Friday, July 14, 2017

Samsigeramus, Zenobia, and the End of the Bloodline

After listening to Episode B43, astute listener Jacob asked (on the TAW Facebook page): "So with the death of Samsigeramus is that technically the end of the Bloodline as far as we can prove?"  My answer is a reluctant but unqualified “yes.”  Samsigeramus, like Severus Alexander, may well have been a tenth generation descendant of Cleopatra and Mark Antony - though it’s worth noting that the generations (and exact connections) between Gaius Julius Alexio and Julius Bassianus are pretty sparsely documented.  In the Bloodline series I’ve proposed what I think is a reasonable reconstruction to span the requisite gaps.

But even that’s a six-lane freeway compared to the dusty unmarked trail connecting Cleopatra’s descendants – in any reasonable way – to the Palmyrene Queen Zenobia.  My initial research hinted at connections, and I used those connections to frame the series.  But I’ve since read works by modern historians who argue (convincingly) that there’s just no “there” there.  Zenobia’s claims in this regard were pretty clearly propaganda, designed to appeal at a critical time to a very critical power base.  This revelation does little to diminish her stature - and she remains a remarkable, heroic, and ultimately tragic figure.  But it does throw a monkey wrench into the series structure, by forcing the end of the family through-line with the death of Samsigeramus.
So…what now?  Well, never fear – I’m still fully committed to finishing the story of the meteoric rise and fall of the Palmyrene Empire, and the series will still conclude with the ultimate fate of Zenobia.  In a broader sense it’s also the story of a particular time and place: the Syria of the late third century, precariously balanced between a distant Rome, an aggressive Persia, and the rising power of Palmyra.  At the same time it’s the story of Emesa - modern Homs in Syria - the Jerusalem of the Sun God and cradle of the Severan Dynasty.  Even after Samsigeramus’ death the city will remain a historical nexus, and witness the murder of a King, the defeat of an Empire, and the first declaration of monotheism by a sitting Roman Emperor.
I hope you enjoy the ride.
Scott C.
PS  A quick word about timing.  Due to an overflow of competing commitments, it’s recently proven extremely challenging to post episodes on a regular basis.  It’s my general intention to complete the series before the end of the year, but aside from that I really can’t provide much in the way of details.  So please keep subscribed to the Bloodline feed and look forward to the occasional happy surprise as new episodes (or groups of episodes) make it your way.  And, as always, thanks for listening!

Friday, June 16, 2017

Episode B43 - Sibylline

Synopsis:  Samsigeramus saves Emesa from Sasanid destruction, then proclaims himself Augustus.  The arrival of Valerian marks the end of his reign and the elevation of Odaenathus to provincial governor.

“And then there shall be a flight of Romans; and thereafter there shall come the priest heard of all round, sent by the sun, from Syria appearing, and by guile shall he accomplish all things.  And then too the city of the sun shall offer prayer; and round about her shall the Persians dare the fearful threatenings of the Phoenicians.” – The Sibylline Oracles, Book XIII

Friday, May 26, 2017

Episode B42 - Iotapian

Synopsis:  The revolt of Iotapian shows Eastern nobles the possibilities among the chaos.  Shapur’s invasion of Syria drives Samsigeramus to make a bold stand.

“As there were at that time many disturbances in the empire, the eastern provinces - which were uneasy, partly owing to the exactions of exorbitant tributes, and partly to their dislike of Priscus, their governor, who was a man of an intolerably evil disposition - wished for innovation, and set up (Iotapian) for emperor.” – Zosimus, The History, Book 1
“So rapid were the motions of the Persian cavalry, that, if we may credit a very judicious historian, the city of Antioch was surprised when the idle multitude were fondly gazing on the amusements of the theatre.  The splendid buildings of Antioch, private as well as public, were either pillaged or destroyed; and the numerous inhabitants were put to the sword, or led away into captivity.” – Edward Gibbon, History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, Chapter X, Part IV

Friday, May 12, 2017

Episode B41 - Samsigeramus

Synopsis:  Shortly after Hatra’s destruction, Shapur inherits the Persian Empire.  Gordian’s invasion the following year ends in defeat and humiliation for Rome.

