Episode 88 – More Thoughts on the Byzantine Republic

More Thoughts on “The Byzantine Republic” and my interview with Anthony Kaldellis.

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Categories: Podcast | 6 Comments

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6 thoughts on “Episode 88 – More Thoughts on the Byzantine Republic

  1. Nick

    Picking up on the theme of Augustus and how the Romans viewed the political changes that he initiated: one thing that always bothered me from the History of Rome was in one particular episode when Mike talked about how Tiberius wanted to hand off a lot of his duties in the latter part of his reign and that the Senate was “thoroughly disinterested”. I always wondered why, so soon (relatively speaking) after the end of the Republic, the Senate didn’t jump at the chance to return to political relevance. Could the Roman understanding of the Res Publica somehow tie in with this?

    • Hmm. I don’t know. I am interested to read Tom Holland’s new book about the Julio-Claudians. Perhaps he will shed some light.

      • Nick

        I was a bit disappointed to hear that the Julio-Claudians would be Tom’s new book, as it seems like something that has already been very well covered (although I guess Rubicon falls into this category as well). Persian Fire and In the Shadow of the Sword are my favourites of his.

    • Greg

      It’s helpful to remember that the senate of Augustus and Tiberius had been thoroughly domesticated over the course of a series of civil wars and purges. The tradition of the senate as sovereign was torn out, and the new order was cemented by Augustus’s incredibly long reign. It’s plausible that the public spirit of the republic survived lo those many years, but the senate was more or less permanently transformed from a governing body to a status symbol. Such men would always be interested in power of course, but it was exceedingly rare for the senate to get its act together until the crisis of the third century pulled the plug on what was left of the senates power and prestige.

  2. I agree, that was my initial thought. But in interviews he talked about how intelligent Caligula and Nero were which is not what you’d expect so perhaps we will be surprised.

  3. Great comments on Kaldellis’ best book. Though the emperor and his close links to the army did not shift for good after the fifth century. Indeed, Leo, Zeno, Majorian, and Anthemius remained beholden very much to the whims of the army. So I found his stating this slightly odd. I would also disagree with your comment that Priscus was against the ban on Romans carrying weapons. Like Ammianus, Priscus supported the status quo by extolling the benefits of a division of labour within the Empire. In his mind, the ‘wise and good men’ of the Roman polity had ‘ordained that some should be guardians of the laws and that others should attend to weaponry and undergo military training, with their sole object that they be ready for battle and go out confidently to war as if some familiar exercise’. Stressing his primary point that not all Roman men needed to prove their prowess on the battlefield, Priscus surmised one should leave battles to those trained to fight. Priscus, in fact, criticised the Huns for forcing an ‘inexperienced man’ to fight in battle, claiming, ‘The Romans are wont to treat even their household slaves better’. (a comment on the Roman ban on slaves serving in the army). The dialogue concludes with the weeping Greek agreeing that ‘The laws were fair and the Roman Polity was good, but that the authorities were ruining it by not taking the same thought for it as those of old’
    With that said, great work once more. Will be sharing these with my class.

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