News

The History of Byzantium Tour!! (SOLD OUT)

We have sold out for both tours!

Thanks so much to all of you who responded so quickly. I’ll leave the information up for now but bookings are closed. If you are keen to come in 2020 do make a note now to get in touch with me. If all goes well we’d be looking at Spring and Autumn 2020. I’m happy to do multiple weeks if demand is there. I’m also happy to aim for particular dates to fit in with your schedule. I know it’s a long way off but have a think…

 

Hello everyone,

I’m incredibly excited to announce that the History of Byzantium Tour will be heading to Istanbul on 6th-10th May 2019. Our first week in April has already sold out so we added this second tour.

This will be five full days of Byzantine sites with me and our Turkish tour guide Serif Yenen. Serif is a hugely experienced and accomplished guide (he’s given tours of Istanbul to Oprah Winfrey and Pope Benedict XVI!) who will be leading us around the city.

The cost of the tour is $1125.00 USD per person (for accommodation in double room) or $1435.00 USD per person (for a single room). There are discounts available and an extra day you can add (see below).

What is included in this price:

The beautiful mosaics of Chora

The beautiful mosaics of Chora

  • Private airport transfers from and to Istanbul Atatürk Airport
  • Accommodation in deluxe rooms at the Recital Hotel for 5 nights
  • Five breakfasts at the hotel
  • Five lunches at local casual restaurants with good traditional food
  • Five days of tours with Serif Yenen as an official guide. And Robin Pierson adding insights from the podcast (and generally grinning with excitement)
  • Two days of transportation in a private van/bus. Three days on foot (including two walks along parts of the Theodosian land walls).
  • All museum entrance fees and costs as mentioned in the itinerary
  • Complimentary copies of Serif Yenen’s maps and books
  • Headsets will be provided to hear your guide at each site

What is NOT included in this price:

Walk the Land Walls!

Walk the Land Walls!

  • Dinners
  • Personal expenses
  • Gratuities

Our itinerary will take in all the best Byzantine sites in the city 

  • The Hagia Sophia
  • The Hippodrome and accompanying exhibition inside a nearby cistern
  • The former Church of Saints Sergius and Bacchus (built by Justinian, beautifully designed)
  • The Bukoleon Palace (long time residence of the Emperors and the spot where John Tzimisces scaled the walls to kill Nicephorus Phokas)
  • The Aqueduct of Valens
  • Chora Church (the best preserved mosaics and frescoes in the city, amazing!)
  • Two walks along parts of the Theodosian Land Walls

    The Basilica Cistern

    The Basilica Cistern

  • Zeyrek Mosque, the former Church of the Pantokrator (the Komnenos family church and former home of the Patriarchate)
  • The Patriarchal Church of St George
  • St Mary of the Mongols (the only church to be continuously in Christian use since the fall of Byzantium)
  • An underground tour will take us to many ruins from the Great Palace which lie beneath hotels and restaurants
  • The Basilica Cistern (the most famous and picturesque of the city’s many cisterns)
  • The Column of Constantine and the Forum of Theodosius (giving you a sense of Constantinople’s giant public squares)
  • Kalenderhane Mosque, the former Church of the Theotokos Kyriotissa (a beautiful building with a fascinating history)
  • Bodrum Mosque, the former Church of the Myrelaion (built by Romanus Lekapenos to be his burial place, we may be able to visit the very spot!)

    The amazing gardens of the Archeaological Musuem

    The amazing gardens of the Archeaological Musuem

  • The Archaeological Musuems of Istanbul (an astonishing collection of Roman and Byzantine artefacts)
  • Hagia Eirene (built by Justinian and preserving Iconoclast decoration)
  • The Palace Mosaic Museum (a beautiful stretch of Justinian-era floor mosaic showing amazing scenes of nature)
  • And more!

