Rome Month

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.

Rome: The World’s First Superpower

On a once-in-a-lifetime journey visiting key locations, Larry sets out to discover what made the Romans so successful. He has spent years learning the Italian language while studying the history and culture of Rome, and now brings this ancient world alive with his passion, a wealth of fascinating detail and colourful CGI.

The history of Rome is a 1,000-year-long epic, filled with murder, ambition, betrayal and greed and encompassing such legendary characters as Romeʼs Iron Age founders Romulus and Remus and its greatest general Julius Caesar.

Larry is accompanied by some of Europe and Americaʼs foremost classical experts who reveal the atmosphere of intrigue, conflict and violence at the places where the saga unfolded, including Rome, Pompeii, Sicily, France and Tunisia.


Pompeii: Cellar of Skeletons

Pompeii was one of the most famous volcanic eruptions in history. We know how its victims died – but how did they live? Gleaning evidence from an extraordinary find, scientists are providing new insights into the lives of these people. In a dark cellar in Oplontis, just three kilometres from Pompeii, 54 skeletons which didn’t succumb to the torrent of volcanic ash are about to be put under the microscope. The remains will be submitted to a barrage of tests that will unlock one of the most comprehensive scientific snapshots of Pompeian life ever produced – and the results are surprising.


Rome: Unwrapped

This major series casts the most iconic names and places of ancient Rome in a brand new light. Using new research, the latest archaeological excavations, 21st century technology, CGI and stylish dramatisations, groundbreaking discoveries are made about the events that defined the Empire and the personal stories of its people. By going beyond accounts of emperors and the elite, experts are looking at the experiences of the working classes, engineers and common soldiers to challenge the traditional ideas of Rome, uncovering a fresh view of an empire that is disarmingly modern.


Rome’s Invisible City

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.


The Great Commanders – Julius Caesar

Julius Caesar, a scheming politician, used military power to dominate Rome. Massively in debt, he led his armies through a decade of conquest in a bid for wealth, glory and power. In the process he conquered Gaul and precipitated the downfall of the Celts. At the Battle of Alesia he brilliantly used technological superiority and tactical cunning against a force who outnumbered him more than 5 to 1.


Barbarians Rising

BARBARIANS RISING tells the epic saga of the rise and fall of the Roman Empire from the perspective of the barbarian leaders who brought it down; a high-impact, visceral journey into the heart of their rebellions against absolute power. The Roman Empire called them “barbarians” – tribes beyond the fringe of civilization that live a primitive, savage existence.  But they are also some of the fiercest warriors in history – men and women who rose up to resist so that they might live free, or die.  The four-part docu-drama reveals the true story of the 700-year battle for supremacy, a fight for freedom that would shape the world to come.  Featuring fully dramatized portrayals of barbarian icons including Hannibal, Spartacus, Arminius, Boudica and Attila, and an eclectic group of experts and contributors to reveal the true history behind the legends.


Rome: Empire Without Limit

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.


Pompeii: The People Frozen in Time

The city of Pompeii uniquely captures the public’s imagination – in AD79 a legendary volcanic disaster left its citizens preserved in ashes to this very day. Yet no-one has been able to unravel the full story that is at the heart of our fascination – how did those bodies become frozen in time?


Meet The Romans

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.


Pompeii: New Secrets Revealed

With unparalleled access to Pompeii and featuring cutting-edge modern technology, Mary Beard guides us through this amazing slice of the ancient world.


Hadrian with Dan Snow

The man behind the wall

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.


Treasures of Ancient Rome

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.


Building The Ancient City – Rome

Rome was the world’s first ancient mega-city. At a time when few towns could number more than 10,000 inhabitants, more than a million lived in Rome. But in a world without modern technology, how on earth did the Romans do it?

How did they feed their burgeoning population, how did they house them, and how did they get them into town without buses or trains? How on earth did the Romans make their great city work?


The Lost Legions of Varus

A look at how German tribes destroyed three Roman legions in 9 A.D.


Raising Pompeii

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.


The Other Pompeii

Just 10 miles from Pompeii, along the ancient shoreline, 12 arched vaults are telling a whole new story about what life was like before the eruption of Mount Vesuvius. They contain the skeletons of no less than 340 people, that’s 10% of the local population, killed by the volcano. Amongst them are the first new skeletons to be found in the area for 30 years:

  • A toddler clutching his pet dog
  • A two year old girl with silver earrings
  • And a boy staring into the eyes of his mother as they embraced in their last moment.

