An update on the schedule of the podcast

Hello everyone,

I recorded a short update about the podcast and the likely schedule for the next few months. You can listen to it here.

The main takeaways are:

– The narrative will resume around Spring 2021

– In the meantime I will be producing bonus episodes and videos from Istanbul. As well as doing work for my Dad and taking a little time out for my mental health.

– At least two more free episodes about Alexios will be coming soon. Including a Q&A about his reign and the Crusades so do send your questions in. You can comment on the thread below.

Thanks for your support and understanding,
Robin

Categories: News | 32 Comments

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32 thoughts on “An update on the schedule of the podcast

  1. Evan Mangone

    Hope your doing well, you deserve a break! Been loving the podcast so far 🙂

  2. I’m sure that other people will ask these but:

    1) How is the current state of the army? It’s been a while since the last episode dedicated to it. I know that during the years past Basil II the divide between themata/tagmata becomes blurry in the sources, but do any of these even exist by now? An other than the elite mercenary units, how are the remaining native troops recruited (and what importance they have overall by now).

    2) What is the provincial administration? Do the themes still exist in the Balkans, and if so, has their administration/organization changed in any way?

    3) How has the re-incorporation of Western Anatolia been. Have the old theme provinces been restored? Was the population happy to be again part of the empire? And has the area been made profitable by the end of Alexios reign?

  3. Robin, just heard this update – as a listener since 2012 and Kickstarter subscriber I can only say you have given us literally years of your work, blood, sweat and tears and most of that for free, for nothing, countless hours of knowledge, entertainment and pleasure and you absolutely must take a break and look after your mental health, which as someone who has struggled with it for years is something you cannot ignore or try to work your way through.
    We all will understand and wait patiently and in anticipation of new material when it arrives.
    Rome, and indeed Constantinople either was not built in a day, nor 8 years even!
    Take care of yourself, your health, your Dad’s work and the new Mrs History of Byzantium.
    The Romans can wait and so can we.

  4. Zack

    Thank you for this incredible podcast, you deserve a break!

    A question:

    Why were the Popes in Rome so eager to support (or at least ignore) the princes’ break with Constantinople on who got Antioch? In hindsight it’s obvious that any support in Outremer would have been helpful as the new Latin states were surrounded by enemies (with the Romans soon among them) and far from home. Yet we see essentially nothing but increased antagonism between those who should, at least in religious terms, be allies with the Popes doing little to help. Was there any recognition in the West that turning an ally into an enemy could be a bad idea if the Muslim states got their act together? Or was this strategic level view ignored in favor of scrambling for what one could get now and let the consequences be what they may?

  5. George

    I do have two major questions.

    First of all, Robin, I must thank you for the amazing job you did explaining the real nature of maps and borders in a Medieval context, I truly believe that I have a much clearer understanding of the Medieval world now than I had ever before. I am especially speaking about your description of the Byzantine control (or thereof) in Bulgaria. Though seeing the Romans so incredibly weak and chaotic after the loss of Anatolia and knowing that there were attempts at Bulgarian independence not so long ago in the narrative and also knowing it will show its head again, I must wonder. Why didn’t Bulgaria simply slip out of Byzantine control at this point, were they too weak after the failed uprisings? Or did Alexios have some kind of strategy to keep the Balkans under control?

    My second question is a bit broader. But with all these talks about maps (And I do still love maps). What were they like at the time? Did the emperor have access to any simple way of visualizing controlled territory, or did he have to rely entirely on memory and geographical understanding?

  6. Thank you so much for your incredible podcast and the generosity of your output, it is a gift.

    Please look after your mental health.

    Good things come to those who wait and your episodes as so worth the wait.

    By the way, what is the name/link to your dad’s poetry podcast?

  7. Robin, just listened to the update. I’m sorry to hear your mental health has taken a hit. Boy, do I get that! My reason is different; as a natural hermit, the isolation isn’t too bad, but I’m having trouble handling watching the history happening around me. (I’m in the US. ‘Nuff said.) Take care of yourself and take all the time you need. I’d offer a hug if it weren’t for the isolation and thousands of miles, so consider yourself virtually hugged. You have friends out here who care but rarely speak up. Keep that in mind!

