Empire Builders (300 Bc - Ad 10) [A History Of The World In 100 Objects]

Episodes

EpisodeTitleFirst
Broadcast
RepeatedComments
01Head of Alexander2010051720201130 (R4)Another chance to hear the first programmes in the second part of Neil MacGregor's global history told through objects from the British Museum. This week Neil is exploring the lives and methods of powerful rulers around the world 2000 years ago, asking what enduring qualities are needed for the perfect projection of power.

Contributors include the economist Amartya Sen, the politician Boris Johnson, political commentator Andrew Marr and the writer Ahdaf Soueif.

Neil begins by telling the story of Alexander the Great through a small silver coin, one that was made years after his death but that portrays an idealised image of the great leader as a vigorous young man. Neil then considers how the great Indian ruler Ashoka turned his back on violence and plunder to promote the ethical codes inspired by Buddhism. Neil tells the life story of Ashoka through a remaining fragment of one of his great pillar edicts and considers his legacy in the Indian sub-continent today. The third object in today's omnibus is one of the best known in the British Museum, the Rosetta Stone. Neil takes us to the Egypt of Ptolemy V and describes the astonishing contest that led to the most famous bits of deciphering in history - the cracking of the hieroglyphics on the Rosetta Stone. An exquisite lacquer wine cup takes Neil to Han Dynasty China in the fourth programme and the omnibus concludes with the 2000 year old head of one of the world's most notorious rulers - Caesar Augustus.

Producers: Anthony Denselow and Paul Kobrak.

Neil MacGregor is with the great rulers of the world over 2000 years ago.

Director of the British Museum, Neil MacGregor, retells humanity's history through objects

02Pillar Of Ashoka2010051820201201 (R4)The history of the world as told through objects at the British Museum arrives in India over 2000 years ago. Throughout this week Neil MacGregor is exploring the lives and methods of powerful new leaders.

Today he looks at how the Indian ruler Ashoka turned his back on violence and plunder to promote the ethical codes inspired by Buddhism. He communicated to his vast new nation through a series of edicts written on rocks and pillars. Neil tells the life story of Ashoka through a remaining fragment of one of his great pillar edicts and considers his legacy in the Indian sub-continent today. Amartya Sen and the Bhutanese envoy to Britain, Michael Rutland, describe what happened when Buddhism and the power of the state come together.

Producer: Anthony Denselow

Neil MacGregor on the life and legacy of the great Indian ruler Ashoka

Director of the British Museum, Neil MacGregor, retells humanity's history through objects

03Rosetta Stone2010051920201202 (R4)Today's programme finds Neil MacGregor in the company of one of the best known inhabitants of the British Museum - the Rosetta Stone. Throughout this week he is exploring shifting empires and the rise of legendary rulers around the world over 2000 years ago and here he takes us to the Egypt of Ptolemy V. He tells the story of the Greek kings who ruled in Alexandria. He also explains the struggle between the British and the French over the Middle East and their squabble over the stone. And, of course, he describes the astonishing contest that led to the most famous decipherment in history - the cracking of the hieroglyphics on the Rosetta Stone. Historian Dorothy Thompson and the writer Ahdaf Soueif help untangle the tale.

Producer: Anthony Denselow

Neil MacGregor with one of the past's most recognisable objects; the Rosetta Stone

Director of the British Museum, Neil MacGregor, retells humanity's history through objects

04Chinese Han Lacquer Cup2010052020201203 (R4)In a week of programmes exploring the nature of power and the emergence of new rulers around the world 2000 years ago, Neil MacGregor takes us to Han Dynasty China. He tells the story of how the Chinese maintained loyalty and control by dispensing luxury gifts. He describes the world of the imperial Han through an exquisite lacquer wine cup that was probably given by the emperor to one of his military commanders in North Korea. The historian Roel Sterckx underlines the importance of lacquer for the period while writer Isabel Hilton looks at how the production of goods under state control has remained a consistent interest of the Chinese.

Producer: Anthony Denselow

Neil MacGregor's world history told through objects arrives in Han Dynasty China

Director of the British Museum, Neil MacGregor, retells humanity's history through objects

05Head Of Augustus2010052120201204 (R4)Neil MacGregor concludes the first week of the second part of his global history as told through objects from the British Museum. This week he has been exploring the lives and methods of powerful rulers around the world about 2000 years ago, from Alexander the Great in Egypt to Asoka in India. Today he introduces us to the great Roman emperor Augustus, whose powerful, God-like status is brilliantly enshrined in a larger than life bronze head with striking eyes.
Neil MacGregor describes how Augustus dramatically enlarged the Roman Empire, establishing his image as one of its most familiar objects. The historian Susan Walker and the politician Boris Johnson help explain the power and methodology of Augustus.

Producer: Anthony Denselow

The 2000 year old bronze head of one of the world's most famous rulers - Caesar Augustus

Director of the British Museum, Neil MacGregor, retells humanity's history through objects