If you’re someone who likes some drama in tv series, then you should consider not settling for pure fictional accounts and consider fictional accounts of historical events. History, my friend, can make Game of Thrones seem like a fairy tale. Here are 5 ancient historical tv series that you should watch asap!
This two-season series starts with Julius Caesar returning from his campaign in Gaul (52 BC) and ends with the death of the Roman Republic (30 BC). Yes, almost all of us know Caesar’s story, but what you might not know is colourful Rome was.
What I love about this series is that they depict Rome in all its splendour, not the white marble museum that we’ve been told it was. The series shows how Roman politics worked and even how graffiti was used to meet political objectives. Unlike usual historical series that focuses only on the central characters who made it into the history books, this series has two main characters who are commoners (plebs). This gives us an insight into the non-aristocratic life in Rome.
And while the story is based on historical events, the creators have taken a lot of creative liberty to make the characters entertaining and keep us guessing for what’s going to happen next.
You can watch Rome on Hotstar.
Also Read: Underrated HBO TV Series On Hotstar
Another series from the Roman era, but this one takes place almost 50 years (9 AD) after the events depicted in Rome. It is also told from the perspective of the people opposing the Romans as they are the protagonists of this story. The series focuses on the Battle of the Teutoburg Forest – where Germanic tribes destroyed 3 Roman Legions.
The Roman loss at Teutoburg is considered one of the biggest losses in Roman history. While it did not lead to major long-term upheaval, it is still significant that a ‘barbarian’ chieftain (Arminius) defeated the mighty Romans with his ‘barbarian’ forces. I love that the Romans speak Latin (and the Germanic tribes, German) to show us the language barrier. This also satisfied my curiosity about what spoken Latin would’ve sounded like. It also gives us an insight into the lives of these ‘barbarians’ and what drove them into rebellion.
You can watch Barbarians on Netflix.
This series starts off in the Viking Age (793 AD) with a Viking named Ragnar Lothbrok finding his way to the shores of England (separate kingdoms back then). Over the course of the next 6 seasons, we see him rise to prominence and power. We also see how the people around him are affected by his adventures.
While the story is fictionalised, it is based on real characters and events, and the creators have stayed true to the “Viking way of life”. And so, like Barbarians, we see the story from the side of people who have been usually written off as “uncivilised”. And since it is fictionalised, there is a lot of drama and masala that will keep you hooked for sure.
It also gives us an insight into post-Roman England, the Dark Ages per se; shows you how history is not always a march towards progress, and that we’ve had a few historical bear cycles.
You can watch Vikings on Netflix.
The Last Kingdom
The Last Kingdom starts off almost immediately (historically speaking) after the events depicted in the Vikings. It is a fictional retelling of how Alfred the Great fought off the Danes (Vikings) and paved the way for a united England (Alfred’s grandson was the first king of a united England). The main protagonist of the story though is a character named Uhtred, but his exploits in the show are mostly fictional as the real historical figure, he is said to have been based, on lived during the time of Alfred’s aforementioned grandson.
While the creators of the show take a lot of creative liberties, the show is very much like Game of Thrones. The fact that some of these characters had to go through these events makes you wonder why some people think things were all roses and rainbows in the past.
You can watch The Last Kingdom on Netflix.
Rise of Empires: Ottoman
This series takes us to the eastern front of the Roman Empire. Yes, you heard that right, the Roman Empire. While “popular history” tells us that the Roman Empire fell in the 5th century, that’s just not true. The western side of the Roman Empire shrunk to a great extent, and though it was a pale shadow of its former glory, the Empire did live on in the East. It is this world of the Eastern Roman Empire that Rise of Empires: Ottoman takes us into. The series depicts the fall of Constantinople, and thereby, the end of the Medieval Period.
Rise of Empires: Ottoman is, as you probably would’ve guessed by now, from the Ottoman perspective. I feel our picture of the Ottomans is tainted by events from our recent past and the fact that we’ve been taught Eurocentric history. The series offers a fresh perspective.
This one is more of a docuseries in the sense that it stays quite true to actual events. As a history buff, I absolutely loved watching Mehmed use various siege tactics (including large cannons, which was cutting-edge technology at the time) to break through the ‘unassailable walls’ of Constantinople.
You can watch Rise of Empires: Ottoman on Netflix.
And that was my list of ancient historical tv series that you should check out. Are there others that should be on this list? Mention them in the comments for I’m always on the lookout for good historical tv series!