Showing posts from 2015


Episode B24, “The Yona Kings”, closes out the second story arc of “The Ancient World – Bloodline.”The first dozen episodes – which I guess you could call the “Mauretanian story arc” – covered the final years of Antony and Cleopatra, then discussed the lives of Cleopatra Selene, Juba and their son Ptolemy – all the way up through his murder by Caligula.The next dozen episodes – the “Judean story arc” – started with Ptolemy’s daughter Drusilla and her marriages to Marcus Antonius Felix and Gaius Julius Sohaemus.We then covered Drusilla’s short-lived son Gaius Julius Alexio, her grandson Silas, and began the story of Silas’ three sons: Longinus, Agrippa and Sohaemus.

So far it’s breaking down to around 3 generations, and around a dozen episodes, per story arc.Which I didn’t particularly plan for but will totally take - since round numbers are always nice.What that also means is that - based on my calculations - we’re around halfway done with the “Bloodline” series.Which sounds like a good…

Episode B24 - The Yona Kings

Synopsis:The Macedonian kingdoms of Central Asia endured for centuries before being absorbed into the Kushan Empire.Hadrian’s actions in Judea spark a third Jewish Revolt.

"Has it ever happened to you, O king, that rival kings rose up against you as enemies and opponents? -Yes, certainly. -Then you set to work, I suppose, to have moats dug, and ramparts thrown up, and watch towers erected, and strongholds built, and stores of food collected? -Not at all. All that had been prepared beforehand. -Or you had yourself trained in the management of war elephants, and in horsemanship, and in the use of the war chariot, and in archery and fencing? -Not at all. I had learnt all that before. -But why? -With the object of warding off future danger." – Milinda Panha (The Questions of King Menander), Book III, Chapter 7 Map of Central Asia:

Episode B23 - Parthicus

Synopsis:At the far point of his campaign, Trajan’s Eastern conquests begin to slip from his fingers.

“Thence he came to the (Persian Gulf) itself, and when he had learned its nature and seen a boat sailing to India, he said: ‘I should certainly have cross over to the Indi, if I were still young.’He gave much thought to the Indi, and was curious about their affairs.Alexander he counted a happy man and at the same time declared that he himself had advanced farther.This was the tenor of the dispatch that he forwarded to the Senate, although he was unable to preserve even what territory had been subdued.” – Cassius Dio, Rome, Book 68 The Near East c. 116AD - Provinces and Kingdoms
The Near East c. 116AD - Major Cities

Episode B22 - Optimus

Synopsis:Silas guides Emesa in its transition to a pilgrimage site. The death of King Tiridates I of Armenia brings Rome and Parthia into conflict.

“(Parthomasiris) greeted him, took off his diadem from his head, and laid it at (Trajan’s) feet.Then he stood there in silence, expecting to receive it back.At this the soldiers shouted aloud, and hailed Trajan imperator as if on account of some victory (they termed it an uncrowned, bloodless victory to see the king, a descendant of Arsaces, a son of Pacorus, and a nephew of Osroes, standing beside Trajan without a diadem, like a captive).The shout terrified the prince, who though that it heralded insult and destruction for him.” – Cassius Dio, Rome, Book 68

Episode B21 - Betrayal

Synopsis:Gaius Julius Sohaemus is compelled to help the Romans conquer Commagene.

“Petus…fell upon Commagene before Antiochus and his people had the least expectation of his coming.He had with him the tenth legion, and also some cohorts and troops of horsemen.These kings also came to his assistance: Aristibulus, king of the country called Chalcidene, and Sohaemus, who was called King of Emesa.Nor was there any opposition made to his forces when they entered the kingdom, for no one of that country would so much as lift up his hand against them.” – Josephus, The Jewish War, Book VII, Chapter 7

Episode B20 - The God of Dusk

Synopsis:The destruction of Jerusalem.

