Rome: A History of the Eternal City

City of the Sacred

Series 1 - Episode 1 City of the Sacred



Simon Sebag Montefiore follows up his 2011 series on Jerusalem with an incisive study of another great holy city. He says that today Rome may signify the “beating heart of the Catholic faith”, but its origins as a sacred site owe everything to its pre-Christian past.

Taking us back to the legend of Romulus and Remus in 753 BC, he’s an authoritative voice, although his enthusiasm falters when he descends into the “faecal caverns” of ancient Rome’s sewers to sniff out their sacred purpose. He runs through pagan deities, grand temples and godlike emperors, before what seemed at first to be “a sect of cranks” changed Western religion for ever.


Historian Simon Sebag Montefiore uncovers the role of religion in creating and maintaining the power of the Italian city. In the first episode, he explores how every event in ancient Rome revolved around worship and that nothing took place without calling on the Pantheon, the temple to their gods. He also reveals the part played by sacredness and sacrifice in Roman culture.

Cast & Crew

Presenter Simon Sebag Montefiore
Director Anna Cox
Executive Producer Mike Smith
Producer Anna Cox