ALEXANDER THE GREAT : EPISODE 1: Alexander the Great:
This first episode examines the legend and legacy of Macedonian King, unrivalled military genius and conqueror of the ancient world Alexander the Great (356-323 BC).
The passion, brilliance and excess with which Alexander lived reflected his hard warrior upbringing; and education at the hands of Aristotle; and his firm conviction, encouraged by his strong-willed mother, that he was born of the gods.
After forging friendships for life at a young age most importantly with the boy who would become his second-in-command and future love; and after the death of his father, Alexander seized the throne, killing all who stood in the way of his regal birth-right, including his baby step-brother.
He then intimidated the Greek world into submission by destroying Thebes an act of deliberate terror, according to Professor Brian Bosworth, and set about satisfying his lust for power and thirst for knowledge by conquering the 200-year-old enemy of Persia.
He savagely repressed all opposition, yet often showed generosity to those who acknowledged his authority, and was welcomed as a liberator in Egypt. But despite believing in his own invincibility and divinity, he was unable to convince his loyal and battle-worn armies to follow him beyond Afghanistan and Pakistan into India.
The death of his lover and friend prompted a drinking binge which killed him at the age of 33.
HANNIBAL : EPISODE 2: Hannibal
The second programme in this new history series examines the military genius of risk-taking Carthaginian general Hannibal Barca (247 182BC).
The ancient city state of Carthage (modern-day Tunisia) dominated north Africa and the Mediterranean for 600 years, during which time the first Punic Wars were waged against the Romans a bitter and bloody 100-year campaign. The son of a general, Hannibal was raised in the midst of this turmoil, and soon learnt to embrace his nations loathing of Italy.
He led the Carthaginian armies during the second Punic Wars and began his phenomenally successful 16-year campaign in enemy territory by capturing the Spanish city of Sangunto a strong ally of Rome.
Then followed the legendary trek across the Alps, in which Hannibal exploited the Romans complacency to lead 40,000 mercenaries and 37 elephants in a daring 15 day winter crossing of the colossal range. Thousands of men died, but such was Hannibals charisma, presence and strength that his loyal troops would follow him anywhere.
Despite the Romans best efforts, an outnumbered Hannibal outsmarted his enemy in battle numerous times, before finally losing to a worthy adversary in Roman general Scipio at Zama in 202 BC. Though his highly successful battle strategies are still studied the world over, Hannibal was eventually cornered by his lifelong enemy at the age of 6 5. He committed suicide rather than face the humiliation of capture.
JULIUS CAESAR : EPISODE 3: Julius Caesar
This episode examines the career of Julius Caesar, the most famous Roman leader of all. He conquered more land than any other Roman; turned a Republic into an Empire; and had a celebrated love affair with the Egyptian empress Cleopatra but was unable to prevent his own assassination.
Born into a prominent family, Julius Caesar prepared himself for power at an early age. He fled Rome to escape the attentions of the dictator Sullus, but turned this to his advantage: a successful military campaign in Asia Minor gave him the reputation as a great soldier that every Roman politician needed.
The vastly ambitious Caesar borrowed huge sums to bribe himself into the plum job of High Priest, before being appointed Governor of Spain. Next, a nine-year campaign saw his troops conquer Gaul (now modern France), the greatest military achievement of any Roman leader. With his reputation secure, he returned to a strife-filled Rome determined to seize power.
After defeating his old colleague Pompey, Caesar turned his attentions to rival power Egypt where a diplomatic visit took an unexpected turn, as he met and fell in love with its all-powerful leader Cleopatra. He fathered her child, and even took her back to Rome with him.
But Caesars overwhelming ambition was his undoing. After being elected dictator-for-life, and amassing vast powers, he was stabbed to death by conspirators in the Senate. Like most Roman leaders, Caesars life was ended in its prime, but, as he put it, I have lived long enoughin years and glory.
HORATIO NELSON :EPISODE 4: Nelson
The subject of this episode is Horatio Nelson, whose naval career began at the age of 12 and ended with one of the greatest military victories in history. Like so many of historys big names, Nelsons achievements have become shrouded in legend, and in this programme experts Mark Grove and Peter Warwick extract the man from the myth to reveal what set him apart.
Born in 1758 in Norfolk, Nelson had always lived by the sea, and was desperate to join the Navy from a young age. When his sea-officer uncle was given a new ship, Nelson begged to be part of the crew, and was made midshipman at the tender age of 12.
