Historian Bettany Hughes recalls the time that marked Rome's symbolic break with its 1000-year pagan past - the day in 337 AD that Emperor Constantine the Great was baptised a Christian. It was a moment of profound significance not just for the empire, but for the history of the world and one of its major religions. Constantine was one of the last great Roman emperors to rule over a united empire, giving it a new capital - Constantinople, today known as Istanbul - a city which would one day eclipse Rome as the greatest city on Earth.
Historian Bettany Hughes explores the day in AD 80 when the Colosseum opened its gates for the first time. For new emperor Titus, the spectacular games and events were an opportunity to win over the people and secure his place on the imperial throne, but why did the Romans - cultured and civilised in so many ways - enjoy witnessing such brutality and bloodletting? Bettany travels across the Roman world in a bid to find answers.
Historian Bettany Hughes focuses on events leading up to and after June 9, 68 AD, when Emperor Nero took his life. She examines his relationship with his mother, fondness for debauchery and how casual violence and murder began to destabilise what had once been touted as a new 'golden age' for Rome. Nero's death plunged the empire into anarchy and civil war. From here on in, the Roman Empire would be plagued by military coups and revolt, one of the crucial factors in its eventual decline.
Historian Bettany Hughes focuses on the day when Roman troops earned the undying hatred of a fierce and fearless queen who led a revolt that came perilously close to ending the Roman occupation of Britannia. Around 60 AD, troops invaded Boudica's settlement, flogged her and raped her daughters. The outrage provoked the Iceni queen to lead a revolt that came perilously close to ending the Roman occupation of Britannia.
Historian Bettany Hughes focuses on the day in 32 BC when Octavian stole the secret will of his most dangerous political rival, Mark Antony. It is a moment that casts a light on what it took to win in Roman politics, as the cunning, brilliant subterfuge required paved Octavian's path to power by undermining Antony's popularity and giving Octavian the crucial support of Rome's Senate and people in the civil war that followed.
Historian Bettany Hughes looks at the day in 49 BC that Julius Caesar led his army across the River Rubicon. By doing so he ignored the orders of the Roman Senate, and effectively declared war on his rivals in Rome. In time, it would prove a fatal blow to the republic - the system of elected officials that had governed for nearly half a millennium. Hughes analyses Caesar's character and reveals how new theories about his health shed light on his decision-making, while archaeological finds recently dredged from a Dutch river reveal the true genocidal horror of his conquest of Gaul.
Historian Bettany Hughes looks at the day in 73 BC that Spartacus, a Thracian gladiator fighting for the entertainment of the Romans, broke out of gladiator school and started a slave revolt. The republic's rulers were so panicked by the protest that they offered unprecedented power to a single, ambitious individual - Crassus - who promised victory in what would prove a dark foreshadowing of Rome's slide into dictatorship.
Historian Bettany Hughes recalls eight pivotal days that defined the Roman Empire and its establishment as the world's first superpower. She begins by exploring the day in 202 BC when the Roman army, led by Scipio, defeated the might of Carthage under Hannibal at the Battle of Zama in modern-day Tunisia. This was a decisive moment, setting Rome on the path to greatness and exemplifying the military muscle and supreme ambition on which its empire would be built.
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