In this ground-breaking film, historian Tom Holland explores how a new religion - Islam - emerged from the seedbed of the ancient world, and asks what we really know for certain about its rise. The result is an extraordinary detective story. Traditionally, Muslims and non-Muslims alike have believed that Islam was born in the full light of history. But a large number of historians now doubt that presumption, and question much of what Muslim tradition has to tell us about the birth of Islam.
Alastair Sooke charts the decline and fall of the Roman Empire through some of its hidden and most magical artistic treasures. He travels to Leptis Magna in Libya, shortly after the overthrow of Gaddafi, and finds one of the best preserved Roman cities in the world and the cradle of later Roman art. Sooke discovers glorious mosaics which have never been filmed before but also finds evidence of shocking neglect of Libya's Roman heritage by the Gaddafi regime. His artistic tour takes him to Egypt and the northern frontiers of the empire where he encounters stunning mummy paintings and exquisite silver and glassware. As Rome careered from one crisis to another, official art became more hard boiled and militaristic and an obscure cult called Christianity rose up to seize the mantle of Western art for centuries to come.
The Roman army turns its attention to an island of rich resources, powerful tribes and druids, and advanced military equipment - Britain. This episode tells the story of the Celts' last stand against the Roman army - a revolt led by another great leader, the warrior queen Boudicca.
Cleopatra was one of the most famous women who ever lived, yet she remains an enigma as most of her world has long since vanished. Roman sources portray her as a seductress but by examining evidence from all over Egypt a different picture emerges. With drama and CGI we bring back to life some of amazing monuments that made her city of Alexandria great and construct a new 3D image of the woman herself.