  8. Seth M

    First off, I cannot thank you enough for your many years of hard work in making a podcast that is a joy to listen to. It always brightens my day when I see a new episode in my feed. That being said, you definitely deserve a break. Speaking from experience, mental health is very important. So please, enjoy your time off. Take care of yourself and your loved ones, and we will be patiently looking forward to hearing from you in the spring!

    Thank you again for the many many hours of captivating and entertaining episodes that make the Byzantines/Romans come alive.

  9. Slaven

    Robin,
    Thank you so much for all the effort you put into teaching us about Byzantium. Your podcast is amazing! Your work on the narrative, the interviews with the historians, your humor (I still chuckle at your Yaroslav the Wise joke) have all made my life richer. You have built a community around your podcast, and given us so much. Take time for yourself, give yourself a well deserved break.
    Take care.

  10. Mystikos

    Thank you so much for all your hard work! You’re the definition of quality over quantity (and depth and breadth over brevity :-p). Please take care, especially when traveling, the plagues don’t distinguish between prince, scholar, or pauper.

  11. Thanks so much for all your kind words (and questions) 🙂

  12. Andy

    I can’t believe it’s been 8 years. I hope you enjoy your break. Thank you for your excellent podcast. This will be a good opportunity to go back and relisten to the series.

  13. Seth M

    Thank you for making a podcast that is a joy to listen to. It always brightens up my day when I see a new episode appear. Enjoy your well deserved break! Take care of yourself and thanks for doing such a great job in making the Byzantines/Romans come alive for us

  14. Gregory Levitsky

    Robin!
    Thank you so much for all of the work that you do on this excellent podcast. I literally do a Yip! every time a new episode drops. I think I speak for a lot of your listeners when I say that you should take all the time you need! We have a few more “real-time” years to 1453 (and beyond!), and you need to pace yourself 🙂
    Sorry for not replying in the other thread; I WAS finally able to download the Antioch episode. Thank you for your help.
    I don’t know why I don’t just subscribe, but rest assured that I’ll be purchasing every extra episode!
    Regards from America,
    – Greg

  15. S.B.

    Robin,

    first of all take care of yourself – we will still be there whenever you return.

    Secondly I have two questions:

    1.) What was the general perception of the Westerners within Byzantium or more specific in Constantinople. Was it “those cursed Westerners get everything for free” (to put it over the top) or was it a more cooperative atmosphere? Were there any tensions between the orthodox greek population and the increasing western population within the capital?

    2.) Did the higher nobility of Byzantium misjudge the more western essential concept of honour? Was there the – typical – roman attitude of “those uncivilized barbarian customs”? Would it have been possible to counteract Bohemonds tricks with a more indepth understanding of what the regular knights wanted out of a liege?

    3.) Following up on the previous question: Where the Byzantines aware that the western troops were essentially surpassing their own military strength (as seen during by the first crusades success) and accepted them more of an equal or were they still only useful mercenaries? Given they beat Bohemond but it was more due to clever strategy than direct – more western – battle.

  16. Bruno B

    Hi Robin,

    This is my first comment. I just wanted to send some appreciation. I still need to fully catch up with the podcast, which I have been listening for the past three years or so. It’s really great and as an academic and history geek I really enjoy the level of detail you manage to get into this, without making it too academic-y. It is the only podcast which I have so far been really eager to listen to. Take care and hopefully things will be better by next spring!

    Small q: are any of the bonus episodes by any chance the final chapter about women in Byzantium?

  17. Ian

    Robin,

    In the same boat myself, your podcast has been helping me try to turn my life around. Waiting until next spring will be hard, but your health comes first, and it is going to be worth it to pick things up with the Komnenoi with a new life. 5-6 months: enough time to enact my own reforms.

    Personal question. How had this podcast changed you personally, and your views on history?

