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Ancient History Fangirl

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Ancient History Fangirl

Jenny Williamson and Genn McMenemy

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An ancient history podcast run by two Millennial women. Misbehaving emperors, poison assassins, mythological mayhem; it’s like if Hardcore History met up with My Favorite Murder in the ancient world, with a heavy helping of booze and laughter. New episodes weekly. Currently covering ancient mysteries.
 
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For over a thousand years, the ancient Egyptians sent their ships out to trade with a fabulous kingdom. They dragged their ships from the Nile to the coast of the Red Sea, and those ships returned groaning with luxuries beyond anyone’s wildest imaginings. The place they got it all from was the Land of Punt—known to the Egyptians as the Land of the …
 
Perched on a cliff at the edge of the world in the remote Orkney Islands, the ancient village of Skara Brae is a picturesque and dramatic sight. Carved into an ancient midden, it’s a warren of interconnected dwellings with built-in furniture, secret compartments, and more than a few mysteries. What did the people of Skara Brae get up to when the li…
 
Hundreds of years before European contact, the biggest city in North America was located along the Mississippi River. At its peak, perhaps 15,000 people lived there—and over 30,000 in the surrounding suburbs. Today, we call it Cahokia. Nobody knows what the original name of this city was. But there was a time when everybody knew its name—from the G…
 
In our episode on the Sphinx Water Erosion Theory, we discussed the theory that the Sphinx was 10,000 years old. This date would require us to completely reorder our sense of how humanity evolved. We decided it’s simply too out there to be true. But what if we told you that there is an archaeological site 10,000 years old whose shocking discovery d…
 
Introducing History Daily, a podcast that tells the fascinating stories of what happened “on this day” in history, with host Lindsay Graham. Today, we're hosting two episodes from History Daily, both about famous pirates from the Golden Age of Piracy! First up: The arrest of famous pirate captain William Kidd ends the reign of plunder of one of his…
 
Serial killers may seem like a modern phenomenon. But there were serial killers in operation in the ancient world—or so it would seem. Evidence for them is everywhere—in mythology and in history, we see predators killing their victims in surprisingly modern ways. Was it easier to be a serial killer in ancient Greece and Rome? Could they find victim…
 
Who built the modern world? The answer to that question might surprise you. (Or maybe not...) There's a long list of global innovators and trailblazers who’ve been erased from history books because of who they were: women, people of color, LBGTQ and more. Each week They Did That tells one of these people's stories and how their life’s work has chan…
 
In this episode, we’ll delve into the mystery of Aokigahara, known in Japanese as the Sea of Trees—and to the rest of the world as the Suicide Forest. After the Golden Gate Bridge, it is the second most popular suicide destination in the world. The forest is over a thousand years old. It grew over lava floes laid down in a devastating volcanic erup…
 
Who were the witches and sorceresses of ancient Greece and Rome--and how did they wield their power? In this episode, ancient occult expert Daniel Ogden introduces us to the world of Greco-Roman witchcraft--including necromancy, love spells, curse tablets, and real-life magical manuals written thousands of years ago by Alexandrian sorcerers. Join u…
 
In 1942, a forest ranger was hiking on an isolated trail deep in the Himalayas. Rising over 16,000 feet in elevation, he climbed a ridge that looked down a steep-sided funnel of ice and boulders. At the bottom was a small, perfectly circular glacial lake, frozen in a solid blue lens. And there, strewn about the icy, rocky beach, lay skeletons. Hund…
 
Did you know that the ancient Greeks and Romans didn't have a word for sharks--despite the fact that they must have seen them eating sailors during sea battles all the time? For that matter, they didn't have a word for "whale" either. But they did describe the most fantastical sea creatures, including Nereids, Ketos, and "sea dogs." Whatever those …
 