—————————————————

For those who want to stay another day and see non-Byzantine Istanbul this bonus day with Serif (without Robin) is available:

May 11th, Saturday (Optional Walking Tour with accommodation)

  • Topkapi Palace
  • Blue Mosque
  • Lunch
  • Suleymaniye Mosque
  • Bosphorus tour

The price will be $200.00 USD per person (accommodation in double room) and $255.00 USD per person (for a single room)

What is included in this price:

  • Accommodation in deluxe rooms at the Recital Hotel for one night
  • One breakfasts at the hotel
  • One lunch at local casual restaurants with good traditional food
  • One-day tour with Serif Yenen as an official guide
  • All museum entrance fees and costs as mentioned in the itinerary
  • Complimentary copies of Serif Yenen’s maps and books
  • Headsets will be provided to hear your guide at each site

What is NOT included in this price:

  • Dinner
  • Personal expenses
  • Gratuities

—————————————————

I want to go! What do I need to do?

Click here for 6th-10th May 2019

BUT before you do just check this is all clear:

There are three payment options available:

1) Pay the full amount now on credit card.

2) Pay a deposit now ($350 per person in a single room, $280 per person in a double) and the rest on card the week before the tour.

3) Pay a deposit now and pay the rest in person in cash. This cuts out credit card and other fees meaning you’d only pay an overall total of:

  • $990.00 USD per person (accommodation in double room)
  • $1265.00 USD per person (accommodation in single room)

Also the extra day with Serif will be paid separately. Just let us know if you’d like to take up that option.

Remember the tour days are Monday 6th – Friday 10th April. But you need to arrive on Sunday 5th and will stay that night in the hotel. Robin will be in the hotel on the evening of the 5th to greet you. Then we’ll all head out Monday morning to begin the tour. Unless you are booking the extra day with Serif you will then check out of the hotel on Friday 10th. We can leave our bags in the hotel for that day’s tour and then pick them up at the end of the day. If you’d like to stay in the hotel that night please make your own arrangements.

Please don’t book your flights until we reach the minimum number we need for the tour to go ahead (12 people). We will let you know the second that happens so you can get your travel sorted.  

FAQ

Why does it cost more if I want a single room to myself?
I’m afraid this is an industry standard charge https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Single_supplement

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Categories: News | 4 Comments

The Fall of Constantinople (a poem)

Listener JB has written a beautiful poem about the final fall of Constantinople in 1453. Enjoy and let him know what you think in the comments below.

The Fall of Constantinople


Tonight is the last night the city will stand.

It has stood for one thousand years,

And in legend, it has stood long before.

Her walls, the land walls, rear high like the heads of dinosaurs,

Defiant against anything that sea, land, or space

May inflict.

 

On the plain, the beautiful sultan sits in his tent.

He is young, his face seems unmarred by battle,

Though it has seen a hundred lifetimes’ share.

He is twenty-one years old, and

At Christmastime last year, he bought a gun.

He bought it from a smith who lived in a village

On the Black Sea.

The Emperor declined to pay his fee.

 

And so tonight, the silence on the Marmara is ethereal.

The ghost of Achilles surfs the waves.

Even Thales has risen from his ancient grave and put aside his books

To observe this,

The end of an empire.

 

Almost eight centuries since Mohammed walked the earth

Almost twenty-two since the kindness of a wolfmother,

The sort of kindness that only dogs know, and can share,

Suckled two boys by a river,

And kept them as her own.

 

Tonight is the twenty-eighth day of the month

That is named after the daughter of the Titan

That upholds the world on his weary shoulders;

And a two thousand year old empire

Tonight shrugs and bows,

And shows to its enemies

That it has been tired, so tired, for a long time.

 

The mist around the Golden Horn thickens,

Pours onto the land.

She feels her end near.

 

When the morning comes, the beautiful sultan arises from his cushion.

He has not slept. No one has.

He summons the gunner, who tells him that the land walls

That have stood for one thousand years,

Will only take a few more shots from the great gun and that

They will not hold for one more day.

 

When the sun crests the horizon, he orders it loaded.

He orders it to be fired again.

He knows that on this morning, he will end an empire,

And found another whose songs will be sung for centuries.

 

Inside the city, the soldiers are awake. All of their family and friends are dead.

They lie in the street. There is no time to bury them.

They have seen them cut or torn apart by the

Missiles of the enemy.

Their fear is cut mercifully by wine, passed from the mouth of man to man.