Shalim (semetic):Caananite god of dusk and the evening star, paired with Shahar, god of dawn and the morning star.Root of Hebrew shalom and Arabic salam (peace), associated with sunset and the completion of the workday.Related to the Caananite sun goddess Shapash, a possible manifestation of Shamash.An element in the names of King David’s sons Solomon and Absalom.Original guardian, patron and protective deity of Jerusalem.
“Before the fifteenth of July all Syria had sworn the same allegiance.Vespasian’s cause was now joined also by Sohaemus with his entire kingdom, whose strength was not to be despised, and by Antiochus who had enormous ancestral wealth, and was in fact the richest of the subject princes.Presently Agrippa, summoned from Rome by private messages from his friends, while Vitellius was still unaware of his action, quickly crossed the sea and joined the cause.” – Tacitus, The Histories, Book II…

Episode B19 - The Prefect

Synopsis:Tiberius Julius Alexander throws Egypt’s backing behind Vespasian’s bid for the throne.

“Accordingly, in order to overthrow John (of Gischala), they determined to admit Simon (bar Giora), and earnestly to desire the introduction of a second tyrant into the city…Accordingly he, in an arrogant manner, granted them his lordly protection, and came into the city, in order to deliver it from the zealots.The people also made joyful acclamations to him, as their savior and their preserver; but when he was come in, with his army, he took care to secure his own authority, and looked upon those that had invited him in to be no less his enemies than those against whom the invitation was intended.And thus did Simon get possession of Jerusalem.” – Josephus, The Jewish War, Book IV, Chapter 9

Episode B18 - The Josephus Problem

Synopsis:Joseph ben Matityahu fought the Romans as a Jewish General before becoming a trusted advisor to the Flavians.

The Josephus Problem (mathematics):Given a group of n men arranged in a circle under the edict that every mth man will be executed going around the circle until only one remains, find the position L (n, m) in which you should stand in order to be the last survivor. Problem.mp3


I wanted to take this opportunity to thank everyone who donated to the TAW Syria Fund Drive.In the end, we raised over $5,000 to help preserve Syrian heritage sites and support Syrian refugees.You guys definitely came through, and I really appreciate it.Big TAW thanks go out to all the following donors (in no particular order):

Patricia Matson (in Memory of Lloyd and Tina Elkins) Parker Newcomb Kevin McFaddenAimee Popp Terry DillonRichie Walker Antti RasinenGeorgi Petrov Gnanadeep KolliparaJohan Torne Rita MathisJulie Jones Travis AndersonMatthew Smith Joseph CiglianoPaul and Meg Strong Michele DanaGary Jones Steven DiamondJulius (Jay) Bennett Brenda BuxtonColby Stearns Ned MastroBrent Mallinckrodt Matthew BrauerGreg Strasburg Ryan MurphyChristophe Mandy Benjamin AmyBriauna Dodson Mark SimmsRichard Burgess Jan Willem van DalenRadu-Iulian Costin Brian CollinsJulienne Tracy Darren HartJared Magee

Episode B17 - The Valley

Synopsis:Nero crowns Tiridates King of Armenia.A succession of brutal and corrupt procurators set Judea on the path to revolt.

“Go forth unto the valley of the son of Hinnom (Gehenna), which is by the entry of the east gate, and proclaim there the words that I shall tell thee… Because they have forsaken me, and have estranged this place, and have burned incense in it unto other gods, whom neither they nor their fathers have known, nor the kings of Judah, and have filled this place with the blood of innocents;
They have built also the high places of Baal, to burn their sons with fire for burnt offerings unto Baal, which I commanded not, nor spake it, neither came it into my mind.
Therefore, behold, the days come, saith the Lord, that this place shall no more be called Tophet, nor the valley of the son of Hinnom, but the valley of slaughter.” - Jeremiah 19:2-6

Episode B16 - Burn

Synopsis:The birth of Drusilla and Sohaemus’ son Gaius Julius Alexio.The Empire confronts the revolt of Boudica, renewed warfare in Armenia, and the Great Fire of Rome. “Rome shall perish – write that word In the blood that she has spilt; Perish, hopeless and abhorr’d, Deep in ruin as in guilt.” – William Cowper, Boadicea: An Ode Map of Near East c. 64AD:

Help Me Help Syria

Ever since I knew the series would be spending time in Syria, I wanted to find out something I could do to try to help the situation there.Basically I wanted to find a group working in the area that I could point listeners to.Of course the problems in Syria are massive and there are a lot of great organizations doing really amazing work.

