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.
In 480BC, the Greek army, led by 300 Spartan warriors, awaited the onslaught of the Persian Empire's war machine. Discover what happened at the bloody Battle of Thermopylae. This spectacular two hour documentary tells the amazing true story of the 300 Spartan warriors who so selflessly defended their country against the mighty Persian army, estimated at being a million strong for almost 7 days. This is the real story of the most famous last stand in history. At the height of the Persian-Greek war, Xerxes, King of Persia, intent on conquering all of Greece, led his mighty army into battle. But what awaited them was not to be anticipated. For seven days the King of Sparta Leonidas accompanied by just 300 Spartan warriors and a number of Greek regulars held off the Persian army at the pass of Thermopylae, so that the Greek army would have time to mobilise. Against impossible odds, the Spartans held the narrow pass, inflicting shocking casualty numbers on the Persians untill every last Spartan was slain. This program is visually stunning with breathtaking dramatisations and graphics helping to bring the true story of the Spartans last stand to life and tell the real story behind what happened at the pass at Thermopylae, which is still used in military academies and by tactitians around the world today. Spartans never retreated. That's a fact. Or is it? But, putting aside the myths and legends surrounding the 300 Spartans, this documentary, which involves the most accurate, real-life ancient battle scenes ever filmed, takes a detailed look at The Battle of Thermopylae in 480 BC, leading to the last stand of the 300 Spartans, other Greeks and the Great Spartan King, Leonidas. The legend passed down is that Leonidas went to Thermopylae with a picked band of 300 Spartans to defend the narrow pass with units from other Greek cities. Then on the 3rd day of the battle, when he found out he was being surrounded, he sent most of his troops away and covered their retreat with a last stand because, again, Spartans never retreated. Had this heroic stand by the 300 Spartans never occurred, Western Civilization would not have flourished as we know it today.
2007 • History
Deep in the Bolivian Andes at the height of 13,000ft stands Tiwanaku, the awe-inspiring ruins of a monolithic temple city. Built by a civilisation who dominated a vast swathe of South America, it was abandoned 1,000 years ago. For centuries it has been a mystery - how did a civilisation flourish at such an altitude and why did it vanish? Jago Cooper journeys through Bolivia's spectacular landscape to investigate the origins of Tiwanaku and finds evidence of an ancient people with amazing understanding of their environment, whose religion was based on collective effort and ritual beer drinking.
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?
2010 • History
In this episode, Ella Al-Shamahi explores the fate of the Neanderthals - asking why they became extinct, and discovering how they live on inside of us today. The programme starts in the caves of Gibraltar, which may have been the last place the Neanderthals survived. Discoveries here have shown the Neanderthals lived a good life - feasting on seafood and wild game. These were a people who were supremely well adapted to their environment. But about 40,000 years ago they disappeared. Why? One of the reasons might have been that they lost out in a physical showdown with modern humans. Ella investigates one of the world's oldest murder mysteries.