Search - Colosseum - A Gladiator's Story / Building the Great Pyramid on DVD

Colosseum - A Gladiator's Story / Building the Great Pyramid
Colosseum - A Gladiator's Story / Building the Great Pyramid
Genres: Television, Documentary
NR     2004


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Movie Details

Genres: Television, Documentary
Sub-Genres: Television, Documentary
Studio: PBS Home Video
Format: DVD - Color
DVD Release Date: 03/16/2004
Release Year: 2004
Screens: Color
Number of Discs: 2
SwapaDVD Credits: 2
Total Copies: 0
Members Wishing: 0
MPAA Rating: NR (Not Rated)
Languages: English

Movie Reviews

Great historical re-creations
FrKurt Messick | Bloomington, IN USA | 05/29/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)

"The documentary on the Colosseum (not quite a docu-drama, but done in a dramatic fashion that makes things a bit more interesting than a straight lecture piece) follows the story of Verus, one of the most famous gladiators in Roman history, and his friend (and occasional rival) Priscus. Verus and Priscus date from the inaugural games of the Colosseum, at that time known as the Flavian Amphitheatre, built by the Emperor Vespasian and opened by his son, Titus. Verus and Priscus were both slaves, caught in different parts of the empire during different wars, but ended up in the same quarry and had the same fate, to be selected and trained as gladiators for Rome.

The documentary works to dispel many of the false notions about gladiators and similar entertainments of the time. Many gladiators were not slaves, but rather willing participants after fame and fortune. Most gladiators did not die in the arena - in fact, survival chances were as high as ninety percent, and those who were injured got the best medical care in Rome. While animals were used as entertainment, often they would cower at the sound of the crowd and the overwhelming sense of being surrounded, which surely must have affected the human participants, too.

The match between Verus and Priscus is one of the few recorded in detail in Roman literature, and the words and situations shown in this documentary come from the records of the time. The poet Martial wrote an extensive description of their match during the inaugural games; other archaeological and historical research provided insight to filling out the rest of the story. The acting is well done, and the sets and effects are convincing, with high production values.

The documentary on the pyramids also shares high production values, and draws on archaeological evidence as well as interpretation. Again, preconceptions and misperceptions are dispelled - the majority of workers were most likely not slaves. However, the purpose of the pyramids remains a mystery, for even if the obvious intention is that of a pharoah's burial site, the ideas leading to pyramids (as well as the abandonment of such structures in favour of other kinds of burial sites) remains a matter of speculation and debate.

Both of these documentaries give insight into worlds far removed from our modern times, and yet make sense in many ways - human nature and aspiration continues to share many common threads, even with people thousands of years ago. This is part of our own history."