Published on 17 Oct 2016
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The Battle for Lake Tanganyika in German East Africa was one of the most bizarre battles of World War 1. It only really started once the Royal Navy had carried two boats through the jungle and the mountains from Capetown. Their names: Mimi and Toutou. Their commander: Geoffrey Spicer-Simson, probably the weirdest high ranking officer in the entire war.
October 18, 2016
October 16, 2016
Published on 15 Oct 2016
Indy is answering your questions about the First World War again. This time we talk about:
– soldiers wearing glasses
– the different industrial centres of the major nations
– generals leading from the frontline and from the rear
October 2, 2016
Published on 24 Sep 2016
James talks about our mistakes, and adds additional stories, for the Brothers Gracchi!
September 29, 2016
Published on 1 Sep 2016
After getting the Seneca to join the Great Law of Peace, Hiawatha came up with a plan to convince Tadodaho. But it took Jigonsaseh to confront him and make him become a true leader. Now united, the Five Nations created a participatory democracy rooted in the Peacemaker’s ideals, one that still lives on today.
Three nations had united under the Great Law of Peace, but the Seneca and Onondaga remained outside it. Both nations relied on war for their power – but also for their safety. Hiawatha and the Peacemaker came to the Seneca expecting an argument, but Jigonsaseh had already convinced them since she was Seneca herself. All but two of the chiefs were ready, but those two chiefs feared what would happen if other nations brought war to their borders. The Peacemaker called a council to discuss their concern, but it quickly dissolved into in-fighting and arguments. To solve it, he established a bicameral legislature where each tribe had a turn to speak. Hiawatha joined the Mohawk and helped legislate a solution, putting the Mohawk and Seneca in charge of the borders with the authority to call the tribes together in war if outsiders threatened the confederacy. The envoys also agreed to follow his plan for Tadodaho. They returned to the Onondaga nation and offered to make Tadodaho their leader, with veto powers over every law. He immediately saw the potential to grow his power, but Jigonsaseh confronted him for his greed and cruelty and convinced him to use his power responsibly. With him, the Onondaga joined the Great Law of Peace. Now Jigonsaseh sat with the women’s councils and selected the League representatives, for the women owned the council positions and chose the men who served in them. Those representatives met the Peacemaker on the shores of Onondaga Lake, where he demonstrated how a bundle of five arrows, like the five nations, could not be broken. Then he had them bury their weapons under a white pine tree guarded by an eagle. Those symbols would later be adopted by the United States, whose Founding Fathers studied the Great Law of Peace and adopted many of its principles into their own Constitution. The original Haudenosaunee League drafted laws based on the Peacemaker’s teachings, creating a government that served the will of the people. Hiawatha commemorated each of these laws with a series of wampum belts, most notably the Hiawatha Belt which symbolized the five nations coming together in peace. The government they created has lasted for centuries, making it one of the longest lasting participatory democracies in the world.
September 27, 2016
Published on 26 Sep 2016
Philippe Pétain already had a long military career when World War 1 broke out. And even during his peacetime service, his ideas were not always popular because they went against the old doctrines of the French Army. But during World War 1 he proofed his critiques wrong and became the Lion of Verdun who halted the German advance.
