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Empires - The Greeks: Crucible of Civilisation

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


The Empires series as seen on SBS is now available on DVD, and this series focuses on one of the more intellectual empires, that of The Greeks – Crucibles of Civilisation. Whereas the Egyptians left us some innovative and mesmerising architectural legacies and the Romans were incredible innovators and engineers, the Greeks were responsible for leaving us with the foundations of our modern models of democracy, philosophy, art and, of course, the Olympic Games.

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The fleet decided to do a runner under the cover of darkness.

The Greek empire existed from roughly 500BC to 300BC and again is attributable to a handful of influential and inspirational men who were gifted with vision and strength. Unlike the Romans and the Egyptians, the leaders were not proclaimed Emperors or Kings, and were merely men of power and influence.

Like most empires, this one (The Athenians) was borne of a need to grow strong to protect itself from its untrustworthy neighbours such as the Corinthians and the warlike and aggressive Spartans. Although all were essentially Greek, they were not united at this time, and wars between them were common. The biggest threat, however, came from the Persians to the east, who were the powerful empire in that part of the world. A growing Athens was perceived by the Persians as a threat, and they attacked first. Although outnumbering the Athenians in terms of infantry, they were severely outgunned (so to speak) when it came to ships and, with some clever manoeuvring, the Athenians saw the Persians off, winning the initial push on the water with their stronger and more advanced ships.

The Persians were not to be put off so easily, however, and although life in Athens was good and peace persisted for many years, there was the ever-present threat of the Persians returning, which is what they did. Amassing even more troops and ships, the Persians attacked once more and, with no help from their neighbouring Spartans, the Athenians succumbed.

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A lovely evening for a river cruise.

However, much had changed in Athens. Individual leaders had been largely replaced by a democracy, arts and culture had flourished and, of course, there were great public spectacles such as the Games. There were numerous and glorious temples and other ornate buildings and structures that were built throughout Athens and the surrounding regions, many of which still stand and draw countless tourists every year.

Like the previous Empires releases, this is a combination of location footage and re-enactments, using historical writings and documented evidence, and is narrated by a Hollywood star, in this case Liam Neeson. It is chronological, informative and interesting.


Akin to a clean and shiny looking television program, which this is, there are essentially no flaws in the vision. The image is letterboxed at 1.78:1, but is not 16:9 enhanced. Colours are bold and glorious, giving the whole thing a postcard look. It is also a crisp looking image with good clarity and sharpness. There is some very minor evidence of edge enhancement that barely registers.

Black levels also look good and shadow detail is fine. There is a layer change in Episode Two that is reasonably well placed.


Although the only audio track on offer is a Dolby Digital stereo mix, it scrubs up well. There are no issues with volume and Liam Neeson’s voice booms through nicely. There is no real dialogue as such, but the soundtrack and various sound effects sound great, with warm, deep low sounds, and clear and bright treble sounds.

There is little in the way of separation, save for the music. The surround channels and subwoofer are non-existent of course, but given that narration is the focus, they are not missed.


Apart from a few plugs for The Empire Series that can be found as extras on the other Empires DVD releases, there are no extras on offer.


Amateur historians or those who enjoy a well put together doco should enjoy this look at Greece’s glorious empire that still influences us more than two thousand years later. The three episodes run for almost three hours combined, and look good on the shelf when snuggled up with the other Empires releases.

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      And I quote...
    "Another in the Empire series. This time it’s the forefathers (and foremothers I guess) of democracy…"
    - Terry Kemp
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