A Celtic poet would say in times long future,

The breath of god is but one breath, and it is passed from person to person,

For all of time.

But tonight, and this morning, at the final fall of Rome, it is passed by flask,

With wine,

From one man to the next.

 

The gun is fired. The Sultan saw the sun and now he knows that the end of his enemies and of the Enemies of his people is near.

The walls that have stood for one thousand years,

Now they have a hole.

 

It is five-thirty in the morning, and he orders his men to fill the hole.

They spill in.

 

The Romans, their final dawn come at last, see the Muslims spill into their city,

The Muslims are beautiful and regal in their crimson-green and leather.

It is like a dream,

The land walls turned to stones scattered upon the ground.

Today, there is only one God.

His name is War, and his prophet is called Death.

 

The last emperor of Rome, Constantine,

The eleventh Palaiologos,

Is an exhausted forty-eight year old man.

When he took the purple and sat the throne,

He expected administrative duties.

 

But on this morning, he knows, the empire is dead.

The beautiful empire, that has stood so long,

Through the boldness of Augustus,

The brutality of Pertinax,

The perversity of Nero,

And the wisdom of Aurelius.

The eleventh Palaiologos knows that it has fallen to him

To decide how the Roman Empire dies.

 

He sees from a distance the Muslims come, clambering over rocks.

The nightmare vision of emperors long dead,

Who would have instead gone to their bed and awaited

The cold blade on their jugular while they

Curled under silk sheets.

 

But this Constantine, the eleventh Palaiologos,

He laces his boots.

He takes his sword,

And he sees his men about him passing the breath of god from man to man

And he knows that it is only one breath, one flask, passed from man to man

In eternal communion

From the beginning of time.

 

The wall is finally down. Not even the land walls stand forever.

The Sultan’s men gather themselves in the street,

Adjusting shoulder straps, fastening gauntlets, focusing eyes,

The city they have longed for is within their grasp.

They are inside her.

 

The Romans stand in bafflement,

The nightmare they have seen unfolding for decades

Now stands before them in flesh and blood.

The mist of the morning

Only partially obscures their vision of

The Muslims as they take their first steps

On the streets of the new city.

 

The Romans stand in awe,

Not realizing until now

How beautiful

Their ancient enemy

Has always been.

 

At this moment, Constantine

Finishes lacing his boots,

And his hand grasps his sword.

He is forty-eight years old,

And nothing he has ever done

Will equal what he is about to do.

 

The wolfmother, Romulus, Remus, Numa,

Scipio, the Grachii,

Pompey and Antony,

Cicero, Cleopatra, and Cato,

Caesars Julius and Augustus,

Crixus, Gannicus, and Spartacus,

All of the souls who ever found their own

Soul’s web knit with the web of the

Soul of Rome,

And even Thales and Achilles, unlikely bedmates whose shades found companionship

In death, out on the waves,

They all stir from their rest to observe

In holy honor,

The end of the great empire.

 

The breath of god is dropped from the hand of the last man,

Transformed from breath to blood –

The blood of Christ, made so when the wine hits the dirt of the street

Of Holy Constantinople, and it

Gleams crimson in the light of the Byzantine sunrise.

His men focus on him,

They feel his courage,

The kind that only comes as a partner to Death.

 

The holy light of all Byzantium past and future engulfs him and he begins to run.

His men pause, but follow. They are few,

And the enemy is many;

And into the embrace of the Muslims,

They baptize themselves.

Rome ends at the moment that the sword of the eleventh Palaiologos

Strikes the breastplate of the foremost enemy.

 

What happens to bodies, the carnage, is banal.

What lives forever is the spirit, the memory,

The way that we remember them,

Who fought and struggled and bled,

And it belongs to the poets of ancient futures to ensure

That their profound striving

Is remembered for the brief moments that this universe continues.

 

The purple is marred in the dirt, bodies destroyed.

The chance of victory passed several days before.

The only choice remaining was how to die,

Gloriously, or in terror.

 

As the eleventh Palaiologos chooses glory, Mehmet enters the church of the Holy Wisdom,

And there the beautiful sultan transforms it, for a time,

And the holy wisdom changes forms again, having done so countless times before and

Knowing that she will do so again for endless iterations.

