April 22, 2018

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Nero’s Sunken City | SLJ DVD Review

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redstarNero’s Sunken City. (Secrets of the Dead). 55 min. PBS. 2017. $24.99. ISBN 9781531701758.

Gr 9 Up –This episode examines the archaeological remains of Baiae, an ancient Roman city in the Bay of Naples. One half of the ruins are now underwater, as the land has shifted over time owing to seismic forces. This city is the site of ruins of palaces of the Roman Empire’s elites in the first through third centuries AD. Emperor Claudius (10 BC–54 AD) had an imperial villa, and Emperor Nero (37–68 AD) spent considerable time enjoying the baths and luxury. The archaeological site is three times the size of Pompeii, and it includes beautifully preserved mosaics, statues, and frescoes, many of which are submerged. The program explores how archaeologists, historians, and volcanologists work together to understand the site. Through three-dimensional computer reconstructions, the achievements of Roman engineering are in full view, such as advanced fish farming techniques, domed bath houses, and the gargantuan Piscina Mirabilis water cisterns. Viewers also gain insight into everyday life, as the film displays kitchen wares, oil lamps, and other domestic necessities. Educators should be aware that there is discussion of Nero’s opulent and debauched lifestyle, including references to alcohol, prostitutes, and matricide. The documentary considers imperial excess without sensationalizing it. VERDICT A great choice for high school history, anthropology, geography, and Latin classes.–Jeffrey Meyer, Mount Pleasant Public Library, IA

This review was published in the School Library Journal July 2017 issue.

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