offer on this front!
We also see a disruption to the argarian situation led by Caeso Fabius – how will that turn out?
The nascent Roman Republic is well under the influence of the Fabii. Marcus Fabius holds the consulship for the second time. He shares the illustrious role with Gnaeus Manlius. The real trouble lies in Roman domestic diplomacy. Herein the Battle of Veii 480 BCE.
We dive back into the history of Rome from the founding of the city and end up right in the challenges of 481 BCE. This means that we’re in the hazy early period of the Republic where the conflict between the patricians and plebeians dominates the narratives offered by Livy and Dionysius of Halicarnassus.
The patrician and plebeian conflict explodes over the redistribution of public land. The Vestal Virgin Oppia finds herself the object of public scrutiny.
In the wake of Spurius Cassius’ demise, Rome’s attention turns inwards. The plebeians and the patrician conflict continues to escalate and the some of the consequences begin to play out with Rome’s foreign policy.
In c. 483 BCE the conflict between Rome and the Volscii really starts to reflect the internal struggle between the patricians and plebeians in Rome herself.
Gla is a huge Mycenaean fortress in Boeotia, Greece. There’s no mention of the place in Homer’s Iliad and it’s more than ten times larger than Athens during the Bronze Age…
So what is Gla exactly and what do we really know about this structure?
Let’s dive in!
We return to the fray to consider the late career of Spurius Cassius! The conflict between the the patricians and plebeians continue and Cassius appears to be running a populist campaign…
In this episode we’ll consider how the political machinations between these groups play out under a new year and new consuls.
Over the last few months, Dr G has been working with TED-Ed to spread the word about Vestal Virgins. Herein are the fruits of that collaboration! I’m super excited to have been part of this project and bringing the world of ancient Rome to others is a real treat 🙂 This TED-Ed lesson explores one aspect of the Vestals’ lives: the possibility of live burial. You can check out all the details here: https://ed.ted.com/lessons/who-were-the-vestal-virgins-and-what-was-their-job-peta-greenfield…
Our narrative returns to the fray of Spurius Cassius’ political machinations while consul!
Can he find a way to distribute Rome’s bounty three ways with the inclusion of the Latins and Hernicians? Find out as Drs R and G compare the narrative sources!
In this episode, the Doctors return to explore Rome’s continued struggles with her most estimable neighbours, the Volscians, the Hernicans, and the Aequians. The intricacies really start to come to the surface in the consulship of Proculus Verginius and Spurius Cassius.
We dive right back into the narrative of Rome’s history with an examination of the years just following the death of Coriolanus. Rome, perhaps unsurprisingly, doesn’t really know how to get along with her neighbours…
In the spirit of openness and from a desire to share what I have produced in terms of research, my (Dr Greenfield’s) dissertation is attached below. Handy to have if you want to know more about the Vestal Virgins! Super handy if your looking for more scholarly work on the late Republic and early principate (c. 150 BCE – 14 CE)! Greenfield, P. N. 2011. Virgin Territory – The Vestals and the Transition from Republic to…
In this special episode we turn our roving eye on how the story of Coriolanus has been transformed by his reappearance into the cultural mind of the West through Shakespeare’s play and the centuries that follow.
It is the end of Coriolanus. How does his grisly end unfold? Who will be pivotal to the end of his career? In this episode, Drs R and G push through all the barriers to make sure this part of Roman history comes to a close!
The complexities of Coriolanus’ narrative continue to build and things are about to get a little bit hairy for our man of the moment. Join Drs R and G for the ride ahead!
In this short and sweet episode, Dr Radness asks Dr G the big question of the year – how was *that* trip to Italy? Part tavelogue, part history, all Partial Historian 🙂
As the suspense develops in Coriolanus’ career, how are the relationships between the patricians and plebeians working out? With the new force of the tribune of the plebs to reckon with, Coriolanus is not a happy patrician.
In the last episode Coriolanus loomed large on the agenda, and here he takes centre stage again. Ever wondered what a real patrician’s patrician looked like? Wait no more!
Dear Listeners, For the last few weeks, I’ve been traipsing around Italy and getting re-acquainted with all the haunts that are pertinent to my fields of research. So far, the highlights have been: Seeing the frieze of the Vestal Virgins in Palermo. I was very fortunate to have an Italian guide who was able to liaise with the staff at the Museo Archeologico Antonio Salinas. I was granted special access to the frieze as the…
The Doctors pursue the different elements coming to the fore in the 490s BCE by looking at a little more detail at the development of the position of aedile, and the significance of the fetiale priests in matters relating to war, peace, and oaths.
