Episode 141 – How To Get Away With Murder

Sviatoslav of Kiev (from epicworldhistory.blogspot.co.uk)

Sviatoslav of Kiev (from epicworldhistory.blogspot.co.uk)

John Tzimiskes pacifies his domestic and foreign enemies as he consolidates his rule. However the Rus leader Sviatoslav makes the decision to move his capital to the Danube forcing the Romans to respond.

Period: 969-70

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Categories: Podcast | 11 Comments

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11 thoughts on “Episode 141 – How To Get Away With Murder

  1. Joshua

    A question I have for the end of the century. The byzantine empire was being pushed in two directions. On the eastern side you had the powerful landed magnates pushing East whereas Constantinople wanted to establish a new heartland in the Balkans to undermine those magnates. The questions I have is say the Eastern Magnates continued their drive to East is it possible perhaps the Magnates could have established indepenant Christian Kingdoms in the Levant similar to what happened a century later with the Crusades? There were still large Christian populations in Syria, Palestine and even Egypt in the tenth century.

  2. Shawn

    End of the century question: How did the Papacy view the Byzantine Empire under the Phocas family’s guidance? Were they pleased by the reclamation of old Roman territories, or was this outweighed by the hard line Nikephoros took against the Eastern church? Did they see the Byzantines as a possible counterweight against the Holy Roman Empire?

  3. Manuel Comnenos

    Question for the end of century episode: What was the religious and ethnic makeup of the newly conquered areas (Especially Cilicia and Antioch?). Were they majority Orthodox Christian, Miaphysite Christian or Muslim? And culturally, were they predominantly Greek, Armenian, Syrian or Arab? you have made references on the matter in the relative episodes, but could you please elaborate?
    Congratulations on your work btw, yours is the best historical podcast there is: simply unparalleled in terms of research, narration and overall presentation. Keep up the good work!

  4. Terry

    Hi Robin,
    End of the century question: how did romans of this century view the the romans (and greeks) of antiquity? Did christianity wipe out most reflections or did people consider what 4th century bc philosophers, poets and politicians had to say?

  5. zblount

    Hi Robin,

    You noted that looting was outlawed in the wake of John’s coup. Was this a proclamation of extraordinary punishments for looting? I can’t imagine that it was something that was simply allowed under ordinary circumstances!


    • Yes absolutely. Severe, immediate punishments for looting 🙂 We have to remember that there was no police force in Byzantium. Criminal activity was therefore much harder to deal with after the fact. Any break down in social order (riot, coup, siege etc) was a chance for criminals or ordinary citizens to steal in the knowledge that unless there was an eye witness they were unlikely to be caught. So this announcement was like declaring marshal law.

      • zblount

        Ah! That makes perfect sense, and was kinda what I was thinking. You are right that it is somewhat difficult to conceive of a situation in which there isn’t a routine police force. (Which makes one wonder what Byzantine politics would be like if there were a police force to prevent civil unrest from breaking out into violence as a matter of course.)


  6. Amanda Wilkes

    Hi Robin. Greetings from Canada! First of all, some cudos to you as your podcast is absolutely wonderful! As a history geek myself, i recently found this podcast and quickly listened to all 141 episodes! I think what sets this podcast apart from others is your narrative skills. The podcast is very well researched certainly, but you have a great way of telling the story of the Byzantine Empire that is clear, easy to follow, and fun! Keep up the great work!

    End of the century question: Hindsight is 50/50, and we know that Nikephoras Phocas’ reputation as a general was top notch. The people of the Empire would have known of his conquests as well. When John Tzimiskies killed Phocas, did the remarkable military reputation and work of Phocas not resonate with the people of Constantinople? Sure he had policies that were unfavorable under his ‘military dictatorship’ reign, but did the fact that he had recaptured so much territory and never lost a battle even matter to the people? Were they not sad to see such a remarkable general who worked so hard for the Empire go? I was surprised that there was not more of a public outcry that such a great general, who did tremendous military work for the Empire, was not better mourned – if only for his military capabilities and triumphs.


  7. Matt Longworth

    Hi Robin,

    an end of century question. I’ve just read an account of the fall of Constantinople in 1453 which makes obvious the role the land and sea walls played in the defence of the city.

    Somewhere it was mentioned that the upkeep of the walls (even during the empire’s decrepitude) that there was a well organised system of maintenance.

    How much effort was expended/required to maintain the defensive walls around the city during the tenth century?

    And love your work, by the way!



  8. *Sort of* end of the century question: when do you believe was the last opportunity for the Byzantines to re-establish the Roman Empire of old at it’s greatest length? Was it poor management/rulers/generals that floundered this? Was it perhaps simply the circumstances of the times, and the empire reached Antioch and Aleppo during a time of brilliant leadership, only being able to expand at a much more humble length?

    I ask this because this was around the time that the Abbasid Caliphate fractured and fell, Bulgaria’s fortunes were wavering back and forth, and Europe was still not completely sewn up from the fracturing of the Western Roman Empire.

    If it’s ok, i’d like to slip in a much more century focused question: has your research yielded much in any accounts of how people in the newly conquered territories and border-lands viewed Greek Orthodoxy? Not in a military, political sense, but I specifically mean any writings or exchanges between Muslim, Orthodox, non Byzantine Orthodox, Catholic, or even Pagan writers. What of Judaism in this era? There are many sources that speak of a Jewish presence in Western Europe and the Ummah, but what about the historic lands of Anatolia, Greece, and the Balkans- all of which had, had a large Jewish presence for many years at this point.

    Keep up the good work Robin! Your podcast is one of the, and possibly the -best- history podcast out there… I say this having listened to over 70 and at least hearing a few episodes of all of them out there. Your research, thoroughness, and easy reading (like telling a long narrative story) is fun, exciting, and relaxing. Don’t change a thing.

    I am not excited to reach 1453 anytime soon, but when it happens, I hope that you gift the internet another history podcast that is as exciting and informative as this one. You can be proud to know that I don’t consider you just someone who likes to talk about History, but a true artist. , Looking forward to the drama of the next century with the Seljuks, the last great surge in Byzantine growth, and the beginning of the Crusades.

  9. All good questions. All logged. Some will have to wait till 1025 but I will get to them. And thank you for the kind words, I really do appreciate them.

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