She will exist across universes,

And she will render the concept of eternity meaningless.

Categories: News | 2 Comments

Ask Me Anything

Hello everyone,

I am doing an AMA. That’s an Ask Me Anything for a website called WhatPods. I will be answering questions on the 21st March at 4.30pm US eastern standard time. But if you can’t be there live you can just submit your question now. Yes any questions posted in the next 6 days will join a list that I will begin tackling on the day.

So Ask Me Anything. It can be about the podcast, about the Kickstarter, about Byzantine history, Roman history, about the England cricket team, about Breaking Bad, about my favourite food, whatever you like. You just need to register on Whatpods and then ask away.

Speak to you soon.

Categories: News | 2 Comments

Istanbul Kickstarter Campaign

My Istanbul Kickstarter Campaign begins today! Please consider supporting it before the end of March.

The Kickstarter page is here.

For more details I recorded an episode of the podcast to explain all the options.

Categories: News | 9 Comments

Update on the schedule and Istanbul

An update on the podcast schedule and the Istanbul project: here

Categories: News | 2 Comments

Podcasting in Istanbul?

Hello everyone,

Robin here. I need your feedback. I’ve had an idea and I’m excited about it. But I need you to tell me what you think of it.

I would like to go to Istanbul and spend a week there, and visit all the Byzantine sites I can. During my stay I would record material for the podcast, including my first reactions on seeing the sites. I’ve never been there before so I think that would be really fun.

Then I would create audio guides for the major sites. So that when you visit the city one day, you could have your own History of Byzantium guided tour. Not only would I talk you through what you can see, but also what you can’t. Describing the cityscape as it would have been to help immerse you in the experience.

The Theodossian Walls

The Theodossian Walls

For those who don’t want to wait I could take footage and pictures and create videos walking you around the sites. I would also create a proper map of all the Byzantine buildings and ruins that you can visit. Nothing complete seems to exist online and with only a quick trawl I’ve found nearly 50 places that I want to see.

Part of what’s motivating me is that I wish something like this had existed when I went to Rome a few years ago. There are so many pieces of the ancient world still lying around that don’t make it into mainstream guidebooks. And even if you do find them there’s no one around to tell you about their history.

If I was able to go to Istanbul I could also arrange a meet-up with any listeners who were able to travel there at the same time. We could visit the Hagia Sophia together or walk along the walls.

I did explore the idea of arranging a professional tour but there are many obstacles. And the company who ran Mike Duncan’s trips no longer operate them. Anyway, I like the idea of doing this independently and leaving it up to you to choose whether you want to be a part of it.

So please can you give me your feedback? What do you think of the idea? If I were to go to Istanbul what else could I do there? What else could I record? What would you like to hear or see? Or be a part of? Comment on this post to get a conversation going. I’m sure there are great ideas out there if we put our heads together.

If this idea is not for you, I’d still really appreciate hearing from you. To save you time I’ve created the poll above. It’s just one question to gauge your level of enthusiasm. It will only take 10 seconds and it would be hugely helpful.

Thank you for taking time out to help me with this. If things go well then we’re talking about a visit sometime in 2018. So there’s plenty of time to go but any thoughts or reactions to the idea are needed now. I’ll keep you updated.

Categories: News | 58 Comments

Constantine Snow

SPOILER ALERT. Do not read this post if you are not up to date with Game of Thrones…when Romanus Lekapenos was on the throne it occurred to me that there was something Stark-ish about his household.

Romanus had six legitimate children, four boys and two girls. He made Constantine VII part of his household and fathered Basil who was then castrated.

When Constantine took power he kept the eunuch Basil around and worked happily with him. I pondered then whether they had bonded over being the runts of the Lekapenos litter.

The comparison with Theon and Jon is amusing to consider. Theon would of course go on to be castrated. While Constantine was the born-in-the-purple prince who had to wait a long time to inherit his birthright. His parents marriage was also highly controversial

Categories: News | 8 Comments

Moving to Acast

So, you see there’s a new podcast from me. You click on it. And what do you hear? An advert.

And you’re thinking “oh, no.”

