Welcome to the History of Byzantium

Hello everyone,

My name is Robin Pierson. I live in London in the UK and I currently have two jobs. I work full time for my father who is an actor and for the past four years I have been working part time as a TV critic. I set up my own site at thetvcritic.org so I could share my passion for American television shows.

Since then I’ve produced a number of podcasts both alone and with co-hosts.  I’ve also become a huge fan of podcasts themselves and regularly listen to over a dozen each week. One of my favourites as you’ve probably guessed is Mike Duncan’s “The History of Rome.” Though I also thoroughly recommend Dan Carlin’s “Hardcore History.”

I’ve always had an interest in Ancient History and studied classics at school. I’ve read Roman history books on and off since university but my passion for the subject was really ignited in the last few years. Partly through a trip to Italy and partly through “The History of Rome” podcast.

I liked pretty much everything about “The History of Rome” podcast. I liked the simplification and explanation of the Roman story. I liked the half an hour length. I liked Mike’s sense of humour and timing. I liked his neutral tone which never felt like it was providing an overbearing opinion on the narrative. When Mike announced he would be stopping with the fall of the West in 476 I considered whether I could possibly take on the task of continuing the story.

As I have the podcasting equipment and experience at my fingertips and I so want to learn more about what happened to the Romans, now that Rome has fallen, I decided I would. My aim is to continue in the same vein as “The History of Rome.” I aim to present the narrative story of what happened to the Roman Empire from 476 onwards in half hourly installments. I’m no expert on the subject but I have studied it before and aim to communicate it in as clear and entertaining a fashion as possible.

Initially at least I hope to emulate Mike’s style. I want to keep the rough structure and neutral tone established on “The History of Rome” because I think so highly of it. I hope you won’t see it as simply an imitation and doubtless over time my own style will emerge.

I can only commit to taking the story on another century (to the end of Justinian’s reign) for now. If I have enough support I hope to keep going all the way to 1453. Let me know what you think of the podcast either here on the blog, on facebook or on Itunes.

Robin Pierson, May 2012

Categories: News | 42 Comments

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42 thoughts on “Welcome to the History of Byzantium

  1. Ron Smallwood

    I am looking forward to hearing your efforts. You have a hard act to follow, good luck.

  2. nait deth

    This is awesome! I am about 1/2 way thru the History of Rome podcasts, and I look forward to catching up on History of Byzantium! Thanks for doing this

  3. That’s cool. I hope it will be a smooth transition from one to the next 🙂

  4. Jeff J

    Just heard about this from The History Of Rome Podcast Listeners Facebook page. I’ll definitely be giving it a shot. Great news.

  5. Glad to see someone is doing this! looking forward to it and Thank You for producing it!

  6. Ed

    I’m in!

  7. Menzie

    How excellent! Thanks so much, now I can continue my addiction….

  8. Looking forward to it ! Thanks!

  9. Off to iTunes to download it…

    Leg. IV
    Feb/March 2012

  10. Jessica O'Quin

    I am in! Thanks for taking over!!

  11. Kayus

    I applaud your efforts and wish you all the very best…

  12. Don

    Discovered your podcast on iTunes. Fascinating narrative. I am new to this chapter of western history, so thanks for the introduction. Will definitely recommend.

  13. Fr. Gregory Hogg

    Please do move forward! One question–there’s lots of intricate theology in the history of Byzantium. How do you plan to deal with it?

  14. I’m tempted to just say “carefully” 🙂 I always attempt to simplify everything as best I can. I won’t attempt to unpick intricasies that will derail the narrative.

  15. Lara

    My ex-husband just sent me your link today. I’m in…and I’m off to iTunes to find the History of Rome podcast as well!

  16. Bernie

    I am delighted that you took on this project and I am looking forward your podcast on Byzantine history until the fall of Byzantium. I have listened to the first six episodes over and over again and enjoy them tremendously. Good work!!!
    I like to hear more about the life of ordinary people, commerce, religious strive, and advances in culture and science, but I can only imagine that such information is not easily accessible unless you have access to relevant source material.

  17. Nathan Clark

    Fantastic – so glad Mike’s excellent series has a predecessor. Thanks for taking up the baton and running with it – it is all good thus far!

