It seems an odd thing to crow about given the cultural wealth of Edo, at the time the largest city in the world, but this pride in the city's water system wasn't misplaced. Cool, pure water carried by pipes to the city's remotest corners was indeed a byword for the quality of life in Edo as well as being the lifeblood of the city's prosperity.
Alastair Sooke follows in the footsteps of Rome's mad, bad and dangerous emperors in the second part of his celebration of Roman art. He dons a wetsuit to explore the underwater remains of the Emperor Claudius's pleasure palace and ventures into the cave where Tiberius held wild parties. He finds their taste in art chimes perfectly with their obsession with sex and violence. The other side of the coin was the bombastic art the Romans are best remembered for - monumental arches and columns that boast about their conquests. Trajan's Column in Rome reads like the storyboard of a modern-day propaganda film. Sooke concludes with the remarkable legacy of the Emperor Hadrian. He gave the world the magnificent Pantheon in Rome - the eternal image of his lover Antinous, the most beautiful boy in the history of art - and a villa in Tivoli where he created one of the most ambitious art collections ever created.
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.
Waldemar looks at how Christianity emerged into the Roman Empire as an artistic force in the third and fourth centuries. But with no description of Jesus in the Bible, how were Christians to represent their God? He explores how Christian artists drew on images of ancient gods for inspiration and developed new forms of architecture to contain their art.
Neil Oliver reveals the truth behind the legend of the Vikings. (Part 3.) Neil explores how the Viking Age finally ended, tracing the Norse voyages of discovery, the first Danish kings, and the Christian conversions that opened the door to European high society. He also uncovers the truth about England's King Canute - he was not an arrogant leader who thought he could hold back the waves, but the Viking ruler of an entire empire of the north and an early adopter of European standardisation.