High in the mountains of eastern Crete, there’s a secret that has been kept since the 1200s BC. It’s the secret of the strange and still-unexplained 80+ ancient villages hidden in the Cretan mountains that may have been the last refuges of the Minoan people. The ancient Minoans were master seafarers. But sometime between the 1200s and the 1000s BC,…
 
Carved from the very living bedrock of the Giza plateau, the Sphinx is shrouded in mystery. Archaeologists believe it’s about 4,500 years old. But there’s a fringe theory—the Sphinx Water Erosion Theory—that suggests it’s much, much older. Join us as we explore this wild theory that completely explodes the prevailing wisdom, and asserts that the Sp…
 
We're on hiatus until September 22. Until then, please enjoy this deep dive into Hadrian's Wall. Hadrian’s Wall is a jaw-dropping engineering achievement stretching 73 miles across hundred-foot-high escarpments and rushing rivers, its earthworks dug deep into unforgiving igneous bedrock. From its walls, Roman and auxiliary soldiers had a unique vie…
 
We're on hiatus until September 22. Until then, please enjoy our entire Boudicca series, all in one place. The story of Boudicca’s revolt is as epic as you can get. It’s got murder and pillage, Romans behaving badly, cities on fire, and a layer of destruction that was scorched into the earth. But it's also the story of a people on a precipice of gr…
 
We're on hiatus until September 22. Until then, please enjoy this deep dive into Celtic mythology. We've assembled here some of our favorite episodes dealing with Celtic myths and legends: including the Hound of Ulster, the Morrigan, and The Pictish Beast: What Is It? Join us for a lighthearted, high-energy and very bingeable series that will put y…
 
We're on hiatus until September 22. Until then, please enjoy this deep dive into the life and times of Spartacus. This file contains the first three episodes of our Spartacus series. You'll learn about the conditions in Italy that gave rise to the Third Servile War; how Spartacus rebelled and the pressures he was under in holding together a dispara…
 
We're on hiatus until September 21 Until then, please enjoy all the Vercingetorix episodes in one long, binge-able file. This is the story of an unstoppable force meeting an immovable object: Julius Caesar bringing the might of the Roman military machine to bear against a proud warrior culture that had existed for centuries. Most accounts of Julius…
 
We're on hiatus until September 22. Until then, enjoy this long, binge-able episode on Julius Caesar's early life. Most accounts of Caesar's life start later on--such as during his time in Gaul or crossing the Rubicon. But his early life was just as fascinating; maybe even more so. This is the Caesar who stood up to Sulla and refused to divorce his…
 
This file contains the first three episodes in our series on Marc Antony and Cleopatra: Lovers in a Dangerous Time, all in one place. This series has everything: love, war, violence, betrayal, Marc Antony barfing everywhere, and Cleopatra being extremely glamorous at all times. If you've listened to our interview with Barry Strauss on the Battle of…
 
We're on hiatus until September 22. Until then, enjoy this long, binge-able episode on all things Aphrodite. Some of you may be here because you saw our presentation on Transgender Aphrodite at Intelligent Speech. If so, welcome! We thought we'd put together our first long file all about the goddess so you can learn more about Aphrodite--how she wa…
 
It's the end of Season 7! We can't believe we made it...something like 42 episodes later? It's been a wonderful, weird, challenging, and heartbreaking season, for many different reasons. Find out what went on behind the scenes, and what we've got planned for the future. We'll be back September 22. Have a great summer! Get new episodes throughout th…
 
It’s the last episode in our Gender Rebels of Greek Mythology series—and perhaps you’ll agree we saved the best for last. Atalanta was an avatar of an older, wilder time, created in the image of an ancient Artemis—goddess of the fields and forests who had a strong association with bears. Perhaps Atalanta represents an older image of that goddess be…
 
When you think of Artemis, what springs to mind? Perhaps it’s a fierce huntress with a bow and arrow, a sort of female Peter Pan—wild and untamed, haunting forests drenched in moonlight—a goddess who’s taken a stern vow of chastity, and refuses all company save that of her nymphs. That’s one version of Artemis—the Classical version. But there’s an …
 