And no episode looking at this period would be complete without more on the developing career of Coriolanus!
In this episode, the Doctors examine the continuing Struggle of the Orders, some of the consequences of the strife between the Plebeians and Patricians, and *drum roll please* … we catch our first glimpse of the man who will become Coriolanus.
The episode in which Drs R and G explore the Coen Brothers take on the Golden Age of Hollywood with Hail, Caesar!
We may have been enticed by the prospect of George Clooney as a Roman general, but we stayed for the tribute to the big studio days of American cinema.
For anyone who is interested in learning more about Trumbo, or DT for those in the know, here is a list of references for our latest episode. This is just a selection – there are quite a few books on the production of Spartacus! Ahl, F., ‘Spartacus, Exodus, and Dalton Trumbo: Managing Ideologies of War’, in Spartacus, ed. M. Winkler (Blackwell Publishing, Malden: 2007), 65-86. Ceplair, L.; Englund, S., The Inquisition in Hollywood (Anchor Press…
As you know, Dr R specialises in Rome on film. In this episode, let us take on a journey through the film Trumbo (2015), which is a bio-pic of the life of screenwriter Dalton Trumbo.
Trumbo broke the blacklist when he was given screen-credit for Spartacus (1960). Herein an examination of the politics of Hollywood post Second World War, the film Trumbo, and liberal sprinklings of Rome.
It turns out the First Succession is only the start of Rome’s troubles. The ongoing struggle is manifest in the development of the Tribune of the Plebs. This important political position emerges from struggle and in this episode we explore that political birth.
In this episode, the struggle heats up in earnest and we follow the growing antagonism between the patricians and the plebeians.
In this episode, Drs R. and G. consider the events of 494/3 BCE and the contextual factors that culminated in the Conflict of the Orders between the patricians and the plebeians.
We return to the topic of Vesuvius and the fateful eruption in 79 CE. In light of additional research, we examine details of the volcanic eruption, consider the rhetoric at play in Pliny the Younger’s letter 6.16 to Tacitus, as well as modern findings from recent work at the sites of Pompeii and Herculaneum.
Dr R is reading early Roman history through the lens of Titus Livius. In this episode we explore Livy’s life, his work, and questions of historiographical interest that influence our we can understand Rome’s past.
Dr G has been considering early Roman history through the lens of Dionysius of Halicarnassus’ ‘Antiquitates Romanae’ (The Roman History). In this episode, we consider the implications of reading a Greek source for Roman history including audience expectations and Dionysius’ stylistic leanings.
There is word of a truce between Rome and the Latins, yet another dictator, and the infamous battle of Lake Regillus. For your listening pleasure there may also be some surprising divine sightings!
As Rome finds itself friendless after continual aggression throughout Italy, the citizens begin to consider how they can guide the city with decisiveness and clarity. Enter, stage left: the dictator.
Publicola has died and Rome has mourned … but wait, is that the Latins seeking an opportunity to kick Rome while she’s down? Quite, quite possibly. In this episode Doctors R and G explore the increasing tension between Rome and her Latin neighbours.
Publicola has quite a significant role to play, holding a number of consulships (according to the extant accounts), and he stars in one of Plutarch’s lives. Let the doctors take you through the highs and lows from a biographical perspective.
Following the action of c. 504 BCE, this episode covers the consulship of Publius Valerius Publicola (cos IV) and Titus Lucretius (cos II) as they battle for the city of Fidenae, the Sabine attack upon Rome, and the crucial differences between an ovation and a triumph.
Allow the Doctors to take you a winding scrawl of battles, conflicts, and rising personalities, focusing on the years c. 506-5 BCE. We discuss the challenges with the historical narratives of Livy and Dionysius of Halicarnassus, the possibility that Rome may have been taken by Porsenna, and the lingering spectre of the Tarquinii.
As the times fly by, the Romans continue to contend with Lars Porsenna and the consequences of the Tarquinii on the development of the political character of the City. The unfurling of narratives also reveal dashes of exciting tales of derring-do from the likes of Scaevola and Cloelia.
Junius Brutus, a key figure in the expulsion of the King Tarquinius Superbus, has been slain in battle.
But the Tarquinii are down, not out. In this episode, witness the rise of Lars Porsenna and the noble deeds of Horatius Cocles!
In this episode, discover how Tarquinius Superbus attempts to hold on to power despite being exiled from Rome, how Brutus meets his end, as well as a heady discussion on the topic of ‘well, what have we really learnt anyway so far?’
As the tide of popularity turns against Lucius Tarquinius Superbus, what will he do? And how will the Romans respond? Drs R and G return with a consideration of the last king of Rome. Follow the action as the decline of Superbus sets in.
