Episodes

  • Following two assassinations and two executions, the title of Roman Emperor fell to Alexander Severus. He was one of the youngest to ever hold this title, and he was to be the final emperor of the Severan Dynasty. But who was making the decisions? In this episode we hear about the thirteen year reign of this young emperor, and examine the intriguing figure of his mother and advisor, Julia Mamaea. Matilda Brown, PhD student at the University of Edinburgh, is back on the Ancients to take us through the final years of the Severan dynasty, busting myths along the way.

     

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  • To fight against the Roman empire and then make an alliance with them took a certain courage and tenacity. In this episode we are introduced to Mavia, the warrior queen of the semi-nomadic Tanukhids, who did just that. Dr. Emran El-Badawi, associate professor of Middle Eastern Studies at the University of Houston, takes us through the things we know and the things that are speculated about Mavia. Emran also places her within the context of the 4th and 5th centuries CE, and discusses her legacy and connections to Moses.

     

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  • Gold and horses! 2,500 years ago, in the area of the Great Steppe that is now Eastern Kazakhstan, an extraordinary ancient Scythian culture reigned supreme. They were called the Saka, renowned for their skill as horse archers and for their elaborate elite burials.

     

    Ancient Persian and Greek sources labelled them a barbaric, nomadic people – a scourge on the ‘civilised’ world. But new archaeological discoveries from East Kazakhstan are revealing a very different picture. A picture that highlights how the Saka were a highly-sophisticated ancient society. A culture that boasted complex settlements, expert craftsmen, extensive trade routes and more, alongside their equine mastery and their staggering wealth.

     

    Now, for a limited time only, you can see some of these newly-discovered artefacts at the Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge. The exhibition is called ‘Gold of the Great Steppe’. Running from 28th September 2021 to 30th January 2022, it is the first exhibition about this ancient culture ever to be shown in the UK.

     

    To find out more about the exhibition and what these newly-discovered artefacts are revealing about the Saka, Tristan headed up to Cambridge to interview Dr Rebecca Roberts, associated curator of ‘Gold of the Great Steppe’.

    Gold of the Great Steppe Exhibition: https://www.fitzmuseum.cam.ac.uk/visit-us/exhibitions/gold-of-the-great-steppe

     

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  • Often up there in the upper echelons of most articles listing Rome's worst emperors, it's fair to say that history has not been kind to Caracalla. Whether it was contemporary sources depicting him as a deranged Heracles and Alexander the Great loving megalomaniac or the 18th century historian Edward Gibbon labelling him 'the common enemy of mankind,' for centuries he has been an epitome of infamy.

    To talk through what we know about this figure, and whether he deserves this reputation, Tristan was joined by Edinburgh University's Dr Alex Imrie, an expert on the Severan Dynasty and the author of The Antonine Constitution: An Edict for the Caracallan Empire.

    Alex's Twitter: @AlexImrie23

    Tristan's Twitter/Instagram: @ancientstristan

    The first of a new miniseries about the Severans.

     

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  • A theatre, a gymnasium and houses with colonnaded courtyards: these are the hallmarks of an Ancient Greek city. So what are they doing in the city of Ai Khanum, far east of their origins in present day Afghanistan? In this first part of Tristan’s chat with Milinda Hoo, she takes us through the structures found in this ancient city, and what they tell us about the infrastructure and origins of Ai Khanum. Milinda is a global and ancient historian at the University of Freiberg, specialized in globalization and Hellenism across Central and West Asia.

    Listen out for part two, where Milinda challenges whether this can really be seen as a Greek city.

     

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  • In October 331 BC, one of the most important battles of world history occurred on the plain of Gaugamela. Alexander III of Macedon, better known as Alexander the Great, had been campaigning east of the Aegean Sea against the Persian Empire for 3 ½ years. Already he had won a series of notable victories and conquered many lands west of the Euphrates River. But it would be on 1 October 331 BC that a 25 year old Alexander came up against his biggest challenge to date. A large army, gathered by the Persian Great King Darius III aimed at stopping the young conqueror in his tracks once and for all. The clash that followed would decide the fate of the Persian Empire and mark a major moment in world history.

    In this, slightly different, Ancients episode Tristan gives a detailed run down of the Battle of Gaugamela: the background to this titanic clash and the battle itself.

    Tristan's Twitter / Instagram - @ancientstristan

     

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  • Very few figures in history are recognizable from their silhouettes, but included in this small group is Nefertiti, one of the most famous queens of Ancient Egypt. Professor Joyce Tyldesley speaks to Tristan not only about the famous image of Nefertiti, but also about the theories surrounding her life, death and burial (no aliens in sight!). Joyce is a professor at the University of Manchester and an expert on the role of women in Ancient Egypt.

