University of Warwick expert goes underground for BBC show about ancient Rome

A University of Warwick academic will be seen crawling through ancient sewers and visiting burial chambers in an upcoming BBC 1 documentary.

Associate Professor Michael Scott teamed up with Alexander Armstrong, host of quiz show Pointless, to film Rome’s Invisible City which will be broadcast on Monday 1 June at 9pm.

The two presenters are featured abseiling down 20 metre tunnels and climbing through man hole covers in order to explore the eternal city’s hidden spaces.

They ventured through the foul-smelling 2,500 year old sewer called The Cloaca Maxima or ‘the Great Drain’ of Rome that is still in use today. They also explored the numerous eerie catacombs where the city’s dead were buried.

The programme aims to unveil the city’s subterranean secrets most visitors never see.

Dr Scott said: “We made this programme to show people what lay beneath the first city of a million people – most of whom would have been unaware of the engineering beneath them that was essential for their survival.

“This was a difficult programme to make, working in difficult and often dangerous spaces. We travelled along claustrophobic worm-like tunnels to the rabbit-warren of catacomb tunnels in which you can get lost in an instant.

“I have never had to don so many layers of protective clothing and after climbing out of the excrement festooned sewer we had to be sprayed with a cleaning agent.”

The two presenters also explored Rome’s underground religious cults and tunnels and spaces that powered some of ancient Rome’s most important and famous monuments like the Colosseum and the public baths such as the Baths of Caracella.

They were accompanied by a team operating 3D laser scanners who have been using the cutting edge technology to map the eternal city’s underground. Their work will allow academics to understand the relationship between spaces above and below ground.

About Michael Scott

Michael is an Associate Professor at the University of Warwick. He has taught widely in the UK and Greece. His research and teaching focuses on the ancient history and archaeology of the Greek and Roman worlds. He has written a number of books on aspects of ancient Greek and Roman society and written and presented a range of TV and Radio programmes for National Geographic, History Channel, Nova, BBC & ITV including Delphi: bellybutton of the ancient world (BBC4); Guilty Pleasures: luxury in the ancient and medieval words (BBC4); Jesus: rise to power (Nat Geo); Ancient Discoveries (History Channel); Who were the Greeks? (BBC2); The Mystery of the X Tombs (BBC2/Nova); The Greatest Show on Earth (BBC4, in conjunction with the Open University) and Roman Britain from the Air (ITV). Further details of his work can be found at