on 7 June 2010
No reviews so far, so I may well post my initial thoughts. Firstly, this set contains the 4 DVD History Channel's set of 'Rome The Rise and Fall of an Empire'. In addition there are two extra DVDs - 'Rome: Engineering an Empire' and 'Ancient Mysteries - Ancient Rome and its Mysterious Cities'. The 4 DVD set alone can be bought for nearly double the price, so already we are into bargain territory. I'm only part way through the 4xDVD set, but in comparison to the Discovery Channel's equivalent there is far less repitition (annoying 'recap' after what would be an ad-break), and the production values are far higher. Also, the DVDs each have two or three episodes each, so although there are less discs the run-time is far greater - I can never understand why many documentary sets contain 6 or 8 discs, each with just 40 mins of material ! In total there are 14hrs of (what so far looks like) quality documentary. If you don't already own it, buy 'Ancient Rome: The rise and fall of Empire' - this BBC produced series is my personal favourite, but if you already own it, then this DVD set is a great companion piece, and represents stunning value.
on 29 December 2010
I was attracted to this series because I'd read about the Battle of the Teutoburg Forest and I wanted to learn more about one of the biggest defeats suffered by the Roman army.
I'd seen the BBC production that shares the same name as this collection, and I must admit that after watching the first episode I began to doubt the quality of the production and it bugged me. But after watching a few more episodes, I began to realise that the lower quality visuals and re-enactments are actually the series' strength. Unlike the BBC version, this History Channel production is crammed with accurate historical facts, data and critical overview from, mainly American, experts. Whereas it's easy to get distracted by the superior script/plot, stunning visuals and professional actors used by the BBC and lose track of dates, victories and who was in power.
Like others have said/written before, this production covers some relatively obscure chapters and events in Roman history. This is attractive in the sense that it reveals some of the less well known weaknesses of the Roman empire and how it evolved to put them right.
The only downside, which has already been noted, is the droning narrator and the regular references to 9/11 and the war on terror. The intermittent recaps also betray the fact that this DVD collection is an adapted/edited version of what was aired on TV and repackaged as a DVD collection.
Overall, don't expect to be amazed by stunning visuals and quality acting, but the sheer amount of concise historical fact and analysis makes it well worth the expense.
on 5 November 2009
If its information on ancient Rome you are looking for, this is the series for you. Made in thirteen parts; on four DVDdiscs, each in it's own slimline plastic cover; this 640min series is absolutely packed with historical information presented in an entertaining manner. The format is the standard historical re-enactments, fleshed out with numerous maps and expert comment, but the factual content is very high indeed, and the commentary by Leif Anders runs like a particularly interesting storytale. Beginning with Marius and the Cimbri invasion in 113BC, this series covers the major events in the long history of Rome through to the final destruction of the Western Empire in 476AD as shown in the episodes listed below:-
1.The First Barbarian War.
4.The Forest of Death.
5.The Invasion of Britain.
6.The Dacian Wars.
7.Rebellion and Betrayal.
8.Wrath of the Gods.
9.The Soldiers' Emperor.
10.Constantine The Great.
11.The Barbarian General.
12.The Puppet Master.
13.The Last Emperor.
The re-enactments are on a small scale for such a massive topic, but the programmes are so well made that this minor failing does not detract from their quality. If I had to choose only one programme from the many recently published on Ancient Rome, this would be it.Rome The Rise and Fall of an Empire [DVD] 
on 3 September 2012
I actually rate this documentary 2.5 stars..not two stars...as it does have SOME value with the information narrated to you and some of the scenes are educational.
I tried to like this series..as i wanted to like it...however it is just your typical History Channel "in your face" style of narration and layout with loud, very irritating sounding "Experts" telling you the history. It is ashame..because this could have been very good documentary...but whoever designed the layout and the commentating history "experts" ruined it. One historian.. (I think he was a professor) just sounded nearly retarded with his way over done, very loud, "southern US accent" ..and he seemed to be the main commentator throughout the entire series.
There is just fight scene after fight scene..and they all look similar..after 100 times of it...you just want to turn it off...as the narrator has already irritated you beyond the point of survival anyways.
on 22 February 2011
This is very well packaged item and comes in a box set that you can use as a standalone item or you can take the individual dvd's out to go with the rest of your collection, it looks nice! That said it's about Rome the rise and fall of an Empire as the title suggests however....
