Episode 25 – The Year of the Four Emperors – Part the Second

The year 69 CE continues apace, and the Partial Historians peer through the mists of time to focus on the shifts in power and machinations postulated in the source material. Herein the short reign of Otho blurs into the (brief) age of Vitellius. The rocky path to Vespasian continues. What does the year  69 tell us about how Rome is evolving as an imperial system? Find out here!

Episode 24 – The Year of the Four Emperors – Part the First

The Partial Historians are back with a shiny new episode. When the Julio-Claudian dynasty falls, what happens next? Prepare yourself for chaos, as the infamous Year of the Four Emperors is here. 69 CE was a turbulent whirlwind of politics, battles, and uncertainty. Let the doctors guide you through to the calm waters on the other side. Herein are the short reigns of Galba and Otho.

Episode 23 – Gladiator 2000

The Partial Historians return fantabulous listeners with a fresh new episode! Spice up your ears with a foray into the historical and creative elements of Ridley Scott’s 2000 epic Gladiator. Touted as the return of the sword and sandal genre, Gladiator is an interesting mélange of historical plausibility and blatant deviation from the primary source material. The Partial Historians provide their deconstruction for you.

Episode 22 – Ben-Hur 1959

Watch out the listeners! The Partial Historians take a step back to examine the classic Rome on film presented in Ben-Hur, the 1959 epic extravaganza! Join the doctors as they probe the relationships between the Romans and the Christians, the presentation of male relationships, and (of course) the famous chariot scene.

Episode 21 – Spartacus 2013 Season 3

Dear Listeners – welcome back for a brand new episode! We take our last turn about the room with the enigma, the charisma, that is Spartacus. The final season of the Starz series Spartacus: War of the Damned, follows the final confrontation between the slave rebels and the might of Rome. A mixture of fact and fiction, tune in for a deconstruction of the action.

Episode 20 – Spartacus 2012 Season 2

Helloooo to all you lovely listeners! In this landmark twentieth episode, the Partial Historians tackle the sources and speculation that arise from an examination of the Starz series Spartacus: Vengeance. Spartacus: Vengeance follows the nascent slave rebellion in their journey from Capua and the challenges they face along the way. You may well ask what is up with Glaber and Spartacus – find out here!

Episode 19 – Spartacus 2010 Season 1

Welcome back listeners! Happy New Year! In this episode, the Partial Historians continue their exploration of Spartacus and modern incarnations of his story. In 2010 the Starz series Spartacus: Blood and Sand hit our television screens. With an eye for the historical sources, the Partial Historians consider how this series tackles the details of Spartacus’ life and the blurring of history and drama.

Episode 18 – Spartacus 1960

The Partial Historians take a walk into Dr Radford’s specialisation – history on film. And where better to start than with Spartacus, the 1960 epic directed (eventually) by Stanley Kubrick and starring the one, the only, Kirk Douglas. What relationship does the film bear to the historical sources? Who exactly was Spartacus? Find out in this foray into the translation of ancient history into popular entertainment!

Episode 17 – Cybele

After all those emperors, it’s time for a little gender balance! The Partial Historians present Cybele, also known as the Magna Mater (the Great Goddess). She’s an Eastern deity brought to Rome in the wake of the Punic Wars. In this listener request episode, the Doctors delve into Cybele’s background, her divine areas of influence, and follow her progress from the East into Rome. For the details, listen to the link below!

Episode 16 – The End of Nero

Nero, Nero, Nero … It’s a long way to the top, and when you get there it’s a long way to fall.  We like to think of it this way, Nero sings “I didn’t start the fire”, but of course Nero didn’t fiddle while Rome burned. No, it was far more interesting than that. Join us for an exploration of the end of Nero – the loves, the losses, and the scandals. Let the Partial Historians guide the way.

Episode 15 – Nero and Agrippina

Well, the last episode ended on a cliff-hanger! So it seems fitting to continue on from right where we left off. Claudius is dead, and who should emerge as the new imperator … none other than Nero, the son of Agrippina. In this episode, we explore the early years of Nero’s rule under the guidance of Agrippina, Seneca, and Burrus. These early years are the golden times of Nero’s rule (and even these are marred with certain elements of tragedy).

