iPlayer Radio What's New?
Image for 4. Filling the Mind

Listen now 30 mins

Listen in pop-out player

4. Filling the Mind

30 minutes
First broadcast:
Sunday 09 February 2003

Education was very important to the Roman citizen: just as today, it was believed to be a ticket to a better life. What was on the curriculum and who were the pupils? One of the topics which was popular then, but which has slipped somewhat from school lessons today, was rhetoric. Rhetoric was seen as a vital social and professional skill. How was it taught, who wanted to learn it, and why did Roman citizens place so much emphasis on it?

We also explore the development of the novel and the passion for public readings. From romantic novels to science-fiction, what books were the Roman equivalent of best-sellers? Who attended the readings and what sort of person was considered a celebrity?

The people of the Roman Empire cared deeply about posterity, and liked to think that their memory would live on after they'd died. What sort measures did rich and poor take to ensure that they wouldn't be forgotten?

  • Letters


    Writing tablet from the entrepreneur Octavius to Candidus, Roman Britain, late 1st or early 2nd century AD.

    Copyright British Museum
  • Painted plaster

    Painted plaster

    Fragments of painted plaster, Roman Britain, 1st or 2nd century AD.

    Copyright British Museum
  • Further reading

    Further reading

    Peter Jones
    An Intelligent Person's Guide to Classics

    P Jones & K Sidwell
    The World of Rome
    Cambridge 1997

    Jerome Carcopino
    Daily Life in Ancient Rome

    Fergus Millar
    The Roman Empire and Its Neighbours

    Anthony Birley
    Garrison Life at Vindolanda - A Band of Brothers

    Pliny (tr) Betty Radice
    The Letters of the Younger Pliny
    Penguin Classics

    Marcus Aurelius (tr) Maxwell Staniforth
    Penguin Classics

    Seneca (tr) Robin Campbell
    Letters from a Stoic
    Penguin Classics

    Tim Cornell & John Matthews
    Atlas of the Roman World
    New York: Facts on File c1982


BBC © 2014 The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.

Added. Check out your playlist Dismiss