BBC Radio 4 - The Roman Way.m3u (Size: 100.69 MB) (Files: 5)
BBC Radio 4 - The Roman Way.m3u
The Roman Way - 1 of 4.mp3
The Roman Way - 2 of 4.mp3
The Roman Way - 3 of 4.mp3
The Roman Way - 4 of 4.mp3
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The Roman Way
David Aaronovitch travels from a bleak and windy milecastle in Northumberland, at the farthest point of the Roman Empire, to the sticky heat of the Imperial Forum in Rome, at the centre of the Empire.
First broadcast on BBC Radio 4, 19/Jan/2003 to 09/Feb/2003. 128kbps.
Part 1 - Life at the Edge
For the Britons living in the area known today as Northumberland, the city of Rome was unimaginably distant.
Our knowledge of the minutiae of everyday lives in the region has increased enormously in the past 30 years. Discoveries were made during arch?ological excavations at Vindolanda, slightly south of Hadrian's Wall.
By chance, preservation conditions on-site are extremely good and a wealth of material has come to light which provides arch?ologists and historians with unparalleled information on troop-movements and activities, requisition of building materials, arrival of food supplies, dealings with the indigenous people, the families of the military personnel, parties and social gatherings, even the soldiers' love of Celtic beer.
Part 2 - Life at the Top
The Roman Empire, at its peak, spread right around the Mediterranean and stretched from Northumbria to Armenia. From the reign of the emperor Augustus onwards, power of all that territory lay in the hands of one man: the Emperor himself.
What did the emperor do all day? We have two stereotypical images of Roman emperors: the good ones led victorious armies in battle, the bad ones indulged in orgies and excess. How accurate is this picture?
Though the emperor sat at the peak of the command chain, there were other powerful figures in the Roman world - the imperial advisors, for example. So who were these people? And how much power did they themselves have? Since the emperor's word was final, his whim was complete, and his tyranny absolute - how easy was it to keep friendly with the emperor?
Friendship was a vital tool in the running of the empire. Letters of recommendation were commonplace, and occurred at all levels. How did this network of friends-of-friends operate? What were the benefits - and disadvantages?
Those at the bottom of the social scale were not completely powerless. The emperor depended upon the good will and opinion of the people - and he knew it. How did they express their disapproval? And don't forget about the slave population of Rome, who vastly outnumbered the ranks of the free. They weren't without power, either.
Part 3 - Filling the Day
We have an image of Roman citizens living in spacious villas, the floors and walls decorated with mosaics, and with courtyards and fountains. In fact, the vast majority of urban people lived in cramped and dingy flats, paying rent on a daily basis to landlords who cared not a jot for their welfare, and paid scant attention to the structural integrity of their own properties.
From the morning visit to one's patrons, to the afternoon baths, how did Romans, both rich and poor, spend their days? What were the working hours of the lower orders and, though there was no such thing as a weekend, what sort of free time did they have? And what did they do with it?
The Romans had interior design fads and polite dinner-parties, but were feasts and orgies as commonplace an occurrence as legend insists, and what were the dining rooms like?
And, though pretty well everyone went to the baths at some point in the day, the whole business involved a great deal more than just washing.
Part 4 - Filling the Mind
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?