Can a king really be brought low by the actions of his relatives? The story of Lucretia offers some clues. Join Drs R and G for the second part of the life and times of the final king of Rome, Lucius Tarquinius Superbus.
The reign of Roman kings is nearly over, but what a way to go out! In this episode, the Doctors explore the early years of Superbus’ rule, and you’ll never guess which peoples he decides to wage war against!
As is fitting for the last king of Rome, we are taking our time to ensure we cover all the particulars since there are plenty of reasons why the Romans decided they were not so interested in kings anymore…
Oh, Servius Tullius. A king whose destiny is foreshadowed! A king who rises from obscurity to greatness! The Doctors tackle the sixth Roman king, the drama of his life and rule, and the expansion of Roman organisational systems that are attributed to him.
Join your favourite debonair scholars as they explore the rule of Lucius Tarquinius Priscus, a man of such charisma, and favourable signs from the gods, who wooed Rome from the moment he entered the city!
In the wake of violence, and after an appropriate period of an interrex, Ancus Marcius is selected as the king to follow on from Tullus Hostilius. Listen to the dulcet tones of the Doctors’ voices as they explore the life, reign, and interesting developments *sometimes* attributed to this ruler.
Who is Tullus Hostilius? While no where near as famous as his predecessors, Tullus Hostilius is a significant figure in the Roman historiographical tradition. And yes, he was a king of Rome. Herein: violence, controversy, and a tale of two sets of triplets!
Numa Pompilius is to laws as Romulus and Remus are to violence … Following in the wake of the violent founding of Rome, a king is chosen for his steady character, disinterest in being a leader, and Sabine heritage. Numa Pompilius, the second monarch recognised from the founding, famously secured the favour of the divine Egeria to guide the City.
The enigmatic brothers, Romulus and Remus. You can’t start an exploration of Rome from it’s founding without considering this infamous tale of fratricide. It’s a founding mixed with equal parts teenage rebellion, revenge, and violence: it’s the beginning of Rome!
Join the Doctors in the arena! In this episode, we consider the history of gladiatorial combat, the transformation of gladiator fighting from private to public, as well as the way in which gladiators became connected with the principate.
In this vast topic we focus on women’s health. A consideration of menstruation is central to understanding how women’s health was conceptualised by ancient Greek and Roman medical writers, while the advent of Christianity influences new considerations of what it means to be ‘pure’…
The Doctors investigate the life and rule of the reputedly *very nice* emperor, Antoninus Pius. The character of his imperial rule is like a breath of fresh Italian air in Rome. With only a few sources to guide a reading of this emperor, a little mystery, and perhaps a little warm feeling, is preserved for this elder statesman.
Hadrian is a complex and interesting figure who divides the opinion of the senate, and is both praised and critiqued by the historical record. The Doctors guide you through some of the interesting details of his rule!
In this episode, the principate of Trajan is presented in swathes of very Pliny-coloured praise!
Domitian is dead! Murder most foul! Who will take the wings? Only man is right for the task … Marcus Cocceius Nerva. Who, you might ask? A man of Roman politics, a man of some distinction and it seems a man of many talents for reform. His reign is quite short, but it packs some reform punch!
The Doctors take you through the reign and tumultuous drama of the final Flavian emperor. Was he really as bad as the sources would have us believe? And why is there such a negative tradition against Domitian in any case?
The Flavian dynasty is getting into the swing of things with a new, charismatic emperor. Welcome to the reign of Titus, a man of many talents and a knack for having a rule riddled with natural disasters. The Doctors explore the details of Titus’ style of rule and the sad, quick end of this most stellar example of imperial majesty.
In this special event episode, your intrepid Doctors examine the eruption of Vesuvius. The volcano erupted during the reign of the emperor Titus and our understanding of it comes from both archaeological and literary evidence. Join us on this foray into ancient natural disaster …
There are no prizes for guessing who takes home the prize of ruling for longer than a few months. You’re totally right, it’s Vespasian! So let’s dive in – your Doctors consider Vespasian’s background and the character of his rule.
The year 69 CE continues apace, and Doctors R and G peer through the mists of time to focus on the shifts in power and machinations postulated in the source material. Herein the short reigns of Otho and Vitellius.
When the Julio-Claudian dynasty falls, what happens next? Prepare yourself for chaos, as the infamous Year of the Four Emperors is here. In this episode we turn our gaze on two of the early contenders for the rule of Rome: Galba and Otho.
