Athenian Influence On Modern Society Essay

1219 words - 5 pages

Cassian Harrison’s Greeks: Crucible of Civilization (1999) documents the history of ancient Athenian Greece between 570 BC and 460 BC. It was released as a three part series through PBS as a documentary of events through the lives of Cleisthenes, Themistocles, Pericles, and Socrates, as well as their contributions to ancient and modern society. Film scholar Bill Nichols qualifies non-fiction films as documentaries of social representation. Nichols states, “documentaries of social representation offer us new views of our common world to explore and understand” (2). Greeks builds a foundation of beliefs, practices, and events that can be directly linked to our modern world. According to ...view middle of the document...

It is deteriorated and overgrown, but it still exists. This theater, in the shadow of the acropolis, is the birthplace of entertainment. The narrator, Liam Neeson, speaks of stories of Greek tragedy, while sweeping images of the theater are shown. He explains that the ancient Greeks “seem to revel in how frail greatness can be”, and what we are seeing is a once great theater that has, over time, succumb to its own frailties, thus demonstrating a connection in the story with real, tangible places and images.
Harrison’s film achieves social representation by making the stuff of social reality visible and audible in a distinctive way. It provides a view of what ancient life may have been like, and involves the viewer on a deeper level with these images. According to Nichols, “Documentaries offer aural and visual likenesses or representations of some part of the historical world” (5). Harrison chooses to embody this in his representation of characters. All main character components to the story are represented with actors, not just images of a painting or sculpted bust. This allows the viewer to see them as people that truly existed on a relatable level, and further involves them in the stories. Social documentaries, while being non-fiction, can present historical information in a way that may influence viewers’ opinions. Although basically truthful information, it may only present one side of the story, making some aspect or opinion more favorable. Viewers can become emotionally involved through the use of rhetorical devices, and when the documentary presents an opposing force, such as the Spartans or the Persians, the viewer is compelled to side with the Athenians that they now relate with, and accept the presentation of the antagonist as the enemy. In Greeks, Athenians are presented as the heroic underdog, always overcoming the greatness of the opposing force. Stories of the hero were spread far and wide across ancient Greece. These tales influenced many people in their actions, including Spartan soldiers and Athenian heroes, such as Cleisthenes. The Greek hero was depicted as a conqueror of nations, superior in battle, and deflowerer of women. There were many negative traits about this mythical hero, but because of the glorification, the traits were deemed acceptable, and even sought after. Many men became cruel tyrants because of dedication to this ideal. Even the heralded Olympic games of today were started as a way for men to display traits of the hero for all to see. Men from all walks of life would gather to compete with one another in competitions designed to show off their heroic traits and skills. These games, as well as some of the...

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