The Roman Empire in the First Century

The Roman Empire in the First Century

2001, History  -   40 Comments
Ratings: 7.01/10 from 67 users.

The Roman Empire in the First CenturyTwo thousand years ago, the world was ruled by Rome. From England to Africa and from Syria to Spain, one in every four people on earth lived and died under Roman law. The Roman Empire in the first century AD mixed sophistication with brutality and could suddenly lurch from civilization, strength and power to terror, tyranny and greed.

Leader of the pack. At the head of the pack were the emperors, a strange bunch of men (always men). Few were just OK: some were good - some even were great - but far too many abused their position and power. They had a job for life, but that life could always be shortened. Assassination was an occupational hazard. The emperors sat at the top of Rome's social order. This was as finely graded as flour. Specific qualifications were needed for Romans to be admitted as equestrians or senators. Even freed slaves had different rights from citizens.

Daily life in ancient Rome. What's more, the social status of any citizen governed the life they led. While all Romans enjoyed the baths and made a feature of the evening meal, their clothes and food, homes and hobbies, were a product of their class. Those that tried to climb the ranks too quickly were savagely mocked by Petronius, just one of many Roman writers whose observation and wit still breathes life into a society long since dead.

More than a city. Petronius knew his city well, but Rome itself was much more than just one city. Its empire was a vast collection of states, backed up by force. It was not always peaceful. Enemies and rebels like Cleopatra and Boudicca revealed the Roman steel that lay behind its civilization. Even allowing for the occasional revolt, the empire was an enormous achievement. It was a huge marketplace in which citizens could trade and travel unhindered. This helped the spread of foreign religions like Judaism and early Christianity as far as Rome itself. Slowly, these religions encroached on traditional Roman spirits and gods. By the end of the first century AD, Rome was even ruled by a Spaniard, Trajan. He was the first of many foreign emperors that showed the Roman Empire to be a vast, multi-cultural melting pot that still has relevance, more than 2,000 years later. (Excerpt from

The playlist below contains 4 episodes, each about 55 minutes long, in HD: Order from Chaos, Years of Trial, Winds of Change and Years of Eruption.

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40 Comments / User Reviews

  1. Andre Michael Pietroschek

    But, when aging Caesar bitched, his BOI, Brutus, quickly got rid of him...

  2. PEG

    God burning people eternally in a lake of hell fire is not a bible teaching. The words "sheol" (Hebrew) and the "Hades" (Greek) has persistently been rendered as the word hell, which actually means the grave. The scriptures require much study to acquire accurate knowledge and understanding.

  3. Moakley

    every single person who has ever written about Jesus has never met the man.

    Jesus did exist but he was no more then a Palestinian jew who was a peasant who ruffled some feathers and he pretty much was a nobody at the time.

    Read the book Zealot: The life and times of Jesus of Nazareth
    by Reza Aslan

  4. indigopriest

    faith is described as evidence of that which is unseen.
    in my opinion prophecy is the strongest evidence, and a good starting point for anyone seriously questioning whither God or Jesus are real or fake.

    1. Brett

      I have a lot of faith that they are fake!

    2. Bill Rabara

      The prophecies are a joke. Unfulfilled, fake, self fulfilling, etc. It doesn't matter whether God is real or not. God burns people eternally in a lake of hellfire unless they beleive he exists - that makes him an evil a**hole not worth worshipping

  5. Donisha McCalla

    Um....the part about Pontius Pilate is wrong. It was not OBVIOUS to Pilate to crucify Jesus. He didn't want anything to do with it.

    1. Brett

      Jesús never existed!

  6. Cory Reed

    thanks for turning everything into a debate about how stupid you think other people's beliefs are. That definitely makes everyone feel great. Just tear down everyone else instead of building them up, completely ignorant and oblivious to the pain you are causing other people.

    A pessimist attacking optimists--now that's the life

    1. Brett

      Screw religioin and the Jesus lie! Besides I would never follow a Jew even if he had existed!

    2. Scott Reed

      Dude what the heck? This thread has been dead for 3 years.

  7. Jay Morales

    I'd have to agree with previous opinions, unfortunately... hyper-sensationalised and with glaring omissions. Ovid started to really get on my nerves, too... I thought this was a docu-drama on the Roman Empire, not on one poet? Too much emphasis was placed on him imho.

    With that said, this would be great for someone not well-versed in Roman history. For others, it's far too simplistic to warrant watching.

