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Practice English Speaking&Listening with: BBC Building the Ancient City Athens and Rome 2of2

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Rome, 2,000 years ago, was the world's first ancient megacity.

In a world where few towns had more than 10,000 inhabitants,

more than a million people lived in Rome.

It would take almost 1,800 years for any other city in the West

to achieve the same population.

How did they manage, without all the technologies our modern cities

rely on, technologies of transport, communication, energy?

How did they get enough food and drink to the population,

how did they house them?

How did they maintain law and order?

How did they make this great city work?

I'll show you how Rome surpassed all the cities that had gone before

and rose to many of the challenges faced by megacities today.

By taking you on a journey up ancient tower blocks...

What I love is that this isn't just a bit of archaeology,

it's a bit of living history.

'..incredible infrastructure...

'..and some very proud people.'



Making a city of a million work in ancient conditions

was an enormous challenge.

But in 31 BC one man, who would become

the Emperor Augustus, became Rome's undisputed ruler.

His role was to maintain peace across all his imperial territories,

but if Augustus couldn't run his capital

he couldn't run an empire, so in rising to the challenge

he set new standards for how a city could be organised.

So, historians are always chucking around numbers for how many

inhabitants there were in cities.

How do they know?

And, to be honest, a lot of the time they're bluffing.

But with the case of Rome under Augustus

we've got an amazing bit of evidence here.

This is Augustus's own account of all his achievements.

Augustus was obsessed with numbers -

how many victories did he win, how many cities did he found,

how many laws did he pass.

And he loved counting the citizens.

Censum populi. "I did a census of the people."

That is of course the citizens in all the Empire.

Luckily in the case of Rome he also counted

the number of inhabitants of the city.

Because they were very privileged citizens,

he gave them cash handouts.

And he says, "On no single occasion did

"I give the money to less than 250,000 people,

"and on one occasion I gave it to 320,000 people" -

nearly a third of a million people.

And that is just adult male citizens.

Where are the women?

Where are the children? Where are the slaves?

And where are the immigrants? It's clear you've got to multiply up.

A million is the figure people chuck around as the population of Rome.

To be honest, that's a minimum.

In my view you could be talking about one and a half million people.

It is an absolutely enormous number for antiquity.

There had been other great capitals before Rome.

So how was this city able to achieve what they could not?

Perhaps the most obvious competitor should have been Athens,

and indeed early Rome was developing at the same time.

They both embraced one common and powerful idea.

The citizen.


Senatus Populusque Romanus, the Senate and people of Rome.

Those were the initials of authority of the citizen body itself.

Populus Romanus, the citizens of Rome.

In antiquity, that was their symbol of their authority and civic pride.

It was picked up in the Renaissance, when Rome became

an independent city, and it has continued to this day.

The symbol of a city run by its citizens for its citizens.

But in ancient Rome, as the population increased, this way

of running a city-state was no longer enough

to make the capital work.

When Rome was founded, 753 BC,

and probably for the next 500 years, Rome was a city-state,

just like hundreds of city-states in the Greek world, a polis.

A polis run by its politai, its citizens.

Rome had its cives, it was a civitas,

and, just as Greek has given us the word politics

and everything related to it,

Latin has given us citizen, city, civic, civil, even civilise.

So Rome was run by its cives, its citizens,

meeting down there in the Forum in the central open space.

But by 200 BC Rome was expanding very rapidly

and as it acquired an empire

it became harder and harder to run as a city-state.

And, to cut a complicated story very short, the answer was a new

form of military power, the emperor, and the emperors built their palace

up there on the Palatine, and from now on they ran Rome.

But they couldn't do without their citizens,

they can't ignore their citizens.

And one of the major concerns of the emperors is to keep

the citizen population happy.

How can they get them enough food?

How can they make sure there's a good water supply?

How can they maintain law and order?

It's much easier to see how Rome worked for its citizens than Athens,

because more of the old infrastructure has survived.

No ancient map exists of the Greek capital.

But, by contrast, there's an extraordinary piece of evidence

that reveals just how the Romans

designed their city to accommodate a vast and growing population.

Today, this great wall is the outside wall of a church,

the Church of St Cosmas and Damian.

