Header_P

LINKS TO PREVIOUS EPISODES AND SERIES

Saturday, December 27, 2014

Queens of the East

or "Hey Scott, what is this new series all about , anyway?"

As historian Warwick Ball put it, “History can never resist a warrior queen” – and, well, neither can I.  Of course, since most ancient societies were patriarchal, the most common way for women to exercise political power was through their children or husbands.  When first listening to Mike Duncan’s “The History of Rome” (THoR) podcast series, I remember being intrigued by the characters of Julia Domna and Julia Maesa.  For years, I’ve been playing with the idea of writing a book on that family, who had so much influence on Roman affairs during the Severan Dynasty.  A few months ago, when this thought had bubbled up again, it was countered, for the first time, by another thought – “I don’t write books, I do podcasts.”  Which was actually a fruitful admission, since it got me thinking about the subject in new ways.

But, of course, Mike had already covered the Emesa clan both so well in THoR that there was no point in revisiting the topic unless I thought I had something new and interesting to contribute.  During my initial research, my memory was jogged by a few offhand remarks connecting the Emesa clan with both Queen Zenobia of Palmyra and Queen Cleopatra of Egypt.  Didn’t Zenobia claim to be descended from Cleopatra, and wasn’t Emesa supposed to provide some of the “connective tissue” between these two legendary Queens of the East?
This was the moment of “inspiration” (typically defined as “the split-second between having a great idea and realizing there is no way it will work”).  When I started to “connect the dots” I expected to find enormous, unbridgeable gaps that would make any connection between Cleopatra and Zenobia implausible at best.  But, much to my surprise and growing excitement, I found more (and more solid) connections that I’d expected, and the thought began to cross my mind that I just might be on to something.
The centerpiece of the series was, and is, Emesa – modern Homs in Syria.  During most of Roman history, Syria always seemed to exist on the periphery – an alien land from which victorious Roman generals (like Vespasian) or horrible Roman Emperors (yes, I’m looking at you Elagabalis) emerged, to take their central place in the story of Rome.  But the history of the whole Syrian region, from the Assyrians, to the Chaldeans, to the Persians, to the Macedonians, to the Arabs and Romans, always seemed interesting enough to me to warrant its own podcast series. 
One of my earlier ideas for a follow-on series to The Ancient World was to cover the history of the ancient Near East between 500 BC and the Muslim conquest - but that always seemed too complex and daunting a project.  Months ago, I started thinking of the possibility of covering the same time-period through the lens of a particular city – say Babylon, Antioch, or Aleppo – as waves of conquerors and immigrants washed back and forth across the region.  But now suddenly, I thought there might be an even better lens – why not tell the history of the ancient Near East from the perspective of a particular family?  And what if that family also happened to be the same bloodline that connected Cleopatra to Zenobia?
A single series that could combine my love of the Near East, my desire to cover a different historical period, and my interest in the Emesa clan?  And one that could leverage the history already covered in my earlier podcast, as well as in THoR, to build on?  Well, ideas that bring that many mental threads together don’t come along every day, so I obviously dove in with a vengeance.  Even off the bat, the story of Cleopatra’s daughter Selene seemed insanely compelling.  In 4 years, she went from future Queen of Crete and Cyrenaica to Roman prisoner, then bounced back to run a major North African kingdom.  I mean…what??  All of this really happened??  Does nobody know about this??   Because this is a story that deserves to be out there, or at least better known.  As a bonus, it also meant that I got to research and write about Roman North Africa, about which I knew next to nothing.
Other descendants have their own interesting stories to tell, all of which will be revealed in time.  The beginning of the series has been fairly Rome-heavy, mainly due to Selene’s adoption into Octavia’s family, and the fact that both she and Juba were raised alongside so many famous figures.  In the next generation, Ptolemy of Mauretania is a direct blood-cousin of Germanicus (for instance), which also keeps the Rome connection fairly strong.  But as both physical distance, and the distance of generations, increases, my plan is to give Rome comparable treatment to Parthia and other Eastern kingdoms.  In the meantime, I’m attempting to provide enough general Roman history for any listeners who may not have heard THoR without belaboring a subject that Mike Duncan has already covered so well.
One of the original ideas I toyed with for the series name was “Queens of the East.”  The reasons I decided against it were, first, there were a lot of connecting generations where the heir in question was male and, second, I didn’t want to give away the game too quick.  But now that all stands revealed, I’m proud to announce the unofficial tag-line for the series: “Cleopatra to Zenobia or Bust!”
Thanks for listening, and hope you enjoy the trip!
Scott C.

