Throughout February HISTORY has curated an extensive selection of the best programmes on Rome; from the volcanic ash buried city of Pompeii, to the rise and fall of the Roman Empire.
Journey back to an ancient time, when gods were feared, and gladiators were worshipped. Unearth a civilisation that shaped the way that we live today.
Eight Days That Made Rome
Fridays at 8:30pm AEDT from February 1 until March 22
Award-winning historian and broadcaster Bettany Hughes presents a new eight-part landmark history of ancient Rome. Across the series Hughes explores eight key days that she believes define the Roman Empire and help us to understand its remarkable success. In each episode, Hughes travels across the Roman world, delving into the psyche and uncovering brand new archaeological evidence, while lavish drama brings the incredible story of Rome to life.
The eight days include Rome’s early defeat of her great rival Carthage under Hannibal, at the battle of Zama; a crucial moment and one of the most important battles in ancient history when Rome, an influential city-state becomes an unstoppable Empire. We also explore the day when Julius Caesar crossed the Rubicon River and set in chain a series of events that would ultimately culminate in the end of Rome’s republic. The final episode looks at the day Constantine, close to death, was finally baptised as a Christian.
It was here he made a final declaration of the spiritual allegiance that had a profound importance not just for the Empire, but for the future of the world.
Hannibal: The Man, The Myth, The Mystery
Friday February 1 at 10:30pm AEDT
His name resonates throughout history, a mythical figure, one of the greatest commanders of the ancient world. But what of the man behind the legend?
Ancient Rome: The Rise And Fall Of An Empire
Saturdays at 4:30pm AEDT from February 2 until March 9
A docu-drama covering the rise and the fall of the Roman world including the founding by Julius Caesar and the building of Rome by Nero.
Rome – Series 1 + Series 2
Saturdays at 10:30pm AEDT from February 2 until June 29
The first season depicts Julius Caesar’s civil war of 49 BC against the traditionalist conservative faction in the Roman Senate (the Optimates), his rise to dictatorship over Rome, and his fall, spanning the time from the end of his Gallic Wars (52 BC or 701 ab urbe condita) until his assassination on 15 March 44 BC (the infamous Ides of March).
Against the backdrop of these cataclysmic events, we also see the early years of the young Octavian, who is destined to become Augustus, the first Emperor of Rome. The second season chronicles the power struggle between Octavian and Mark Antony following Caesar’s assassination, spanning the period from Caesar’s death in 44 BC to the suicide of Antony and Cleopatra in 30 B.C. after their defeat at the Battle of Actium.
Rome’s Invisible City
Sunday February 3 at 4:30pm AEDT
With exclusive access deep beneath Rome’s streets and stunning new visualisation techniques, classicist Dr Michael Scott leads a team of experts to reveal the full story of the ancient world’s most awe-inspiring city and the extraordinary people who created and lived in it.
More than 2,000 years ago, the stonemasons of Rome set to work constructing a capital fit for the world’s most powerful empire. The spectacular skyline they dreamed up – featuring the Coliseum, the Pantheon, the Circus Maximus and the Forum – is as breathtaking today as when it was built.
That iconic city-scape is only half the story of the metropolis they created. There is another Rome that few people have ever seen. A whole underground world which made life possible for a million citizens up above.
From huge underground quarries, subterranean aqueducts, vast water cisterns to ornate temple and tombs and the elaborate lifts, trap doors and mechanics beneath the Coliseum, this film reveals for the first time the buried story of the ingenious Romans and how they planned, created and lived in their captivating city more than two millennia ago.
Rome: Empire Without Limit
Sundays at 7:30pm AEDT from February 3 until February 24
Travelling from Spain to Iran, Egypt to Scotland, Tunisia to Greece, historian and classicist Mary Beard answers the big questions that have fascinated people for centuries…
How and why did the Roman Empire happen? Why did Rome acquire an empire? And why did it fall? Mary examines its creation, its successes, its failures and the legacy it left behind – not just its technology and buildings, its roads and laws but also in the worlds that came after it.
Sunday February 3 at 10:30pm AEDT
Baiae… An ancient Roman city lost to the same volcanoes that entombed Pompeii. But unlike Pompeii, Baiae sits under water, in the Bay of Naples. Nearly 2,000 years ago, the city was an escape for Rome’s rich and powerful elite, a place where they were free of the social restrictions of Roman society. It was the Las Vegas of its day. Now, a team of archaeologists is mapping the underwater ruins and piecing together what life was like in this playground for the rich. There were vast villas, elaborate spas, and raucous parties on barges floating in the bay. No expense was spared to create a wonderland.
Baiae was also the site of some of the most treacherous political dealings of ancient Rome with Emperor Nero and his enemies hatching deadly plots against each other. And then, the city sank into the ocean, to be forgotten in the annals of history until now. What made Baiae such a special place? And what happened to it?
