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Rome: Rise and Fall of an Empire
Rome Rise and Fall of an Empire
Actor: n/a
Director: History Channel
Genres: Documentary
NR     2008     10hr 11min

It is 114 B.C. and the Republic of Rome is a small empire clinging to the rim of the Mediterranean. Suddenly, terror grips the Romans as the first barbarian attack smashes through the imperial boarder, paving the way for w...  more »


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Movie Details

Actor: n/a
Director: History Channel
Genres: Documentary
Sub-Genres: Documentary
Studio: A&E Home Video
Format: DVD - Color
DVD Release Date: 09/23/2008
Release Year: 2008
Run Time: 10hr 11min
Screens: Color
Number of Discs: 4
SwapaDVD Credits: 4
Total Copies: 0
Members Wishing: 9
Edition: Box set
MPAA Rating: NR (Not Rated)
Languages: English

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Movie Reviews

Informative but not too impressive
Agustin Guerrero | Guayaquil, Guayas Ecuador | 02/04/2009
(3 out of 5 stars)

"It is commendable to try to explain the rise and fall of the Roman Empire in a few hours of video time while at the same time trying to be entertaining. There are many possitive aspects of this product:

1.- It covers the lives of many interesting characters, I especially enjoyed the chapters devoted to Marius and the rise of the Empire (his army reforms professionalized the roman army while his use of the army in a clientelar form was imitated by later demagogues and tyrants ultimately overthrew the republican system and in turn created the imperial system which was a quasy military dictatorship), Aurelian who had to fight during his whole life to keep the empire from splintering and sinking, and of Stilicho who gave the western empire a few more decades of life against the threat of the gothic and german invasions. These historical figures are not usually covered in popular histories of Rome and it was refreshing to see a documentary that addresses them while the lifes of other characters such as Caesar or Augustus have been covered thoroughly in literature and film.

2.- It is not boring , it provided a measure of entertainment maybe because the subject covered is mostly military, many action sequences are readily provided.

3.- It gives some insights from the academics that are interviewed in the show that try to give you some perspective in what you are watching.

To balance this out it has some very bad aspects to this:

1.- It does not convey well the passage of time, for example the roman legionaires are portrayed during the whole 600 years that the show encompasses as imperial legionaries of the 1st to 2nd century with the use of the lorica segmentata and imperial helmets. It never addresses the changes of tactics, equipment, dress and the racial composition of the army that took place during all these centuries starting with a full citizen corps in republican times armed with pilum, gladius and covered with mail shirt and coolus helmet of republican times to the army of the late empire composed mainly of gothic and germanic soldiers using equipment such as long swords (spatha), round shields with the chi-rho simbols of the christian legions. They never talk about the changing of tactics from close order of the republican legion to a more open and flexible imperial legion to the preponderance of the cavalry and the mobile army of the late empire. This is sad since this is supposed to be a military history documentary of the history channel.

2.- It explains everything in terms of military prowess and generalship. Good military leaders Rome expands and gains ascendancy over its enemies when leaders are weaker Rome suffers setbacks. It never addresses the economic and cultural changes that ultimately were the cause of the fall of the western empire. The empire went bankrupt with the need to keep a huge standing army and this created one of the reasons for the collapse. The reason for the ascendancy of a military power stems from its internal wellfare the better developed and rich the society is the better warriors and leaders it produces.

3.- Religion and culture are almost left behind, we hear about the impact of christianity more because of the persecution of christians than any impact this religion made on the culture and moral fiber of the roman society, the documentary falis to explain how things worked in Roman society and almost makes us believe that the only worthwhile pursuit in the empire was soldiering. Rome was strong becuase it created and exported an strong culture, it not only conquered militarily but also subjugated by romanizing its foes.

4.- The battle scenes are repetitive foes and romans always look the same and it feels that there are not enough extras and the battles seem small affairs. This aspect betrays budget problems.

Overall you have a mediocre product that does not live up to its expectations.

