Smithsonian Channel™ Revisits Defining Moments That Made an Empire in "Eight Days That Made Rome"

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04 January 2019
Eight Days that Made Rome
Photo: October Films
"Eight Days That Made Rome"
Premieres Monday, January 7 at 8 PM ET/PT on Smithsonian Channel
Special Sneak Peek Sunday, January 6 at 9 PM ET/PT
on Smithsonian Channel
          Presented by award-winning historian, author and broadcaster Bettany Hughes – Oxford University scholar and one of the BBC’s 100 Global Women, Eight Days That Made Rome explores the eight key days that defined the great Roman Empire. To tell the story of Rome, Hughes travels across the region once held by the empire, delving into its rich history and uncovering brand new archeological evidence to bring ancient Rome back to life. The eight-part landmark series offers a fresh perspective on the building of arguably the most powerful empire of all time – examining how it came to dominate the ancient world and helping us to understand its astonishing success.
Eight Days That Made Rome
Photo: October Films
          The season premiere, Hannibal’s Last Stand, explores Rome’s defeat of the mighty Carthage at the Battle of Zama. The legendary 202 BC battle was a divisive moment for the Roman Empire and the wider ancient world – it marked the end of Carthage’s hold over the western Mediterranean and the downfall of the great army led by Carthaginian general Hannibal. Hughes visits a newly discovered battlefield in Spain that offers chilling evidence of Rome’s military ferocity under the leadership of Scipio and is able to examine recovered ballista bolts and hobnails from the ancient site – clear proof of a Roman war on Spanish soil. 
Subsequent episodes of Eight Days That Made Rome are:
 Eight Days That Made Rome
Photo: October Films
Premieres Monday, January 7 at 8 PM
Hughes looks at the day in 73 BC that gave birth to a legend – the day Spartacus, a Thracian gladiator, broke out of gladiator school and started the most terrifying slave revolt in Roman history. This episode offers a unique window into the horrifying realities of slavery in ancient Rome, examines the context for Spartacus’ revolt and shows how his exploits soon attracted a mass following, from slaves and free men alike. Hughes walks in Spartacus’ footsteps in southern Italy to better understand his great uprising against Rome and how his bitter fight to the end ensured his name would live on for centuries to come.
Eight Days That Made Rome
Photo: October Films
Premieres Monday, January 14 at 8 PM
In 49 BC, Julius Caesar led his army across the River Rubicon, ignoring the orders of the Roman Senate and effectively declaring war on his rivals in Rome. Hughes revisits this iconic moment and analyzes the character of Caesar, arguably the most famous character to come from ancient Rome. New theories about Caesar's health shed light on his decision-making, while gruesome finds recently dredged from a Dutch river reveal the true genocidal horror of his conquest of Gaul. Caesar's quest for total power was ended by his gory assassination, and while his killers claimed to be acting to preserve the Republic from tyranny, the result was only more civil war, paving the way for the triumph of dictatorship in the empire.
Eight Days That Made Rome
Photo: October Films
Premieres Monday, January 21 at 8 PM
Hughes retells the story of Rome’s first emperor – Octavian – and his dramatic and bloody rise to power by looking at the day in 32 BC when he stole the secret will of his most dangerous political rival, Marc Antony. Hughes shows how the theft of Antony's will was a move of cunning, brilliant subterfuge that paved Octavian’s path to power. When he revealed its shocking contents to the people of Rome – including evidence of Antony's devotion to the Egyptian Queen, Cleopatra – it fatally undermined Antony’s popularity, giving Octavian the crucial support of Rome's senate and people in the civil war that followed.
Eight Days that Made Rome
Photo: October Films
Premieres Monday, January 28 at 8 PM
Around 60 AD, just a few years after the Roman conquest of Britannia, Roman troops marched into a settlement in what is now East Anglia and proceeded to humiliate the local tribe, the Iceni, and their queen, Boudica. The disgraced queen would lead a revolt that came perilously close to ending the Roman occupation of Britain. Hughes looks at new archaeological finds that testify to the viciousness of Boudica’s retribution – evidence of the complete destruction of Colchester and London, where the queen took both Roman invaders and British collaborators as victims for her revenge.
Eight Days that Made Rome
Photo: October Films
Premieres Monday, February 4 at 8 PM
On June 9, 68 AD, Nero, Emperor of Rome, took his own life as troops came to arrest him for crimes against the state. Nero’s was the most notorious reign in Rome's history and the last of the Julio-Claudian dynasty. Using evidence from across the Roman world, Hughes reveals how Nero’s early reign was dominated by one of the most remarkable Roman women – his mother, Agrippina. Brand new conservation work at the Domus Aurea, Nero's Golden House, allows us to appreciate the emperor’s extravagance like never before, while clues from Nero's image on coins has led to a radical new theory that his mood was being constantly undermined by a serious illness.

Premieres Monday, February 11 at 8 PM
Hughes relives opening day at Rome’s Colosseum in 80 AD – the first day of the inaugural games held by Emperor Titus. With the empire near the height of its power, it was a celebration of the completion of the lavish arena, a giant new landmark for the world’s greatest city where the people could revel in bloodthirsty entertainments. But why did Romans love to see so much blood? Hughes tackles this question head on, traveling across the Roman world to discover how the ritualized violence of the games played a crucial role in affirming the Romans' sense of who they were and what they had achieved.

Premieres Monday, February 18 at 8 PM
Hughes looks at the day which marked Rome’s symbolic break with its thousand-year pagan past – the moment in 337 AD when Emperor Constantine the Great was baptized as a Christian. Hughes travels to both the old and the “New Rome,” as Constantinople was known, to study the complex and contradictory life of this brilliant emperor. Hughes shows how many of Constantine’s greatest monuments combine Christian and pagan imagery – almost certainly reflecting the emperor’s own religious outlook. She also gets to explore recently discovered traces of Constantine’s original palace at his new capital, its entrance now hidden below the shops and cafés of modern Istanbul.

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