Haunted Flower’s DVD Review of Ancients Behaving Badly

8 Episodes on 2 Discs (2010)

“Ancients Behaving Badly” are documentary-style episodes from the History Channel about eight of the most brutal and feared leaders of the ancient world: Caligula, Attila the Hun, Julius Caesar, Alexander the Great, Cleopatra, Hannibal, Genghis Khan, and Nero. They cover the latest historical finds to support or disprove claims made about each of these leaders and the treatment of their subjects, their battlefield strategy, and how they achieved and maintained their power. Interviews are taken with experts and are combined with on-location footage and some illustrated CGI reenactments.

There is a scale used to judge the bad behavior at the end of each episode comparing a range of Psychopathic Killer to Goal-Driven Character. It also dictates how they rate with Narcissistic Personality Disorder to get terrifying historical personalities. Certain acts indicate a logical approach and keen insight and other acts apparently diagnose a psychosis. The experts interviewed are historians and also occasionally scientists or other experts. They work to figure out what things like what type of poison Nero may have used on his stepbrother and if it was possible for Nero to rig a canopy to fall on his mother to crush her while she sailed on her boat.

The historians like to compare the “ancients” to more modern historic figures like Hitler, Mussolini, etc. One historian calls Caligula “Freddy Krueger in a toga.” Attila the Hun “makes Hannibal Lector look like Mother Teresa.”

It is a very interesting and eye-opening show that takes rumors and stories you may vaguely remember for a textbook and get to the bottom of them in all their naughty glory. For example, a rumor about the appearance of Attila’s Huns was proven by finding deformed skulls made from wrapping children’s heads with bandages tightly at a young age to make them protrude more like a conehead than a regular human skull. Attila is said to have fed his barbarians raw uncooked meat warmed on horseback so some men test this and find out it is not indigestible due to the tenderizing that takes place in the constant motion of horseback riding.

After an intense debate about whether or not Julius Caesar had an STD and if so, what kind, the experts eventually diagnose him with Chlamydia. Some of these ancient figures’ histories were kept hidden for years in the public interest of trying to forget about them, just to be resurrected by later leaders to make themselves look better by comparison. One thing is for sure, there was no shortage of drama or limit to the deceit these ancients could engage in.

Like the recently reviewed “Hoarders” season on A&E, for some reason, this DVD set does not have a “Play All” function on the front menu. When you select an ancient, say Julius Caesar, it takes you to a scene selection list with a “Play All” function as if you wouldn’t want to automatically see the episode. A minor complaint but an annoying one!

If you’re a history buff and like to get all the dirty gossip, this series is for you. It goes beyond textbook and is pretty interesting. I’ll admit, the first episode made me fall asleep, but all the rest stood up to the caffeine test so if you’re dying to know more about Alexander the Great, Attila the Hun, Julius Caesar, Caligula, Cleopatra, Hannibal, Genghis Khan, or Nero, check it out.

Bonus Features: None

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