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Tides of History

Wondery / Patrick Wyman

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Everywhere around us are echoes of the past. Those echoes define the boundaries of states and countries, how we pray and how we fight. They determine what money we spend and how we earn it at work, what language we speak and how we raise our children. From Wondery, host Patrick Wyman, PhD (“Fall Of Rome”) helps us understand our world and how it got to be the way it is. New episodes come out Thursdays for free, with 1-week early access for Wondery+ subscribers. Listen ad-free on Wondery+ or ...
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It's often said that the past is a foreign country, where our basic assumptions about how the world is supposed to work don't apply. But what does that mean for the practice of history? Professor Greg Anderson has fascinating ideas about how to actually understand the people of the past on their terms, with specific regard to ancient Greece. Patric…
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When the Peloponnesian War between Athens and Sparta finally broke out in 431 BC, it was small conflicts on the fringes of the Greek world that pulled the two states into conflict. Thousands upon thousands would pay the price for that over the first decade of the war. Patrick's book is now available! Get The Verge: Reformation, Renaissance, and For…
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The Peloponnesian War, the epic 30-year conflict between Athens and Sparta for control of Classical Greece, was a long time in coming. In fact, its roots went back to the Persian Wars, when Athens seized the opportunity to create an empire in the aftermath. Patrick's book is now available! Get The Verge: Reformation, Renaissance, and Forty Years th…
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We're often told that Classical Greece lies at the root of our modern world in some way, but what made it a special place? Professor Josiah Ober, author of The Rise and Fall of Classical Greece, joins me to discuss his approach to that question. We discuss the unique political ecology of the Greek city-states, demographic growth, and the role of in…
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Rome and war are inseparable topics, but how far back does their connection go? What was war like in the earliest days of the city's rise to prominence? Professor Jeremy Armstrong is an expert on early Rome and warfare in pre-Roman Italy, and he joins me to talk about warlords, generals, and the nature of warfare at Rome's beginning. See Privacy Po…
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We're often told that Greece's Classical period lies at the root of "Western Civilization," but what was actually special about that time and place? Why did it produce so many works of literature, art, architecture, and philosophy that have survived and shaped the millennia to come? Patrick's book is now available! Get The Verge: Reformation, Renai…
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By 480 BC, the same year Xerxes and the Persians descended on Greece, Sicily had become a battleground for the rising powers of the Central Mediterranean: Carthage, on one side, and the Greek colony of Syracuse on the other. The result was a massive battle, and its remains still survive in the archaeological record. Patrick's book is now available!…
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Archaeology is changing quickly, and few people are playing more of a direct role in the wave of fascinating new studies exploring the Indus Valley Civilization, South Asia, and Iran than Professor Cameron Petrie. We talk about his work on South Asia, the scientific revolution in archaeology, and much more. Patrick's book is now available! Get The …
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Carthage is known mostly as Rome's great rival, but it was a fascinating and meaningful Mediterranean civilization in its own right. Today, we track the rise of Carthage from its foundation as a Phoenician colony to the cusp of imperial ambitions in the Mediterranean around 500 BC. Patrick's book is now available! Get The Verge: Reformation, Renais…
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After our long sojourn in Central, East, and South Asia, it's time to return to a Mediterranean on the cusp of enormous changes. Around 500 BC, Rome was shedding its kings, Carthage was about to become the greatest power in the Central Mediterranean, and Greece would soon enter its Classical Era. Let's take a tour. Patrick's book is now available! …
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History is littered with terrible deeds and atrocities: conquest, genocide, mass enslavement, forced displacement, crimes of all sorts. Why do people agree to participate in these actions? Daniele Bolelli, host of the History on Fire podcast, joins me to discuss the topic and an essay I wrote on my Substack page, which you can find here: https://pa…
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The Buddha - born Siddartha Gautama - is one of the most impactful people in human history, founder of a religious tradition that has shaped the world for the past 2,500 years. But the Buddha was also a real person who lived at a specific place and time. What can we know about the Buddha's world, and how did it shape him and his message? Patrick's …
