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Athens: Dawn of Democracy
Athens Dawn of Democracy
Actor: Bettany Hughes
Director: Timothy Copestake
Genres: Educational, Documentary
NR     2007     2hr 0min


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Movie Details

Actor: Bettany Hughes
Director: Timothy Copestake
Genres: Educational, Documentary
Sub-Genres: Educational, History
Studio: Pbs (Direct)
Format: DVD - Color
DVD Release Date: 11/20/2007
Original Release Date: 01/01/2007
Theatrical Release Date: 01/01/2007
Release Year: 2007
Run Time: 2hr 0min
Screens: Color
Number of Discs: 1
SwapaDVD Credits: 1
Total Copies: 0
Members Wishing: 2
MPAA Rating: NR (Not Rated)
Languages: English

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Movie Reviews

The First Democracy Re-Examined
J. S. Kaminski | Aberdeen, NJ United States | 11/25/2007
(4 out of 5 stars)

"What comes to mind when you think of democracy? And what about when you think of Athens, the first democracy? Is the image that of a peaceful, enlightened group of people, exercising power together for the good of the whole? Ah, that's why this program was made - to shatter such an image, and reveal the first democracy for what it truly was.

For, although there were some important and, really, groundbreaking changes in the approach to government, the truth is, Athens actually did some pretty terrible things, democracy or not. Case in point - slaves were a major reason for its success. They were used to work the fields and were treated as property (slaves were forcibly sterilized so they could not have children, and thus, concentrate on their work). Doesn't sound like a free society, does it? Also, and this is no real surprise, women were subjugated in Athens, just as they were in almost every other society. No special treatment here. But perhaps the biggest surprise was to learn that no two-year period went by without the people of Athens voting to go to war. Again, not the idea you might have of an enlightened group of people looking to advance their new concept of governance. The process of "exporting democracy" was really to conquer new lands, exploit their resources, and exact tribute from the defeated groups. This is no different than what a tyrant might do - the only change was that a majority of Athenians were voting to take these actions, as opposed to a king or despot doing it on his own. But the result was the same - Athens, once it gained power and prominence, behaved in much the same way as a dictator might.

With all of this Athens-bashing, one shouldn't lose sight of the fact that Athens did introduce some revolutionary ideas regarding citizens' rights and duties. Prior to this experiment, the idea of people-led government was pretty much non-existent. However, in the closing section, as if to drive the point home, the story of Socrates' trial and death sentence is told. Here was a solid citizen, one of the greatest philosophers of any age, being sentenced to drinking poison for "mocking the gods and corrupting the youth." Hardly a capital crime one would think. Shouldn't a democracy allow free speech? Well, not in Athens. Not if it angered enough of the wrong people.

Four stars. A sobering reminder that power corrupts, no matter what form - even in a democracy.
Democracy in Athens
Stephen J. Burr | Alexandria, VA | 02/08/2008
(4 out of 5 stars)

"A good historical review of Athens in terms of democracy. They used the standard shots of the sites as they are now, historical re-creations of sites, artifacts, interviews with historians, and narration. The narrator, and the others, were mildly condescending and critical on Athens. They judged them with 21st century (Western, liberal (technical meaning), democratic ideals). In addition, the narrator is a babe."
Hip and classic
geezergirrrlreads | 03/27/2008
(5 out of 5 stars)

"Athens: Dawn of Democracy is a wonderfully hip and accessible presentation of a familiar yet critical period of western history. Hughes' takes on reasons and outcomes are provocative and eye-opening, and video footage is gorgeous. A book offering further depth in the subject would be a brilliant addition to the concept, as was Hughes' work with Helen of Troy."
Excellent History
blueyodel1 | london | 07/06/2008
(5 out of 5 stars)

"Both explains the positive aspects of Ancient Athens without avoiding the contradictions at its heart: a democracy reliant on slavery and imperialism to underpin its political system. A culture much celebrated for its rationality yet equally based on magic and mystery cults."