     

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  • In his lifetime King Alexander III of Macedon, better known as Alexander the Great, forged one of the largest empires in ancient history. But it was what happened to Alexander following his demise – his ‘life after death’ - which resulted in one of the great archaeological mysteries of the ancient Mediterranean.

    Following his death, aged just 32, his corpse became of prime importance for his former subordinates – a talismanic symbol of legitimacy during the tumultuous period that was the Wars of the Successors. Later still, the body and tomb of this great conqueror – placed right in the centre of ancient Alexandria – retained its importance. From Ptolemaic pharaohs to Roman emperors, Alexander’s tomb became a place of holy pilgrimage for many seeking power and prestige. For several centuries the tomb of this Macedonian ruler was one of the great attractions of the ancient Mediterranean. That was, however, until the end of the 4th century when all mention of this building, and the precious corpse housed within, disappeared. So what happened to Alexander’s tomb? And where might Alexander’s body be buried today? To talk through several theories surrounding one of ancient history’s great archaeological mysteries, Tristan chatted to Dr Chris Naunton. The third of 3 episodes we recorded with Chris earlier this summer.

    Chris' Twitter / Instagram: @chrisnaunton

    Tristan's Twitter / Instagram: @ancientstristan

    Alexander the Great: The Greatest Heist in History documentary, featuring both Tristan and Chris: https://access.historyhit.com/videos/alexander-the-great-the-greatest-heist-in-history

     

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  • This week our understanding of when humans first inhabited the North American continent has been turned on its head … by a set of c.22,000 year old footprints. In this episode, hear how footprints can form crucial evidence for populations of prehistoric people and animals, and how now extinct famous megafauna such as mammoths and giant sloths once interacted with early humans. To reveal all about this ground breaking new discovery, Tristan was joined by Bournemouth University's Dr Sally Reynolds.

    Sally's Twitter - @SallyR_ISLHE

    Tristan's Instagram / Twitter - @ancientstristan

     

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  • Legendary leaders and notorious battles, we imagine the sound of clinking armour. But what did the Romans take with them into battle? In the second of our episodes recorded at Chalke Valley History Festival, Legio II Augusta's David Richardson talks through a selection of iconic weapons and deadly devices used by Roman soldiers.

    Legio II Augusta Website - https://www.legiiavg.org.uk/

    For behind the scenes and extra Ancients, follow Tristan on Instagram at https://www.instagram.com/ancientstristan/

     

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  • It’s werewolf time on the Ancients! In this episode Exeter University’s Professor Daniel Ogden highlights how these mythical creatures have their origins in ancient times and thrived in a story world shared by witches, ghosts, demons and dragons. Join Tristan and Daniel as they shine a light on werewolf (or werewolf-related) stories that survive from antiquity. From Homer’s Circe to Petronius’ Satyricon. Also making an appearance is the Strix-Witch, a Roman phenomenon and persistent feature of their folklore. Daniel’s new book, The Werewolf in the Ancient World, is out now.

    For behind the scenes and extra Ancients, follow Tristan on Instagram at https://www.instagram.com/ancientstristan/

     

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  • In the aftermath of Alexander the Great’s death, his empire became the subject of a series of titanic clashes: the Wars of the Successors. In this episode of the podcast, Dr Nick Rauh takes us through some of the monumental Hellenistic super fortresses built during this period in ancient Rough Cilicia, modern day southeast Turkey, along the Northeast Mediterranean shoreline. He also highlights the importance of this area of the ancient world to preceding superpowers such as the Assyrians and the Persians. Nick is a professor of Classics at Purdue University.

    Fair warning, we nerd out quite heavily in this podcast, so below are some references to help!

    Map of ancient Anatolia (Asia Minor), with place names mentioned in the podcast: https://www.worldhistory.org/img/c/p/1200x627/253.png

    The Ptolemaic Kingdom - Hellenistic kingdom centred around Egypt that emerged in the aftermath of Alexander the Great's death.

    The Seleucid Kingdom - Hellenistic kingdom centred around Syria / Mesopotamia, that emerged in the aftermath of Alexander the Great's death.

    Antigonus the One Eyed - Prominent general during the Wars of the Successors. Father of Demetrius. Enemy of Eumenes of Cardia (Alexander the Great's former secretary).

    Demetrius - Son of Antigonus and another prominent general during the Wars of the Successors.

    Ovacik Peninsula - Cape Tisan

    For behind the scenes and extra Ancients, follow Tristan on Instagram at https://www.instagram.com/ancientstristan/

     

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  • Historian and author Dr. Emma Southon returns to the Ancients to shine a light on the life - and murder - of Publius Claudius Pulcher (aka Clodius), and why this horrible, colourful figure was so significant in the demise of the Roman Republic.

