Guilty Pleasures

Series 1 - 1. Luxury in Ancient Greece

Radio Times
Review by:
Gill Crawford

Kicking off a new BBC4 season on luxury, casually authoritative young classicist Dr Michael Scott explains how ancient Greek society managed the visible display of wealth among its citizens.

In Athens, large-scale sacrifices of cattle became giant barbecues for the people (for whom meat was a rarity), while Aeschylus praised sober Athenians over decadent, over-indulgent Persians. The Spartans banned the wearing of gold and silver, but their very rigour eventually led to their downfall.

But if you want to see excess being truly celebrated, the fabulous discoveries from the royal graves of Macedonia (currently on display at Oxford’s Ashmolean Museum) are mouthwatering. It’s a treat for the brain and the eye.

About this programme

1/2. Part one of two. Documentary, presented by Dr Michael Scott, exploring how attitudes to luxury have shaped and divided societies throughout history. In ancient Greece, public opinions of luxury items and delicacies varied wildly, with some held up as being emblematic of democracy while others were regarded as symbols of weakness. However, social attitudes toward opulence proved especially problematic in Sparta, where attempts to deny luxuries played a major part in the city-state's downfall.

Cast and crew


Dr Michael Scott


Executive Producer
Harry Bell
Series Director
David Wilson
Series Producer
David Wilson