machines which I have made, am making, or intend to make, and some other stuff. If you find this site interesting, please leave a comment. I read every comment and respond to most. n.b. There is a list of my first 800 posts in my post of 17 June 2021, titled "800 Posts"

Tag: Emperors of Rome

A Coal Grate. And Monster Emperors of Rome.

Firstly, the book review.  It is short, because I did not enjoy it.  Not that it is badly written, or poorly researched.  But it is really shocking.



From Tiberius to Theodora.  AD 145-548

This book is one of the series published by Pen & Sword on the architects of terror. Other volumes include Al-Qaeda, The Armenian Genocide, Bloody Mary, Einsatzgruppen, to give you an idea of the scope of the series.

Now that I have finished with the book, I am examining my own motives in choosing it.  I have read many books about ancient Rome, and find the era fascinating; the personalities, the reasons for the rise and fall of the empire, why the military was so spectacularly successful etc etc.

But to be truthful, I did not actually finish the book.  I had a similar reaction when I read about the Nazis and the concentration camps.  Just too horrible to contemplate.  And I closed it after reading about half.  And will not reopen it.

Paul Chrystal is a well-respected author who has written many books about ancient Rome. He states an aim to use primary sources, and to balance the horror with the mitigating aspects of the monsters. The book is 127 pages long, and it covers 10 emperors, so there is not a lot of space to give a balanced view. Mostly, despite its aims, the book is about rape, murder, treachery, nasty and insane men and women with absolute power doing whatever they felt like doing.

And to be realistic, even the “good” emperors started wars, executed rivals, instigated massacres and mass maimings.  That was the way things happened in ancient Rome. And twentieth century Germany, China, Cambodia etc etc.

So, if you enjoy seemingly endless descriptions of sadistic torture, rape and mass murders, with many illustrations, this book might be for you.

Not for this this reviewer though.

John V.

Now, back to getting enough heat into the 1:8 Trevithick Dredger Engine.

I have made a grate to place into the firebox, and which will replace the gas burner, which has proved to be inadequate, despite many, many experiments with improving it.  So here is the grate.


Putting a rather unpleasant book to good use.

The holes in the grate are tapered, with the smallest part of the holes uppermost.  The fold at the back is to prevent coal being pushed off.  The taper is to prevent clogging the holes with clinker, and possibly to improve the velocity of air flow through the fire.

And how did I drill so many small holes so neatly?


CNC of course.  Took about 45 minutes.

But after that I had a conversation with Stuart Tankard.  He reckons that I will do no better with coal than I have with propane to date.   Hmmm.   Might give it a go anyway.

Stuart’s suggestion is to try one of these….


It is 50mm diameter, has a large jet (0.81mm diameter) and has a fearsome flame.  Looks more like a silver soldering torch.  If I use it I might get a flame coming out of the chimney.  Hope that it does not melt the silver solder.




I wont be without my iPhone, ever again.  (see previous post)

I am still amazed at being able to post a problem on the net and to get solutions from kindred spirits in far off countries within minutes.

I really enjoy shopping on the net, and receiving parcels from the postman.  The waiting and anticipation adds to the pleasure.

And I love podcasts.

In no particular order these are my favourites:

History of Rome by Mike Duncan.  One of the originals, and one of the best.  Approximately 150 episodes of 20-30 minutes each.  I have listened to this entire series 3 times, and I there will probably be a fourth.  As well as being very listenable history, Mike has a lovely understated sense of humour.  And I know that he is a top bloke, having gone on his first History of Rome tour of Rome, southern Italy, and Istanbul.  Mike has renewed his podcasting in another series titled “Revolutions”.  Another great series. It covers the English revolution (cavaliers and roundheads),  the American war of independence, the French revolution, and is ongoing at the time of this writing. Although he is American, Mike takes a refreshingly unbiased stance.

History of Byzantium by Robin Pierson.  A more British style of narration about a too little known but fascinating slab of 1000 years of history, continuing the history of Rome-Byzantium.  Robin Pierson is erudite and measured, but no less fascinating.  His website has really great pictures and maps relating to each episode.  Europe would probably be Islamic, but for Byzantium.

Hardcore History by Dan Carlin.  Do not miss these!  Dan Carlin deals with history topics from many eras.  The first world war being the most recent, 6 episodes of up to 4 hours each.  Sounds like a marathon, but it goes in a flash.  In earlier series he deals with the eastern front of WW2, the Mongol invasions, Geronimo, the American slave trade, and many others.  Although Dan Carlin does not title himself a historian, these are very well researched.  They are free, but he asks for a donation of $1 per episode.  This is the best value spend ever!

Europe From Its Origins by Joe Heggarty.  Which covers the history of Europe from the fall of the western Roman empire, to the fall of Constantinople in 1453.  In a lovely soft Irish (I think) accent, Joe Heggarty gives a scholarly and detailed coverage of the  Europe of late antiquity and the mediaeval eras.  Do watch the visuals as you listen to this one.  The maps and pictures are superb.

I am currently listening to The History of the Papacy, but unless you have a particular interest in religious history I cannot recommend this one.  It is not easy to follow.

I have just started on another history of ancient Rome podcast titled “Emperors of Rome” by Dr Rhiannon Evans.   It is nice for me to listen to Australian accents dealing with this period of history.  Dr Evans is clearly expert, and the sources for the information are frequently referenced.   The style is conversational and an easy listen.  The subject material is fascinating (at least to me).  It is exciting to start listening to another great podcast.

To check out any of these podcasts, Google any of the names listed.  Even if you have no interest in history, you should try Dan Carlin’s Hardcore History.