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Your art is to rule, Roman
on July 13, 2001
At 5+ hours, this is certainly an ambitious documentary of the rise, hegemony & eventual decline and fall of the Roman Empire. For many subjects, one would think that a study of this length would be overkill. However, when you're talking about an empire which spanned nearly 1,200 years, 5 hours barely scratches the surface. Don't get me wrong, this is a fairly well-done piece. However, there is only so much that you can stick into a video of this duration.
One of the most impressive aspects of the DVD is its inclusion of people of varying expertise. Sure, it has the normal college history professors, but it also summons an art professor, as well as a US Army general to discuss Roman military tactics, and a US Senator to analyze Roman politics & diplomacy.
On the downside, some notable personages in history are omitted, such as Spartacus, Attila the Hun, Shapur, Vespasian (except for a brief biographical sketch) and Justinian. Again, 5 hours is hardly enough time to delve into every nook & cranny of Roman history, but one would think that these names would stand out, nonetheless.
The worst feature of this documentary is the soundtrack. It is very amateurish and repetitive, basically the same musical phrase played over & over & over again. By the 3rd hour, hearing it gets quite annoying. One need only view "Greeks: Crucible of Civilization" to be convinced that there is no reason a historical documentary can't have a quality score.
The melodramatic and redundant music is almost entirely offset by the professionalism of the narrator, however; Coyote's voice is pleasing to the ear & does not get tiresome to listen to.
What the DVD does cover, it covers very well. As others have mentioned, some material does get repeated every so often, but it is sometimes necessary for what the creators are trying to accomplish. As an American, I found the nexus that was emphasized between the Roman Republic & the polemics of the United States' founding fathers quite interesting. However, I am sure that people from other parts of the globe will likely be disinterested in that digression.
All in all, this is an excellent introduction to the ancient world of the Roman empire. One cannot admire too much a people who were so bloodthirsty as to stage gladatorial games where thousands of men & animals would be killed in a single day. The approach of this inquiry does a credible job of giving a balanced treatment to both the noble traits and the vices of the Roman people.
If you have any interest in classical history at all, I would highly recommend this DVD. Both novice and historian have a lot to gain by owning this scholarly and insightful study of Rome.