This week, we’re taking a bit of a detour into a previous, much-loved topic: Marc Antony, Cleopatra, and How it All Went Wrong. In this episode, we return to the beach at Actium with author, historian, and academic Barry Strauss as our tour guide. His new book, The War That Made the Roman Empire: Antony, Cleopatra, and Octavian at Actium, discusses…
 
Most myths say that Athena sprung from Zeus’ head fully formed, totally brilliant, and just a badass war goddess. We don’t get a lot of stories about her youth, the way we have about Dionysus, or Artemis, or Heracles. Right from the start, Athena is just a fully formed adult who does adult things. Right? Well, not exactly. There’s this one story th…
 
This week, we’re going to talk about that time Heracles, the strong man, son of Zeus and noted impenetrable penetrator, lived as a woman. Yes, you read that right. And not only did he live as a woman, he was the submissive to a powerful female dom who took up his lionskin and club as symbols of her own power. Get ready for a fun, gender-bending epi…
 
Who's the queerest of the gods? It's hard to say...but there's a strong case to be made that it's Dionysus. The god of wine and revolutionaries who rebelled ferociously against the gender binary, Dionysus breaks the mold in so many ways--and he does it with a sense of joy that's irresistible. In this episode, debut author and unabashed Dionysus fan…
 
Many of us have preconceived notions about what the Illiad was like. Prepare to have those notions blown away. In this episode, debut author Maya Deane methodically strips away the lenses of the Victorian era, Classical Greece, and the modern day to reveal an Illiad that’s older and darker and weirder than any of us could ever have dreamed. This is…
 
We’re taking a slight departure from our Gender Rebels series to tell you the story of Zeus and Ganymede. This is the story about the time Zeus kidnapped a teenage boy named Ganymede and brought him to Olympus to be his “cup bearer.” Zeus and Ganymede were not gender rebels. In fact, they set the standard for the erastes-eromenos binary of the time…
 
Not only was abortion broadly legal in ancient Greece and Rome, but some of the methods used were surprisingly similar to today. And the Bible doesn’t mention it at all—except in one obscure passage, where it tells you how to administer one. In this episode, we’re joined by feminist Biblical scholar and author Princess O’Nika Auguste to discuss the…
 
This episode is part of our abortion rights takeover series. It was originally dropped on our Patreon. It deals with the miracle plant of ancient Greece and Rome: Silphium. The people of Cyrene printed it on their money. It was considered a delicacy throughout the Greek and Roman world, as well as a powerful medicine that could be used to cure ever…
 
This episode is part of our abortion rights takeover. We'll be back to our regularly scheduled series on gender rebels on June 2. In this re-release, Kate from the Exploress podcast joined us to discuss the intimate lives of sex workers in ancient Greece and Rome--including methods of contraception and abortion. Pliny the Elder interviewed sex work…
 
What happened to people in ancient Rome who were freed from slavery? Turns out there were still invisible threads--economic pressures, imbalances of status, and debts owed to wealthy patrons--that kept many of them in bondage. On the streets of Pompeii, freedom came at a steep price--especially for women. Today, we talk to Elodie Harper--bestsellin…
 
As most of you probably already know, abortion rights in the US are under attack. Somebody leaked a Supreme Court initial majority draft that was a full throated, loud and proud revocation of pregnant-capable people’s right to choose who gets to use our bodies. Abortion is a totally normal procedure that people have been doing for millennia--probab…
 
This week, we're taking a break from the story of Achilles to discuss the Illiad from an angle that's not as often covered: the story of the women of the House of Atreus, the family of Agamemnon. In this episode, bestselling author Jennifer Saint introduces us to Clytemnestra and Elektra--Agamemnon's wife and daughter--as well as the priestess and …
 