Friday, December 19, 2014

Episode B5 - Eclipsis

Synopsis: The birth of Juba and Selene's children, Ptolemy and Drusilla, and the death of Cleopatra Selene.

“The moon herself grew dark, rising at sunset,
Covering her suffering in the night,
Because she saw her beautiful namesake, Selene,
Breathless, descending to Hades,
With her she’d had the beauty of her light in common,
And mingled her own darkness with her death.” – Crinagoras of Myteline, Epigram for Cleopatra Selene 


Updated Octavian Family Tree:
 
http://s407341505.onlinehome.us/2_Octavian_Clan_1BC.pdf

Friday, December 5, 2014

Episode B4 - Limitem Mundi

Synopsis: Juba and Selene begin their rule of Mauretania.

“Cato said…they must make no prayer for him; prayer belonged to the conquered, and the craving of grace to those who had done wrong; but for his part he had not only been unvanquished all his life, but was actually a victor now as far as he chose to be, and a conqueror of Caesar in all that was honorable and just.” – Plutarch, The Life of Cato the Younger

“My husband has died and I have no son.  They say about you that you have many sons.  You might give me one of your sons to become my husband.  I would not wish to take one of my subjects as a husband... I am afraid.” – Queen Ankhesenamun of Egypt, Letter to King Suppiluliuma I of Hatti

Map of Mauretania:
 
http://s407341505.onlinehome.us\Mauretania.jpg

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Episode B3 - Ephebus

Synopsis: Juba accompanies Octavian during the conquest of Egypt.

“Thus was Egypt enslaved.” – Cassius Dio, Rome, Book LI

http://s407341505.onlinehome.us/Episode_B3_Ephebus.mp3

Octavian Family Tree:

http://s407341505.onlinehome.us/Octavian_Clan.pdf

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Over One Million Served!

Last week TAW hit its latest major milestone - the million download mark!  And I wanted to take a moment to thank all of you dedicated listeners for making it happen.  This podcast has obviously gone on much longer, and reached a much wider audience, than I ever envisioned, and I really appreciate all the support and encouragement you’ve given me along the way. 

Also, just so you know, I am completely obsessed with “Bloodline,” so you can count on plenty more episodes coming your way over the weeks and months to come. 

Take care, and thanks again!
Scott C.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Episode B2 - Rex Socius Amicusque

Synopsis: The early years of Juba II, fostered in the family of Octavian and Octavia.

“(Scipio) increased the honor by observing, that among the Romans there was nothing more magnificent than a Triumph; and that those who triumphed were not arrayed with more splendid ornaments than those with which the Roman people considered Massinissa alone, of all foreigners, worthy.” – Livy, The History of Rome, Book XXX

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

In Case You're Wondering

Hope everyone enjoyed the first episode!  By the way, in case you’re wondering, here’s a couple things the new series is NOT:

· It’s not “The History of Rome” – that’s already been done quite well, thank you

· It’s not “The Young Cleopatra Selene Chronicles” (unless the networks greenlight my spec script, then all bets are off!) 
It’s instead…something different.  Many of you may already suspect where the series is going based on the title and the first episode (and you’re welcome to post your guesses).  But like I mentioned earlier, things will really start crystallizing around a half-dozen episodes in, but which time it should be fairly obvious.  Still, I hope the current “groundwork-laying” phase is as fun for you as it is for me.
And now it’s time for a very special “Thank You!” to longtime listener, and talented composer, Morten.  I was still deep in the original series when Morten first approached me with his offer to score the series.  And while I passed for “Rediscovery” (which I felt was basically a continuation of the original series), I eagerly accepted his offer for “Bloodline.”  I basically gave him a thumbnail sketch of the era and setting, and he generated a variety of wonderful musical clips, out of which emerged the current title track.  I love it, and I think it fits the new series wonderfully.  He’s even been gracious enough to title the piece “Bloodline” – how cool is that!  If you want to check out more of Morten’s great compositions, please go to morlam.dk

Thanks again for listening!
Scott C.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Episode B1 - Triumph

Synopsis: The early years of Cleopatra Selene, daughter of Cleopatra and Mark Antony.

