Ancient Greece History Channel Documentary (Engineering an Empire). Western Civilization has been influenced by many cultures, from Rome to America, but it was born in A,ncient Greece. Centuries before Julius Caesar conquered much of the known world, the Ancient Greeks were laying a foundation that has supported 3000 years of European history. Ancient Greece brings to mind philosophers like Aristotle and Socrates, Olympian gods, the beginnings of democracy, astonishing technological innovations, great conquering armies like those of Alexander the Great, and savage internecine battles, none more famous than the duel to the death between Athens and Sparta.
Greece is a story about the human drive to explore, to wonder, to be curious. Their ruins now communicate that drive. Over 1000 years, this strong and charismatic people strategically harnessed the materials and people around them to create the most advanced technological feats the world had ever seen.
From The Tunnel of Samos: a mile-long aqueduct dug through a large mountain of solid limestone, to Agamemnon's Tomb, to The Parthenon, this episode will examine the architecture and infrastructure engineered by the Greek Empire. Engineering an Empire is an excellent series and definitely worth watching.
The legacy of the Greeks is under assault today thus deserves defence and celebration for the simple reason that much of what we are is the result of that brilliant examination of human life first begun by the Greeks; as Jacob Burckhardt says, "We see with the eyes of the Greeks and use their phrases when we speak." We must listen to the Greeks not because they will give us answers, but because they first identified the questions and problems, and they knew too where the answers must come from: the minds of free human beings who have control over their own lives. And this, finally, is the greatest good we have received from the Greeks: the gift of freedom.
The Greeks are accused by some of stealing their achievements from Egyptians and Babylonians, of oppressing their wives and daughters, and of hypocritically speculating about freedom while holding slaves. And that is the greatest irony: the spirit of criticism that among so many academics has fossilized into a pose has its origins nowhere but among the Greeks, who were the first to question critically everything from the gods to political power to their very selves, the first to live what Socrates called “the examined life”.
As Victor Hanson and John Heath write, “Not one of the multicultural classicists really wishes to live under indigenous pre–Colombian ideas of government, Arabic protocols for female behaviour, Chinese canons of medical ethics, Islamic traditions of church and state, African approaches to science, Japanese ideas of race, Indian social castes, or Native American notions of private property.”
Classic Greek culture has come under attack precisely because its achievement, extended into history, is what defines the West and makes it distinct. What is valuable in the much abused Western tradition, hence the examined life, the pursuit of truth, the dialogue about the place of the individual in the larger group, comes from the Greeks. Humanism, reason, the pursuit of knowledge and the arts, moderation and civic responsibility, all come from the Greeks.
The failings of the Greeks, including not living up to their own ideals, are the failings of humanity everywhere. But their ideals, still alive today, led to the recognition of a common humanity that was more important than gender or social status, more profound than local or tribal affiliations. Without this insight, slavery might never have been abolished in the West, women might never have been granted equality, and the liberal notion that all humans possess innate rights merely as a virtue of being human would never have existed.
(Bruce Thornton, “Greek Ways: How the Greeks Created Western Civilization”, 2002, "Defending the Greeks", Private Papers, 2005, Victor Davis Hanson, John Heath, “Who Killed Homer: The Demise of Classical Education and the Recovery of Greek Wisdom, 1998”)