Episode 46 – The Last War

The environs of Constantinople

The environs of Constantinople

Heraclius takes the winter off to plan what to do next. He needs to buy off the Avars as he removes all the remaining troops from the Balkans. After training the last Roman army left in the Empire, Heraclius prepares to march East and either restore the old borders or never return.

Period: 620-628

Download: Episode 46 – The Final War

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Heraclius flees the Avars (worldhistoryplus.com)

Heraclius flees the Avars (worldhistoryplus.com)

The campaigns of 624-28 by Mohammad Adil

The campaigns of 624-28 by Mohammad Adil

Byzantine-Persian border

Byzantine-Persian border

Heraculius at the Battle of Ninevah (stormfront.org, forums)

Heraclius at the Battle of Ninevah (concord-publications.com)

David and Goliath coin minted for Heraclius' victory (image from metmuseum.org)

David and Goliath plate created for Heraclius’ victory (image from metmuseum.org)


Heraclius entering Jerusalem with the True Cross (the Frescoes in the church of San Francesco in Arezzo)

Heraclius entering Jerusalem with the True Cross (the Frescoes in the church of San Francesco in Arezzo)

Categories: Podcast | 53 Comments

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53 thoughts on “Episode 46 – The Last War

  1. thomas

    Just in time for my last exam! Thank you 😀

  2. thomas

    You weren’t lying about Dan Carlin length, either! So happy to have tHoB back

  3. Welcome back! 🙂 Really enjoying your new episodes. The pace has picked up slightly, and likewise the slight increase in focus on the general/macrohistorical aspects of the Byzantines is working very nicely – that is, I think you’ve found a great balance now. Keep it up!

  4. Incidentally, was stormfront.org the only place you could find that picture haha? (I presume you know what sort of website it is…)

  5. Jonathan

    I’ve really been looking forward to this and It made me really happy to see the new episode on my Stitcher playlist.
    However I thought you should know that the stitcher episode is only 3.5 minutes long so I assume there has been some problem with the upload.
    Also the hyperlink in your post says that this is episode 45. It does correctly direct you to episode 46 though.
    Keep up the awesome work and thanks for creating a great podcast 🙂

  6. Miguel Chavez

    These are other sources of that same pic, in case Robin want to credit someone less unsavory for that image


  7. Thank you guys so much. I had no idea! I have changed it.

  8. ArcticXerxes

    So happy to get this episode! It was splendid.

  9. Gavin

    Good grief this is fantastic news, I’m absolutely delighted – iTunes claims 2 hours 19mins for this episode – really?!!!! I’m so going to enjoy this….

  10. Peter

    You saved my day!
    Great with that force of episode.
    You realy got me submerged in to
    the drama.

  11. Shannon

    Thank you for working so hard on this. Could you check the upload that you did? Stitcher Radio only has the first 3 minutes.

  12. Just wanted to let you know how much I enjoy the podcast. The latest was epic both in its lenght and it is scope. I loved it!

  13. Thank you all for the kind comment. It looks like Stitcher has struggled with the switch to Libsyn. I am working to fix it.

  14. thebigJ_A

    Yay it’s back!

    Incidentally, how come the iphone podcast app no longer has any episodes before like 21? I wanted to start over from the beginning (it’s been a while) but using the website with my phone to listen doesn’t work as well.

    • I don’t have an iphone so can’t easily check on this. I assume the switch to Libsyn has caused an issue. Can you resubscribe or anything like that and see if it makes a difference? If not let me know and I will try to fix.

      • FYI, All the episodes are still available for me under the Podcasts app (Feed tab).

  15. Duncan Anderson

    What a wonderful podcast. As good a piece of historical broadcasting as I have ever heard. Many congratulations. You have a wonderful talent for bringing the history to life.

  16. That was definitely worth the wait ! Thx !

  17. Brett

    This episode was phenomenal. I came to appreciate the limitations of the sources and was still at the edge of my seat. Absolutely the best episode yet.

