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Behind Closed Doors

Historical series looking at the Roman empire from the bottom up. Mary Beard goes behind the closed doors of Roman homes to explore their family life.

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 final episode, Mary delves even deeper into ordinary Roman life by going behind the closed doors of their homes. She meets an extraordinary cast of characters - drunken housewives, teenage brides, bullied children and runaway slaves - and paints a more dynamic, lusty picture of Roman family life.

Mary uncovers their preserved beds, furniture and cradles, tries on Roman wedding rings and meets some eccentric wives like Glyconis, praised by her husband for liking a drink or two, and Allia Potestas, who lived in a Roman ménage a trois.

Mary explores Roman parenting, childbirth and children, including Sulpicius Maximus, an 11-year-old schoolboy who was worked to death by his pushy parents, and Geminia Mater, a 5-year-old tomboy.

Finally, Mary paints a more nuanced picture of Roman slavery and asks why if it was such a brutal institution did many Romans choose to be buried with their servants - living cheek by jowl in death, as in life.

1 hour

Last on

Sun 13 May 2012 22:05

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Role Contributor
Presenter Mary Beard
Director Hugo Macgregor
Series Producer Caterina Turroni
Executive Producer Richard Bradley


  • Tue 1 May 2012 21:00
  • Sun 6 May 2012 23:00
  • Sun 13 May 2012 22:05