Yes, the History of Byzantium has moved to Acast. For those who don’t know Acast is a podcast hosting company who connect shows with advertisers. They host your show for free and share revenue with the podcast producer

As podcasting has become my career, I had to look into the possibility of advertising in order to help provide for the future. I hope you understand.

So, adverts will now play before and after each episode. But they will not interfere with the show itself. The ads will be localised to your market so they should be relevant for you. And they will play on all of the free episodes, including the back catalogue.

This should not affect the members feeds or your subscription to the free feed. However any move like this is bound to affect someone. So if you have any trouble, my apologies. Please delete your existing feed and resubscribe and everything should be fine. Any other issues contact me at thehistoryofbyzantium @ gmail.com.

I hope this is another step in getting us to 1453 and beyond. And I’m hugely grateful for your support.

Categories: News | 4 Comments

All the Emperors in Rhyme

All the Emperors in Rhyme by Listener JA

When Augustus won the Civil War against Marc Anthony,
he said “All power in Rome now belongs to me,”
First Emperor is what we call the nephew of Caesar,
Now let me tell you about his successors: in rhyme, which isn’t easier.
Tiberius retreated to Capri, he was one grumpy mister.
Caligula loved killing and slept with his sister.
His uncle Claudius stuttered and was a real nerd,
but ruled well and conquered Britain, his success absurd.
With Nero a dark cloud came,
Murdered his mum and Rome went up in flame.

When Nero died, four emperors ruled in 69:
First came Galba, who thought gold was mighty fine.
Otho murdered the old man when told he wouldn’t be successor,
Vitellius was bigger and fatter than any predecessor.
Vespasian ruled the next ten years and liked a dry joke,
Titus reigned well, but Pompeii and Rome went up in smoke.
Domitian was a sly, paranoid man,
an assassin ended the life of the last Flavian.

Nerva was the first of an adoptive dynasty of five:
the Antonines, thought the best rulers of the Empire’s fifteen century life.
Spanish Trajan was a military genius, always had a cunning ploy,
Hadrian defended the empire well and loved a Greek boy.
Antoninus Pius, twenty years of prosperity and peace.
But when he died, the Golden Age began to cease.
Marcus and Lucius fought Marcomanni and Persians together,
but party-animal Lucius soon came under the weather.
The plague had come to kill many a Roman,
thankfully the remaining emperor was Marcus Aurelius, wiser was no man.
The only choice that makes us think of him lesser,
was the how he picked his successor.
Commodus was cruel, corrupt, and mean,
pretended to be a gladiator, such a sight had never been seen.

Old Pertinax tried to fight the growing corruption,
so the Praetorians killed him, disliking the interruption.
Didius Julianus then won the Empire in an auction in a bar.
Clodius Albinus, Pescennius Niger, and Septimius Severus didn’t accept that and started a civil war.
Septimius ruled with iron fist, caring only for the army.
His sons Geta and Caracalla drove each other barmy.
Macrinus replaced cruel Caracalla by prophecy,
Elagabalus’s reign reads like a dark comedy.
Severus Alexander was young but ruled fine,
but his death was the start of the Empire’s darkest time.
For when giant Maximinus killed him, it was the start,
of fifty years of civil war that tore the Empire apart.
An endless line of usurpers, each the other’s enemy,
we call this disaster the Crisis of the Third Century.

Maximinus Thrax was a massive fighter, a real brute.
Showed two Gordians that rising up against him was an idea that was not good.
Pupienus and Balbinus beat Max, it was very hard,
only to be assassinated by the Praetorian Guard.
Gordian Three then ruled for a year or five,
before Philip the Arab took his life.
Decius persecuted the Christians, thinking they were a curse.
Hostilian, Trebonianus Gallus, Aemilian, things are only getting worse!
With Valerian, the Empire saw its darkest hour:
captured in battle, made a Persian slave with no power.
Then two chunks of Empire split off from the rest:
Palmyra in the east and Gaul in the west.
Gallienus ruled in Rome for eight tense years,
while east and west were run by his imperial peers.
Things were at last getting a little better (phew),
when a Gothic invasion was beaten by Claudius Two.
The next emperor is Quintillus, about whom little is known,
and then the great Aurelian reunited the Empire, ruling alone.
And yet the Crisis was not yet done,
as next came Tacitus and Florian.
Probus’s six years were filled with constant fighting,
Carus was killed by a bolt of lightning.
The last two emperors of the Crisis were Carinus and Numerian,
who were replaced by the great Diocletian.

