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Empires - Egypt's Golden Empire

SBS/Roadshow Entertainment . R4 . COLOR . 165 mins . E . PAL


Waaaaaay back in high school, like most kids, there were subjects that I hated, those that bored me rigid and a few that I actually looked forward to. I'll admit to being a bit of a geek in that I actually liked maths, while the other one I loved was history. And the history of ancient Egypt had me from day one.

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Oh, yes, I know this one...they're the, umm...oh, damn.

Ancient Egypt seemed so fascinating and so unreal, like we were studying another planet or, at the very best, some Hollywood-created fantasy land ruled by Pharaohs, who built magnificent temples, pyramids and the Sphinx. And they wore such groovy loincloths and had trendy haircuts! The fact that the average life-expectancy was about 35 didn't dampen my love for everything remotely Egyptian. If time travel is ever a reality (yes, I know that it isn't because if it was then our descendents would have already traveled back to see us and blah, blah, blah. Just let me have my dream, okay?), then you can bet money that it's ancient Egypt for me, anywhere between 1500 and 1200BC ought to do it. That was Egypt's Golden Empire and forms the basis of this three-episode series of Empires from SBS.

The three instalments cover the rules of such notable Pharaohs as Ahmos, Hatshpesut (the first female 'king'), Thutmosis III, Amenhotep III, Akhenaton, Tutankhamen and Ramses II (the greatest Pharaoh of them all). It also looks at the most influential women of the time, mostly Pharaoh’s wives, with names such as Nefertari and the beautiful Nefertiti showcased. There is some nice footage included of Nefertari’s tomb, which is rather pleasing as the tomb is in a pristine state, is viewed by only 100 tourists in a day at ten minutes each, and photography is not allowed. Having been fortunate enough to actually see the tomb, there is no way a camera can capture the sheer magnificence of the tomb, it is a unique look and brought back a flood of memories.

Of course there is no empire without people, and the ancient Egyptians were some of the noblest and smartest in history. The Egyptian Empire covered most of the region and included Nubia, the source of most of Egypt's gold and subsequent financial strength, across the Sinai and into Libya, Turkey and Syria. While many of the Pharaohs strengthened Egypt by war and sheer determination, others resorted to more economic and diplomatic means.

This series covers all aspects of the Egyptian Empire as it was, and includes some glorious footage of many of the temples, the life-giving Nile and such sacred places as the Valley of the Kings. It is peppered with interviews with local and international Egyptologists, and examines Egypt's changing social structure, the architectural achievements, the religious upheavals and all the juicy, theorised regicides, double-dealing, back-stabbing, corruption and spin-doctoring that still happens in many countries today. There is no doubting that the Ancient Egyptians were excellent fighters, architects and craftsmen, but many who knew better were prone to self-glorification and narcissism that would put even today's leaders to shame.

The location footage combined with re-enactments paints a wonderfully intriguing picture of an empire that had it all, and lost most of it relatively quickly. However, while it was good, it was very good, and so many of today's leaders and rulers look to social models as constructed by the ancient Egyptians. This is more than a history lesson, and something that we will never see the likes of again.


As with more and more television productions of late, this DVD comes to us in an aspect ratio of 1.78:1 and is 16:9 enhanced. It is of good clarity and sharpness, and colouring is mostly very good, with a heavy use of earthy colours to highlight the vast, dry, hot landscapes of Egypt. There is some grain associated with the recreation footage to ‘age’ it I guess, but generally it is of good quality with few problems. Shadow detail is mostly good, but there is some noise in some of the darker scenes. Still, when you consider that most of Egypt’s tombs and burial chambers had little in the way of decent lighting it isn't really an issue.

Aliasing and shimmer are present in acceptable doses and there are few, if any, glitches or artefacts. The layer change is placed in the middle of episode two and is not too clunky.


Although the audio is Dolby Digital stereo, it comes across rather well. The interview footage and narration is loud and clear, there are no problems with synchronisation, volume is good and there is a genuinely warm fidelity. Where the audio shines is in the music, and the drum-heavy soundtrack that accompanies some of the dramatic re-enactments. The drums sound rich and full, while the choral vocals are clear and bright. There is no signal from anything other than the left and right fronts, but this is surprisingly sufficient.


The extras are little more than advertising for other DVDs from the Empires series, and you can view The Empires Series for textual information about them; Queen Victoria's Empire, Napoleon, Peter and Paul, Kingdom of David, Islam, Egypt's Golden Empire, Martin Luther, The Greeks, The Roman Empire and Japan.


Egypt’s economy today is supported mostly by tourism and, with a history as long and as colourful and interesting as this, it’s no wonder. Egypt’s Golden Empire ought to provide enough interest to get down to your travel agent. It is also a great chance for those who have been there to remember what an overwhelming and fascinating country it is.

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      And I quote...
    "Fascinating to most, this is history that everyone can enjoy..."
    - Terry Kemp
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    • Audio Cables:
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