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The world's climate isn't stable, but how can we understand climate change in the past? Dr. Alena Giesche is an expert on ancient climates, and she explains both how the field of paleoclimate studies works and its application to a massive issue: the fall of the Indus Valley Civilization, a topic on which she's spent years working. Patrick's book is…
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The Rigveda, a collection of hymns written in the Sanskrit language more than 3,000 years ago, is the oldest religious text in the Hindu tradition. It's also an incredible window onto life at the dawn of the Iron Age in South Asia. Patrick's book is now available! Get The Verge: Reformation, Renaissance, and Forty Years that Shook the World in hard…
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The Indus Valley Civilization is one of the most enigmatic, sophisticated, and compelling ancient societies. For seven centuries, it thrived in the western portions of South Asia, building enormous mud-brick cities without domination by ruling kings or elites. But then, over the course of several hundred years, the IVC slowly disintegrated. Why? Pa…
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The Warring States period in China (c. 481-221 BC) was an era of mass-mobilization warfare unlike any other the world had seen to that point. Armies of hundreds of thousands of men fought on an increasing scale for centuries, wiping out state after state until only one - Qin - would remain to rule all of China. Patrick's book is now available! Get …
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Professor Kate Pechenkina is an expert on the bioarchaeology of East Asia, utilizing cutting-edge tools to tell us about the lives and experiences of ordinary people in the distant past: diet, disease, trauma, the kinds of topics that written evidence simply doesn't illuminate. Patrick's book is now available! Get The Verge: Reformation, Renaissanc…
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Confucius is one of the most famous and influential thinkers in all of human history, but who was he? What did he believe, and what did he teach? And how did his time and place - the closing years of the Spring and Autumn period - make him what he was? Patrick's book is now available! Get The Verge: Reformation, Renaissance, and Forty Years that Sh…
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The Spring and Autumn period, lasting from 771 to 481 BC, marked the high point of aristocratic power in ancient China. This was an age of nobility and political fragmentation, as the Zhou Dynasty's power dwindled away and small states fought one another in endless cycles of violence. Rulers fell prey to plots and assassinations, and new families r…
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Venice's lagoon is an unstable environment, but it has hosted one of the longest-lasting and most stable cities in world history. The history of Venice is many different things: politics on an imperial scale, industrial production, cultural influence, tourism, and above all, trade. Professor Dennis Romano is one of the most eminent historians of me…
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The environment of China has been so thoroughly shaped by human activity that it's difficult to imagine it as a wild landscape, as it was at the end of the last Ice Age. Since then, first agriculture and then the state have altered it, replacing native flora and fauna on an enormous scale. Professor Brian Lander, author of The King's Harvest: A Pol…
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The Zhou Dynasty ruled for longer than any other in Chinese history. Much of the cultural foundation of China was laid down during that age, from Confucius to Sun Tzu. While a powerful state at its inception, centralized power only functioned for a century at most during the Zhou; afterward, the ruling dynasty became increasingly irrelevant as a po…
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The Shang Dynasty marks China's entrance to history, but it was very different than the China we know from later periods: Human sacrifice on a massive scale, shaman-kings conducting rituals to the ancestors, and loose alliances rather than bureaucratic administration defined the age. Patrick's book is now available! Get The Verge: Reformation, Rena…
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Chinese history is defined, more than anything else, by the importance of the state: its origins, its development, and the precise lineage leading back from the present deep into prehistory. But rather than a straightforward story of progress over time, the origins of the state in China are shrouded in mystery, in multiple developmental pathways, s…
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As an age of bronze gave way to one of iron, and then classical empires, the importance of writing grew all across Eurasia. That means more written sources for us to work with, but it also tells us dramatically more than we could have known before about the languages people were actually speaking across the continents. Patrick's book is now availab…
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