In this episode, we explore what happened to gender in the pressure-cooker of ancient war. To do that, we skip ahead ten years to a different beach: the war-blasted, corpse-strewn sands below the walls of Troy. As the Trojan War dragged on, the most respect went to those who were able to slaughter and pillage and plunder: gender for men devolved in…
 
In our last episode we looked at Achilles’ early life and his relationships with the women who crossed his path. In this episode, we follow him to the beach at Aulis—where all the Greek kings and heroes, anyone who was anyone, had gathered at the start of the Trojan War. Achilles left Pyrrha behind, but his time as a dancing girl followed him to th…
 
Achilles is so often portrayed as the most masculine of heroes, but those portrayals generally leave out that he spent a few years of his life passing as a girl. Today, we’re going to explore that time in Achilles’ life, and what it tells us about his gender. We’ll also delve into his relationships with the women in his early life: his mom, Thetis,…
 
In the first part of our Gender Rebels series, we talked about queer history—queer women, Intersex people, transgender people, and eunuchs. Now, we’re going to begin another series that takes that lens to Greek mythology. There are plenty of queer myths that break the binary as the ancient Greeks saw it—and heroes and gods who were gender rebels. S…
 
Last week, we told you about the Sacred Band’s first important military victories—victories that depended on the intense trust and love the Sacred Band members had for each other. Victories that showed that the Spartans weren’t so tough after all. But as Spartan control in Greece receded, opportunistic warlords and upstart city-states rose up to ta…
 
In our last episode, we told you the story of how the Spartans took over the city of Thebes and how an intrepid and very queer group of Theban rebels, led by a firebrand named Pelopidas, took it back while dressed as women. The Thebans had their city back. Now they had to figure out how to hold it against the Spartans, because the Spartans would st…
 
The time was the 300s BC. The place was Thebes. And in this place, in this time, there was an elite military force—the best of the best special ops shock troops—made up of 150 male lovers. Their love for each other was the key to their strength. It made them better fighters. More effective. It made them strong enough to break the iron-fisted contro…
 
Last week, we focused on people who chose to undergo castration for religious reasons. But this probably wasn’t the most common experience most people had who were castrated. Enslaved people were castrated as well--often in childhood. Today, we're going to take a deep dive into their lives and circumstances. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit …
 
In ancient Rome, there were a lot of eunuchs. Some were enslaved, some were free; some were members of religious cults, some were not. No study of queer history in ancient Greece and Rome would be complete without them. Today, we’re going to take a look at the history of people who underwent castration in the Roman Empire—why they did it, when they…
 
Intersex people are sometimes featured in Greek mythology in a positive way—for instance, the beautiful child of Aphrodite who became an important part of her entourage. But the ancient Romans saw Intersex people as imbued with a specific kind of magic associated with frightening signs and portents—and that made it dangerous to be Intersex in the a…
 
We are SO excited that we have a book coming out in August 2022! Our book, Women of Myth, will be available worldwide from Simon and Schuster. Listen in as we talk about our favorite Women of Myth from around the world with Liv Albert from Let's Talk About Myths, Baby! Our book is about epic women in mythology from around the world. We cover a dive…
 
Join us for a deep dive into queer history in ancient Greece and Rome. This week, we focus on transgender men and women. It's a common belief that being trans is somehow a "modern" invention and there were no trans people in the ancient world. But nothing could be further from the truth. From the trans women who led the worship of an influential st…
 
This mini-series-within-a-series will be a deep dive into queer history in ancient Greece and Rome--starting with queer women. Because how could we do a season about sex and sex magic without talking about the magical provenance of those who fell outside the accepted binary? Women who loved other women were gender rebels in the ancient world. They …
 
She's the Tenth Muse, Western literature's first lyric poet, and a woman who openly, unabashedly loved women and wrote about it--in an extremely patriarchal society where queer women's experiences were almost universally erased. But what has come down to us about the life and times of Sappho? Like her poetry, our picture of Sappho's life is very fr…
 
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