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.
Henry Louis Gates, Jr. uncovers the complex trade networks and advanced educational institutions that transformed early north and West Africa from deserted lands into the continent’s wealthiest kingdoms and learning epicentres. In Part 4 Gates explores the power of Africa’s greatest ancient cities, including Kilwa, Great Zimbabwe and Benin City, whose wealth, art and industrious successes attracted new European interest and interaction along the continent’s east and west coasts.
In this first episode, the unlikely roots of the Ottomans are revealed. From nomadic horsemen, in a rural backwater of modern day Turkey, they became rulers of a vast empire spanning three continents. At an incredible speed they came to rule over Baghdad and Cairo in the south, where they controlled the holiest sites of Islam - Mecca, Medina and Jerusalem, and they reached deep into Europe.
The battle between the French and English for the French territory of New France hinges on the presence of the British navy. And the Battle on the Plains of Abraham is tipped to Great Britain by the solidly trained soldiers of the British army. This changed the landscape of North America.
In the 17th century, a long period of civil war in France and war across Europe, rebellious members of the French Parliament, dubbed The Fronde, defy the monarchy and this defiance does not end well for them...and changes the history of France.
Bettany Hughes explores the day in 80AD when the Colosseum opened its gates for the first time. For new emperor Titus, the spectacular games and events were an opportunity to win over the people and secure his place on the imperial throne, but why did the Romans - cultured and civilised in so many ways - enjoy witnessing such brutality and bloodletting? Bettany travels across the Roman world in a bid to find answers.