Customer Reviews


100 Reviews
5 star:
 (62)
4 star:
 (23)
3 star:
 (7)
2 star:
 (4)
1 star:
 (4)
 
 
 
 
 
Average Customer Review
Share your thoughts with other customers
Create your own review
 
 

The most helpful favorable review
The most helpful critical review


123 of 125 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Good Survey of World Engineering History
The History Channel's Engineering an Empire series, containing six DVDs, focuses on the engineering and architectural triumphs of great (and not so great) civilizations. Each of the programs attempts to feature a society's engineering accomplishments as a prism through which to view its history and culture. Because of the arbitrary selection of societies and engineering...
Published on April 3, 2008 by Diego Banducci

versus
127 of 128 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Buy the Collector's Edition Instead.
I purchased this set because I am a fan of the series on the History Channel and wanted to own it on DVD. Sadly, I just realized that for only a few bucks more I could have gotten the Collector's Edition. THIS SET DOES NOT CONTAIN THE ENTIRE SERIES. It is missing the two original specials that spawned the series in the first place: Rome and Egypt. The Collector's Edition...
Published on April 4, 2008 by Logical Paradox


‹ Previous | 1 210 | Next ›
Most Helpful First | Newest First

127 of 128 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Buy the Collector's Edition Instead., April 4, 2008
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
I purchased this set because I am a fan of the series on the History Channel and wanted to own it on DVD. Sadly, I just realized that for only a few bucks more I could have gotten the Collector's Edition. THIS SET DOES NOT CONTAIN THE ENTIRE SERIES. It is missing the two original specials that spawned the series in the first place: Rome and Egypt. The Collector's Edition has 2 extra discs and featurs both of these award winning episodes--a total of 156 extra minutes of content (they each aired at 2 hours long with commercials compared to the 1 hour long season episodes). The Rome and Egypt episodes were also arguably the best of the series, in that they contained the most depth and the highest quality productions.

I highly recommend this series, but don't miss out by purchasing this set by accident. GO GET THE COLLECTOR'S EDITION for the most value and to experience ALL the content of the series.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


123 of 125 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Good Survey of World Engineering History, April 3, 2008
By 
Diego Banducci (San Francisco, CA United States) - See all my reviews
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
This review is from: Engineering an Empire: The Complete Series (History Channel) (DVD)
The History Channel's Engineering an Empire series, containing six DVDs, focuses on the engineering and architectural triumphs of great (and not so great) civilizations. Each of the programs attempts to feature a society's engineering accomplishments as a prism through which to view its history and culture. Because of the arbitrary selection of societies and engineering accomplishments and the limited length of each program, the series fails to achieve this grand goal, but it is still both entertaining and to a limited extent educational.

All too often, the engineering accomplishments of the civilizations covered are limited to aqueducts, the use of pilings to support buildings in marshes and over bodies of water, the discovery of the corbelled arch, and military inventions like the Greek triremes and the ubiquitous catapult in its various forms.

Although actors are used extensively, they look like you expect real people of the time would have looked, a major advantage that the History Channel has over PBS, where the actors are always English and good-looking. A History Channel Persian or Mayan looks like a Persian or Mayan.

One area in which the History Channel excels is that of Computer-Aided Design, which they use to "reconstruct" buildings that either lie in ruins or have disappeared. The results are remarkable.

On the negative side, while the experts who appear are clearly highly knowledgeable leaders in their field, that field is limited to history; relatively few professional engineers or architects appear.

The selection of Peter Weller (of RoboCop fame) as a host was initially off-putting to me (despite constant references to his links to Syracuse University, he apparently only received an M.A. from that institution, later becoming an adjunct lecturer there in film), but over time I came to appreciate his enthusiasm and willingness to laugh at himself.

Programs on the first four disks include:

Engineering An Empire, Vol. 1: Greece, Age of Alexander, & The Aztecs [DVD] (141 min.)

