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The Ancient Worlds with Bettany Hughes: #3/7 – The Minoans

14/02/2021

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The Ancient Worlds with Bettany Hughes

Historian Bettany Hughes gives her personal take on the diverse cultures of the ancient world in this 2010 documentary series on Channel 4. The series begins with an examination of Alexandria, the city founded by Alexander the Great in 332 BC to become the world’s first global centre of culture. The programme explores Alexandria’s role as a powerhouse of science and learning, and focuses on the female mathematician, astronomer and philosopher Hypatia, the subject of the feature film Agora, starring Rachel Weisz.

The series also offers a chance to catch Hughes’s previous ancient history titles, including the 2004 documentary The Minoans, and the 2005 film Helen of Troy, in which Hughes explores the true story of the woman whose face “launched a thousand ships”. Other programmes in the series are Engineering Ancient Egypt, the three-part documentary The Spartans (which inspired the Hollywood movie 300), Athens: The Truth about Democracy, and When the Moors Ruled in Europe, Hughes’s survey of Islamic rule in Spain and Portugal.

Bettany Hughes studied History at Oxford and is currently a research fellow at King’s College London. She has produced a series of critically acclaimed history documentaries for Channel 4 and PBS in America, and her 2005 book Helen of Troy was voted a book of the year by the Independent on Sunday. She makes regular appearances on radio and contributed the film The Daughters of Eve, about the female characters of The Bible.

The Minoans

In this fascinating feature-length documentary historian Bettany Hughes continues her history of the Ancient World with a visit to Crete to recount one of the greatest archaeological discoveries ever made. The story of the Minotaur and the Labyrinth is perhaps the most compelling of all Greek myths. Just over 100 years ago, English archaeologist Arthur Evans went to the ‘Minotaur’s Island’ to explore the roots of this myth and discovered instead a sophisticated Bronze Age civilisation that had been lost to history for thousands of years. He called them The Minoans, and the riches of their culture astonished the world, prompting Evans to proclaim them the first civilisation of the Western World. But was this view unduly romantic? In the past decade, new archaeological discoveries have added fascinating layers of complexity to the picture originally painted by Evans.

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