Robin discusses ‘Byzantium and Italy’ with Marco Capelli. Marco is the brilliant host of Storia d’Italia – a podcast telling the story of the History of Italy – in Italian. This interview is in English. Please do tell any Italian speakers you know about Storia d’Italia (italiastoria.com).
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If you want to send in feedback to the podcast:
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My father passed away last night. I am now with my family and will be spending time with them. The podcast will be back soon. Thanks for your understanding and support.
My father has just been diagnosed with cancer. It’s serious and has happened very quickly. Further disruption to the schedule is inevitable.
I am working on one more Byzantine Story before the narrative will resume.
Thanks for your understanding,
High Speed History have Byzantine-themed merchandise available!
The good people over at Highspeedhistory.com have produced a range of delightful items featuring our beloved Byzantium. We’re talking t-shirts, hoodies, bags, clocks, towels and stickers amongst many other items.
I’m very pleased to say that some of your ideas have made their way into the collection. I asked for your input on social media and you came up with great ideas. If you want to celebrate your love of Justinian or Belisarius then an Empire Strikes Back t-shirt could be yours. Or if you’ve been dying to show your support for the Green faction or the Blues but they won’t let you in the Hippodrome anymore then fear not because a Green or Blue iphone case or mouse mat or t-shirt could be yours. Or what about the most adorable item of all – a baby grow with porphyrogennitos on it. Come on, how could you resist?
Please go to www.highspeedhistory.com/byzantium to check out the full range. If you decide to buy something then use the code ‘byzantium’ at checkout to get a pound or dollar off each item you purchase. And you’ll be helping out the podcast as I will get a little something for sending you there. Anyone can buy these items – they ship worldwide. And this discount also applies to any items you purchase from the Greek or Roman sections of the website. Yes High Speed History has merch from a variety of historical eras check them all out at highspeedhistory.com.
I also did a written interview for the site to lure in those of you who find me weirdly interesting. So if you want to know my favourite film or what I’d put on a billboard in a busy city then check out the interview here.
There are currently two ways to get your hands on all the bonus episodes I’ve produced over the years. One is to buy them from thehistoryofbyzantium.com. The other is to become a Patron of the show at Patreon.com.
I am making plans to switch entirely to Patreon from October 2021. The sale system here at thehistoryofbyzantium.com has served me well. But it does occasionally crash and cause other problems. So it seems sensible to slowly put it to rest and move everything over to Patreon.
The sale site will shut for good on the 23rd October 2021 so there is no rush to make the switch over and I will of course send reminders from time to time.
The new Patreon site can be found at patreon.com/historyofbyzantium
This is where things get complicated. I set up a Patreon account last year for listeners who wanted an ad-free feed. But I didn’t want to pause the narrative while I uploaded 200+ episodes. So I set up the Patreon assuming I could add the rest of the back catalogue later. Well – it turns out you can’t. You can’t edit the order of posts on Patreon which is a huge drag.
So I’ve had to set up this new Patreon account with all 200+ episodes in order with all the bonus episodes as well. And you can find that at patreon.com/historyofbyzantium. All the support tiers are exactly the same as are the prices.
What do I have to do?
If you are already a Patron at the old site you don’t need to do anything. I will continue to update that account until there are no Patrons left. But if you want to be able to binge the show from the beginning you might want to switch to the new Patreon site at some point. I’m afraid there’s no easy transfer button. You need to cancel your patronage on that account. Then wait for a new month to begin, so you aren’t charged twice, and then join the new Patreon at patreon.com/historyofbyzantium. I have no control over refunds from Patreon so please wait for a new month to begin before signing up.
If you buy your episodes one at a time from thehistoryofbyzantium.com then nothing will change for you until October 2021. From then on you would need to join Patreon if you’d like to continue listening to Byzantine Stories or Fundraising episodes. Join the new Patreon anytime at patreon.com/historyofbyzantium
If you bought a subscription at thehistoryofbyzantium.com that runs out before October 2021 then nothing will change for you until then. From then on you would need to join Patreon to get more bonus episodes. Join the new Patreon anytime at patreon.com/historyofbyzantium
If you bought a subscription at thehistoryofbyzantium.com that runs out after October 2021 then you will be refunded for the amount left on your subscription when that day comes. You are also welcome to email me at anytime to get a refund and switch over to Patreon if you’d like to. Contact me at thehistoryofbyzantium at gmail.com
To differentiate the two Patreon accounts I have put up a message on the old Patreon redirecting people and I have put ‘Yes’ and ‘No’ in brackets at the title of each welcome page. So you should sign up at the Patreon which says ‘The History of Byzantium (Yes) is Creating podcasts.’ Find that page at patreon.com/historyofbyzantium
One day there will be just the one Patreon account where everyone will go to get their bonus episodes. Just like the Byzatines I need to drive these other heretical sites out of business and establish the one true Patreon.
