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The History of Byzantium

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http://thehistoryofbyzantium.com

Podcasts , History

The History of Byzantium is a podcast dedicated to the story of the Roman Empire from the fall of the West in 476 to the fall of Constantinople in 1453.

Robin Pierson is from London in the UK. He writes about American TV shows at thetvcritic.org and works for his father (an actor).

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handson

handson

11

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At the beginning, Robin wanted to keep Mike Duncan's "rough structure and neutral tone", and admired Mike's simplification of the history for our benefit. Robin has succeeded on the first part, but not the second part. But guess what? For our 20th and 21st Century minds, that's impossible! I'm glad Robin didn't get too simple.

The history of the Roman Empire is so well known and infused in our Western culture, that its ideas and organization are still within our own languages and cultures that many feel, perhaps rightly so, that we are continuing their civilization.

The Byzantine, on the other hand, was utterly lost in comparison, so the Western tradition and its prejudices obliterated the "decadent" Eastern ways as much as it could. This I know now thanks to people like Robin Pierson and his Byzantium podcast. Thank you, thank you, thank you!

All the extra survey episodes about the various territories, organization, religion and politics are welcome and edifying, as it is water to the drought of knowledge we have about those times. It's so unknown and foreign to us modern Westerners that it's almost like a fantasy novel story. Now I can actually see where some fantasy novelists, like L.E. Modesitt and his "Recluce" series got some of his ancient but failing empire inspiration. Epic.

So thank you again for taking what must be a very complex era and taking the time to give us the details we need to understand the reasons people then did what they did, the limitations the empire was under, and how heroic their efforts were. I feel that my education in this life (age 50 now) is only now becoming more complete!
Tjørhom

Tjørhom

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The website has a layout and style familiar from other blogs. Each entry links to an episode of the podcast, and the sidebar has all the standard content such as links to other blogs, podcasts, the website's sponsor etc. The blog entries could perhaps be enhanced with various tags to make it easier to find similar entries, but all in all the functionality is more than satisfactory.

The aesthetics of the site are nice enough, and go along well with the theme of the podcast without entering into the realm of caricature. The blog entries enhance the podcast episodes in meaningful ways with interesting photographs and maps. Both of which tend to be well chosen and easy to understand, and the latter is also true for the website in general.

The podcast itself is easy to recommend; Mr. Pierson presents an interesting, well told and suitably multi-faceted narrative of the Eastern Roman Empire. He avoids falling into the 'politics only' trap and keeps his listeners informed about the world outside the palace walls; from matters of religion, every day life, the ideas and views of the time, to the international context. Perhaps the only thing missing from this broad view is a closer look at the world of trade and economic activity in general.
rudy924

rudy924

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I came to The History of Byzantium not only directly from Mike Duncan's The History of Rome (which I had just completed) but I was also already familiar with Robin from having listened to some of his thetvcritic.org podcasts as well as his A Pod of Casts (Game of Thrones Podcast) show with Roberto Suarez.

Robin covers the historical topics found in HoB with the same level of insight and professionalism that he brings to his TV discussions (whether on Buffy of Walking dead or even Spartacus). He not only does an excellent job at carrying the story of the Romans forward from where Mike Duncan leaves off, and providing much needed illumination and understanding to what is (for me) a much murkier period of history. I know much about the Roman Empire until 476, much less about it from 500-1453. Robin is ably filling those gaps for me.

Some of my favorite episodes so far have dealt with his coverage of the plague that struck during Justinian's time (mid 6th century), the devastation it wrought and the lasting effects it had on the Empire. Of course this plague (carried by the Y Pestis bacterium) was also linked to the Black Death that struck Europe later. Arguably it was more devastating in Justinian's time

Among other things, I look forward to his coverage of the Crusades and their effect on the Empire and the Byzantines in a few centuries.

Highly recommended!
Fromkiss Schmiddlap

Fromkiss Schmiddlap

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The first history podcast I listened to was Mike Duncan's "History of Rome". I picked up on some others but avoided the History of Byzantium because I thought it would be too specialized and obscure; after all, Byzantium was just the remnant of the old Roman Empire and it pretty much lost relevance until the Crusades, right?

Not even close. Understanding Byzantium is crucial to understanding the modern world. Robin Pierson is careful to offer a great quantity of detail along with how it all links up to the period and the region. Even though I had recently read a number of books on Islam, his discussion of Islam and its origins revealed insights that I had not come across before and that make the whole picture of that region much clearer.

And while presenting much information about politics, social structure, daily life, and the inner life of the Byzantines, he puts that all into the service of a narrative thread, i.e., it's a really good story. Aside from taking an upper level university course (or two) or plowing through a shelf of books, I don't see how else I could get access to this breadth and depth of information.

On top of that, I simply enjoy listening to the podcast. It might be just the history geek in me speaking, but if anyone is looking for thoughtful entertainment, I think this will be a treat.
JRidings

JRidings

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Great stuff. Love listening to it. I won't be to lengthy, because I'm at work and if I'm gonna piss my day away with non-work related stuff, I'd rather do it listening to The History of Byzantium than writing this review.

In any case, interesting. I never thought I'd find the conflicts within the Orthodox christian church to be as interesting as I now do.

Monophysitism stronk!
mpadraig

mpadraig

17

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I heard about Mike Duncan's History of Rome, but through my education I decided to skip his podcast and backtrack at a future date. The largest symptomatic issue describing my love of this podcast is that during my x3 2 hour commute to school I now drive to speed limit to elongate my time listening to this podcast. Very different than Dan Carlin's singular series, this is a very long series with bite sized episodes. HIGHLY RECCOMEND. We don't know enough about the Byzantium empire or any contemporary empire, generally. Give it a go. Robin is Fantastic.
mrose17

mrose17

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An amazing podcast: well-researched, informative, and well-paced. A "must" both for history fans and those wishing to understand the great civilizations of late antiquity.
Jamie S.

Jamie S.

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He has a really good voice for podcasts. It's fun to listen to, and you'll feel smarter after!
Gennaro C.

Gennaro C.

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What a great podcast! I can't wait for each new episode to be released!!!
Ray Colenutt

Ray Colenutt

64

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A brilliant follow up to The History of Rome - recommended
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