I spend at least an hour commuting each day, which means that I, like a large number of other humans, follow a number of podcasts. What better way to fill those long walks than by indulging in aural entertainment? But while I’m no stranger to the podcast medium, I had never journeyed out into the world of classically-themed podcasts — until now, that is.
I reached out to the #ClassicsTwitter community for recommendations on the best classics podcasts, broadly interpreted, and have spent the last few days listening to a couple of episodes of many of the suggestions. So here’s my guide to the available podcasts for all you classicists out there.
History of Ancient Greece Podcast
The History of Ancient Greece Podcast was one of the first ones recommended to me. This podcast features scripted deep-dives into groups of people and events in the ancient world and I would totally recommend it for people looking to learn something about Ancient Greeks.
I listened to Episode 85 “Mathematics and Early Pythagoreans,” which may have been made to exactly cater to my interests. And while I might take issue with how Babylonian mathematics were occasionally referenced in the episode, I found it ultimately approachable while still informative. In fact, I convinced my advisor to incorporate Episode 86 on “Early Astronomy” into his Astronomy Before the Telescope class!
There’s also a special episode on Mesopotamian Medicine featuring an interview with Dr. Moudhy Al-Rashid — both a subject and a scholar near and dear to my heart!
The Exploress Pod
This podcast isn’t strictly limited to antiquity, but rather is a scripted exploration of women throughout history. But here’s the moment I knew that The Exploress was a podcast for me: “When it comes to the words that made it through time to us, Ancient Greece is particularly loud with Men’s voices.”
Kate J. Armstrong’s second season focuses on women in Antiquity. She brings an irreverence to her attempt to bring these stories into the modern time, which I suspect is one reason I find her ‘casts so compelling. Additionally, the Exploress demonstrates some high production values — interstitial music, cuts to other performers for quotes from authors, etc. — that help to bring these stories to life. Another thing that I really appreciated about The Exploress podcast was their comprehensive website that included transcripts of the podcasts (yay accessibility!) as well as sources, images, and credits for things like music.
I listened to an episode called “That Loosener of Limbs: Sappho and Sexuality in Ancient Greece,” the source of the quote I pulled out at the beginning here. It’s a highly compelling examination that I DEFINITELY recommend.
History of Egypt Podcast
I love that the History of Egypt Podcast moves us beyond the traditional borders of “classics” to tell stories from the history of Egypt. These episodes are scripted, and are given some production value with background music and pretty good audio quality. The podcast also seems to really value telling a story, so each episode isn’t just giving you facts or curating a conversation but rather tracing a narrative — which makes for pretty good listening.
I listened to the Mini-Episode “An Egyptian Horror Story” not only because that halloween-content appeals to me, but also because the creative names for episodes made it difficult for me to guess at their subject matter. Interestingly, the History of Egypt Podcast website organizes its episodes by dynastic period — which is a great tool for historians, but didn’t help me find an episode. Their website does provide a bibliography and images for each show, but no transcript.
Ancient History Fangirl
Not all audio-explorations of the classics must be written ahead of time — many podcasts find their groove in conversations between hosts or interviewees.
This was far and away my favorite podcast that I tested this week. Ancient History Fangirl features two women hosts in conversation about a topic in ancient history. The episodes vary in length from ~45 mins to close to 2 hours, but are widely available on podcast platforms. Each episode is accompanied by shownotes that include associated images, and, importantly, sources — however, transcriptions of episodes do not seem to be available.
Maybe it’s because one host mentioned that she was a murderino, but the whole podcast gave a My Favorite Murder vibe — two women friends having a conversation and presenting stories to each other from notes. It’s a friendly, inviting atmosphere, where they aren’t reading pre-written scripts so there is more fluidity to their presentation, but they do have a good structure to the overarching narrative.
I listened to “Ancient Vampires: They Only Knock Once,” and though the episode was almost 90 minutes it was one of the few that I followed through until the end. The hosts talked about vampire-esque myths and creatures from not just Ancient Greece but also Sumer and Babylonia, so I appreciated their inclusion of other ancient cultures.
The Arch and Anth Podcast
Finally, I’d like to feature the Arch and Anth Podcast, a series of informal interviews between the host, Dr. Michael B. C. Rivera, and scholars in the fields of Archaeology and Anthropology. While the podcast isn’t strictly classically-themed, many of the interviews are with Ancient Historians. The informal format and general audience make these episodes a fun listen, and the wide range of the subject matter means that you’re often learning something new!
I listened to the Episode 85 “What is Assyriology? What did ancient Mesopotamian royal inscriptions say?,” which featured an interview with Megan Lewis, one of the creative minds behind the Digital Hammurabi YouTube channel. Not only was this a fascinating discussion about a field I love to play in, but it didn’t shy away from issues like mental health, public scholarship, and the often problematic academic job market.
This list only touches the very surface of the classics-themed podcasting world. Tons of other podcasts — including Myth Take, Itinera, Partial Historians, the Mirror of Antiquity, and That’s Ancient History — cover other aspects of ancient history and are totally worth a listen. Have a recommendation I missed? Let us know — maybe we’ll come back for a Classics Podcasts Part II!
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