I love history. I grew up watching the History channel (back when they actually had real history shows) and PBS documentaries. These days those kinds of things don't really hit the spot anymore. I've turned to podcasts instead. There's a ton of great history podcasts out there and I've written before about my love of this History of Rome podcast, its successor The History of Byzantium podcast, the British History Podcast and the fantastic Revolutions podcast. But there's another show that I've really fallen in love with recently: The Fall of Civilizations Podcast.
Each episode of TFoC is a narrative re-telling of the fall of a particular civilization. The, typically 2-3 hour long, episodes start with an overview of the culture, exposing you to how it felt to live at that time and in that place, and the second half covers how this civilization fell. Each show has voice actors, music, excerpts from songs or stories shared at the time, and is chock full of well-researched, excruciatingly detailed history.
That's not why I love the show though. I love it because I've left every episode feeling some degree of the same feeling: a mixture of wonder, sadness, hope, and intense loss for the cultures of the past who watched their world come to an end. It's cheery stuff. That may not sound very... good, and perhaps it isn't, but it reminds me that history is full of tragedy, and loss, but also full of hope and positive change. It reminds me that our world has not become what it is by accident or without pain and suffering. I just finished the episode about the fall of the Aztec empire, a tale I'd studied in school, but never truly understood at the level I feel I do now. As with every episode, I know how it ends, but it's always the journey that matters.
This podcast, as well as all of the others mentioned in this post come highly recommended. Each of these shows is so captivating in its own right that I've, on many occasions, just sat with a cup of tea, coffee, or a cocktail and just listened, as if to a radio play, for hours. It's almost as if these kinds of narrative histories are like the oral tales that ancient tribes would tell around a fire: the stories of cultures, ancient and great, and the tale of how they fell.