“And herein particularly did he give offense to the Romans, since he bestowed the honorable and solemn rites of his native country upon the Egyptians for Cleopatra’s sake.” – Plutarch, The Life of Marcus Antonius

“Pity fixed the eyes of the Romans upon the infants; and many of them could not forbear tears, and all beheld the sight with a mixture of sorrow and pleasure, until the children were passed.” – Plutarch, The Life of Lucius Aemilius Paulus
http://s407341505.onlinehome.us/Episode_B1_Triumph.mp3

Thursday, September 25, 2014

The Ancient World - Bloodline

Let the cryptic teasers begin!  First off, the new series will be called “The Ancient World – Bloodline.”  I recently finished drafting the first episode.  It’s one of the toughest I’ve ever written, since it covers major world events from the perspective of an adolescent girl.  Having never been an adolescent girl, the challenges are fairly obvious, but I think the text is getting close to where I want it to be.  I also started drafting the second episode, which is a much more straightforward affair.  I want to get around three or so episodes drafted before I start thinking about production, but (fingers crossed!) I should be in good shape to start posting sometime next month. 

For those who like change, the new series will have new subject matter, a new website design, new music, and a more “streamlined” approach.  For those who like consistency, it will have the same website, same social media sites, same podcast feed and, well, same podcaster. 

I’m still playing the subject matter pretty close to the vest.  You’ll get the general idea in the first episode, but it really won’t be until a half-dozen or so in before the overall journey will take shape.  Hopefully it’ll be one you’ll enjoy.  Thanks for listening! – Scott C.

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Calling all interaction designers

Is anyone out there an expert in interaction design?  If so, I need some help putting together a few files (map transitions, interactive family trees, etc.) for the upcoming series.  If you have the time and interest to take on a small project to support the podcast, please leave a message below (or on the Facebook page) with your contact information and I’ll pass you more details. 

Thanks in advance! – Scott C.

Friday, September 5, 2014

Episode R10 - The Bull and the Aten

“I am a faithful servant of the king, and I have not rebelled and I have not sinned, and I do not withhold my tribute, and I do not refuse the requests of my commissioner.  Now they wickedly slander me, but let the king, my lord, not impute rebellion to me!...If the king should write to me, ‘Plunge a bronze dagger into thy heart and die!,’ how could I refuse to carry out the command of the king?”  - Labayu (Caananite warlord) writing to Amenhotep III 

Discoveries at Tell El Amarna and the Valley of the Kings showed the wealth and influence of the Egyptian New Kingdom, while archives uncovered in central Anatolia shed light on Hittite civilization.  Excavations and Knossos confirmed Mycenaean Greek dominance and revealed the majesty of Minoan Crete.
 
http://s407341505.onlinehome.us/Episode_R10_The_Bull_and_the_Aten.mp3

Sunday, August 10, 2014

The Making Of

Listener Alexander asked for some feedback for his upcoming Persian history podcast.  I thought TAW listeners might be interested in the information as well:

How long did it take you to write the first episode/ how long does it take you to write a typical episode now that you're in full swing?

It’s hard to recall the timing on Episode 1, but I can certainly tell you how long it takes nowadays. The first step is finding a few good reference books (or other materials) and perusing them.  The time needed for that can vary pretty widely.  After I’ve reviewed the materials, the next (and main) step involves around 8 – 12 hours of solid writing.  Then I usually let the draft episode “sit” for a few days, then come back to it once or twice more to fine-tune things a bit.  When you add in researching pronunciations, etc., I’d say 12 – 16 hours of work per episode is pretty ballpark, and 20 isn’t unusual.  Which is why I decided to go with a 2-week schedule.  Since I have a “regular job,” this is all evenings and weekends for me.

How do you sort out contradictory accounts? I want to get my facts straight, but I'm beginning to realize there are always going to be 10 people with 11 different versions of the story.

Even using primary sources, this can be a tough one.  I do my best to cross-check important (or dubious!) facts across multiple accounts; then you can have some reassurance you’re relating the most solid version of the story.  Where differing accounts can’t be reconciled, I try to relate what’s considered the most plausible, well-documented and/or commonly accepted version, but also mention that there are other possible versions.  I recall doing this with, for example, both the death of Croesus and with Cyrus’ capture of Babylon. 

How forgiving, on a scale from 1 to Assyrian (1 being very forgiving and Assyrian being "display my skin at a dinner party") are the listeners about mistakes?

Since I’ve rarely been called out on any mistakes, and I’m pretty sure I must’ve made a few along the way, I can only assume TAW listeners are VERY forgiving!  Oh, except they do get annoyed when you don’t pronounce the K in “Knossos.”

