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14 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant, 14 Jan 2009
This review is from: Minotaur's Island [DVD] [2002] [Region 1] [US Import] [NTSC] (DVD)
To follow the Beatles as Paul McCartney said, "was always going to be a difficult act", and for Bettany Hughes to follow "The Spartans"The Spartans (Channel 4) is likewise going to be difficult, but with this DVD she did it. Her production team and back-ups are excellent. I recently bought it, partly because ancient Greece fascinates me and partly because of her Spartans. I was not disappointed, actually delighted. The Minoan civilisation is a lot less meaty than Sparta or Athens in known facts, and one is largely dependant on archaeology with only some scraps recorded in Egypt. Never-the-less she easiy filled out an hour and a half. I would have been happy for twice as much. Brilliantly filmed "on location" with stunning back ground scenery, but also with archaeologically recovered artefacts in museums Bettany Hughes creates a picture of the first truly European civilisation. Creative, informative enjoyable if this is your type of thing "buy it". P.S. although this is labeled (REGION 1) I was able to view on my region 2 computer.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Glory That Was Ancient Greece, 21 Jan 2012
By 
Stephanie De Pue (Wilmington, NC USA) - See all my reviews
(TOP 1000 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: Minotaur's Island [DVD] [2002] [Region 1] [US Import] [NTSC] (DVD)
"The Minotaur's Island" is a British television documentary, made by and for the British Broadcasting 4 station. As presented by Bettany Hughes, a highly attractive, educated young Englishwoman who wears her accomplishments lightly, it is a stimulating look at the ancient history of Crete, an island at the crossroads of the Aegean Sea. The program gives us the sum of current knowledge of the Minoan civilization and its legendary monster, the Minotaur. This was a creature half-man, half-bull, hidden/imprisoned, according to ancient myth,in a labyrinth devised by ancient wise man Daedalus, whom Hughes calls "The Mr. Fix-It of the Bronze Age." This bloodthirsty monster was supposedly a menace to all travelers, until it was killed by the adventurer Theseus, with the aid of Ariadne, King Minos's daughter.

The Minoan, believed to be Europe's first civilization, began 5,000 years ago, according to Hughes: 1500 years before Greece's Parthenon was built, 1,000 years before Greece's great poet Homer was born. Then the Minoan civilization disappeared in fire and violence; all trace of it was lost. It receded into myth, until, in 1871, famed German archaeologist Heinrich Schliemann began excavating in Crete. He would be followed in 1900 by Englishman Arthur Evans, and American Harriet Boyd.

Hughes travels the island, from Knossos to Mochlos, tracing archaeological finds from 1900 through today, seeking hints about the Minoans' social and political lives. (Mind you, as befits a well-brought up young woman, she speaks softly, and she's talking ancient history: subtitles would be welcome.) At any rate, Hughes takes us down a Minoan road, the first road built by Europeans, still standing; and summarizes the evidence that the Minoans indulged in human sacrifice. She wonders: why and how did this ancient people build such huge,magnificent palaces, equipped even with hinged doors, and flush toilets? Who sat on the elaborately-carved throne that Evans discovered? What role did the daring, acrobatic bull-leapers, whose exploits survive in the civilization's excavated art, play in the people's life? What doomed this aggregation of accomplished artisans and architects? Was it fire, flood, foreign invader, religious war?

The London-born Hughes, the child of actors, discovered an interest in classical history at the age of four, after watching a documentary on the ancient King Tutankhamen of Egypt. As a teenager, she learned Latin and Greek. She won a scholarship to St. Hilda's College, Oxford. Upon graduation, she was offered a fellowship at Britain's highly esteemed Victoria and Albert Museum, but instead chose a research grant that allowed her to travel through the Balkans and Asia Minor, examining ancient public spectacles and amusements. She's written articles, and published a book, Helen of Troy: Goddess, Princess, Whore, in 2005. She wrote and presented a radio series on medieval history. And, of course, she has written and presented numerous popular TV documentaries for the BBC, PBS, and the Discovery Channel. Among the best known:The Spartans (Channel 4) [DVD]; Helen of Troy [DVD] [Region 1] [US Import] [NTSC];When the Moors Ruled in Europe [DVD] [Region 1] [US Import] [NTSC]; and Athens: Dawn of Democracy. This vital young woman, who seems always to have been bound for glory herself, is also the mother of two young daughters, Sorrel and May.
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