Diocletian ended fifty years of anarchy,
by reorganising the Empire into what we call the Tetrarchy.
This meant four Emperors ruled at once,
which makes quite a challenge for a simple rhyming dunce.
Maximian was Diocletian’s imperial best friend,
With Constantius Chlorus and Galerius, they made quite the band.
But when Dio and Max both peacefully retired,
trouble started: Constantine and Maxentius wanted to be the next Emperors to be hired.
But Galerius picked Severus and Maximinus Daia,
then Constantius died, which really started a fire:
Constantine and Maxentius both declared emperors as well,
and then Maximian came back from his retirement spell.
Old Dio returned to sort out the whole mess,
then died on his farm, quite possibly of stress.
Licinius now too claimed the throne,
then, at last, Constantine beat the others and ruled alone.

Constantine made the future of the Christians a lot more hopeful,
and moved the capital to a little town we call Constantinople.
If this wasn’t evidence enough he liked his own name,
he also named his kids Constantine, Constantius, and Constans, without any shame.
Constantine the Second died fighting his bro,
Constans lived longer, but was then replaced by general Vetranio.
Constantius the Second then ruled alone,
until he made his cousin Julian co-emperor, thowing him a bone.
Julian the Apostate had grand plans,
to reorganise the Empire and take it back from the Christians,
but his plans had only just begun,
when he charged into battle without his armour on.
Obviously, he lost that fight,
then Emperor Jovian inhaled carbon monoxide.

Valentinian died of rage when an argument with a Goth got vocal,
his brother Valens lost his life in the battle of Adrianople.
Gratian thought the pagans had to be repressed,
Valentinian Two was the last emperor to choose to rule the west.
Meanwhile, in the east, the emperor was Theodosius,
a religious man who listened well to Saint Ambrosius.
Theo was the last man to rule east and west alone,
from now on, the two would have a separate throne.
He gave one Empire to each of his sons,
unfortunately, Arcadius and Honorius were useless morons.
Arcadius at least had the good sense to die after only thirteen years on the throne,
while Honorius worried about his chickens during the Sack of Rome.
Theodosius Two gave Constantinople walls that would save it in plenty a close fight,
while in the west, Honorius at last died.
The crumbling west was reigned for two years by John,
but Theo appointed Valentinian Three, who attacked the west and won.
When Marcian replaced Theo Two, the Empire faced a setting Sun,
going through terror at the hands of Attila the Hun.

Now the west had Petronius Maximus, what a flop!
Vandals raided Rome and he was stoned by an angry mob.
From here, the emperors in the west had very little power,
as barbarian Ricimer took over their crumbling Empire and made them little more than a wall flower.
Avitus of the west was an old senator with much knowledge of sophistry,
while in the east, Leo the first began the Empire’s recovery.
Oh Majorian, you tried to fix your broken Empire and wouldn’t have been bad,
had Ricimer not become jealous and killed you dead.
Libius Severus shared Majorian’s fate but not his skill,
Ricimer poisoned him, and he too was kill.
Anthemius, the last western emperor who even tried:
fought Vandals and Visigoths, then Ricimer made sure he died.
Olybrius, Glycerius, we are very nearly at the end,
barely anyone now would even listen to the emperor’s command.
Julius Nepos, you could consider him the last legitimate emperor to sit on the western throne,
but the history books disagree, as Orestes had him overthrown.
Orestes then chose the greatest irony of all:
put his fourteen-year old son on the throne, just before the fall.
Romulus Augustulus was the boy’s name,
and it is only because he was last that he achieved any fame.
Gothic Odoacer invaded Italy, oh what horror,
and then the west had no more emperor.

