BBC iPlayer – Simon Sebag Montefiore on Rome

If like me you are experiencing terrible withdrawal symptoms from not being able to visit Rome, you can get your Rome fix on BBC iPlayer, with episodes of Dr Simon Sebag Montefiore’s documentaries on Ancient Rome free to watch.

Whether Sebag Montefiore is marching round the Forum or descending gingerly into a Roman sewer to view some spectacular Roman brickwork that boats once sailed past on a river of Roman faeces, you will be informed, educated and enchanted – not quite the BBC’s original remit to Inform, Educate and Entertain, but perhaps even better.

You can get up close and personal to Rome’s ancient ruins – and spend lockdown working on your next dinner party conversation to impress friends and senators.

Area Sacra in Largo di Torre Argentina

Dr Sebag Montefiore is my favourite guide around Rome simply because of his precision and down-to-earth approach. Whereas some commentators might point to the Largo di Torre Argentina and declare this is where Caesar was murdered, Dr Montefiore informs the viewer that Largo Argentina and its breathtaking display of Roman architecture plonked right in the middle of a busy thoroughfare is actually the closest you can get to where Caesar was murdered. The site is known as Area Sacra because it was home to temples as well as Pompey’s Theatre, where Caesar was murdered. It is now a sanctuary for stray cats, who recline lazily in the sunshine.

Afternoon shopping at Campo de’ Fiori market

The site actually extends to Campo de’ Fiori, with the rear wall of the theatre auditorium in which Caesar was allegedly murdered near what appears to be an alleyway called Chiesa di Santa Maria in Grottapinta, which is actually a small chapel to the Virgin Mary leading to Camp de’ Fiori. It is a good ten minutes’ walk from Largo Argentina, but the exact spot of Caesar’s murder is not known.

Entrance to Santa Maria in Grottapinta from Campo de’Fiori

Being rather more superficial than Dr Sebag Montefiore, I would also point out that the route takes you along an excellent shopping street, Via dei Giubbonari. If you look on Google maps for a street just off this called Via dei Grotta Pinta, you will see a curved wall – now apartments – and this is actually the rear wall of the auditorium where Julius Caesar was murdered. It is known that, on 15 March 44BC, Caesar entered the Theatre of Pompey on Area Sacra for a meeting of the Senate, but exactly when and where he was stabbed to death after then is not known.

Curved rear auditorium wall of the theatre of Pompey

You can check out the site and route on Google Maps – I have walked round Rome many times in lockdown, thanks to Google.

Otherwise, let Dr Sebag Montefiore guide you round Rome on BBC iPlayer – grab a Cornetto from the freezer, put on your shorts and sunglasses, turn the heating up and imagine you are there.

Buon viaggio!

Detail from ceiling, Chiesa di Santa Maria in Grottapinta

Simon Sebag Montefiore’s documentaries on Ancient Rome are available at BBC iPlayer.

Virtual Tours of Rome – for kids of all ages

Virtual tours are a great way to keep your children educated and entertained if you are in lockdown. FutureLearn.com has Matthew’s Virtual Tour of the Roman Forum by Reading University online, with a reconstruction of the buildings, plus commentary and a transcript of this. It is a good way to see the Forum how it was – and make sense of the ancient ruins as they are today. There are lots of virtual tours of Rome online to suit all ages – send the kids off on an adventure in Rome while you conquer your own homework or housework.

Information about the UK’s KS2 (7-11 years) History curriculum on the Romans in Britain is available online.

The Colosseum, showing the corridors beneath the arena, where the animals, slaves and gladiators waited before they appeared before the crowd

Featured image: The Colosseum

All images copyright A. Meredith

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