Emperors of Rome
Summary: “Great empires are not maintained by timidity.” - Tacitus. A podcast series looking at the rulers of the ancient Roman empire, by Dr Rhiannon Evans and Matt Smith.
Livy was an historian writing during the Augustan age of Rome, who wrote one of the empire’s most famous works – an extensive and exhaustive history, spanning 142 books. Of those we have the first quarter, and they’ve influenced every work on Rome that has been written since. Guest: Professor Ronald Ridley (Honorary,Historical and Philosophical studies, University of Melbourne).
For much of our journey through the Antonine dynasty we’ve had Dio Cassius as our guide. As both a historian and a senator, Dio had a ringside seat to some of the greatest Emperors the Roman empire had seen. He wrote an extensive and what is considered reliable history of the Roman empire, spanning 80 volumes, many of which we have today. Guest: Dr Rhiannon Evans (Senior Lecturer, Classics and Ancient History, La Trobe University).
Epicureanism was an ancient philosophy founded in Athens which became popular throughout the Roman world. It teaches that the greatest good is to seek modest pleasures, and this will lead to a state of tranquility. Guest: Dr Sonya Wurster (Lecturer in Literature and Philosophy, Yale-NUS, Singapore).
The borders of the Roman Empire grew and shrank throughout its history, reaching its greatest extent during the rule of Trajan. How the Romans viewed and managed their provinces changed with the politics of Rome, and their relationship with outside powers influenced what it meant to be a Roman. Guest: Dr Paul Burton (Senior Lecturer, Centre for Classical Studies, Australian National University).
There's changes ahead for Emperors of Rome. Rest assured, they are all lovely.
One thing you can say about the reign of Commodus is that it must have been an interesting time to live in Rome. Between the spectacles in the colosseum and the lowered life expectancy in the Senate, it was just a matter of time until someone took a knife to Commodus, and after almost a century in power, the Antonine dynasty comes to an end. Guest: Dr Rhiannon Evans (Senior Lecturer, Mediterranean Studies, La Trobe University).
Commodus took a hands-off approach to ruling Rome, but what was he doing with all that free time? It turns out quite a lot. Commodus redefined what it meant to be an emperor, on one hand debasing himself by fighting against the lowest classes in the arena, and on the other hand elevating himself to the level of a god and hero. Guest: Dr Rhiannon Evans (Senior Lecturer, Mediterranean Studies, La Trobe University).
Commodus wasn't the most attentive emperor to rule Rome, preferring to dedicate his time to indulging his vices. Inevitably, someone will step forward to call the shots, as someone has to keep the grain flowing. Guest: Dr Rhiannon Evans (Senior Lecturer, Mediterranean Studies, La Trobe University).
With the passing of Marcus Aurelius, his son Commodus is made emperor. The 19 year old youth had been raised knowing the empire would be his to rule, and he spent it doing what he pleased. The next twelve years under the reign of Commodus would be bloody and chaotic, and many historians believe it to mark the beginning of the end of the Roman empire. Guest: Dr Rhiannon Evans (Senior Lecturer, Mediterranean Studies, La Trobe University).
Marcus Aurelius faced many threats to Rome during his time as Emperor and spent more time at war than he did at peace. Unlike most Emperors, succession was never an issue, as he had a legitimate son, Commodus, ready to take his place. Guest: Dr Rhiannon Evans (Senior Lecturer, Mediterranean Studies, La Trobe University).
"For it is on behalf of the State that I continue to toil and to undergo dangers and that I have spent so much time here outside of Italy, though already an old man and weak, unable to take either food without pain or sleep without anxiety." - Dio 72:24 An ageing Marcus Aurelius continues to toil and undergo dangers – be they warring tribes to the north, the insurrection of Avidius Cassius, an alleged betrayal by his beloved wife, or the disappointing prospects of his son and heir. Guest: Dr Rhiannon Evans (Senior Lecturer, Mediterranean Studies, La Trobe University).
The Meditations of Marcus Aurelius are the private musings of a stoic philosopher, primarily written while he was on campaign during the Marcomannic Wars. While they lack extensive details, they give a rare insight into the mind of an Emperor, and the popularity of the text has shaped our modern understanding of the thoughtful Emperor. Guest: Dr Sonya Wurster (Honorary Fellow in the School of Historical and Philosophical Studies, University of Melbourne).
With the Parthians once again defeated and the Antonine plague sweeping through the empire, Marcus Aurelius must defend Rome from yet another opportunistic enemy – the tribes to the north, or as Rome called them, the barbarians. The northern borders were under threat from a rough coalition chiefly lead by the Marcomanni, and Marcus heads out to take control of the Roman forces himself. It is a conflict that will dominate his time for the rest of his life. Guest: Dr Rhiannon Evans (Senior Lecturer, Mediterranean Studies, La Trobe University).
As the Parthian War comes to end the troops are dispersed throughout the corners of the Empire, and with them goes the Antonine plague. The effects of the plague will be felt for decades to come, and we know much about it through the extensive writings of the physician Galen. Guest: Dr Leanne McNamara (Classics, La Trobe University).
The reign of Marcus Aurelius and Lucius Verus quickly erupts into war, a state which will continue for the rest of their lives. The first threat the empire encounters comes from the east, where the long-time enemy of the Romans, the Parthians, make their move. Guest: Dr Rhiannon Evans (Senior Lecturer, Mediterranean Studies, La Trobe University).