But in Constantinople ruled Emperor Zeno,
and his Empire continued for a thousand more years, so if you’re ready, here we go:
Old Anastasius ruled wisely and left the Empire strong and ready to fight,
though the people were worried because he was a monophysite.
From swineherd to Emperor rose Justin;
couldn’t read or write, so he asked help from his cousin.
Justinian the Great was the clever man’s name,
and he rebuilt the Empire, earning everlasting fame.
Reconquered Africa, Italy, and even Spain,
but oh that plague was such a pain.
Justinian was succeeded by his cousin Justin Two,
but Tiberius stepped in when Justin went quite coocoo.
Tiberius Two’s Empire was overextended, so he forgot the west and defended the east,
a mistake partially rectified by emperor Maurice.

Phocas then murdered Maurice and his entire clan,
only for bad news to reach the cruel man:
the Persians attacked the Empire, what a calamity:
it was the last great war of antiquity.
When Heraclius deposed Phocas, the Empire was in dire straits:
half of it occupied, Persians knocking on Constantinople’s gates!
Eighteen years it took to beat the Persians once and for all,
but Heraclius had only delayed the fall,
for in the south, a new prohet had spoken,
and with the sudden attack of his people, the Empire was broken.
Syria, Egypt, Africa: Heraclius saw his Empire fall apart,
and promptly died of a broken heart.
Constantine Three and Heraklonas were not long for this world.
Constans the Second’s beard was neatly curled.
Tried to move the capitol back west,
which in Constantinople caused much unrest.
Constantine Four fought off an Arab attack on Constantinople without mistake.
Justinian the Second didn’t live up to his famous namesake,
Focussed on the west, fighting his Slavic foes,
but Leontios rose up, exiled him, and slit his nose.
His will wasn’t broken, and he continued the fight,
now with a wife called Theodora by his side.
It took him ten years to retake his throne, but as the historians wrote:
he only hung on to it for one year before they also slit his throat.

When Justinian Two had first been deposed by his peers,
it had been the start of an anarchy that lasted twenty years.
First Leontios and Tiberius Three’s war made the Empire burn,
then came Justinian Two’s return.
Phillipikos Bardanes was responsible for Justinian’s demise,
two years later, he was taking a bath when someone poked out his eyes.
Anastasios the Second became the Empire’s new liege,
he warned all to stock up food, as the Arabs were preparing a siege.
Theodosius the Third briefly took the rule,
then Isaurian Leo Three became emperor, and he wasn’t a fool.

The Empire was defended in its darkest day by Leo’s cunning hand:
the Arabs sieged Constantinople by sea and by land.
But the icons sent him into a spasm,
so he began what we like to call iconoclasm.
Constantine Five continued the policies his dad had begun,
for which historians named him dung.
Leo Four came next, and he wasn’t long for this world.
He married a sly Athenian girl,
her name was Irene,
and she was regent for their son, a sixth Constantine.
But she wanted the throne for herself, no less,
so she deposed her son and ruled as the Empire’s very first empress.

Irene was deposed by her finance minister,
but despite his brains, Nicephoros’s fate was sinister,
ran into the Bulgars at Plisska, quite dumb,
and so his skull became a drinking cup for Khan Krum.
Staurakios, Michael Rangabe, their reigns were brief,
then Leo the Fifth, a general with iconoclastic belief.
Michael the Second butted heads with Thomas the Slav,
Theophilos tried to make sure justice was something everyone would have.
A ruler who quite liked a drink was Michael Three,
he spent his rule as a puppet to friends and family.

Macedonian Basil took the imperial throne from his friend,
a great general, he was the first in ages to conquer enemy land.
Many a book was written by the wise sixth Leo,
Alexander died of exhaustion after playing polo.
Another great writer was the seventh Constantine,
deposed for twenty years by the Romanos Lekapenos regime.
Between Romanos and the return of Constantine to the purple he’d been born in,
the Roman Empire began to score many a win.
Romanos the Second retook Crete,
then Nicephoros Phocas took Antioch, no mean feat!
Next up was Emperor John,
who fought Rus’ and Bulgar, and on both accounts won.
Basil Two then brought Constantinople to its greatest height,
conquered Bulgaria and Armenia, adding to the Empire’s might.
Constantine Eight was lazy and the Empire again became a mess,
then his daughter Zoe became the second empress.
Her husbands ruled with her until she died,
but perhaps they shouldn’t even have tried.
First Romanos, then Mike, and finally Constantine Nine,
lost Sicily, the Balkans, and nearly caused a civil war that wasn’t so fine.
Zoe’s sister Theodora then took over as basilissa,
lasted six years before the Empire had to miss her.

