The show is set in Pompeii prior to the eruption of Mount Vesuvius and filmed in front of a live audience. The main character is the slave Lurcio (Frankie Howerd) who frequently addresses the audience, making remarks about the script and that everybody else has the best lines. He frequently uses anachronisms, for example when he explains that the high priestess of the Vestal Virgins is a kind of shop steward, doing damn all herself and making sure that nobody else does either. This of course also being a comment on British industrial relations at the time. As such the show is not trying to depict antiquity realistically, but uses it as a backdrop for satirical commentary and bawdy jokes.
Three films Up Pompeii (1971), Up the Chastity Belt (1971) and Up the Front (1972) were made after the end of the series. The latter two repraising the characters, but set in Medieval times and during World War I, antedating a similar narrative strategy employed in Blackadder. Additionally two specials were made in 1975 and 1991.