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2 out of 2 people found the following review useful:

Ode To A Grecian City-State.

8/10
Author: Robert J. Maxwell (rmax304823@yahoo.com) from Deming, New Mexico, USA
16 April 2010

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

A two-hour documentary of the rise and fall of Athens over the course of about 600BCE to 400BCE, narrated by Liam Neeson.

The focus is largely on a couple of leaders -- warriors and politicians -- and Socrates, detailing their contributions to what I, at least, think of as perhaps the greatest flowering of genius in the world's history. Rome, of course, was much bigger but less thoughtful, if you know what I mean. Classical Greece was to Rome what the Mayans were to the Aztecs -- a case of philosophers and scientists versus empire builders. That's unfair, I know.

It's a sad tale at heart. Not just because Athens and its Delian League dissolved but because it fell in such a vulgar, commonplace way. The Athenians, in dire circumstances, spent their navy and army on a war that was lost and the ruling mob lashed out at a scapegoat, Socrates, who died of hemlock poisoning while lecturing his friends and executioners. Socrates wasn't gay. He was killed because he questioned the primitive beliefs of the society he lived in. That's what the charge of "corrupting the youth" meant.

Mostly the film shows us CGIs of the ancient city and some of its structures. There are what appear to be three-dimensional photographs of actors posing as leaders like Themistocles. Reenactments are small scale.

The career of Themistoclese, by the way, illustrates one of the weaknesses of democracy. Democracy, played fair, gives the people what they want -- but suppose what they want is stupid? Themistoclese -- politician, general, historian -- was not an aristocrat when he was elected ruler of Athens. His best-known quote: "I cannot play the lyre or the flute but I can make a great city." He led the Greeks to an astonishing victory over the invading Persians and saved the country. Then he was democratically "ostracised" and wound up wandering the states to finally die in Persia. The citizens had gotten what they wanted from him and now wanted a new leader full of promises. That Themistoclese reminded them of how much they owed him merely irritated them. It reminded me a bit of Winston Churchill who, had he been exiled like Themistoclese, might have wandered the world and finally died in Germany.

It really ought to be shown in every high school history class or, never mind high school -- make it college. We seem to be losing touch with our cultural roots. I speak as an anthropologist with the greatest respect for the cultures that can be found on our planet. If multiculturalism presses us to learn more about other ways of life, I can't imagine anything more "other" than the ancient Greeks. You want more "otherness"? Try the Spartans, who took over after Athens self-destructed.

The modern Greeks themselves don't seem to actively relish their treasures more than any other nations. Athens is now a sprawling and polluted city. The marbles of the Parthenon, like those of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, practically sizzle like Alka Seltzer in the acid rain. But none of that alters the fact that these people invented democracy. They invented ostracism too, and black balling. We owe them not only the fundamentals of our form of governance but reality TV programs like "Survivor".

Fair Greece . . . Immortal, though no more; though fallen great!

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6 out of 10 people found the following review useful:

A great documentary

10/10
Author: Andy S, (anstamatopoulos@yahoo.gr) from Thessaloniki, Greece
17 December 2001

A great documentary for the ancient Greeks.The history of the people who gave democracy and culture to all the world.Liam Neeson narrate how was the life of the most clever people in the world:Greeks.It is very interesting to know how Greeks create democracy and this film gives us the chance.Every people who wants to learn about the beginning of the history must see this documentary.Do not forget that Greeks are the oldest nation in the entire world!

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