>I'm amazed how people think this politically dysfunctional disaster of an "empire" is admired for stability. It seems to topple along dictator after dictator like a banana republic
Look at the words you have just typed my friend. How many of them are of Latin and Greek origin? It was not the republic that romanized the world, the Roman republic was a relatively small state with a system every bit as convoluted and unstable as the empire, it only appears less so due to the smaller scale, and so the smaller impact of action.
As for history podcasts, youtube channels and what not I strongly recommend you not let them become the basis of your understanding. They can be likened to junk food - tasty, and quick, but lacking substance, and harmful as a habit. Instead try to get as close to the source as you can, everything written already has enough misconception, anachronism and opinion as it is, no need to on another few layers just so that you can save a few hours.
Also Speculation on the similarities, and differences of historical and current figures is fruitless, and one runs the risk of trying to attach our current frame of thought to that of the past, and in so coming off with a worse understanding than if you had simply not even tried to learn anything at all. Take for example Grettis saga in which there is a character whose nickname so to speak was "Baby Sparer". That said the overall nature of thought has not changed drastically in who knows how long - take ancient graffiti for example, or the old comedies.