Index of Episodes

Hey everyone,

Kind listener JP has built an index of episodes so that we can all fine the images and links quickly. What a guy!

Jump to it here.

Thanks JP,
Robin

Categories: Index | 2 Comments

Episode 98 – Leo the Armenian

Leo V (Dumbarton Oaks coin collection)

Leo V (Dumbarton Oaks coin collection)

Leo the Armenian becomes Leo V and waits out Krum’s slaughter in Thrace. He also makes plans to restore Iconoclasm.

Period: 813-815

Download: Leo the Armenian

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Episode 97 – Michael Rhangabe, Emperor of the Romans

The site of Mesembria (modern Nesebar) from visitnessebar.org

The site of Mesembria (modern Nesebar) from visitnessebar.org

Michael and his son being proclaimed (as depicted in the Chronicle of John Skylitzes)

Michael and his son being proclaimed (as depicted in the Chronicle of John Skylitzes)

Nicephorus’ successors are his wounded son and his unsuitable son-in-law. Between them they ensure that the dynasty comes to a sad end while Krum improves his position considerably.

Period: 811-813

Download: Michael Rhangabe, Emperor of the Romans

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Episode 96 – Shoulda

A valley in the Balkan Mountains (intrepidtravel.com)

An example of a valley in the Balkan Mountains (intrepidtravel.com)

Krum receives Nicepheros' head (from worldhistoryplus.com)

Krum receives Nicepheros’ head (from worldhistoryplus.com)

Krum drinks from Nicephorus' skull (from seanmunger.com)

Krum drinks from Nicephorus’ skull (from seanmunger.com)

Why were the Bulgars so successful compared to their larger neighbour? We look at this question and the limitations of the Byzantine army on campaign as Nicephorus leads his men to their doom.

Period: 811

Download: Shoulda

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Episode 95 – Coulda

The skyline of modern Sofia (Roman Serdica) from senderismoeuropa.com

The skyline of modern Sofia (Roman Serdica) from senderismoeuropa.com

The Byzantine Empire in 780 from A History of the Byzantine State and Society by Warren Treadgold

The Byzantine Empire in 780 from A History of the Byzantine State and Society by Warren Treadgold

Nicephorus turns his attention to the Balkans and begins settling colonists in the Peloponnese. His plans for Macedonia though are thwarted by the Bulgars. The Emperor organises a mass migration from Anatolia to Europe and reorganises the Themes and the finances of the state to make the new venture a success.

Period: 802-811

Download: Coulda

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Episode 94 – Woulda

Nicephorus I (Dumbarton Oaks coin collection)

Nicephorus I (Dumbarton Oaks coin collection)

The General Logothete Nicephorus becomes Emperor and embarks on a wide ranging programme of reform. In this episode we focus on relations with the Caliphate, Charlemagne and the clergy.

Period: 802-811

Download: Woulda

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Episode 93 – Recap and Precap

A reminder of where we’ve come from in the 8th century and where we are going in the 9th.

Period: 717-900

Download: Precap and Recap

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Episode 92 – Questions III

The family of games known as merells or morris. The game was called triôdion in Greek (from levantia.com)

The family of games known as merells or morris. The game was called triôdion in Greek (from levantia.com.au)

I answer your questions about the Themes, the Khazars, China, daily life and blinding. I also update our Constantine acrostic.  You can find the rules to Triodion here.

Period: 695-802

Download: Questions III

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The Syrian Refugee who changed Western Civilization

While on holiday I was reading about the refugee crisis and decided to write this article. I thought you might enjoy…

The Syrian Refugee who changed Western Civilization

1300 years ago a boy was dragged from his home and taken to Europe. We should remember the vital role he played in world history.

Did you hear the story about the Syrian refugee? The one about the boy named Konon from a Christian family living near the border. As a small child he was forced to flee his home and migrate across Turkey to a Greek port. You can imagine where the story goes from there.

Leo III (from 'Rulers of the Byzantine Empire' published by KIBEA)

Leo III (from ‘Rulers of the Byzantine Empire’ published by KIBEA)

His family was given prime farming land by the European government. Then he was offered a lucrative career in the army. Finally aged just 32 he became the most powerful politician on the continent and emerged victorious from one of the most important battles in world history. You must have heard this story before?

These events took place between 685 and 718 AD. This period of history offers a strange reflection of our own time as if glimpsed in a fairground mirror. The Middle East was in ferment with war and political chaos everywhere. Refugees were arriving in Europe by the boatload and precious relics from the past were being smashed to pieces.