What did your outlines/drafts look like for each episode? Was there a general formula?

In my experience, six single-spaced pages comes out to around 30 minutes of podcast, which is typically around the length I’m shooting for.  My usual approach is to intentionally over-write a bit, then come back and edit out the less important chunks (“trim the fat”) and still end up at around 30 minutes.  Other than that, the only “formula” I had for the original series was trying to discuss around three different civilizations per episode.  But formulas can also be a double-edged sword.  I’d mainly concentrate on finding your own voice, and letting your genuine passion for the material shine through.

Is there anything technical that you didn't know going in that would be useful for me?

I try to keep my logistics as simple as possible since, although I AM and engineer, I am NOT a technophile.  I use Audacity to record my audio files (using a Yeti Blue USB microphone) and convert them to MP3’s, then use FileZilla to transfer them to my file hosting website.  I’ve only had one major technical issue I can think of (knock on wood!): If you use Google Feedburner to burn your podcast feeds, by default it only keeps the most recent 25 posts active.  That means, for example, that when I posted my 26th blog post, Episode 1 was no longer appearing in iTunes (my 27th post knocked out Episode 2, etc.).  Luckily, a listener told me how to change the number of active posts in Feedburner from the default 25 to any number (mine’s currently set for 99), which fixed the problem.  Oh, and in an unrelated (but still technical) vein, investing some time in learning how to edit your audio files will reduce your stress when you keep “blowing that one line” in your podcast script.  Take it from me - good editing can cover a multitude of sins.

Hope this information is useful.  Now go make history!
Scott C.

Friday, August 8, 2014

Episode R9 - The Flood

“Surpassing all kings, powerful and tall
beyond all others, violent, splendid,
a wild bull of a man, unvanquished leader,
hero in the front lines, beloved of his soldiers –
fortress they called him, protector of the people,
raging flood that destroys all defenses…” – the Epic of Gilgamesh 

George Smith’s 1872 discovery of the Mesopotamian Flood tablet won him widespread acclaim.  Four years later, his ill-timed expedition to Nineveh would end in tragedy.
 
http://s407341505.onlinehome.us/Episode_R9_The_Flood.mp3

Friday, July 25, 2014

Episode R8 - The Thousand Year Gap

“Whilst fully recognizing his enterprise, devotion, and energy in carrying out these excavations, I cannot but express the regret that Dr. Schliemann should have allowed the ‘enthusiasm,’ which, as he himself admits, ‘borders on fanaticism,’ to make it so paramount an object with him to discover the Troy described by Homer, as to induce him either to suppress or to pervert every fact brought to light that could not be reconciled with the Iliad.” – Frank Calvert, 1875

Despite numerous returns to Hisarlik, Heinrich Schliemann was unable to establish the layer holding Homer’s Troy.  It was only near the end of his life, with the aid of Wilhelm Dorpfeld, that his quest was finally rewarded.  In the meantime, Schliemann’s excavations at Mycenae and Tiryns had shed new light on the wealth and power of Late Bronze Age Greece.
http://s407341505.onlinehome.us/Episode_R8_The_Thousand_Year_Gap.mp3

Friday, July 11, 2014

Episode R7 - The Man Who Sold Troy

“Who will persuade me, when I reclined upon a mighty tomb, that it did not contain a hero? – its very magnitude proved this.  Men do not labour over the ignoble and petty dead – and why should not the dead be Homer’s dead?”  - George Gordon, Lord Byron, 1810

Three millennia after its fall, British archaeologist Frank Calvert used clues from Homer, and his own deep knowledge of the region, to establish the most likely site of ancient Troy.  Unable to finance the excavation, he was compelled to partner with wealthy enthusiast Heinrich Schliemann.
http://s407341505.onlinehome.us/Episode_R7_The_Man_Who_Sold_Troy.mp3

Friday, June 27, 2014

Episode R6 - The Heroic Age

“I should weary the reader, were I to describe, step by step, the progress of the work, and the discoveries gradually made in various part of the great mound.  The labours of one day resembled those of the preceding; but it would be difficult to convey to others an idea of the excitement which was produced by the constant discovery of objects of the highest interest.”  - Austen Henry Layard, Nineveh and Its Remains

While Layard resumed his Assyrian excavations, and Rawlinson continued to decipher Akkadian, both efforts began to shed light on the even older civilization of ancient Sumer.

