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Invasion of the Pod People

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at The Wheeler Centre

Emperors of Rome on Cleopatra

Podcasts, when done right, have a unique way of getting into our heads and infusing us with passions and fascinations we never thought we had. At their best – Stuff You Should Know, or Dan Carlin’s Hardcore History, for example – history podcasts can act like a museum of the mind’s eye, providing an absorbing audio guide to abstract ideas, real events and human dramas.

For this event, we’re joined by Rhiannon Evans and Matt Smith, co-hosts of the Emperors of Rome podcast. They’ll record a live episode centred around Cleopatra VII – from her Greek background and willing embrace of Egyptian culture, to her strategic and intimate relationships with Rome (and with Julius Caesar and Mark Antony). What were her political ambitions? How was her story shaped and exploited for the benefit of Emperor Augustus, and how did she try to shape her own image? What do we really know about the legendary but complicated life of Egypt’s last native pharaoh?

As well as a live recording, we’ll hear from our guests about why ancient history is a relevant and insightful companion to today’s world – where power, corruption, dynasty and leadership remain central to how societies work. How are scholars discovering new details of humanity’s story, and how are they sharing them with the wider public?

Presented in partnership with La Trobe University.


Portrait of Rhiannon Evans

Rhiannon Evans

At La Trobe University, Dr Rhiannon Evans teaches Ancient Mediterranean Studies – in particular, the literature and culture of Ancient Rome and its empire, as well as the Latin language and Greek and Roman mythology. She studies Roman literature of the 1st centuries BCE and CE, from Julius Caesar to the early emperors of Rome, and is especially interested in what they can tell us about ancient Romans’ views of their own and other people’s cultural identity. She has published several articles on ancient ethnicity, and a book on Roman culture and utopias.

Portrait of Matt Smith

Matt Smith

Matt Smith works as a writer, podcaster and freelance journalist. He hosts and produces the podcasts Emperors of RomeWhen in RomeAsia Rising and Biography. He occasionally travels through time and space, and is currently working on his second novel.

Invasion of the Pod People

In the last few years, podcasts have matured into the storytelling format du jour – with a little help from a certain sensationally popular true crime serial (ahem). Yet the surge of interest and excitement around audio features and podcasts has been gaining momentum for even longer, propelled by a diversity of formats.

Take the narrative artisanship of This American Life or the sonic vivacity of Radiolab; the topical deep dives of Slate’s Culture Gabfest or Phillip Adams’s Late Night Live; the animated storytelling of The Moth or Sum of All Parts; or the intimate conversations found in Death, Sex and Money or WTF with Marc Maron. The influence of these and countless other shows can be felt in today’s most interesting podcasts (insert shameless plug for the Wheeler Centre’s own successful forays into richly-produced feature-making, including Andrew Denton’s Better Off Dead, and The Messenger, here). 

Beloved for their sense of proximity, their active listenership, portability and in some cases, ambitiously-crafted audio, podcasts have a unique ability to keep listeners in the company of their own choosing – and to render mundane tasks bearable. And since design show 99% Invisible’s record-breaking Kickstarter campaigns – podcasts have also shown promise in otherwise dim times for media businesses. What’s next for podcasting – and how could it be done better?

In celebration of all things audible, we’re bringing you some of podcasting’s best and brightest to share their thoughts and insights on the art (and business) of listening. 


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