A new series on Radio 4 in which Bettany investigates the story of the Roman road that connected east to west and that ran from Italy to Istanbul - the Via Egnatia.
Built as a means of military control this quickly became a vital artery spanning the Ancient, Byzantine, Ottoman and modern worlds. Along the way I meet migrants and human smugglers, the victims of the 1923 population exchange between Greece and Turkey, a Macedonian who tries to persuade me to marry my daughters to her nephew and cutting edge bloggers who are determining the future of the Balkans - as well as gaining access to some remarkable unseen digs from the Roman, Byzantine and Ottoman ages.
Ancient Ways begins 4 December at 11am on BBC Radio 4
"It was an epic thoroughfare constructed 2,000 years ago that connected Rome to Byzantium. As we know so well in Britain, Roman roads endure, and the Egnatian Way is no exception. It’s “something built on to the land, rather than a part of it,” says our guide Bettany Hughes in that calm, assured voice that invariably coaxes our undivided attention. Beginning in Albania, Hughes astutely allows her observations on Roman history — there’s a fabulous nugget about a map she dubs “the A to Z of antiquity” — to sit cheek by jowl with more recent facts. For instance, one section of the road is lined with ominous-looking bunkers, constructed under the Communist regime of the 1960s and 70s to house artillery. After a brief stay in Macedonia, Hughes reaches Greece where we reluctantly bid her “Vale!” Till next Friday."
Chris Gardner, Radio Times
"I'm never quite sure about travelogues on radio, where a thousand words can struggle to do the job of one picture. Yet the mental paintings of the historian Bettany Hughes are so vivid..."