Episode 14: Claudius and Agrippina

The women in Claudius’ life just seem to keep getting better and better … or should that be worse and worse? We’ll leave it up to your discernment to decide.

With Messalina dead, Claudius begins the process that any good Roman man would: choosing a new wife. As emperor, Claudius just happens to be the most eligible bachelor in town. He has a pick of the ladies and decides on Agrippina. In this episode, the Partial Historians explore the various intricacies of the relationship between Claudius and Agrippina.

Episode 13 – Claudius and Messalina

Could it be a coincidence? Episode 13 and Messalina together at last?

Well the inauspicious episode number is a mere coincidence, but what better way to launch an episode about the influence that the marriage of Claudius and Messalina had on our understanding of the Julio-Claudian Empire than to convey an aura of unluckiness? She might just be the most infamous wife of the Julio-Claudian era, so it would be crime to leave her out! In this episode, your intrepid hosts explore the myth, the legend, the history that is Messalina’s legacy.

Episode 12 – Claudius, an imperial life with unusual twists

Ahhh Claudius, the man who was never meant to be emperor. And yet, perhaps surprisingly enough for the Roman Senate, he lasted longer in the role than his vaunted predecessor. In this episode, the Partial Historians consider Claudius’ less than illustrious beginnings and the progression of his career into Rome’s top job. Claudius’ expansionist policy, his relationship with the Praetorian guard, and the focus of the sources on his freedmen, can be found in this episode:

Episode 11 … Caligula …

A man who doesn’t need much of an introduction, yet nevertheless shall suffer one here from the Partial Historians.

If anyone stands out from the Iulio-Claudians for their sheer audacity, it is Gaius Caesar … more notoriously remembered through history as Caligula. In this episode, the doctors examine Caligula’s rise to power, the changes his principate means for the developing empire of Rome, and touch on the some of the shocking tales connected with his reign. It’s times like these, dear listener, that you begin to wish Tacitus’ account of Caligula had survived – could the sources be less balanced? The controversaries are explored below:

Episode 10 – The Life of Julia Maior

It’s a special milestone for the Partial Historians, we have reached our tenth episode!

As a treat for our listeners, we’re taking a detour from the Iulio-Claudian emperors and examining one of the women pivotal to Augustus’ family and the future of his family line: Julia Maior, Augustus’ biological daughter. Julia was who exactly? we hear you say. And why was she important? The Partial Historians have the answers:

Tiberius’ Life Part II – Sexual and Otherwise

Freshly plucked out of the airwaves and delivered safely to you, dear listeners!

In this episode, the Partial Historians tackle the issues Tiberius faced in his career as he tried to fill the political shoes of Augustus. What style characterised Tiberius’ rule? What troubles did he face and how did he address them? And what about those stories of sexual deviancy? Those answers and more are tucked into this listening feast.

Hear it all by clicking below:

Episode 8 – The Life of Tiberius … Part I

We are back, dear listeners, with a brand new episode!

For your aural pleasure, we explore the life of Tiberius. What was Tiberius’ early life like? What milestones mark his political career? And how does he journey to become the princeps of Rome? We trace Tiberius’ life from his birth in 42 BCE to the moment of his transition from citizen of Rome to the leading man of the state in 14 CE.

Episode Seven – Augustus, A Sexual Life

Our exploration of Augustus (63 BCE – 14 CE) takes a titillating turn as we consider some of the evidence for Augustus private life … which is somehow out in the public domain. What details can be discovered about Augustus’ pillow antics in the ancient sources? And just how far should we be inclined to trust them? Answers to such heady question and more in the episode below:

Episode Six – Augustus, an Introduction

Hello to all our listeners, it’s that time again – a new episode has just landed!

The Partial Historians are embarking on a new avenue of exploration – an examination of the lives and sex lives of some of the early Roman emperors. Episode six is an introduction to Augustus and his early career. So, what do we know about his career? Quite a lot as it turns out since he lives to become the foremost politican in Rome and establishes the Principate (a percursor to the Roman Empire). For your listening pleasure click below:

Episode Five – Sex Workers in Ancient Rome

It’s here! An examination of sex workers has arrived. Dr Radford and Dr Greenfield tackle the issues surrounding the topic of prostitution in Ancient Rome. What evidence do we have for prostitution? What ideas did the Romans have about the oldest profession? Listen to the episode below:

Sources for Sex in Ancient Rome

If you are interested in further reading on any of the subjects the Partial Historians have discussed, check out the list of sources below.


