Episode Rome – One of the most powerful civilizations in history, the Roman Empire roled the world for more than five centuries. Although renowned for its military prowess, Rome s real power stemmed from its unprecedented mastery of urban planning and engineering.
Episode Egypt – Twenty-five hundred years before the reign of Julius Caesar, the ancient Egyptians were deftly harnessing the power of engineering on an unprecedented scale. Egyptian temples, fortresses, pyramids and palaces forever redefined the limits of architectural possibility. They also served as a warning to all of Egypt’s enemies – that the world’s most advanced civilization could accomplish anything. This two-hour special uses cinematic recreations and cutting-edge CGI to profile the greatest engineering achievements of ancient Egypt, and the pharaohs and architects who were behind them. Includes Djoser’s Step Pyramid at Saqqara, Senusret’s Nubian Superfortresses, Hatshepsut’s Mortuary Temple at Dier el-Bahari, Akhenaten’s city at Amarna, and the temples of Ramesses the Great at Abu Simbel.
Episode Greece – The cradle of Western civilization sustained remarkable technological advancement for over 1,000 years. Visit the glory days of the classical era, the very foundation of modern society as we know it, in this uniquely insightful and exhaustive examination of the technology of Ancient Greece. Examine the architecture and infrastructure engineered by the Greek Empire: from The Tunnel of Samos: a mile-long aqueduct dug through a large mountain of solid limestone, to Agamemnon’s Tomb, to The Parthenon. This follow-up to the critically acclaimed Rome episode turns the same analytical lens on the society that was itself the inspiration for Roman accomplishment.
Episode Greece Age of Alexander: Macedon – After a century of tremendous accomplishment, Greece’s territorial ambitions were stymied by constant warfare – until Alexander ventured abroad and initiated the Hellenistic era. At the time of Alexander the Great’s death, his empire stretched from Egypt to India, and Hellenistic principles spanned the globe. From architecture to government, from philosophy to athletics, the influence of the Classical Greeks is still felt to this day. The Ancient Greeks strategically harnessed the materials and people around them to create the most advanced technological feats the world had ever seen. Follow the great conqueror’s sweep across continents and discover the engineering marvels that enabled the creation of the world’s first superpower.
Episode Aztecs – The Aztecs became one of the greatest civilizations in history through brilliant military campaigns and technological mastery of their harsh environment. From the pre-Columbian jungles of Central America arose a great civilization. Destroyed by the conquistadores, their ruins and artifacts give testament to their lost glory. In two short centuries the Aztec’s transformed themselves from a band of wandering nomads to a great, urbanized empire stretched from the Gulf of Mexico to the Pacific Ocean. They built their capital, now Mexico City, where no city should have been possible: in the middle of a lake. The Aztec also practiced human sacrifice on an unprecedented scale and made many enemies. By the time the Spaniards landed they had no trouble recruiting tribal allies to destroy the Aztecs. Examine the architecture and infrastructure behind the New World’s greatest, and last, indigenous society.
Episode Carthage – An insightful examination of the wonders of a remarkable city-state that briefly eclipsed the Roman Empire. On the coast of modern day Tunisia flourished the great port city of Carthage: the magnificent capital of a superpower that rivaled Ancient Rome. In fact, when the Romans engineered their own empire, they were only following the lead of the Carthaginians, whom they defeated in the Punic Wars. From the city’s grand harbor to the rise of one of history’s greatest generals, Hannibal Barca, this episode examines the architecture and infrastructure that enabled the rise and fall of the Carthaginian Empire.
Episode Russia – Building an empire spanning more than half the globe requires ruthlessness, diplomacy and brilliant engineering, not necessarily in that order. At its peak, the Russian Empire occupied one-sixth of the Earth’s landmass. A fascinating look at the architecture and infrastructure that not only characterized (think of the minarets near Red Square), but enabled (millions of miles of roadways), the globe-spanning Russian Empire. At the height of its power the Russian Empire stretched across 15 times zones, incorporating nearly 160 different ethnicities. Building the infrastructure of this empire came at an enormous price. As Russia entered the 20th century, her expansion reached critical mass as her rulers pushed progress at an unsustainable pace and her population reacted in a revolution that changed history. From the Moscow Kremlin, to the building of St. Petersburg, this episode examines the architecture and infrastructure that enabled the rise and fall of the Russian Empire.
Episode Britain Blood and Steel – Through the centuries, the British Empire used extraordinary engineering technology to become an industrial and military titan, giving rise to such inventions as the first locomotive. The sun never set on the greatest empire of the 19th century. From the Punjab to the Outback, England’s colonial expansion reached every corner of the Earth. In the Golden Age of Empire Building, when a few technologically advanced and aggressive Western nations feuded over the spoils of the Earth, England established itself as the 800-pound gorilla. At its pinnacle, the British Empire spanned every continent and covered one quarter of the Earth’s land mass. Through the centuries, the rulers of this enormous powerhouse used extraordinary engineering feats to become an industrial and military titan, loaded with riches. This episode looks at the key leaders of the British Empire and explores the mark each left on society. Their many pioneering accomplishments include the world’s first locomotive, a superhighway of underground sewers, the imposing and grand Westminster Palace, and the most powerful and technically advanced navy in the age of sail.
