Part of the Empires series, this film looks at 500 years of Egyptian history, from 1567 BC until 1085 BC. At the beginning of the story, the pyramids were already 1,000 years old; but in the era of the New Kingdom, Egypt w... more »ould become the most important, the most feared and the most exuberant nation on earth. The series spans from the foundation of the empire to its final collapse and the end of native Egyptian rule and brings to life names that still have legendary status today: Ramses, Nefertiti, and Tutankhamun.« less
"This is one of the better Egyptian documentaries, if only because it has a (relatively) narrow topic: the New Kingdom. Many Egyptian documentaries simply cover the famous monuments and people of 3,000+ years; in effect, saying very little and bombarding the market with redundant shows. However, despite its focus on just the New Kingdom, it does treat the topic very broadly. The New Kingdom was an extremely long and complex period in Egyptian history; as a result, this documentary focuses on a small number of people and does not give a sweeping overview of the entire period. There are slight narrative problems with this program. I will highlight one as an example. In part III, which is primarily about Ramses II, the narrative jumps from the death of Tutankhamen to the ascension of Ramses II, presenting a misleading chronology in which it appears that Ramses II actually followed on Tutankhamen. This is hardly the case - four kings came between them (Ay, Horemheb, Ramses I, and Sety I). At the very beginning of Part III, the interviewed scholars focus on "Ramses", by which they mean Ramses II. They speak of his non-royal background, and though it is true that Ramses' family was non-royal, it was Ramses' grandfather (Ramses I) who actually initiated the dynasty. By the time Ramses II came to the throne, his father (Sety I) and grandfather had already reigned, so he wasn't quite the non-royal usurper that the DVD seems to imply. This is not the fault of the scholars being interviewed - they are all legitimate and well known Egyptologists - but rather of the editing, which tends to conflate a number of kings into one person, making it seem as though Ramses II began the 19th dynasty directly after Tutankhamen, and completely omitting the last two kings of the 18th dynasty, Ay and Horemheb. This is one of the more noticeable of the misleading issues in the two-hour program, and I cite it as an illustration of the fact that you cannot view these programs as 100% foolproof academia - much is being omitted from history for the sake of convenience and entertainment value."
Better than most, especially given its probable budget
Holy Olio | Grand Rapids, MI USA | 11/08/2003
(4 out of 5 stars)
"It's pretty. It's pretty much conventionally PC especially regarding Hatshepsut. Also, in the Thutmose III segment, we find out that the people of Megiddo had corn -- as in maize -- according to the documentary makers. I had a little chuckle at their expense, shame on me. Zahi Hawass speaks earnestly about the greatness of ancient Egypt, how the Hyksos were expelled by the Egyptians without help -- not mentioning of course that the only Egyptian account sez that there was an ally who did most of the work, even though the account is quoted. The show glosses over the abject defeat of Ramses II at the battle of Kadesh, but that's not (toot) uncommon. Kent Weeks, the excavator of KV5, says that it was a "terrible, terrible military mistake" to take the word of the two captured Bedouins, who were planted by Ramses' adversary. There's a discussion of how Ramses II account of the battle was a work of ancient propaganda, but still the show claims that the pharaoh snatched a victory from the jaws of defeat. The whole battle was a disastrous defeat, and Ramses II didn't attack the "Hittites", he fled on his chariot from the field, leaving half of his army (2 of the 4 divisions, in modern parlance) to be slaughtered. Ramses' treaty (concluded a few years after the battle) with Nebuchadnezzar ceded Egyptian claims to Asia, and accepted a daughter of the king as one of Ramses' wives. The "Hittite" king didn't have to accept one of Ramses' daughters, and though young, he lived a long time and fathered at least 100 kids. This video deals in a conventional way with the New Kingdom, and includes various popular hotspots, such as the overthrow of the Hyksos (muddled though it was), Hatshepsut (ditto), Thutmose III's ingress of Israel, the Amarna period (ditto), and the reign of Ramses II "the Great", up until the "Sea Peoples" invasion under Ramses III. Of course the show suffers from its reliance on the conventional pseudochronology. Still worth a look, especially if one likes aerial shots of the Sahara. ;') I'd not mind having a copy of this one around the house all the time. Also see: -:- Ages In Chaos by Immanuel Velikovsky 
-:- Oedipus and Akhnaton Myth and History by Immanuel Velikovsky 
-:- Ramses II And His Time by Immanuel Velikovsky [038503394X]
and irridium's review of that title
-:- Peoples of the Sea by Immanuel Velikovsky 
and irridium's review of that title "
Well produced, interesting documentary
Scott Chamberlain | Minneapolis, MN United States | 01/22/2004
(4 out of 5 stars)
"The "Empires" series on PBS has has several great episodes. This is among the better ones. Egypt's history spans thousands of years, and to make a reasonably-lengthed DVD (and to fit in with the general parameters of the series) this one simply covers the New Kingdom -- a brilliant moment in Egypt's long and glorious history. So while we don't see anything about the pyramids (already a thousand years old by the New Kingdom), we do see some of the most interesting (and popular) characters who lead Egypt at its peak of power... Thutmosis, Hatchepsut, Akhnaten, Rameses II. Nice touches like the inclusion of correspondence bewteen Egyptians and foreign leaders and discussion about the life of commoners helps round things out. All in all, visually interesting, great fun, and lots of good info make this a great documentary. Highly recommended, but those drawn to Egypt by the pyramids or, say, Cleopatra should look into other DVDs.And I should point out to a previous reviewer that "corn" doesn't just refer to the yellow vegetable we all know and love... the word has long been used to refer to any generic food crop, similar to the word "grain.""
