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Athens: Dawn of Democracy


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Product Details

  • Actors: Bettany Hughes
  • Directors: Timothy Copestake
  • Format: Multiple Formats, Color, NTSC
  • Language: English
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated: NR (Not Rated)
  • Studio: PBS
  • DVD Release Date: November 20, 2007
  • Run Time: 120 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (17 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B000XXWKBQ
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #86,223 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)

Special Features

None.

Editorial Reviews

In this timely and fascinating film, historian Bettany Hughes goes in search of the real truth about democratic Athens, 2500 years ago. It has been revered as the birthplace of philosophy, art, science and the greatest political idea of all time; democracy. It has been portrayed as a golden age, almost too good to be true - and maybe it was. Now Bettany Hughes throws out the stereotypes and digs deeper to find out what democracy really meant.

Customer Reviews

4.4 out of 5 stars
5 star
53%
4 star
29%
3 star
18%
2 star
0%
1 star
0%
See all 17 customer reviews
Most of the time films and books give a very romantic vision of Classical Athens.
McGuinnThompsonKaukonenVerlaineandCarthy
Without it, you will be groping your way in the dark educationally as you seek to undertake life's indelible social, economic and political hurdles of the day.
MuckrakerW
If I weren't an Athens junkie--and I did get a few tasty scraps out of this thing--I would have given it two stars, not three.
Brian Wachter

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

29 of 35 people found the following review helpful By J. S. Kaminski on November 25, 2007
What comes to mind when you think of democracy? And what about when you think of Athens, the first democracy? Is the image that of a peaceful, enlightened group of people, exercising power together for the good of the whole? Ah, that's why this program was made - to shatter such an image, and reveal the first democracy for what it truly was.

For, although there were some important and, really, groundbreaking changes in the approach to government, the truth is, Athens actually did some pretty terrible things, democracy or not. Case in point - slaves were a major reason for its success. They were used to work the fields and were treated as property (slaves were forcibly sterilized so they could not have children, and thus, concentrate on their work). Doesn't sound like a free society, does it? Also, and this is no real surprise, women were subjugated in Athens, just as they were in almost every other society. No special treatment here. But perhaps the biggest surprise was to learn that no two-year period went by without the people of Athens voting to go to war. Again, not the idea you might have of an enlightened group of people looking to advance their new concept of governance. The process of "exporting democracy" was really to conquer new lands, exploit their resources, and exact tribute from the defeated groups. This is no different than what a tyrant might do - the only change was that a majority of Athenians were voting to take these actions, as opposed to a king or despot doing it on his own. But the result was the same - Athens, once it gained power and prominence, behaved in much the same way as a dictator might.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Bill Hensler VINE VOICE on December 3, 2010
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There are two stars of this video. The first star is the ancient Athens city itself and the other is Bettany Hughes. Ms. Hughes is a narrator who has a gifted tenor voice and her narrative is never boring. Additionally, Ms. Hughes has done post graduate work at Oxford in Greek history, is well known in Greece as an active historian, and is closely associated with many major universities; it should be noted that Ms. Hughes has close associations with the University of Michigan and in 2011 she will be doing a speaking tour in the USA this spring. Links to Ms. Hughes web site can be found through wikipedia or facebook.

Now, more to the video of ancient Athens; the video is three stars and is well worth it. Now, it's not a five star video. There are several reasons for this. First, if one watches The Spartans it's easy to see the out takes from that older video. Second, there are quite a few shots of modern Greece. Now, this is masked in the earlier video of The Spartans by making general pans of the Eurotas valley. But modern Athens is a thriving city. One of the more distracting parts is Ms. Hughes is giving an excellent speech on the lay out of old city of Athens and then a modern Greek rail tram runs behind her. So, the historical mood is destroyed and a person then wonders about the city planners because the vibrations from the train are doing these surviving structures from antiquity no good.

Ms. Hughes and this series are better than "The Spartans" for one fact: she strives for historical information and avoids sheer entertainment.
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12 of 14 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on July 6, 2008
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Both explains the positive aspects of Ancient Athens without avoiding the contradictions at its heart: a democracy reliant on slavery and imperialism to underpin its political system. A culture much celebrated for its rationality yet equally based on magic and mystery cults.
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13 of 17 people found the following review helpful By Stephen on February 8, 2008
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A good historical review of Athens in terms of democracy. They used the standard shots of the sites as they are now, historical re-creations of sites, artifacts, interviews with historians, and narration. The narrator, and the others, were mildly condescending and critical on Athens. They judged them with 21st century (Western, liberal (technical meaning), democratic ideals). In addition, the narrator is a babe.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Brenda Garcia-Taveras on December 11, 2010
I show this documentary in my 9th grade world history class. Students find the comparisons between Athenian and American democracies very interesting. It is a long documentary to show in its entirety for a high school audience, but it is still a great resource. I use it to discuss the beginnings of Athenian democracy and how it expanded after the Persian Wars.
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8 of 11 people found the following review helpful By geezergirrrlreads on March 27, 2008
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Athens: Dawn of Democracy is a wonderfully hip and accessible presentation of a familiar yet critical period of western history. Hughes' takes on reasons and outcomes are provocative and eye-opening, and video footage is gorgeous. A book offering further depth in the subject would be a brilliant addition to the concept, as was Hughes' work with Helen of Troy.
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Bettany Hughes's video, which I bought years ago offers anyone interested in how philosophy got its name, a visual chance to relive fifth century BCE Athenian history. I have been working on a book on the death of Socrates off and on for nearly four years, in which time I have used Mrs. Hughes's video for fact-finding. Moreover, she has several other videos in addition, which I often refer to for help when necessary.

Let me state something up front, I can't recommend her book on the death of Socrates, because I have not read it, but I plan later once I have finished writing my own to do just that, in order to make comparisons for perhaps later revisions.

In truth, philosophy is the foundation upon which to build all other disciplines. Without it, you will be groping your way in the dark educationally as you seek to undertake life's indelible social, economic and political hurdles of the day. Understanding the true meaning of the term democracy as Mrs. Hughes earnestly explains in her video, arms you with the knowledge of why it is so important for people to govern themselves and have a voice in the society in which they live. You also learn historically, that when Pericles came to power, he in fact was not a president, in the true sense of the word, because that word didn't exist at the time, but in reality, was a sort of mild dictator or tyrant loved by the Athenian people, like Peisistratos, or Ephialtes, of sixth century BCE.

You also learn about the Eleusinian Mysteries, occult rituals, gods and goddesses, above all, that Zeus, god of the lightening bolt, was a tool the Athenian government used to maintain political control over the average Athenian, except for Socrates and several well educated philosophers such as Pythagoras, the sophists, and even Plato.

I recommend this video to anyone interested in building a strong fundamental foundation, visually, in philosophy.

[...]
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Athens: Dawn of Democracy
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