The Ancient World

The Ancient World


CURRENT SERIES - BLOODLINE (tracing the generations from Cleopatra to Zenobia)


Another Break  

I wanted to let everyone know that the latest Episode, “Perish in Blood”, will be the last one for a month or two.  I’ll be off on Vacation for a while, and generally taking a break.  In the meantime, I hope you’re all enjoying the Severan story arc.  Like I mentioned early on, the extended family of Julia Domna was the original inspiration of the series, and I’m hoping to flesh out all the family members as much as I can.  At the same time, I’m planning to give a lot of attention to the Sasanids, including their history and background, their conflict with the Parthians, and - eventually - their conflict with Julia Domna’s great-nephew, Severus Alexander.  So, look for all that when I pick the story back up in a month or two. 

In the meantime, please do a couple things to support the show.  First, for those of you on iTunes, please swing by and review The Ancient World.  You can just give it a starred rating, or you can also leave a comment, which I always love to read.  And second, The Ancient World may be in the running for this year’s Podcast Awards.  The final slate will be announced on May 22 at  On the off-chance we are in the running, please do whatever you can to support the show - it’s a great way to get the word out.  Otherwise, thanks again for listening, and I’ll see you in a month or two!

Episode B31 - Perish in Blood  

Synopsis:  Severus confronts Albinus at Lugdunum, then launches a war against the Parthians.  At the pinnacle of his power, the oracle of Zeus Belos reveals his family’s fate.

“The youth of Severus had been trained in the implicit obedience of the camps, and the riper years spent in the despotism of military command.  His haughty and inflexible spirit could not discover, or would not acknowledge, the advantage of preserving an intermediate power, however imaginary, between the Emperor and the army.” – Edward Gibbon, History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, Volume 1, Chapter 5“Here is one man who overthrew three Emperors after they were already ruling, and got the upper hand of the Praetorians by a trick…He prevailed over them all by his courage.  It is not possible to name another like Severus.” – Herodian, History of the Roman Empire from the Death of Marcus Aurelius to the Accession of Gordian III, Book 3, Chapter 7 of the Near East c. 198AD (provinces): of the Near East c. 198AD (cities):

Episode B30 - Mater Castrorum  

Synopsis:  Severus defeats Niger and wages a limited Eastern campaign.  While Julia Domna is hailed as Mother of the Camps, Caracalla’s elevation to Caesar prompts a second civil war.

“There used to be an oracle about Hannibal’s death.‘The soil of Libyssa would cover Hannibal’s body.’The later emperor of the Romans, Severus,Who was a descendant of the Libyans, he put upon this man’sTomb a white piece of marble to honor the commander Hannibal.”   - John Tzetzes, Chiliades (or Book of Histories), Book 1, 801 - 805

Episode B29 - 193  

Synopsis:  After Pertinax and his successor are killed in the same year, Severus’s claim to the Empire is contested by two rivals. 

"Pertinax was one of those men to whom no exception can be taken, but he ruled only for an exceedingly brief space of time and was then put out of the way by the soldiers.” – Cassius Dio, Rome, Book 73“The Pannonian army was at that time commanded by Septimius Severus, a native of Africa, who, in the gradual ascent of private honors, had concealed his daring ambition.” - Edward Gibbon, History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, Volume 1, Chapter 5 Family Tree (c. 193AD):

Episode B28 - Bestiarius  

Synopsis: Julia Domna marries Septimius Severus and gives birth to Caracalla and Geta. Left behind in Rome with her young children, Julia watches as Commodus re-founds the Empire in his own image.

"The effect of Commodus upon the Romans was worse than that of all pestilences and all villainies.” – Cassius Dio, Rome, Book 72 Map of the Roman Empire ( Domna Family Tree:

Episode B27 - Lucifugus  

Synopsis:  Julia Domna was daughter of the Emesene High Priest, destined to marry a king.  Then she met Septimius Severus.

"Our history now descends from a kingdom of gold to one of iron and rust.” - Cassius Dio, Rome, Book 71“The primitive Christians perpetually trod on mystic ground, and their minds were exercised by the habits of believing the most extraordinary events.” – Edward Gibbon, The Christians and the Fall of Rome Bloodline Family Tree (c. 182AD):

Episode B26 - Emanes  

Synopsis:  The revolt of Avidius Cassius.

"There is only one thing I fear, fellow-soldiers…and that is that (Avidius Cassius) may either kill himself because ashamed to come into our presence, or someone else upon learning that I shall come and am setting out against him may do it. Then should I be deprived of a great prize both of war and of victory, and of a magnitude such as no human being ever yet obtained.  What is this?  Why, to forgive a man that has done you an injury, to remain a friend to one who has transgressed friendship, to continue faithful to one who has broken faith.” – Marcus Aurelius, quoted by Cassius Dio, Rome, Book 71 Cassius Family Tree:

Episode B25 - Discindo  

Synopsis:  The overthrow of King Gaius Julius Sohaemus of Armenia leads to war between Parthia and Rome.