In antiquity it was the inside wall of a vast imperial building

and on it there was a fantastic thing, a map of the city of Rome.

It was on marble slabs -

you can still see the fixing holes for those slabs.

And the map spread over the whole wall.

On it was depicted the city of Rome in great detail.

Alas, those slabs are terribly damaged and broken today.

We've only got about a tenth of them.

But it's enough to be able to reconstruct in a lot of detail

the street plan of ancient Rome.

One of the fascinating things we can see from that

is that the street plan of the city of Rome in many points corresponded

precisely to the street plan that survives today.

The modern Via Cavour is six or seven metres above the older

street level and here we're in the Suburra,

famed in ancient Rome as being the slum district.

But though it was a slum district here we have the Via Urbana,

and it follows exactly the course of the ancient-Roman Vicus Patricius,

which was in fact one of the most snobbish streets in town.

The surviving fragments were rediscovered as far back as 1562.

But four centuries later scholars are still trying to puzzle out

where each piece of this vast jigsaw belongs.

What enables us to place the fragments of the marble plan

in this area of town is this road, the Via Delle Zoccolette.

Its long curve is created by the curve of the Tiber River,

just beyond us,

and on the fragments we find a street with a long curve,

and it fits.

What it reveals is an area nearly three miles long

and two miles wide, including many landmarks that we know today.

Though the streets are mapped and monitored by the authorities

far more closely in our era,

it's still a struggle to make densely populated cities work,

with all the challenges we have today, like terrible traffic.

In one place at least, it's taken 2,000 years to catch up,

as the current mayor of Rome,

who's just pedestrianised the area around the Colosseum, explains.

- It was black for the pollution that we had. - Yes.

And, you know, it cost about 25 million euros to clean it up,

and now you can see the stones as they were 2,000 years ago.

For us one of the interesting things

is that already the ancient Romans had the same problems.

- Julius Caesar closed the Forum to traffic, didn't he? - Exactly, and...

- Do you think of yourself as the new Julius Caesar? - No, no, no!

Ancient Rome, like modern Rome, was densely populated.

This was reflected not just in its traffic but in every aspect of life.

It had its Forum.

It had piazzas with shops.

And of course it had its housing.

To help me fill in the gaps about how and where ancient Romans lived,

I've been joined by my colleague from Cambridge, Tiziana D'Angelo.

So I guess we have Mussolini to thank for clearing this space.

'Without trains and buses, Rome's population had to live centrally.

'To solve the problem of housing a million-plus people,

'the Romans built upwards.

'This is an ancient apartment block, or insula.'

I think it's amazing,

because below the modern ground level we've got two entire floors.

- And don't forget the three floors up there, so... - Yeah.

- Five floors in all of ancient-Roman apartment block. - 2,000 years old.

It shows how you can do dense housing

in the heart of a city, doesn't it?

'We may reckon that this apartment block was home to

'up to 200 people, one of thousands of complexes

'housing Rome's burgeoning population.'

What I love is that this isn't just a bit of archaeology,

it's a bit of living history.

There have been people living here right up till 1932.

'Insulae are often portrayed as dark, miserable, cramped slums.

'But is that really true?'

- So this looks like one unit of an apartment. - Yeah.

Well, there are quite a few of them. There's actually a row of four.

- OK, we've got four... - Yes.

And we've got them on five floors, so this is just one standard unit.

- It's not bad in terms of size, is it? - It's not small.

- It's quite spacious. - We've got, what is it, four metres by nine...

- 36 square metres? - It's much bigger than the average apartment nowadays.

People have this image of how Romans lived in apartment buildings,

in complete squalor, in tiny little pokey apartments.

You've got filth on the floors, you've got bare walls.

Is this life in a Roman apartment?

Well, you have to use a little bit of imagination.

There is no reason why these walls or this ceiling could not be

decorated when they were built. So, for example, look at the ceiling.

We do have traces of plaster, so probably the whole ceiling

- and all the walls were plastered. - Yeah.

But we can do something more for you if you're difficult. So we can...

- I am a demanding client here. - We can decorate a bit further.

For example, that back wall, that main wall, second century,

we could paint it those red and yellow panels that were so stylish.

Yeah. What are you going to do with the floors?

Well, we'll clean it up a bit!

