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.
Septimius Severus is fresh from a victory at the Parthian front lines, and the senate and the Roman people waste little time in throwing him a triumph and erecting a triumphal arch. Completed in 202CE, it sits at the edge of the forum, and is one of only a few examples of triumphal arches left in Rome. Guest: Dr Caillan Davenport (Roman History, Macquarie University).
Septimius Severus is now ruler or Rome without opposition, had been all things, and all was of little value. He is now distracted with the care, not of acquiring, but of preserving an empire. Guest: Dr Caillan Davenport (Roman History, Macquarie University).
Septimius Severus is proclaimed the new Emperor of Rome, but doesn’t have time to rest on his laurels. With rivals to the east and west, not to mention the problematic Parthians, he has an empire to consolidate. Guest: Dr Caillan Davenport (Roman History, Macquarie University).
The Roman Empire shudders in the wake of Commodus’ death, which if you recall, was a matter of months but a whole two emperors ago. Striding into Rome at the head of an army is Septimius Severus, ready to set the right path and found a new, powerful dynasty. Year of the five emperors, take three. Guest: Dr Caillan Davenport (Roman History, Macquarie University).
Enraged at the lack of a decent bonus, the Praetorian Guard cut down the newly installed Emperor Pertinax and resolve to sell the throne to the highest bidder. Stepping forward with a sufficient bank balance is Didius Julianus, a man with a proven track record in both the military and the senate. What could go wrong? Year of the five emperors, take two. Guest: Dr Caillan Davenport (Roman History, Macquarie University).
Many saw Pertinax as a safe pair of hands to hold the empire - an old general and close advisor of Antoninus Pius, he represented a regime change from the days of lavish excess of Commodus. But was it too much too soon? Well they don't call 193CE the year of the five emperors for nothing. Guest: Dr Caillan Davenport (Roman History, Macquarie University).
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).