Justin, Dying – Constantinople, 527 AD

During our break from the narrative I will try and keep in touch whenever something interesting comes up. Today Listener Steve Knepper (an English professor at Virginia Military Institute) has written a dramatic monologue about Justin I. I thought you might enjoy being transported back to the 6th century once more.

 

Justin, Dying

Constantinople, 527 AD

Justinian’s been crowned, with me too ill

To leave this couch and see my prayers fulfilled.

My thoughts drift to my first time through the gates,

A peasant boy still smelling of the pigs,

Dumbfounded by the spires, mosaics, and domes,

Glass-windowed shops, perfumes, incense, and spice,

The forum buzzing with the tongues of every

Land like Babel healed by Pentecost.

Even the fishmongers dealt in opulence.

Unfathomable that I should rule this place,

That he, my sister’s son, should rule in turn.

I heard the chanting from the Hippodrome

But was so weak I couldn’t even stand,

God teaching me humility again.

The last shall not be first without His Grace.

No skill or cleverness of ours alone

Has made these outland swineherds into Caesars.

Yet think of Christ’s temptation in the sands

When Satan offered him the diadem

Of worldly power, perhaps a crown like ours.

At times this plagues my mind.

Is He working in his cleverness?

When Anastasius lay dead it was

My nephew who first urged me to pursue

The throne. Chief of the royal guard and no

Monophysite, I’d set aright the wrong

My wise old emperor invited by

Imprudence in the Faith,

Repair us with the Patriarch of Rome.

Justinian convinced me to take bribes

Amantius intended for his cause

And use them to finance my own support.

It seemed, I still believe it was, God’s Will.

But what if he did slay Vitalian?

What of his rabble-rousing gangs of Blues?

Some cut their hair like Huns,

Shaved close on top and flowing in the back,

Barbarians in looks and action both.

How many riots, murders did he urge?

No doubt at least he looked the other way.

And what of Theodora,

Crowned empress in the Hippodrome where she

Once swayed her hips, unveiled her breasts,

A famous Leda on the stage,

Allowing geese to peck grain from her loins?

Some call her Theodora-of-the-brothel

Still, my spies within the senate say.

My wife had been a slave.

That does not give me pause.

I worry more she is monophysite,

An adept of the Bishop Timothy.

What will this pair now prove?

Is he the David that this city needs?

Or will he be the upstart thug they claim?

Is she a new Bathsheba…Athalia?

I need to banish evil thoughts like these.

I love Justinian.  His faith is true.

He tends the needy, widows, sick, and orphans,

Cares for the Christians scattered in far lands.

There’s mercy in his heart

And as his indiscretions fade with age

He may become a saintly emperor.

And she may be the woman at the well.

Her brilliance matches all her other charms.

Intelligence and wit may grow to wisdom.

The unity of faith may start with them,

Monophysite now wed to Orthodox,

Co-regents ruling all Byzantium,

Their eros may grow into agape.

This is why Christ’s two natures must be taught,

To show our weakness turned to strength, our strength

Perfected into love,

To show our flesh become a phoenix.

Nor is it bad that that they are strong and shrewd,

Well-versed in what the raucous demes may do,

With enemies within

And enemies without,

The Persians mighty in the east, the Huns

Still raiding in the Balkan dioceses,

With allies often more like enemies,

Goth Aryans now seizing lands and life

Of senators in Italy for speaking

Too directly of old Rome made new.

He’ll need the prayers of that great peasant king

Who once was still a boy with flocks to guard,

Who heard the snarls and saw the glinting eyes,

Who stepped out from the fire’s ring

Remembering that he too was a sheep

In need of the Great Shepherd of us all.

A swineherd’s not so different from a shepherd.

It’s well that he wore rags before the purple.

I need such hope tonight

As I prepare for one procession more,

This time into the vale.

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An update on the schedule of the podcast

Hello everyone,

I recorded a short update about the podcast and the likely schedule for the next few months. You can listen to it here.

The main takeaways are:

– The narrative will resume around Spring 2021

– In the meantime I will be producing bonus episodes and videos from Istanbul. As well as doing work for my Dad and taking a little time out for my mental health.

– At least two more free episodes about Alexios will be coming soon. Including a Q&A about his reign and the Crusades so do send your questions in. You can comment on the thread below.

Thanks for your support and understanding,
Robin

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Episode 222 – The Good Helmsman

Alexios Komnenos by Diogo DaCunha

Alexios Komnenos by Diogo DaCunha (@diogos_tales)

Alexios tries to forge a coalition against Antioch but has to abandon his plans when Anatolia comes calling again. The Emperor leaves this world frustrated by his failure to outmanoeuvre the Normans but his record in office is impressive nonetheless.

Period: 1108-1118

Download: The Good Helmsman

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This beautiful drawing of Alexios is by Diogo DaCunha. Check out more of his work on Instagram, at his website or on Vimeo.

If you want to send in feedback to the podcast:

– Either comment on this post.

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Episode 221 – The Triptych

Anna pondering her portrayal of Bohemond by Nikos Boukouvalas from deviantart.com

Anna pondering her portrayal of Bohemond by Nikos Boukouvalas from deviantart.com

Bohemond heads back to Western Europe to recruit a new army. He leads them back to the Balkans to capture Dyrrhachium but Alexios is waiting for him.