September 21, 2016
Published on 10 Sep 2016
Special thanks to Mike Duncan for writing this episode! Check out his History of Rome podcast: http://thehistoryofrome.typepad.com/
Before Tiberius and Gracchus got famous, their father led such a break-out political career that it must have seemed impossible to live up to his legacy. Yet, his success set the stage for their falls…
Tiberius Gracchus the Elder has been overshadowed by his sons, but in his lifetime he had the most successful political career imaginable. Born just as the Second Punic War came to a close, he arrived on the political stage just in time to befriend the Scipio family during the Seleucid War. He secured a route of safe passage for their soldiers which led them to catch and defeat King Antiochus. The Scipios planted themselves in the east, dealing with the spoils of war and enriching themselves in the process. Upon their return to Rome, they were charged with corruption for accepting bribes, but Tiberius Gracchus the Elder had just been elected tribune of the plebs, and he voted their trial entirely. Scipio Africanus rewarded him by giving him the hand of Cornelia, his daughter and an amazing woman in her own right. Tiberius Gracchus went on the be elected aedile, and threw such lavish public games that the Senate passed a law restricting future games. It worked for him, though: he won his next election and became a praetor assigned to nearer Spain, where he launched a fierce and successful military campaign buffered by a land redistribution effort. In that way, he solved the underlying problems of poverty among the Celtiberians and secured peace for 25 years. For his success, he received a triumph and was elected consul, two of the highest honors in Roman politics. But here he played a dangerous game. Already allied with the Scipiones, he served as consul alongside their family’s biggest rival: a Claudius. He won the game and formed a relationship that would later provide his sons with important allies. Next he went to Sardinia to protect against rebellious tribes, and again he succeeded. The Gracchi name was now honored in both Spain and Sardinia, a legacy his sons would rely upon. This won him a second triumph and a role as censor, after which he joined a traveling embassy of senators to assess Rome’s client kingdoms. Tiberius Gracchus used this opportunity to forge friendships with foreign kings, like the King of Pergamum who would one day form a key part of Tiberius’s efforts to redistribute land. Finally, he won a second consulship, but here he made the mistake of screwing over a man whose son would one day lead the assault that killed Tiberius in the forum. At the end of his days, Tiberius Gracchus the Elder wasn’t just a prominent senator, but one of the most powerful men in Rome. It was the duty of a son to surpass the fame of his father, which must have seemed impossible… but Tiberius and Gracchus, building on the legacy he left, did exactly that.
P.S. If you’ve read this far, we think it’s only fair we tell you that Mike Duncan is aware the proper Latin name for the Scipio family is “Scipiones” but he allowed us to shorten it to “Scipios” to make it easier for non-Latin speakers to understand. Cheers!
September 18, 2016
Published on 17 Sep 2016
Sitting in the Chair of Temporary Insanity, Indy talks about officers tricking their own men, the relationships between them and how criminals were treated in the first world war.
September 17, 2016
Published on 3 Sep 2016
The Senate stole credit for all Gaius’s proposals, and stole his popular support. Once he failed to win re-election for tribune, the Senate repealed his reforms. Gaius organized a protest, but the Senate brought it down with armed force and killed Gaius. Not a century later, the Republic would fall.
Gaius made a series of proposals to ease the strains on the poor people in Rome, such as new Roman colonies to ease overcrowding or renting public land to the people. The Senate, led by a man named Livius Drusus, decried him for pandering, only to implement those ideas themselves, take all the credit, and make sure that Gaius got to have no involvement with the administration of these popular public programs. Public support drained from Gaius, and he struggled to find a comeback. When he ran for a third term as tribune, he lost. With Gaius no longer a threat, the Senate started repealing all of the forms he’d fought for. Gaius organized a mob to protest these repeals, but one of his supporters got in a fight with a Senatorial supporter and killed him. The Senate seized this opportunity to declare martial law the next day. In response, Gaius planned a peaceful occupation of the Aventine Hill. The Senate sent representatives to negotiate with him, but they demanded Gaius and his closest supporters give themselves up, and his supporters refused. With no resolution in sight, the Senatorial faction had archers begin to fire into the crowd. Gaius and his supporters fled, but he did not escape: Gaus was caught and captured, his head taken for a bounty and his body thrown into to the Tiber River. The Senate congratulation itself for defeating him by building a temple to Concord, but an anonymous citizen graffiti tagged it as “The Work of Mad Discord.” A deep rift had been opened, and the Republic never managed to close it. The reforms proposed by the Gracchi were right and necessary, but extreme factions, fearmongering, a rhetoric of violence, and abuse of the letter of the law all deteriorated the democracy that held Rome together. Less than a century after Gaius falls, so does the Roman Republic.
September 14, 2016
Published on 27 Aug 2016
Gaius Gracchus took up the mantle of his dead brother, overcoming resistance from the Senate and the elites to win the election for tribune. Although he had a hot temper, he shared his brother’s charisma and talent, so he built a powerful base of popularity by creating programs for the poor, the army, and the middle class.
