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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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Tony Diaz

Tony Diaz

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Like many others, I came to The History of Byzantium having just sailed through the entirety of Mike Duncan's riveting The History of Rome podcast. On the heels of Mike's description of the Rome's collapse in the West, I found myself hungry for the next chapter. What about the Greek-speaking half of the empire that survived for another 1,000 years, almost to the Renaissance? I have long felt like this is one of those gaping holes in Western history as it is customarily taught: a huge chapter of European history that we for some reason ignore.

Well, Robin Pierson has never disappointed as a successor to Mike Duncan. In his hands, Eastern Roman imperial history has unfolded with real fluency. After briefly reviewing how the late Roman Empire's power and wealth shifted toward the Greek-speaking east and toward Christianity under Constantine, Robin dove in to the bitter controversies and mysteries of Byzantine politics after the West fell. Since then, Robin has told a consistently engaging tale, balancing palace and church intrigue, military strategy, and broad social commentary.

Throughout, Robin always points up controversial issues and the difficulties of understanding ancient texts and archaeological questions. The website provides plenty of maps, illustrations, and a rich bibliography for further reading. I especially appreciate his inclusion of guest subject matter experts in the podcast, drawing listeners into controversies over (for example) the origins of Islam. I eagerly anticipate every broadcast. Always fascinating.
Simon Wheeler

Simon Wheeler

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I've listened to most history podcasts out there and lots of paid-for audiobooks too. HoB podcast is up there with the very best of the lot.

- Content is fascinating and very much outside the well-trodden range of historical topics
- Well-researched and thoughtfully structured
- Beautifully narrated, good pace and clear
- Always careful to present as well-rounded a view as possible

If you love learning about history, then this is definitely one to put to the top of your list.
The Wheelman

The Wheelman

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Simply a great podcast. It's great that someone has taken on themselves to continue the great work begun by Mike Duncan in "The History of Rome", and so far it's been an worthy continuation.

My particular favorite parts so far are a ~45 minute episode on the self-identification of people in the so-called "Byzantine Empire" (hint: they never called themselves that), and an epic 2-hour episode on the last war between the Romans and the Persians in the 6th century, in which Heraclius takes the last army in the Empire to an almost impossible victory.

In short, whether or not you've listened to "The History of Rome", this is a podcast I would recommend to anyone with any interest in history, particularly Roman/ancient history.
Terry Young

Terry Young

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Mike Duncan's magnum opus "The History of Rome" (THoR) was a landmark in history podcasting, indeed, podcasting in general. It's what inspired me to start my own detailed narrative podcast "The History of the Early Church." When I finished the last episode of THoR I found myself wanting more even after nearly 200 episodes! But thank God we have Robin Pearson to continue the story of Romania. "The History of Byzantium" (HoTB) is a welcome continuation of Mike's work, both faithful to the style of its predecessor, but also its own standalone podcast. Robin's diction is clear and fluid, and his accent makes for soothing audio. Robin's fearlessness is also to be commended. He plans to take the narrative of the Roman Empire from the mid-fifth century to the fall of Constantinople in 1453. In many ways this narrative task is even more ambitious than THoR given that in Mike's podcast, while covering slightly more time than Robin's will, the early centuries of Roman history until Julius Caesar, and especially before the Punic wars, were covered in about 40 to 50 episodes given the lack of detailed contemporary source material. Robin will have a greater challenge in that every century of Byzantine history has, more or less, detailed primary sources. Where as Mike Duncan could cover the entire 250 years of the Roman kingdom in just a few episodes, Byzantine history affords Pearson no such thing. Byzantine history also spans across many historical periods (ie. Late Antiquity, Early, High, & Late Medieval). This means an ever changing geological cast of people's and nations around the Roman Empire, a lot of to cover! Thus, Robin is to be commended for his fearless ambition and he has thus far succeeded in spades. The two hour episode on Heraclius' victorious campaign against Persia was masterful and is perhaps the best example of Robin being able and willing to set himself to the historical task at hand.
Since this is a history of the Byzantine Empire, the subject of religion plays a key role in a way that it did not in THoR. Robin's coverage of Byzantine Orthodox Christianity is done with accuracy and maturity. While some may think his coverage is a bit thin on the details with subjects like say Monophysitism, this would be to misunderstand his purpose. His podcast is about the Roman state, with the Christian Church playing a secondary role in his narrative. It is the intricacies of the imperial court, not the councils and schism of clerics, that he aims to cover. The subject of Islam also now plays a major role, though I felt Robin was a bit over cautious here, as though he felt he was stepping on eggshells with every sentence.
One of the novel additions Robin has brought to the story of the Roman Empire are his end of the century review episodes. While Mike took a break from the narrative in the reign of Antoninus Pius, Robin takes these breaks every 100 years, surveying not only the Empire but the world around it. This is, I think, an improvement of the THoB over its predecessor. Robin really makes you feel like you are in the world of Late Antiquity.
"The History of Byzantium" is one of the best history podcasts on iTunes. No podcast and/or history lover can afford to not listen to it!
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.
Alexander Winn

Alexander Winn

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This is a really great podcast! The site is a little sparse, but that's ok: we're really just in it for the info. The narrative is clear and interesting, and the content is fascinating. Highly recommended!
Richard Booth

Richard Booth

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This is the podcast that I really look forward to more than any other. The information given is fascinating, and the production is second to none.

It is a continuation of The History of Rome by Mike Duncan but I believe it has surpassed that as great as it was.

Well worth a listen. You won't be disappointed.
kendrick

kendrick

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I have just finished to the back issues of the podcast and really look forward to further programmes. It gives a detailed yet understandable history of the Byzantium state which as the modern use of the word "Byzantium" is often complex but the podcast does well to explain what has occurred.
Stephen C.

Stephen C.

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One of the best history podcasts around at the moment.
Ostensibly a continuation of the epic History of Rome podcast by Mike Duncan the History of Byzantium is both its equal and a very worthy and distinctive podcast in its own right.
A period little known to many this is the very best introduction to the Roman East there is and long may it continue until the bitter end of that fascinating civilisation, that 1000 year old pearl balanced between east and west.
Unmissable.
tanberg

tanberg

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I love this podcast. The audio is great and the topic is something that isn't covered by much of western histories. The Robin presents everything Ina narrative style that makes me care about the people. If it wasn't for this podcast I wouldn't really even care about Rome. I cant recommend this enough.
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