7 podcasts about the Romans to listen to right now

What have you always wanted to know about about the people of ancient Rome? Find out more about this fascinating period with these free episodes of the HistoryExtra podcast. From Tom Holland on Roman emperors to an ultimate guide to Roman Britain, BBC History Magazine's Spencer Mizen rounds up seven episodes you won't want to miss…

Detail of the processional frieze Ara Pacis Augustae, Rome. (Photo by Alamy)
1

Roman emperors

“He is truly monstrous but he’s also kind of brilliant as well.” To which of Rome’s first five emperors was Tom Holland referring? Find out here as the historian and author discusses the extraordinary lives of Augustus, Tiberius, Caligula, Claudius and Nero.

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2

Politics, Roman style

Two thousand years separate Boris Johnson and Donald Trump from the likes of Augustus and Cicero but, as I learned in this interview with the classicist and political journalist Asa Bennett, some things never change. Delving into a world of mud-slinging, campaign-funding and wall-building, Bennett explores what today’s politicians can learn from their Roman predecessors.


3

Agrippina the younger: a Roman woman of great power

Agrippina the Younger. (Photo by Alamy)

When it came to shaping the world around them, most female members of the Roman imperial family took a back seat. Not Agrippina the Younger. The wife of Claudius, the mother of Nero and the sister of Caligula had an insatiable thirst for power – and was utterly ruthless in going about acquiring it, as Emma Southon reveals in this discussion of a truly remarkable Roman.


4

Mary Beard’s life in classics

Mary Beard on the HistoryExtra podcast

To many people – myself included – Mary Beard has become the face of the ancient Roman and Greek worlds, a woman who has dedicated much of her career to bringing these distant civilisations to life for the layperson. In this podcast, Mary lifts the lid on what fires her passion for the classics, and why she believes they continue to shape us today.


5

Roman slavery

I was well aware that the Romans kept thousands of slaves. But, until listening to this interview with author and historian Jerry Toner, I didn’t appreciate how integral to Roman life slavery was – and just how casually shocking the treatment meted out to slaves could be. This podcast shines a light on one of the building blocks of Roman society.


6

Christianity and the classical world

Catherine Nixey and Edith Hall on the HistoryExtra podcast

The Emperor Constantine converted to Christianity and his subjects went with him willingly, right? Well, no, actually. In this fascinating discussion of the events of the fourth century AD, Catherine Nixey and Edith Hall dissect the early days of Rome’s transition to Christianity – and the terrible consequences for pagan civilisation.


7

Everything you wanted to know about Roman Britain but were afraid to ask

How long were the Romans in Britain? What was Britain’s population when the Romans invaded? And, my personal favourite, were the Romans responsible for bringing pubs to Britain? In an instalment of our everything you wanted to know about history’s greatest subjects series, Miles Russell tackles your most pressing questions on Roman Britain. You can also read the edited Q&A here.

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Spencer Mizen is the production editor of BBC History Magazine.