With Tiberius dead, it fell to his brother Gaius to take up his mantle. Both brothers were talented and charismatic, but Gaius had a much more fiery temper that made the Senate wary. During his political post, as a quaestor assigned to Sardinia, they tried to bind him to his post to prevent him from running in another election. Gaius broke tradition and defied the Senate’s orders, but when they put him on trial, he brought the citizens over to his side and walked away freely. As they had feared, he ran for tribune: the same office his brother had held. Despite heavy opposition from his enemies, he won. Support for him both in and outside Rome had grown so large that people flooded the city just to vote for him. In his first act, he passed a law which applied retroactively to punish Popilius Laena, the man who had banished Tiberius’s supporters after his death. Popilius fled rather than face the law. Over the remainder of his term, Gaius proved extremely active and efficient: he passed new laws and implemented programs to help the poor, the soldiers, and the middle class through measures like the grain dole. At the end of his term, he planned to step down from politics for a while, but there weren’t enough people who won the election for tribune that year so he was reinstated by default. Now he had what his brother had died for: a second term as tribune.
September 13, 2016
Most leaders let their people do their thing, watch them, critique them, and then train them some more so when the time comes, you feel confident in knowing you can do your job. The second lieutenant you’re following might get your whole fucking platoon killed, but you know your job, and because of that you’ll know what to do when the L-T walks out of the tent to take a piss and ends up in a minefield.*
* I actually had a lieutenant get lost at night walking out of the tent to go piss and walked in to a simulated minefield at JRTC (big Army playground, essentially) once during a field exercise. Never leave lieutenants unsupervised, kids. Ever.
Because lieutenants, man.
Ted Glover, “Your Moment Of Zim Tzu: Startless In Seattle”, Daily Norseman, 2016-08-19.
September 8, 2016
Published on 20 Aug 2016
To protect himself from retaliation for his populist policies, Tiberius Gracchus ran for tribune a second time. On election day, he sought protection from the crowd among rumors that wealthy elites planned to assassinate him, but accidentally sent a message that he wished to be not elected, but crowned as king. A Senator formed an opposing mob that killed Tiberius and 300 of his supporters on the spot.
Tiberius looked to shore his support as many people questioned the way he’d stripped Octavius of office. His chance came when the King of Pergamum died, and left his kingdom and all its land to Rome in his will. Tiberius stepped in to tell the Senate he would draft a bill to deal with this new land and submit it directly to the people. This outraged the Senate: foreign policy had always been their domain, and even those who had been silent during his squabble with Octavius now spoke against Tiberius. Fearing retribution, Tiberius ran for tribune a second time: an unprecedented political act that would make his person sacrosanct. On Election Day, Tiberius received a warning that the wealthy elites of Rome planned to assassinate him and stop his re-election. He tried to indicate to his supporters that his life was in danger, but since they couldn’t hear him above the din, he did so by pointing at his head. One onlooker interpreted this as him asking for a crown, and brought this news to the Senate. They called upon the consul to stop it, but he said he would just nullify the vote if that happened. One Senator did not accept this response. He gathered his own mob to take things into his own hands. They caught Tiberius and killed him, along with 300 of his followers. Many who escaped were later executed or exiled, and Gaius – the brother of Tiberius – was refused when he asked for his brother’s body back to hold funeral rites. It was the first great act of political violence in Rome, and it set the stage for a new age of violent upheaval. After all, harming a tribune was supposed to be not only illegal but a sin before the gods, so if this mob had done just that and escaped without punishment, what other laws could not be broken? Into this troubled stage stepped Gaius Gracchus, already known for his fiery disposition and now determined to take up his dead brother’s cause.
September 2, 2016
Published on 1 Sep 2016
After more than two years of carnage, the war is still growing as Romania joins the war. The moments seems right to them as the Russians steamrolled the Austro-Hungarian Army on the Eastern front this summer. But can the unproven and under equipped Romanian Army really seize the moment? The German High Command wants to make sure that Romania regrets joining the Entente and sends two of their best generals: Erich von Falkenhayn and August von Mackensen.
