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Friday, July 14, 2017

Samsigeramus, Zenobia, and the End of the Bloodline

After listening to Episode B43, astute listener Jacob asked (on the TAW Facebook page): "So with the death of Samsigeramus is that technically the end of the Bloodline as far as we can prove?"  My answer is a reluctant but unqualified “yes.”  Samsigeramus, like Severus Alexander, may well have been a tenth generation descendant of Cleopatra and Mark Antony - though it’s worth noting that the generations (and exact connections) between Gaius Julius Alexio and Julius Bassianus are pretty sparsely documented.  In the Bloodline series I’ve proposed what I think is a reasonable reconstruction to span the requisite gaps.

But even that’s a six-lane freeway compared to the dusty unmarked trail connecting Cleopatra’s descendants – in any reasonable way – to the Palmyrene Queen Zenobia.  My initial research hinted at connections, and I used those connections to frame the series.  But I’ve since read works by modern historians who argue (convincingly) that there’s just no “there” there.  Zenobia’s claims in this regard were pretty clearly propaganda, designed to appeal at a critical time to a very critical power base.  This revelation does little to diminish her stature and she remains a remarkable, heroic, and ultimately tragic figure.  But it does throw a monkey wrench into the series structure by forcing the end of the family through-line with the death of Samsigeramus.
So…what now?  Well, never fear – I’m still fully committed to finishing the story of the meteoric rise and fall of the Palmyrene Empire, and the series will still conclude with the ultimate fate of Zenobia.  In a broader sense it’s also the story of a particular time and place: the Syria of the late third century, precariously balanced between a distant Rome, an aggressive Persia, and the rising power of Palmyra.  At the same time it’s the story of Emesa - modern Homs in Syria - the Jerusalem of the Sun God and cradle of the Severan Dynasty.  Even after Samsigeramus’ death the city will remain a historical nexus, and witness the murder of a King, the defeat of an Empire, and the first declaration of monotheism by a sitting Roman Emperor.
I hope you enjoy the ride.
Scott C.
PS  A quick word about timing.  Due to an overflow of competing commitments, it’s recently proven extremely challenging to post episodes on a regular basis.  It’s my general intention to complete the series before the end of the year, but aside from that I really can’t provide much in the way of details.  So please keep subscribed to the Bloodline feed and look forward to the occasional happy surprise as new episodes (or groups of episodes) make it your way.  And, as always, thanks for listening!

Friday, June 16, 2017

Episode B43 - Sibylline

Synopsis:  Samsigeramus saves Emesa from Sasanid destruction, then proclaims himself Augustus.  The arrival of Valerian marks the end of his reign and the elevation of Odaenathus to provincial governor.

“And then there shall be a flight of Romans; and thereafter there shall come the priest heard of all round, sent by the sun, from Syria appearing, and by guile shall he accomplish all things.  And then too the city of the sun shall offer prayer; and round about her shall the Persians dare the fearful threatenings of the Phoenicians.” – The Sibylline Oracles, Book XIII
http://s407341505.onlinehome.us/Episode_B43_Sibylline.mp3

Friday, May 26, 2017

Episode B42 - Iotapian

Synopsis:  The revolt of Iotapian shows Eastern nobles the possibilities among the chaos.  Shapur’s invasion of Syria drives Samsigeramus to make a bold stand.

“As there were at that time many disturbances in the empire, the eastern provinces - which were uneasy, partly owing to the exactions of exorbitant tributes, and partly to their dislike of Priscus, their governor, who was a man of an intolerably evil disposition - wished for innovation, and set up (Iotapian) for emperor.” – Zosimus, The History, Book 1
“So rapid were the motions of the Persian cavalry, that, if we may credit a very judicious historian, the city of Antioch was surprised when the idle multitude were fondly gazing on the amusements of the theatre.  The splendid buildings of Antioch, private as well as public, were either pillaged or destroyed; and the numerous inhabitants were put to the sword, or led away into captivity.” – Edward Gibbon, History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, Chapter X, Part IV
http://s407341505.onlinehome.us/Episode_B42_Iotapian.mp3

Friday, May 12, 2017

Episode B41 - Samsigeramus

Synopsis:  Shortly after Hatra’s destruction, Shapur inherits the Persian Empire.  Gordian’s invasion the following year ends in defeat and humiliation for Rome.

“When at first we had become established in the Empire, Gordian Caesar raised in all of the Roman Empire a force from the Goth and German realms, and marched on Asoristan against the Empire of Iran and against us.  On the border of Asoristan and Misik a great frontal battle occurred.  Gordian Caesar was killed and the Roman force was destroyed.” – The Great Inscription of Shapur I, Naqsh-i-Rustam
The Roman Near East c. 240AD

http://s407341505.onlinehome.us/Near_East_240_Region.jpg

Friday, April 28, 2017

Episode B40 - Uranius

Synopsis:  After the death of Elagabalus, Uranius Antoninus served as High Priest of Elah Gabal in Emesa.  From this vantage, he witnessed the birth of Ardeshir’s Persia and the changing fortunes of the Palmyrenes.

“Even the name of Tadmor, or Palmyra, by its signification in the Syrian as well as in the Latin language, denoted the multitude of palm-trees which afforded shade and verdure to that temperate region…Palmyra, for a while, stood forth the rival of Rome; but the competition was fatal, and ages of prosperity were sacrificed to a moment of glory.” - Gibbon, The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, Chapter XI, Part III
Dedicated with great respect to Khaled al-Asaad, Palmyra’s devoted protector