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Praise for Ultimate Rome: Empire WIthout Limit, Mary Beard's BBC Two documentary on Ancient Rome
Hail, Mary Beard! The most subversive and impish of dons has returned to Rome. Watch her enter the gladiatorial ring of primetime telly and square up to epitaphs, launch herself at city walls, and make the past as moreish as an episode of Game of Thrones. This time Beard – as she likes to be called – is rewriting Roman imperialism with a glint in her eye and a pair of silvery hi-tops on her feet. Ignore the macho and American-sounding title: Mary Beard’s Ultimate Rome: Empire Without Limit (BBC2) is a thoughtful and resolutely British series that, like its predecessors, deserves to draw in viewers by the million.
By the time she finished, with the death of Caesar Augustus in AD14, Beard had covered almost 800 years without missing a beat. Her focus in this series may be shifting away from her usual stock in trade – the “ordinary Roman citizen” – to look at the overall geopolitical, economic and cultural legacy of the Roman empire, but her method and success as a TV historian remain the same. Her unrelenting enthusiasm for her subject and ability to find the universal in the intimate moments of everyday life and death allow her to traverse the millennia with ease, and give us in the 21st century a tangible sense not only of how Romans lived, but how they thought and felt.
Her sense of happy enjoyment carries the show along, so that we hear all the references to Carthage and Pompey the Great and Vercingetorix without the uncomfortable feeling of being 11 years old again and stuck in a classroom.
Keith Hopkins, Mary Beard
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