Mary Beard is back and this time she is introducing the world to the Romans. She explores the lives of everyday Romans. Both the living and the dead are explored, from the poorest to the richest. Beard seeks out the ordinary voices. They were determined that they would be remembered. Their tombstones did not just leave behind the birth and dates of the Roman, but their thoughts and feelings. How did ordinary Romans think? Tune into this documentary to find out.
In the first episode, Mary Beard looks at Imperial Rome. Imperial Rome was a place that where people came from everyone to live. New arrivals would have found themselves in a new type of city. Rome was the capital of a vast empire. People from three continents came together here and lived. So who were the ordinary people who called Rome home?
Mary Beard kicks off the episode by going to a triumph. Emperor Vespasian had returned to Rome, a victorious general. Everyone had the day off to greet the conquering hero. What would it have been like for the ordinary Romans to take in the site? First, they would have seen the spoils of war, models of fighting, trees, and maps of the conquering territory. What would have been on the minds of ordinary Romans? Perhaps a viewer would have picked up a girl while watching the spectacle before them.
Beard looks at the plaques everyone left behind. These plaques highlight where the people came from. These plaques tell the story of ordinary Romans and tell the story of where the people came from. The Appian Way highlights additional stories of the Romans. Beard comes across a stone with the names of three Jewish men. How did these men get to Rome? Were they part of the Judean rebellion? Were they brought as slaves? Roman conquests may have brought slaves, but they also brought new citizens.
The Greeks thought that the Romans were strange for freeing so many slaves. Being a slave was just a part of life. Oftentimes, the slave learned Latin and learned a trade. Eventually, the master would free them and the slave would be a Roman citizen. A Roman was a Roman because they came from something else. There was no guarantee that you would survive. With a high death rate, the city needed immigration to maintain its size. Roman was a place that consumed people, however, it was also a city for the opportunity. How do you keep the people alive?
Beard takes us to a hill outside of Roman. This particular hill was made up of broken amphora. The amphora was used to store olive oil. The present-day locals call it “broken pot mountain” and it was a giant rubbish dump. Normally, amphora could be recycled. However, olive oil seeped into the jars and made the jars rancid. They were broken up and stacked in the rubbish dump. Rome ran on olive oil. It was used for cooking and fuel.
Mary then reveals that there were fifty mosaics discovered, and these mosaics advertised goods from around the world. Roman had imported basic supplies to fee the city and to support a large population. Farms in Sicily and Egypt had to produce grain. The empire kept feeding the people. A staple of the Roman diet was bread. Here Mary gets her hands dirty kneading bread. If you lived in Roman, you got a free ration from the state and it could make enough bread to last a month. To continue to learn more about the Romans watch this documentary.
This would be a good series for a high school history class. Mary Beard is a delightful narrator. She lays out what it means to be a Roman in this first episode of Meet the Romans.
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