Episode 1 The Life of Luxury – After hundreds of years of occupation many generations of people in Britain had grown up surrounded by Roman culture, and after a long period of stability that culture was showing visible signs of wealth, success and good living. This 2,000 year old Great Roman Temple enclosing a natural spring is one of Bath’s foremost visitor attractions. The site of a celtish shrine to the Roman goddess, Sulis Minerva, it boasts a beautifully preserved bath, temple and pump room. A well preserved cavalry fort, complete with a bath house and which features an impressive museum. Original artifacts are on display. Cooking implements, demonstrated by food historian and chef Sally Grainger, were used to create 3 course Roman meals.
Episode 2 Invasion – When the Roman army invaded Britain in force in the spring of A.D. 43, they brought with them technology that must have astonished the native Celts. To begin with the Roman weapons were far better, they had good swords, spears, and several machines to throw missiles. Built on an archaeological site, this faithful reconstruction of a military complex includes a granary, ramparts and a museum of Roman artifacts. Pre-fabricated forts, such as the reconstruction at Lunt visited by Hart-Davis, secured the victory and exemplified their engineering skills.
Episode 3 Building Britain – Within 30 years of the invasion there were 60,000 Roman troops in Britain, they had come from some of the most advanced places in Europe, and to them this sort of settlement must have seemed primitive. This is the story of how they transformed the landscape and laid the foundations for the countryside and the cities Britain has today. Hart-Davis analyses the Romans’ ingenious farming methods and looks at the creation of early towns. He visits York and discovers the remains of the Roman city and a Roman sewer that is still working. Butser Ancient Farm, described as “an open air laboratory”, this reconstructed Iron Age farm and settlement is an archaeological research project, investigating the ancient methods of Celtic farmers. Housesteads Roman Fort, Britain’s most intact Roman fort, all the more impressive for its clifftop location, built by Hadrian in the second century. Fire brigades and primitive fire extinguishers, demonstrated by Hart-Davis, were developed under the auspices of the Emperor Nero.
Episode 4 Arteries of the Empire – Hart-Davis analyses the Romans’ ingenious surveying methods that enabled them to build their arrow-straight roads. Groma surveying, demonstrated by Hart-Davis, allowed the surveying of perfectly straight roads such as Watling Street and Stane Street. The construction of Roman roads, demonstrated by Hart Davis, has allowed them to endure to this day. He also commissions a replica of an ingenious giant water wheel used to remove water from flooded Welsh gold mines. The remains of a Roman fortification dating back to their first century landing, as well as a museum of Roman life.
Episode 5 Edge of Empire – Hart-Davis visits Hadrian’s Wall and demonstrates how communications were the key to the success of the Roman military machine. Hadrian’s Wall marked the northern boundary of the Roman Empire, and had defensive features such as milecastles and forts such as Housesteads. At supply depots such as Arbeia, Romans baked bread in open fires. The remains of a Roman fort and settlement, with full scale reconstructed buildings and an excellent museum. Excavations are in progress. Many documents have been discovered at Vindolanda fort, such as postcards made out of thin wood veneer.
Episode 6 Ahead of their time – The Romans ruled Britain for nearly four hundred years. They brought with them all sorts of revolutionary new concepts, from the hot bath to the hamburger. In this programme, Adam Hart-Davis looks at some of their wackier technology, like the first robot, and the slot machine, inventions that were literally centuries ahead of their time. Adam Hart-Davis rediscovers the innovations and inventions brought by the Romans to Britain. In this edition, he examines the forms of entertainment laid on during the 176 days per year that were public holidays in Roman times. Featuring the hydraulis, the first ever keyboard instrument. Plus a look at how the Romans introduced concrete. Part of a Roman fortress complex in the ancient town of Caerleon, this circular site was once the setting for displays of gladiatorial combat and accommodated 6,000 spectators. Arthurian legend suggests it was the site of King Arthur’s Round Table. Also features a museum and nearby remains of a bath house and barracks. Eventually, the Roman empire simply became too large and indefensible, and the troops were gradually withdrawn from Britain. Although some technologies were then lost, Britain still retains some to this day.