Luxury In...

BBC 4 (2 x 60 mins)

Guilty Pleasures: Luxury in Ancient Greece

Guilty Pleasures: Luxury in the Middle Ages

Now following the success of Delphi: Bellybutton of the Ancient World for BBC4, Dr Michael Scott is back presenting two films in BBC4's Luxury season.

'Luxury in...' shows how ideas about luxury have shaped our history and ourselves, from the ancient Greeks to the Black Death. The first film, 'Nothing in Excess?' on ancient Greece explores how the gilded treasures of Alexander the Great, the bizarre political significance of Athenian fish-cookery and the privations of ancient Sparta combined to build an complex and contradictory attitude to luxury which has lingered to this day.

That is followed by 'A Deadly Sin?', about medieval Britain which explores how those ideas were transformed by Christianity, chivalry, pestilence and rebellion to create the wicked temptations and consumer delights of the modern world.

"Luxury isn't just a question of expensive and beautiful things for the rich and powerful," says Dr Scott. "It feeds into ideas of democracy and patriotism, of social harmony and epic courage, not to mention our values as individuals and our relationships with the divine. Indeed the most fascinating thing about luxury is that it is almost impossible to define, and yet we all know it when we see it, because we each have our own ideas of what luxury is (for some - including me - it might be as simple as a day off!) It all depends on who you are. That's what makes luxury so good to think with as a way into understanding societies, past and present."