Up to one million gladiators are thought to have died in arenas across the Roman Empire. Seventy-five were recently found in a single cemetery in York. Two thousand years ago, York was a Roman stronghold, a staging ground for the push against the Scots. Apart from ancient Italy, Roman Britain had the highest density of gladiatorial arenas in Europe. As part of a routine building inspection in the outskirts of York, archaeologists discover an ancient Roman burial site. It soon became apparent the find was anything but routine. Of total 80, 75 of the skeletons were men, a much higher majority than would be expected in a family grave site. The height, build and signs of musculature made the men much bigger than that of the average Roman man. A closer inspection of the bones also revealed a number of cut marks and fractures, evidence the men were no strangers to violence. Most disturbing of all most of the men had been brutally decapitated. Could the men be gladiators?
Deciphering the meaning of strange symbols in Egyptian art gives insight into ancient knowledge of sacred cosmology. A new way of interpreting hieroglyphics is presented, indicating that the ancients had sophisticated understanding of physics, biology and celestial mechanics. The team goes on an expedition into the open desert in search of a remote site of extreme antiquity called nabta playa. Here, Neolithic stone circles were found marking the motion of the same stars as were tracked in pharonic civilization. The possible connection is discussed.
Actor Clive Standon travels across Europe with Viking experts to discover how the Vikings were able to invade England and France. In Rise of the Pagans,Vikings actors Clive Standen and Maude Hirst travel to Scandinavia to explore the pagan beliefs and warrior culture of the Vikings-and dispel myths about their violent society.
Presenter Bettany Hughes explores the day in 49BC when, defying the Senate, Julius Caesar and his army crossed the river Rubicon, plunging the Republic into civil war. With the aid of the most recent archaeological finds and theories, she examines Caesar's character, his dealings with Crassus, Pompey the Great and Cicero, and how his quest for absolute power effectively sounded the death knell for the Roman Republic and paved the way for dictatorial rule.
Rageh Omaar explains how the collapse of this Islamic super-power following the first World War left problems that still exist in Europe and the Middle East today. From its capital in Istanbul the Ottoman Empire matched the glories of Ancient Rome. Yet its achievements have been largely lost in the trauma of its last few years. Brutality, massacres and the carve-up of former Ottoman lands created a legacy of tension and conflict that continue to this day. The heartland of the former empire - modern day Turkey - turned its back on its Islamic, Ottoman past. It underwent a social revolution led by military commander and secular visionary Mustafa Kemal-Ataturk. So why is Ottomanism back on the political agenda? And why are many politicians in the West hoping that Turkey can provide a role model as a modern, Islamic democracy?