OwlTail

Cover image of Early Middle Ages

Early Middle Ages

Early Middle Ages

Popular episodes

All episodes

The best episodes ranked using user listens.

Podcast cover

02. The Crisis of the Third Century and the Diocletianic Reforms

Professor Freedman outlines the problems facing the Roman Empire in the third century. The Persian Sassanid dynasty in the East and various Germanic tribes in the West threatened the Empire as never before. Internally, the Empire struggled with the problem of succession, an economy wracked by inflation, and the decline of the local elite which had once held it together. Having considered these issues, Professor Freedman then moves on to the reforms enacted under Diocletian to stabilize the Empire. He attempted to solve the problem of succession by setting up a system of joint rule called the Tetrarchy, to stabilize the economy through tax reform, and to protect the frontiers through militarization. Although many of his policies failed--some within his lifetime--Diocletian nevertheless saved the Roman Empire from collapse.Complete course materials are available at the Open Yale Courses website: http://oyc.yale.eduThis course was recorded in Fall 2011.

48mins

2 Apr 2012

Rank #1

Podcast cover

04. The Christian Roman Empire

The emperor Constantine’s conversion to Christianity brought change to the Roman Empire as its population gradually abandoned the old religions in favor of Christianity. The reign of Julian the Apostate, a nephew of Constantine, saw the last serious attempt to restore civic polytheism as the official religion. The Christian church of the fourth century was divided, however, by two serious heresies: Arianism and Donatism. Religious dissent led to the intervention of the emperors at church councils and elsewhere. Professor Freedman then introduces St. Augustine’s Confessions, including an overview of Platonism.Complete course materials are available at the Open Yale Courses website: http://oyc.yale.eduThis course was recorded in Fall 2011.

47mins

2 Apr 2012

Rank #2

Similar Podcasts

Podcast cover

05. St. Augustine’s Confessions

Professor Freedman begins the lecture by considering the ways historians read the Confessions. In this work, St. Augustine gives unique insight into the life of an intellectual mind in Late Antiquity, into the impact of Christianity on the Roman Empire, and into the problems of early Christianity. The three major doctrinal concerns of the early Church were the problem of evil, the soul-body distinction, and issues of sin and redemption. In the Confessions, St. Augustine searches for explanations of these problems first in Manichaeism, then (Neo)Platonism, and finally Christianity.Underlying this narrative are Augustine’s ideas of opposition to perfectionism, his exaltation of grace, and the notion of sin as indelible, not solvable.Complete course materials are available at the Open Yale Courses website: http://oyc.yale.eduThis course was recorded in Fall 2011.

46mins

2 Apr 2012

Rank #3

Podcast cover

07. Barbarian Kingdoms

In this lecture, Professor Freedman considers the various barbarian kingdoms that replaced the Western Roman Empire. Oringinally the Roman reaction to these invaders had been to accommodate them, often recruiting them for the Roman army and settling them on Roman land. Now, however, they were the rulers of the previously Roman lands of the West. These tribes included the Ostrogoths and Visigoths in Italy, the Franks in Gaul, and the Vandals in North Africa. As most sources about these groups come from the Roman perspective, it’s unclear how coherent each group was. In general, the barbarian groups characterized by disorganization, internal fighting and internecine feuds, and lack of economic development. Professor Freedman closes with some remarks on the Burgundian Code as evidence of barbarian society and institutions.Complete course materials are available at the Open Yale Courses website: http://oyc.yale.eduThis course was recorded in Fall 2011.

49mins

2 Apr 2012

Rank #4

Most Popular Podcasts

Podcast cover

06. Transformation of the Roman Empire

The Roman Empire in the West collapsed as a political entity in the fifth century although the Eastern part survived the crisis. Professor Freedman considers this transformation through three main questions: Why did the West fall apart – because of the external pressure of invasions or the internal problems of institutional decline? Who were these invading barbarians? Finally, does this transformation mark a gradual shift or is it right to regard it as a cataclysmic end of civilization? Professor Freedman, as a moderate catastrophist, argues that this period marked the end of a particular civilization rather than the end of civilization in general.Complete course materials are available at the Open Yale Courses website: http://oyc.yale.eduThis course was recorded in Fall 2011.

