The Greeks: Crucible of Civilization is a documentary that chronicles the rise of democracy in a remote European region called Hellas, around 500 BC, an event which sparked the beginning of science, reason, and philosophy, laying the foundation for Western Civilization and, in effect, rational society. It’s the story of a small city-state called Athens.
The story is a tale of freedom and progress, of a small settlement that rose to the status of empire via the birth of a noble idea, the effect of which are felt to this day.
It’s also a tale of analogies, a parallel to events that followed over the course of time. In effect, this is history’s prototype of how freedom was acquired and what actions involved its consolidation, what miracles were performed in its wake and what errors were made in the effort to secure it.
The story of Athens contains all the ingredients, characters and events that shaped the history of the world in times to come, in struggles marking the rise of freedom, citizenry, and the Republic.
Its twists and turns are familiar, part inspirational, part warning to the pitfalls of rebellion and the creation of an open and knowledgeable society. The rise of the Athenians against tyranny is indicative of the effort of people to break free from ancient errors and terrors.
Let these accounts shed light on the process of revolution, revealing what happens in periods of crisis and reform.
The insight proves useful and critical, especially now. Faced with a similar kind of unrest and turbulence that Athens was faced with circa 500 BC, we may learn from it. Huge debt, food shortages, questionable leadership, doubt in the system – they all point to times of upheaval and turmoil.
In particular, we’re in the wake of the debt crisis of 2008, a recession that is over on paper but not in practice. The financial crisis of Greece and other European states is ongoing and ominous, its repercussions felt across Europe and the globe in general.
The Arab spring and the fight against tyranny make things even more interesting, as people across the Arab world rise en masse against their despots and dictators, in pursuit of liberty and human rights.
Theocracy stands in the way of the oppressed. Dogmatic organized religion is experiencing a political resurgence, playing a major role in world affairs, fomenting tension between rival schools of thought, not to mention the attack on rationalism itself.
Economic and social unrest add to the tension and uncertainty, eroding trust and faith in a number of states as well as in the global economy. The world reels in the wake of uprising and volatility, rhetoric and revolution.
These are truly historic times, and the more we know about history and what happened before, the more able we’ll be to face our trials and tribulations, coming out the other end by making history, not smashing our heads on it.
It’s time to go back in time, visit those pivotal moments in human civilization when history was made and the foundations for a better future were laid – arm ourselves with the knowledge of what happened then so that we may understand what’s happening now, and deal with it as best we can.
This series will consist of ten parts, all of them based on the documentary, The Greeks: Crucible of Civilization. The footage will be presented as it was posted on the web, in 15-minute clips, in chronological sequence, from part 1 to part 10. The aim is to entertain and inform while at the same time providing food for thought by drawing broad analogies between events in Athenian and Global history through bullet points / brief summary.
Little will be written overall, letting the documentary do the talking. The written part of this series will align the documentary’s contents with current events. Sometimes the connections will be clear, shown for what they are. Other times the parallels will be loose and imaginative, acting as a rough guide.
All connections are arbitrary and don’t claim to be scientific. This isn’t an exhaustive history of the present based on past occurrences. The aim is more modest, shedding light on the past so that we may see things for what they are – and avoid a number of errors – while identifying the successes, the overall achievements and benchmarks. This is a story of caution as well as inspiration.
Let each reader/viewer make up his or her mind as to what lessons the history of Athens holds for us.