Mike Six ruled for one year before abdicating and becoming a monk,
as his enemy Isaac Komnenos was so very big and stronk.
Most of Byzantine Italy was lost by Constantine Ten,
when it was taken over by the Norman men.
Next came Mike Seven and Romanos Four,
but Romanos lost Anatolia at Manzikert, what horror!
After Roman’s army was crushed and forced to flee,
he was blinded, then Mike had to give the throne to Nicephoros Three.

The Empire was now well and truly wrecked,
on all sides, the odds against them were stacked.
This is when Alexios Komnenos took over,
and did his best to make them recover.
He fought Normans, Turks, and all the rest,
then asked for some help from the west.
He probably wasn’t expecting too much aid,
so was quite surprised when this started the First Crusade.
Sensing the Crusaders weren’t entirely worthy of trust,
he still teamed up with them, as needs must.
John the Second was popular with all subjects except his sister,
Manuel Komnenos was a very energetic mister.
Alexios Two’s beard had only just begun to grow,
when cousin Andronikos caused his overthrow.
Andronikos massacred Latins without flinching,
but was pretty dismayed by his own lynching.

Isaac Angelos fought a war against the Bulgars (yes, another),
then was blinded by his own brother.
Alexios Three’s reign was a mess and a bore,
especially with the arrival of Crusade number Four.
The Crusaders put blind Isaac and Alexios Four back on the throne as puppets,
but Alexios Five took over, and he didn’t obey their every command like muppets,
which is when Byzantium suffered the greatest betrayal of them all,
as the Crusaders conquered Constantinople and brought the Empire to fall.

As the capital fell to these ungrateful hicks,
Nicaea held the ashes of the purple phoenix.
Theodore Laskaris fought Latins and Turks on both sides,
John the Third gave Latins and Bulgars plenty more good fights.
Theodore Two continued to increase the Empire’s agency,
while John Four was too young to rule, and was put under a regency.

John’s regent was a Michael Palaiologos,
who showed the Latin Empire was total bogus,
when at last he retook Constantinople,
making every Roman briefly hopeful.
But Andronikos Two was little better than the first of the name.
Neglecting defence, he brought the Empire to shame.
Andronikos Three died too early by far,
sparking an unfortunate civil war.
We call the claimants Johns Six and Five,
and their fighting nearly ended the Empire’s life.
To survive, the Empire, now weak and small,
had to become an Ottoman vassal.
But this couldn’t stop the internal trouble:
next John Five fought Andronikos Four and John Seven, seeing double.
Just when it seemed there was nothing more the Romans could do,
the next emperor was clever Manuel Two.
He journeyed western courts, asking for aid,
which is when the Ottomans his day made:
as there was now a civil war between the Turkish men,
the Empire could rise one last time again.
But it wasn’t enough,
as the Ottomans reunified, and they were tough.
Then during the reign of John Eight,
the Empire could sense its approaching fate,
as finally, we come to the eleventh Constantine,
and in fifteen centuries, a braver emperor hadn’t been seen.
Mehmed’s cannons broke the Theodosian wall,
and with that came Constantinople’s fall.
Constantine the Eleventh defended his city to the last,
but that day, the Roman Empire became a thing of the past.

Categories: News | 12 Comments

September 2016 Update

Hey everyone,

As most of you know I am deep into research for the end of the century episodes. Unlike the narrative I have to learn about a whole topic before going back and turning it into an episode. So things take longer than usual but once the research is done I can usually turn out 3 episodes in quick succession.

There would have been an episode out last week but my microphone of 8 years (!) finally quit on me. So I am installing a new recording system which as you can imagine is adding to the amount of time it takes me to get to the next episode.

Please bear with me and thanks in advance for your patience,

Robin

Categories: News | 5 Comments

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