words by Carol King Britain’s BBC Two has announced a collection of history documentaries exploring the Roman Empire and one of its formidable leaders. The shows include Mary Beard’s portrait of Caligula, Michael Scott’s investigation of the catacombs of Rome and Rory Stewart’s guide to the borders of England and Scotland. BBC Two says the programmes uncover extraordinary new details, unraveling fact from fiction regarding the legendary figures and locations. In ‘Caligula’, Professor of Classics Beard explores the life and times of Gaius Julius Caesar Augustus Germanicus. Known as Rome’s most capricious tyrant, the stories told about Caligula are extraordinary. A Roman emperor, he was said to have made his horse a consul, proclaimed himself a living god and indulged in scandalous orgies. During his four years in power, he built vast bridges, prostituted senators’ wives and killed half the Roman elite seemingly on a whim, before he was assassinated in a back alley at the age of 29. Travelling across the Roman world, from Germany and Capri to the luxury of his life in imperial Rome, Beard peels away the myths and delves through surviving evidence, from trial documents covering the mysterious death of his father when he was seven-years-old to the records of his imperial slaves, to paint a portrait of Caligula. In ‘The Mystery Of Rome’s X Tombs’, Professor in Classics and Ancient History Scott unlocks the secrets of mysterious tombs recently discovered in one of Rome’s catacombs. Found by accident after a roof collapse, the tombs contained more than 2,000 skeletons piled on top of each other and are unlike any other underground tomb found in Rome. They are located in an area of the catacombs marked as “X” in the Vatican’s underground mapping system. The remains of a medieval fresco suggest they could be Christian martyrs but the bones reveal no sign of physical trauma. Further investigation suggests cultural connections with Northern Africa, and the bodies belong to a wealthy immigrant community or Ancient Rome’s elite. Scott joins experts called in by the Vatican, comprising of a team of French archaeologists who have experience of investigating mass graves, a DNA expert and a palaeogeneticist to piece together whom the men and women were, and how they died. Some 2,000 years ago, the Romans divided Britain with Hadrian’s Wall. In ‘The Marches: How A Border Made Us’, academic, author and politician Stewart tells the story of the frontier. The Romans’ decision to divide Britain was driven by the pride of a foreign army and when they left, both sides were reunited in the rich culture of the Middleland. Yet, a scar remained and 1,000 years later, the island split along the line of the wall into the kingdoms of England and Scotland. The series examines the individuals who forged a border in both the land and the imagination.
BBC Makes Documentaries On Caligula, Hadrian’s Wall And Ancient Rome
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