Disc two details the Roman invasion of Britain; Caratacus who led the resistance is portrayed by some fat bloke who resembles more of a troll than the man who defied Rome for nearly 'ten years!' The Britons are said to have been influenced greatly by druids and wear little pretty patterns of woad as if they've just been to a Boots make-up department. Although there was druidic influence, they were very secretive and not a bunch of hippies as seen here and were in the far west on Anglesey (Mona) and in Wales primarily.
The Roman soldiers (the actors) in some instances look like something more akin to Cylons from Battlestar Galactica and have shields that wobble about and are often seen running loosely whilst attacking the enemy not in the formations they are famous for. The academics who tell the story are mainly from US Universities and have a very sickly annoying manner, I have never met an American like them and I have met and worked with many.
The first major confrontation between the forces of Caratacus thought to be at the River Medway isn't mentioned at all but the second battle at the River Thames is. Dio says that Celts were used to cross the river but here they are Roman auxilleries who swam across the river and then attacked the Britons horses. The Celtic cohorts that actually did this were destroyed by the Britons but that isn't mentioned.
The final battle of Caratacus is seen as a fight in woodland up a slight gradient, however, the reality was much different as it was the mountains of North Wales and the Romans lost a lot of men, struggled to scale the defences built by the Britons and still failed to capture him (and this was after nine years fighting). Very little is said of the Britons who were already 'Romanised' and actually assisted the invaders or for example coins bearing the heads of British Kings.
The invasion is said to have taken place in AD47 (it's actually printed on the dvd cover as well as in the commentary) but in reality it was AD43. Nothing is said of the trade between Britain and Rome prior to the invasion of which there was a lot or the Britons who had already defected to Rome including Adminius a brother of Caratacus.
There is a great deal of debate that Togodumnus who was actually the King of the Catuvellauni (another brother of Caratacus) actually fought against Caratacus and betrayed the country (it is believed that it was actually his men who swam the River Thames to kill the Britons horses) but there is no mention of this in this history. In conclusion this is a nice boxset but whether it is accurate is up for debate!
on 18 September 2010
ROME THE RISE AND FALL OF EMPIRE Is a treat it is well constructed and devised more accurate than many similar -and further it is a pleasure to watch. As the reviewer has indicated prior to myself it is way ahead of the History Channel-with added plus that you decide how much of it you wish to watch at a sitting. This is very much a bargain as it contains most (arguably) decisive stages of the Roman Histories (with focus for the less aware) on the more well known episodes that decided the course and fate of Rome - eg most will be aware of the Story of Spartacus but less of General Marius both of whom were important factors in the shaping the Historical course of Rome. The Graphics are very good and the History extensive -the First Disc running to 3 hours. In all 6 discs- each different and well worth the time . This set which runs for 14 hours in total, and, is worth every penny. More so when you consider your generations will be able to watch and learn from a History of Rome which eventually shaped most of the world in all cultures.
on 12 September 2012
Rome: Rise and Fall of an Empire is pretty much a bargain at this price, and should be snatched up by anyone who is curious about Rome's military history. With that in mind I do have reservations about the program's style. First off I should mention the positives. The show basically follows Roman history from the birth of Julius Caesar up until the end of the Western Empire. The single theme that holds the series together is how Rome dealt with military invasion and rebellion, specifically invasion at the hands of Germanic tribes. As a result this is more of a military history than a social or political one. What I particularly like is how the series doesn't take the obvious routes of Roman history documentaries. Most are content to to have an episode about Julius Caesar, Nero, Jesus Christ, Spartacus and all the familiar usual subjects.
This series dares to go beyond the big subjects to deal with the obscure or not well known episodes of Roman history, these include episodes about the Aurelian's wars against Zenobia, Orestes attempts to secure the throne for his teenage son Romulus Augustulus, The Barbarian 'puppet master' Ricimer, Decius's policies against the Christians and so much more. Even when the series treads on familiar territory it still takes a different route. Take for instance the episode about Rome's campaigns in Britain. Most documentaries would go with the obvious and juicy subject of Boudica's rebellion, but this program decides to concentrate on Caratacus and his guerrilla war and Cartimandua's appeasement of Roman rule. Simply put, it's a breath of fresh air to see a Roman history documentary that doesn't deal in the obvious, although this series does still have episodes about Julius Caesar, Spartacus and all the rest.
