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Empires 7 Seasons

Season 1
3.7 out of 5 stars (671) IMDb 7.6/10

Two thousand years ago, at the dawn of the first century, the ancient world was ruled by Rome. Through the experiences, memories and writings of the people who lived it, this series tells the story of that time - the emperors and slaves, poets and plebeians, who wrested order from chaos, built the most cosmopolitan society the world had ever seen and shaped the Roman empire in the first century A.D.

Starring:
Sigourney Weaver

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Season 1
1. Rome: Order From Chaos / Years of Trial

Two thousand years ago, at the dawn of the first century, the ancient world was ruled by Rome. And the Roman Empire was in turmoil. Civil war had engulfed the empire's capital city. Dictators seized power. The Roman future looked bleak. But under the leadership of Caesar Augustus, the Roman Empire would survive the chaos and rise stronger and more dazzling than ever before. Episode 1, "Order From Chaos," describes the astonishing rise of Rome; and the astonishing characters -- both famous and uncelebrated -- that fueled its ascendance. Most notably, Caesar Augustus. The story of Augustan Rome is the story of greatness at a price. "Years of Trial" begins in the year 14, when Caesar Augustus died and the empire stood at a crossroad. Would Rome continue the course set by its first emperor... or would it fall into civil war? The tense period immediately following the death of Augustus brought a brutal army mutiny and intense political intrigue. A reluctant new emperor quickly inhabited the imperial palace and stability eventually prevailed. The new emperor was called Tiberius. He was Augustus' step-son and he was a dour, middle-aged man with limited vision. Tiberius' ultimate decline from ascetic ruler to reclusive despot ushered in one of the most notorious rulers of the ancient world: Caligula. As fear and conspiracy descended on Rome, crisis spread to the provinces. In Judaea, modern-day Israel, a charismatic religious leader named Jesus challenged the religious and political establishment. The local furor barely touched Rome, but the legacy of Jesus would one day engulf the empire itself.

TV-PG CC Runtime: 1 hour, 48 minutes Release date: July 18, 2001
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2. Rome: Winds of Change / Years of Eruption

In "Winds of Change," Claudius, the most unlikely member of the imperial family, becomes one of the greatest emperors of the Roman Empire...only to fall victim to a brutally ambitious wife. A principled philosopher named Seneca finds himself compromised as tutor to the erratic young Emperor Nero. In Britain, a warrior queen named Boudicca battles Roman legions...and from Judaea, a revolutionary named Paul begins spreading the words of Jesus across Roman lands. Back in the capital, Nero's disastrous rule shakes the empire to its foundation. Rome nearly burns to the ground. The empire is on the edge of disaster. In "Years of Eruption," with Nero's death, the dynasty of Augustus comes to an end. Rival generals fight for supremacy in the streets of Rome. A new dynasty brings another tyrant to the throne, and Mount Vesuvius erupts, burying Pompeii and thousands of people beneath a torrent of ash and mud. A teenager called Pliny the Younger survives the disaster and records the night of terror. But the Empire weathers the traumas. As the first century draws to a close, the Emperor Trajan sets the course for generations to come...and projects the collective voice of ancient Rome across the ages.

TV-PG CC Runtime: 1 hour, 46 minutes Release date: July 25, 2001
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Product Details

