Thursday, June 7, 2012

Podcast Spotlight: The History of Rome

Return of the Podcast Spotlight... This is an ubernerd edition:

The History of Rome

How do you get it?: Listed in iTunes- search for "The History of Rome" and it will show up (Mike Duncan is the podcaster)

How did I find it?: Mentioned on Open Culture, which is a great site that documents FREE articles, online classes, podcasts, videos, etc. that are generally enriching. Seriously. Go check it out- it's got something for everyone and you will feel smarter for having read it.

How often does it post new shows?: Not posting new episodes, as it has finished walking through the history- here's a spoiler: Rome falls.

Do they spoiler the books they discuss?: Um, not really. I don't think it counts as spoilers if it's a history written 2000 years ago

Production quality?: Very good and improves over time

Can I listen to this with the kids in the car?: Yes, it's encouraged - though you will probably need an especially geeky kid for them to get into it

Should I start at the beginning?: Absolutely - it's a story! You don't want to miss anything

Should I listen to every episode?: Absolutely - it's a story! You don't want to miss anything. Though if you're just listening to supplement what you're studying in school, it's easy enough to skip to the applicable topics

What's awesome about this podcast?: This has to be the platonic ideal of history podcasting. I know that's a very niche area to call someone the master of, but Mike Duncan is in fact the master of it. Episode one starts with the origins of the Roman foundation myths. Episode two covers Romulus and his questionable moral compass. Episode three covers the rulers after Romulus. And so on, and so on. Spanning hundreds of years and historical topics ranging from military strategy, notable biographies, political maneuvering, sociological analysis, and cultural norms, Duncan presents an engaging and challenging gloss of the Roman Empire from cradle to grave. What I most appreciate about Duncan is his commentary on running themes in Roman attitudes and actions that tie the various generations to each other. By breaking the history down into 15 minute chunks, he is able to unfold the events as a chapter book with each section ending on a cliff hanger. Consequentially, Rome's history is illuminated as a story rather than a dull collection of dates and names. I find myself listening while getting ready for bed- it's like getting a very bloody bedtime story every night. I have been able to make much stronger connections to early Roman history than I was ever able to in school and the issues that came up back then are still topics of the day. I would particularly recommend this to anyone who is studying Western Civ and having a difficult time engaging with the material. Each episode is specific enough that you could find whatever topic you are covering and get a good overview of the material before diving into the specifics with your professor.

What's not so awesome about this podcast?:  Um... nothing. I guess if you don't like history you won't like this, so there's that. But if you enjoy history or Rome, you will enjoy this.

Highlight?: Every once in a while, Duncan drops in an amazingly nerdy joke or aside. His pop culture metaphors are also amazing

Overall rating?: 5 stars

What are your favorite geektastic podcasts? 

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