Top positive review
148 people found this helpful
Best Documentary on Ancient Rome I've Seen
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.