How wrong I was.
The introduction alone was enough to enrage me. I started with Episode 1 of Season 3, which is about the reign of the emperor Gaius - more commonly known by his childhood nickname Caligula. Right away it began to perpetrate the whole 'CALIGULA IS KNOWN AS THE THE MAD EMPEROR' stereotype. Do you know why Caligula is known as the mad emperor? Because uncritical idiots like these writers continue to popularize this view of him that was transferred to us via hostile sources! Now, I could have forgiven them taking this angle, if only they had actually stuck to these sources. But no, Sir, oh no!
We start of with Caligula's childhood and his famous and popular father, Germanicus. Somehow Sean Bean has the knowledge that, and I quote, 'Germanicus was training Caligula to be a great warrior' - for which absolutely no evidence is given, or does in fact exist. It's true that Caligula and his mother, Agrippina Maior, had accompanied Germanicus to his German command, but Germanicus spent most of his time on campaign, and no such interaction between him and his son is mentioned.
Germanicus is also introduced as the 'sole heir to the emperor Tiberius', bis uncle and adoptive father. This is also wrong. Germanicus had been adopted by Tiberius as an heir, but was in fact part of a duo that was supposed to eventually take over the reigns of the empire, the other part of the duo being Tiberius' natural son Drusus. Neither Augustus, nor Tiberius had planned on a single person taking over after their death, and Augustus himself had always taken a junior partner during his own reign to help him out. This just shows a conceptually wrong understanding on part of the writers of the Principate as a monarchy. It eventually became that, but it was not envisioned as such at that time - remember, Augustus more or less improvised the whole system over many years, and Tiberius was the first one to take it over after him, so the system wasn't stabilized or formalized in many ways.
The documentary, again summoning secure knowledge of what people thought in their minds 2.000 years ago, then goes on to state that Tiberius, who is portrayed as a stereotypical tyrant reigning through terror - again, wrong, but at least consistent with some sources - wanted Germanicus dead to replace him with Drusus. Again, not a single shred of evidence for this exists, and it doesn't even make sense historically. Germanicus was popular and loyal, and Tiberius had no reason to destabilize his reign with such an act.
Germanicus is then poisoned and found dead in Germany, which is doubly ignorant: not only did he not actually die in Germany, but in the east of the empire, and it is also very unlikely that poison played a part in his death (although such rumours did exist back then!). Before he died Germanicus historically toured the east of the empire, likely catching some disease while in Egypt and dying because of that. We then see his corpse laying in state in Rome, his mourning family around it. Again, this is unneccessarily wrong: Germanicus' body was cremated, because that's what the Romans did, and his ashes brought to Rome. Why change such an unneccessary detail to be wrong?! I get it's more relatable to a Western audience, but it's not fucking supposed to be relatable, it's supposed to be accurate. The reality of Agrippina making a dramatic entrance with her husband's ashes, the mourning masses flocking to join the procession is also so much better than what they pictured. So they changed this to be not only more inaccurate, but also less visually dramatic.
Now, apart from the fact that the writers have obviously not consulted any historians or ever read a history book to get the facts right, the show also looks like trash. The costumes change scene by scene to depict republican outfits, then imperial outfits, and then sometimes late imperial outfits. People wear unhistorical leather cuirasses and look more like fantasy warriors than Romans. For some reason Tiberius wears armour in Rome - of course it's black armour, so you know he's a bad guy.
So, that's the first ~15 minutes of Episode 1 Season 3 of 'Roman Empire' - I couldn't continue to watch at this point, because at this point my blood began to boil. It's absolute garbage, has nothing at all to do with real history, and quite frankly it's insulting and false advertising to even call it a documentary. It's nothing else than trashy fiction. Please stop butchering history and insulting the viewer's intelligence - it's much more interesting and fascinating without your trashy addons for 'dramatic' purposes.
0/10, do not recommend.
Watch BBC's I, Claudius, HBO's Rome or Starz' Spartacus instead - they know that they're dramas and make it clear that they are not trying to depict history accurately.