Meet The Romans
Mondays at 9:30pm AEDT from February 4 until February 18
Forsaking Emperors and battles but embracing the latest archaeological evidence, she reveals what went on behind closed doors and in the public baths. 2000 years ago, Rome was “the” city, with heaving population of over 1 million. The average citizen’s diaries and letters no longer exist – but their epitaphs and funerary monuments do – and they reveal the extraordinary biographies of the wives and children, the butchers and barman, the slaves and shopkeepers of this truly amazing city.
The Last Days of Pompeii
Thursdays at 8:30pm AEDT from February 7 until February 21
2000 years ago, the entire Roman city of Pompeii was buried alive in a huge volcanic eruption. Pompeii’s Final Hours: New Evidence is the three part documentary series which presents a countdown through the final days of life in Pompeii and how new archaeological digs and technologies are revealing previously unknown secrets about the people hidden beneath the ash.
Historian Dr Bettany Hughes (Genius of the Modern World, Britain’s Secret History), Archaeologist Raksha Dave (Time Team) and John Sergeant (Britain’s Secret Treasures) explore what life was like in the final hours of the doomed city of Pompeii – counting down day-by-day to the eruption itself. Spanning the entire ruined city and the surrounding areas, they follow new digs, stepping into the best preserved Roman sites, following the human remains as they are analysed, and visiting the volcano itself. The three episodes explore a wide range of different themes to evoke daily life in Pompeii exactly as it would have been in the run up to the eruption such as work, leisure, food, shopping, interior design, money, politics, and architecture.
The series reveals how every aspect of this bustling Roman port worked; all set against the tense backdrop of a ticking volcanic time bomb. Each episode profiles key characters who lived in the final days of Pompeii. From a gladiator to businessman to humble bar owner. Their final hours in Pompeii are pieced together in unprecedented detail by combining geological, historical and archaeological evidence.
The Lost Legions Of Varus
Friday February 8 at 10:30pm AEDT
A look at how German tribes destroyed three Roman legions in 9 A.D.
Roman Britain From The Air
Sunday February 10 at 4:30pm AEDT
Christine Bleakley and Dr Michael Scott take to the skies to see what life was like for Romans and Britons 2000 years ago.
London was created by the Romans and that can be seen more clearly from the air than on the ground, giving this film a very unique take on British history.
In a novel journey across the UK, from London to Wales and then heading up north to the spectacular Hadrian’s Wall, some of the secrets of everyday life in Roman Britain are uncovered; they came across 1800 year old hand cream, find a massive chunk of Roman Britain in an underground car park and visit a Roman toilet on the very edge of the Roman Empire.
Treasures Of Ancient Rome
Tuesdays at 5:30pm AEDT from February 12 until February 26
Art critic Alastair Sooke sets out to show the art of the Romans for what it really is – both the best insight to the Roman world and an important grounding for western art. The series traces how, during the Republic, the Romans went from being art thieves and copycats to pioneering a new artistic style. And by following in the footsteps of Rome’s mad, bad and dangerous emperors, he finds that their taste in art chimes perfectly with their obsession with sex and violence.
Enthusiastic, questioning and engaging, Treasures of Ancient Rome reveals how there was so much more to the Romans than just conquering and soldiering, and charts the decline and fall of the Roman Empire through some of its hidden and most magical artistic treasures.
Rome: What Lies Beneath
Wednesday February 13 at 10:30pm AEDT
Dan Snow attempts to use the latest satellite technology to reveal the secrets of the Roman Empire.
Together with space archaeologist Sarah Parcak, Dan sets out to identify and then track down lost cities, amphitheatres and forts in an adventure that sees him travel through some of the most spectacular parts of the vast empire. Cutting-edge technology and traditional archaeology help build a better understanding of how Rome held such a large empire together for so long.
Italy’s Invisible Cities
Thursdays at 7:30pm AEDT from February 14 until February 28
Italy’s Invisible Cities – ep 1 Naples
Using the latest 3D scanning technology, Alexander Armstrong uncovers the hidden history of Italian civilisation and city life. In the series premiere, we explore the volcano at Mount Vesuvius.
Italy’s Invisible Cities – ep 2 Venice
The team uncovers how a city built in a swamp became one of the most powerful in medieval Europe. Plus, they reveal how the city’s beauty once masked a ruthless secret state and a world of excess and vice.
Italy’s Invisible Cities – ep 3 Florence
Alex and Michael reveal how Florence’s wonderful facades and artworks mask a hidden story of intrigue and secrecy, and one powerful dynasty was behind it all – the Medicis.
Julius Caesar’s Greatest Battle
Friday February 15 at 10:30pm AEDT
Between 58 and 50 BC Julius Caesar fought a bloody campaign to absorb the whole of Gaul into the Roman Empire.
