5 Great History Podcasts
Ancient history doesn’t always get much attention in high school and college. Unless you’re a history major or deliberately take ancient history electives, you probably won’t encounter much of the ancient world outside of some brief mentions in Western Civilization 101.
In my opinion, the world of antiquity is far more interesting than medieval history, especially medieval Europe. I’ve never once faced a situation in my life and thought “Oh, thank God I can name all of Henry the VIII’s wives.” I’m getting off topic. Ancient history is at least as important as later history and far more interesting.
Fortunately, you can take some classes at History Podcasts University.
1 — The History of Rome Podcast
The History of Rome is the quintessential ancient history podcast. Many people consider it to be the best. It’s definitely one of the earliest and helped create the genre. Early episodes move a little faster and more surface level; that’s likely because the history of early Rome is pretty sketchy. Most of what we know is from rumor, conjecture, and contemporary quasi-journalism. The narrator becomes more detailed and in-depth as the series progresses. He covers the entire history of ancient Rome in 179 episodes. Each episode is about 20 minutes long. The entire podcast takes 73 hours to consume. Don’t let that intimidate you, though. It’s easy listening and a great introduction to Rome.
2 — The Fall of Civilizations Podcast
Each episode covers a different civilization that collapsed in one sense or another. It does what it says on the tin. The episodes are incredibly in-depth and interesting. Each episode focuses on the factors that led to the civilization falling apart, but that requires complex examinations of the society before it fell. They’re informative and engaging.
Also, unlike some of the narrative podcasts, you can listen to these in any order. I recommend starting with the Aztecs episode. Most episodes are about 90 minutes long.
3 — The History of Byzantium
Inspired by The History of Rome, this podcast continues the story of the Roman Empire. After Rome fell, Byzantium (Istanbul, not Constantinople) became the center of the Roman world. This podcast is designed to follow History of Rome; therefore, the format is similar. Personally, I found the names a little more difficult to hold in my head since I’m so unfamiliar with Greek. The narration is well-paced and informative. Byzantine history is also pretty well-documented, so the narrative of the empire hangs together pretty well as a story. Each episode is about 20 minutes.
4 — Kings and Generals
Kings and Generals is a YouTube channel that produces animated documentaries. Many of their episodes focus on the ancient world, but they detail tons of different historical periods up to the 1970s. The animation is great, the narration is clear and concise, and the subjects are well-chosen. Episodes are about 15 to 30 minutes long.
5 — Historia Civilis
Historia Civilis is a YouTube channel producing explanations of Ancient Roman events. Most of the videos deal with the late Roman Republic but there are explanations for concepts like Roman legions, voting practices, and triumphs. Unlike Kings and Generals, this channel uses very lo-fi animation. The characters (Julius Caesar, Cleopatra, etc) are little boxes moving around on a map. It sounds weird to say, but somehow, the boxes have a lot of personality. The simplicity of the animation also allows the listener to focus on the history. I don’t know if Historia Civilis is the best (how do you quantify such a thing?) but it’s far and away my favorite. Episodes are about 20 to 30 minutes long.
And here is one great Colloquial podcast, The Fire Escape.