Episode 45 – The Empty Fleet

The Byzantine Empire in 620 AD. That should give you an idea of the size of the task ahead of Heraclius

The Byzantine Empire in 620 AD. That should give you an idea of the size of the task ahead of Heraclius

The Persians conquer Egypt as Nicetas fails to defend Alexandria. Heraclius tries to find a way to avoid blame for this disaster and acquire the resources to fight back.

Period: 617-620

Map: The blue parts of the map show the land held by the Byzantine Empire in 620 AD.

(The Map comes from this handy site showing the Roman Empire’s 18 centuries in 19 maps. http://4umi.com/image/map/rome/19maps.php)

Download: Episode 45 – The Empty Fleet

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Categories: Podcast | 21 Comments

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21 thoughts on “Episode 45 – The Empty Fleet

  1. Thomas

    Brilliant. Brilliant storytelling. Thank you.

  2. Susan

    Fantastic episode. Can’t wait for the next one!

  3. martin

    Great job. Keep up the good work.

  4. war1940

    Egypt had been a province of the Roman Empire since Augustus annexed it in 30BC. I can’t believe the Persians finally managed to take the province, its the first time since 331BC that a Persian dynasty has occupied the country/province. SPOILER ALLERT: DONT READ FURTHER UNLESS YOU KNOW WHAT IS GOING TO HAPPEN NEXT! But i have read about Heraclius and i know that this won’t be the status quo for ever, hint Heraclius marches further east than Trajan!

  5. war1940

    Also i love your podcast

  6. Thank you all so much for the encouragement :-)

  7. Doug

    Great episode, and I can’t wait for the next.

    Why was the capture of Egypt enough to force Heraclius to cancel the bread dole? Back during the days before the western empire fell, Africa supplied Rome and Italy with much of their grain and Egypt supplied Constantinople and the east. After Italy’s population plunged due to the plague and Gothic wars, there should have been extra grain available to supply the capital, especially after its population was reduced by the plague.

    I suspect the answer has to do with the map on the top of this post, which shows the Romans owning a lot of coastal fortresses with very little hinterland to supply them locally, but would love to hear your answer.

    • Hey Doug, very good question. Obviously in the short term supplies from Africa were needed for the army. Not only the one needed to fight in Anatolia but for the one in Africa. With the Persians in Egypt the possibility that they might try to take Carthage existed. And in a time of war when the supply might be broken up any day (shipwrecks too) you do not want 80,000 people standing around waiting to be fed. Better to tell them that you can’t feed them so that they can make other plans.

      More than that though. The shipment of grain to the capital was a state funded enterprise. They took the grain as tax from Egypt and then paid for the transport workers, the dock yard workers, the sailors, the granary managers, the bakers and so on. So half that work force are now in Egypt under Persian occupation and the other half are standing around not working. So Heraclius would have had to send word to Africa that their economy was being forcibly taken over by the government and presumably hundreds of free men were now state servants who would be required to ship grain to the capital.

      So it’s not so much about grain in the short term and more about saving money and not creating an organisational nightmare. As we will see next episode Heraclius didn’t have the time for any of that. He had to get out on campaign and couldn’t leave an operation like that to subordinates as it could so easily blow up and lead to rioting or even civil war.

  8. smotlix

    The Bulgars are coming!

    Listening to your podcast, it has been interesting to hear how the Bulgars have been interacting with the Eastern Roman Empire before the arrival of Asparukh and his horde, and how, in the next couple of centuries, the long view of the romei first lead to the Christianization of the invaders, and later, them reintegrating the Slavic-inhabited lands into the empire under Basil II Bulgaroktonos. Which in modern Bulgarian historical tradition is depicted as a proper tragedy, and a modern-day point of contention with today’s Republic of Macedonia.

    Thank you for an awesome work.

  9. Matt/NL

    Good stuff Robin, also love the excellent maps that accompany the episodes!

  10. Andy

    This part of Roman history is really interesting. Thank you Robin, I can’t wait for the next episode.

    • telemikus

      The tantalising promise of ‘channeling Dan Carlin’ for the next episode definitely has me excited. If Robin can pull off Dan as well as he does Mike Duncan (even dare I say improving on his inimitable style) then I could be on the verge of entering podcasting nirvana. Best of luck with it Robin!

  11. telemikus

    The tantalising promise of ‘channeling Dan Carlin’ for the next episode definitely has me excited. If Robin can pull off Dan as well as he does Mike Duncan (even dare I say improving on his inimitable style) then I could be on the verge of entering podcasting nirvana. Best of luck with it Robin!

  12. HK

    Hello,

    Are your servers going through maintenance? I just tried to download some of the recent episodes and it was very slow going. Your podcast came very highly recommended so I was thinking of featuring it in our app if I liked it. But if your servers can’t handle the traffic, I don’t want to overload them.

    Thanks.

    • That’s very kind of you. The servers can be slow but are usually fine. By all means feature the podcast if you like what you hear :-)

      • HK

        Hello,

        I enjoyed the last few episodes so I decided to add it to our featured podcast lineup.

        I hope your servers hold up. :-)

        Thanks.

  13. Emperor Heraclius

    Mr. Pierson:

    I have a question. If the empire had North Africa, couldn’t it supply grain to Constantinople?

  14. Looking at this map really makes me wonder how different things would’ve been if Maurice was never toppled by Phocas. With a friendly Shah on the Persian throne, perhaps more could’ve been done to fight the barbarians.

  15. Metsis

    I can’t download this, or the earlier podcasts at all now. For some odd reason I could download the latest podcast though. I’m using android, and I’ve had this problem for couple of days now.

  16. Because of the switch to Libsyn all the old links on this site are out of date. They will get changed as soon as I can get to them. Anyone looking to do straight downloads go here http://thehistoryofbyzantium.libsyn.com/rss/. If you are having trouble with an existing subscription then I’m afraid you have to delete and resubscribe to get access to the new Libsyn feed. Sorry for the confusion.

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