But the Arab peoples were not the ones suffering from the tumult. Instead they were the military superpower looking to extend their influence. A generation after the Prophet Muhammad passed away (c632) the Arabs had united under one government for the first time. A Caliphate. The model of Muslim government which IS wants to recreate today.

It was the European power that was collapsing into civil war and suffering fresh disasters every day. The Eastern Roman Empire (often called Byzantium) had been shocked by the arrival of the Arab armies. Shoddy military intelligence left them unprepared for the assault and the provinces of Egypt, Palestine and Syria slipped from their control in barely eight years.

The Caliphate of the 7th century was a largely tolerant place though. No strict codes of behavior or dress were handed down. If people were prepared to continue their lives as before then they would be left in peace.

Those who did flee to Europe were not housed in camps or left to wait on beaches. On the contrary the shell-shocked Romans needed every ounce of talent they could find. These people were given empty land to work or encouraged to work for the state. During a break in the fighting the Imperial government ordered troops to cross the Taurus Mountains (the border between the two Empires) into Syria to deport local Christians. These former Romans had remained to work the land within the Caliphate but were now moved ‘home’ at the point of a sword. One such family was that of young Konon.

Konon’s unique experience would take him far in the Roman world. The trauma of being uprooted and having to start a new life hundreds of miles away made him tough and flexible. Once fully grown he joined the army and was quickly promoted to become an officer with considerable responsibility.

The conflict he found himself in the middle of was a clash of civilizations. Instead of western powers dictating democratic solutions, it was the Arabs who were reshaping the world to their way of thinking. The Caliphate was on the warpath and had the Roman capital Constantinople (modern Istanbul) was in its sights. The anger and frustration which fuels IS-like organisations today was being felt on the European shore. The Romans had been successful for a millennium and now suddenly found themselves impotent in the face of Arab power.

By the summer of 717 their capital was surrounded by a huge army and fleet. If the city had been incorporated into the Caliphate then the future of Europe would have changed beyond all recognition. But it didn’t, thanks in large part to Konon.

He had grown up around the Arabs and may have spoken the language. He was a senior general by 717 and as they approached the city he was given the ultimate promotion, to Emperor, to deal with the crisis. Through skillful diplomacy and ruthless warfare the Syrian refugee, now known as Leo III, saved the Roman world.

This battle is largely forgotten today, yet we should remember its significance in shaping the modern world. Constantinople would not ultimately fall until 1453 leaving Western Europe to develop its unique culture. Only four decades after the Roman state finally disappeared Christopher Columbus set sail for the New World.

Perhaps we should also look differently at those desperate to reach Europe today. They may possess the talent and the perspective to shape the world of tomorrow.

Robin Pierson is the presenter of The History of Byzantium podcast. The story of the Eastern Roman Empire from 476-1453.

Categories: News | 6 Comments

The Eleven Constantines

The one Constantine we have no trouble remembering

The one Constantine we have no trouble remembering

Here is an update on the Constantine Acronym or Acrostic or Mnemonic or whatever we decide to make it which I mentioned back in episode 76. A few brave listeners sent in suggestions and I thought I’d post the two best I’ve seen. I’ll keep updating them every century until we find a version that works the best. Let me know what you think.

Listener SM

Christianized the Roman state,
Oldest of three heirs of the Great.
Never made it past month four,
Stopped the Arabs at the door.
Theophanes called him dung,
Assassinated by his mum.
Newborn in purple was his name,
Tall and cruel, inept and lame.
I fought alone against the Normans,
No more Italy for the Romans.
Emperor fell and so did the Byzantines,
So we have eleven Constantines.

Listener JF

Constantine the great was first; he built the imperial city,
Constantine the second, died young, his three year reign gave pity,
Constantine the third, of the west, reigned along with another,
Constantine the third, of the rest, split with his half-brother,
Constantine the fourth, reigned long, his son’s nose was slit,
Constantine the fifth, broke idols, he gave the Bulgars shit,
Constantine the sixth, raised at nine, killed blind as a fighter,
Constantine the seventh, purple-born, from the shadows to a writer,
Constantine the eighth’s daughter Zoe, was stately in her carriage,
Constantine the ninth, wed Zoe to gain the throne by marriage,
Constantine the tenth, zealot & bureaucrat, used mercenaries not the army,
Constantine the eleventh lost the empire to the Turks which sent the listeners barmy….

Categories: News | 5 Comments

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