Genres Documentary
Director Lyn Goldfarb, Margaret Koval
Starring Sigourney Weaver
Network PBS
Producers Patricia Aste, Derek Bidus, Lyn Goldfarb, Margaret Koval
Purchase rights Stream instantly and download to 2 locations Details
Format Amazon Video (streaming online video and digital download)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By David A. Wend on July 29, 2001
Format: VHS Tape
Unfortunately, television history tends to overlook and oversimplify events. That is what happens with "The Roman Empire in the First Century." The writers have managed to make the dramatic events that shaped Rome appear boring, and are treated with little care for facts in many cases. The emperor Nero is hardly explored as to his personality (the greatest detail given over to the murder of his mother)and Claudius is skirted over as if his only purpose was to place Nero in the succession.
Granted, it is difficult to put 100 years of such important events into a four hour program but I find it difficult to understand how such a pivotal year as 69 CE is reduced to a footnote with the empire going with little pause from Nero to Vespasian! It is as if Galba, Otho and Vitellius had never existed let alone been emperors of the Roman Empire. The program focuses on the views of Seneca and Pliny the Younger but does not provide much about their motives for cooperating with tyrants or much on their backgrounds. We are informed that Seneca was exiled at the whim of a tyrant (Claudius) but not told that he was probably involved in a conspiracy with Claudius's niece, Julia. Similarly, Pliny prospered under Domitian but after he was assassinated he turned to blackening his character.
The experts who are interviewed for the program are certainly qualified to discuss their subjects but I have always wondered why someone like Barbara Levick, who as the author of biographies of Claudius and Vespasian, (or especially Michael Grant)would be invaluable. Sygorney Weaver, a great actress, reads the script at a monotonous pace.
In short, if you want to understand The Roman Empire in the first century, buy books at Amazon and not this video.
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Format: VHS Tape
I couldn't help but notice the negative attention surrounding this video. I saw this on PBS and eventually got a copy for myself. It is one of my favorite documentaries on Rome at present.
The Hail Caesar collection, by A&E, had always been my favorite but after seeing this PBS series several times I came to have a greater appreciation for it. The narration may seem monotone but I find it blends well with the atmosphere of the film. A documentary relies on images, and stills very heavily and this one is no different. It is because of this fact that the slow and methodical tone Ms. Weaver uses allows you to slip back into the past and enjoy a perspective that may be different than you'd expect.
I am a student of Roman history and I think that what PBS created here is excellent. And especially since they are writing for a broad audience and not just specialized historians who already know all of the events covered in the documentary.
Given the fact that this is put on PUBLIC television and it is not a required coure for Roman History I believe it deserves at least 4 stars. I give it 5 because of the harsh criticism it has received to this point.
I recommend this video/DVD to anyone with an interest in history, politics, poetry or just simple novel story telling. It is a fun journey that can be enjoyed many times over. I have personally seen it in its entirety at least 6 times.
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My only critique of these two episodes on the Roman empire was that there wasn't a whole lot to "watch" but that didn't bother me in the slightest since I basically hit the play button and just listened to it as I worked in another computer program.

I found this documentary very enjoyable. I'm no Roman historian and don't want to critic the accuracy of facts or anything like that. I found it to be a fun and interesting review of the empire, the personalities of the various Emperors, and even some of the Roman culture of the lower citizens (who, from the documentary aren't that lowly, but when comared to the Emperor EVERYONE is lowly).

It hits on major events (the eruption of Mt. Vesuvius), discusses a little about the building and public works projects of the "nicer" emperors, and gives a period in history that is so distant from us in time a very easily accessible slant. Let's face it, Romans are just like us, but without the smart phones and computers.

Highly recommended for the casual historian interested in learning a little more about Rome.
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I don't know where the other reviewer got the "feminist" or "revisionist" slant. It looked like standard history to me. I am not an academic or expert of any sort, but I have read some in this area. You don't get deep history in 90 minutes. It was a documentary whose primary goal was to impart information rather than entertain. I enjoyed it because I enjoy history and I always learn something.
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Format: Amazon Video Verified Purchase
A very 10,000 foot view of Roman history. I am not a historian or anything, but they really seemed to glaze over HUGE parts of history lightening fast. I know they only had a limited time to be able to deliver a massive amount of history, but some of the parts they chose to focus on seemed, though relevant and informative to the Roman condition, to a bit odd. There are much better shows out there to invest your time in.
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Production quality is a little dated, however, the content is wonderful and balanced. Of course, with anything historical in nature, it is only going to be entertaining if it can hold your interest. In other words, if you don't appreciate shows on the PBS, History or National Geographic channels, then this is not likely to impress you.
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