The Importance Of Athenian Influence On Modern Western Society

671 words - 3 pages

According to the PBS Empires series, Classical Greece, and particularly Athens, was the crucible of civilization. As the inventors of democracy, rationalist philosophy, and other institutions valuable to the West, the documentary impresses the importance of Athenian influence upon modern society. It also attempts to analogize the feuds among the Greek city states and the Peloponnesian War to the internal conflicts in Western society.
Greek civilization originated with Minoans on Crete, which was then followed by the Mycenaens, the heroic peoples of the Trojan War. After their fall, Greece fell into a period of decline, “the Dark Ages,” until the reemergence of classical culture around 600 B.C.E. At this time, the city states in Attica, Peloponnesus, and Ionia were slowly gaining power. Particularly, the Dorians who had established Sparta, though reputedly existing from antiquity, established their dominance over the Peloponnese. The emphasis on Spartan martial tradition seems to suggest a criticism of their underdevelopment in other cultural features, such as the arts or philosophy, as was practiced in Athens. While describing the development of Athenian democracy, the film is filled with praise, particularly for the foresight of Solon and Clisthones, who created a center for true political discourse and development. However, the film while mildly critical of the Spartan value system, nonetheless shows a great amount of respect for their fortitude and strength as warriors, emphasizing their feat of conquering over 4000 square miles of territory in Peleponnesus.
Instead the series is much more interested in depicting the war with Persia, and all its symbolic importance. Despite the fact that the various states that allied against the Persians, like Athens, Sparta, and Corinth, were all bitter enemies at other times with greatly varying cultural practices, the documentary proposes the maxim that Greece stood for freedom and that Persia was an empire founded upon slavery. This is perhaps done to stress the fact that as Greece is viewed as the cradle of Western civilization, a Perian victory would have completely changed the...

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