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Empires 7 Seasons 2004

Available on Prime
Season 4
Available on Prime
4.4 out of 5 stars (338) IMDb 7.5/10

From a small Italian community in 15th-century Florence, the Medici family would rise to rule Europe in many ways. Using charm, patronage, skill, duplicity and ruthlessness, they would amass unparalleled wealth and unprecedented power. They would also ignite the most important cultural and artistic revolution in Western history--the European Renaissance. But the forces of change the Medici helped unleash would one day topple their ordered world. An epic drama played out in the courts, cathedrals and palaces of Europe, this series is both the tale of one family's powerful ambition and of Europe's tortured struggle to emerge from the ravages of the dark ages.

Peter Guinness, Ross King
Original air date:
February 25, 2004

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Season 4
1. The Medici: Birth of a Dynasty

Europe, 1400: A continent torn apart by war and plague is dominated by the authority of the Catholic Church. In the towns and cities live merchants and entrepreneurs who sense that their world is changing. With increasing trade and wealth an appetite for enlightenment develops.No longer neglected in the shadows of the Church, classical philosophy, poetry, art and sculpture begin to reach a new audience. This is especially true in cosmopolitan cities like Florence, home of Cosimo de'Medici.

CC TV-PG February 4, 2004 55 minutes
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2. The Magnificent Medici

Florence, August 1466: Lorenzo de'Medici, the 17-year-old heir to the dynasty, foils a murderous plot against his father and saves his family from a coup d'etat. The Medici still dominate Florence, but now take extra precautions, picking a useful bride for Lorenzo. Clarice Orsini, a baron's daughter and cardinal's niece, brings connections, class, and military muscle to the Medici dynasty.

CC TV-PG February 11, 2004 55 minutes
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3. The Medici Pope

Florence, 1501: 26-year-old Michelangelo carves a giant masterpiece which will come to symbolize his struggle against a family he once adored. Raised from a young age alongside the Medici heirs he watched as they were cast into exile with a price on their heads. Now they are searching for a path back to power.

CC TV-PG February 18, 2004 51 minutes
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4. The Medici: Power vs. Truth

Florence, 1537: Alessandro de'Medici the Duke of Florence, lies murdered in his bed. His cousin is plucked from obscurity to lead Florence. He is just 17. His rivals think he's a puppet, but despite his youth, Cosimo de'Medici, the new Duke of Florence, is ambitious.

CC TV-PG February 25, 2004 55 minutes
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Product Details

Genres Documentary
Starring Peter Guinness, Ross King
Supporting actors Pip Torrens
Season year 2004
Network PBS
Producers Lucy Bassnett-McGuire, Susan Horth
Purchase rights Stream instantly and download to 2 locations Details
Format Amazon Video (streaming online video and digital download)

Other Formats

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: DVD
This four-hour documentary on the Medici has all of the series' strengths (high production values, excellent cinematography) and its great weakness of substituting simple conflict for historical analysis. You might get weary, as I did, of the implicit comparisons of the Renaissance banking family with the Coreleones, but that's relieved by a truly diverse selection of talking heads and viewpoints.

There are other problems, though. Nearly every entry in the "Empires" series has had difficulties with characterization, and "The Medici" is no different. Lorenzo de Medici, for example, is portrayed as an enlightened ruler, a public-minded human being and an art patron whose career was sabotaged by religious fundamentalism. You'd never know he covered his debts by stealing from the public treasury. Savonarola is accurately depicted as a puritanical maniac, but his appeal to Florence is never fully explained. One minute the Florentines are sipping grapa and discussing Platonic forms, the next they're tossing their copies of "The Republic" on a bonfire. For "The Medici," it's enough to show Lorenzo as a patron of learning, and Savonarola as a fundamentalist, creating a black and white conflict that dehumanizes both and makes a mockery of the competing and often contradicting strains of piety and humanism found in many Renaissance figures. It also makes ordinary Florentines look like dupes: Savonarola was a fanatic, but his Puritanical, anti-Medici sermons had resonance with a city that was tiring of Lorenzo's abuses.

The third episode on the Medici popes moves in a similar direction. This is the weakest of the bunch.
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Format: DVD
With this four hour documentary, and others in the series, PBS hopes to expose a wide audience to culturally and historically significant people and ideas. The Medici family, whose artistic patronage brought into existence much of what we now call "the Renaissance", and whose abuses of power likewise contributed to the Protestant Reformation, are certainly a worthy subject... but in the quest for mass market appeal, the filmmakers cut too many corners, making what could have been a true work of art into little more than interesting television.
First, the positives: the cinematography is stunning, the narration clear and factually accurate (although the narrator's voice is, to me, somewhat jarring), and the pacing of the story is superb. Additionally, great care was obviously taken to cast actors who actually resemble the historical figures, and keeping them silent only adds to the realism.
Sadly, this review does not end here, and I must point out the film's significant flaws. The characters are one-dimensional - we see only Cosimo the enlightened ruler, Giovanni the power-hungry, and Savonarola the fanatic, while all these men were more complicated (and therefore more interesting) than they are presented. Also, while the spoken words are factual, some of the images they accompany are not: we see a Florentine skyline containing buildings not yet built, we see a peasant girl sitting on stairs reading Luther's theses in the Latin... if I can catch these inaccuracies, one wonders how many a serious scholar would notice!
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Format: DVD Verified Purchase
THE MEDICI: GODFATHERS OF THE RENAISSANCE is a four-hour docudrama that is at once entertaining and educational. Using the technique of contemporary seated scholars in discussion with the viewer interspersed with actors playing the roles of the peoples of Florence and Rome and the famous Medici family that spanned three centuries of control and influence in Italy, this highly entertaining and beautifully photographed history lesson is a valuable addition to schools, historians, and lovers of history and biography.
The Medici family was a mercantile line that amassed enough wealth to be able to live (and even become) royally. The Medicis are attributed with the advent of the Renaissance, having been the patrons of the greats of Western Art and Science, not the least of which are Michelangelo, Botticelli, da Vinci, Vasari, Bruneschelli, and Galileo. But patronage of the arts was not their only forte: through sheer power they were able to produce two popes (Leo and Clement)and it was through the debauchery and power of Leo, bankrupting the papacy with his earthly appetites, that the use of Papal Indulgences (anyone could 'purchase' redemption for a price that fed the papal coffers) that was the immediate cause driving Martin Luther to initiate the Reformation.
Along the 4 hours of this DVD we are introduced to Savoranola, Machiavelli, Pope Julius II, and the various fighting factions of Florence Italy wherein the Medicis held court for over 200 years. Despite the recorded evils of this infamous family, they were enlightened (especially Lorenzo the Magnificent) to see the gifts of Michelangelo, da Vinci, etc and were it not for their patronage we may never have had the beauties of the statues David, Pieta, the Medici tombs, or the Sistine chapel frescoes to mention only a few.
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