    Emma's Twitter - https://twitter.com/NuclearTeeth

    Tristan's Instagram - https://www.instagram.com/ancientstristan/

     

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  • With a history stretching back thousands of years, it’s about time that the Ancients started looking at the extraordinary Maya civilisation in Central America. Even with a range of sources that survive, many aspects of these ancient peoples remains debated and shrouded in mystery. This is especially true when studying warfare and the whole idea of ‘sacrifice’. What were the rules of engagement for the ancient Maya? What was the purpose of warfare? How did they define winning? And what would happen to those captured in war? Could they have been sacrificed?

     

    Joining Tristan today is Professor Elizabeth Graham, a titan of Mesoamerican archaeology who has been researching the Pre-Columbian Maya for several decades. Liz puts forward a very strong case for why she believes there was not human sacrifice among the Classic Maya and why we should not associate the occasional killing of captives with that term.

    For behind the scenes and extra Ancients, follow Tristan on instagram at https://www.instagram.com/ancientstristan/

     

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  • The world is constantly changing, and so has the perception of civilisation, but what exactly are the origins of this concept? Helping us answer this question from an anthropological and archaeological perspective, Professor Nam Kim joins Tristan once again on The Ancients. We explore how advances in these disciplines are helping to answer this long-examined question.

    Nam is an anthropological archaeologist and Professor of Anthropology at the University of Wisconsin-Madison

     

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  • We’ve covered bloody battles, we’ve covered stunning cities, we’ve covered civilisations far away from the ancient Mediterranean. But in some 120 episodes of The Ancients we hadn’t covered one of the most popular topics in the world: sex. That is, until now. In today’s episode, strap yourself in for almost an hour’s worth of content all about what the Romans thought of sex. What was acceptable? What wasn’t? And why were the Romans so obsessed with carving penises at sites across the Roman Empire. From Pompeii to Hadrian’s Wall. Joining Tristan in today’s podcast is L J Trafford, the author of the upcoming book Sex and Sexuality in Ancient Rome. Suffice to say, adult themes feature in this episode.

     

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  • In 83/84 AD a battle was fought somewhere in Scotland between the Roman forces of Gnaeus Julius Agricola and the 'Caledonians' – the great climax to Agricola’s campaigns in Northern Britain. Details of the clash are few and far between, with our sole literary source for the event being the writings of the Roman historian Tacitus. But how much of Tacitus’ account can we really believe? And what locations have archaeologists suggested as being the site of this lost battlefield? Taking on the challenge of this much-debated ancient military event is Dr Andrew Tibbs, a History Hit veteran and an expert on the Romans in Scotland.

    In the first part of this podcast Andrew explains the background to Agricola’s campaigns in the north and the account of the Battle of Mons Graupius itself. In the second segment we look at some of the locations proposed as the site of this enigmatic ancient battle.

    For Ancients updates and behind the scenes footage follow Tristan on Instagram @ ancientstristan

     

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  • When one mentions Roman military installations you would be forgiven for instantly thinking of their forts, the remains of which we can see today dotted around the country. From the Kent coast to central Scotland. But what about their camps, these often-temporary structures that formed a keystone of Roman military activity. Roman camps have now been discovered across the former empire, but Britain boasts a wealth of them. To discuss the different types of camps and how we can tell them apart, Tristan spoke to Dr Rebecca Jones from Historic Environment Scotland. Rebecca explains why Scotland in particular is the best place to study marching camps, and why there is such a concentration of them on the Roman Empire’s northernmost frontier. Rebecca is the author of ‘Roman Camps in Britain’.

     

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  • Nan Madol. It is one of the most awesome, enigmatic and unique ancient sites in the World, and yet most people have never heard the name. Labelled the ‘Venice of the Pacific’ by US aviators during the Second World War, this ancient Micronesian metropolis is not your usual city. Situated offshore, it was constructed on corals – ‘a floating citadel’. All across the site today, the remains of centuries-old monumental architecture can be seen, built on top of artificial islets. 

    So what do we know about this stunning ancient site in the Pacific Ocean? When do we think it was constructed? How did the ancient population go about building this off shore citadel? In this episode we’re going to delve into what we know (and what we don’t know) about Nan Madol. From the earliest archaeology at the site to the structural layout of this enigmatic urban centre.

    Joining Tristan for this special podcast is Dr Felicia Beardsley, from the University of La Verne. A leading expert on Nan Madol and on the archaeology of many other ancient sites from across Micronesia, it was a real privilege to interview Felicia all about this extraordinary ‘lost city’.

     

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  • Among the rulers of Ancient Egypt, Cleopatra VII has long held a place in legend, her story having been told in folklore, by Shakespeare and in Hollywood movies. In reality, however, her story remains unfinished. The location of her final resting place remains lost to us. Dr Chris Naunton is back with us to explore the possible answers to this mystery, from Alexandria to Taposiris Magna, join us on this trawl through the evidence of Cleopatra’s final days.

     

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