‘SOTD: Nero’s Sunken City’ Is A Splash Hit

Courtesy: Public Media Distribution/PBS

Early last month, Public Media Distribution released a new episode of its hit history-based series Secrets of the Dead that examines what is one of the world’s great lost cities in Secrets of the Dead: Nero’s Sunken City.  Now, it isn’t Atlantis.  This city is one that actually did exist.  It is the lost city of Baiae, a city that has been considered by many to be the Las Vegas of the ancient world. What happened in Baiae stayed in Baiae, as is noted in the program.  This nearly hour-long is a program that will appeal to students and lovers of archaeology and anthropology.  That is due in no small part to the story at the program’s heart.  The re-enactments used to help tell the story are just as important to note as the story itself in examining this program’s overall presentation.  The program’s pacing round out its most important elements.  Each element is important in its own right to the program’s presentation, as will be pointed out.  All things considered, they make Secrets of the Dead: Nero’s Sunken City a program that history buffs in general will appreciate just as much as those who have an interest in archaeology and anthropology.

Secrets of the Dead: Nero’s Sunken City is a program that will appeal to history buffs in general as well as students and lovers of archaeology and anthropology.  That is due in part to the story at the program’s heart.  The story follows researchers as they examine the infamous city’s history and how roughly half of the city ended up beneath the waves. The city’s history includes the story of one of the world’s most nefarious rulers, Nero.  As the story reveals, it was at Baiae that Nero allegedly killed not only his aunt but his own mother, too just so that he could take their villas, which were located in Baiae.  It was also in Baiae that other Roman politicians came to take part in rather decadent and sometimes taboo activities.  Many of the political schemes that rocked Rome were also planned at Baiae.  The story of those activities, plans and of Nero’s own heinous actions is collectively eye-opening to say the very least.  The story of how the city nearly vanished thanks to volcanic activity (and how that same activity is in fact slowly bringing the city closer to the water’s surface) is in itself interesting.  As if all of that is not enough, viewers also learn of the seafood dishes that were once created at Baiae through the story.  Those same dishes are still made by residents of the region today. Keeping all of this in mind, it becomes clear why the story at the center of SOTD: Nero’s Sunken City is so pivotal to the program’s overall presentation.  When people think of sunken cities, minds automatically go to Atlantis, not Baiae.  That being the case, this story takes viewers to a real sunken city; one whose story is just as interesting as that of the fabled Atlantis if not more so.  The story at the center of this episode of SOTD is only one of the elements that makes the program stand out.  The re-enactments that are used to help tell the story are important in their own, collective, way to the program’s presentation.

The story at the center of SOTD: Nero’s Sunken City is in itself plenty of reason for audiences to watch this program.  The story will appeal not only to history buffs in general but to students and lovers of archaeology, anthropology and even geology.  It is the story of a sunken city that is nowhere near as talked about as that of the fabled city of Atlantis, which may or may not even exist.  Baiae does exist.  That makes this story even more interesting.  The story here is only one part of what makes this program so interesting.  The re-enactments that are used to help tell Baiae’s story are collectively just as important to discuss as the program’s central story.  The re-enactments are so important to note because of their minimal usage.  Audiences do get to see a man portraying Nero as the discussions turn to him.  But the extent of what audiences get is basically that of the actor walking around.  Even as the story turns to the discussions of Nero’s heinous alleged acts of murder, audiences will be glad to know that there is no unnecessary gory re-enactment.  Those behind the program’s production are to be commended for the common sense of not going there.  Other networks clearly would have no problem going that route.  So it is good to see that those behind this engaging PBS program opted to take the high road.  Between that and the balance of the re-enactments to the live action footage, audiences get in the program’s visual experience an element that sits atop the foundation formed by the program’s story, strengthening it even more.  While the re-enactments (or the general lack thereof) serve to enhance the program’s presentation even more, they are not the last of its most important elements.  The program’s pacing rounds out its most important elements.

The story at the center of SOTD: Nero’s Sunken City and the minimally used re-enactments used to help tell that story are both key to the program’s overall presentation.  While each element is important in its own right to the program’ presentation–as has been pointed out–the two are not the program’s only key elements.  The program’s pacing rounds out its most important elements.  From start to finish, the program’s pacing never moves too fast or slow.  Each segment gets its own share of time, and the information shared in each segment never gets so in-depth that everyday audiences will feel lost.  That being the case, audiences will find themselves feeling like the program progresses with ease, not even being moved to check their watches (or cell phones) for the time.  That is a testament to the manner in which the program was assembled.  It makes the program’s pacing feel wholly natural, in turn ensuring even more audiences’ maintained engagement.  When this is taken into consideration with the program’s story and the re-enactments used to tell the story (alongside the live action footage), the whole of these three elements makes SOTD: Nero’s Sunken City another enjoyable edition of Secrets of the Dead.

