by Hans ten Cate
Thursday, 11 July 2002


Terry Jones' documentaries Hidden History of Egypt and Hidden History of Rome will be airing this Sunday, July 14, on Europe's Discovery Europe channel (8:00 PM and 9:00 PM GMT). The two specials aired on the American Discovery Channel in January and are finally seeing airtime in the UK and neighboring countries.

The two specials are part of a series of three documentaries starring Terry. The third installment will be a two-hour Hidden History of Sex & Love due out later this year. All three documentaries were developed by Seventh Art Productions, the same UK-based production house responsible for Terry's three-part Ancient Inventions in 1998.

“We are still making The Surprising [sic] History of Sex & Love, due for delivery in October 2002 and as yet has no transmission date,” said Fiona Kingsman, Production Manager at Seventh Art Productions.

Terry's Hidden History films take a light-hearted look at the diets, hygiene, careers, sex lives, and domestic arrangements in the ancient world.

I suppose my interest in history has always been 'What was it like for ordinary people?' rather than the stories of kings and queens. I'm more interested in understanding how life was in the past – rather than the big events. The similarities between 'Then' and 'Now' have always interested me more than the differences. I suppose if I were a professional historian I'd be more interested in the differences, but for me it's the things that are really the same. Those are the things that bring the past to life for me and hopefully for the viewers.

Terry Jones on his interest in the 'hidden' histories of ancient cultures

Source: Featured Filmmaker: Terry Jones by Kenneth Plume on FilmForce.ign.com

Hidden History of Egypt

What did the Egyptians do when they weren't building pyramids, and just what are hieroglyphics about? Terry Jones learns that Egyptian women were on equal footing with men in all aspects of society, including wages and property ownership. Paper, papyrus, originated in Egypt, allowing for the development of the sciences, art and literature. These discoveries establish how attached to life the ancient Egyptians were and discards the supposition that because of their elaborate tombs, they were more focused on death and the afterlife.

“The ancient Egypt (tale) starts with me standing outside the pyramids, and I say I'm not interested in this stuff, these are just the funeral arrangements of a megalomaniac who lived three and a half thousand years ago before they thought of cryogenic freezers.

“I want to know how ordinary people lived in ancient Egypt.” [1]

Hidden History of Egypt (50 minutes) airs on Discovery Europe at 8:00 PM GMT.

Hidden History of Rome

Everyone knows that Nero fiddled while Rome burned, but what was everyone else doing? While exploring the Hidden History of the Roman Empire, Jones learns of the ever-widening gulf that existed between the classes, which were apparent simply from appearance – working class Romans had no time to exercise or sunbathe, whereas the rich regularly indulged in both activities.

From horse races to housing, Hidden History with Terry Jones creates a new understanding of ancient culture that stretches beyond wondrous artifacts and ancient temples, and illuminates the character of people who, although from another time, were very similar to us.

Hidden History of Rome (50 minutes) airs on Discovery Europe at 9:00 PM GMT.

Sex and Love

And when you've finished watching the second hour, don't go to bed yet! Discovery Europe is also airing an episode of Ancient Inventions afterwards at 10:00 PM GMT. The episode is "Sex and Love" (presumably in honor of this fall's upcoming Hidden History special).

Terry Jones discovers that the ancients devoted as much care and attention in attracting the opposite sex as we do today. From perfume to contraception, and sex manuals to showers...inventions to attract each other are as old as the hills.

Ancient Inventions: Sex and Love (52 minutes) airs on Discovery Europe at 10:00 PM GMT.


  • [1] "Former Python makes history," in the Sydney Morning Herald (smh.com.au), September 1, 2001