A chronicle of the first political and economic superpower
Charles Ashbacher | Marion, Iowa United States(firstname.lastname@example.org) | 03/08/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"The wealth and power that the Egyptian Empire wielded under the mighty pharaohs is still impressive after three thousand years. The structures that the Egyptians built to honor their leaders and Gods are remarkable feats of engineering achievement. I have seen some of the artwork from that era in museums and they still exude the power of the civilization that created them. Fortunately for us all, many of the events that went into the building and maintenance of the Empire were written down in permanent form and from this tape, we can see how the empire was built, maintained and eventually collapsed.
Like all true empires down through history, the Egyptian Empire was created by conquest. However, what made it an ancestor of the modern superpower was that it was maintained by a combination of force, economics and diplomacy. Messages were exchanged between the pharaohs and the rulers of the neighboring states, and many of them have been preserved. When examined, they reveal a form of diplomatic correspondence quite similar to the forging of modern alliances. With their control of the Nubian gold mines, the Egyptians were able to maintain alliances by shipping gold to their allies.
However, as always seems to be the case, the fall of the Egyptian Empire seems to have been largely due to internal political difficulties. The tales of some of these rulers strike notes of modernity with their actions. Ramesses the Great seems to have been the first ruler to use mass media techniques to forge public opinion into a light favorable to him. Along with the images of him dealing death to his enemies, there are pictures of Ramesses and his Queen playing with their children. In attempts to expand and maintain their political base, the pharaohs altered the worship structure and even built a brand new city for the imperial capital. That city was eventually abandoned in place when a new ruler came to power.
As the narrators repeat many times, the Egyptian Empire was very much a modern state. Giant public works, extensive records of commerce and civil problems, a lengthy diplomatic history, the first recorded strike conducted by workers and even gossip and scandal are found in the records. In the last years of the empire, the workers who were constructing the tombs went long periods without payment and they recorded their frustration on the stone walls of their city. Those records can still be read and they reveal messages that could be plucked from modern newspapers. Men sleeping with the wives of other men, graft and corruption and frustration over low wages are all topics described on the walls.
The empire built by the pharaohs was the first true political and economic superpower to exist in human history. It lasted for nearly five centuries and yet it fell apart rather quickly. It took only a few decades for the records to go from a description of wealth and plenty to one of deprivation and near starvation. In order to survive, the tomb builders became grave robbers, plundering the tombs for the treasures buried with the occupants. What is most telling about these stories is that they are not followed by stories of governmental retribution. This lack of punishment is the strongest indicator of how weak the central government had become.
This tape is a fascinating account of the history of what probably was the most powerful empire before the Christian era and certainly the first modern political state. If you have any interest in ancient Egypt, then you should watch this tape. Some of the "acting" is rather poor, but that is incidental compared to the quality of the history."
Heather Lowe | Corning NY | 02/22/2005
(4 out of 5 stars)
"In preparation for my upcoming trip to Egypt, I rented thirteen different films about ancient and modern Egypt. This particular entry, from PBS, was my favorite. It was informative, well-produced, and did a great job of covering the sweep of New Kingdom history.
Of all the videos and DVDs I watched, this was the highest quality, and probably the only one I would want to purchase for my own collection."