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Being Roman with Mary Beard

Being Roman with Mary Beard

Beneath the starched togas and the pungent fug of gladiator sweat there are real Romans waiting to be discovered. Mary Beard uncovers fascinating untold stories from the Empire.

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8. Death on the Nile

Julia Balbilla is an accomplished poet and close friend of the wife of one of Rome?s mightiest emperors. Hadrian loves to travel and takes Julia and an entourage of thousands on the ultimate elite tourist trip- a leisurely Nile cruise to the Great Pyramid of Giza and the Colossus of Memnon, a statue that will sing for anyone blessed by the gods. Julia inscribes her poems on the giant foot of the statue, praising the power of Hadrian and the beauty of his wife, Sabina.

It?s a charming scene, darkened only by the fact that Hadrian?s male lover, Antinous has only just drowned in the Nile. Was he murdered by jealous rivals, killed in a lover?s tiff or did he drunkenly slip from the deck? Hadrian is publicly bereft, founding a new city in the name of Antinous, but seems happy to continue his luxury cruise. Mary Beard hops aboard Ancient Rome's most intriguing cruise with historian T. Corey Brennan and archaeologist Elizabeth Fentress.

Producer: Alasdair Cross

Expert Contributors: Corey Brennan, Rutgers University and Lisa Fentress

Cast: Julia Balbilla played by Juliana Lisk

Special thanks to Andrea Bruciati, Villa Adriana

2024-05-07
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7. The Whistleblower

Beneath starched Shakespearean togas and the pungent fug of gladiator sweat there are real Romans waiting to be discovered. To know what it was to be Roman you need to gather the scattered clues until they form a living, breathing human, witness to the highs and horrors of Europe?s greatest empire.

Mary Beard, Britain?s best-selling historian of the ancient world, rebuilds the lives of six citizens of the Roman Empire, from a poet to a squaddie. Her investigations reveal death and deceit on the Nile and the art of running a Roman pub, but it?s the thoughts and feelings of individual Romans she?s really interested in.

It's 61CE. The rebellion of Boudicca has finally been quashed, but London and other Roman cities lie in ruins. A new finance officer for the province, Gaius Julius Classicianus arrives, to face an enormous recovery job. Standing in his way is the Governor, busy exacting terrible reprisals from the local population. Classicianus does what brave subordinates have done ever since. He whistle-blows ? writing to the emperor to remove the Governor from British shores. The stage is set for an imperial face-off. For the people of Britain, the stakes could not be higher.

Producer: Alasdair Cross

Expert Contributors: Matthew Nicholls, University of Oxford and Michael Marshall, Museum of London Archaeology

Cast: Tacitus played by Robert Wilfort

Translations by Mary Beard

Special thanks to the British Museum

2024-05-07
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6. Love in the Borderlands

At the very edge of Empire, inscribed on a beautifully carved tombstone, there?s a story of love across the tracks. On Hadrian?s Wall a slave girl from Hertfordshire and a lonely traveller from Syria meet and marry. The story of Regina and Barates has inspired poets and writers eager for a simple love story to illuminate a dark and dangerous world. But how true might this be? What brought this couple together across cultures and thousands of miles? Was their alliance true love or forced marriage?

Mary Beard tracks our couple from Palmyra to South Shields, revealing the cultural mix of the Empire and the power dynamics of slave and master with the help of Syrian poet, Nouri Al-Jarrah.

Producer: Alasdair Cross

Expert Contributors: Greg Woolf, University of California Los Angeles and Frances McIntosh, English Heritage

Cast: John Collingwood Bruce played by Josh Bryant-Jones and reading of The Stone Serpent by Tyler Cameron

Translation of The Stone Serpent: Catherine Cobham

Arabic Translation: Samira Kawar

Special thanks to Alex Croom and Tyne and Wear Museums

2023-11-08
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5. Battling Bureaucrats

What does it take to run an Empire? Armies and slaves, of course, but also bureaucrats. At its height the Roman Empire employed thousands of men charged with keeping Rome and its provinces fed, watered and content. This was no easy job. A remarkable set of papyrus scrolls reveals the life of Roman Egypt's very own David Brent, preparing for a a visit from the fearsome Emperor Diocletian.

Infuriated by hopeless staff and venal local politicians and continuously harassed by his superiors, Apolinarius of Panopolis becomes increasingly desperate as Diocletian approaches and the tension cranks up. Mary Beard follows Apolinarius's story to reveal the messy realities of Roman administration.

Producer: Alasdair Cross

Expert Contributors: Colin Adams, Liverpool University and Margaret Mountford

Cast: Apolinarius played by Josh Bryant-Jones

Special thanks to Jill Unkell and the Chester Beatty collection, Dublin

2023-11-08
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4. What We Lost in the Fire

For an aspiring medic it was a dream assignment- official team doctor to the gladiators of Pergamon. The top names in the arena were worth a lot of money and it was up to young Galen to keep them alive. Slash and stab wounds had to be closed quickly and cleanly and diets devised to maintain the perfect balance of fat and muscle for the finest fighters. It gave Galen unrivalled insight into the workings of the human body, knowledge he would use as he went on to treat emperors and write the textbooks that would guide doctors for hundreds of years.