And then we could have something like what we have in the corridor

outside, that opus spicatum, so the herringbone pattern, which is

very resistant on the one hand, and it looks relatively pretty.

OK, suppose I'm the tenant, I'm moving in, and I say,

"Excuse me, landlord, I really don't like this floor at all.

"I want a proper mosaic floor."

'Not far away there are remains of decoration.

'It looks like a modern building.'

Biblioteca Centrale per i Ragazzi.

This is a kids' library. It's wonderful.

It's absolutely wonderful.

Oh, my God. OK, so what is going on here?

I think we've got some serious Roman bricks.

Yeah, it's much more regular.

'Houses in Rome, like any city, were continually changing,

'with new owners doing their own makeovers.'

Look at these mosaics.

Yes, it's, erm, sort of psychedelic, isn't it?

Or it's as if someone's been trying to balance ostrich eggs

on top of each other and they're all taking a tumble.

Well, in the second century AD

this would have been quite fashionable actually.

It's a black-and-white mosaic and, yes, you're right, the pattern is not

a masterpiece, and you can also see that from the size of the tesserae.

They're quite big, it's over one centimetre.

But still the mosaicists were taking a long time to make these works

and they were paid quite well, they were paid 60, 65 denarii per day.

That's quite a bit.

That's an enormous amount, that's way over a legionary's pay.

- Well, it's an excellent floor, though. - Great work if you can get it.

And you need more than a mosaicist, don't you? You need a plumber.

- Yes, that's important. - I want running water in my apartment, please.

- And, lo and behold... - Yes.

We have a pipe running through.

So presumably this means that at least in some rooms

there is piped water.

'It's a remarkable thought that by the first century AD

'there were individual flats in Roman apartment blocks

'which were being supplied direct with running water.

'Something that even today isn't available

'in many parts of the world.'

There's nothing so important

for the health of a great city as clean water.

Clean water to drink, clean water to wash in.

One of the joys of Rome is that there are fountains

with lovely fresh water everywhere.

And that's down to the Renaissance Popes, who filled Rome with

fountains like this one, outside the Palazzo Farnese.

Oddly enough, this particular fountain is

made from a part from a Roman bath, the Baths of Caracalla.

This ornamental bath was brought in to make a fountain.

Because the Romans, too, the ancient Romans,

really understood the importance of fresh water,

and they brought it in in vast quantities.

We all know that the Romans had big baths, but don't forget,

the fundamental thing was they had a fresh supply of drinking water.

This was no mean feat.

It required perhaps the greatest public infrastructure project

ever attempted in the ancient world.

Aqueducts are one of the most vivid signs of the growth

of the population of Rome.

The first ones built as early as 312 BC

and one after another are added,

until in the end there are 11 separate aqueducts providing water.

They got their water from the south of the city on the whole.

The Alban Hills immediately to the south were volcanic,

and that's not such good water,

so they went further south, to the limestone hills of the Apennines.

And that meant pushing their technology,

building enormously long aqueducts.

This particular aqueduct, built by the Emperor Claudius,

went 45 miles back, and it's an extraordinary

feat of engineering to bring water 45 miles without the use of pumps.

It means you have to keep it gently, gently, gently sloping down.

That means building great arches across the valleys.

Sometimes you build tunnels under mountains.

It's not just an extraordinary engineering feat,

it's also an extraordinary feat of organisation.

We happen to have a treatise by a chap called Frontinus.

He was a Roman general,

indeed he was the Roman general who conquered Wales.

And when he'd finished beating up a few barbarians

he came back to Rome and organised the aqueducts.

And he wrote down, being an extraordinarily efficient man,

in absolute detail about each aqueduct,

exactly how long it is, how many litres of water it carried,

how many men it had in the maintenance teams,

and so on and so on, and you can see the enormous administrative machine

that lies behind keeping the people of Rome supplied with fresh water.

After the fall of Rome in the fifth century,

the aqueducts fell into disrepair.

The Renaissance Popes tried to rebuild them

but even a thousand years later

couldn't match their ancient predecessors.

So the Aqua Marcia is a fantastic bit of Roman construction,

running at quite a high level, and here we have the Acqua Felice.

A sort of concrete tube was the best that the Popes could manage.

