The History Channel has returned to its roots with Barbarians Rising, a four-part miniseries out now on Blu-ray and DVD. It’s got, you know, actual history with zero icy road truckers, barns full of junk or desperate, degenerate gamblers trying to turn their “collectibles” into cash. The series delves into the stories of nine rebel leaders who resisted Roman rule over a 700-year period.
Barbarians Rising features documentary-style interviews with academic historians and an impressive array of military veterans: General Wesley Clark, U.S. Army (Ret.) and Former NATO Supreme Allied Commander; Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, one of the first female combat veterans’ in the U.S. Congress; CSM Eric L. Haney, U.S. Army (Ret.); and Colonel Kevin W. Farrell, military historian and U.S. Army (Ret.). Civil rights leader Rev. Jesse Jackson also mysteriously shows up to talk about the arc of freedom and resistance to an oppressive power.
There are also Game of Thrones-style historical reenactments featuring actors portraying the Barbarian leaders. The show features Nicholas Pinnock as Hannibal, who vowed a blood oath at age 9 to destroy Rome; Ben Batt as Spartacus, the slave-turned-rebel who led a barbarian revolt; Kirsty Mitchell as Boudica, the avenging Celtic warrior queen; Tom Hopper as Arminius, the son of Germany surrendered to Rome; Emil Hostina as Attila, scourge of the east; Gavin Drea as Alaric, the king of the Goths; Steven Waddington as Fritigern, the warrior who took down an emperor; Richard Brake as Geiseric, the last barbarian standing; and Jefferson Hall as Viriathus, the shepherd-turned-rebel leader.
If nothing else, the series dismantles the idea that anyone who wasn’t Greek or Roman back then should be lumped into an undefined mass of “Barbarians.” Rome set out to dismantle and absorb a host of different cultures, each with their own traditions. Barbarians Rising identifies with and highlights those conquered states, giving each its own identity for a modern audience.