Subject: I have found a DVD that I think you would enjoy
|Empires - The Roman Empire in the First Century|
Actor: Sigourney Weaver
Genres: Television, Documentary
Two thousand years ago, at the dawn of the first century, the ancient world was ruled by Rome. Through the experiences, memories and writings of the people who lived it, this series tells the story off that time -- the em... more »
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A Superficial Look At First Century Rome
D. A Wend | Buffalo Grove, IL USA | 07/30/2001
(2 out of 5 stars)
"Unfortunately, television history tends to overlook and oversimplify events. That is what happens with "The Roman Empire in the First Century." The writers have managed to make the dramatic events that shaped Rome appear boring, and are treated with little care for facts in many cases. The emperor Nero is hardly explored as to his personality (the greatest detail given over to the murder of his mother)and Claudius is skirted over as if his only purpose was to place Nero in the succession.Granted, it is difficult to put 100 years of such important events into a four hour program but I find it difficult to understand how such a pivotal year as 69 CE is reduced to a footnote with the empire going with little pause from Nero to Vespasian! It is as if Galba, Otho and Vitellius had never existed let alone been emperors of the Roman Empire. The program focuses on the views of Seneca and Pliny the Younger but does not provide much about their motives for cooperating with tyrants or much on their backgrounds. We are informed that Seneca was exiled at the whim of a tyrant (Claudius) but not told that he was probably involved in a conspiracy with Claudius's niece, Julia. Similarly, Pliny prospered under Domitian but after he was assassinated he turned to blackening his character.The experts who are interviewed for the program are certainly qualified to discuss their subjects but I have always wondered why someone like Barbara Levick, who as the author of biographies of Claudius and Vespasian, (or especially Michael Grant)would be invaluable. Sygorney Weaver, a great actress, reads the script at a monotonous pace.In short, if you want to understand The Roman Empire in the first century, buy books at Amazon and not this video."
Mark P. Simmons | USA | 10/12/2002
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I couldn't help but notice the negative attention surrounding this video. I saw this on PBS and eventually got a copy for myself. It is one of my favorite documentaries on Rome at present.
The Hail Caesar collection, by A&E, had always been my favorite but after seeing this PBS series several times I came to have a greater appreciation for it. The narration may seem monotone but I find it blends well with the atmosphere of the film. A documentary relies on images, and stills very heavily and this one is no different. It is because of this fact that the slow and methodical tone Ms. Weaver uses allows you to slip back into the past and enjoy a perspective that may be different than you'd expect.
I am a student of Roman history and I think that what PBS created here is excellent. And especially since they are writing for a broad audience and not just specialized historians who already know all of the events covered in the documentary.
Given the fact that this is put on PUBLIC television and it is not a required coure for Roman History I believe it deserves at least 4 stars. I give it 5 because of the harsh criticism it has received to this point.
I recommend this video/DVD to anyone with an interest in history, politics, poetry or just simple novel story telling. It is a fun journey that can be enjoyed many times over. I have personally seen it in its entirety at least 6 times."
This could have been much better.
Francis D'Eramo | 07/30/2001
(3 out of 5 stars)
"I watched this on PBS. This could have been much, much better than it was. The documentary was at its best when reading from contemporary texts like the letters of Ovid or Pliny. It was at its worst during the narration. Sigourney Weaver narrated in a slow, utterly unvarying monotone, as though reading her lines for the first time and trying not to mispronounce any of the words. It is hard to blame her, since the script that she read from sounded like it was lifted directly from an uninspired junior-high history textbook. It would have been so much better had the narration consisted of reading at length from Tacitus or Suetonius, both of which exist in extremely entertaining English translations.The pictures were good, and the selections from Ovid, Pliny, and Seneca were very fine. The title is a little deceptive, as it covers the period only to the death of Vespasian, the year 79, other than a brief mention of the ascension of Trajan. This wasn't bad, but really could have been much better."
Respectful to a fault, with a concentration on emperors and
C. O. DeRiemer | San Antonio, Texas, USA | 10/05/2009
(3 out of 5 stars)
"This PBS-produced documentary, which surveys Rome in the First Century, runs 219 minutes in four parts. It is so calm, so respectful, so stately and so dull that it made me wonder if they really were talking about Rome.
The tales of the emperors, of course, range from greatness to pederasty, from the building of an intercontinental transportation system to wretched excess, from mutual murder to becoming gods. Rome also is the story of great poets, writers, historians, and builders. The documentary spends a lot of time reminding us of this with quotes read by actors with generically well-bred voices.
Even more important and interesting is why the Romans were able to create such an empire. What was the force behind a crummy little village on the Tiber winding up owning everything from England to Egypt? And who was responsible for the most impressive set of officer's uniforms until the Nazis?
Rome is the story not just of emperors and poets, but also of engineers and soldiers, of a great civil service and a slave economy, of an empire-wide free-trade zone and a universal set of laws. Rome might nail you to a cross, but in general if you didn't say bad things about the emperor-god you could believe in any other gods that took your fancy. Said Edward Gibbon, "The various modes of worship, which prevailed in the Roman World, were all considered by the people, as equally true; by the philosopher, as equally false; and by the magistrate, as equally useful. And thus toleration produced not only mutual indulgence, but even religious concord."
Little of this practical cynicism and do-the-job-right energy comes through in this documentary.
I have a great admiration for Sigourney Weaver as an actress, but her narration is simply too emotionless and too earnest. Does she have any more interest in first century Rome than most of us do? Probably not. She was hired to read the author's narration and she does with placid professionalism. The actors selected to voice the words of Ovid, Tacitus and the rest of the dead Romans bring even less moxie to the enterprise. Their voices are smooth, professional and uninteresting.
This documentary is well intentioned, probably more so than is good for it. If you must watch it for the facts, I'd advise that first you watch I, Claudius for the energy."