  8. Pablo Sehri

    get high and then watch this...damn

  9. Paul

    Nice documentary. Perhaps concentrated a bit too much on Ovid for my taste.
    All was going well until they started talking about Jesus as if the person described in the Bible was a real person in history.
    I appreciate it's for a USA audience who largely consider Jesus to be an historical figure. I'm not aware of any contemporaneous documents outside of the Bible that refer to Jesus as a real person. The gospels were written decades after the person they describe and are not eyewitness accounts. The bible is a collection of religious writings it is not an historical resource.

    1. Dan Te

      Actually there are a few historical sources that prove his existence (now whether or not he was a prophet and God on Earth, is a different matter) . There are 2 Jewish and 2 Roman sources. Jewish sources are - the Talmud (described him as a troublemaker) and Josephus (described him as a wise man who preached). Roman sources are Tacitus (this very famous historian mentioned him,though I do not remember in what light) and there was a letter from Pliny, the Roman governor of Asia Minor that asked about the trouble that a man was stirring up, preaching and travelling around the country with his many followers etc. There is no doubt Jesus existed. The doubt is in his importance and role in the world as well as his true purpose and aim.

    2. james_john_king

      The Talmud doesn't count as an historical source, and the bits in Joseophus have been revealed as interpolations from much later - possibly added to save the manuscript from destruction.

    3. thomas

      Roman historian Flavius Josephus writes about Jesus. He is a historical figure, just like Siddhartha Gautama, just like Confucius, just like Mohammed. They all have significant impact on religion and rules of society and have therefore have become somewhat mythic but serious scholars don't doubt they actually existed... You don't have to believe Jesus was God's chosen One, but not believing he is a historical figure is a bit much...

    4. Xbow

      Christianity became popular because it is the ultimate security blanket. A man can live like a depraved sack of garbage for his entire life and all he has to do to gain eternal life is at some point before his death accept his majesty as his lord and savior. At that point the convert gets a ticket to heaven. How convenient.

      Did Jesus exist? Of course he did. His greatest achievement was convincing the weak & gullible down through the ages that a benevolent interventionist god exists. Its a nice soothing fairy tale.

    5. PeanutM

      Since the Bible (which is the only record we have of what Jesus was, did, or said, was written hundreds of years after Jesus walked this planet, maybe it wasn't Jesus who sold us a fairy tale. From what i understand about the Bible, is that Jesus was a man, everything else is mostly fiction. Amazing thing is, the power organized religion has, and how deadly and evil it can be.

    6. indigopriest

      we all agree that the 5 books of moses was written long before Christ. yet the furniture described in the tabernacle is in the layout of a cross, and indeed each furniture is in a place where Jesus was wounded. feet, side, hands, back, and head. either the entire bible was contrived and designed by a genius and artful roman emperor years after the fact, or there really is a God who can see the past and the future. A God who molds history to teach Humans something about his love.
      however upon careful examination the words of the prophecies are fulfilled exactly as specified. the most reliable and largest in scope being the prophecy of Daniel 2. it covers history from Babylon to the very end of time. right now we are in the time of the feet. and indeed it could be that we are actually on the white part of the toenails. at the very edge of eternity.
      the best and practically only evidence for God is his prophecies.
      if you are seriously interested in finding the truth, Daniel two is the place to start.

    7. Kateye70

      Or the writers were conversant with the symbology of their own age...remembering that there were multiple writers of the old testament and that educated persons were part of a culture.

      Perhaps...just a thought--novel, mind-stretching, I know, but bear with me--maybe, just maybe, the story about Jesus was based on the existing OT stories rather than the other way around.

      "Prophecy after the fact," ya know?

    8. indigopriest

      I hear what you are saying. :)
      yes it is a 50/50 toss up as to which way you go in your thinking.
      I do not ever want to force you or anyone else to believe what I believe.
      the reason for this is that throughout history people have killed in the name of God.
      the moment I start down the path of "believe what I do", it is very easy to take on the comment "or else"
      indeed Jesus even warns us of this very thing.
      "there will come a time when people think they are doing a service to God by killing you"
      inquisition anyone?
      the catholic church has murdered roughly 50 million people in the name of God during the middle ages. from Russia to england people were tortured, drowned, burned at the stake, beheaded. just to name a few.
      this is why the seperation of church and state is so critical in America. we do not want a repeat of what happened in the past. it was horrid.
      sadly however the bible predicts this very thing will happen before the end of time. keep your eyes open. regardless of whither you believe in Christ. the moment a church unites with America you will know that bible prophecy is true, and the end is near.
      if you are interested in learning more about this particular prophecy, you know where to find me :)
      keep in mind prophecy is not to predict the future! it is to recognize when something happens that God is actually real, and there is none like him.