Those of you on my Facebook page know I’ve been following the damage to ancient world heritage sites in Syria and Iraq – especially ones I feel particularly close to like Nineveh and Palmyra.I’ve done whole episodes on Nineveh and the current series, Bloodline, will end up in Palmyra.When I get there I’d be very, very happy if I could still talk about it as an actual place that people can go and see, rather than a place that used to exist.
After doing some research, I’ve found an organization that I think is a really good fit.It’s called the Syrian Heritage Initiative, or SHI, and it’s fully dedicated to documenting, protecting and preserving Syria’s cu…

Episode B15 - God of the Mountain

Synopsis:Drusilla marries the Emesene Priest-King Gaius Julius Sohaemus.Rome and Parthia go to war over Armenia.

“Our ancestors worshipped the Sun, and they were not that foolish.
It makes sense to revere the Sun and the stars, for we are their children.” – Carl Sagan Syria and adjacent regions: Emesene family tree:

Episode B14 - The Just

Synopsis: The divorce of Felix and Drusilla.  James and Paul struggle for the soul of early Christianity.

“And then it was that the sicarii, as they were called, who were robbers, grew numerous.They made use of small swords, not much different in length from the Persian acinacae, but somewhat crooked, and like the Roman sicae, as they were called; and from these weapons these robbers got their denomination; and with these weapons they slew a great many; for they mingled themselves among the multitude at their festivals, when they were come up in crowds from all parts to the city to worship God, as we said before, and easily slew those that they had a mind to slay.” – Josephus, Jewish Antiquities, Chapter 8

Episode B13 - Zealot

Synopsis: The early life of Drusilla of Mauretania, and her marriage to Marcus Antonius Felix, Roman Procurator of Judea

“This Judas, having gotten together a multitude of men of a profligate character about Sepphoris in Galilee, made an assault upon the palace there, and seized upon all the weapons that were laid up in it, and with them armed every one of those that were with him, and carried away what money was left there; and he became terrible to all men, by tearing and rending those that came near him.” – Josephus, Jewish Antiquities, Book XVII, Chapter 10 Nero Family Tree: Regions of Judea:

Select Cities of Judea:

A Brief Intermission

Episode B12 - Antonii

Synopsis: The death of Tiberius, elevation of Caligula, and final years of King Ptolemy I.

“Ptolemy, whom (Caligula) invited from his kingdom, and received with great honors, he suddenly put to death, for no other reason, but because he observed that upon entering the theatre, at a public exhibition, he attracted the eyes of all the spectators, by the splendor of his purple robe.” – Suetonius, The Twelve Caesars, XXXV
“Meanwhile Gaius sent for Ptolemy, the son of Juba, and on ascertaining that he was wealthy put him to death.” – Cassius Dio, Roman History, Book 59 Heirs of Mark Antony:

Episode B11 - Caedis

Synopsis: The end of Tacfarinas, and the bloody co-rule of Tiberius and Sejanus.

“Then, as the campaign had demonstrated Ptolemy’s good-will, an old-fashioned distinction was revived, and a member of the Senate was dispatched to present him with the traditional bounty of the Fathers, an ivory scepter with the embroidered robe, and to greet him by the style of king, ally and friend.” – Tacitus, The Annals, Book IV “There followed from now onward a sheer and grinding despotism: for, with Augusta still alive, there had remained a refuge; since deference to his mother was ingrained in Tiberius, nor did Sejanus venture to claim precedence over the authority of a parent.But now, as though freed from the curb, they broke out unrestrained.” – Tacitus, The Annals, Book V Updated Julio-Claudian Family Tree:

Episode B10 - Insurgo

Synopsis: The ongoing rebellion of Tacfarinas, and the death of Juba.

“For Tacfarinas, in spite of many repulses, having first recruited his forces in the heart of Africa, had reached such a pitch of insolence as to send an embassy to Tiberius, demanding nothing less than a territorial settlement for himself and his army, and threatening in the alternative a war from which there was no extrication.” – Tacitus, The Annals, Book III

Episode B9 - Germanicus

Synopsis: Germanicus travels to Syria to assume his Eastern Imperium.