Here we have its name, Acqua Felice.

They're really rather proud of it,

they've put a little plaque in marble,

but let's not pretend it's at the same level of engineering expertise

as the Roman aqueducts of antiquity.

In fact, it was only reviving the ancient-Roman aqueduct system

that made the spectacular fountains of Renaissance Rome possible.

The Campo de' Fiori here, in the morning it's a flower and vegetable

market, in the evening it's where everyone comes for a drink.

In antiquity it's where the great Theatre of Pompey was,

and you can see it very clearly on the marble plan of Rome.

There's one more thing that really interests me about this place,

and it's the best salami shop in Rome,

and in fact I'm going there right now.

It was of enormous important to emperors to keep the citizens fed.

Quarter of a million citizens got free grain under Augustus,

but gradually emperors added other offers.

They got free oil.

In 270, the Emperor Aurelian - he's the guy who built the great

walls around Rome - he added a pork ration.

Five pounds of pork a head per month, they got.

In total, three million pounds of pork per annum

were consumed at the Emperor's expense.

And Rome, ancient Rome, was full of pork butchers, suarii.

And that tradition has lingered on.

Ooh, Andrea, buona sera!

'The ancient Romans loved sausages. Me, too.

'I often used to come here when I lived in Rome,

'and Benedetto's always up for a bit of banter.'

Ah, bellissimo!

Ciao, Andrea. Ciao.

Just five minutes' walk from here, and marked on the marble map,

were the riverside docks of the ancient city.

It was an area of warehouses, shops and private dwellings,

as it is today.

Often the modern houses and businesses, like this restaurant,

are built on top of ancient ones.

- Buona sera. How are you? - Oh, Roberto! - Welcome.


- A little Prosecco. - A little Prosecco, fantastic.

I suspected as much.

Every place I've ever been into here

has got yet another bit of ancient Rome.

'This restaurant is built 20 feet above the ancient ground level.

'So, who knows what treasures lie below?'

This is what I was hoping for, a little door down to the cellar!

What do we have?

You can smell the antiquity!

But this is amazing!

Oh, my God, there's a wee beastie down there.

I think it's a horse. No, no, is it a horse?

It's a hippocamp.

And there's someone on... That's a nymph riding a seahorse.

Absolutely fantastic!

That is a better piece of mosaic

than in the official excavations just behind.


He says that's not all there is

because there are three further levels down below it.

And that's Rome. That's the heart of Rome.

Dig down and you will find antiquity,

and you find it at many levels.

The population of Rome was so vast that

even 2,000 years of history couldn't bury it all below ground level.

Well, here I am, standing on top of a ginormous Roman rubbish...

an ancient-Roman rubbish heap.

This is 50 metres and more above the modern street level.

That means that as we look around there's not a single rooftop

that even comes up near the height of this.

And it's enormous -

going around it, it's more than a kilometre in circumference.

That means it's the equivalent of something like six urban blocks.

And it's not any old rubbish. This is quite specialised rubbish.

Let's have a look at it.

It is entirely composed of these things,

terracotta fragments from...pots called amphorae.

It's been estimated that this hill is composed of 50 million amphorae.

So we know an enormous amount about Roman amphorae.

They're terribly distinctive, and they all come in different

shapes and sizes from all the corners of the Mediterranean.

And the archaeologists have studied these and what you need to do...

That's a bit of the bottom. But it's much better to get one of these.

Now, that is a rim and that gives you the dimensions of the amphora.

Erm, or you look for a handle. There's a nice handle.

And you can pin them down

and the archaeologists say that these are all from Spain,

from south Spain, from Baetica, and they all contained olive oil.

And what do they need this prodigious amount of olive oil for?

After all, there's a limit to how many salads you can eat.

But it's not just for cooking. It's also for illumination.

They don't have any electricity,

they have little lamps which they fill up with olive oil.

And it's also for washing.

There's no soap, so for cleaning you cover your body with olive oil

and scrape it down.

So they get through enormous quantities of this olive oil.

So our rubbish heap is on a great bend in the Tiber River.

You can just about make it out down there, that line of trees,

and it goes right round us and round there.

And this whole area down below us was full of warehouses.

And round the corner.