"For Vologases had begun war by assailing on all sides the Roman camp under Severianus, situated in Elegeia, a place in Armenia; and he had shot down and destroyed the whole force, leaders and all.  He was now proceeding with numbers that inspired terror against the cities of Syria." – Cassius Dio, Rome, Book 71 Cassius Family Tree:


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 time for a break.  Which is why I’m taking one.  The break will probably last for a couple months - and we’ll pick back up sometime in February with the story of Silas’ three sons.  I’ve also posted the Bloodline Family Tree – so far – up on both the blog and Facebook sites.

In the meantime there are a couple of things I wanted to mention.  First off, as many of you know my wife Tracy DeLuca produces her own podcast called “Results May Vary.”  In the series Tracy and her friend Chris draw on their vast work experience in design thinking and innovation to help people design the lives they want.  No guarantees – I mean, the title is “Results May Vary” – just lots of interesting interviews, test cases and practical advice about living life by design. 

What you might not know is that Tracy's latest episode is with Mike Duncan – creator of “The History of Rome” and “Revolutions” podcasts and author of the forthcoming book “The Storm Before the Storm.”  Among other topics, the episode covers how to design the past to better engage people in our shared history and how to apply the lessons of history toward designing a better future.  The episode is posted at  And while you’re at it make sure to check out ongoing episodes of “Revolutions” at  You can also find both series on iTunes.

Second, I wanted to engage the many wonderful and talented listeners out there in a little project.  Part of what I’ve been trying to do with “Bloodline” is bring the stories of Antony and Cleopatra’s descendants to life by talking about the times, places and events they lived through.  But of course what I do is mainly audio - and I was thinking it would also be pretty amazing to bring the story to life visually.  I’m a pretty crap artist myself, but I’m betting many of you out there are much, much better.

So I’ve decided to hold a bit of a contest.  Pick any subject from the series – a place, a scene, a character, even a concept - render it in whatever visual medium strikes your fancy, and e-mail the image to with the Subject “Bloodline Images.”  Whether it’s the execution of King Ptolemy, the Temple of Elah Gabal, even a creative rendering of the Bloodline Family Tree – if it’s from the series it’s fair game. 

I’ll feature some of my favorites on The Ancient World media sites.  And – even better – every contributor will be entered into a drawing for a chance to win two books.  The books in question are Tom Holland’s “Persian Fire” and Richard Miles’ “Carthage Must be Destroyed.”  Both books were a big help in creating the original series, and they’ve got the extensive highlighting to prove it.  I’m also more than happy to sign them for you.  The contest runs between now, December 18, and January 31, 2016 - when I’ll announce the winner o

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 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 NewcombKevin McFadden                                                     Aimee PoppTerry Dillon                                                           Richie WalkerAntti Rasinen                                                         Georgi PetrovGnanadeep Kollipara                                              Johan TorneRita Mathis                                                            Julie JonesTravis Anderson                                                     Matthew SmithJoseph Cigliano                                                      Paul and Meg StrongMichele Dana                                                         Gary JonesSteven Diamond                                                    Julius (Jay) BennettBrenda Buxton                                                       Colby StearnsNed Mastro                                                            Brent MallinckrodtMatthew Brauer                                           

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 wordIn the blood that she has spilt;Perish, hopeless and abhorr’d,Deep in ruin as in guilt.” – William Cowper, Boadicea: An Ode 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 cultural heritage.  If you’ve been feeling helpless watching groups like IS capture and destroy ancient heritage sites then supporting the SHI is a great step.  You can find all their details on their website:
For those who’d prefer to donate to a group providing critical support to Syrian refugees, another great option is the International Rescue Committee, or IRC.  If you want to help improve the lives of innocent Syrians caught up in a horrible civil war then supporting the IRC is a great step.  You can find all their details on their website:
And of course if you want to support both groups, even better!  I’ve put Donate buttons for both organizations up on The Ancient World website.  The buttons may not be visible on mobile phones or iPads, and you may have to view the website on a computer to see them.  Both organizations are 501c3, and are therefore eligible to receive tax-deductible charitable donations.  If you’d prefer to donate to either organization via regular mail or over the phone, you can find that information on their websites. 
As you probably know, I spend most of my free time – OK who am I kidding, all of my free time – putting together this podcast series.  Which is really nobody’s fault but my own.  But if you appreciate the work I do and have ever thought about donating to me or the podcast, please donate to one of these organizations instead.  As best I can figure, the series has around ten thousand regular subscribers.  Together, I’m hoping we can do some real good.
OK, now for the fun part.  I’ve decided to give away prizes to listeners who donate to either organization.  So please save the confirmation of your donation so you can redeem it for one or more of these prizes.  Please e-mail your confirmation and other information to:
First off, anyone who donates $10 or more will be thanked on The Ancient World website.  If you’d like to be thanked, please give me your name (or the name you’d like me to use) when you e-mail me your donation confirmation.  A $25 donation will get you a set of JPEG files of all the maps, family trees and header photos I’ve created so far for Bloodline. 
Moving up the scale, a $50 donation will get you a photobook containing my very favorite Ancient World photos I’ve taken on my travels.  I’ll also provide details on when and where each photo was taken and what makes the photo one of my favorites.  The photobooks will be 4x6”, softcover, and contain 10 photos.  Unfortunately, due to shipping costs, this prize will only be available within the continental United States.  Outside of the US, the alternate prize for a $50 donation will be JPEG files of 20 of my favorite photos, along

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