We still live in the shadow of ancient Rome - a city at the heart of a vast empire that stretched from Scotland to Afghanistan, dominating the West for over 700 years. Professor Mary Beard puts aside the stories of emperors and armies, guts and gore, to meet the real Romans living at the heart of it all.
In this programme, Mary descends into the city streets to discover the dirt, crime, sex and slum conditions in the world's first high-rise city. This Rome is not the marble Rome we know, but a vast, messy metropolis with little urban planning, where most Romans lived in high-rise apartment blocks with little space, light, or even sanitation. Forced outdoors into the city streets, she reveals where they went to hang out, get drunk, have sex and get clean. She looks at the Forum as a place of gamblers, dentists and thieves, and she explores the lustiness of Roman bar life and jokes.
Finally, exploring law and order from the bottom up, Mary examines how this city really worked. She meets Ancarenus Nothus, an apartment dweller who lived in fear of the rent collector; 'Notorious' Primus, who wrote about his three great pleasures in life - 'baths, wine and sex'; and 'Unlucky' Doris, a seven-year-old girl killed in one of Rome's many fires.