This particular stuff, these olive oil amphorae,

probably came from the Horrea Galbana, Galba's warehouses,

which is actually marked on the map of Rome.

The Tiber flows through the heart of modern Rome,

just as it did in ancient times.

But there were big differences between the river then and now.

Today, the Tiber is flanked on both sides by massive embankments.

These were built in the late 19th century

to stop the city from flooding.

In antiquity there were no embankments

and they had terrible problems with flooding, but they USED the river.

In antiquity the river was buzzing with activity,

there were boats coming up and down.

You don't see a single boat on the Tiber today.

There were hundreds of boats, bringing up merchandise -

grain, wine, oil, and luxury goods of course -

to the hundreds of warehouses that lined the banks of the river.

But for Rome to function for a million people

the Tiber could only work as part of a much bigger transport system.

With Rome expanding its trade links

to cater for an increasing population,

centres were established to handle the huge

amount of imported produce heading to the capital.

One of the places you get the most vivid idea of the sheer scale

and complexity of the trade that supplies Rome with food

is here in Ostia.

What we have is an enormous piazza with a sort of covered walkway here

and, behind it, a series of offices.

And this is where the shippers and traders do their business.

And they put up sort of publicity signs.

This is a picture of the River Nile and its delta.

Egypt and Alexandria were one of the most important

sources of trade in the Empire.

Here we have a rather nice picture of how you do the shipping.

You come into harbour with a big ship

and there's a guy on the gangplank, bringing over an amphora,

which is moving onto a smaller ship,

which is then going to go upriver to the warehouses in Rome.

Then over here...

..we've got a rather nice scene of the lighthouse.

Of course, when you're coming across the Mediterranean

and you see the great lighthouse, you know you've made it at last.

And there are a couple of ships, dolphins and so on.

And here we can see just where they come from.

Here we have the navicularii, the shippers,

and the negotiantes, the businessmen,

of Karalis - that's Cagliari in Sardinia.

And remember it's not just one trade.

Some people owned the ships, some people do the negotiation,

do the business, because there is a lot of money, both to make

and to lose, in shipping.

And you can just imagine, this place would be

full of hundreds of traders trying to do a little deal.

One of the interesting things is they're all private,

they're doing it for the state,

they're doing it because Rome needs corn,

but individuals can make a packet out of it.

Here are the people... Isn't this wonderful?

This elephant, saying you are in North Africa,

and they are from Sabratha in Libya.

That whole coast of North Africa supplying Rome with corn

but also with other goods.

And this is the place where trade happens,

this is the place you come and make a fortune.

Ostia was such a lucrative hub for trade

that it flourished as a town in its own right.

And you can still see the trappings of wealth

in the buildings and decoration.

The wealth and global trade coming into Rome by the first century

meant Ostia couldn't cope.

Ancient Rome had to adapt and expand further.

And, two miles north of Ostia,

it embarked upon a monumental piece of infrastructure

to sustain its burgeoning city,

at the very site of modern Italy's greatest transport hub.

Well, here we are,

right by the hurly-burly of Rome's Fiumicino airport,

traffic whizzing past all the time, low-flying planes

whistling overhead. Sometimes hard to make yourself heard.

And yet this is one of the least well-known

but most important of Roman sites.

It's the great port of Rome

that the Romans simply called Portus, the port.

Now, Rome didn't have a natural harbour.

The Tiber comes out into the sea and it doesn't have a bay around it.

Think of Athens. They had the Piraeus, a natural harbour.

Rome had to make a harbour artificially,

overcoming natural obstacles.

And that took the resources of empire.

It took the Emperor Claudius,

and these columns are very typical of constructions

by the Emperor Claudius, who cared about infrastructure.

He cared about chunky, practical building,

and he made a vast artificial harbour at the mouth of the Tiber.

Along with the harbour

came all the surrounding buildings and warehouses.

To get a sense of the scale of this place,

I've come to meet my old friend Simon Keay,

who's made a remarkable discovery.

- Oh, my, Simon. You've been busy bees. - We certainly have.

It's quite a hole you've made in this poor beauty spot.

'What Simon has excavated is just a tiny element

'in a whole network of ship installations.

'This trench represents just part of one bay

'in what was a massive complex.'

