Case Number 20692: Small Claims Court


PBS // 2010 // 60 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Roman Martel (Retired) // February 12th, 2011

The Charge

For the messenger who told the Roman Emperor, "Sorry your magnificence, but seemed to have lost a few ships, heh heh heh," a free visit to the lions of the Colleseum.

The Case

The PBS series Secrets of the Dead continues with an episode that delves deep into marine archeology and a glimpse into the early years of the Roman Empire, under Emperor Augustus. Off the coast of the small Italian island of Ventotene archeologists have discovered the remains of five different wrecked ships.

After gathering resources and some help from an expert dive team on loan from the Italian armed forces, the group prepared to descend to some serious depths to get footage and an artifact or two from the wrecks. At the heart of the mission is a mysterious group of containers that appear to be metal and cylindrical. These types of containers have never been seen in any Roman era wreck and the archeologists are excited to bring one up for further investigation.

Unfortunately, they only have the dive team for five days, and the weather around Ventotene isn't the most cooperative. The dives are dangerous enough to make without the wind and the rain. How far will the team go to find out more about these wrecks?

More than the other two Secrets of the Dead episodes I've reviewed, Lost Ships of Rome focuses on the archeological part of the story instead of the historical part. That means there are no recreations, and instead we get some computer graphics showing us how these ships may have sank or expanding out the ruins of Augustus' palace on the island. What historical points you do get are to ground the archeology and that's fine. We get plenty of information on why Ventotene was selected by Augustus, it's importance in trade routes, how fresh water was maintained on the island and one of the most famous visitors/prisoners of the island.

The best stuff revolves around the diving and examining of these ancient wrecks. All the members of the team are excited to be attempting these dives, and you can see how disappointed they get when the weather refuses to cooperate. Luckily they have some backup exploration they can perform on the island itself. We get plenty of underwater footage and danger, as the depths begin to take their toll on some of the sensitive equipment.

Fans of Roman history will find a lot of absorb and enjoy. Marine archeology is interesting stuff and makes this episode both involving and educational. Secrets of the Dead continues to be a excellent series, and I'm looking forward to seeing more.

The Verdict

Not Guilty.

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Scales of Justice
Judgment: 83

Perp Profile
Studio: PBS
Video Formats:
* 1.78:1 Anamorphic

Audio Formats:
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)

* English (SDH)

Running Time: 60 Minutes
Release Year: 2010
MPAA Rating: Not Rated

Distinguishing Marks
* None

* IMDb

* Wikipedia: Ventotene

* Wikipedia: Augustus