  18. Thanks so much to all of you. Bernie it is difficult but I will do doing the best I can to find out more day to day details…

    • Bernie

      Thanks Robin. You are already doing a tremendous job navigating the intricacies of Byzantine history and I am delighted to hear you will be taking on the additional challenge of the “normal day to day Byzantine”. I am greatly looking forward to instalment #7
      All the best,

  19. Pete.

    Robin, I just found you last night via a series of wandering links that began on the Fordham University Byzantine site. (Got to love the web.) Thanks so much for picking up the mantle from Mike. I fell in love with the “Three Romes” as an undergrad in Kievan / Muscovite history many moons ago. After a couple of decades in Rome I I’ve spent the last 5 or 6 years in Byzantium and was terribly disappointed that Mike was going to have to retire. You have restored my faith in humanity! Grin. You are doing a great job and just so you know, your own “voice” is coming through just fine. Looking forward to the advent of the Rus and the Varangian Guard, thanks again, Pete.

  20. Mark Mullen

    Hello from a fellow Englishman. Good to hear someone has the time and dedication to take up Mike Duncan’s mantle. You have my support!

  21. Nick

    Thank you so much for doing this! I look forward to these podcasts all fortnight long.

  22. I’m really glad you’re doing this. It’s a big time commitment and no small feat. Thank you and I look forward to the episodes.

  23. Chris

    I also enjoyed Duncan’s podcast tremendously, which I came across after I had already found Lars Brownworth’s “12 Byzantine Rulers” podcast. The only regret I had about getting addicted to Brownworth’s podcast is that it didn’t last longer (luckily he is currently podcasting about the Normans). Glad to see you are picking up the mantle for us all, Robin! I look forward to it!

  24. Steve

    Thank you very much for continuing (in your own inimitable way) the Mike Duncan podcast, “The History of Rome.” Have only just found you, as it were, and have completed through the 2nd episode; greatly looking forward to your episodes on the reign of Justinian, the great general Belisarius, the recovery/reconquest of North Africa and Italy, etc., and all that will follow.
    As listener Chris has noted, I’m sure you’re aware of the excellent podcast (“12 Byzantine Emperors”) and book, “Lost to the West,” by Lars Brownworth, both of which caused me to “fall in love” with the Eastern Roman Empire some years ago.
    Well, your Episode 3 just started on my ipod — no distractions; gotta run! Congratulations and keep up the great work.
    Steve in Knoxville, TN, USA

  25. dandee

    I was starting a long drive once and was bored so I typed the word “History” into Stitcher and found Dan Carlin and was immediately addicted. I listened to every Hardcore History podcast and was hungry for more, so I typed “History” into Stitcher again and found Mike Duncan’s “The History of Rome” and my first thought was BORING, and then I listened for a minute, laughed, and became addicted again. Then I listened to every single episode, I could’t help it! I needed to know more! But what about Byzantium?
    Mike has a new baby, I totally understand, but………..damn!
    Because Mike recommended it, I created an Audible account and downloaded a few books and lectures but I still needed more! So I typed the word “History” into Stitcher again and what to my wondering should eyes appear? The history of Byzantium! No friggin way!! In the very first podcast he says he is a fan of Mike and Dan? Awesome! I am totally in!
    Anyway Robin, please, pretty please with sugar on top, keep going with this podcast. I wish I was wealthy so I could shower cash on you, but I am just a regular guy who has to buy things so please, feel free to tell potential sponsors that I (and thousands of others) will happily consider any product you recommend as long as you can explain to us how Byzantium shaped the way we live today.
    Mike deserves a lot of respect for countless reasons but definitely one of them is his reluctance to accept sponsorship for his program, and the fact that he actually polled his audience before he signed a contract. Very cool.
    Please know, and inform any potential sponsor that at least one listener will happily listen to and strongly consider any ad or product supporting your program.
    Please go on past Justinian.

    Thank you,

    Dan Desmond
    Jeffersonville, NY

  26. Hi Dan, thanks for sharing your story. Don’t worry I will warn you all in advance what I plan to do once I reach the end of Justinian’s reign.

  27. Pingback: The History of Byzantium Podcast Picks Up Where The History of Rome Left Off | Open Culture

  28. I’ve just found out about your podcast thanks to Openculture. Thank you for your effort and keep on the good work.

  29. Don C

    Hi Robin,
    Mike Duncan’s ‘The History of Rome’ was a wonderful work, so good that it left me wanting more. I’m also enjoying Scott Chesworth’s ‘The Ancient World’ but really wanted something to continue on from where Mike left off, and here it is. Like everyone else here, I want to thank you very much for taking on this work of passion. Bravo. Kudos to you.

