The Roman Empire in the First Century

The Roman Empire in the First Century

2001, History  -    -  Playlist 40 Comments
Ratings: 7.11/10 from 70 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.

More great documentaries

Notify of

Oldest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Andre Michael Pietroschek
2 years ago

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

7 years ago

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.

8 years ago

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

10 years ago

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.

11 years ago

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.

Cory Reed
11 years ago

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

12 years ago

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.

12 years ago

get high and then watch this...damn

12 years ago

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.

12 years ago

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.

12 years ago

Amazing documentary

12 years ago

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.

gary a poirier
13 years ago

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

gary a poirier
13 years ago

pig latin anyone

gary a poirier
13 years ago

How about apcre

gary a poirier
13 years ago

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"

13 years ago

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!

13 years ago

Great doc, Cannot stand the female narrator.

13 years ago

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

13 years ago

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.

13 years ago

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!