100. Romans!

Sunday, June 9th, 2019

“Apart from the sanitation, the medicine, education, wine, public order, irrigation, roads, the fresh water system, and public health … what have the Romans’ ever done for US?” (Monty Python, Life of Brian)


Welcome to Histories of the Unexpected where we demonstrate how everything has a history and how those histories link together in unexpected ways.


For this episode let us join the Julius Cesar of imperial history, Dr Sam Willis, and the Cesar of historical seasons, Professor James Daybell, as they sail up the yellow waters of the Tiber to bring you the unexpected history of the Romans! through their forthcoming book.

Starting with a discussion on the complexities of defining just who a Roman citizen was to a consideration of the types of sources which remain and the view of Roman culture and society this has left behind, our two centurions take a stroll along the old Roman road. From Cicero and friendship to manuals which gave instructions on how to walk, from the lovers Pyramus and Thisbe and subversive walls to explicit graffiti and the challenges to authoritarian rule, from the Schola tombs found outside the city and what such seating can tell us about Roman democracy to tattoos, barbarians and a society dominated by control and ownership illustrative of its inherent fear of the uncivilised, from the Emperor Vitellius and concerns of gluttony, excess and greed, to the complexity and duplicity inherent in a society linked to luxury and extravagance, from inkwells and geographies of literacy to the fear of female extravagance and lasciviousness shaped within concerns linked to street hawkers and door to door salesmen, this is an unexpected history of imperial proportions.

James and Sam discuss the fragility on an empire which dominated, at its peak, Britain, most of continental Europe, Western Asia, Northern Africa and the islands of the Mediterranean. Reputed to have been founded by Romulus and Remus, the sons of Mars, god of war, in 753 B.C.E, Rome’s fall in the 5th century C. E was one of the most dramatic in human civilisation. As it’s provinces fell one by one, first Britain in 410 and finally Northern Africa in 430, it’s fear of the uncivilised barbarian tribes proved well founded as finally in 476 C.E the Germanic Odoacer overthrew Rome’s last emperor in the west, Romulus Augustus, to become the first Barbarian to rule in Rome, bringing to an end the Western Roman Empire. Imperial domination had fallen to the subjugated and the uncivilised, the mercenaries and the barbarians.

Listen out as Sam and James list the array of chapter titles within the forthcoming book, I’m particularly looking forward to solar power and the number seven. Also listen out as James discuss Roman safety handles … it’s a fact!

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