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Welcome to the What the Ancients Did For Us guide at TV Tome. Adam Hart-Davis, one of the nation's favourite television presenters, returns to our screens this autumn, with a major new 9-part series, What The Ancients Did For Us. As anchorman for the show, Adam leads us through the history of inventions, while rebuilding and testing some of his favourites in the studio. From the Egyptians to the Romans, the Babylonians to the Arabs, we embark upon an epic history of the world, looking at some of the great legacies left to us by ancient cultures. From the Chinese inventors who came up with the mariner's compass, paper money and gunpowder, to the Ancient Indians who, according to Einstein 'taught us how to count' as well as giving us the 12-month calendar year and 7-day week, Adam uncovers the most influential


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S01E01 The Islamic World 16/02/2005 The rise of Islam is one of the most important events in world history. In the 7th century, Mohammed's intention was to unite the divided Arabs through a new religion. A century after his death, he'd succeeded in producing a medieval superpower. The Arabs and Moors had spread through Spain towards the Pyrenees. Cordoba became renowned as one of the greatest and wealthiest cities in Europe. Moorish cities such as Toledo and Seville were famed for their new culture and universities. The first What The Ancients Did For Us programme explores the Muslim contribution to the western world - in art, architecture, astronomy, medicine, science, and learning. The early Muslims are credited with inventing distillation and could distil just about anything - from alcohol to perfume. Hygiene is very important in the Muslim world so they invented and manufactured soap - centuries before the West - and hundreds of bathhouses were built throughout Muslim cities. They understood the fundamentals of light
S01E02 The Chinese 23/02/2005 China is the fastest growing economy on earth. One in four of every person on the planet is Chinese, and Shanghai is six times the size of London, offering a home to twenty million people. But while China is developing rapidly now, the Chinese civilisation is one of the oldest surviving in the world. The ancient Chinese thought they were at the centre of universe. Cut off from the rest of the world for centuries the Chinese developed a unique culture, and made many technological, scientific and artistic advances long before the West. Programme two of What The Ancients Did For Us explores this amazing country and the inventions of these ingenious people. The people who gave us the world's first fast food including what we call pasta - the noodle. To pay for this delicacy, they came up with paper money, printing with moveable type and a unified system of weights and measures. To move all their goods they invented canals, and the unique segmented arched bridge. To protect their new border
S01E03 The Aztecs, Maya and Incas 02/03/2005 These three peoples lived in a vast area of modern-day Central and South America which incorporates coastal strips, hot and steamy jungles, savannah grassland and cold windy highlands. Though they spoke different languages, they had broadly similar cultures and they worshipped many of the same gods (although they gave them different names). They all used digging sticks, ate maize and beans, respected the number 13 and practised human sacrifice. Interestingly, although they developed the wheel as a toy, for some reason they didn't adapt it for other purposes. The Aztecs built their settlement in a swamp in what is now Mexico City and when the Spanish arrived they thought it more spectacular than Venice. The Aztecs were fantastic warriors but they were also excellent farmers: because they had stumbled on hydroponics, their floating fields produced an abundance of nutrients in the food they were growing. The Mayas built some of the tallest buildings of the ancient world – without the use
S01E04 The Romans 09/03/2005 The city of Rome was founded on the banks of the Tiber in 753 BC and for a thousand years the western world was ruled from within its walls. To support this vast Empire the Romans created complex infrastructure and used the techniques of mass production, centuries before the industrial revolution. In this programme Adam Hart-Davis will find out how the Romans managed to do so much, so long ago and discover just what the Romans did for us. For a start they created the first professional, salaried army and invented fearsome war machines. To move around the Empire they constructed thousands of miles of roads – and we find out what it actually takes to build one of these. They built amphitheatres and race tracks and in the process brought gladiatorial games and equine sport to every corner of their empire. They pioneered the mass production of glass and double glazing, and created enormous aqueducts that fed water from distant sources into the heart of their cities and bath houses, created
