This documentary tells the story of the birth or the Empire of Byzantium, focusing on
the reigns of the emperors Constantine I and Justinian I. John Romer poetically tells
this story, which unfortunately goes widely unknown. This, the first volume of the
four part documentary, gives a survey of the history of the art, architecture, and
culture of the eastern Mediterranean history from the fourth to seventh centuries.
John Romer is very skilled at both bringing the past to life and showing interesting
connections between the past and the present. Romer's narration is quite dramatic
and he effectively uses music and scenery to tell his story. Most of the documentary
is made on site at the very locations of the Byzantine and Roman Empire that concern
this history. He visits the desert ruins of Palmyra and the old church of Qalat Saman
(Syria), snowy Trier (Germany), a museum in Rome and churches in Ravenna (Italy),
and marble quarries in the Island of Marmara and walls, churches, mosques, cisterns
and old ruins of Istanbul (Turkey).
This film does an excellent job at illustrating how Byzantium was Rome and replaced
Rome but in a softer, more pensive, Christian and Greek form. It does an excellent
job showing what the city of Byzantium would have looked like as Constantine had it
transformed into his New Rome. It also shows something of the mind of the Emperor
Justinian as he decided to build the great domed church of Haghia Sophia in the heart
of the city.
If you are interested in Late Roman or Byzantine history or you are interested in
traveling in the above-mentioned regions, this film is for you.