Episode 178 – Questions VII

Heraclius by Rossen Toshev (from 'Rulers of the Byzantine Empire' published by KIBEA)

Heraclius, only the second best Emperor so far? Outrageous.

Listener questions on Varangians, provincial administration, diplomacy, family mottos and the ever popular top 5 best and worst Emperors.

Period: 913-1025

Download: Questions VII

RSS Feed: The History of Byzantium

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Categories: Podcast | 11 Comments

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11 thoughts on “Episode 178 – Questions VII

  1. J Crickmore

    Forgive my potential foolishness – and I feel I know what your answer is, I just want to be sure because its an interesting pick either way – but when you say Anastasius do you mean Anastasius I or II? Thanks!!

    • The first, sorry for any confusion. I forgot there was a second because I think of him as Artemius.

      • J Crickmore

        No worries at all. That was indeed the answer I figured it would be I just wanted to be sure. Given the nuance of your pick on both sides (as well as, on one other commenter’s observation, the Byzantine Empire has far fewer unmitigated disasters as rulers than its more ancient iteration it would seem!) you’ve somehow given me something to look forward to in 1453; listening to your explanation for these picks will be satisfying for sure.

  2. Brent

    Anastasius as the best pre-1025 Emperor? I don’t know if I can wait to 1453 to hear your reasons (although I can make some educated guesses)!

    • I’ll definitely have to review all pre-Heraclius Emperors because I wasn’t yet researching in the detail I do now. But I was struck at the time how different Anastasius’ attitude was to Justinian’s. Rather than be driven by ego and ideology he looked to maintain and manage and compromise. Given everything that has come afterwards I see much wisdom in that approach.

  3. Josh

    Robin thanks for the great podcast. The episodes this year have really helped me to better understand the Byzantine Empire and have set a solid foundation for when the narrative resumes in 2019. I’ve been listening since 2012 sometimes I like to go back and listen to old episodes just to see how far the narrative has changed through the centuries.
    I’m looking forward to the 11th and 12th centuries and seeing familiar stories from the byzantine side.
    When you started the podcast did you imagine you’d still be going 7 years latter? Thanks for the excellent podcast.

  4. JeanDukeofAlecon

    “Listener DV also asked if there were boundary markers delineating the borders of themes […] I assume the answer is no”

    We don’t have any information on the themes specifically, but in his history Attaleiates notes that, during one of Romanos Diogenes campaigns (in which he was serving as military judge),

    “Setting out the next day we entered Roman territory. This was signaled by the boundary markers, but the land had previously been attacked and laid waste.”

    So boundary markers were evidently still in use delineating international borders at least, even if no references to their internal use survive.

  5. JA

    That list of worst emperors really puts into perspective how few absolute tar fires the Empire has had so far. Those five hardly seem so bad next to a Commodus or a Caligula. I’m curious if the next two centuries are going to feature some strong contenders for the bottom 5; Andronikos Komnenos at the very least seems like he should be on it.

    • Yeah someone asked me why Byzantium seemed to produce less horrible Emperors. I think Christianity has a lot to do with that. I think actively tormenting/torturing or having orgies would have brought the Emperor into disrepute. It would have invited others to proclaim their piety as a reason to replace them. Also with the church as an institution becoming part of the State it was harder for the Emperor to act in truly mad autocratic fashion.

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