Key Information

10 x 52'
Year of production
Country of origin
United States of America
Produced by
Pilot Productions for PBS (US)
Factual > History
New Shows > Factual

Language versions



An epic documentary series that explores the world’s greatest empires. 
From the Romans to the Raj, the Ottomans to the Incas, great empires have come and gone through the ages; but all have left behind extraordinary legacies, monuments, inventions and innovations that were so revolutionary that they changed the course of history. 
“Empire Builders” brings to life 10 great empires, each episode visiting the 10 most significant sites that defined their achievements and legacy; 100 historic sites in all, discovering how they were built, for what purpose, and what they reveal about the empire’s rise and fall.   

Empires examined in the series include the Ancient Egyptians; the Roman Empire; the Muslim Empires of the Ottomans, Mughals and Moors; the Spanish Empire; the British Raj; and the rise of the American Empire. The stories and sites from around the world range from the mystery of Tutankhamun’s Tomb and the majesty of the Taj Mahal, to the wonders of Machu Picchu and the architecture of Sagrada Familia. 

Combining CGI and dramatic reconstructions with insights from history experts, “Empire Builders” reveals the story of extraordinary empires that are still shaping the way we live our lives today.

Additional Information

“Empire Builders” – Episodes include:

The Ancient Egyptians 
The civilization of Ancient Egypt lasted three thousand years, longer than any other civilization in history. Sites visited include: The Pyramids, Valley of the Kings - tombs of the Pharaohs and Tutankhamun, and the temples of Luxor and Karnak.

The remarkable history of one of the world’s most unique and diverse ancient cultures. Sites include: Todai-ji Temple, Heian Shrine, Himeji Castle and the Dejima Island.

The Romans
At its height, the Roman Empire was the most extensive political and social structure in western civilization. Sites include: Pompeii, the Colosseum, the Aqueducts of Pont du Gard and Segovia, Hadrian's Wall and Maison Carée, Nîmes.

Moslem Empires: Ottomans, Mughals, Moors
These great Moslem empires dominated the Middle East, Central Asia, India, and even parts of Europe for more than four hundred years. Sites include:  The Topkapi Palace in Istanbul, the Red Forts of Agra and Delhi, and Spain’s Granada, Cordoba and Malaga.

Mayans, Aztecs and Incas 
The most enduring of several Empires that ruled the Meso Americas for more than eight hundred years. Sites include: Tulum and Palenque, Templo Mayor, Machu Picchu and Cusco.

The Spanish Empire  
The Spanish Empire defeated the Aztecs and the Incas and made Spain the richest nation on earth. Sites include: The Old Town of Avilla - fortress of the Inquisition, the Colonial Cities of Antigua, Guatemala and Granada in Nicaragua, Toledo Cathedral and Barcelona’s Sagrada Família.

Christian Empires: Byzantium, Crusaders and Venice
Powerful city states that pre dated and then powered the Renaissance and embraced the classical world. Sites include: The Doge's Palace and Basilica San Marco in Venice, the Venetian forts of Cyprus and Crete, the Crusader forts of Crac de Chevaliers in Rhodes and Malta, and Constantinople's Hagia Sophia .

Kings of Europe: France, the Austro-Hungarians and the Russian Tsars 
Rivalry, battles, intrigue and revolution dominate the courts of Europe over three centuries. Sites visited include: The Palace of Versailles and the Louvre in Paris, Schönbrunn Palace in Vienna and the Winter Palace in St Petersburg.

The British Empire
The rule of the British on the Indian subcontinent defined more than any other the aspirations and trials of the British Empire. Sites include: The Viceroy's Palace in Delhi, and the cities and sites of Calcutta, Rangoon, Melbourne and Singapore.

From the war of independence and then the vast territorial expansion through the Louisiana Purchase, Mexican Accession, and conquests of the Philippines, Hawaii and Puerto Rico, to the robber barons of the 19th Century, the industrial might of the 20th Century and the the global dominance of Hollywood and Silicon Valley. Sites include: Mounts Vernon and Rushmore, Arlington National Cemetery, the Empire State Building and Kennedy Space Center.