    • 🙂 I hope things improve for you.
      The podcast has obviously transformed my life in the sense that I can now do this professionally and see a potential career beyond 1453.
      My view of history is probably something that would need more thought. But I guess it would come down to a sense that human nature doesn’t really change – just the circumstances of the day. The world the Byzantines lived in was incredibly violent and acquisitive as well as being ordered by religious belief and ritual. I would suggest that our own world is not so different. But annual raids by soldiers have been replaced by businesses trying to increase market share. And monotheism has been replaced by faith in either the market or human progress and various rituals have developed to enact those beliefs.

  18. Russ Rutherford

    Hello Robin,

    I hope all is going well for you as you take a well earned rest. I wanted to let you know that I discovered this podcast back in 2017 just as Basil the second took the reins, and I thought it was one of the coolest things ever. I have been a huge fan of “Byzantine” history ever since I discovered it when learning about the crusades and I have loved learning about it ever since.

    It blew my mind to realize that the Roman Empire lasted a lot longer than my first history books ever mentioned, and that it had such a huge impact on world history without me being more than marginally aware of it. I read about it like crazy (I agree Norrich is a great place to start), but when I discovered your podcast, I found that an audio narrative really makes the story come alive for me in an enjoyable, easier to process way. I enjoy your focus on the narrative with the kind of state based context that allows me to better understand the ancient and medieval world (especially since the Romans interacted with a huge number of different more famous civilizations). The podcast really has become one of my preferred ways to learn about history in general. So thank you so much for a job extremely well done.

    So, I do have a few questions for this time period, and I hope it is not too late to ask, so here we go.

    1. I remember during a previous end of the century episode in which you discussed Roman slavery as an institution you mentioned that when Alexios tried to change the laws on slavery he was resisted. I do not remember any reforms being mentioned in the narrative. What did Alexios try to change?

    2. Another question I have is centered on the Balkans in this time period. Specifically, I realize that when the people’s crusade passed into Roman territory, there was conflict in Belgrade, and the Romans seem to have a reasonably strong presence there. When and how did Roman control extend that far north? After Basil the second’s successors abandoned the Sirmium region I thought Roman control north of Nis was light. Did the Romans decide they wanted or needed Belgrade for some reason? About where was the northern border in this region at this time?

    3. Another question I had in this time period had to do with cities with antique Roman defenses. Though Antioch, Nicea, and Edessa all changed hands this century (Antioch and Nicea more than once.) every time they changed hands it seems like someone always had to be convinced to open the gates. Generally speaking, were armies of this time period just not able to cope with defenses like this? It makes me wonder how in previous centuries how the Persians or the Arabs or combatants in civil wars took cities like these. Were they better at siege warfare or was there some other factor? Specifically, I wonder how the Sassanids took Antioch back in Justinian’s day. I also wonder if there were any other examples in Europe or other former Roman territories of sites so well fortified by the Romans that they could be as effective fortresses in the middle ages as Constantinople, Nicea, Antioch or Edessa. A place that was so well built so long ago that no one could easily take it.

    4. On historical parallels, do I basically understand correctly that the strategy used for the Normans to conquer southern Italy was similar to the way the Romans took control of Meletine, Theodosiopolis and Antioch. At large harassing sieges until the population gave up?

    5. Finally, I have a general question of outlook for fans of Byzantium. Do you think scholars later Roman history are too fatalistic when it comes to talking about the empire we know and love? I sometimes feel like since we know the empire will eventually fall and we know that they will constantly be beset by enemies and face several disasters, we become too focused on the negative and sometimes gloss over successes to rush on to the next calamity. I don’t know how many different books I have read on Byzantium that at the height of a great triumph the author often will begin to try to measure our enthusiasm by saying something like, “Little did they know that in fifty years or a century it would all come crashing down.” But often successes last a long time or have important positive impacts for the future. Why do you think so many authors seem to be in such a hurry to run the empire back down? Is it the influence of Gibbon who had a negative view of the empire in general that produces this or do you think it is something else that causes us to focus more on the disasters than the often very positive developments and victories? Incidentally, I like that you have spent a little more time on the good times in the last end of the century review after Basil the second’s death, and that you try to keep hindsight from ruining victories too much, but I feel like it is a problem in the field in general.