Period: 1105-1108

Download: The Triptych

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Episode 220 – The Crusade of 1101

Basil the Bogomil (from 'Rulers of the Byzantine Empire' published by KIBEA)

Basil the Bogomil (from ‘Rulers of the Byzantine Empire’ published by KIBEA)

More armed pilgrims arrive at Constantinople in the wake of the fall of Jerusalem. Alexios advises them to avoid the Turks of Anatolia but they ignore him. Meanwhile Alexios’ attempts to put pressure on Antioch are thwarted by Bohemond’s nephew Tancred. Finally we return to Constantinople to check in with the Komnenian regime and watch a man get burnt to death.

Period: 1097-1104

Download: The Crusade of 1101

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Anatolia and Armenia 1100 AD. Turkic and Latin capitals in red.

Anatolia and Armenia 1100 AD. Turkic and Latin capitals in red.

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Episode 219 – A Spectacular Interruption (or Jerusalem!)

Jerusalem falls by Emile Signol (1847)

Jerusalem falls by Emile Signol (1847)

The Crusader march to Jerusalem (from Victory in the East by J France)

The Crusader march to Jerusalem (from Victory in the East by J France)

The Siege of Jerusalem (from Victory in the East by J France)

The Siege of Jerusalem (from Victory in the East by J France)

After their victory at Antioch the Crusaders agree to pause for a few months to rest. Bohemond and Raymond argue over who will keep the city. When neither Alexios or Urban will come to help them out they have to make decisions for themselves. These choice hinge on whether Raymond of Toulouse can both lead the Crusade and carve out a piece of the Levant for himself. In the process Raymond will lose all credibility and be forced to rely on Godfrey of Bouillon to help him get to Jerusalem. Once there the Latins end up in a race against time. They must take the city before an army from Cairo arrives or they run out of water.

Period: 1098-9

Buy: A Spectacular Interruption (or Jerusalem!)

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Episode 218 – The Siege of Antioch

Engraving of Antioch by William Miller from a sketch by Byam Martin in 1866

Engraving of Antioch by William Miller from a sketch by Byam Martin in 1866

Battle outside Antioch from 'Passaiges d'outremer' (Voyages to Palestine) illuminated by Sebastian Marmoret (c1490)

Battle outside Antioch from ‘Passaiges d’outremer’ (Voyages to Palestine) illuminated by Sebastian Marmoret (c1490)

Antioch and Vicinity (from Victory in the East by J France)

Antioch and Vicinity (from Victory in the East by J France)

Siege of Antioch. Nov 1097 - Mar 1098 (from Victory in the East by J France)

Siege of Antioch. Oct 1097 – Mar 1098 (from Victory in the East by J France)

Siege of Antioch. Mar-May 1098 (from Victory in the East by J France)

Siege of Antioch. Mar-May 1098 (from Victory in the East by J France)

The Defeat of Kerbogah (from Victory in the East by J France)

The Defeat of Kerbogah (from Victory in the East by J France)

The Crusaders set up a siege of Antioch. The vast size of the city makes it impossible to fully encircle. What follows is a battle of attrition as the Crusaders wait for the Turkic garrison to make a mistake and the garrison await reinforcements. Meanwhile Alexios makes his way to the centre of the Anatolian plateau to consolidate the return of Byzantine power. He also awaits news from Antioch.

Time Stamps – each section is broken up by our drum sound effect
00.00-03.05 Introduction
03.06-08.47 Why did the Crusaders have to capture Antioch?
08.48-14.22 Baldwin at Edessa
14.23-17.14 The political fragmentation of Syria
17.15-27.35 The geography of Antioch
27.36-33.52 Early stages of the siege
33.53-46.35 Winter stalemate. Suffering and desertions. Bohemond and Robert of Flanders drive off forces from Damascus
46.36-54.42 Victory over the forces of Aleppo
54.43-62.18 More fully surrounding the city
62.19-77.09 Antioch falls
77.10-84.24 The Crusaders besieged. Kerbogah attacks from the Citadel
84.25-87.46 Desperation and talk of surrender
87.47-92.03 Alexios goes home
92.04-100.19 The final battle
100.19-107.00 Conclusion

Period: 1097-8

Download: The Siege of Antioch

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If you want to send in feedback to the podcast:

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Episode 217 – Diverging Paths

The route of the First Crusade (bad squiggly lines by Robin)

The route of the First Crusade (bad squiggly lines by Robin)

The Byzantines recover the West Coast of Anatolia while the Crusaders cross the plateau. As they travel the Westerners begin dropping like flies and come to hate the land they’ve come to liberate.

Period: 1097

Download: Diverging Paths

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If you want to send in feedback to the podcast:

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Episode 216 – The Battle of Dorylaeum

The Battle of Dorylaeum by Gustave Doré (19th century)

The Crusaders march out from Nicaea on their way to Antioch. First stop is at Dorylaeum on the Anatolian plateau. But the forces of Kilij Arslan are lying in wait.

Period: 1097

Download: The Battle of Dorylaeum

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If you want to send in feedback to the podcast:

– Either comment on this post.

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Battle of Dorylaeum (from Victory in the East by J France)

Battle of Dorylaeum (from Victory in the East by J France)

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Intelligent Speech Conference – images and links

Search the Dumbarton Oaks Catalogue of Byzantine Lead seals here

Search through the Prosopography of the Byzantine Empire (641-867 AD) here

Search through the Prosopography of the Byzantine Empire (1025-1180 AD) here

Anthony Kaldellis’ podcast is called ‘Byzantium and Friends.’ Episode 14 deals with homosexuality in Byzantium.

The article about Basil II’s sexuality is called ‘Revisiting the Bachelorhood of Basil II’ by Mark Masterson. It was printed in ‘The Emperor in the Byzantine World’ Papers from the Forty-Seventh Spring Symposium of Byzantine Studies-Routledge (2019) edited by Shaun Tougher

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