This bay would originally have been just under 60 metres long,

so that's actually three of these.

- Imagine them stacked against one another. - So it goes way down there!

- And it's just under 12 metres wide. - Height?

Height, well... Are you prepared for it?

This is a building which stands to at least, well, a maximum of 18 metres,

- which is somewhere up there. - At the top of the trees? OK.

So this is truly massive.

And it's meant to be seen, it's a statement

about what the Romans are able to do, in creating a facade

that reflects Roman power and has a great functional use and so on.

What we're seeing is just a third of one ship bay.

Imagine, this 18-metre-high construction would have been

a tiny part of a complex that could berth at least 500 ships.

It gives us a glimpse of the remarkable scale

the port was built on.

The site occupies a staggering 860 acres.

Part of which is now the stately home of Duke Sforza Cesarini,

who feels a strong connection with his Roman past.

Claudius built Portus because Ostia became too small for Rome.

But trade grew so fast that the harbour had to be enlarged again,

in the second century, by Trajan.

A new, 80-acre basin was constructed.

'It was recorded that it was formed in the shape of a huge hexagon,

'to maximise the berthing space for ships.

'You get little idea of this from the ground.

'There's only one way to find out.'

- Ohhh. - Oh, wow. Fantastic.

Yeah, that's what we wanted.

'From 500 metres in the air,

'you can clearly make out the sides of Trajan's hexagon.'

Luckily enough, the Emperor Claudius left his mark in the shape

of this inscription here, which explains a bit about

what he thought he was doing in making his great port.

Like all imperial inscriptions

it starts with his name in enormous letters.

Tiberius Claudius son of Drusus Caesar,

and then a whole load of titles that go on for a couple of lines.

And then he explains what he's up to.

Fossis ductis - "I dug canals from the Tiber

"in order to support my works on the port.

"And by doing so," he says, "letting them out into the sea,

"I saved the city of Rome from the danger of flooding."

So he sees his engineering works as a whole package.

It's not just that he creates a port,

he links the port to the city by the canals

and the canals save the city from the danger of flooding.

Like this one.

Known as Fiumicino, or little river,

it gives its name to Rome's airport nearby.

And though it dates from the time of Claudius

it's still fully functioning.

And, even 400 years before these canals were completed, the Romans

had grasped the importance of drainage in their city.

One of the vital steps of turning Rome into a city

from just a cluster of villages

was to create a great drain, the Cloaca Maxima.

The original settlements were on hilltops, the Palatine Hill,

the Capitoline Hill, and between them was an enormous swamp,

a river flowing down and spreading out.

To get from one hilltop to another you had to use a boat.

And it's one of the first kings of Rome - you could call him

a tyrant, Tarquin - who famously created the Cloaca Maxima,

the great drain of Rome.

And what that great drain does is get rid of the swamp and create

a dry area which was to become the Forum, the heart of the city.

But the Cloaca Maxima served other purposes, too,

and progressively all sorts of stuff was sent down into the great drain

and it turned into a great sewer.

So, what's all this? OK.

Oh, crikey. Right. Another arm... That's another arm.

Ooh, it's rather small.


That'll keep the shit out.

The Cloaca runs nearly a mile from North to South,

traversing ancient and modern Rome underground.

The Greek writer Strabo said the sewer was wide enough to

drive a cart loaded with hay, and I can't argue with that.

It is huge.

I've come to meet the head of the archaeological team

looking at the Cloaca, Dr Luca Antonioli.

And you can see the wooden shuttering on which it was poured.

What I love about Roman cement

is this was poured in AD 100 or so

and it's still as solid and serviceable,

it works for the sewers of Rome today.

It doesn't need any form of repair.

It's remarkable that the Cloaca Maxima survived

whilst the rest of Rome was crumbling.

Over time, as the greatness of the city began to fade

and the Forum above was built over with the houses of a later Rome,

the Cloaca was forgotten.

They build new drains

because they don't even realise this drain is running underneath.

And it's not until... the 19th century,

when Rome becomes a capital city,

that they rediscover and reactivate the great sewers of ancient Rome.

Rome's sewers, like its aqueducts, were an attempt to tackle

the public health of a city which had topped a million people.