    6. One last note, will we get another good end of the century look at the empire at the end of the Komnenian period? I would love to get at least one more good look at the empire when it is strong and prosperous like it will not be after the fourth crusade. And, I really enjoy your dramatic play by play accounts of battles (the recent ones of Antioch, Jerusalem, Dorylaum, Larissa, Levunion, and older ones John Tzimiskes at Dristra and or the Arab siege of Constantinople are some of my favorites. I even enjoy the defeats, but in a much more clinical way like the Yarmouk, Dyrrhachium, and even Manzikert) Will we get any of those during John the second or Manuel’s reigns? I hope so because I would love to enjoy a few more Roman victories before it is mostly defeats again for a while.

    Thanks, again, Robin, for all your hard work making a podcast that so many of us enjoy and learn from. I am really loving the whole series and I hope you enjoy your break and get a chance to recharge.

    • Thanks so much for the lovely message, to answer your questions:

      1) I had forgotten this! I will look into it.

      2) As we discussed at various points towards the end of Basil II’s reign this is an area that is grey in our sources. Roman seals and coins are found at various sites where it isn’t clear to what extent they controlled the area. So with Belgrade we don’t know if a Roman governor and garrison were there permanently or if it was a more casual arrangement. With several cities in that region a local, native, governor seems to have run the city in exchange for a salary. With the Crusaders approaching its possible that Alexios sent officials to take charge of arrangements without formally taking over the city. As I say, our understanding is vague.

      3) Sieges are all about the specifics. A garrison who stays alert and fights to the death can hold out against a much larger army. Equally one lazy or corrupt door keeper can betray a well defended city. The Crusaders were visibly an aggressive, alien force – so they met stern resistance wherever they went. Whereas in Byzantine civil wars it was much easier for garrisons to switch sides and avoid serious repercussions. In the case of the Sassanid sack of Antioch they had a very large army which had come prepared to take the city. Without that level of preparation even big forces can struggle to take a city. As we saw when the Crusaders had no siege equipment to hand there was little they could do.

      4) Yes but two things were different. a) The Romans would occasionally bring their full army against Melitene and other cities which obviously did a lot more damage whereas the Normans were always operating with just a few hundred or thousand men at most. b) The Romans were the alien/aggressive force who the Muslims resisted stoutly. Whereas the Normans were local troublemakers who had no immediate intention of imposing a foreign culture on the locals. So it was easier for the Normans to make deals and use treachery or deal-making to get what they wanted. They didn’t have to physically storm each place they took.

      5) Yes I do think that is a consistent problem 🙂 It is discussed in academia too – that our perception of decline and fall can colour deeper analysis.

      6) Yes absolutely. I also want to bask in the glow of the Empire one last time before 1204 AD. Whether I can do that for John or Manuel’s battles depends entirely on the sources (which I haven’t read yet). Every time I have given a dramatic description of battle it’s because we have been left one. I have never excluded one from the podcast!

      Thanks again,
      Robin

  19. Flavio

    Hello, Robin. I just finished listening to all your episodes, having started it sometime in this very long year after finishing THOR, and I have to thank you for helping making this horrible time a little better, both by providing entertainment and information, and also make us see that, well, it could always be worse. Hang in there and take your time!

  20. Randy

    HI, new listener here. I’ve been listening to your podcast for the past one month everyday while cleaning. I am very impressed and at the same time fear about listening the final two hundred years of the Empire. Not financially stable right now, but I’ll give all support I can to your podcast. More blessings to you and best of luck to you endevaours Mr. Pierson

  21. Nathan O

    I know you’re a fan of the History of Philosophy podcast. Maybe when you do return to regular episodes, you could take a page from Peter’s book and have a regular break on a set schedule? I hope you are doing well and wanted to thank your for your years of labor on this project.

  22. Todd

    Hello — enjoy your podcast been listening to it from the beginning and look forward to further episodes. I think I contributed to the kickstarter campaign way back when to get the Istanbul bonus videos will I be able to access the new/upcoming ones? Thank you.

    • Hi Todd, yes you would get access to all the videos. It looks like you still use the same email address so you will just get messages with all the links from Kickstarter. Robin

      • Todd

        Thank you and keep up the great work, if you need a health/mental health break, well deserved!

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