Roman Vice: Introduction (01:05)
This segment orients viewers to the topic of Ancient Roman lifestyle.
Roman Feast Preparations (08:16)
Augustus, the first Julio-Claudian emperor, comes to power after a civil war. Vedius Pollio holds a feast in honor of Augustus that encompasses all the "fruits" of the empire and exhibits gluttony and cruelty. Experts discuss the moral contradiction and fish farming.
Villa Posillipo Banquet (04:01)
Augustus has a reputation for asserting his authority in the bedroom. Correct protocol at a feast is essential. Vedius' guests drink wine from crystal glasses and watch entertainers; vomiting to make more room is commonplace. A slave breaks a glass.
Roman Morality (02:52)
Cato faces death for breaking a glass. Augustus is horrified and has the fish pool filled in and all the goblets smashed. Augustus tries to stop opulence and cruelty, and issues moral edicts for the ruling class. Ovid’s poem sets him on a confrontational path with the emperor.
Morality and Pleasure (06:09)
Romance and love are often depicted in Roman art; poets praise traditional virtues. "The Art of Love" becomes a popular sex manual; young Romans resist Augustus' virtuous tone. Experts discuss ancient makeup and pregnancy prevention.
Roman Luxury and Sexuality (08:01)
Ovid's poem undermines Augustus. The emperor exiles family for immorality and banishes Ovid to the Black Sea. Pompeii frescoes display erotica. Experts discuss attitudes toward pleasure and sex, and the "The Rape of the Sabine Women."
Vice and Slavery (07:48)
Romans legalize prostitution; frescoes in a Pompeii brothel depict sexual positions. Popinae are dens of drinking, gambling, and prostitution. Experts discuss slave markets and relationships between older and younger men. Explicit frescoes at Pompeii’s suburban bath complex depict deviant sexual practices.
Pompeii Suburban Bath Complex (02:55)
Experts suggest the explicit sexual frescoes depicting taboo practices are meant to provoke laughter. By the time of Tiberius, baths are a symbol of affluence.
Bathing Craze (05:44)
Sergius Orata creates the first artificial oyster beds and heated swimming pools. Bathing, a cultural event, boosts the economy; baths are associated with vice. Tiberius withdraws to Capri in 26 AD; rumors of his perverted sexual practices reach Rome.
Depravity and Cruelty (04:38)
Tiberius uses his private bath to fulfill fantasies with small children and has them thrown from a cliff when bored. His nephew, Caligula, becomes his successor. Caligula is initially popular, but absolute power allows him to go to extremes.
Caligula spends much of his adolescence with Tiberius; he trusts no one. A severe illness leaves him deranged and extreme. Experts discuss Caligula's sexual activities, penchant for violence, favorite horse, and extreme behavior. A guard assassinates Caligula.
Claudius succeeds Caligula. He has physical and mental deformities and a penchant for excessive eating and drinking. His third wife Messalina is a nymphomaniac and an object of gossip and criticism.
Roman Excess (08:29)
Messalina challenges a prostitute to see who can satisfy the most men in one night; she is later executed for promoting an imperial rival. Experts discuss Claudius' success as a statesman, the role of cults, and animal sacrifice. Theaters and amphitheaters spread throughout Western Europe.
Secular Games (07:18)
Claudius stages a three-day celebration to commemorate Rome's 800th birthday. The mob and the emperor relish the cruelty of the arena; condemned men die in imaginative ways. Gladiators hold iconic status and are objects of desire; Claudius orders death for the loser.
History suggests that Agrippina killed Claudius with poisoned mushrooms; her son Nero takes the throne. Oplontis exemplifies the opulent art and architecture of the period. Greek culture informs Nero's perspective on morality; he alienates the military.
Roman Theater (04:30)
Nero enjoys performing on stage and participating in chariot racing, both breaches of imperial protocol. He promotes fatal charades for entertainment.
Nero's Brutality (09:47)
The Julio-Claudian era represents cruelty, decadence, and debauchery; executions are popular, and Nero is vicious. The 64 AD fire sparks a spate of savage executions; Nero targets Christians. Nero loses popularity and his grip on power. He goes into hiding and commits suicide.
Credits: Roman Vice (00:24)
Credits: Roman Vice
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