Mary Beard, Meet the Romans – review


The words; I guess, and it could be are said too many times during this documentary. I am not quite sure what this documentary is meant to be about. There are so many questions, for example “who are the Romans?” ” who were the ordinary Romans ?” ” what was it like to see Vespasian and Titus ride through Rome?” These three questions are asked within the first six minutes of the documentary. In my opinion , and certainly the opinion of my family who I was watching it with, she barely answers any of them.  Normally a documentary has one aim, ie to Who was Boudicca? Or why did so many people follow Hitler? This documentary instead seems to change its aims throughout. By not focusing on one part of Roman history my family, who do not know anything about Rome’s history, kept getting frustrated as they got confused.

I must say that this documentary showed me parts of roman history that I had never even considered. Mary is right in the fact that people get obsessed with the emperors and forget about the rest. But it is hard to consider the existence of people, who left behind very few reminders. Her evidence of the ordinary people of Rome was questionable. For example ” this could have been a necklace of a wealthy women, or a choker for a slave. It could have also been a dog collar.” What kind of evidence is this?

Her introduction and explanations of the tomb stones was both enlightening and interesting. I know this is what she specialises on, perhaps instead of dipping in and out and randomly showing a tomb stone. She could have and should have found a story that encompassed the tomb stones.

What she should have done is focus herself on one topic and go from there. She should have clearly stated herself from the start. 13:35 minutes into the documentary she speaks to Professor Greg Woolf , who I must say is not properly introduced, they have an interesting discussion about Roman slaves who became freedmen, this could have been her entrance to the rest of the programme. She could have followed the life of a freedman, she would then pass through the idea of slaves, ordinary people and also the rich. As many freedmen became extremely rich, in this way she encompasses everything I think she is trying to say.  But instead this topic is only touched on, from this we go to tomb stones, then we look closely at a hill made out of pots…

I love her passion on the subject and it’s her passion that kept me watching. This documentary is like watching a As level project ,It has no guidance and very little structure. I must commend Mary for creating a documentary that pretty much encompasses every little part of Rome. But this same reason is the reason I do not like this documentary, perhaps if I had known very little about this subject I may have enjoyed it. But the fact that she keeps saying things like ” it could be” “this might have been” “I am almost 100% sure” and “due to this it must be” says to me that she did not have enough evidence to even do this documentary. If I turned in a project where I base my reasoning for my argument on hunch I would be told to go and do it again.

In conclusion this documentary is not a documentary, instead it’s a personal project that should be watched if you want a very fast over view that dips in an out of lots of different topics. Maybe this is what she was trying to do? We shall never know.


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