    9. Hannah Hammond

      There is more historical evidence for Jesus than for Julius Caesar. Do some research and you'll be amazed what you dig up :) Jesus was, without any doubt, a real human being. The only thing up for debate is whether or not he was God.

    10. Jeroen Waterreus

      There is more historical evidence for Jesus than for Julius Caesar.....great rearch...hahaha

    11. winston

      This is simply incorrect. It's not even close to being correct.

      The fact is, we do not have a single contemporary account of this supposed miracle worker. Yet we have full contemporaneous biographical accounts of men of much lesser fame from the same period and geographic area as we are told Jesus was said to have lived. That is simply not possible if Jesus was actually doing the things (and attracting the crowds) with which he was later credited. If you were actually raising dead people and walking on water (the ancient symbol for matter) word would have gotten around, even back then. The New Testament is as symbolic and allegorical a book as has ever been composed, and it states as much quite unambiguously in those books. All of the teachings and legends attributed to Jesus have a long history well documented precedence. (See Robert Price's book THE INCREDIBLE SHRINKING SON OF MAN for a good overview of the facts as we know them.

      --I'm always amazed that Price is astute enough to see through biblical falsehoods by looking at the evidence yet is somehow completely fooled by government's astonishingly weak case that fire and gravity alone is what caused 3 skyscrapers to self-destruct through themselves (so via the path of maximum resistance) at a rate nearing that of freefall, on 9/11/01.

    12. Kateye70

      If you feel Price can't be trusted about 9/11, why would you bother recommending anything he's written about jesus?

    13. Bill Rabara

      You are correct. Arheist and theist scholars alike agre Jesus existed. The Jesus myth theory lives on only in the minds of a few crackpots

    14. hernan cortez

      This is more boulderdash, do you think any writer back then didn't have religious biases? The only people who could write back then and had the luxury of time to actually document things were either those in the religious class or historians, who were usually some kind of geographer who sold maps and usually had their own pagan religious bias.

      By the standard you seek to invoke, no document would prove any historical person because any document from back then has since vaporized and has been transposed and copied several times.

  10. KhatNip

    i enjoyed this, but a glaring error right off in not mentioning Lepidus. the alliance after Caesar's murder wasn't divvied up between Octavian and Marc Antony, it was a triumverate - the second triumverate, actually, with Octavian, Antony and Lepidus. poor Lepidus... so frequently forgotten. anyhow. thanks for this. fun viewing.

  11. HoboBoxerJoe

    Amazing documentary

  12. DeathSSghosT

    well i dont know where gary the terrier came from but i liked this series. pretty much anything more than a few hundred years and they have to start guessing with certain events. the further back you go, the more guessing. so yeah, history is up for grabs. its pbs, they are usually not as bad about manipulating history as the history channel. thanks for posting, if there is more on rome, please let me know where i can watch it.

  13. gary a poirier

    more sensorship apcre at work even here, wow!!!!

  14. gary a poirier

    pig latin anyone

  15. gary a poirier

    How about apcre

  16. gary a poirier

    I don't trust any established media outlet including the history channel, BBC or anything like these, who owns them? who are they working with and for? Independent film makers are the only choice for hoping to get anything close to the truth. How do we know the history portrayed is true or just more propaganda c@#$ forced down our throats in our schools and colleges, do your own research and always know its probably not really the truth anyway: were you there? "He who controls the information controls the minds of men"

  17. Ryan

    If you enjoy Roman history. There is an excellent HBO series named "Rome" hehe The story is fiction based on facts. Acting, scenery,and a glimps into roman life are all amazing. You will love it! Should be available at your local video store. Keep up the good work V!

  18. Jacob

    Great doc, Cannot stand the female narrator.

  19. iomismo

    This documentaries are well produced and quite profound as they cover only a range of 100 years.

  20. Rip

    So that explains why we get unwarranted attitude at random intervals though out the day?
    I hear ya grim, love it so much I got half a sleeve Italy tattoo.

  21. grimcity

    I'm a great fan/buff of Roman history.
    It's also raining outside so I can't work on my yard.
    You've provided us with roughly for hours of what is starting out as a well-produced series.

    I'm going to be up all night and miserable at the office tomorrow. I swear, this site gives me documentary hangovers.

    Thanks for the site, Vlatko! You rock, man!