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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

Born in the Purple

   2016    History
This stylish mix of documentary and historical epic chronicles the reign of Commodus, the emperor whose rule marked the beginning of Rome's fall. In the first episode, the death of Marcus Aurelius brings a century of Roman triumphs and victories to an end, transferring power to his spoiled, unprepared son Commodus. When his father bequeaths him the world's mightiest empire, he is forced to spill the blood of both friends and enemies alike to keep his crown.
Series: Roman Empire: Reign of Blood

The Making of an Emperor

   2016    History
In the second episode of the series, the Germanic tribes strike as Marcus Aurelius succumbs to disease, leaving a skeptical Emperor Commodus to prosecute a war that doesn't interest him.
Series: Roman Empire: Reign of Blood

Enemy of the Senate

   2016    History
In the third episode of the series, Commodus rises to power as Rome's new emperor, but not everyone supports his ascent. Among those conspiring against him: his older sister Lucilla.
Series: Roman Empire: Reign of Blood

Rome is Burning

   2016    History
In the fourth episode of the series, Commodus defeats his sister's coup but withdraws from governing, allowing others to amass power while he engages in an affair and banishes his wife.
Series: Roman Empire: Reign of Blood

Fight for Glory

   2016    History
In the fifth episode of the series, lavish imperial games at the Colosseum are highlighted by the emperor's bloody victories, but his paranoid abuses of power lead to a final betrayal.
Series: Roman Empire: Reign of Blood
How Earth Made Us

How Earth Made Us

2010  Science
Prehistoric America

Prehistoric America

2003  Nature
Secrets of the Dead

Secrets of the Dead

2017  History
Leaving Neverland

Leaving Neverland

2019  Culture
Generation Iron

Generation Iron

2018  History