Kind listener Amy Reilly designed this new banner for the website. What a star!
Kind listener Amy Reilly designed this new banner for the website. What a star!
Most of you will now be used to hearing adverts before each episode of the podcast. The money from these ads is now a vital part of keeping me podcasting full time. However a few listeners have asked me if they could pay to not hear adverts before each episode. So I’ve put a survey below for anyone interested. If enough people would like an ad-free feed I will try and set one up.
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…
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:
What is NOT included in this price:
Our itinerary will take in all the best Byzantine sites in the city
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)
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:
What is NOT included in this price:
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:
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.
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
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
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,
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
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.
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.
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.
An update on the podcast schedule and the Istanbul project: here
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.
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.
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
I have an opportunity for you to hear a bonus Byzantine Stories episode for free. Just give me a moment of your time.
So, as most of you know, the podcast is now working with Acast. They’re connecting the History of Byzantium with companises whose adverts play at the start of the show.
In order to advertise products that will be of interest to you we’ve set up a listener survey. It’s got about 30 questions and its asking for your demographic information. Its completely anonymous and you won’t have to input your email or anything. It would be really helpful to me if you could take a moment to fill out the survey.
But I know some of you will think – “What do I care? Let other people do that, I can’t be bothered.” Fair enough. What’s in it for you? Well – this is what’s in it for you. I’m currently working on a Byzantine story about Roman medicine. I think its going to turn into a 3 parter. So if I can get 500 listeners to fill out the survey – then you will all get part 1 for free.
So if you’d like to learn more about the terrifying experience of Roman surgery. Then click here and fill out the survey.
Thanks so much for your help.