We visit ancient cities and battlefields, great ruins and wild countryside, all in his search to uncover how the ancient Greeks thought and lived. What he finds is that ancient Greece was a seething tornado of strange, unsettling and downright outrageous customs and beliefs, inhabited by a people who could be as brutal as they were brilliant.
The Romans were brilliant engineers and soldiers, but what isn't as well known is that they also gave us wonderful artistic treasures. In this three-part series, Alastair Sooke argues that the old-fashioned view that the Romans didn't do art is nonsense. He traces how the Romans during the Republic went from being art thieves and copycats to pioneering a new artistic style - warts 'n' all realism. Roman portraits reveal what the great names from history, men like Julius Caesar and Cicero, actually looked like. Modern-day artists demonstrate the ingenious techniques used to create these true to life masterpieces in marble, bronze and paint. We can step back into the Roman world thanks to their invention of the documentary-style marble relief and to a volcano called Vesuvius. Sooke explores the remarkable artistic legacy of Pompeii before showing how Rome's first emperor, Augustus, used the power of art to help forge an empire.
Neil Oliver reveals the truth behind the legend of the Vikings. (Part 2.) Neil Oliver heads out from the Scandinavian homelands to Russia, Turkey and Ireland to trace the beginnings of a vast trading empire that handled Chinese silks as adeptly as Pictish slaves. Neil discovers a world of 'starry-eyed maidens' and Buddhist statues that are a world away from our British experience of axe-wielding warriors, although it turns out that there were quite a few of those as well.
Andrew Marr sets off on an epic journey through 70,000 years of human history. Using dramatic reconstructions, documentary filming around the world and cutting-edge computer graphics, he reveals the decisive moments that shaped the world we live in today, telling stories we thought we knew and others we were never told. (Part 3: The Word and the Sword) Andrew Marr plunges into the spiritual revolutions that shook the world between 300 BC and 700 AD. This was an age that saw the bloody prince Ashoka turn to Buddhism in India, the ill-fated union of Julius Caesar and Egypt's Cleopatra, the unstoppable rise of Christianity across the Roman Empire and the dramatic spread of Islam from Spain to Central Asia. But the most potent human force on the planet came from the combination of faith and military power as both Christianity and Islam created new empires of 'the word and the sword'.
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.
In the dying days of World War II, a secret organisation of Holocaust survivors plans a terrible revenge. Six million Jews are dead but, by 1946, just a handful of Nazis face trial. Most of the guilty will never face justice. For many of Hitler's victims, this is not enough. Based on previously unheard recordings and exclusive interviews with those involved - all of whom are over 90 - this documentary tells the story of a remarkable secret group known as The Avengers, who decide to take matters into their own hands. Assembled by the warrior-poet Abba Kovner, their aim is 'an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth, a life for a life.' Their plan: to murder six million Germans by infiltrating German cities and poisoning the water supply.