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 | 10 Comments

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10 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.

  4. The thing about Cameron not being able to serve as prime minister due to having used racial/homophobic slurs 20 years before his premiership rings… a little hollow and naive now 😦

    I’ll comment more thoroughly on how much I love the podcast (especially the previous episode- an academic lecture with gentle prods to elaborate was fantastic) when I catch up to the “present” but I couldn’t let that one go.

    • Definitely a little more hollow 🙂 I still think my general point is correct. That most of our politicians speak in a decidedly careful and manufactured way to avoid any kind of gaffe that could damage their careers. And most follow the path of presenting themselves as dull, safe figures to avoid being tarnished by “politically incorrect” behaviour. But it’s certainly the case that some are now wearing that as a badge of honour and marker of their authenticity.

      • eojup

        Yes, I think you’re right. Farage and Johnson are still very much exceptions in their charisma (or friends in the press?) and ability to be able to tap into a very specific demographic/political energy without getting tarnished- see the swift demise of UKIP post-Farage even before he set up the Brexit party where trying to wear it as a badge of honour suddenly doesn’t work out well for them!

        But that is moving into an entirely different argument that has little to do with your podcast, so I think we should leave it at that.

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