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Time Compass

Ancient China (#106)

This program introduces students to the philosophy and achievements of Ancient China. Beginning with the geography of the country, the episode relates China’s vast climatic contrasts to the Chinese belief in natural forces in a state of balance. Beginning at 5,000 years B.C., it traces the Chinese dynasties to the time of Qin Shi Huang and the construction of the Great Wall of China. The story of the emperor’s burial with thousands of terra cotta warriors is also told. Next, the scene shifts to the birth of Confucius and the principles of Confucianism, Daoism, and Buddhism. At this point, the Time Compass recalls that the Roman Republic was expanding under the leadership of Julius Caesar. Further on, students learn about Chinese medicine, calligraphy, gardens, and Chinese inventions, including the creation of silk fabric. This naturally leads to the history of the Silk Road and Marco Polo’s adventures in ancient China. [19 minutes] Closed Captioning

This episode has not aired in the past few months on Iowa Public Television.

PBS Video

Series Description: Based on a series of books, the Time Compass uses innovative and stylized animation to portray significant historical events and transport the viewer through time to ancient civilizations from around the world. From simple inventions to influencing our modern government, these societies have shaped the way we live today.

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  • Ancient Egypt (#101)

    From the annual flooding of the Nile to the mysteries of the Rosetta stone, students learn key facts about the Ancient Egyptian civilization and what was happening during the same period of time in India and Arabia. The episode includes a sequence on Napoleon’s visit to Egypt, the subsequent establishment of “Egyptology”, and the discovery of Tutankhamen’s tomb. It concludes with the Roman defeat of Cleopatra and Marc Antony. [19 minutes]

  • Incas & The Andean Cultures (#102)

    At the same time as the Turks were invading Byzantium, legend has it that Inca civilization was established by the sun god, Inti, who sent his representative to form the first Inca family and establish Inca farming practices. Students learn of the Inca system of terracing, the growth of potatoes and corn, and the remarkable transportation routes where messages were sent thousands of miles by Inca runners. They also learn about the mysteries of Inca architecture as exhibited in the still fabled city of Machu Picchu. In spite of having no written language, government accounts were recorded by a system of knotted ropes. The episode closes with an acknowledgment of the Spanish chroniclers who were the first to record Inca history in written form. Students learn that as the Spanish conquered Inca territories, in Japan, the samurai warrior class was established and so began traditional Japanese isolationism. [18 minutes]

  • Classical Greece (#103)

    This episode introduces students to classical Greek society, from soldiers in the field, to beloved artists, Olympians, and philosophers. The military might of Greek city-states is discussed in reference to the action in the Iliad and the Odyssey and in a section on the lives of Spartan warriors. Students learn of the gods and goddesses of Olympus, the city-states that came together for the Olympic Games, and the amazing military and cultural achievement of Alexander the Great. Above all, they gain an understanding of how Greek morality, Greek ideals of beauty, and the habit of answering philosophical questions with logic and reason, have had a permanent effect on Western culture. The episode closes by mentioning events that were happening in Maya and Roman societies during this time. [19 minutes]

  • The Aztec Empire (#104)

    Beginning with the Olmecs and Zapotecs, this episode traces the Aztec takeover from the North, their military conquests, and their sacrifices to the sun god. It also covers Aztec ingenuity in the construction of garden sites on swampy ground and achievements, such as a public education system, Aztec calendar, and Aztec mathematics. Students learn that human civilization began to take form once nomads learned to farm and that the Aztecs developed staple crops that are commonplace today. They also learn of Aztec religious beliefs and why the Aztecs welcomed Hernan Cortéz as a god, rather than a military leader, who would eventually destroy their civilization. The episode compares the history of the Aztec Empire with that of the Ottoman Empire that was expanding rapidly under Suleiman’s leadership. [19 minutes]

  • Imperial Rome (#105)

    Beginning with the legend of Romulus and Remus, this episode goes on to trace the leadership of Julius Caesar and Augustus Caesar and the foundations of Western civilization in Roman laws and Roman government. A segment is dedicated to the power of the Paterfamilias, both at home and in the Forum. Types of Roman entertainment are detailed, as are the wonders of Roman aqueducts and the Roman bath. Another section describes the defeat of the Celts by the Roman army and the gradual disintegration of the Empire after Caesar’s assassination. The episode closes with a review of Constantine’s leadership, the advance of Christianity, and the ultimate survival of the Eastern Roman Empire. [19 minutes]

  • Mesopotamia (#107)

    This episode talks of the early civilizations that were established in Mesopotamia and the major forces of history as it traces the move from caves, to cities and towns, and eventually to civilized societies with governments, laws, and religious codes. Students learn of the development of tools from the Stone Age to the Iron Age, the development of cuneiform writing, the establishment of astronomy and astrology, and the legend of Gilgamesh. They also learn of the succession of civilizations in Mesopotamia, from the Acadians, through the Sumerians, Assyrians, and Babylonians. The closing segment compares pyramids built in Egypt, Mesopotamia, Central America, and Peru. [20 minutes]

  • The Mayas (#108)

