Love in the Ancient World (1998)

Cast List

The second programme in the International Version is mainly made up of two symposiums, the first, an all male one, re-enacts Plato's original 'Symposium' set in an Athenian house in about 380BC and which consisted of philosophical discussions on the meaning of love. This is intercut and commented on by an all female symposium over two thousand years later, consisting of women experts in ancient history, hosted by John Julius Norwich, who links the two symposiums together.

Plato’s ‘Symposium’

Walter Hamilton translation from Penguin Classics

Gary Raymond: Socrates

Vernon Dobtcheff: Eriximachus

Allan Corduner: Aristophanes           

Paul Herzberg: Alcibiades

Mario Frangoulis: Pausanias

Neil Roberts: Agathon

Karl Gibbs: Phaedrus

Gary Raymond

Vernon Dobtcheff

Allan Corduner

Paul Herzberg

Mario Frangoulis

Neil Roberts

Karl Gibbs

Oona Kirsch: Flute girl

Rocky Orlandi: Slave boy

Party Revellers: Bridget and James Harpham with Sophie Miles and Aphron

Aristophanes’ ‘Lysistrata’

Dudley Fitts translation from Faber paper covered Editions

Antigone Amanitou: Lysistrata

Alexandra Pavlidou: Kaloniki

Constantina Varsami: Lampito

Maria Panourgia: Myrina

Alkis Panayiotides: Athenian

Greg Patrick Karr: Athenian Comisssoner

Theophanis Adamopoulos: Athenian

Karl Gibbs: Spartan Ambassador

Ajax Manthopoulos: Spartan soldier

l-r Constantina Varsami, Alexandra Pavlidou, Antigone Amanitou as Lysistrata and Maria Panourgia swear an oath that they will withhold all sexual favours from their husbands until they stop fighting the Peloponnesian war - in the colour photo Christopher Miles directs the cast

l-r Theophanis Adamopoulos, Alkis Panayiotides and Greg Patrick Karr suffer sexual agony as the result of Lysistrata's oath, which (as you can see from this ancient wine cup) was a source of great amusement to the Greeks

Xenophon’s ‘Economics’

Robert Flacelière/James Cleugh’s translation from Frederick Muller 

Mottel Hathaway: Ischomachus

Maria Panourgis: The wife

Simon Roberts: Gymnasiarch

Michaelis Christinakis: Wrestler

l-r Maria Panourgis & Mottel Hathaway are joined by George Culucundis & David Lindsay to check for sound, before we started filming this extract from Xenophon's treatise, written about 360BC on how ancient Greeks should behave towards their wives.

in Arcadia

Simon Roberts and Yannis Panayiotakis

in Pompeii

Pippa Novis and Martin Cave

'Many Greek fables have inspired painters and poets, as they originated from human psychological conditions, like the death of Narcissus, who fell in love with his own reflection, and unable to grasp it, died inconsolable.'

Narrator and presenter (USA version): Kathleen Turner

Modern female 'Symposium' hosted by John Julius Norwich 

Dr Mary Beard: Lecturer in Classics, Newnham College, Cambridge, UK

Anne Baring: Co-author of “The Myth of the Goddess”

Professor Eva Keuls: Professor of Classics, University of Minnesota, USA

Dr Ellen Reeder: Curator, Walters Art Gallery, Baltimore, USA

Dr Susan Fischler: Lecturer in Ancient History, Birmingham Univ. UK

Eva Keuls explained how the male in ancient Athens (following the symposium) had to turn himself around sexually several times from having an older man as 'teacher' who often became his lover, then reversing the role when older, and then finally marrying

Anne Baring told us about the first female carvings, and wonders if they were more than
earth-mother figures, or were they the first goddesses of love, as the moon later became the symbol of Aphrodite

Mary Beard spoke about the alpha Roman male, and why there were so many phalli discovered on the street walls and in the houses of Pompeii, and what that really meant then

Ellen Reeder discusses the role of women in ancient Greece, and why they were feared and kept under, and how this was reflected in the love fables and tales of their gods and godesses

Susan Fischler examines the role and love lives of women in ancient Rome, and why they promoted images of a fecund empress, when in fact she was childless and the Roman birth-rate was low at the time

EXPERTS (not in the Symposium)


Dr Paul Bahn: Author of “Journey through the Ice Age”

Dr Dominic Montserrat: Lecturer in Ancient History, Warwick Univ. UK 


Nikos Vrisimtzis: Author 'Love and Sex in Ancient Greece'

Professor Raimund Wünsche: Director of Antique Mus & Glyptothek, Munich, Germany

Professor Christopher Miles: Director of film “Priest of Love” on life of D.H.Lawrence

Peter Rockwell: Sculptor and historian of stone working technology

William Fitzgerald: Professor of Classics, San Diego University, USA


Paul Bahn had new theories about the earliest carvings of the female form and representations of genitalia in caves after the Ice Age, and about a 5,000 year old petroglyph, of a man and a woman with child, which may express 'love' itself

Dominic Montserrat talked about Hathor, the Egyptian goddess of love, and what she meant to the ancient Egyptians, and how the power of 'love potions' influenced the feelings of the recipients


Nikos Vrisimtzis assured us that the ancient Greeks managed to indulge in every possible variety of sexual activity, and that having no shame they had a relaxed attitude to all sexual matters. Their great maxim was 'Nothing in excess'

Raimund Wünsche showed us the famous sleeping 'Barberini faun' and explained the difference between the sexual habits and exploits of fauns, satyrs and the god Pan, and how they requited their passions

Christopher Miles followed D.H.Lawrence into the Etruscan tombs to find out why he was so entranced by these precursors of ancient Rome, who only showed the joys of life and love in their necropolis

Peter Rockwell, a practising sculptor, explained how the Romans used their marble to best sensual effect when carving Venus, the goddess of love, and Cupid, and other statues on similar themes

William Fitzgerald made us realise that love and marriage were very far apart in ancient Rome, and that after the Colosseum was built, sex began to play an important part in mass entertainment