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Words on a Page

   2020    History
Writing itself is 5,000 years old, and for most of that time words were written by hand using a variety of tools. The Romans were able to run an empire thanks to documents written on papyrus. Scroll books could be made quite cheaply and, as a result, ancient Rome had a thriving written culture. With the fall of the Roman Empire, papyrus became more difficult to obtain. Europeans were forced to turn to a much more expensive surface on which to write: Parchment. Medieval handwritten books could cost as much as a house, they also represent a limitation on literacy and scholarship.
No such limitations were felt in China, where paper had been invented in the second century. Paper was the foundation of Chinese culture and power, and for centuries how to make it was kept secret. When the secret was out, paper mills soon sprang up across central Asia. The result was an intellectual flourishing known as the Islamic Golden Age. Muslim scholars made discoveries in biology, geology, astronomy and mathematics. By contrast, Europe was an intellectual backwater.
That changed with Gutenberg’s development of movable type printing. The letters of the Latin alphabet have very simple block-like shapes, which made it relatively simple to turn them into type pieces. When printers tried to use movable type to print Arabic texts, they found themselves hampered by the cursive nature of Arabic writing. The success of movable type printing in Europe led to a thousand-fold increase in the availability of information, which produced an explosion of ideas that led directly to the European Scientific Revolution and the Industrial Revolution that followed.
Series: The Secret History of Writing

Hannibal March on Rome

   2020    History
Even 2,000 years after his death, General Hannibal's battle strategies are still studied today. But of all his military feats, perhaps his greatest was leading his massive Carthaginian army of men and three-dozen elephants across the Alps and into the heartland of Rome in 218 B.C. Until now, the route they took has been a matter of dispute, but thanks to modern-day technology, geomorphologist Bill Mahaney and microbiologist Chris Allen believe they've accurately traced this ancient journey.

The Robot

   2019    Technology
For most of our history, we humans considered ourselves unique. But now, a new, artificial species might challenge our superiority. Mechanical beings have the potential to change everything. How we got them is a story of astonishing twists and amazing turns to achieve us the machine that may turn out to be the most revolutionary technology ever conceived--the robot.
Learn how robots were first conceptualized in ancient Rome and see how their use has evolved over the centuries, from the calculator to the Mars Lander. Then, take a sneak peek at what future robots will be able to do. Narrated by Patrick Stewart.
Series: Breakthrough: The Ideas That Changed the World

The Science of Sleep: How to Sleep Better

   2019    Medicine
Gaby Roslin and Amir Khan present a program in which they apply the latest science to some of the worst sleepers. They include an extreme snorer, a man who suffers from night terrors, a woman who has restless leg syndrome, and a man with chronic insomnia for 20 years.
The film also shows a sleep deprivation experiment to test for risky behaviour, pain resistance and emotional control. When the subjects reach the final hours of the challenge, the experiment begins to take its toll as the participants' emotions go into overdrive, with one threatening to quit altogether.

The Devil and Father Amorth

   2018    Culture
Years after he changed the landscape of filmmaking with The Exorcist, filmaker and writer William Friedkin moves from fiction to fact with this documentary. What began as a brief conversation between Friedkin and Father Gabrielle Amorth - the head Exorcist for the Diocese of Rome for over 30 years - as two professionals who knew of each other's work, soon transformed into an once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, as Amorth agreed Friedkin could film an exorcism ceremony. It would be the ninth exorcism for a painfully afflicted woman, and it would be filmed by Friedkin alone, with no other crew allowed, no light other than the natural light in the room and a small digital camera-and-mic unit that could capture the ritual and its revelations.
Combining the startling and singular footage from Cristina's exorcism with interviews from priests and psychologists, neurosurgeons and non-believers, Friedkin guides us on a journey into the twilight world between the boundaries of what we know and what we don't.
Senna
Senna

   2010    Culture
Chased by Sea Monsters
Chased by Sea Monsters

   2003    Science
Generation Iron
Generation Iron

   2017    Culture
The Secret History of Writing
The Secret History of Writing

   2020    History
The Crusades
The Crusades

   2012    History
Planet Earth
Planet Earth

   2007    Nature
Inside the Medieval Mind
Inside the Medieval Mind

   2008    History