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Building the Ancient City: Athens and Rome

Episode 2: Rome

Duration: 1 hour

First broadcast: on BBC Two Northern IrelandLatest broadcast: on BBC Four HD

Rome was the world's first ancient megacity. At a time when few towns could number more than 10,000 inhabitants, more than a million lived in Rome. But in a world without modern technology, how on earth did the Romans do it? How did they feed their burgeoning population, how did they house them, and how did they get them into town without buses or trains? How on earth did the Romans make their great city work?

In the final episode of the series, Professor Andrew Wallace-Hadrill takes us up ancient tower blocks, down ancient sewers, and above 2,000-year-old harbour basins still filled with water, to find out. He reveals how this city surpassed all those from the ancient world that had gone before.

From the pedestrianisation of the forum to a global transport hub built right next to modern Italy's transport epicentre, Fiumicino Airport, we see how this visionary approach to public projects was not matched for nearly 2,000 years. We discover how Nero - the emperor blamed for fiddling whilst Rome burned - was in fact responsible for the transformation of the finest fire brigade in the ancient world and the creation of the first fire regulations. We uncover made-over Roman apartment blocks complete with piped water, and modern libraries that are in fact ancient Roman buildings constructed two millennia ago.

Last but not least, Professor Wallace-Hadrill uncovers the secret of Rome's success - the planning still captured on pieces of an 1,800-year-old marble map of the city, a map which shows that astonishingly, in many places, the street plan of Ancient Rome mirrors that of the city today in exact detail. Show less

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