Despite the title of the show, parts of this first episode predate the first century AD. Instead, the unifying theme of the series is the first century (or so) of Roman emperors. After a VERY brief discussion of Julius Caesar, the show then discussed the most important of the Julian emperors, Augustus. His rise to power is discussed as well as his masterful manner of pretended not to want power--while acquiring more and more until he was the despot of Roman--albeit a benevolent one. Mostly, the show was positive in discussing his rule--such as his expanding the empire, the Pax Romana and his trying to set a moral example to his people. However, his daughter Julia's sexual excesses and the weakness of the hereditary system were to help weaken the strong system he created. The only part of the show that seemed odd was their insistence on discussing Ovid as a counter-point to Augustus--a very unusual juxtaposition and a slightly confusing one as well.
In addition to the excellent narration by Signorney Weaver, the show was full of interviews with scholars, some voice actors (such as Joseph Campanella) and modern footage and footage of Roman artifacts. Together, they weaved a very nice picture of the era--and a very professionally made one at that. For lovers of history, a very good show--begun by a very good first episode.