In May we posted about Mike Duncan’s The History of Rome podcast, which, upon reaching episode 179, had concluded the tale of the Roman Empire’s heyday. Over its five-year run, Duncan’s show amassed a large, enthusiastic audience, most of whom have no doubt continued their exploration of Roman history elsewhere. It has even inspired some to launch history podcasts of their own, one of which presents itself as The History of Rome’s direct successor in subject, style, and tone. The History of Byzantium (RSS — iTunes), which debuted in May, aims to recount the story of Roman Empire of Late Antiquity and the Middle Ages, now better known as the Byzantine Empire, from the years 476 through 1453. Though perhaps less often discussed by the average history buff, the Byzantine Empire nonetheless offers a wealth of historical interest, especially, it seems, to podcasters; you may already have heard Lars Brownworth’s show 12 Byzantine Rulers, which eventually landed him a book deal. And many more Byzantine stories remain to tell.
Pierson, by day a televison critic, explicitly describes his project as both an unofficial sequel and an homage to The History of Rome. “I liked the simplification and explanation of the Roman story,” he writes in his introductory post. “I liked the half an hour length. I liked Mike’s sense of humour and timing. I liked his neutral tone which never felt like it was providing an overbearing opinion on the narrative. When Mike announced he would be stopping with the fall of the West in 476 I considered whether I could possibly take on the task of continuing the story. [ … ] Initially at least I hope to emulate Mike’s style. I want to keep the rough structure and neutral tone established on The History of Rome because I think so highly of it. I hope you won’t see it as simply an imitation and doubtless over time my own style will emerge.” This seems as honest an account as any of the way creators work off of their inspirations, and History of Rome fans will no doubt listen with interest to The History of Byzantium for both the developments in the tale and in Pierson’s way of telling it.