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Roman History

Finding myself firmly ensconced in middle age, there’s one small thing I regret: I never sat down and focused on one thing for a prolonged period. Sure, I kept my life focused on the big things: getting my professional degree, doing my job well, raising a large family, learning about my faith. But I’ve never taken a particular project and developed it over the course of years into something great.

A guy named “Mike Duncan” has done such a thing with a podcast called “The History of Rome.” If you ever listen to podcasts, and if you have any interest in Roman history, this podcast is mandatory. I just finished the 100th episode and I’m not remotely growing bored with it. Sure, I occasionally take a few weeks off and listen to something else, but I typically listen to 2-3 episodes a week, mostly while I’m walking to the office or working in my garden.

Duncan is probably in his mid-twenties (he just recently married). I’m guessing that his politics sway left and he’s a non-Christian, but that’s just a wild guess. He does a great job of not disclosing his personal biases, which I greatly appreciate, though I’m curious about how well he’ll do in this regard when he gets to Constantine. At that point, he’ll have a hard time concealing his proclivities, since Constantine is such a controversial and varied figure. Duncan’s mere selection of content should reveal oceans about his own beliefs, but maybe not, if he keeps the Christianity angle to, say, ten minutes or less.

Duncan says he spends six hours producing each podcast, not counting his research time: he spends six hours just writing, editing, recording, and uploading each episode. Of that six hours, five are spent writing. It takes him just an hour to read the podcast and upload it into the cyber-world.

The result is nearly 100 hours of first-rate Roman history: mostly an overview, but with enough details to make it feel like you’re becoming literate in the subject. He says he hopes to assemble the podcasts into book format once he’s done, and he’s contemplating other history projects. That’s good news for the rest of us. Let’s hope the exigencies of his married life allow it.

Here’s a link to the companion blog he maintains.

Aside: And with Duncan’s help, I can now recite the first 16 Roman emperors by heart. Here goes: Octavian, Tiberius, Caligula, Claudius, Nero, (Galba, Otho, Vetellius–three men who each served less than six months, during the Year of the Four Emperors), Vespasian, Titus, Domitian, Nerva, Trajan, Hadrian, Antoninus the Pius, and Marcus Aurelius. Hey, did I say I never accomplished a big project? I take that back!

Addendum: While looking for information about Duncan, I came across this helpful link: 10 Educational History Podcasts. A lot of them look pretty good.