Imagine the feeling in the pit of your stomach as you take to the stage in front of 7000 people to recite a complex poem you’ve just made up on the spot. 11 year old Sulpicius Maximus knows that the Emperor is in the front row and his parents are counting on his success in Rome’s premier festival of the arts.

Mary Beard tracks down the clues behind an extraordinary story of Roman life, revealing the reality of Roman childhood and the desperate attempts of the poet's parents to escape the shadow of their slave roots and rise through the ranks of Roman society.

Producer: Alasdair Cross

Expert Contributors: Valentina Garulli, Bologna University and Kathleen Coleman, Harvard University

Poetry Translation: Barbara Graziosi

Cast: Sulpicius played by Joseph Goodman and oration read by Tyler Cameron

Special thanks to Barbara Nobiloni at the Centrale Montemartini Museum, Rome

Podden och tillhörande omslagsbild på den här sidan tillhör BBC Radio 4. Innehållet i podden är skapat av BBC Radio 4 och inte av, eller tillsammans med, Poddtoppen.