I question the inclusion of the Aztec segment which generally talks about their use of pilings to build their city on a lake. In contrast the Mayan segment, which appears in Vol. 3, is fascinating -- truly an advanced civilization.

Engineering An Empire, Vol. 2: Carthage, China & Russia [DVD] (141 min.)

Engineering An Empire, Vol. 3: Britain-Blood & Steel, Persians, & Maya-Death Empire [DVD] (141 min.)

Engineering An Empire, Vol. 4: Napoleon-Steel Monster, Byzantines, & Da Vinci's World [DVD] (141 min.)

The segment on Da Vinci's world has nothing to do with Da Vinci, focusing instead on Brunelleschi's building of the Duomo and the rebuilding of Rome in the 1500s. A separate segment includes a Syracuse University architecture professor discussing Brunelleschi's Pazzi Chapel. I only wish it had lasted longer.

The final two disks, which appear to have been made before the first four, are the flagships of the series, each containing one long, high quality program:

Engineering An Empire, Vol. 5: Rome [DVD] (94 min.)

More dramatic than the others, this program provides a nice overview of the rise and fall of the Roman Empire. If you're only going to buy one disk, this is the one. It features excellent CAD reconstructions of many of the most famous Roman engineering accomplishments.

Engineering An Empire, Vol. 6: Egypt [DVD] (92 min.)

Also of very high quality. Again, the CAD reconstructions are excellent. The experts, especially a woman professor from the American University in Cairo, are knowledgeable and enthusiastic about their subject. There's also an interesting add-on featuring Peter Weller talking about how he got into this line of work and why he enjoys it so much.

As indicated above, I question the inclusion of the Aztecs in this series, especially since there are other culturs that would have been more interesting (e.g., Babylon, India and the Incas.)

I did not experience the screen format problems that other viewers complain about, perhaps because my TV allows me to switch between five different formats, so I can use the best-fitting one.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


60 of 60 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great set for educational purposes, January 8, 2007
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
This is a great set and includes the following titles on 4 discs: (Unfortunately it doesn't include the episode on Egypt. You will have to buy that one separately if you want all of them.)

ENGINEERING AN EMPIRE: THE SERIES, VOLUME I:

GREECE: The cradle of Western civilization sustained remarkable technological advancement for over 1,000 years, including such masterpieces as the Tunnel of Samos and the Parthenon.

GREECE: AGE OF ALEXANDER: After a century of tremendous accomplishment, Greece's territorial ambitions were stymied by constant warfare - until Alexander ventured abroad and initiated the Hellenistic era.

THE AZTECS: The Aztecs became one of the greatest civilizations in history through brilliant military campaigns and technological mastery of their harsh environment.

ENGINEERING AN EMPIRE: THE SERIES, VOLUME II:

CARTHAGE: Find out how Carthaginian engineers harnessed their extensive resources and manpower to develop some of the ancient world's most groundbreaking technology.

CHINA: Century after century, China's regal emperors mobilized immense peasant armies to accomplish unfathomable feats - including the most ambitious construction project ever accomplished.

RUSSIA: From the Moscow Kremlin to St. Petersburg to the Trans-Siberian railroad, examine the architecture and infrastructure that led to the rise and fall of the Russian Empire.

ENGINEERING AN EMPIRE: THE SERIES, VOLUME III:

GREAT BRITAIN: Through the centuries, the British Empire used extraordinary engineering technology to become an industrial and military titan, giving rise to such inventions as the first locomotive.

THE PERSIANS: The engineering feats of the mysterious Persian Empire include a water management system, a paved cross-continent roadway, and one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World.

THE MAYA: By 900 AD, the once-glorious Mayan cities disappeared. Unravel the mystery surrounding this mythic civilization through its spectacular infrastructure and architecture.

ENGINEERING AN EMPIRE: THE SERIES, VOLUME IV:

NAPOLEON AND BEYOND: When France stood on the precipice of disaster, one of the most legendary military strategists in history arose from its ashes: Napoleon.