S01E05 The Indians 16/03/2005 India is one of the oldest and richest civilizations in the world. It is home to the world's first planned cities, where every house had its own bathroom and toilet five thousand years ago. The Ancient Indians have not only given us yoga, meditation and complementary medicines, but they have furthered our knowledge of science, maths - and invented Chaturanga, which became the game of chess. According to Albert Einstein, they ""taught us how to count"", as they invented the numbers 1-9 and 'zero', without which there would be no computers or digital age. Unfairly we call this system of counting Arabic numbers - a misplaced credit. Two thousand years ago the Indians pioneered plastic surgery, reconstructing the noses and ears on the faces of people who had been disfigured through punishment or warfare. They performed eye operations such as cataract removal and invented inoculation to protect their population from Smallpox, saving thousands of lives. To create images of their gods they inve
S01E06 The Mesopotamians 23/03/2005 There has always been a great debate as to who kicked off civilisation: was it the Egyptians, the Greeks or the Romans? Well, actually, none of them did. Human history began in the great alluvial plain between the Tigris and Euphrates rivers, with its rich and immensely fertile soil: a land known as Mesopotamia. The people that dwelled here eight thousand years ago had learned to irrigate the land with canals and ditches, and were keen farmers. From this came plenty, which relieved man of the need to fight for survival. The Assyrian, Babylonian and Sumerian civilisations flourished here in an area stretching from modern Turkey, to western Syria, and Iraq. But what did they do for us? For a start, they invented writing, with the oldest book, the epic of 'Gilgamesh', written around 4,500 years ago. They also gave us the first written laws - apparently to restrain 'drunkenness' in the population; a side effect of another of their innovations, beer. They invented brick, which they produced
S01E07 The Egyptians 30/03/2005 Egypt became a unified country five thousand years ago and - until the arrival of Alexander the Great in 332 BC - remained a fiercely independent land with its own very distinctive art, religion and culture. Egypt was the superpower of its day and her kings were treated as demigods throughout the Mediterranean world – but what did they do for us? It goes without saying they gave us mummies and mummification, and one of the great wonders of the ancient world – the pyramids. On a more practical level they invented the sewn plank boat, a method of boat construction using wooden pegs and fibre rope - no nails. Huge boats were built using this technique, the most famous one belonging to King Khufu, the builder of the great pyramid in 2500 BC. The recent discovery of a Bronze Age boat in Britain reveals that this method of construction had found its way here and could have influenced our own boat builders. Trying to control the flood water of the Nile, the Egyptians built the first dam, a hu
S01E08 The Greeks 06/04/2005 The ancient Greek civilisation flourished for about a thousand years, not as a unified country but rather as a loose association of city states, both on the mainland of Greece and elsewhere around the Mediterranean. The philosopher Plato described the states as being like a series of frogs sitting around a pond. Although the Greeks drew on the ideas of various earlier civilisations, they were the people who, more than any other, handed down to us the foundations of our democracy, our notions of ethics and justice, our science, our mathematics and our music. But it mustn't be forgotten that the Greeks were a warlike lot and in order to pursue their territorial ambitions they invented some deadly weapons – for instant take the bow and arrow. Aware of its limitations and short range they mechanised it like a giant cross bow. It was loaded by bearing down on it with your whole body weight and it became known as the Belly Bow. The Greeks also invented the catapult and designed monster machi
S01E09 The Britons 13/04/2005 A lot of people still think that we were just woad-covered savages before the Romans came along. Well, we weren't - firstly we weren't covered in woad but dressed in a rather elegant new-fangled invention - trousers; more importantly we were organised, spiritual, technologically advanced Brits with European business connections – all without towns and cities or being able to read and write! This programme shows the evolution of the people of Britain from Stone Age hunters to Iron Age warriors. From early people who used animal bone picks to dig mines to a society skilled in the use of metallurgy, bronze, iron and gold. From a nomadic existence to a society organised into tribes with their own coinage and identities. From farmers using simple wooden ploughs to ferocious warriors driving thousands of chariots and repulsing the invading Roman army of Julius Caesar.