Episode 152 – Bardas Phokas

Civil war resumes as both Bardas Sclerus and Bardas Phokas rebel against Basil. An epic showdown follows which drags the Bulgarians, the Rus, Varangians, Arabs, Armenians and Georgians into the contest.

Period: 983-989

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Categories: Podcast | 11 Comments

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11 thoughts on “Episode 152 – Bardas Phokas

  1. Jack

    Great Episode. I was wondering if you were gonna make a long episode for the tenth century like you had for all the previous ones. However, I noticed at one point that you mentioned that the Fatimids were Shia while discussing the Buyids in a way that made it seem like that was a problem for the Buyids, but they were also actually a Shia dynasty.

    • Yes, you’re right, that was poorly phrased. What I meant to get at was that any pretenders to an Abbasid revival were dead against the Fatimids because they were making their own universal claims.

  2. Hi — what was your dad’s podcast? I found multiple confusing hits for “Gerard Manley Hopkins podcast”. And he’s one of my favourite poets so I’m interested. Thanks!

  3. Mystikos

    Naturally, the main focus of the podcast is Byzantium/Romania, and this episode is about Basil II, but I thought that Prince Vladimir and the Baptism of the Rus got short-changed here. He is a canonized Saint and everything.

    First, Vladimir’s father Svyatoslav gave him the principality of Novogord to rule over, which is far north of the Dnieper (and was the capital of the realm before Kiev), located on a different river system.

    Second, unless I am missing something, Vladimir only killed one of his two brothers (no other family members) – and only after the eldest Yaropolk had attacked the lands of the middle brother, Oleg, who was inadvertently killed in the fighting. Vladimir was the last to join the war.

    Third, it’s not accurate to call Vladimir an “illegitimate” son (as I understand it – maybe there are historians who comment on this in more detail). It’s not clear that legitimate birth was a salient concept to the pagan Rus. His mother was a concubine or servant, which did make him lower in social rank (according to the Primary Chronicle), but he still inherited a principality, like his two older brothers. Similarly, all of Vladimir’s known sons inherited lands, despite having different mothers with uncertain marital status.

    Fourth, while the sources do describe him as “fornicator maximus”, and his large progeny appears to attest to the fact, they at least partly play it up to make him look like a great sinner who was subsequently improved by his conversion to Christianity (his treacherous fratricide also fits into this narrative). The Primary Chronicle was written by a monk or monks, and they directly compare him to Solomon, attributing the improbable, round number of 800 (!) concubines to him.

    Finally, after his conversion, he is celebrated as a most gentle, generous, and wise ruler who oversaw a time of unprecedented prosperity, which after the fact made him the Harun al-Rashid (or King Arthur) of Russia, with all the later legends and fairy-tales written as if they took place during his reign.

    • Hopefully during the end of the century episodes I can talk more about non-Byzantine developments. Obviously the fornicator immensis line was more to show what the impression Byzantines would have of him was rather than the reality. Equally the fact that he was made a saint has no bearing on his importance to our story nor would we expect to hear any different than the newly Christian ruler was now a great guy.

      • Mystikos

        Absolutely, the Byzantine perspective naturally reigns above all! I just needed to voice these points to make the story full from my personal perspective. Thanks for keeping up the best podcast on the net :-D!!

      • Sure 🙂 thank you for the kind words

  4. scott

    After listening to 152 (or so) episodes I have flung money your way. Please continue. I found and have listened to all of them on appleTV. This does not make it easy to find the for sale episodes.

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