The Roman Legacy

They may have left our shores around 1,600 years ago but we're still fascinated by the Romans and what they left behind. It's more than straight roads and clever buildings. They got under our skin. In a way, they never really left us at all.

Roman coins

Steady hand on the tiller

In Nero's Golden House we tour the Domus Aurea, built after Rome's great fire of AD 64. It was the biggest, most lavish palace in the history of Rome. Nero didn't live long to enjoy his funhouse, though. In AD 68 he committed suicide after the Senate declared him a public enemy. Civil war followed. The man who sorted Rome out in AD 69 was Emperor Vespasian, a competent general of relatively humble origins. He died in AD 79 of natural causes - an achievement in itself, given the bloody history of Rome.

Under the volcano

Pompeii - The Last Day reconstructs the final hours of the thousands killed when Mount Vesuvius erupted in AD 79. Today, an estimated three million people in Naples and the surrounding area are under threat. They're all depending on The Vesuvius Observatory to tell them if the sleeping giant is about to blow its top. Perched on a foothill of Mount Vesuvius since 1841, it's the oldest scientific institution devoted to vulcanology.

Hit him with a left!

Colosseum: Rome's Arena of Death tells the story of the vast amphitheatre built by Vespasian to mollify Romans made cynical by years of turmoil. The gladiators who fought there had a tough life dominated by rigid hierarchy and complex rules of combat. As in many modern sports, you often had an advantage if you were left-handed. Many gladiators weren't used to the way lefties fought and found themselves sprawled in the dust of the arena as a result.

Roman boomtown

In What the Romans Did for Us, Adam Hart-Davis explores how these resourceful and inventive people left their mark on this country. A great way to understand everyday life in Roman Britain is to visit the remains of Verulamium at St Albans, Hertfordshire. Verulamium was a thriving Roman provincial town for almost 400 years and significant parts of its fabric have been preserved, including mosaics, an underfloor heating system and a theatre. Visit The Verulamium Museum.

After the Romans

The Romans withdrew from Britain early in the 5th century, as their empire began to crumble. In their place came the Anglo-Saxons, settlers from the German regions of Angeln and Saxony. They quickly set about dividing the country into kingdoms and removing traces of Roman influence. They replaced Roman stone buildings with their own wooden structures and introduced their own language, which evolved eventually into English.