Sources: Sex in Ancient Rome


Edwards, C. 1993. The Politics of Immortality in Ancient Rome (Cambridge University Press)

Gardner, J. F. 1991. Women in Roman Law and Society (Indiana University Press)


Cornelia of the Gracchi

Appian Civil Wars 1.20

Pliny Natural History 34.31

Plutarch Life of Tiberius 1.4; Life of Gaius Gracchus 4,19



Dionysius of Halicarnassus Roman Antiquities 4.64 – 4.67.4

Livy 1.57-60

Ovid Fasti 2.721-852

Valerius Maximus 6.1.1



Livy 8.8.1-11

Seneca Dialogue 12.16.4

Valerius Maximus 2.1.3; 7.1.1

Langlands, R. 2006. Sexual Morality in Ancient Rome (Cambridge University Press)



Livy Periocha 57

Juvenal Satires 3.62-66; 6.127

Martial 1.34.8; 2.17; 6.66.1-2; 9.4.1

Seneca Controversiae 1.2.3

Suetonius Life of Tiberius 35.2

Tacitus Annals 2.85


McGinn, T. 2003. Prostitution, Sexuality, and the Law in Ancient Rome (Oxford University Press)

Olson, K. 2006. ‘Matrona & Whore: Clothing and Definition in Roman Antiquity’ Faraone, C. A., McClure, L. K. (eds.) Prostitutes and Courtesans in the Ancient World (University of Wisconsin Press), 186-204.

Pomeroy, S. B. 1975. Goddesses, Whores, Wives, & Slaves: Women in Classical Antiquity (Pimlico)


Sex Under Augustus

Codex Theodosianus 9.9.25

Suetonius Life of the Divine Augustus 101

Tacitus Annals 2.85.1


Vestal Virgins

Beard, M. 1980. ‘The Sexual Status of Vestal Virgins’ The Journal of Roman Studies 70: 12-27.

Greenfield, P. 2011. Virgin Territory: The Vestals and the Transition from Republic to Principate [Doctoral Thesis, The University of Sydney]

Staples, A. 1998. From Good Goddess to Vestal Virgins: Sex and Category in Roman Religion (Routledge)

Takács, S. A. 2008. Vestal Virgins, Sibyls, and Matrons: Women in Roman Religion (University of Texas Press)

Wildfang, R. 2006. Rome’s Vestal Virgins: A Study of Rome’s Vestal priestesses in the late Republic and early Empire (Routledge)


Episode Four – Sex and Matronae

Hello fellow traveller of the laneways of history. Episode Four has arrived!

In this episode, the Partial Historians tackle the weighty issue of Roman wives, known in Latin as matronae. Were they having sex? Why would they even want to do it? And what were the consequences when things turned a little bit kinky? Find out by checking out the audio below.

Episode 3, a.k.a. Episode Two: Part Two

For those of you who have been unable to sleep because we left you on such a cliffhanger, never fear! The next installment is here… and we’re rhyming. We hope you enjoy hearing all about the trials and tribulations of the Vestals and their (possible) sexual escapades.

Click HERE to listen or check out the episode below.

Episode Two: Entering Virgin Territory

It’s finally here! Episode two on those pure Roman things, the Vestal Virgins.

In this episode we look at the background of the cult of Vesta, the role that the Vestals played in Roman religious thinking, and, staying on the broader theme of sex in Ancient Rome, consider the reasons why these particular women weren’t getting any action.

Click HERE to listen or check out the episode below.

Episode 1 launches on an unsuspecting public

Greetings all! You are so very welcome.  Our aim is to entertain and inform some lovely listeners like yourselves! Please click here to listen to our first episode or check out the file below.  We are planning to do a series of episodes in which we shall explore all the aspects of sex in Ancient Rome, so be sure to stay tuned for our next episode…

In this episode Dr Radford and Dr Greenfield address the most pressing issue in Ancient Roman history … SEX. What were Roman attitudes towards sex? Who’s having sex? Listen and find out!