Spice up your ears with a foray into the historical and creative elements of Ridley Scott’s 2000 epic Gladiator. Touted as the return of the sword-and-sandal genre, this film is an interesting mélange of historical plausibility and blatant deviation from the primary source material!
We’re taking a step back in time to examine the classic Rome on film presented in Ben-Hur, the 1959 epic extravaganza! The film builds on the novel Ben-Hur: A Tale of the Christ published by Lee Wallace in 1880. This means that there are many layers to parse from the perspective of historians!
We take our last turn about the room with the enigma, the charisma, that is Spartacus. The final season of the Starz series Spartacus: War of the Damned, follows the final confrontation between the slave rebels and the might of Rome.
The Doctors tackle the sources and speculation that arise from an examination of the Starz series Spartacus Vengeance.
Spartacus: Vengeance follows the nascent slave rebellion in their journey from Capua and the challenges they face along the way. You may well ask what is up with Glaber and Spartacus – find out here!
In this episode, your intrepid Doctors continue to explore Spartacus and modern incarnations of his story. In 2010 the Starz series Spartacus Blood and Sand hit our television screens.
This season functions as a origin story, as our primary sources for pick up the story at the moment of Spartacus leading the slave revolt in 73 CE. With an eye for the historical sources, we consider how this series tackles the details of Spartacus’ life and the blurring of history and drama.
Dr Radford’s is a specialist in the history of Rome on film. And where better to start than with Spartacus, the 1960 epic directed (eventually) by Stanley Kubrick and starring the one, the only, Kirk Douglas.
This film has a highly complicated array of relationships to explore. There’s the 1951 novel that inspired the screenplay by Howard Fast. There’s the screenplay itself, where major credit is given to Dalton Trumbo. And there’s the complications that arise from the challenges of finding a director who could stick with the project. This is all before we even cut to the chase on the primary source material!
So what relationship does the film bear to the historical sources?
Cybele, also known as the Magna Mater (the Great Goddess) is an Eastern deity brought to Rome in the wake of the Punic Wars. In this listener request episode, the Doctors delve into background of this goddess. We consider her divine areas of influence, and follow her progress from the East into Rome.
Oh Nero … It’s a long way to the top, and when you get there it’s a long way to fall. We like to think of it this way, he sings “I didn’t start the fire”, but of course he didn’t fiddle while Rome burned. No, it was far more interesting than that!
Claudius is dead, and who should emerge as the new imperator … none other than Nero, the son of Agrippina. While we explore the early years of Nero’s rule under the guidance of his mother Agrippina the Younger, we also consider the influential roles of Seneca and Burrus.
With Messalina dead, Claudius begins the process that any good Roman man would: choosing a new wife. As emperor, Claudius just happens to be the most eligible bachelor in town. He has a pick of the ladies and decides on Agrippina.
This is an unusual match in a number of respects, not least because she is his niece! In this episode, Doctors R and G explore the various intricacies of the relationship between Claudius and Agrippina.
Valeria Messalina was a cousin of Claudius and there was quite an age difference between them. He was born in 10 BCE, while she was born in c. 20 CE. This thirty year age gap may go some way to explaining the character of the marriage as it developed over time. In this episode, your intrepid Doctors explore the myth, the legend, and the history that is her legacy.
In this episode, we consider Claudius’ less than illustrious beginnings and the progression of his career into Rome’s top job. Claudius’ expansionist policy, his relationship with the Praetorian guard, and the focus of the sources on his freedmen are all up for discussion!
We examine Caligula’s rise to power, the changes his principate means for the developing empire of Rome, and touch on the some of the shocking tales connected with his reign. It’s times like these, dear listener, that you begin to wish Tacitus’ account of this period had survived – could the sources be less balanced?
We take a detour from the Julio-Claudian emperors to examine one of the women pivotal to Augustus’ family and the future of his family line: Julia Maior, Augustus’ biological daughter. Who was Julia exactly? And why was she important?
In this episode, we tackle the issues Tiberius faced in his career as he tried to fill the political shoes of Augustus. We consider the following questions in regard to Tiberius’ leadership: What style characterised his rule? What troubles did he face and how did he address them? And what about those stories of sexual deviancy?
What was Tiberius’ early life like? What milestones mark his political career? And how does he journey to become the princeps of Rome? In this episode, we trace Tiberius’ life from his birth in 42 BCE to the moment of his transition from citizen of Rome to the leading man of the state in 14 CE.
Our exploration of Augustus (63 BCE – 14 CE) takes a titillating turn as we consider some of the evidence for Augustus private life. With a reasonable degree of historian skepticism, we consider some of the challenges with the source material relating to sex in ancient Rome!