But daily life was not the only challenge.

So was death, and the problem of burial.

This may look like a park shed

but there's more to it than meets the eye.

From the second century BC onwards,

cremation had become increasingly popular at funerals.

Little wonder, with a rising urban population and space at a premium.

I have to say, this is one of my favourite Roman tombs.

It's called the Columbarium of Pomponius Hylas.

Well, as we discovered as we were coming down the stairs.

But Pomponius, was he the owner of this tomb? He wasn't, right?

No, he's clearly not.

There's a beautiful mosaic with his name and griffins around a lyre.

It's charming.

But it's quite clear he was one of the last people to be buried here.

The first guy's got to be this guy, hasn't it?

Or the first couple, because there's the man and his wife.

And they got a most prominent location as well,

probably not by the stairway but on the main wall,

and they built themself this really large and nice niche.

And you've got him and his wife depicted on them all.

And look at the material, they look like alabaster ash urns,

- which was very expensive. - Yeah, you pay a lot.

Yeah, because they probably actually paid for this whole thing.

They took care of the entire decoration on this ceiling

and here in the recess, you can see a similar style.

So I think we have to assume these are people who...

He's made a packet and yet, he's not one of the Roman nobles, is he?

The whole Roman fashion for having grand, ostentatious tombs

starts with the Roman nobility, but by the time we are here

in the 1st century AD, the sort of people who are being buried

are actually ex-slaves.

This guy is Granius Nestor.

Nestor, a sort of Greek mythological name,

a freeborn man could have it.

But it's very improbable.

- And his wife's called Hedone, meaning... - Different name.

Hedone, Mrs Pleasure.

That is a very characteristic slave name, isn't it?

They also present themselves, you know, in a very Roman way.

Look at him there, wearing a toga, holding a scroll.

It could be the sort of image that they want to project of themselves,

of good Roman citizens.

They're really showing that they made it, in a way,

they made it in their circle and look at it. Look at what they got.

The use of colour is fantastic, isn't it?

I mean, that was Egyptian blue, one of the most expensive pigments

that you could possibly get in antiquity.

So that already tells us something.

It's not like the other niches.

They are just yellow and red, which...

Your natural colours are way less expensive.

You want to project the same values that you have in real life

also here, you want to be able to see it in the commemorations

that perhaps were held here every year.

So that's what you want the living to see and to commemorate you for.

This tomb has over 100 niches for the ashes of those laid to rest.

The word "columbarium" comes from the Latin meaning "dovecote".

They come from a city that's densely populated.

There are tens of thousands of other people like them

and they don't even dream of having a tomb all to themselves.

They build it with lots and lots of slots for lots of other people.

It's a bit like a insula block, isn't it?

You can see them stacking up and they're all packed in like sardines.

Because, in a really crowded city,

you live stacked up in apartment blocks

and you die stacked up in columbaria.

Every great city depends on immigration.

It needs it for numbers, it needs it for cheap labour,

it needs it for specialist services.

Modern Rome, and here we are near the station, in an area

full of immigrants, Bangladeshis, Chinese, Africans,

Romanians, all sorts.

Modern Rome couldn't function without its immigrants.

And it's just the same in ancient Rome.

Unlike modern Europe, in ancient Rome, there's no limitation

on immigration and, indeed, there is compulsory immigration.

Slavery means that tens, even hundreds, of thousands of people

are brought from all over the world to Rome.

And then there are plenty who come voluntarily, free men,

citizens, they come to Rome to make their fortune.

The city had a massive draw.

Unlike the provinces, Rome was a tax-free zone and its citizens

received free hand-outs of food and sometimes even money.

Under the Emperor Augustus,

Rome became the biggest place of employment in the ancient world,

with public services which wouldn't be matched for another 1,800 years.

Amazingly, this even included a professional fire service

of 7,000 men.

The most important thing that Augustus did to protect Rome

from fire was to set up a fire brigade.

It was a quasi-military organization with seven cohorts.

This is an inscription put up by the fifth cohort.

In each cohort, there are 1,000 men.

Those seven cohorts controlled the 14 regions of Rome,

so each cohort is split in two and does two regions.

Here we have an inscription from Cohort Number Five.

And these three guys at the top in the biggest letters

are the most important.

