Not QUITE a century but surely an exceptional series.
While the title refers to a 'First Century', the time period did not extend exactly from 1AD to 101AD but was APPROXIMATELY just before the first century AD--during the time of Julius Caesar's death. And, it ended about 80AD. This isn't really a grip--I just wanted to make it clear that the title was a wee tad deceiving.
The series mostly is concerned with both the early emperors of Rome as well as the eventual switch from the dynastic model (where successors are chosen simply because of their bloodlines) to one in which a man is chosen because of ability. Most of the show is about the Julian Emperors (Augustus, Tiberius, Caligula, Claudius and Nero) but also covers two non-Julians (Vespasian and Trajan). In addition to discussing the merits and deficits of these men, the show chooses important non-royal Romans of the time to discuss as well, such as Seneca, Pliny the Elder and Younger, Josephus (a Roman citizen) and Ovid. The narration is very well done by Signorney Weaver and lots of smart professors and voice actors provide color. The overall experience watching it isn't quite as exciting as watching "I, Claudius" but is still very enlightening and enjoyable.
The only quibble I have, and this is true of most stories from the ancient world, is that it is never mentioned that the voracity of the historians is not 100%. In other words, they could have made mistakes OR drew conclusions or made omissions due to political motivations. In other words, a particular emperor might be vilified simply because surviving histories paint him as evil and we just assume this to be fact--which it may or may not be. I am not saying they should have changed what they said--just explained that the accounts in the documentary are based on these sometimes officially sanctioned accounts. Still, it's a remarkably good series and I would LOVE to see one about Rome in the second, third and fourth centuries, as they are MUCH less likely to be talked about in documentaries.
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