“When at first we had become established in the Empire, Gordian Caesar raised in all of the Roman Empire a force from the Goth and German realms, and marched on Asoristan against the Empire of Iran and against us.  On the border of Asoristan and Misik a great frontal battle occurred.  Gordian Caesar was killed and the Roman force was destroyed.” – The Great Inscription of Shapur I, Naqsh-i-Rustam
The Roman Near East c. 240AD


Friday, April 28, 2017

Episode B40 - Uranius

Synopsis:  After the death of Elagabalus, Uranius Antoninus served as High Priest of Elah Gabal in Emesa.  From this vantage, he witnessed the birth of Ardeshir’s Persia and the changing fortunes of the Palmyrenes.

“Even the name of Tadmor, or Palmyra, by its signification in the Syrian as well as in the Latin language, denoted the multitude of palm-trees which afforded shade and verdure to that temperate region…Palmyra, for a while, stood forth the rival of Rome; but the competition was fatal, and ages of prosperity were sacrificed to a moment of glory.” - Gibbon, The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, Chapter XI, Part III
Dedicated with great respect to Khaled al-Asaad, Palmyra’s devoted protector

Monday, December 19, 2016

You Are Here

Episode B39, “Excidium,” finishes off the third story arc of The Ancient World Bloodline.  We’ve come a pretty long way from the days of Cleopatra Selene and Juba II – in fact we’ve come about ten generations - and now there’s only a little ways left to go.  The upcoming final story arc will focus on Palmyra, Emesa and the Sasanids, while out West the Romans’ll be tearing through Emperors like used paper towels. 

Just to give some context, the first two story arcs – on Mauretania and Judea – went 12 episodes each, and the latest one on the Severans took 15.  If I had to guess I’d say the final story arc will run less than 10 episodes, but it’s really too early to say.  What I can say is it’ll be quite a while before any new episodes are posted.
First off I’ll be taking a long break over the Holidays and through my birthday in early February.  And by the way that’ll be my 50th birthday, for which I’m already working up some pretty fun plans.  Actually next year is also my 10th wedding anniversary and also marks 5 – yes 5 - years as a podcaster.  Which is why my tentative plan is to post the next episode, Episode B40, around my 5-year podcasting anniversary in April 2017. 
So what can you do in the meantime?  Well, you could always marathon old episodes of Bloodline.  It’s still less than a full day back-to-back.  You could tell friends, neighbors and fellow history fans – or even just fans of a good story – to give the podcast a listen.  And if you really want to help out the show - cue the broken record - you could stop by and review the series on iTunes.
You can also keep in touch on Twitter and Facebook.  That’s @TheAncientWorld on Twitter and @ancientworldpodcast on Facebook.  I’ve been posting tons of photos from my recent history-related travels up on the Facebook page, and I always try to keep my Twitter feed chalk full of ancient history stuff.  So if you like the podcast I’m pretty sure you’ll like both sites.
That’s about it for now, I just wanted to give a status and a bit of a look-ahead.  When I return we’ll cover the last few generations of Cleopatra’s heirs, and I’ll also be telling the story of Palmyra – a place which is unfortunately back in the news for very tragic reasons.  But for a short time under Zenobia Palmyra ruled the entire Roman East and was powerful enough militarily to fend off the Sasanids.  It’s an interesting story, and I’m going to do my best to give it its due.  In the meantime please have a great Holiday Season and I’ll see you all in 2017!

Friday, December 2, 2016

Episode B39 - Excidium

Synopsis:  Alexander marches East to counter Ardeshir’s invasion, but the conflict ends in a stalemate.  A short time later, a legionary rebellion along the Rhine brings the Severan regime to a bloody end.

“The lenity of the Emperor confirmed the insolence of the troops; the legions imitated the example of the Guards, and defended their prerogative of licentiousness with the same furious obstinacy.  The administration of Alexander was unavailing struggle against the corruption of this age…Fresh mutinies perpetually broke out; his officers were murdered, his authority was insulted, and his life at last sacrificed to the fierce discontents of the army.”  - Edward Gibbon, History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, Chapter VI, Part IV
The Roman War Plan for 233 AD

The Bloodline Family Tree (Part 1)

The Bloodline Family Tree (Part 2)