THE BYZANTINES: As much of the world descended into the Dark Ages, the Byzantine Empire emerged with ruthless might and supreme ingenuity, ruling over vast swaths of Europe and Asia.

AGE OF ARCHITECTS: After the deep sleep of the Dark Ages, it wasn't until the 11th-century that autonomous city-states emerged in Italy, revitalizing metropolises and paving the way for the Renaissance.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


53 of 58 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Broad-reaching and interesting, April 4, 2008
This review is from: Engineering an Empire: The Complete Series (History Channel) (DVD)
The best thing about this series is that some of the episodes go beyond the typical fare for historical documentary subject matter. Rome, Egypt, and Europe have been done to death, but this series features episodes on Carthage, Persia, and the Byzantine (Eastern Roman) empires--which all recieve MUCH less attention than the deserve. The series also covers Native American empires--the Aztecs and Maya--, so there's a fair amount of diversity. There's also some diversity in time period, with episodes on the rennesiance-era Italian city-states, pre-industrial Russia, colonial Britain, and Napoleonic France in addition to the ancient civilizations. There is also an episode on China, and 2 on Greece during both the Helenistic and classical periods.

I appreciate the breadth of subject matter in terms of geography and time period. This is the first documentary I think I've ever seen to focus exclusively on Persia or Carthage and not on the roles they played in Western contexts (the Greco-Persian and Punic Wars respectively). Never-the-less, these events come up and get significant attention and discussion. It would have been nice to focus on "fresh" (less-well known) facts. But this is only a small complaint. Another small complaint is that the series did not take this idea further. I could have done without France, Britain, and 2 whole episodes on Greece, and instead seen something on India or the forgotten empires of Africa (Nubia, Ethiopia, Tim Buktu, etc). The Khmer, the Celts, the Islamic Caliphates, or any of the Mesopotamian empires that tend to never get documentary coverage (like the Assyrians or the Hittites, or even Sumeria or Babylon) would have been nice as well since one so rarely if ever is made aware of their existence while watching History Channel (plenty on Greece, Rome, and WW2 however!). But I do give them credit for being as broad as they were. It's nice to see that more history than just that of the West or China is finally getting some TV attention.

The only other complaint one could give is that the episodes are so general commercialized. They're still pretty informative and enjoyable for those interested in the subject, but it's legitimate to criticize the series for a lack of real depth and meat. They do manage to touch the big points and the bigger picture, however, so this flaw is by no means fatal--the series is just not as "professional" or "scholarly" as it could have been. For those perturbed by this, I would recommend the series Lost Treasures of the Ancient World, which packs much more information into half the time.

A final criticism might be the content in comparison to the title. The series really does not focus solely on Architectual subjects. I, for one, appreciated the parallel between "building" an empire and building great monuments that reflected the power and prestige of that empire. But some will undoubtedly feel there should have been more emphasis on the engineering aspects, such as actually including engineers for comment, which the series does not do. Others, however, might feel the general history was so weakly portrayed as to be of little value, and that more time should have been given to the empire's history itself. But the series really seeks to balance these two topics, and thus one can endlessly debate on what ratio of attention would have been best. One could also argue that the series should not have tried to cover both, because it just watered down both issues. I, however, feel that the balance was fair enough between the focuses, and I also feel that focusing exclusively on the engineering would be meaningless without a historical narrative to give these feats contexts, while to focus just on the historical narrative would have not have been true to the title and it would have been a completely different series (although perhaps an even more compelling one).