Now for the bad points. This series doesn't really follow the whole rise of Rome - as a matter of fact, centuries of early Roman history are omitted, and it essentially starts with the age of Gaius Marius, who lived only a few decades before the fall of the Republic. Some major events from earlier Roman history, such as the Punic Wars, the founding of the Republic and the revolution of the Gracchi aren't covered.
If you've read the other reviews you'll notice one of the most common complaints is the visuals. The entire series consists of those poor reconstructions of about 50 blokes running through forests in plastic armour and helmets, whacking each other with foam swords; mixed with some talking head segments by American academics. The reconstructions are typically poor quality and also misleading. They give the false impression that Roman fashion didn't change at all for centuries, while the same scenes are repeated over and over again. For instance the segment about Marius's war against Jugurtha is the same as the fourth century wars against the Sassanid Persians - the only reason they are re-used is because both wars took place in 'desert' like conditions.
Generally speaking the talking head sections aren't bad except for the one historian that's been mentioned in the reviews below several times. Dr. Thomas R. Martin of Holy Cross College. Martin is incredibly enthusiastic about Roman history, and while that's laudable his style begins to grate as the series drags on. He speaks in a thick Southern US accent, gesticulating wildly, with flecks of spit flying from his mouth every now and then. He gets so worked up he occasionally stumbles over his words and often stutters or stammers. This isn't a bad point in itself, but some of his commentary is devoid of historical content or is simply inane. For instance he babbles on about how it might have been to be a Roman soldier smelling the bad breath of a German on your face in battle, or how barbarians were angry, smelly thugs. Despite this he also provides some interesting information.
Beyond the main series you also get two bonus DVDs. These include, Rome: Engineering an Empire, which is a fairly interesting guide to Roman Engineering feats, while the other is an old 1990's show called Ancient Mysteries which is narrated by Leonard Nimoy (of Star Trek fame). This second documentary is a basic look at Roman civilisation, which occasionally mixes fantasy (Aeneas of Troy) with reality. The style is typical of the 90's History Channel, full of zooming in and out on static pictures, with some narration and simple music. Overall it's forgettable.
In General though, this isn't a bad set, especially for such a low price. Those who are new to Roman history will find much that is useful here, while even those Roman enthusiasts might find something new here - although that's debatable. I recommended it for beginners, if you can stomach the constant visual repetition.
on 12 June 2011
OK if you know absolutely nothing about the subject, but oherwise very simplistic and dumbed-down. Full of basic factual errors. The fear of invasion from north of the Alp had been aroud for a long time before Marius. The Empire did not collapse suddenly in less than a hundred years, but lingered for about three centuries. Roman soldiers are seen fighting in the open against Barbarians whereas the whole point of the Roman army was that they fought in tightly closed formations. Some very irritating America speakers, at least one of whom, from the deep south, sounds like a football commentator. Also, made for American TV with a commercial break, and consequent annoying recap very few minutes which nobody has even bothered to edit out. Vey disappointing. A subject like this deserves a much better treatment.
This documentary about the rise and fall of the Roman Empire, which has been shown on the History Channel, is available on DVD. It is divided into thirteen episodes. Each episode, which runs for about 45 minutes, covers one person and/or one topic. Here is a brief overview:
1. "The First Barbarian War." Gajus Marius (born 157 BC, died 86 BC)
2. "Spartacus." The slave rebellion in Italy (73-71 BC)
3. "Julius Caesar." The military commander (born 100 BC, died 44 BC)
4. "The Forest of Death." The devastating Roman military defeat in a German Forest in the year AD 9.
5. "The Invasion of Britain." Emperor Claudius (41-54)
6. "The Dacian Wars." Emperor Trajan (98-117)
7. "Rebellion and Betrayal." Emperor Marcus Aurelius (161-180)
8. "Wrath of the Gods." Emperor Decius (249-251)
9. "The Soldiers' Emperor." Emperor Aurelian (270-275)
10. "Constantine the Great." Emperor Constantine (306-337)
11. "The Barbarian General." Emperor Theodosius (379-395)
12. "The Puppet Master." Ricimer (born 405, died 472)
13. "The Last Emperor." Emperor Romulus Augustulus (476)
Many scenes have been reconstructed with the help of modern actors, but they do not speak to us. While we watch them, a narrator brings the story forward, step by step. Sometimes he quotes an ancient source, for instance the historian Cassius Dio or Tacitus, which gives the documentary added credibility.
