Monday, March 12, 2007

History Channel Dark Ages -- Open Thread

I haven't had a chance to watch much of the History Channel's Dark Ages series -- though all week people have been talking to me about it. I saw only about a half hour of one episode. From the reactions I've been hearing, people seem to find them entertaining, but I've heard two people complain that the shows have a military focus, without much cultural information.

So, here's an open thread for those of you who have actually seen it to sound off. How was it?


  1. Anonymous6:24 PM

    While the program was interesting, I was repeatedly irritated by such overblown and/or simplistic statements as:

    "For most people, life in these times would be nasty, brutish, and for the luckiest among them...short."


    "The sunsets and sunrises of civilization are inevitably separated by intervals of isolating darkness."

    Also, the show's writers engaged in one of my major pet peeves by holding up the Roman Empire as a paragon of order, civility and general well-being, in order to contrast it with the horrible barbarism that was the Dark Ages. Ugh. My guess is that for the average Roman citizen life was just as brutish and nasty if not more so than it was for an agrarian farmer living in a tribal situation somewhere up in Gaul.

  2. The "Barbarians II: Saxons" program did place a heavy emphasis on the Romano-British and at one point decided to talk about 'King Arthur' for far too long. Despite brief references to Alfred's non-military contributions, nothing remotely literary or artistic was mentioned for most of the show, not even Beowulf which I thought would have been obvious. Even a long section on Edwin's conversion failed to bring up Bede.

    I reviewed further aspects of the program a few days ago, but, generally, it was just the same shots of a bunch of hairy blond guys running around with swords.

  3. Stan,

    A reading of the Golden Ass would tend to back you up. Of course it was a "romance." Do Chretien de Troyes stories prove that most of 12th c France was full of forests inhabited by nameless but gently-born damsels? Still, Apuleis' Roman Empire looks like a pretty rough place.