Customer Reviews: When Rome Ruled
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on April 13, 2011
I am fascinated by ancient Rome and I am also a longtime documentary buff, so when I accidentally came across this set of discs on Amazon at a reasonable price I bought it without hesitation. I expected that a series with National Geographic's name on it would be a cut above and I wasn't disappointed. After all, it was they who first introduced me as a child to the ancient world in articles about Abu Simbel and the Bayeaux Tapestry.
This is a very good six part 270 minute documentary and I would recommend it to anyone who has an interest in this subject, or who just likes good, entertaining and informative documentaries. They have done a good job of walking a line between making a lively and entertaining TV show about the Roman world, and an intelligent treatment about this amazing civilization that informs so much of the modern western world. When I saw titles like "The Real Caligula" and "Secrets of the Gladiators" I thought it might be just a rehash of series like "Rome: Power and Glory" which aired some years ago on I believe the History Channel, but this series is more informative, with discussions of current archaeology and interviews with scholars like Andrew Wallace-Hadrill and many others, and visits to places I've always wondered about but have never seen pictures of, such as Tiberius' villa on the island of Capri.
They seem to have spent more than the usual amount of money for a TV documentary, creating a look that almost rivals that of HBO's dramatic series ROME, with street scenes and convincing recreations of ancient homes and gardens. I was impressed with the attention to detail and realism, such as when the victorious gladiators hold their palm branches in the air in victory in an exact reenactment of a scene from a well-known graffiti from Pompeii. As you'd expect from the National Geographic, there is a lot of beautiful wide angle photography of ancient locations around Italy, allowing me to see sites I missed in my two visits there.
I would have liked more detailed information than what they provided in a number of instances because hey, I'm an ancient Rome junkie and I always want to learn more. They probably knew however that if they got too scholarly, people would be grabbing their remote controls all over the country and switching to "Pawn Stars". They seemed reluctant to mention the names of some of their sources, such as Suetonius, the "National Enquirer" of the ancient world. But there was still plenty here to hold the attention of someone like me with a deeper interest in the subject.
I got the regular dvd version of the show rather than the blu ray version, but it still looked excellent on my 40" LCD television, and the conventional format will allow me to watch the show on any device.
I believe that almost anyone would find this an entertaining and educational addition to their dvd collection, and would recommend it.
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon July 17, 2011
`When Rome Ruled' is a 3 disc set with 2 episodes on each. They include; Secrets of the Gladiators, the Real Caligula, Doomsday Pompeii, Killing Caesar, Birth of Rome, and Ancient Superpower. Each has English subtitles.

The first, Secrets of Rome is more about the coliseum and some little known facts, such as, Rome was one of the last cities to build a stone structure to house their games because they didn't trust their citizens to gather in large groups, also how the coliseum would have been filled with water. On the other hand, they tell about the wonderful emergency evacuation system, but never even hint at how it would have worked.

Doomsday Pompeii purports itself to be the never before told story of the common people, which is a bit of an exaggeration.
Birth of Rome is also a slight misnomer, it really tells how Caesar constructed many of Rome `s structures (the city was already built) and how the city was controlled by Caesar Augustus after Caesar is murdered, the building of the aqueducts and turning a city of brick into marble. Hadrian's rule is mentioned, but nothing of his most famous work Hadrian's Wall.

There are extras and a bonus program' Treasure Seekers' much of which consists of close ups of carvings and a montage of information that it seems couldn't have been fitted in elsewhere.
`In the Shadow of Ancient Romeis not captioned and the volume is much softer than the rest of the programs.

For all of these episodes they have the usual talking heads - historians giving their opinions and facts; however all of them had the extremely irritating habit of looking off to the side of the camera, as if they are staring at someone to the left or right. Some scenes, such as people strolling through villas, adjusting their tunics, eating and reclining in their villas are used multiple times in every episode.
This is, in total though is a very good lesson on Rome.
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on July 21, 2011
FYI, this DVD contains 6 parts plus a bonus part. The original National Geographic special, and the DVDs sold on its website, contains 8 parts. This version is missing two episodes. I was not aware of this and will be returning it. I took one star off for the omission. I've viewed parts of this series on the National Geographic channel, however, and it is great and deserves the other stars.
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on August 12, 2012
National Geographic has produced some excellent DVD's on various subject matter. This is a good example of their work. However, for the most part if you have studied ancient Rome or other films on the subject of Rome you will pick up little in the way of new material. For example, we all know that Caligula was a mad emperor, what caused him to go mad or speculation on the type of disease he had is not that exciting.
There is a pull out flyer inside the box with the DVD's that I found to contain some interesting facts it's worth the read. Over all if you have seen other films on Rome you can pass on this one. If you are just starting to look at Rome in its past glory you might want to add this one to your collection of past empires.
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on December 13, 2011
This "made for television" production is a dynamic introduction to the realities of the establishment, rule and colapse of the Roman empire. The visuals are amazing but the commentary throughout the entire series by various scholars makes the series valuable. It is filled with "wow" moments and explains must that we in American culture in the 21st century has either forgotten or chosen to ignore.

Worderful for anyone who wants to understand and for those who would desire not to repeat disaster.
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on March 29, 2015
This DVD features six 45-min segments on Rome. They vary in quality of content. Among the ones I enjoyed were the "Birth of Rome" (which oddly appears on the 3rd disc), "Secrets of the Gladiators," and "Doomsday Pompeii." These covered more breadth and depth than some of the other, narrower topics that became repetitive in content and visuals. For example, "Killing Caesar" repeatedly shows the same video clips of Caesar being crowned and Caesar being stabbed. The material on the Caesar segment did not flow well and could have devoted more attention on the span of events over his life rather than placing so much emphasis on the final period of his life. Similarly, "The Real Caligula" was very disorderly and repeatedly showed the same clips of Caligula and his uncle Claudius laughing obnoxiously.

Visually, I found the material a bit distracting to consume as the clips were quite brief and therefore jumped around a lot. This was nothing like my experiences watching National Geographic on TV.

Overall, I'm pleased with this set but it's not to the standards I would expect from NG.
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on January 30, 2013
To me this dosen't seem to be up to NG's normal standards. Throughout the three DVD's they re-use many of the scenes over and over again. This isn't a comprehensive history of rome just the same old Julius, Caligula, Pompeii, Brutus stories told over again and not very well.
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on December 31, 2011
Typical National Geographic take on history. Lots of background info but not much on how people actually lived day to day. I was looking for more in depth study of everyday live and politics of that time.
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on August 18, 2013
It provided the information in the dullest possible terms. I love history, but found myself increasingly annoyed at the National Geographic way of presenting it. The story of the founding of Rome, its insatiable ambition, its lust for power, its expanding empire and its pervasive influence on Western culture is too important to be consigned to ineffective drones.
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on April 24, 2012
This series is a very entertaining and educational look at Ancient Rome. Although it does not cover all of Roman history, it does hit on some critical points and is a good addition to any collection.
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