Simon uncovers the city's ancient Greek roots, maps its transformation into the imperial capital of a Christian Empire by Emperor Constantine the Great and reveals how ecclesiastical clashes forced Eastern and Western Churches apart.
Simon explores modern Istanbul in search of the last desperate centuries of Christian Byzantium, in which the once glorious city was buffeted by enemies in both East and West, and yet still produced a golden artistic renaissance. This is story of the Christian crusaders who destroyed the city, and the Ottoman Muslims who restored it to life as an imperial capital after the epic siege of 1453.
2013 • History
Simon discovers surprises in Istanbul as it rose to become the imperial capital and Islam's most powerful city. Visiting the great mosques and palaces built by the Ottoman emperors, he tells the stories behind them - of royal concubines, murderous bodyguards and sultans both the powerful and the depraved. He shows how the Christians, Muslims and Jews of the city once co-existed before the waves of nationalist rebellions brought the Ottoman empire to its knees. In the 20th century the ancient capital was once more transformed by the new secular vision of Ataturk.
2013 • History
After Caesar, Antony and Octavian divided the empire for a time. But there could only be one successor to Caesar. Ten years later, the supreme strategist Octavian waged a critical naval battle, the Battle of Actium, against his former ally, Antony, who now had the backing of Cleopatra.
Many people believe the Hiroshima atomic bomb instantly incinerated nearly everyone in the Japanese city. That was true at ground zero, but not everywhere. Hiroshima government officials have been tirelessly collecting records on those killed to find out how they died. Using this "big data", NHK created a visualization of the movements of the 557,000 victims of the 6th August 1945 attack. Some did indeed perish instantly. Others burned to death in collapsed buildings. But what about the people who died in a strange "donut zone of death" days after the bombing and in areas more than 2 kilometers from ground zero? This documentary goes beyond big data to provide heart-rending accounts from people close to victims and survivors, revealing the true story of what happened on that dark day more than 70 years ago.
2017 • History
Alastair unpicks the reasons behind the dazzling revolution that gave birth to classical Greek art, asking how the Greeks got so good so quickly. He travels to the beautiful Valley of the Temples in Agrigento, and to the island of Mozia to see the astonishing charioteer found there in 1979, and marvels at the athletic bodies of the warriors dragged from the seabed - the Riace Bronzes. It was a creative explosion that covered architecture, sculpting in marble, casting in bronze, even painting on vases. Perhaps the most powerful factor was also its greatest legacy - a fascination with the naked human body.
From lowly Corsican Army officer to first consul of France, this episode charts the rise of Napoleon Bonaparte to leader of the French nation in the late 1790s. It tells of Napoleon's military triumphs in Italy, Eqypt and against anti-revolutionaries on the streets of Paris, his marriage to Josephine Beauharnais and leadership of the military coup of 1799 that swept him into power.