Season 1 History (*186) 20:30 Drama
Rome wasn’t built in a day and it took over 700 years of war for the greatest empire in history to fall. Eight-episode drama Barbarians Rising (2016) looks at how barbarian hordes fought against slavery and defended their lands, led by commanders like Carthage’s Hannibal Barca (Nicholas Pinnock), Germanic chief Arminius (Top Hopper – Billy Bones in Black Sails, 2014-current) and gladiator Spartacus (Ben Batt, Joe Pritchard in the UK Shameless, 2004-2013).
“A lot of shows about the Roman Empire, the rise and fall, focus on the political intrigue, the emperors, senate, engineering and architecture,” explains exec producer Kristen Burns. “What we wanted to do was look at the other side – the barbarians who were on the other side of Roman expansion, as Rome built itself into this massive civilisation. What we wanted to do was tell their story.”
While Kristen says that the success of sword-and-shield shows like Vikings (2013-current) and fantasy series Game Of Thrones (2011-current) have “helped us”, she adds that “Game Of Thrones is fictionalised but it was certainly inspired by barbarian history. And the History Channel’s special on ancient North Europe in a lot of ways was the inspiration for Vikings”.
There’s a lot to take in with each episode. Breaking up the dramatic reenactments is commentary from experts in history and war, as well as modern civil rights leaders like Reverend Jesse Jackson, who give contemporary insight to the stories. Plus, says Kristen, “We’ve assembled a stellar cast. Besides Tom and Nicholas, we also have Richard Brake [who plays The Night King, the master of the white walkers, in Game Of Thrones]. He’s very menacing in that show and very menacing in ours as Mediterranean warlord Gaiseric.”