Secrets of the Dead: Nero’s Sunken City is yet another example of what makes Secrets of the Dead one of the best history-based series on television today.  It also is more proof of the importance of public broadcasting to the world.  It offers an original story that will educate and surprise audiences at the same time. The balance of the program’s re-enactments and live action material adds even more interest to the program.  The program’s pacing puts the final touch to the program.  Each element is important in its own right to the program’s whole.  All things considered, they make this episode of Secrets of the Dead more proof of why it is not *ahem* secret why Secrets of the Dead is one of the best history-based programs on television today.  It is available now and can be ordered online direct via PBS’ online store.  More information on this and other episodes of Secrets of the Dead is available online now at:

 

 

 

Website: http://www.pbs.org/wnet/secrets

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/SecretsofTheDead

Twitter: http://twitter.com/SecretsPBS

 

 

 

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Ancient Rome Box Set An Amazing Look At An Amazing City

 

Courtesy:  History Channel/A&E Entertainment

Courtesy: History Channel/A&E Entertainment

Rome wasn’t built in a day.  Who hasn’t heard or even spoken that old adage at one point or another in their life?  It’s true; Rome wasn’t built in a day.  As a matter of fact, it took Rome ages to become the city and the world power that it was in the ancient world.  Now, a new box set from History Channel is taking viewers deeper into the history of Rome than before.  Ancient Rome Anthology is comprised of six discs each in their own slipcase encased in a larger box.  Each disc takes viewers on a journey into specific aspects of Rome that made it one of the most important cities in the world then and even today.

The first pair of the discs in the Ancient Rome Anthology features some of the most important battles in the history of the Roman Empire.  They are taken from History Channel’s special, Decisive Battles.  The first of those decisive battles was the slave revolt led by Spartacus.  Unlike in so many of History Channel’s specials, this one actually opted for something other than live actors to re-enact the scenes being discussed.  Rather, it uses video game style animation to outline how the various battles happened.  This is an excellent method, despite what some might want to believe.  It makes for an excellent visual aid, especially when used in the classroom.  In an age when video games dominate young minds, this will easily get the attention of younger audiences.  In the process, maybe that initial interest will even lead to a growing interest since the topic being discussed is major battles.

From the major battles, the Ancient Rome Anthology moves into a discussion of the most important leaders in Rome’s history.  Of those most important were Julius Caesar and the infamous Constantine.  Both men are featured in the third disc of the set along with the equally infamous Caligula.  All three rulers are featured as part of History Channel’s special, Rome: The Rise and Fall of an Empire.  This special is more in line with History Channel’s other specials in that the lives of the three featured rulers are portrayed by actual live actors.  Yet again, this is a good tool in that for older audiences, it can hold the attention of older audiences.  The actors help to illustrate what is being discussed in each ruler’s segment.  Even more interesting that even in standard definition presentation, the visuals come across in stark clarity.  This is especially the case with the set’s next presentation.      

After going through three of Rome’s most influential (and infamous) rulers, audiences are taken through the engineering feats that helped to make Rome such an incredible city.  Along with the city’s engineering feats, the feature continues its discussion on Rome’s rulers in connection.  It discusses how Julius Caesar, Claudius, and others influenced the great structures of Rome.  One of the most important of those was the aqueducts, which were crafted by Claudius.  Yet again, the visual aids in this segment play a bigger role than some would think in its success.  In discussing the aqueducts, History Channel uses a mix of computer graphics and blueprint style visuals to illustrate how the aqueducts were built.  Even Nero himself is featured in this portion of the set.  He is featured for his construction of his lavish estate on the backs and money of the Romans.  As impressive as the estate would have been, it was the execution of its construction that leads to his inclusion in this segment.  The final product was astoundingly beautiful.  But by contrast, his own view of himself is what led to its construction, and eventually his downfall.  That in itself makes for quite the discussion.  The discussion of Rome’s engineering greatness doesn’t end with Nero.  It goes into far more depth for those who are truly interested in everything that put Rome so far ahead of its time.

The fifth disc of the Ancient Rome Anthology finishes out what had been started with the set’s fourth disc.  It explains how Rome’s roads were built, along with some of its greatest monuments.  This is how much there is to discuss in terms of Rome’s architectural greatness.  The entire set is closed out with what is best described as a bonus disc in its sixth disc.  The set’s final disc offers bonus segments featuring the long hidden catacombs of Rome, and a pair of other features of one of the world’s greatest cities.  There is so much here and in the rest of the set that it more than makes a perfect gift idea for any history buff or for teacher looking for the perfect teaching tool, regardless of whether it is used in public school or college.  It is a wonderful tool for either level.  And it is available now.  It can be ordered online now at History Channel’s online store, http://shop.history.com.

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