August 25, 2016
Published on 6 Aug 2016
Rome had doubled the size of its empire in a single generation, but such expansion came at great cost. The wars enriched the wealthy and impoverished the soldiers who fought in them. Into these turbulent times came a talented and well-connected young man named Tiberius Gracchus, who soon learned the power of appealing to the populace over the elite.
Rome had expanded rapidly during the 2nd century BCE. It now stretched from Spain to Greece, with holdings in Africa, and showed no signs of stopping. At home, this growth destabilized the entire economy. Slaves from captured lands became field workers for the wealthy. Common soldiers who used to own land could no longer tend it during the long campaigns, and returned to find themselves either bankrupt or forced to sell to the large slave-owning elites. Now these displaced landowners flooded Rome looking for work, but many of them remained unemployed or underemployed. In the midst of this, two boys named Tiberius and Gaius were born to the Gracchus family. They were plebeians, but of the most distinguished order. Their mother, Cornelia, was the daughter of Scipio Africanus. Their father was a two-time consul who’d celebrated two triumphs for winning great campaigns. But their father died early, so Cornelia raised her children alone and made sure they had a firm grounding in the liberal arts. As soon as he could, the elder boy, Tiberius, ran for office as a military tribune and joined the final campaign against Carthage. There he earned great honor for himself, and learned from the Scipio Aemilianus, his half-brother who also happened to be the leading general. Upon return to Rome, he ran for quaeastor and was sent to serve in the Numantian Wars in Spain. This time, the general he served under was struggling and suffered defeat after defeat. At the end, he tried to flee, only to be captured by the Numantians along with the entire army. The Numantians insisted on discussing surrender terms with Tiberius Gracchus, whose father had long ago earned their respect, and he successfully negotiated the release of 20,000 captured soldiers. In Rome, however, the elites looked on his treaty with scorn: they felt his surrender made Rome look weak. The families of the soldiers had a far different perspective: they celebrated Tiberius, and even saved him from punishment at the hands of the Senate. He had learned that power could be found in appealing to the people.
August 21, 2016
Published on 20 Aug 2016
It’s Chair of Wisdom Time again and this week we talk about the Kurds in World War 1 and the iconic Swagger Stick.
August 11, 2016
Published on 16 Jul 2016
Federico da Montefeltro shone brightly as the “Light of Italy,” one of many torches that helped light the flame of Renaissance. He made his name as a wily yet honest mercenary captain, but he also ruled as prince of the small, remote town of Urbino. There, he and his wife built an illustrious court that celebrated creativity, knowledge, and justice.
Born an illegitimate son, Federico da Montefeltro became the heir of Urbino when his family got the Pope to legitimize him. As a child, he was sent to Venice to serve as a hostage for his family’s part in the wars of Lombardy, and by 15 he had turned his fate around to become knighted by the Holy Roman Emperor Sigismund. At 16, he became a condotierre, a mercenary. Although he was technically prince of Urbino, his land was isolated and poor, so mercenary service allowed him to make money. He excelled at it: he never lost and never broke a contract. Cities began paying him NOT to fight against them, and he channeled their riches into his hometown. He looked after his soldiers families in Urbino, walked the markets every day, and held court in his garden where all citizens were treated equally under the law. Since he loved history and philosophy, he built one of the greatest libraries in all of Italy, hiring scribes to find and copy classical works that might have been lost if not for him. He also built a palace where he fostered art of all kinds, and young people from noble houses across the continent flocked to his court. His wife, especially his second wife Battista Sforza, built Urbino alongside him. She’d received the same liberal education he had and often counseled him on politics When he was away, she held court in his stead. Sadly, she died of complications while bearing Federico’s only son, whom he named Guidobaldo. Guidobaldo was intelligent and well read, but he was sickly and could never be his father’s equal in war. After Federico died, the Borgia came and seized Urbino from Guidobaldo, but although his family lost its holdings, his legacy lived on as the ideas and attitudes he’d nurtured in his court survived and spread far enough to help spur the beginning of the Renaissance in Italy.