Those found inside the vaults were nearly all women and children. Those found outside on the shoreline were nearly all men. Why?


Ancient Assassins – Rome’s Navy Seals

They are the amphibious Roman unit tasked with the impossible. A barbarian tribe known as the Batavi, they supply the Roman army with thousands of highly trained elite warriors in return for Roman citizenship. We study and dramatize one of the most pivotal military actions in Roman history – the invasion of Britain in AD43. With expert analysis and comparisons to D Day and modern Navy SEALS, discover how the Batavians – led by a young chieftain called Julius Civilis- formed the spearhead of the invasion force, and used their unique skills to provide the decisive action at the River Medway.


Caligula: 1400 Days of Terror

A fresh look at the rise and fall of one of history’s most notorious figures, shot on location in Rome, Capri and along the English Channel.


Gladiator Graveyard

For centuries Gladiators have been seen as legendary figures of the Ancient World. Our knowledge of their lives has been based largely on speculation, until now. For the past five years two forensic anthropologists have looked at thousands of bones found in a mass grave in Turkey. They now reveal their scientific findings. For the first time Science is offering proof of how gladiators lived, how they fought and the exact way they died.


Roman Britain From The Air

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.


Caligula With Mary Beard

Professor Mary Beard embarks on an investigative journey to explore the life and times of one of Rome’s most extraordinary and notorious individuals Gaius Julius Caesar Augustus Germanicus – better known to us as Caligula.

The rule of Emperor Caligula has – through the centuries – come to be synonymous with cruelty, madness, sexual profligacy, the unrestrained misuse of imperial power.  The popular image is of a man who ruled in an insane manner, made his horse a consul, went to invade England and came back laden with sea-shells, indulged in incestuous orgies of unbridled debauchery.

In a world where dictators still rule and wield absolute power in corrupt and cruel ways, our image of Caligula is the gold standard for the exercise of tyrannical power.

Yet he was emperor for just four years from 37-41 AD.   And he died when he was just 29 years old.  Our question is going to be: what can we possibly know about a “bit part” ruler, with a lurid reputation, who lived 2000 years ago?


Last Days Of… – Julius Caesar

Hero or Tyrant? How did Julius Caesar, Rome’s greatest general, end up murdered by his friends and allies?

Two thousand years after the event, the assassination of Julius Caesar still fascinates like no other act of political violence. It was an intensely brutal act – an unarmed man felled by the blades his friends and associates. Was it the necessary execution of a tyrant who would stop at nothing in his pursuit of power, or a cowardly murder by a fading elite?

Robert Harris, Neil Faulkner, and classicist Maria Wyke, amongst others, unveil the real world of Roman politics, and reveal a Classical Rome that has more in common with the Godfather, than good government.


Rome: What Lies Beneath

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.


Mystery of The Headless Romans

Ian Potts investigates the skeletal remains of 30 decapitated bodies found in a garden in Roman York.


Secrets of Hadrian’s Wall

For 300 years Hadrian’s Wall stood as the Roman Empire’s most imposing frontier and one of the unsung wonders of the ancient world. But the purpose of the wall is still surrounded in mystery. Why was it built and was it to keep people in or out? Who lived on the wall and what was life like? Archaeologists have only properly excavated one percent of the wall but they have already unearthed an extraordinary collection of findings which allow us to journey back through time to unlock the secrets of a lost world.


Secrets of The Colosseum

The Colosseum is one of the most iconic buildings of the ancient world and it stands as a monument to Roman imperial power and cruelty. The spectacles staged here involved the killing of tens of thousands of gladiators, prisoners, and wild animals. Records of these games brag of seemingly impossible acts – beasts magically appearing on stage and water flash-flooding the arena so that full-sized ships could engage in sea battles. Were the Romans exaggerating or did they truly achieve these feats? Until now, experts have been dubious – but what if these aren’t tall tales? Now, a team of modern builders and engineers test their theories by building a trap door-pulley system capable of lifting a beast into the Colosseum. Do they have what it takes to replicate the innovation and ingenuity of the Romans?