Writer, broadcaster and recovering comedian Natalie Haynes mixes comedy and conversation to bring the ancient world entertainingly up to date in these four radio series. Each episode sees her profiling a key figure from ancient Greece and Rome, and, aided by her special guests, creating a stand-up show around them.
Series 1 investigates Petronius and the worst dinner party in history; asks whether Sophocles invented the TV detective with Oedipus; explains how Virgil was responsible for Buffy the Vampire Slayer; and introduces us to the notorious Aspasia.
In Series 2, Natalie stands up for Aristophanes (expect a chorus of frogs and a sex strike); Ovid (featuring frottage at the races); Plato (a bit chunky, but a good wrestler) and Agrippina (pretty well connected and handy with the purse strings).
Series 3 discusses Sappho, whose scorching poetry is now mainly lost; brings us some thousand-year-old gossip about Cicero; gives us the lowdown on Lucian, the forgotten inventor of science fiction; and tells the story of Juvenal, history’s first great stand-up comedian.
Finally, Series 4 explores Phryne, the Greek courtesan famed for her wit and beauty; Horace, the Roman poet who made friends of enemies through his writing; Euripides, whose Medea still shocks us today; and Livy, who gave us Hannibal crossing the Alps and the inspiration for Shakespeare’s Coriolanus.
Guests include Martin Rowson, Richard Dyer, Victoria Rimell, Professor Edith Hall, Frank McGuinness, Andrew Collins, Pamela Helen Stephen, Gordon Cutting, Dr Llewelyn Morgan, Sarah B. Pomeroy, Dr Ian Jenkins, Cate Haste, Rosie Wyles, Fiona Laird, Michael Squire, Philippa Perry, Stella Duffy, LiTTLe MACHiNe, Mark Stephens, Matthew Sweet, Armando Iannucci, Katy Brand, Ben Okri, Mark Ravenhill and Al Murray.