Good - but nonspecific
David Zachary Sesso | 10/19/2008
(4 out of 5 stars)

"Over all it is a good product. Two things bother me, however, so many topics are covered very little time is devoted to any one subject, and as such many generalizations are made; this is not to say, it is inaccurate, because it is. My second bother is that, the overwhelming majority of the documentary focuses on the military of Rome, while no one could argue the signifigance of this enitity, too little emphasis in my opinion is given to the polical and cultural world of the Roman Empire.
All in all the documentary provides good material to create a good starting point in one's historical research."
Forget about the musty, history books! See Roman history co
Stephen Pletko | London, Ontario, Canada | 08/08/2009
(5 out of 5 stars)


"Rome. From a small republic, it grows into the greatest empire ever known, lasting for over six-hundred years. At its height, it stretches from London to Baghdad, projecting its power with the first professional army and creating the model of western civilization. And yet, when the Empire begins to falter, it collapses with shocking speed. It takes only a hundred years for the imperial edifice of Rome to vanish like smoke, swept away by the barbarian invasions. How did it happen?..."

This is how this epic, very informative documentary begins.

The most impressive feature of the DVD set (at least for me) were the re-enactments of battle scenes. Mostly battle scenes are re-enacted but you will see other things such as politics, religion, military, slavery, assassinations, beheadings, etc. re-enacted. Note that the narrator and other commentators talk over the action as it proceeds.

The titles of each episode are as follows:

(1) The first barbarian war
(2) Spartacus
(3) Julius Caesar
(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

Each episode has the same main narrator and interspersed in his narration are brief comments from university professors. (The universities these professors are from include the University of Michigan, University of Tennessee, University of Ottawa, University of Chicago, and University of Florida.) Also interspersed with the narration, and I found this most impressive, are actual comments from ancient writers such as historical biographers, emperors, etc.

Each episode has the same format. All episodes consist of six scenes. The first scene is always a brief introduction. The introduction is a transitional link between the previous episode and the new episode. Each episode ends with a brief overview of what the next episode is about.

Here are the scene titles for the "Julius Caesar" episode (#3 above):

(1) Introduction
(2) A natural politician
(3) Leading the legions
(4) More conquests
(5) Enemies gain strength
(6) Bloody betrayal

I must say I learned a lot from this series. I was also impressed with the fact that the narrator did not attempt to saturate the viewer with too much information (I'm sure much more information could have been given) but only relevant information was given.

Finally, this DVD set (released in 2008) was perfect in picture and sound quality. It has one interesting extra.

In conclusion, for those who want to know the essential facts behind the rise and fall of the Roman empire (without resorting to musty, historical textbooks), this is the DVD set to get!! I leave you with this documentary's last narrated lines:

"From Democracy to Empire to its fall, Rome has inspired the Western World as we know it. Its civilization survived centuries of war, persecution, corruption, and plague, only to die quietly, slowly, at the hands of one barbarian soldier."

(2008; 9 hr, 45 min; 13 episodes; 45 min/episode; 4 discs; made for TV (History Channel); wide screen; closed captioned)

Sensationally incomplete
R. Barth | 02/08/2010
(2 out of 5 stars)

"Like Mr. Sasso's review, this was a rather incomplete history of Rome. It focuses almost entirely on the military conquests of the generals and emperors, leaving much to be desired about the cultural, religious, and societal changes. How do you go through a history of Rome and essentially skip over Nero? How do you discuss Domitian and merely mention his claim of deity? These were two brutal emperors that significantly changed the societal landscape and had much blood on their hands besides military campaigns.

It is unfortunate so much of our history is focused on the sensational and incomplete picture. It is a symptom of our current educational structure, IMO. While the military campaigns were obviously a crucial characteristic of the time we should not neglect the other elements of culture. Our system of education since the 1920's has separated the "types" of history (military, political, religious, etc.), often diminishing one or more of these characteristics when each plays a vital role in the whole character of history. Hence, we do not actually learn why events happened. Not to mention the same "village" was attacked in the video about half a dozen times, it got rather tedious and farcical to watch. This is where, once again, the History Channel seems to fall well short."