Empires - The Greeks: Crucible of Civilization
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Dramatic storytelling and state-of-the-art computer animation re-create Classical Greece of the 4th and 5th centuries, B.C, founder of modern science, politics, warfare, philosophy, and source of breathtaking art and architecture. This dazzling production charts the rise, triumph, and eventual decline of the world's first democracy. Witness it all through the eyes of Pericles, Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle.
- Director's commentary
- Additional scenes not included in the PBS broadcast
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The DVD focuses on four men and the eras they represented. Beginning with Cleisthenes, who is viewed as the "father" of Greek democracy, the video tells the story of how the small farming village began and how it evolved into a democracy. It does tell the story of the tyrants and rebellion against Athens' early rulers and the part played by Cleisthenes who, though he was a nobleman, chose to side with the common freeman and develop the system of government that was the forerunner of all democracies.
The video then turns a spotlight on Themistocles and the struggle against the mighty Persian empire. The video tells of the first incursion culminating in the battle of Marathon - a signal victory for the Hellenes. It shows the part played by Themistocles in the preparation for the coming, larger struggle with Persia which Themistocles correctly foresaw. Covers the battle of Salamis where the fruits of Themistocles' preparations for war ripened in the form of an effective navy of triremes that formed the core of Greek strength at sea.
The DVD then moves on to the parallel lives of two men: Pericles and Socrates. Pericles was the noble who convinced Athenians to create the great works of art and architecture which showed that Athens was an up-and-coming player on the world stage as well as his decision to make war on Sparta and her allies. Socrates, living at the same time, was the rational, logical examiner of everything he saw. The DVD introduces the viewer to some of the Greek advancements in science and mathematics which would form the core of western ideals on science and logical thought.
The DVD does deal with Athens' decline and defeat in the Peloponnesian war. It examines some of the mistakes made by Athenian leadership and how the Sicilian venture sealed their fate.
Though this is generally a good video, I have some very sharp criticisms. Firstly, the video tells that before the battle of Marathon, Athens had sought help from Sparta only to be refused. This is wrong! The Spartans told the Athenians that they would come to their aid when their religion permitted them to march. As a point of fact, the Spartan army reached Athens the day after the battle after force marching 140 miles in only three days - an amazing feat for the time.
Secondly, Pericles gets off pretty easy for his imperial ambitions for Athens and championing making war on Sparta. Not only was it hubris, but it was an offensive act of an "imperial" leader interested in glory and empire. This is the antithesis of the democracy that fights for homeland and people. He was the one who convinced Athenians to abandon their farms and homes to "hide" behind their impenetrable walls of the city thus making them dangerously crowded - just the conditions for plague and disease to run rife. If the Athenians had fought the Spartans on their own soil - even in a defeat - the Spartans would not have imposed the harsh peace that they later did impose after years of war and destruction when attitudes could only harden toward an enemy.
Thirdly, the DVD focuses entirely on Athens, rather than the Classical Greek civilization, politics and culture in general. The many contributions in these areas by other city-states are ignored completely. The Spartans, with their radically different culture, could have been the counterpoint to the culture of other Greeks, Athenians as well as others.
In short, I think this DVD is well-made, richly filmed with good re-enactments and cinematography but missing the boat on many points of fact. I give it three stars.
The most productive thing to do, then, rather than simply growling as one would about the mangling of this beautiful series, is probably to just buy both the DVD and the VHS (of which one can make a much less delicate DVD-R, if you have the permitting VCR). You get all the special features on the DVD, with higher picture quality, and the full-length series with lower picture quality. “Best of both worlds” is too positive a term, but buying both the DVD and VHS versions is the best we’re going to get short of some very unlikely, out-of-the blue full-length DVD or Blu-Ray release from PBS for the twentieth anniversary in a couple years.
5.0 out of 5 stars Interesting both to me and my 10 years old son, December 22, 2013
M. Kraeva "Amazone" (USA) - See all my reviews
This review is from: The Greeks: Crucible of Civilization (Amazon Instant Video)
We watched this movie with my son, and he did not want to stop watching. The movie is well made. It explains what happened in Ancient Greece (about 500BC), in particular in Athens.
I have posted on Youtube my critique of this insidious 3 part series (search "The Greeks critique" & you'll find them, by 'Jackie TwoSticks')
The creators of The Greeks were looking into the future, to the young people whose parents or teachers wanting to their kids to learn about ancient Greece. The production is VERY handsome and slick, and easy to understand.
But it is a character assassination of Socrates, the Persians, and the arts. The treatment of Socrates is masterful: he is one of the greatest minds ever, the documentary tells us, but the script makes a mockery of Socrates mind and thought, setting him in a "drunken dinner party" and as the voice over tells of his greatness the visuals linger on spilled wine, bones from the meal and assorted garbage.
I spent many many hours looking at this and doing research. What surprised me most was seeing that the documentary was deeply enmeshed with several members and affiliates of the Project for a New American Century (PNAC). This group of "neo-cons" were, when the documentary was filming, hoping for a "new Pearl Harbor" (their language) and were already planning the wars of the 21st century: Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, Syria and ... IRAN! Wow.
So this handsome, 3 part documentary was a nice vehicle to further their poisonous ideas, and I'm sure it was in their clever minds to look down the road, to the young people of the future, and how those young minds could be nudged into, or receive confirmation of several important ideas that fuels the Empire: the no-class status of women/prostitutes; the value and glory of war especially against tyrants like the Persians; the very over-rated value of the mind: the real message is that Socrates (and all 'thinkers') are ugly, ridiculous idiots, and the arts, too, are ridiculous, little better than modern slasher movies. Even the Parthenon is limned as fine but a huge burden on taxpayers and for what? To glorify a heathen goddess who is not much different than a prostitute.
My capsule summary may sound a tad overblown but if you take the trouble to view the critique you'll see that my reasoning and analysis is sound, and you'll educate yourself in the tricks of the propaganda trade.