  30. Joanne Marin

    Just found this podcast via the “Twilight Histories”. I studied “The Eastern Empire” about a million years ago in school when it was just memorizing dates and names. Now I’m beginning to understand the history and importance of the Byzantine Empire. Thanks for this podcast.

  31. Morten Lambertsen

    Thank you for the Podcast, you’re doing a fabulous job, highly interesting!

  32. Matthew Thibodeau

    I’m glad your pick up the torch where mike left off

  33. I drive a lot and as such am listening to the radio often. In the years past my car wasn’t very smart, but now I can listen to pod casts using my phone over Bluetooth. Ive tired of the incessant commercials and bias of today’s media and was lamenting about meaningful entertainment to play while I’m driving so my friend at work told me about a pod cast he was listening to and that I should check it out. That was the History of Rome. It took me about 6 weeks to get through the 5 years of pod casts Mike Duncan miraculously created and I enjoyed every minute of it.

    Like other commenters here I was thirsting for more. I really really can’t stand commercial radio at all anymore and needed something I could listen to. My friend was already listening to your pod cast on the History of Byzantium so I knew I would be picking it up just as soon as I finished the History of Rome. Which I did and have been listening to your pod cast for the last couple of weeks now.

    I thoroughly enjoy you pod cast presentation in a thoughtful and straightforward organized manner similar to Mikes. I never went to Mikes web pages because his pod cast was already over, but Im finding your web site to be extremely helpful and is adding to the experience in a very positive way.

    Thank you for taking your time and energy to provide the interesting and meaningful pod cast.

    Eric from San Francisco

  34. Adrian Bongiorno


    Just wanted to say a quick thankyou for your awesome podcast. Im an avid listener and have been spreading the word here down under.

    Cant wait for the next episode, keep up the fantastic work!

    Adrian Bongiorno

  35. Koray

    I’ve been an avid reader of Roman history, including the Punic Wars and the transition to the Empire from the Republic. My interests include also Byzantine, and have read books on the history of the Roman east, and started listening to your podcast months ago. The episode of Heraclius, and comparing the Empire with Sisyphus was, I thought, a great parallel. Great work, keep it up please! -From Istanbul

  36. Jimmy "Get the papers, get the papers" Two-Times

    Holy crap, I never knew there was a History of Byzantium podcast! I listened to Mike’s History of Rome about a year ago and I really enjoyed it. I’ve been actually feeling a little nostalgic about the nights I spent listening to his podcasts, now I can do it AGAIN! I love that you listen to both Mike and Dan (legend) I’m so happy that I found this. aggrrberjfd!<—-that's me trying to contain my excitement. Imma get in this right away.

  37. Melooo182

    A Huge Thank You!
    for doing this whole series of podcasts
    I always listen to the Heraclius and rise of Islam Episodes every once in a while.

    Can’t wait to hear your take on Alexios Komnenos, keep it up brah! xD

  38. Larry Dale

    I am getting a huge kick out of these podcasts–somehow this mix of live narrative enriched by audience questions, guest speakers. As you must know, its catching on.

    You’ve several times mentioned suburbs outside of the Constantinople walls–across the golden horn and the other side of the Bosporus. My question is, why were people living outside Constantinople, given that there must have been plenty of room inside the better protected City. Did the wealthy citizens live outside the City back in 700 (as seems the case today)? Did people fear of the emperor, or the deems?

    • Very good question 🙂 Two main reasons I think.
      One is just need. Constantinople needed to import most of the food and goods it used. So there was always a need for safe harbours on the other side of the Golden Horn and Bosphorus. With the harbour then comes defensive walls, warehouses, markets etc. A local economy could sustain a suburban community.
      Two is space. Despite large parts of Constantinople being uninhabited during the 7-9th centuries, there never seems to have been a push to demolish tenement buildings and construct mansions in their place. Presumably this would have been expensive and presumably in summer a lot of these dwellings were used by visiting merchants or villagers. Plus the city didn’t have the beach. So the wealthy preferred to have villas by the sea side and the suburbs allowed them to enjoy their holidays while still being close to supplies and defences.

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