Several modern experts have been interviewed for the documentary. We meet them from time, always one at a time. They do not talk to each other, they talk to us. The panel of experts changes gradually, from one episode to the next, depending on the topic.
When we meet the experts, the reconstructions with modern actors are (partially) interrupted, which gives the documentary some variation.
This documentary covers a lot of ground: many persons and many topics are presented. But the problem is that the history of the Roman Empire is very long and cannot be covered in a book of a few hundred pages or a documentary of a few hours. Several important persons and topics are ignored, even though they are needed to give and to get a full and fair picture of the rise and fall of the Roman Empire. Let me explain my concerns:
(a) How and why was the Roman Empire established? This question is never addressed. We never hear anything about "the rise" of the Roman Empire. The earliest date we hear is 113 BC (in episode # 1). At that time the city of Rome was already more than 600 years old, and its empire was already well established. The first part of the title is simply misleading.
(b) The documentary has a very narrow focus: military and political history. All other aspects of Roman society - such as social or economic history, such as art and architecture - are virtually ignored. Obviously, the Roman army is an important factor in any account of the Roman world, but it is not the only relevant factor.
(c) Episode # 5, "The invasion of Britain," covers only the first few years of this operation, from the beginning in AD 43 to around 53. We never hear about the large-scale uprising in AD 60, during which Queen Boudica came very close to defeating the Roman forces in Britain.
(d) From episode # 6 with Trajan and the Dacian wars the documentary jumps to Marcus Aurelius. So Emperor Hadrian is ignored. In addition, the long and difficult conflict between the Romans and the Jews is ignored:
* The first round - the uprising in Jerusalem, 66-70
* The second round - the uprising in Cyrene, 115-117
* The third round - the uprising in Jerusalem, 132-135
(e) In episode # 7 we are told that Marcus Aurelius appointed his son Commodus as his heir. The experts explain that this was only "natural" - but this is not true. Since Nerva (96-98) there had been a new system in which the ruling emperor did not appoint his son as his heir, but instead the most promising candidate. Nerva adopted Trajan, who adopted Hadrian, who adopted Antoninus Pius and Marcus Aurelius. The period of the adoptive emperors is considered "a golden era" by many modern observers. Marcus Aurelius himself had been adopted, so there was nothing "natural" about it when he appointed his son as his heir. Indeed, many modern observers feel that Commodus was a most unfortunate choice.
(f) From episode # 7 with Marcus Aurelius the documentary jumps to Decius and the Gothic wars. We never hear about Emperor Septimius Severus (the first Roman Emperor who was born in Africa) and his dynasty. In 212, during the rule of his son Caracalla, all citizens of the empire were declared Roman citizens. This important event is ignored.
(g) Why did the Roman Empire fall? This question is (almost) never addressed (except for a few brief remarks at the end of the last episode). We follow the history of the (western) empire as it falls apart, step by step, but there is no systematic attempt to identify the factors which played (or may have played) a role here, and consequently no attempt to evaluate the importance and weight of each individual factor.
In my opinion, the biggest problem with this documentary is not so much what the producers have done, but what they have not done. The flaw is not so much an act of commission, but an act of omission.
Because of the narrow focus on military and political history, because of the omission of important persons and topics, I cannot give it four or five stars. On the other hand, it would not be fair to give it only one or two stars, because what the producers have done is not bad. Therefore my conclusion is that it deserves a rating of three stars.
on 11 November 2009
if, like me, you have ever wondered: How could the Roman Empire fall? When its the most famous and advanced empire of ancient history? Then watch this!
The documentaries in this boxset take each event: from the birth of roman empire to its fall, looking at each major event and detailing how it propelled Rome into greatness and at the same time marked the Empries end.
From Ceasars march and conquest of Rome, to Claudis's invasion of Britainna, each documentary is educational and most of all gripping.
With the perfect mix between Historians talking about the events, and the events been dramatised...it made for a very enjoyable watch.