Friday, 21 November 2014
Sunday, 9 November 2014
Sad news I'm afraid guys. There will be no new episode this week, and none for a few more weeks. I really need to put some extra time into my MA, and in particular my PhD application. (Should any listeners be involved in granting PhD places/funding, do give me a call.) But don't fear, I'll be back soon. So stay tuned and I'll see you in a while. Toodles. https://archive.org/download/Psa-TemporaryHiatus/Psa-TemporaryHiatus.mp3
Sunday, 2 November 2014
This week we continue Scipio's adventures in Spain, focusing much of the episode on his brilliant capture of New Carthage. We also include a brief discussion on how inaccurate ancient sources are, specifically when they say Gaul had a population of two hundred million people. https://archive.org/download/AHistoryOf-Hannibal.Episode71-ScipioInSpain/Episode71.mp3
Friday, 31 October 2014
Hello and welcome to A History Of – Hannibal and the Punic Wars. Episode 71 – Scipio in Spain. “A word on the site of the site of New Carthage: about half-way down the east coast of Spain there is a bay, open to the south-west; it runs about two and a half miles inland and in breadth is some three hundred yards less. At the mouth of the inlet a small island protects the anchorage from all winds except the south-west. From the head of the bag a peninsula runs out, high land, on which the town was built. Thus the town has sea to the east and south of it, while on its western and part of its northern sides it is surrounded by a lagoon in which the depth of water varies with the ebb and flow of the tide. It is connected with the mainland by a ridge about 250 yards wide. Fortification on this side would have involved little labour, but Scipio none the less had no earthwork constructed, perhaps out of ostentation, to show the enemy his confidence, perhaps to leave the way back unobstructed every time he had need to approach the walls.” Livy, Book 26, Chapter 42. I thought this quote would be the best way to kick start episode 71 as we left Scipio at the walls of New Carthage. That, and I would also like to begin with a correction of sorts as I didn’t check my footnotes when writing the end of last week. I said that Scipio and Laelius travelled from the Ebro to New Carthage in 7 days, but as the footnotes of my translation make clear Polybius writes that these two locations are 325 miles apart, which of course makes the 7 day travel time found in Livy a bit incredulous to say the least. As much as historians don’t like to admit it, an awful lot of the time the sources give information which disagree completely, meaning that either one or both sources is talking nonsense. For instance, Caesar writes in his commentaries on the Gallic War that he conquered 400 tribes. Then Cassius Dio writes that tribes varied size, with the largest having 200,000 fighting men and the smallest having 50,000. If we take an average then, the average tribe would have 125,000 fighting men. Now, to take into account women, children and those in old age we can multiply this figure by 4, giving an average tribe size of 500,000. Now, there were 400 tribes in Gaul, which, so it logically follows, means that when Caesar conquered Gaul there was a population of 200,000,000 people. 200 million people. 3 times the population of modern France. Just a nice, happy reminder that we really don’t know that much about anything. Now, back to New Carthage.
Scipio prepared for the attack by stationing the fleet in the harbour, and the army right by the city so the townspeople would know that they were surrounded on all sides. We have lost the beginnings of the attack, so the first thing we know to have happened was that Mago, the commander in the town, but not one of the three Carthaginian generals in the peninsula, so began to organise a defence, sending out some troops to combat the Romans. The Romans drew back so that they would be nearer their reserves and could rapidly rotate troops, something which gave then a huge advantage and they successfully pushed the Carthaginians back. Scipio could see that now the walls were undefended, and so he launched an attack with ladders from both land and sea. The Romans launched the assault, but there was enough time for the Carthaginians to re-man the walls and to gather missiles, but the most useful factor in the defence of the city proved to be the walls. They were very high, and most of the Roman ladders were unable to reach the top, and those that could were extremely unstable. The first attack did not go particularly well, but as soon as it was over Scipio prepared for a second assault.
Sunday, 26 October 2014
This week we examine the aftermath of the Islamic Revolution. Ayatollah Khomeini is now in power, and he is determined to change the world. This involves ending his alliance with the communists, going to war with Iran, and, of course, the infamous capture of the American embassy in Tehran. https://archive.org/download/TheArabSpring-AHistory.Episode31-KhomeiniSupreme/Episode31.mp3
Saturday, 25 October 2014
Welcome to The Arab Spring – A History. Episode 31 – Khomeini Supreme. I want to begin today with a moment of reflection. 1979 is a year which will live in infamy. It will go down in history as a momentous moment when everything changed, just as when Caesar was killed in 44BC or the French Revolution of 1789. This is why I have felt the need to give such a slow, for this podcast anyway, account of the revolution last time out. For a time in the late 20th century, there existed an idea that history was ending. No, I’m not talking about the apocalypse, although there was plenty of talk of that as well. What I mean is that history is very complicated with millions of factors pushing nations in different directions. It’s why predicting the future is so horrendously difficult. Things seemingly appear out of nowhere, but once they’ve happened you can look back and see their origins and trace them, and explain the world around you. This is exactly what we’re doing. The Arab Spring seemingly just happened, but if you examine what was going on, you can see what was happening and where things were going. Somehow, people had managed to forget this. There was so much focus on the Cold War, East vs. West, communism versus capitalism, that alternatives were almost forgotten. When the West began to get the upper hand in the Cold War, there was a sense that the whole world was on the road to western style democracy. It was a system which worked universally. It may take more time in other places, but it was assumed that eventually every nation would adopt this model and follow in the West’s footsteps. The whole world would use the same system, and history would be something we could all forget about. This is a world view which has taken arguably until into the 21st century view to be recognised as absurd, but it was something shown by 1979. In the secular democratic world being envisioned, there was no room for the radical Islamic Theocracy which had appeared in Iran. It showed the world that things could not be so easily predicted, that, at least for the moment, there was no universal theory of government, and, something which is very important to your humble podcaster, it proved that history was not over just yet. I hope you found that interesting, and I haven’t just put you off listening to the show anymore. So, let’s get back into things.
Khomeini arrived in Iran to a tremendous reception, and soon enough the army surrendered. The Prime Minister fled the country and many of the Shah’s associates were executed. Khomeini was determined that this moment would be a game changer in the Middle East. If his revolution was to have as much of an impact as the French revolution had, then it would be necessary for it to not be confined to one country, but to spread across the region. Khomeini denounced every Muslim country, calling all the governments unIslamic and called for them to be overthrown. He said that a true Muslim state should not side with either the East or West, but he held a special hatred for America. Greatly worried by this, the staff at the American embassy was reduced from 2000 to under a hundred. Carter did not want to risk the lives of those in still in the embassy, and so refused the Shah entry into the US.
Sunday, 19 October 2014
This week we travel back to Spain to look at an incident between Nero and Hasdrubal, a prelude to the Metaurus. We then introduce Scipio Africanus into the narrative and take him to Spain, where he plans an attack on New Carthage. https://archive.org/download/AHistoryOf-Hannibal.Episode70-SpainAgain/Episode70.mp3