His progress thereafter was prodigious, and he rose to the rank of captain by the time he was 20.
But he really made his name during the French Revolution, when Britain, refusing to recognise the new French republic, was at war with France and its ally Spain. Among the French revolutionaries Nelson was fighting was the 24 year-old artillery officer Napoleon Bonaparte. This marked the start of a historical conflict between the two military leaders that would last for 12 years and the costs would be high: Nelson lost the sight in his right eye, and later also one of his arms.
This programme follows Nelsons colourful personal life as well as his naval career to create a vibrant picture of this complex man, whose immortalisation was guaranteed when he died during his greatest hour at the Battle of Trafalgar, and who was, according to Peter Warwick a ruthless, determined fighter, but also a very human man.
NAPOLEON BONAPARTE : EPISODE 5: Napoleon
This episode profiles Napoleon Bonaparte, the French military genius who rose to power during the Revolution and declared himself Emperor and whose vision of a united Europe may yet triumph over the scepticism of the British who finally ended his career at Waterloo.
Napoleon was born in Corsica and educated at the Royal Military Academy, where his hunger for learning and sympathy for the ideals of the Revolution set him aside from his fellow cadets.
With the old order destroyed, Napoleon prospered under the wing of the feared Robespierre. When his political master was executed, he narrowly avoided the same fate before meeting the love of his life, the aristocratic Josephine.
Napoleon married in 1796, then set off on the military campaign that would make his name. After defeating the Austrians, this talented but potentially troublesome soldier was sent to Egypt, where he brought back valuable loot and returned in triumph whereupon, with the help of his brother, he entered Congress and seized power in a bloodless coup.
Then followed Napoleons glory years, as he crowned himself Emperor in 1804 and his armies conquered much of Europe. However, the disastrous march on Moscow brought his removal from power and exile to the island of Elba.
Typically, Napoleon escaped and seized power once more, before his troops lost to the British at Waterloo in 18 15. His second exile, in remote St Helena, proved his last, and he died there in 18 21.
GEORGE WASHINGTON : EPISODE 6: George Washington
This programme profiles the reluctant revolutionary who defeated a superpower and founded the most powerful nation in the world. George Washington was a conservative landowner who helped transform a bunch of quarrelsome states into a cohesive nation and drafted the American Constitution.
Washington was born, in 1732, into a family of wealthy Virginia plantation owners, at a time when America was a British colony. After receiving a good education at home, he b a successful surveyor, mapping the uncharted Wild West, before being enlisted into the Virginia militia at 21.
The young Washington showed his bravery and strategic brilliance as he led several successful British expeditions against French invaders. However, despite his growing reputation, this ambitious young man returned to his estate in protest at being denied a commission by the British.
Washington then married Martha and spent some time as a successful farmer. However, his prosperous Virginia gentlemans existence was interrupted by the call of duty when heavy British taxation inspired the colonists to unite and revolt.
Washingtons troops began the eight-year War of Independence as a ragtag bunch of conscripts, but ultimately triumphed. Having already supervised the drafting of the Declaration of Independence, Washington was reluctantly appointed President for two four-year terms. By the time he died, aged 67, in 1799, he had helped found a great nation, and provided the constitutional framework that still governs the US to this day.
ABRAHAM LINCOLN : EPISODE 7: Abraham Lincoln
The final documentary in this series of historical profiles looks at Americas greatest president, Abraham Lincoln, whose political crusade was to lead to the abolition of slavery in the US.
Tall, gangly and from a poor Kentucky farming background, Lincoln was in some ways an unlikely candidate for president. But the ambition, ferocious intellect and common touch of this self-educated visionary secured his rise to prominence.
The agricultural life was anathema to Lincoln, who turned his back on farming to embrace new experiences in the post-industrial revolution era; he moved to the city, qualified as a lawyer and developed a passion for politics, and for the notion of fairness.
Dogged by recurring depression following the death of his first wife, Lincoln nevertheless pursued his new life enthusiastically and successfully. A charismatic speaker, he became a congressman, and, eventually, in 1860, was elected president.
But his well-known hatred of slavery panicked the slave states into withdrawing from the Union and forming the Confederacy. Five years of bloody conflict followed, in which Union general Ulysses S Grant ultimately led the north to victory.
Tragically, Lincoln was assassinated after the war by bitter confederate sympathiser and actor John Wilkes Booth, but, by then, he had already shaped the commitment to human freedom which would define the nations vision for the 20th century.
THE GREAT HEROES (SET OF 7 DVD s)
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