The prefect, Gaius Julius Quintilianus.

The sub-prefect, Marcus Firmius Amyntianus.

And then there's a tribune

and then these guys are the centurions.

And one of the intriguing things about them is each of them

gives where they came from.

Now, you'd expect the fire brigade of Rome to be locally recruited,

but no.

This guy comes from a place called Berva, which is near Venice.

This guy comes from Savaria, which is in Hungary.

This one from Ratiaria, which is in Bulgaria.

This one from Poetovio, in Slovenia.

And this one from Aquincum, which is Budapest in Hungary.

So they come from way, way east of Rome.

That's not all.

You then flip round the other side and then you get all of the names

of the ordinary Vigiles, all 1,000 of them,

in teeny little letters, column after column.

Under the Emperor Nero in 64 AD,

the Vigiles were put to the test when a great fire swept Rome.

It was a disaster.

Notoriously, the Emperor was blamed for fiddling whilst Rome burned.

What the cause of the fire was can be debated,

but what's certain is how Nero responded afterwards.

We're underneath the street level of modern Rome

and under a multiplex cinema.

When they were constructed this,

they were trying to go further down to add extra rooms and what

they found was they were blocked by a massive bit of Roman building.

What we have here...

is two entire urban blocks, back-to-back with each other,

that were at least three floors in this insula.

We know from the brick stamps...

Romans liked to stamp their bricks with their names.

We know from those that it was built under the Emperor Nero.

What we can see here are the dividing walls of the two blocks.

And Nero said, "You're not allowed to use party walls,

"you can't build one block against another.

"You've got to have separate walls,

"because that stops the fire spreading."

During the great fire,

the Vigiles had complained of a lack of water to fight the flames.

Nero decreed that every insula must have access to a cistern

with an abundant water supply.

Despite his reforms, the myth about Nero lives on to this day.

The modern fire service takes its name from the Vigiles

and their ancient counterparts are still celebrated.



Wow, here is a fine-looking group of Vigiles.

The standard-bearer...

And a pretty tough lot they look.

I don't think I would want to mess with them.

And we have here the centurion.


Certo, certo.

A Roman axe.

Well, well, this is one scary bit of kit.

This would be through the woodwork in no time.


A Roman fire blanket, which you make of a patchwork of wool.

So this you dip in water but also vinegar,

because vinegar has an important fire retardant effect.

'Water was transported from the systems using amphorae.'

Yes, I can imagine it might be a bit hard to extinguish a fire

just chucking it straight from the amphorae.

But the Vigiles had a secret weapon...

a hydraulic pump called a siphon.

So you have two tubes, one sucks the water in,

then it passes into the piston and, as the water goes in,

the air is under pressure and then,

as you send the valves up and down, the water squirts out both sides.

- Bravissimo. - Grazie.


Nero's Vigiles were a semi-military organization

and also had a policing role.

Together with other paramilitary forces, there were no less

than 20,000 man dedicated to keeping Rome's citizens safe.

The principles of policing have remained the same in modern Rome,

though the technology has changed.

CCTV performs many of the surveillance duties

done by the Vigiles.

But though the Romans didn't possess digital mapping,

they did understand that planning, just as in so many spheres

of Roman life, was the key to making their city work.

The only private house marked on the Forma Urbis

is the residence of the urban prefect, Fabius Cilo,

the man responsible for Rome's forces of law and order.

It seems very possible that the document that has helped us

understand the plan of ancient Rome was in fact

displayed in the office of their Chief of Police.

Already under Augustus, the population of Rome

had reached a million and it probably stayed at more or less

the same level for the next 300, even 400 years.

It's not until the imperial power of Rome implodes

that the population also collapses.

By the middle of the 6th century,

it may have shrunk to as few as 30,000 people.

And no city in Europe was again to reach the figure of a million

until the beginning of the 19th century.

You're looking at it now.

By no coincidence, London, too, was capital of a world empire,

and made no disguise of the act it was following.

Yet, Rome had achieved a million when the world population

was a fraction of its modern size

and without motor transport, gas or electricity.

Today, we live in a world of megacities,

but Rome remains the inspiration for them all.

The Description of BBC Building the Ancient City Athens and Rome 2of2