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.
In this episode, evidence that the Ancient Egyptians used high level technology to construct pyramids and temples is shown. Scientists discuss the source of this power and its application in the ancient world. Our science is just beginning to grasp what the ancients clearly understood.
The final programme in the series looks at Romania, where Nicolae and Elena Ceausescu ran a personal dictatorship for nearly a quarter of a century. Abortion and contraception were banned as their rule reached far into the private lives of every Romanian. When communism collapsed and the regime was overthrown, the self-styled 'mother and father of the nation' were executed by a firing squad on December 25 1989.
For the first time, we are able to show full details of the excavation of a hidden tunnel, sealed and forgotten for 1,800 years, beneath a pyramid in Teotihuacan, Mexico. The ongoing excavation is producing a flood of discoveries that are not only shedding fresh light on the religious and intellectual life of the people who lived here, but also radically changing the way we think civilization began.
2014 • History
In the final part of the series Bettany Hughes recalls the time that marked Rome's symbolic break with its 1,000-year pagan past - the day in 337AD that Emperor Constantine the Great was baptised a Christian. It was a moment of profound significance not just for the empire, but for the history of the world and one of its major religions. Constantine was one of the last great Roman emperors to rule over a united empire, giving it a new capital - Constantinople, today known as Istanbul - a city which would one day eclipse Rome as the greatest city on Earth.