In the end, this is one of the better series produced by the History Channel in recent years and I think it's well worth checking out if you haven't seen it and well worth owning if you've seen and enjoyed a few of the episodes on TV.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


46 of 56 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Know what you are buying, December 26, 2007
By 
Dave (Oneida, NY) - See all my reviews
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
This review is from: Engineering an Empire: The Complete Series (History Channel) (DVD)
This is a pretty good documentary. I was disappointed to find it is not full screen format. It is MATTED widescreen. On widescreen TVs that means you have black borders around all four sides of a much smaller letterbox picture. If your TV can zoom in you can eliminate the black border but the picture quality is not that great. Amazon should have indicated that this is a MATTED format.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Lightweight and repetitive, January 21, 2012
This review is from: Engineering an Empire: The Complete Series (History Channel) (DVD)
Based on the reviews I greatly anticipated viewing this DVD, but I was instead very disappointed. Sorry Peter Weller - his hosting is more robo than cop. He sounds like they gave him a script and he managed to memorise and practice the pronunciation, but there is such a lack of passion or interest from him in what he is saying it bodes ill for the rest of the presentation. (Also he is listed as being from Syracuse University - what does that mean?) The other expert is from Focus Magazine. Not sure what that means either.

The real trouble is that there is very little engineering - there is a lot more re-creations of people walking around the Parthenon, or Romans doing battle (by the way all the armour is shiny and the costume design - some things do not fit the actors - notably Alex the Great is seen wearing a toga that looks like one of the big suits worn by the Talking Heads). There are a couple of so called animated blueprints - but they do not deal at any length with the mechanics of the thing they are describing . Fully three quarters of each segment is Peter Weller suddenly appearing from behind a rock to say something dramatic, a few talking heads (lower case) to talk about the person who they say caused the engineering marvel we are about to see, dramatizations of men pulling ropes, or sandaled feet on rocky ground, or more men and sometimes women, standing around pointing at something in silent conversation with others, or gazing forlornly at some distant horizon.

No visuals of the actual implements which are ensconsed in museums around the world, no craftsperson to re create some of the techniques, no engineer to recount any of the engineering principles. Instead lots of redundant visuals and redundant and not very forthcoming narration.

The DVDs are only good for people who might want something similar to a Judge Judy introduction to law.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Great, but only 1 Thing, May 23, 2007
This is great stuff, but the one thing is to realize it doesn't include Rome, Engineering An Empire. That's a separate purchase at this moment only available from the network's online store.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Not for engineers, architects, builders etc., May 30, 2010
By 
David Holubetz (Telluride, Colorado) - See all my reviews
So here's the contrary review, from a disgruntled viewer. Everything the other reviewers said about the series and what it covers is correct - my complaint is that this is not about engineering, architecture or building. It is about war and the quest for power. I should have known, as this is what all History Channel shows are about. As a builder, I had hoped to see in depth coverage of the actual building / construction. Instead the focus is on empire, and the 'building' and consolidation of power in order to dominate. The music, the tension, the conflict - if you watch tv at all, this is nothing new to you. And if this is your thing, then by all means buy the set and enjoy. If you liked 'Troy' or the new 'Robin Hood' then you will love this series. But if you are, like I was, hoping to see all the good engineering behind the great civilizations and their incredible feats, this series will be a disappointment, as the coverage of such is very thin.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Should be called Engineering lite., December 14, 2010
By 
William (Pacific Northwest) - See all my reviews
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
This review is from: Engineering an Empire: The Complete Series (History Channel) (DVD)
While the series is interesting, and Weller does grow on you, I expected a bit more actual engineering. The computer graphics were good, but a little repetitive.
Section on Carthage was pretty interesting. But my biggest dissatisfaction with the series is that EVERY civilization covered was the most innovative. The first to use this or do that. A little confusing by the end of the series. Kept thinking, "Didn't those other people a few episodes ago do that too?"
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Not bad for beginners in history, October 18, 2010
This review is from: Engineering an Empire: The Complete Series (History Channel) (DVD)
General overview, skips certain history, for example on the Persians, just focused on the feats of the Achamaenians while forgetting the Sassanians who were much later but had at least on par achievements. Same with Greeks, focused on very little.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


‹ Previous | 1 210 | Next ›
Most Helpful First | Newest First

Details

Engineering an Empire: The Complete Series (History Channel)
$34.98 $27.83
In Stock
Add to cart Add to wishlist
Search these reviews only
Send us feedback How can we make Amazon Customer Reviews better for you? Let us know here.