Engineering an Empire

TV review by
Sierra Filucci, Common Sense Media
Engineering an Empire TV Poster Image
History lessons for tech-friendly families.

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Kids say

age 10+
Based on 2 reviews

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this TV show.

Positive Messages

The point of the show is to educate a broad audience about history and technology. There's objective description of slavery, warfare, and other unsavory topics. Women's place in historical events isn't mentioned much. Scholars include women and people from the location being described, though the lens is generally Euro-centric.

Violence & Scariness

Much discussion of battles and wars, including details about weaponry and description of weapon effectiveness. Some hints of blood.

Sexy Stuff

In at least one episode, statues of male and female nudes appear in the background. Discussion of ancient marriage practices, including sibling marriage and polygamy.


Short "fact" segments are sponsored by advertisers (for example, Nationwide Insurance). Alcohol ads air between segments.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Possibility of historical discussion of alcohol, tobacco, or drugs.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that this engaging educational show uses reenactments (some realistic, others computer-generated) to depict historical events including battles and, in one instance, human sacrifice. These scenes are usually mild, with only a hint of blood. Some shows may include descriptions of unusual socio-cultural practices, like sibling marriage or polygamy.

User Reviews

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Teen, 13 years old Written byEmperorAguila May 10, 2014

The Best Historical Documentaries I Have Ever Seen

My Social Studies teacher tends to play a lot of movies for us. However, these are the best historical documentaries I have ever seen. Almost all of us can admi... Continue reading
Kid, 11 years old November 24, 2009
The show was pretty good. We own the first season, and my little brother (9) devours them. However, there is quite a lot of blood and violence, and some sexual... Continue reading

What's the story?

ENGINEERING AN EMPIRE is an educational series that looks at history and culture through the lens of engineering feats. Hosted by actor and scholar Peter Weller (RoboCop), the show uses a variety of methods -- from reenactments to computer-generated blueprints -- to illustrate technologies that built great ancient civilizations, like Athens, Egypt, and Mayan Mexico. In the episode \"Greece: Age of Alexander,\" for example, viewers learn about Alexander the Great's use of catapults and special spears, which gave his army an advantage over its enemies and eventually allowed them to conquer outlying areas and spread Greek culture to Egypt and beyond. Location shots add interest to the lessons, like when Weller sits on the steps of an enormous Greek theater while describing its acoustics. Experts from universities in the United States and beyond provide detail and color commentary on aspects of the culture being examined.

Is it any good?

While some kids will be bored to tears by descriptions of ancient history, those interested in how things work will find much to hold their attention. Descriptions use some complex language, but Weller keeps things down to earth -- describing Macedonia, for instance, as the nerd in the class who wanted to join the frat boys of Athens.

Since much of empire building involves war, combat is one of the show's primary topics. Viewers learn about weapons and see some digital reenactments of violence, as well as some realistic scenes of slain soldiers or human sacrifice, though usually without much detail.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the connections between history and contemporary living. How do some of the engineering feats seen on the show affect life today? Are kids or parents surprised to learn where certain things originated? Can kids think of something in their lives that could be improved through engineering? What did you learn from each episode?

TV details

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