In this newest installment of A.D. History, Paul K. DiCostanzo and Patrick Foote probe one of the most debated murder cold cases in history of the Roman living legend Germanicus. Paul and Patrick also examine the only known surviving such work of its time, Strabo’s much celebrated The Geography. The Geography in its detailed accounting provides a comprehensive work that not only outlines what the Greco-Roman sphere knew about the greater world, but also provides singular insight into how the Romans viewed their own place in that ancient world through Strabo’s eyes.
The Death of Germanicus: Murder Most Foul?
Germanicus, the Roman soldier-statesman, stands as one of the most beloved and revered figures by ancient Romans. Born in 15 BC, Germanicus’ given name was likely Nero Claudius Drusus. Germanicus’ father was also called Nero Claudius Drusus; who himself was the adopted stepson of Emperor Augustus, as well as the elder brother to the Emperor Tiberius. Drusus and his death at a rather young age lead to Germanicus being adopted by Tiberius, in addition to being a most favored step-grandson to Augustus.
Germanicus due to his immense talent, battlefield achievements, and most unusual personal character for a Roman of his time or societal class, was thought by his fellow Romans as their Alexander the Great. Germanicus was indeed a legend in his own time; known not only for his stoicism, but his bravery, palpable loyalty, self effacement, lacking all pretensions, and his bold demeanor that unwaveringly lead from the front. His untimely demise in 19AD at age 34 in Syria is alleged to have been murder. Germanicus’ suspected murder, it’s most likely culprits, circumstances, purported means and lack of hard evidence has lead this to become an effective cold case now lasting over 2,000 years.
The official Roman narrative implicating and convicting Gnaeus Calpurnius Piso, then governor of Roman Syria at the time of Germanicus’ alleged murder – namely by poison – is at best problematic. The cold case is wrought with innuendo, paranoia, wild accusations, and circumstantial evidence – which is no evidence at all. Indeed, conspiracy is remarkably difficult to prove in many modern western legal systems, and Piso’s conviction today could never come to pass based on the paltry evidence available.
Paul and Patrick breakdown this immense history, taking a much closer look at the suspects believed most likely by the Roman people of the time, using the famous Agatha Christie trope, “who dunnit?”
Strabo’s The Geography: What did the Romans know about the greater world?
The Geography, or the Geographica, by Greco-Roman historian Strabo is a 17 volume work that outlines the greater ancient world from a Greco-Roman perspective. Strabo’s work not only outlines the greater geographical knowledge of the known world in great detail, but categorically describes the various disparate people’s that inhabit it. The Geography is most unique because no other like work is known to have survived into modernity, unlike his other work Historical Sketches or Historica Hypomnemata.
Strabo, the chronicler of this work, died in 24 AD at age 87. Strabo, son of a wealthy family, originally hailed from ancient Anatolia, in Amaseia Pontus under King Mithridates VI. Strabo’s family notably threw in their lot with the Romans, prior to Amaseia’s incorporation into the Roman Empire under Pompey in 70BC.
The Geography and it’s vast importance to scholars of antiquity provides the most important insight of all, a first hand look into exactly how the Romans viewed themselves and their place in their world. For all intents and purposes, there is no greater historical windfall which surpasses gaining that contemporaneous understanding. Patrick in segment two, using only the primary source itself, delves into that historical wellspring.
(Article Continues Below...)
Paul & Patrick Answer YOUR Submitted Questions!
After reaching out to you the listener for questions, Paul and Patrick answer a handful of your submitted questions in this newest episode. If you have any questions you would like answered in an upcoming episode, you can tweet it to @ADHistoryPC, leave it in the comment section on YouTube, submit it via a Facebook message, or send it as an old fashioned email at email@example.com. We want to hear from you!
Paul K. DiCostanzo’s Guest Appearance on the show Podding Through Time: Stalin and the Soviet Union 1938 – 1941
Released this past month, Paul was a special guest on the podcast Podding Through Time. The show hosted by Evan and Jacob, Podding Through Time is described as a historical variety show focusing on lesser known history in rich detail.
Paul joined Evan and Jacob, leading an in-depth dive into the early Soviet period, Soviet foreign policy in the 1930’s/early 1940’s, the Second World War, Stalinism, as well as Josef himself. In doing so, driving a greater discussion about the Kremlin’s perspective on the shambolic 1938 Munich Pact. In addition to the complex events leading to the often overlooked Molotov-Ribbentrop, or Nazi-Soviet, “non-aggression” pact inked by Nazi Germany and the USSR in August 1939. The Nazi-Soviet pact serving as the final diplomatic piece allowing Hitler to plunge Europe into war by invading Poland one week later. In addition to the much lesser known shocking wartime cooperation, nay alliance, the pact enabled between Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union prior to the German invasion of the USSR in June, 1941.
To check out Paul’s episode guest spot, click here to visit Podding Through Time available on Apple Podcasts.
- Dando-Collins, Stephen. Blood of the Caesars: How the Murder of Germanicus Led to the Fall of Rome. Hoboken, N.J: Wiley, 2008.
- Beard, Mary. SPQR, 2015.
- Frankopan, Peter. The Silk Roads, 2016.
- Goldsworthy, Adrian Keith. Augustus: First Emperor of Rome. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2014.
- Evans, Rhiannon & Smith, Matt. Emperors of Rome Podcast. Episodes 9, 10, 11. Latrobe University, 2014.
Write to Paul and Patrick at firstname.lastname@example.org