  18. King Laurentius

    Great episode, fantastic to have you back. Thanks for your great efforts!

  19. Thanks so much for the feedback guys. Brett, that’s exactly what I was going for 🙂

  20. TPH - from Brazil

    Thanks a lot! Welcome back! The download speed has improved considerably.

  21. Is it my imagination or you have added some special effects like… sound of arrows showered to the Avars from the defenders on the wall ?
    This or I need to buy new ear plugs.
    That was a big confusing 🙂

  22. It was indeed meant to be arrow fire. I didn’t want to make it too loud, sounds like I might have gone the other way. Did anyone else catch that?

  23. Mark

    Yeah I heard it loud and clear to be honest. It was a great idea, but the effect was a little repetitive for my taste. Still loved the podcast though. Keep it up Robin!

  24. Andy

    It was like eating all the ice cream in one sitting rather than just a scoop. Immensely satisfying!

  25. Markus

    Great that you are back! And with the best episode so far!

  26. Antonio

    OMG what an epic episode!! Amazing! I almost gave up waiting!
    Robin once again you’ve outdone yourself!

    LISTENERS, LETS DONATE, just because its free on the internet, doesn’t mean a lot of hard work hasn’t been put into these episodes.

    BTW without sounding too ungrateful, whens the next episode coming out?

  27. As soon as I can…:-)

  28. RussellsTeaCozy

    Late downloading this episode, just wanted to chime in to say this is some of your finest work to date. You did the material justice!

  29. Georgi

    Yeah!!!! Thank you for coming back.

  30. Daz from Manchester

    Amazing episode! Having gained an interest in all things Byzantium, after reading the John Julius Norwich trilogy many years ago, I think that this podcast is gaining in strength all the time. I have never understood why an historical character such as Heraclius has never generated more interest from historians and/or novelists. As a side note I took my family to Ravenna last year, as part of a family holiday to Italy, and even my teenage daughters were visibly impressed by the Byzantine mosaics on show there. The place is amazing. Thank you for a wonderful podcast!

  31. truckenbrod2014

    There is a writen history of the Cacausion Albanians. Includes an invasion from the Khazars. Nice to see it located on the map. Never knew thank you

  32. Mike Hart

    Great episode to relisten to on August 7. Just imagining what the world would be like if the outcome 1388 years ago was different. Robin you are amazing. Thanks for the work putting this together.

  33. Jonathan

    Finally getting around to listening to this mega-episode. Robin, this is the best one yet! It seems like you’ve decided to try some new things — they’re really working well. Many thanks.

  34. rich from NoCal

    Nice comparison between Heraclius and Hannibal in terms strategic use of geography! There Heraclius stood with the last army left in his overrun empire, with his erstwhile allies shuffling and looking down at their collective feet in resigned hesitancy. Heraclius made the deal, said all the right words, and then commenced to shove all of that gold down the gullets of the avaricious and overconfident Persian in a stoke of strategic maneuvering rarely matched in scope and execution. Heraclius definitely had massive stones and proved it when he was figuratively holding his last few chips and the dealer just dealt him a hand lesser men would have folded and then started feeling fore their chariot keys. Not he. Instead, he chose to lead a bold reconquest campaign that struck his enemy in his heartland / breadbasket, not through his already well trampled land. Boldness! Boldness! Boldness! Heraclius is the greatest strategist of his era and, for good measure, throw in 200 years before and 600 years after his era until the Mongols gallop out of wastes and make W. Asia and all of Europe collectively soil themselves in abject fear of those demonic bastards galloping over them on their short legged flat headed steppe jumbo-Shetland ponies.