Episode The Persians – This ancient setting for fairy tales and myth was a real and thriving culture, famed and feared in its time. Uncover the sophisticated, complex culture that ruled the Iranian Plateau for thousands of years. Tracing its origins back 5000 years but really thriving from the sixth century B.C., Persia became an empire under the Cyrus the Great. His Empire was a major force in the ancient world, heavily influencing competing cultures and achieving scholastic and engineering breakthroughs that were the envy of the world. Discover these amazing feats: an innovative system of water management, a cross-continent paved roadway stretching 1500 miles, a canal linking the Nile to the Red Sea, and the creation of one of the Seven Wonders of the World, the Mausoleum of Maussollos. This is a spell binding examination of the ancient culture that continues to profoundly effect our modern world.
Episode China – Century after century, China’s regal emperors mobilized immense peasant armies to accomplish unfathomable feats. The largest nation on Earth, the oldest empire in the world, the greatest construction project in history. China is even more relevant today than it was in its classical age. Other great societies flourished, achieved spectacular heights of engineering, then withered until their majesty is only hinted by ruins and legend. But China has maintained a continuous, albeit tumultuous, sovereignty throughout its history. In that time, and often long before similar advances in the West, the Chinese mastered every area of human expertise. See the world’s longest canal. Learn of the naval fleet that outnumbered every ship in Europe combined. And, of course, no discussion of Chinese engineering is complete without considering the tremendous Great Wall, an emperor’s fantastic dream realized against all odds and reason.
Episode Napoleon: Steel Monster – Centuries after the fall of the Roman Empire, French kings struggled for control against the church and the aristocracy. Chaos and bloody warfare rampaged and France stood on the edge of utter disaster as the French Revolution turned into a period of brutal repression. From the ashes emerged one of the greatest military strategists in history, Napoleon. Throughout his reign, France built brilliantly innovative, widely influential masterpieces that have given the world some of its greatest feats of engineering. Napoleon Bonaparte controlled nearly all of Europe at the dawn of the Industrial Age. An audacious nation rejecting the authority of all external rulers, France has always paved its own way and has left a legacy of magnificent structures. The success of French builders has never been as well examined as in this exacting documentary. Be amazed by the spectacular Notre Dame Cathedral and the sublime Canal du Midi. Then delve into the fascinating historical moment when modernity rose on the tide of Industry, yet it was still conceivable for a single man to rule all of Europe. This was the time of Napoleon Bonaparte, the greatest military strategist in history and the most ambitious builder of his era. From stone to steel, from Notre Dame to the Eiffel Tower, France’s engineering masterpieces come alive in this breathtaking episode.
Episode The Byzantines – As much of the world descended into the dark ages after the fall of Rome, one civilization shone brilliantly: the Byzantine Empire. With ruthless might and supreme ingenuity the Byzantines ruled over vast swaths of Europe and Asia for more than a thousand years. Led by rulers who exercised absolute power and architects who pushed beyond Rome’s engineering marvels, the Byzantines constructed the ancient world’s longest aqueduct, virtually invincible city walls, a massive stadium, and a colossal domed cathedral that defied the laws of nature. The Byzantines invented foreign intelligence with their secret “Bureau of Barbarians.” The astounding achievements of the Byzantines were the very cause of their downfall. Almost from the moment of its final collapse, the Byzantine Empire was derided by historians as ineffectual, corrupt and decadent. Its very name came to mean “needlessly complicated” or “devious”. In fact, the Byzantine Empire thrived for over a thousand years, encompassed nearly the entire Mediterranean Sea and was the only stable sovereignty during the Middle Ages. In the vacuum left by the fall of Rome it preserved the culture and legacy of the Classical Period and effectively shielded Western Europe from invasion from the East. Without Byzantium there would have been no Renaissance. This episode presents the emerging scholarship and revealing archeological discoveries that have restored the reputation of the Byzantine Empire to its rightful place among the great societies of history.
Episode Da Vinci’s World – After the fall of Rome, Italy fell into a dark sleep, and wasn’t reawakened until the 11th century. In the late 15th and 16th centuries, continually shifting alliances among Italy’s city-states against foreign aggression gelled into stable republics. Autonomous city-states emerged and these tiny republics, enriched by trade and mercenary endeavors, began to revitalize their cities and build on a massive level not witnessed since the rise of Rome. More than painted ceilings and enigmatic smiles, the Renaissance was the most revolutionary period of empire-building in history. The masters who are best known for creating the works of art and architecture of the Renaissance, were also the greatest military and civil engineers of the time. The Renaissance was in many respects an arms race, with the battle fought on all fronts: artistic, commercial, military, and diplomatic. The victors boasted the most modern armories, the richest treasuries, and the greatest works of art and architecture. Travel to this magnificent world of competition, prosperity, and patronage. Discover the unique and thrilling environment that spawned the most breathtaking creative accomplishments of man. Relive the turmoil and glory of Da Vinci’s World.
Episode The Maya Death Empire – Peter Weller travels to Central America to explore the achievements of this mighty culture and to get to the bottom of its puzzling decline. In the heart of Central America analyze evidence of the magnificent feats of classical Mayan society. From hydraulics to astrology, architecture to mathematics, road-building to portraiture, the Maya achieved more than any other culture of the New World, and even rivaled the accomplishments of Old World civilizations. Flourishing for two thousand years and dominating, at its heights, 125,000 square miles spanning five modern-day countries, the Maya were the pre-Columbian superpower. By the time Columbus landed, they were a disparate collection of subsistence farmers. Where did they come from and what catastrophes caused the collapse of this innovative civilization? From the Temple-Pyramids at Tikal, to the royal tomb at Palenque, to the star observatory at Chichen Itza, this episode will examine the architecture and infrastructure that enabled the rise and fall of the ancient Maya civilization.