Documentary of the Day: Seven Wonders of Ancient Rome (2004)

As always, not sure how long this one will stay up:

Seven Wonders of Ancient Rome (IMDB)

This documentary is not bad/pretty good and looks at the Circus Maximus, Trajan’s Forum and Market, Aqueducts, the Baths of Caracalla, Roman Roads, the Pantheon, and the Colosseum. When it is just talking about the buildings and their construction, it is very good, but in obvious places it tends towards sensationalism and seems obsessed with the idea that assorted emperors were doing these things to mend tarnished reputations with the people. There is an obsession, it seems, with ‘impressive statistics’, the sources of which are unclear to me. It also is kind of ‘blurry’ chronologically at times.

Despite that, there is a good list of talking heads:

My random notes as I watched:

Circus Maximus

– focus on Trajan and the spina (“the broken back of Rome’s enemies”)

– “newly discovered miracle building material” (!)

– assorted events

– 50 died every year (source?)

– charioteer celebrities, e.g. Scorpus, colours, and betting

Trajan’s Forum and Market … first the Forum

– Apollodorus the architect

– funded by the Dacian campaign

… then the Market

– construction methods (brick, rubble, concrete)

– corn dole on the 5th floor (source?)

Aquaducts

– 900 million litres of water to Rome a day

– Vitruvius, Frontinus

– 416 km network; purification tanks

– all about the arch and how it was made

Baths of Caracalla

– built to reverse a failing image

– soundbite from the psychiatrist declaring Caracalla a “genuine psychopath”

– a big list of statistics; not sure where they’re from

– strange shots of Pompeii frescoes under water when talking about mosaics in the baths

–  the hypocaust system

– what folks did there

Roads

– Appian Way

– 288,000 km network, eventually

– claim that 1/2 a km a day was being built at one time

– “core of Roman communication system” (but not explained)

– how road was built

Pantheon

– built by Hadrian (no mention of Agrippa!)

– Hadrian’s architectural obsession (including his villa)

– repeated mention that we don’t really know the Pantheon’s function

– five types of cement

– Hadrian and Apollodorus didn’t get along (executed)

Colosseum

– “the most infamous building in the world”

– Vespasian had to win back public support after Nero (?)

– usual stuff about building, seating, the awning

– V dies before completion; Titus’ opening games (usual)

– usual gladiatorial stuff; claim that 700,000 died there

Some good potential excerpts on Roman construction techniques, but not one which you’d probably show in its entirety to a class ..

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