49mins

2 Apr 2012

Rank #5

Podcast cover

14. Mohammed and the Arab Conquests

In this lecture, Professor Freedman introduces Islam. He begins with a discussion of its geographical context: the dry desert lands of the Arabian peninsula. The Bedouins, or nomadic Arabs of the region, lived in a tribal society somewhat similar to the Germanic tribes discussed earlier in the course. Their raids against the Byzantine and the Persian Empire, for lack of strong opposition, would lead to the Arab conquests. The second half of the lecture focuses on the life of Mohammed (570/580 – 632) and the early years of Islam. Mohammed’s revelation was one of the unity of God and a progressive interpretation of God’s prophets, with Mohammed as the last of these. Early Islam was slow to differentiate itself for Christianity and Judaism, though this process accelerated after Mohammed’s flight to Medina in 622. Professor Freedman ends with a discussion of the tenets of Islam and anticipates the discussion of the Arab conquests in the next lecture.Complete course materials are available at the Open Yale Courses website: http://oyc.yale.eduThis course was recorded in Fall 2011.

43mins

2 Apr 2012

Rank #6

Podcast cover

11. Frankish Society

Professor Freedman considers the Merovingians as an example of barbarian kingship in the post-Roman world. In the absence of a strong government, Merovingian society was held together by kinship, private vengeance, and religion. Kings were judged by their ability to lead men in war. Gregory of Tours believed that the violence characteristic of Frankish society was useful insofar as the kings wielded it to back up threats of supernatural retribution for bad actions. Professor Freedman ends with a brief summary of the decline of the Merovingians. Complete course materials are available at the Open Yale Courses website: http://oyc.yale.eduThis course was recorded in Fall 2011.

50mins

2 Apr 2012

Rank #7

Podcast cover

09. The Reign of Justinian

Professor Freedman opens by discussing why historians use the writings of Procopius and Gregory of Tours, a sixth century bishop whose history of the Merovingian kings is discussed the following week. Procopius’s three works – The Wars, the adulatory Buildings, and the invective Secret History – are the best sources on the reign of the Emperor Justinian. Under Justinian and his wife Theodora, the Roman Empire reached its height as it reclaimed territories in North Africa and Europe previously lost to the Vandals, Visigoths and Ostrogoths.. However, defeats in war accompanied by heavy taxation led to civil unrest. In addition to the wars, Justinian commissioned a number of large projects like the building of the Hagia Sophia and the organization of Roman law in the Corpus Iuris Civilis. Complete course materials are available at the Open Yale Courses website: http://oyc.yale.eduThis course was recorded in Fall 2011.

48mins

2 Apr 2012

Rank #8

Podcast cover

15. Islamic Conquests and Civil War

In this lecture, Professor Freedman discusses the Islamic conquests. Although they were in some sense religiously motivated, Arab did not attempt to forcibly convert or eradicate Jews, Christians, or other non-Muslims. The conquests began as raids, but quickly escalated when the invaders discovered that Byzantium and Persia were too weak to withstand their assault. In a relatively short period of time, the Arabs were able to conquer an area stretching from Spain to India. Against this background of successful conquests, Islam began to experience deep internal divisions. These began as criticisms of the election of Mohammed’s successors, but broadened to criticize the Caliphate and the ruling family. Out of this strife came the division between Sunni and Shiite Muslims. Professor Freedman concludes the lecture with observations on the increasingly non-Arab Muslim populations. Complete course materials are available at the Open Yale Courses website: http://oyc.yale.eduThis course was recorded in Fall 2011.

49mins

2 Apr 2012

Rank #9

Podcast cover

08. Survival in the East

Professor Freedman focuses on the question of how the Eastern Roman (Byzantine) Empire survived, while the West collapsed in the fifth century. He begins with a brief overview of Procopius’ Secret History, a work which presents a highly critical account of the reign of the emperor Justinian. The more urbanized, economically stronger, and geographically more stable Eastern Empire was able to survive while the West was dismantled by barbarian tribes. Yet under pressure from its old enemy, Persia, and new threats, the Slavs and Avars in the West and Arabs in the East, the Eastern Empire experienced a decline in the seventh century. Against the background of this political instability, Professor Freedman also discusses the Christological controversies of Nestorianism and Monophysitism which plagued the Church in the East. Beginning in the late seventh century, Iconoclasm also added to the pressures facing the Eastern Church and Empire.Complete course materials are available at the Open Yale Courses website: http://oyc.yale.eduThis course was recorded in Fall 2011.

47mins

2 Apr 2012

Rank #10