Ancients Behaving Badly
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They employed a brutality which is staggering by today's standards. A fresh look at some of the world's most fascinating, iconic, and truly ruthless leaders, the new series ANCIENTS BEHAVING BADLY cuts through the folklore to present an accurate portrait of characters from Alexander the Great Ghenghis Khan, Caligula to Cleopatra.
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This is a modern scientific look at iconic killers: Alexander the Great, Atilla the Hun, Julius Caesar, Caligula, Cleopatra, Hannibal, Genghis Khan, Nero. Using the latest archeological evidence and historical documents, forensic science tests, analysis of battle weapons and tactics each mythological killer is profiled and placed on a scale from pathological killer to goal-driven dictator. As a student of ancient history I found this set fascinating. Interviews by archeologist and historians present an analysis of nature vs. nurture, e.g. what snake did Cleopatra use to take her life? Was Caligula crazy? Did Nero fiddle while Rome burned? Did Julius Ceasar deserve to die at the hands of his friends? How and why did Ghengis Khan expand the Mongol Empire? Was Alexander great? These and other questions are answered using modern techniques to revisit the past.
My only critcism is the male-biased point of view of Cleopatra. I wrote a paper on her in University and from a female point of view she was a Queen marrying to expand and secure her kingdom. Also the men are described as using sex to dominate women and through them their husbands --that was okay. When Cleopatra used sex to secure an alliance that was not okay. Most of the historians are male.
Ancients Behaving Badly
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8 Episodes on 2 Discs (2010)
"Ancients Behaving Badly" are documentary-style episodes from the History Channel about eight of the most brutal and feared leaders of the ancient world: Caligula, Attila the Hun, Julius Caesar, Alexander the Great, Cleopatra, Hannibal, Genghis Khan, and Nero. They cover the latest historical finds to support or disprove claims made about each of these leaders and the treatment of their subjects, their battlefield strategy, and how they achieved and maintained their power. Interviews are taken with experts and are combined with on-location footage and some illustrated CGI reenactments.
There is a scale used to judge the bad behavior at the end of each episode comparing a range of Psychopathic Killer to Goal-Driven Character. It also dictates how they rate with Narcissistic Personality Disorder to get terrifying historical personalities. Certain acts indicate a logical approach and keen insight and other acts apparently diagnose a psychosis. The experts interviewed are historians and also occasionally scientists or other experts. They work to figure out what things like what type of poison Nero may have used on his stepbrother and if it was possible for Nero to rig a canopy to fall on his mother to crush her while she sailed on her boat.
The historians like to compare the "ancients" to more modern historic figures like Hitler, Mussolini, etc. One historian calls Caligula "Freddy Krueger in a toga." Attila the Hun "makes Hannibal Lector look like Mother Teresa."
It is a very interesting and eye-opening show that takes rumors and stories you may vaguely remember for a textbook and get to the bottom of them in all their naughty glory. For example, a rumor about the appearance of Attila's Huns was proven by finding deformed skulls made from wrapping children's heads with bandages tightly at a young age to make them protrude more like a conehead than a regular human skull. Attila is said to have fed his barbarians raw uncooked meat warmed on horseback so some men test this and find out it is not indigestible due to the tenderizing that takes place in the constant motion of horseback riding.
After an intense debate about whether or not Julius Caesar had an STD and if so, what kind, the experts eventually diagnose him with Chlamydia. Some of these ancient figures' histories were kept hidden for years in the public interest of trying to forget about them, just to be resurrected by later leaders to make themselves look better by comparison. One thing is for sure, there was no shortage of drama or limit to the deceit these ancients could engage in.
Like the recently reviewed "Hoarders" season on A&E, for some reason, this DVD set does not have a "Play All" function on the front menu. When you select an ancient, say Julius Caesar, it takes you to a scene selection list with a "Play All" function as if you wouldn't want to automatically see the episode. A minor complaint but an annoying one!
If you're a history buff and like to get all the dirty gossip, this series is for you. It goes beyond textbook and is pretty interesting. I'll admit, the first episode made me fall asleep, but all the rest stood up to the caffeine test so if you're dying to know more about Alexander the Great, Attila the Hun, Julius Caesar, Caligula, Cleopatra, Hannibal, Genghis Khan, or Nero, check it out.
Bonus Features: None
The following is a 2 disc DVD that will cover:
1. Alexander The Great
2. Atila the Hun
3. Julius Caesar
7. Genghis Khan
Each episode corresponds to each of these leaders. You will get a small biography, with their beginnings, as well as important moments for them. They will talk about how they ruled the world, and what they did to reach that status; most of them did it at any price, even if it meant getting rid of their own blood.
The team that works on this documentary traveled to each location when studying each leader. One of the greatest things is how they challenge what is described in books corresponding to the time of each leader. For example when it is known to us by sources that such leader destroyed walls in such a matter, today, with their technology they put it to the test to see if such comment was true or fictional. This is awesome! You will be surprised.
I honestly don't know how some people could rate this documentary so low; I have seen so many of them and, in general, I would have to say that almost always these documentaries do not dissapoint.
I hope you do give it a try and see for yourself... you don't know what you're missing. Believe it!