Rome Wasn't Built In A Day

Written by Ben Felsenburg

Things, it has to be said, were really kicking off around the little north African town of Zama on the afternoon of 19 October, 202BC. This was, simply, where the fate of the Ancient World was decided, as after half a century of dingdong rivalry, Carthage suffered a decisive defeat to the forces of the upstart Romans.
In Eight Days That Made Rome (Friday, Channel 5, 9pm), classical historian Bettany Hughes picks out the dramatic landmarks in the making of an imperial superpower. She begins with the mighty clash with the Carthaginians, led by the famous General Hannibal, who you’ll remember won renown for leading his elephants across the Alps in a cunning ambush.

Now you might have thought that anyone with elephants on their side was going to come out on top in a fight, and it wasn’t long since Rome had been little more than a cluster of wooden houses in a remote backwater. But as Hughes explains, though a gang of underdogs, these Romans had a defiant ruthless spirit: never forget the city founder Romulus murdered his brother Remus in the quest to get ahead. That’s not the kind of legacy you can ever quite shake off. Hughes is a delightfully plain-speaking teacher who knows how to tell a good tale. Lord knows why the producers included so much superfluous reconstruction filmed with excitable shaky-cam. If in doubt, simply close your eyes and listen.