Episodes

  • Situated roughly one mile south of Hadrian’s Wall is one of the great jewels of Roman and early medieval archaeology: Vindolanda. Over the past 50 years, annual excavations at this site have revealed incredible amounts of new information. Information that has not only shone more light on the site’s history, but also on the minutiae of everyday life for those people who lived on this north western frontier of the Roman Empire almost 2,000 years. 

    A plethora of stunning artefacts have been unearthed over the last half decade from Vindolanda: from the only Roman boxing gloves found from anywhere in the Roman Empire to early medieval Christian graffiti. What’s most exciting of all, however, is that there are still so many more exciting finds to be uncovered in the years ahead. 

    In this episode we return to Northumberland to speak to Dr Andrew Birley and Marta Alberti who, alongside their team of archaeologists and volunteers, are constantly discovering more about the people who lived and passed through the site. They describe their findings from 2021, including more information about the other animals at Vindolanda and the post-Roman uses of the fortifications. We also get a glimpse of what we can expect from next year’s work.

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  • It is one of the most remote ancient sites in the world. Situated on the isolated Micronesian island of Kosrae are the ruins of an ancient religious centre called Menka, also known as the Village of the Breadfruit Goddess. From temples to monumental statues to 'the painted cave,' Menka was an incredibly important site for Kosrae's ancient communities. Many mysteries, however, still abound.

    To talk through what we know about Menka and its archaeology, we're joined once again by Dr. Felicia Beardsley, a Professor at the University of La Verne. Felicia is an expert on the archaeology of Micronesia and featured on a previous Ancients podcast all about Nan Madol, 'Venice of the Pacific': https://podfollow.com/the-ancients/episode/bcae15d73136dac4ace88c48db17dcf43c16cfb5/view

     

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  • Alexander the Great and Caracalla. One often considered among the most successful military commanders of all time, the other, one of the worst emperors of Ancient Rome. So is it possible that the latter modelled himself and his army on the former. In this second episode with Dr Alex Imrie, we return to the story of Caracalla to explore the evidence for his Macedonian Phalanx, a formation of men purportedly used in his invasion of the Parthian Empire. 

    Dr Alex Imrie, from the University of Edinburgh, is 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

     

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  • Minoan Crete has kept people captivated for millennia, appearing in countless modern cultural practices till this very day. But who are the Minoans? In this episode, Tristan travels down to Oxford to talk to Professor Nico Momigliano, a leading expert in the history and legacy of the Minoans. Join us as we explore the lives, civilisation, and influence of the Minoan past.

     

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  • From Gladiator to Rome Total War to I, Claudius, today the Cohortēs praetōriae are one of the most distinctive military units of Imperial Rome. It was their job to protect the Roman Emperor and his household, a task for which they hold a somewhat ‘chequered’ record (especially when we focus in on the Praetorian Prefects). But what do we know about this unit’s origins? How did this powerful force become protectors of the Emperor and his household? What other functions did they serve? And how did they differ from the standard Roman legions in their structure?

    To talk through the rise of the Praetorian Guard, with a specific focus on the reigns of Augustus and Tiberius, Tristan caught up with historian Lindsay Powell at Fishbourne Roman Palace in West Sussex. Lindsay is the author of several books about the Early Roman Imperial Period. His latest book, Bar Kokhba: The Jew Who Defied Hadrian and Challenged the Might of Rome, is out now.

     

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  • For decades the discovery of Ai Khanum, ‘the City of Lady Moon’, in Eastern Afghanistan has fascinated archaeologists and historians alike: from its ‘Greek’ theatre and gymnasium to the literary fragments preserved in the palatial complex to the everyday houses of the site. But there is also much more to this Greco-Bactrian metropolis, which reached its height in the 3rd and 2nd centuries BC.

    In this second part of Tristan’s chat with Dr Milinda Hoo, Milinda talks us through the religious and burial structures that have been uncovered at Ai Khanum. We also look at the diverse construction methods used in the building of Ai Khanum and why we should not label this settlement a Greek city in Afghanistan. Milinda is an assistant professor at the University of Freiburg and an associate member of the BaSaR work group.

    Part 1: https://play.acast.com/s/the-ancients/ai-khanoum-agreekcityinafghanistan--acast035f0852

     

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  • For thousands of years indigenous Australians, the longest living culture on Earth, have been fascinated by the stars. In this episode, Gamilaraay man and ANU astrophysics graduate Peter Swanton shines a light on Australian Indigenous Astronomy and the great depth of knowledge surrounding it: from the multi-layered story about the Southern Cross to the unique study of the 'Dark Emu' constellation to how Torres Strait islanders used the phases of the Moon for weather predictions and seasons.

     

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  • To align with the COP26 conference in Glasgow, this episode features legendary Roman Britain archaeologist Dr David Breeze talking about his many years excavating the Roman site of Bearsden near Glasgow. We also chat about his long, star studded career working on the wider Antonine Wall and the iconic landmark that is Hadrian's Wall.

     

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  • Was Ancient Rome truly as sexually liberated as we think? How did the Greeks feel about nude statues? And how did these ideas vary across the Ancient Mediterranean? In this episode, Alastair Blanshard is back on The Ancients to compare our misconceptions of ancient sexual fantasies with the truth. Having taught at the universities of Oxford and Reading, Alastair is currently Paul Eliadis Chair of Classics and Ancient History at the University of Queensland, Australia.

    His book on this topic is ‘Sex: Vice and Love from Antiquity to Modernity’.

     

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  • 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 a closely-connected bishop Moses of Sinai.

     

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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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