Meet the Romans with Mary Beard


Series 1 - Episode 2 Streetlife



She may appear fearfully posh but Cambridge classicist Mary Beard adores grubbing about in the dirty, lusty aspects of history. “I just love this place!” she says as she plonks herself down at an ancient Roman latrine and imagines the stone benches packed with locals “togas up, trousers down” doing what they needed to do and telling bawdy jokes about constipation and sex while they did it.

She’s exploring Roman street life, which doesn’t just mean where they went shopping, because they spent pretty well all their waking hours in the vast, messy warren of narrow streets where violence was rife and privacy nonexistent.


The professor continues her exploration of the real ancient Rome, descending into the streets to reveal a vast metropolis with little urban planning and poor sanitation. Mary also finds out where the Romans went to hang out, get drunk, have sex and get clean, and visits the Forum, where all manner of activities took place, from gambling and prostitution to dentistry. Along the way she tells the story of three citizens, including an apartment dweller who lived in fear of the rent collector and a seven-year-old girl killed in one of the city's many fires.