608BBC Four has commissioned a new three-part history series, Mothers, Murderers And Mistresses: Empresses Of Ancient Rome, telling the dramatic story of how exceptional women came to stand at the epicentre of imperial power.

Commissioned by Martin Davidson, Commissioning Editor, History and Business, and Richard Klein, former Controller, BBC Four, Mothers, Murderers And Mistresses: Empresses Of Ancient Rome begins on Wednesday 29 May at 9pm. It is made by HotSauce TV for the BBC.

The series is presented by Professor Catharine Edwards, Birkbeck, University of London. Catharine travels across the empire, from its heart in Rome to its rich eastern fringes in Jerusalem to explore intriguing evidence of the impact women made throughout the Roman world.

Cassian Harrison, BBC Commissioning Executive Producer, History And Business, says: “Mothers, Murderers And Mistresses takes audiences on a fascinating journey through a period of history we think we know so well, bringing the stories of powerful and often tragic female figures into the spotlight.

“Catharine is an extremely well-respected voice in this area, and I’m sure she’ll bring a fresh new perspective on the roles women played in Ancient Rome’s extraordinary story.”

In the first episode, The Trailblazers, Catharine traces the role of three women in the early empire, revealing how women who understood the realities of politics could become leaders – but those who did not would end up as victims.

In the second episode, The Rivals, Catharine looks at how Rome’s autocracy took shape in the first century AD. As the imperial court became a bloody, sexually charged arena in which the future of the empire was forged, two notorious women competed in a deadly power struggle.

The final episode, The Outsiders, profiles the women who lived through the renewal of the empire and ultimate transformation of the empire. Catharine’s focus spans 250 years, exploring – among other subjects – the role of women in legitimising and securing the succession through marriage. And, through one very distinctive case, Catharine looks at how female influence was felt as Rome’s dramatic adoption of Christianity began.

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