Thanks so much for your support,
During our break from the narrative I will try and keep in touch whenever something interesting comes up. Today Listener Steve Knepper (an English professor at Virginia Military Institute) has written a dramatic monologue about Justin I. I thought you might enjoy being transported back to the 6th century once more.
Constantinople, 527 AD
Justinian’s been crowned, with me too ill
To leave this couch and see my prayers fulfilled.
My thoughts drift to my first time through the gates,
A peasant boy still smelling of the pigs,
Dumbfounded by the spires, mosaics, and domes,
Glass-windowed shops, perfumes, incense, and spice,
The forum buzzing with the tongues of every
Land like Babel healed by Pentecost.
Even the fishmongers dealt in opulence.
Unfathomable that I should rule this place,
That he, my sister’s son, should rule in turn.
I heard the chanting from the Hippodrome
But was so weak I couldn’t even stand,
God teaching me humility again.
The last shall not be first without His Grace.
No skill or cleverness of ours alone
Has made these outland swineherds into Caesars.
Yet think of Christ’s temptation in the sands
When Satan offered him the diadem
Of worldly power, perhaps a crown like ours.
At times this plagues my mind.
Is He working in his cleverness?
When Anastasius lay dead it was
My nephew who first urged me to pursue
The throne. Chief of the royal guard and no
Monophysite, I’d set aright the wrong
My wise old emperor invited by
Imprudence in the Faith,
Repair us with the Patriarch of Rome.
Justinian convinced me to take bribes
Amantius intended for his cause
And use them to finance my own support.
It seemed, I still believe it was, God’s Will.
But what if he did slay Vitalian?
What of his rabble-rousing gangs of Blues?
Some cut their hair like Huns,
Shaved close on top and flowing in the back,
Barbarians in looks and action both.
How many riots, murders did he urge?
No doubt at least he looked the other way.
And what of Theodora,
Crowned empress in the Hippodrome where she
Once swayed her hips, unveiled her breasts,
A famous Leda on the stage,
Allowing geese to peck grain from her loins?
Some call her Theodora-of-the-brothel
Still, my spies within the senate say.
My wife had been a slave.
That does not give me pause.
I worry more she is monophysite,
An adept of the Bishop Timothy.
What will this pair now prove?
Is he the David that this city needs?
Or will he be the upstart thug they claim?
Is she a new Bathsheba…Athalia?
I need to banish evil thoughts like these.
I love Justinian. His faith is true.
He tends the needy, widows, sick, and orphans,
Cares for the Christians scattered in far lands.
There’s mercy in his heart
And as his indiscretions fade with age
He may become a saintly emperor.
And she may be the woman at the well.
Her brilliance matches all her other charms.
Intelligence and wit may grow to wisdom.
The unity of faith may start with them,
Monophysite now wed to Orthodox,
Co-regents ruling all Byzantium,
Their eros may grow into agape.
This is why Christ’s two natures must be taught,
To show our weakness turned to strength, our strength
Perfected into love,
To show our flesh become a phoenix.
Nor is it bad that that they are strong and shrewd,
Well-versed in what the raucous demes may do,
With enemies within
And enemies without,
The Persians mighty in the east, the Huns
Still raiding in the Balkan dioceses,
With allies often more like enemies,
Goth Arians now seizing lands and life
Of senators in Italy for speaking
Too directly of old Rome made new.
He’ll need the prayers of that great peasant king
Who once was still a boy with flocks to guard,
Who heard the snarls and saw the glinting eyes,
Who stepped out from the fire’s ring
Remembering that he too was a sheep
In need of the Great Shepherd of us all.
A swineherd’s not so different from a shepherd.
It’s well that he wore rags before the purple.
I need such hope tonight
As I prepare for one procession more,
This time into the vale.
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,
Search the Dumbarton Oaks Catalogue of Byzantine Lead seals here
Search through the Prosopography of the Byzantine Empire (641-867 AD) here
Search through the Prosopography of the Byzantine Empire (1025-1180 AD) here
Anthony Kaldellis’ podcast is called ‘Byzantium and Friends.’ Episode 14 deals with homosexuality in Byzantium.
The article about Basil II’s sexuality is called ‘Revisiting the Bachelorhood of Basil II’ by Mark Masterson. It was printed in ‘The Emperor in the Byzantine World’ Papers from the Forty-Seventh Spring Symposium of Byzantine Studies-Routledge (2019) edited by Shaun Tougher