BBC iPlayer: The Treasures of Ancient Rome

Rome fans are in for six weeks of sheer pleasure, as art historian Alastair Sooke explores the history of Roman art in a new series on BBC4.

The first episode – Warts ‘n’ All – explores the origins of Roman art and the realism employed by Roman artists and architects across the empire, starting with the Eternal City and that famous statue of Romulus and Remus being suckled by the she wolf.


Sooke harnesses science to art history and comes up with a few surprises, including the age of the Capitoline Hill’s Etruscan statue of the she wolf and founding twins.

We also take a look at how artworks plundered across the empire influenced Roman art – including how realism became flattering, with a wrinkle or two on the face of an emperor denoting wisdom and experience rather than a missed Botox appointment. And who knew that Romans went unshaven during periods of mourning – or that we owe the psychological portrait to the ancient Romans, according to artist Antony Gormley?

Emperor Nero, Borghese Museum
Emperor Nero, Borghese Museum, Rome

And sit back and enjoy a trip to the marble quarry where Michelangelo hewed his own marble blocks out of the ground.

Sooke also asks that burning question of how do we know that Rome’s marble statues were originally painted – making them look, quite frankly, a bit cheap and cheerful?

Finally, if you enjoy a Vesuviun moment, head off to Pompeii and visit one of the grandest residencies in the city, Casa del Fauno (The House of the Faun), with its Pop Art mosaics – plus view an epic mosaic mural depicting an Alexander the Great battle scene and a mural that wraps itself around you.

You can watch BBC4’s new series Treasures of Ancient Rome presented by Alastair Sooke online at BBC iPlayer, starting with the first episode Warts ‘n’ All.

Buon viaggio!
















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