    How many people who consider themselves in the know when it comes to human history have any idea who Heraclius was or what he did? While I am running with this idea, how about Belisarius, Theodoric or any of the sixth and seventh century movers and shakers? Ask that same person to tell you about the above mentioned time period and wait for him / her to even mention the Byzantine Empire. I bet dollars to donuts that you may want to bring a chair because you will most likely be there for a while. Or, now that I think of it, you may be there for a relatively short period due to lack of anything to say on the responder’s part.

    The above typed abbreviated screed is my roundabout way of saying that this podcast is a gift that just keeps giving. My personal library has 2.5 score books about the Byzantine Empire, with emphasis on its military structure and strategy. With this podcast, I get to listen to someone tell me about Byzantium. That difference may not sound all that amazing or deep, but it is a really nice switch to be able to sit back, relax and listen to a very insightful and enthusiastic person tell me about the history of the Byzantine Empire. This Cal Poly ’92 History grad would like to say Kudos to The History of Byzantium Podcast. I am a better person since I found this site, and as soon as I finally finish this comment I am going to grab my checkbook and donate a not insubstantial sum to this resource.

    P.S. Nice sound effects with the Avar siege flitting arrows segment!

  35. Pingback: Episode 46 – The Last War - Byzantium

  36. Hello

    I am in need of some maps and have tried to check out Leatherman Data Services but I haven’t been able to find out. Help!

  37. Jim Navy

    I know I am two years late, but I just finished the episode and wanted to say this: this is by far the best history podcast episode I’ve heard. Period. I could visualize the drama between Shahvad, Khosrau II, Heraclius and playing out cinematically in my mind as I am listening.

    What I can’t seem to understand, is where was Khosrau II eastern armies? Couldn’t he have pulled troops from Transoaxana, Sindh or Baluchistan to shore up Ctesiphon’s defenses?

    Also, of note, I’m Muslim and growing up, I became acquainted with a passage in the Quran called “The Romans”, it centers around Heraclius victories against the Persians. I never understood the significance of the verse until I listened to these podcast. Again, keep these amazing podcast coming, Robin!


    • I think the answer lies in the speed of events. Heraclius was able to defeat 3 of his armies and then unexpectedly marched on into the winter. The expectation was that he would retire for the winter months and allow the Persians to call up other units.

      We should also remember that those eastern armies were keeping dangerous Steppe tribes (and others) at bay. To remove them all in one go would have been like the various problems the Romans faced during the crisis of the 3rd century.

  38. Jim Navy

    Ah, I see. That makes quite a bit of sense. Thank you so much again for taking time to answer my question. I look forward to listening to more of your podcasts!

    PS: I love the sound effects!

  39. Kaiden

    I’m a bit late to the party on this, but i’m wondering where you found George of Pisidias epic poem. Was it online(ebook) or a physical copy from a bookstore? I would much enjoy reading it myself.

    • I’m not sure there is an English translation I’m afraid. I don’t remember reading one and a quick google hasn’t been encouraging. I had to make do with the translated pieces in books on the subject 😦

  40. I too am a relative newcomer. I love every episode, but this episode was extraordinarily wonderful. I think you made the right call lengthening the episode – so that you could cover the whole arc of Heraclius’ Persian campaign(s).

  41. rex

    You: They headed for albania
    Me: Excusse me, but isint that over in europe, not in the caucases???
    Also me: “Basil II is a bad emporer”

  42. Randy Bolante

    New listener here. I would like to give my sincere one thousand thank yous for such a great podcast. I hope to listwn up to the fall of Constantinople.

  43. C M

    One of the best history podcast episodes I’ve ever heard. I come back to this episode over and over again, just to hear the tale.

  44. Ser Job

    Hey, just finished listening to this, incredible amazing episode.
    So, I’m a Middle Eastern Christian and every 14th of September we celebrate the feast of the cross that commemorates the invention of the cross and the return of the cross to Jerusalem. This is our unofficial “national” holiday, with all Christians celebrating it by lighting fires on mountain tops. So to finally hear the whole story of Heraclius war with such detail and drama was quite something. Thank you.

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