Colosseum: Rome’s Arena Of Death
Sunday February 17 at 4:30pm AEDT
In this unique docu-drama, uncover the true story of Verus, a gladiator who fought at the Colosseum in Rome.
Hannibal – A March on Rome
Monday February 18 at 7:30pm AEDT
Which route Hannibal chose to cross the Alps is still one of the unsolved enigmas of history. Now, researchers believe they might be able to track his route. Their evidence – horse manure. Hannibal’s achievement became a legend even in his lifetime. The Carthaginian led tens of thousands of men and horses from the Iberian Peninsula across the Alps into Italy. A march of five months and 1,500 kilometres.
A most spectacular feature was the presence of war elephants, a sight no one west of the Pyrenees had ever seen. Whereas in Carthage – by then a Mediterranean superpower – they had been used for some time as precursors of the modern tank. The enigma of Hannibal’s route across the Alps has fascinated scholars and adventurers alike. A team of researchers believes to have found proof that Hannibal opted for the Col de la Traversette, almost 3,000 metres high. According to geomorphologist William Mahaney, “It’s only from here that he could have overlooked the Po Basin”, as is related by ancient sources.
Mahaney and microbiologist Chris Allen from Belfast University have evaluated soil samples form the French side of the pass. They contained intestinal bacteria, proving that considerable numbers of animals must have come about the site in Hannibal’s times. In summer, 2017 Mahaney and Allen took samples on the Italian side, and they are hoping that the lab results will further back up their hypothesis. Whichever route Hannibal took, his march on Rome was a strategical as well as a logistical masterstroke.
Engineering an Empire – Rome
Wednesday February 20 at 10:30pm AEDT
We chronicle the spectacular history of the Roman Empire from the rise of Julius Caesar in 55 BC to its eventual fall around 537 AD, detailing the remarkable engineering feats that set Rome apart from the rest of the ancient world.
Scotland: Rome’s Final Frontier
Friday February 22 at 10:30pm AEDT
Through some of Scotland’s most extraordinary Roman sites and illuminating new archaeology, historian Dr Fraser Hunter shows how Scotland and its people defied an onslaught of Roman imperial power for over a century.
Hadrian With Dan Snow
Sunday February 24 at 4:30pm AEDT
Emperor Hadrian is well known for his eponymous wall. 70 miles long, it was a prodigious feat and remains one of the greatest physical remnants of the Roman Empire. But in reality, the wall was nothing more than a sideshow to the main event. In this fascinating historical documentary, historian Dan Snow follows in the footsteps of the Emperor, from Northumberland to North Africa, from Jerusalem to Rome and discovers one of the most powerful and enigmatic rulers and characters in world history. Overtly gay, a philosopher, poet and flautist, he was also a brilliant military strategist and ruthless commander of his legions.
With his Greek intellect and Roman engineering skills; Hadrian set about physically ring-fencing and consolidating the entire empire. For better – and often for worse – he helped to define the world we know today, and left an unparalleled legacy that is still marvelled at today.
Julius Caesar Revealed
Monday February 25 at 7:30pm AEDT
Time to think again? Julius Caesar – general, dictator, politician. In life, he shaped the Roman world we know today. Mary Beard is on a mission to reveal the real Julius Caesar.
Challenging everything you thought you knew about the great dictator, Mary will ask what were the key steps in his path to dictatorship and why did it all end when he was murdered by his closest friends in the most famous assassination plot in history? Was his brutal end inevitable?
Who Burnt Rome?
Monday February 25 at 10:30pm AEDT
The Great Fire of Rome was the single most destructive force ever encountered by the Roman Empire, lasting nine days and leaving 10 of Rome’s 14 districts burnt beyond recognition. The emperor Nero was widely believed to have started the fire as a means of destroying his aristocratic adversaries and clearing space for his Golden Palace. Unfortunately, he did not live long enough to see his divine vision realised. He bowed under the pressure of public condemnation and probable punishment, and committed suicide.
Two thousand years later, vital questions surrounding the fire remain unanswered. Was the fire an act of arson or an accident, and who really started it?
Tuesday February 26 at 6:30pm AEDT
This brand new documentary ‘resurrects’ Pompeii, a city famously buried under volcanic ash almost 2,000 years ago.
Presented by Michael Buerk, the hour long programme uses incredible CGI to lift Pompeii from the ashes and bring it back to life. Drawing on the expertise of world class experts and leading CGI animators, the show recreates ancient Pompeii as a photorealistic virtual city.
Buerk takes viewers through 24 hours in the city – from the commute to work in the morning, to brutal sports at noon and a plenitude of vices by night. The stories of how people lived are underpinned by archaeological research and access to the very latest 3D terrain mapping of this ancient city.