Mary Beard traces the career of Rome's greatest medic from its highs to its lowest of lows- the moment when a great fire swept through Rome, threatening to wipe out his life's work.

Producer: Alasdair Cross

Expert Contributors: Helen King, Open University and Matthew Nicholls, Oxford University

Special thanks to the British Museum and the Parco Archeolgico del Colosseo, Roma

2023-11-08
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3. Rome's Got Talent

Imagine the feeling in the pit of your stomach as you take to the stage in front of 7000 people to recite a complex poem you?ve just made up on the spot. 11 year old Sulpicius Maximus knows that the Emperor is in the front row and his parents are counting on his success in Rome?s premier festival of the arts.

Mary Beard tracks down the clues behind an extraordinary story of Roman life, revealing the reality of Roman childhood and the desperate attempts of the poet's parents to escape the shadow of their slave roots and rise through the ranks of Roman society.

Producer: Alasdair Cross

Expert Contributors: Valentina Garulli, Bologna University and Kathleen Coleman, Harvard University

Poetry Translation: Barbara Graziosi

Cast: Sulpicius played by Joseph Goodman and oration read by Tyler Cameron

Special thanks to Barbara Nobiloni at the Centrale Montemartini Museum, Rome

2023-11-08
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2. The Vengeance of Turia

Beneath starched Shakespearean togas and the pungent fug of gladiator sweat there are real Romans waiting to be discovered. To know what it was to be Roman you need to gather the scattered clues until they form a living, breathing human, witness to the highs and horrors of Europe?s greatest empire.

Mary Beard, Britain?s best-selling historian of the ancient world, rebuilds the lives of six citizens of the Roman Empire, from a slave to an emperor. Her investigations reveal the stressful reality of Roman childhood, the rights of women and rules of migration, but it?s the thoughts and feelings of individual Romans she?s really interested in.

In the second episode we meet a woman caught up in a brutal civil war. Turia?s story starts with the murder of her parents. She tracks down their killers and fights off scavenging relatives desperate for a piece of her inheritance. Before she has a moment to settle her new husband is forced on the run, fleeing the murderous junta that?s taken over the empire after the murder of Julius Caesar. She?s badly beaten by the leadership's thugs as she pleads her husband?s case, but will her sacrifices ensure his safety?

Producer: Alasdair Cross

Expert Contributors: Greg Woolf, UCLA; Matthew Nicholls, Oxford University; Helen King, Open University

Cast: Voice of Laudatio Turiae read by Don Gilet

Special thanks to the National Museum of Rome, Baths of Diocletian

2023-11-08
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1. Loving An Emperor

Beneath starched Shakespearean togas and the pungent fug of gladiator sweat there are real Romans waiting to be discovered. To know what it was to be Roman you need to gather the scattered clues until they form a living, breathing human, witness to the highs and horrors of Europe?s greatest empire.

Mary Beard, Britain?s best-selling historian of the ancient world, rebuilds the lives of six citizens of the Roman Empire, from a slave to an emperor. Her investigations reveal the stressful reality of Roman childhood, the rights of women and rules of migration, but it?s the thoughts and feelings of individual Romans she?s really interested in.

In the bloody chaos of civil war, a young bride witnesses the savage murder of her parents, fights for her inheritance and funds her husband?s flight from the brutal gangsters carving up the empire. On Hadrian?s Wall a Hertfordshire slave girl marries a Syrian trader. Is it a cross-cultural love story or a brutal tale of trafficking and sexual abuse?

An eleven year old boy steps on stage to perform his poetry to a baying crowd of 7000 and the Emperor himself. The political and financial future of his entire family will be decided in the next few stanzas.

Across six episodes Mary Beard travels the Empire and gathers first-hand testimony and expert comment, creating an extraordinarily vivid sense of Being Roman.

In the first episode we meet Marcus Aurelius, the very model of the ideal Roman Emperor. Strong and masculine, but a deep thinker with wise words for every occasion. Richard Harris played him in the film Gladiator as a great leader of men, determined that loyal Russell Crowe inherit the Empire rather than his treacherous son, Joaquin Phoenix.

As Mary discovers, Marcus proves much more complicated- and interesting- than his image in popular culture. Letters to his beloved tutor reveal a naïve, sweet and dangerously flirtatious nature, while his record of campaigning and persecution under his rule shows an Emperor as comfortable with brutal violence as stoic philosophy.

Producer: Alasdair Cross

Expert Contributors: Amy Richlin, UCLA and Elizabeth Fentress

Cast: Marcus played by Josh Bryant-Jones and Fronto played by Tyler Cameron

2023-11-07
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Welcome to Being Roman with Mary Beard

Beneath starched Shakespearean togas and the pungent fug of gladiator sweat there are real Romans waiting to be discovered. To know what it was to be Roman you need to gather the scattered clues until they form a living, breathing human, witness to the highs and horrors of Europe?s greatest empire. Mary Beard introduces her six part series on the people of the Roman Empire, from a slave to an emperor.

2023-11-01
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