“‘The prime duty of friends is not to follow their dead with passive laments, but to remember his wishes and carry out his commands.Strangers themselves will bewail Germanicus: you will avenge him – if you loved me, and not my fortune.Show to the Roman people the granddaughter of their deified Augustus, who was also my wife; number her six children: pity will side with the accusers, and, if the murderers allege some infamous warrant, they will find no credence in men – or no forgiveness!’His friends touched the dying hand, and swore to forgo life sooner than revenge.” – Tacitus, The Annals, Book II Updated Near Eastern Family Tree: Updated Map of the Near East:

The Germanicus Thing

The story of Germanicus is one of the great Roman tragedies.While the House of Octavian was consistently beset by scandals and misfortunes, the Germanicus affair represented a major turning point in both the reign of Tiberius and the legitimacy of the Julio-Claudians.Before Germanicus, the Principate was viewed with respect tinged with fear.After Germanicus, fear became dominant.Before Germanicus, most Romans were at least willing to give Tiberius a chance.Afterward, they just hoped to survive him.

I knew from the start of the new series that I wanted to cover the story of Germanicus in some depth.In linking it to the story proper, the closest connection was Ptolemy.They were both grandsons of Mark Antony, were roughly the same age, both began their military careers at the same time, and (as it turned out) spent roughly six years growing up together in Rome, in the household of Antonia Minor.But in the end, the story of Germanicus is so powerful and self-contained, that I decided to ta…

Episode B8 - Scelus

Synopsis: The death of Octavian, elevation of Tiberius, and early military careers of Germanicus and Ptolemy.

“Even during the years when he lived at Rhodes, in ostensible retirement and actual exile, (Tiberius) had studied nothing save anger, hypocrisy, and secret lasciviousness.” - Tacitus, The Annals, Book I
“Yet the temper of the soldiers remained savage, and a sudden desire came over them to advance against the enemy: it would be expiation of their madness; nor could the ghosts of their companions be appeased till their own impious breasts had been marked with honorable wounds.Falling in with the enthusiasm of his troops, (Germanicus) laid a bridge over the Rhine, and threw across twelve thousand legionaries.” – Tacitus, The Annals, Book I

Episode B7 - Tropaion

Synopsis: The death of Gaius Caesar, and Juba’s return to Mauretania.

Tropaion (Greek):A battlefield monument, erected at the “turning point” where the enemy’s phalanx broke.

Crossing the Dateline

Episode B6, Eurus (“East Wind”) represents a milestone of sorts, in that it took the story from 1 BC to 1 AD.Actually, it’s even a bit more poignant, since Juba & company were marching around near, or sailing close by, Judea that year.Very “right place, right time” of them!It also represents another milestone, in that it’s around the middle of the first story arc of the series, covering Juba, Selene and Ptolemy of Mauretania.After the first dozen-or-so episode arc is complete, I’ll probably be taking a month or two off to relax, recoup and prepare for the next story arc.

Episode B6 was also significant for another reason.Episode 36 of the original series left off with the conquests of Alexander the Great in the late 4th century BC.Since the current series will be spending a lot of time in the Near East, I wanted to bring everyone up to speed on (1) what does the Near East look like now and (2) how did it get that way from Alexander’s time?There were a number of possible approaches,…

Episode B6 - Eurus

Synopsis: Juba accompanies Gaius Caesar on his Eastern expedition.

“Tigranes…marched forth with an army of such huge proportions that he actually laughed heartily at the appearance of the Romans present there.He is said to have remarked that, in cases where they came to make war, only a few presented themselves, but when it was an embassy, many came.”- Cassius Dio, Rome, Book 36
“Pompey…announced to his soldiers that Mithridates was dead…Upon this the army filled with joy and, as was natural, gave itself up to sacrifices and entertainments, feeling that in the person of Mithridates ten thousand enemies had died.”- Plutarch, The Life of Pompey
Map of the Near East c. 1 BC:
Near East Family Trees: