What History Wants You To Know About Its ‘Colosseum’ Documentary Series

History's 'Colosseum'
History’s ‘Colosseum’ (Image credit: History Channel)

History will explore the history of the Roman Empire through one of its most iconic centerpieces, the Colosseum. 

Through expert interviews and live-action reenactments, the eight-part Colosseum documentary series, which debuts July 17, looks to capture the rise and fall of the Roman Empire through one of the most brutal arenas in the history of humanity, according to the network. Each episode focuses on a key character from the Colosseum and the Roman Empire as the series chronologically examines the arena’s opening day to its very last games, said History.

“It's a very fresh, very vivid series that brings the ancient world to life in a very modern way,” History senior VP of development and Programming Mary Donahue said.

In an edited Multichannel News interview with Donahue, here’s what she and History want you to know about Colosseum documentary series.

Colosseum mixes expert analysis with live-action scenes: “Like all of our premium mega docs, Colosseum is a blend of interviews with experts who know this content with amazing recreations that bring the characters to life. We also feature archival elements — statues, maps and shots of Rome landscapes — to help tell the stories. I think this is a really unique approach to view the rise and fall of Rome through the Colosseum, and a very inventive and unique way to approach what could feel tried and true.”

The series unveils little-known facts about the Roman Empire: “What we're doing is using the Colosseum from its conception to almost the end of its use to tell the story of the rise and fall of the Roman Empire. Each episode features a different character who was involved with the Colosseum, including the man who was really important in building the Colosseum, as well as women fighters who fought in the Colosseum, which I didn’t know about. There's a lot of depth to the characters in the series — much more than the movie Gladiator. In the series we learn how they trained and what they ate. They were called barley men because they had a diet of barley, which gave them a layer of fat so that if they were pierced by a sword, they had a better chance to live. Also, gladiators didn't all fight to the death. We learn about the armor that they wore and who supported each gladiator, as well as who went to the Coliseum and where they sat.”

The series looks to tap into the continuing viewer fascination surrounding the Roman Empire: “Rome’s vast expanse, the countries it conquered, and the heroes that were part of the empire are endlessly fascinating. The characters within it are larger than life, whether you talk about Julius Caesar before our series, or you talk about the many people that we've examined in our series like [Roman Emperors] Marcus Aurelius and Commodus. Then there’s the Colosseum, which is such an iconic building and so many Americans have been to Rome to see it. It becomes just a really interesting and easy way to tell the story of the rise and fall of the Roman Empire.” ■

R. Thomas Umstead

R. Thomas Umstead serves as senior content producer, programming for Multichannel News, Broadcasting + Cable and Next TV. During his more than 30-year career as a print and online journalist, Umstead has written articles on a variety of subjects ranging from TV technology, marketing and sports production to content distribution and development. He has provided expert commentary on television issues and trends for such TV, print, radio and streaming outlets as Fox News, CNBC, the Today show, USA Today, The New York Times and National Public Radio. Umstead has also filmed, produced and edited more than 100 original video interviews, profiles and news reports featuring key cable television executives as well as entertainers and celebrity personalities.