    Viewers learn of the elusive Maya civilization—from Mayan jaguar worship, Mayan gods who required human and animal sacrifice, and Mayan mathematicians who understood the use of “zero” hundreds of years before Arab mathematicians did. The intricacies of the Mayan calendar and Mayan glyphs are also explained. Comparisons are made between the timelines of the Mayas, the Crusades, and the European Renaissance. [19 minutes]

  • Vikings & Celts (#109)

    This esisode introduces students to the northern conquerors—the Celts and Vikings. It explains that both cultures lacked a central government and were eventually conquered because of this. It attests, however, to the strength of their warrior societies and the extent of their influence, even to Rome and the Gallic Wars. A section on the Druids lays the basis for an understanding of magic and wizardry as portrayed in English literature. The exploits of Viking explorers are summarized as are the Viking beliefs in the afterlife and the final great battle between Thor and the powers of darkness. The episode also refers to the destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans and the creation of the Holy Roman Empire. [19 minutes]

  • The Byzantine Empire (#110)

    This program recounts the history of the Byzantine Empire, the schism between the Roman Catholic Church and the Eastern Orthodox Church, and the Crusades. Episodes featuring the Time Compass review the history of money and the invention of gunpowder. Students learn that Mehmed II was successful in his siege of Constantinople because the Turks had learned about gunpowder from the Chinese. They also learn how Mehmed’s success and the closure of trade routes to the East forced explorers, like Christopher Columbus, to seek alternative routes to the riches of the East. [19 minutes]

  • The Ancient Hebrew (#111)

    Explores Jewish history, from Abraham’s people journeying to the Promised Land up to the Final Diaspora. Jewish civilization is heralded as being the only ancient civilization to have survived to the present day. Students learn of Joseph’s exile in Egypt, Moses and the Ten Commandments, the 40 years of wandering in the desert, and the establishment of Judea and Israel. They also learn the significance of the Torah, the Arc of the Covenant, the destruction of Solomon’s temple, and the memory of the Holy Land kept alive by Jewish rituals. Segments on codes of conduct and the disappearance of the Maya reinforce the concept of social codes that ensure stability throughout the civilized world. [18 minutes]

  • Islam (#112)

    Explains how wandering Arabs began to settle around desert oasis and how Mohammed challenged traditional religious teachings with the divine principles given to him by the Archangel Garbriel. The episode follows the development of a military that eventually overcome the people who had sent Mohammed away from Mecca, and the establishment of thriving economy centered in bazaars of this great city. Later, when the Capital city is moved to Bagdad, it becomes a refined city of beautiful Islamic architecture, and advanced scientific and philosophical achievement. By the time that Bagdad is sacked by the invading Mongols, Islamic culture has spread throughout the Mediterranean world. Meanwhile, Europe is experiencing the Dark Ages when people fear, rather than respect, the learning of past civilizations. The episode closes with the Tales of the 1001 Arabian nights with their stories within stories of Scherezade, Sinbad, Ali Baba and Alladin, to name only a few. [19 minutes]

  • Persia (#113)

    The remarkable achievements of the Persian Empire are recounted here. From shepherds to conquerors of most of the known world, the Persians ruled with sensitivity to the cultures of others and a tolerance rooted in their acceptance of the Zoroastrian principle of duality. The episode tells how Darius and other Persian leaders attempted to build a universal empire and were largely successful until Alexander the Great invaded with his mighty armies. The episode closes with a brief introduction to the Library of Alexandria, which was a symbol of the knowledge and unity of all civilizations in the known world. [20 minutes]

  • Ancient Japan (#114)

    Against a background of mountain islands rising out of the sea, this propgram tells of the achievements of the Ancient Japanese Empire and how the Chinese influenced the First Great Warrior to develop a religion that stressed harmony and balance, how he merged clans into a relatively peaceful empire, and how the Shoguns expanded and defended the empire according to Samurai traditions. Meanwhile, Japanese arts flourished in the isolation enforced by the Japanese emperor, Tokugawa Leyasu. The episode closes with Commodore Perry’s visit to Japan, which forced the Japanese Empire to recognize and embrace the developments of the Industrial Revolution. [19 minutes]

  • The Carolingian Empire (#115)

    This episode tells of Charlemagne and the establishment of the Holy Roman Empire, and how warring European tribes predominated 5th century Europe until Pippin and his son, Charlemagne, became protector of the Papal States. Students learn about the social structure of peasants, knights, kings, and clergy in a typical feudal system, comparing European fiefdoms with those protected by the Samurai in Japan. Charlemagne’s quest for knowledge resulted in the establishment of universities and the protection of the world’s knowledge by monks as the European world again descended into chaos after his death. [20 minutes]

  • India (#116)

    This program informs viewers of the settlement of Indus and Ganges River valleys and the development of Hinduism and Buddhism in India. Students gain an understanding of how the concept of Destiny influenced the development of the Caste system and theories of reincarnation. They follow the foreign invasions that undermined the social advancements initiated by Ashoka and see how these invasions resulted in separate Indian empires ruled by Maharajahs. The episode closes with the story of Shah Jahan and his love for Mumtaz, followed by a brief sequence on other women who were influential in history. [19 minutes]

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