Thermopylae III

Lead: At Thermopylae, a small contingent of Greeks led by the Spartan King Leonidas delayed the onrushing Persian invasion. The tiny blocking force was destroyed, but its resistance paved the way to ultimate victory over Persia.

Intro.: A Moment in Time with Dan Roberts.

Content: Thermopylae, the Hot Gates, named for a nearby sulfurous artesian spring, was in 480 BCE a narrow pass between the mountains and the Malian Gulf northwest of Athens. It was one of landside gateways to southern Greece and a well-chosen choke point where a small force could resist to great effect the regiments of Persian King Xerxes.

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Thermopylae II

Lead: The battle at Thermopylae was as much a clash of cultures and competing loyalties as it was a military engagement. It helped preserve a unique part of the western tradition.

Intro.: A Moment in Time with Dan Roberts.

Content: Despite a relatively benign style of imperial administration, the Greeks proved a problem for Persia. The Empire encountered resistance and then in the 490s BCE, open rebellion in the Greek city-state of Iona in what is now western Turkey. Persian attempts to put down that rebellion which had been aided by the city-states of mainland Greece and absorb the peninsula itself came a cropper at the Battle of Marathon northeast of Athens in 490. For ten years, Persia nursed its wounded pride and ambition violated in Darius’ defeat at Marathon. His son, Xerxes was determined to right that failure.

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Thermopylae I

Lead: During three hot August days in 480 BCE, the Spartan king Leonidas and an elite force of his countrymen and their allies killed or held at bay thousands of Persian troops at the “Hot Gates,” Thermopylae.

Intro.: A Moment in Time with Dan Roberts.

Content: The battle at the narrow pass, which for a brief time delayed the enormous armies of Xerxes, has been described as triumph of west over east, one of the singular moments in the developments of western civilization and signaled the superiority of Spartan, hence Greek, hence European, arms and character over the perfidious and uncivilized hoards of the east. Most of that is Greek war propaganda and survives largely because the account of the Greco-Persian Wars was written by a Greek, the eminent historian Herodotus.

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Hadrian’s Wall II

Lead: Before it was complete, so-called Hadrian’s Wall, built across the narrow land neck in north Britain, was one of the most elaborate border fortifications of the Roman Empire.

Intro.: A Moment in Time with Dan Roberts.

Content: The project, begun in CE 122, was extraordinarily complex. The ancient wall stretched 73 miles from sea to sea, from present day Wallsend in Tyneside in the east to Bowness-on-Solway in the west. It ranged upwards to twenty feet tall, from six to ten feet in width, with a stone and masonry façade on either side of a dirt, lime cement and rubble fill. The Romans maintained a rampart on which legionaries could stand keeping watch behind a stone parapet. Immediately in front of the barrier was a v-shaped ditch to deter frontal cavalry attack. Situated at intervals along the fortification were large forts spaced at wide distances, mile castles every mile, and between them two so-called manned turrets. Immediately to the rear of the Wall was a deep trench bounded by two large mounds of dirt. This was the so-called Vallum and it extended almost the entire length of the wall. A debate continues as to the use of this seemingly redundant construct. Perhaps it was used for communication or to keep civilian traffic away from the precincts of the wall itself or perhaps a place for a last ditch defense should the wall itself be breached.

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Hadrian’s Wall I

Lead: In CE 122, Roman Emperor Hadrian, on a visit to Britain, decreed the construction of a continuous barrier across the northern neck of the island to keep out barbarians.

Intro.: A Moment in Time with Dan Roberts.

Content: For generations prior to the succession of Caesar Trajanus Hadrianus Augustus in CE 117, the Roman Empire had expanded. It was at that time the largest of the ancient western empires stretching from modern day Iran to Spain, from Northern Africa to Germany and across the North Sea to Scotland. Under Hadrian, imperial policy for a time turned from expansion to consolidation. It was time to shore up the borders. One of the most contentious regions of the empire was the area between the relatively settled districts of Roman Britain in the south and the rugged and wild stretches of present day highland Scotland inhabited by so-called barbarian clans: Pics, Scots, and a particular restive tribe known as Brigantes.

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Pliny the Elder

Lead: From the first century A.D. until the Renaissance one of the most influential writers in the world was the Roman naturalist Pliny.

Intro.: A Moment in Time with Dan Roberts.

Content: Gaius Plinius Secundus was born in northern Italy of a prosperous family in A.D. 23. Educated in Rome, he served as a cavalry commander in legions assigned to border duty in Germany. He took early retirement and devoted most of his remaining years to writing and research. Seven works are ascribed to him, including a History of Rome, but only one survives, his greatest, an encyclopedia of the physical world, entitled Natural History.

 

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The Fall of Constantinople III

Lead: When the Ottoman forces of Sultan Mehmet II assaulted and then overcame the defenses of the city of Constantinople in 1453 it bought not only a bloodbath but also the end of an empire.

Intro.: A Moment in Time with Dan Roberts.

Content: The magnificent and strategically important city of Constantinople, overlooking the vital Bosporus waterway, was the sole remaining important territorial vestige of the Roman Empire. Despite temporary setbacks the city's legacy went back 1000 years to the reign of the first Christian emperor, Constantine I. Yet, by the middle of the 1400s there was hardly anything left of the vaunted Byzantine Empire. The ruler of the city was another Constantine, Emperor Constantine XI. He would be the last. The city was beset by economic trouble, religious and political dispute between Eastern Orthodox and Roman Catholic clergy, and soon faced the overwhelming forces of the increasingly irresistible Ottoman Empire. When Western governments finally responded to Constantine's plea for help it was too little, too late. His forces numbered only about 6000. In spring 1453 19-year-old Ottoman Sultan Mehmet II brought numerous modern cannon, elaborate siege engines and 80,000 troops to the party.

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The Fall of Constantinople II

Lead: When Sultan Mehmet II attacked the city of Constantinople in 1453 he was facing formidable odds. For over 1000 years that City behind those walls advisedly defended itself from all comers.

Intro.: A Moment in Time with Dan Roberts.

Content: The defenses of Constantinople were legendary. Assaults on the city were frequent. Any temporary successes an enemy might have were quickly reversed and tended to strengthen the post-invasion metropolis. The main walls had three layers of defense. The inner wall, some 30 feet above the exterior approaches, was the strongest, the outer wall was the weakest. Each layer of defense was separated by a walkway which could be used to transport men and matériel but also to trap enemy soldiers and slow down any assault. The building materials were squared stone, brick and lime mortar supplemented by marble and other tough natural stones quarried nearby. The walls were punctuated with almost 100 defense towers guarding the approaches and public access roads. In the final assault in 1453 the fiercest fighting was on the outer walls and along the internal defenses of the so-called Golden Horn, a narrow waterway that protected the City's northern side.

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