Friday, May 23, 2014

Episode R5 - Behistun Hat-Trick

“The Major constantly and indefatigably employed himself, from daylight to dark, revising, restoring and adding to his former materials.  This was a work of great irksomeness and labour in the confined space he was compelled to stand in, with his body in close proximity to the heated rock and under a broiling September sun.” – Felix Jones, 1844

After the debacle of the First Anglo-Afghan War, Henry Creswicke Rawlinson made two more excursions to Behistun.  His attempts to copy the remaining inscriptions nearly cost him his life.
http://s407341505.onlinehome.us/Episode_R5_Behistun_Hat-Trick.mp3

Friday, May 16, 2014

Episode R4 - Dwelling of the Lions

“What can all this mean?  Who built this structure?  In what century did he live?  To what nation did he belong?  Are these walls telling me their tales of joy and woe?  Is this beautiful cuneiformed character a language?  I know not.  I can read their glory and their victories in their figures, but their story, their age, their blood, is to me a mystery.  Their remains mark the fall of a glorious and a brilliant past, but of a past known not to a living man." – Paul-Emile Botta

The excavations of Botta and Layard brought the majesty of ancient Assyria into the modern world.

Friday, May 2, 2014

Episode R3 - The Place of God

“My antiquarian studies go on quietly and smoothly, and despite the taunt which you may remember once expressing, of the presumption of an ignoramus like myself attempting to decipher inscriptions which had baffled for centuries the most learned men in Europe, I have made very considerable progress...I aspire to do for the cuneiform alphabet what Champollion has done for the hieroglyphics.”  - Henry Creswicke Rawlinson, July 1836 (writing to his sister Maria)

In 1836, Henry Creswicke Rawlinson - British soldier, adventurer and Orientalist – first encountered the Behistun Inscription.  He would devote the next few decades to deciphering its three cuneiform scripts.
http://s407341505.onlinehome.us/Episode_R3_The_Place_of_God.mp3

Friday, April 18, 2014

Episode R2 - Arabia Felix

“His Majesty…has dispatched a few days ago by the vessel Greenland a group of scholars, who will travel by way of the Mediterranean to Constantinople, and thence through Egypt to Arabia Felix, and subsequently return by way of Syria to Europe; they will on all occasions seek to make new discoveries and observations for the benefit of scholarship…” – Copenhagen Post, 12th January, 1761

Carsten Niebuhr survived malaria, earthquakes, civil wars, bandits, plagues and the deaths of all his colleagues to successfully complete the first modern scientific expedition to the Near East.

Friday, April 4, 2014

Episode R1 - The Broken Stone

“To speak the name of the dead is to make them live again.” – Ancient Egyptian saying

Rediscovered two millennia after its creation, the Rosetta Stone provided two brilliant scholars with the key to unlocking the history of ancient Egypt.
http://s407341505.onlinehome.us/Episode_R1_The_Broken_Stone.mp3

Saturday, March 15, 2014

The Ancient World - Rediscovery

Anniversaries can be fun!  Unless you’ve forgotten to buy a gift, and your wife has gotten you something really great - that can be problematic.  But I’m here to talk about the fun kind.  This April 4 will be the second anniversary of my posting Episode 1 of “The Ancient World.”  So I thought it would be a nice, resonant date for launching my new podcast (mini-)series, “The Ancient World – Rediscovery.”  I say (mini-)series since it’s both my intention and expectation that the new series will run a dozen or fewer episodes.  (Mini-) is in parentheses since, well, “The Ancient World” was also originally supposed to only run for a dozen episodes, so that shows you how well I can plan sometimes. 

What will the series be about?  This is one book you CAN judge by its cover.  Awhile back, I started thinking that it might be fun to trace the rediscovery of some of these ancient civilizations in the modern era.  Not only would give the original series a nice sense of symmetry, and let me explore some other historical periods, but I was also pretty sure there’d be some interesting stories to tell along the way.  So I picked a number of re-discoveries that I think tie in well with the original series, started researching and writing about them, and – like I said – intend to post the first episode this April 4. 

Technically-speaking, I’m doing my best to keep the process seamless for you, the TAW listener:  same website, same iTunes subscription, same social media links, etc.  If you’re already subscribed (and thanks for staying subscribed!) the first episode should pop right up and you’ll be off and running.  Thanks again for listening, and I hope you enjoy the new series!  - Scott C.