Metropolis - Ancient Athens
Metropolis is a series about the biggest cities in the ancient world. People were drawn to the cities to find prosperity and happiness. The ancient world was colorful and merchants brought their wares from around the world as the trade networks ran far and wide. The first episode is about Athens. The run time for the episode is 51:47.
Athens rose 500 years before the birth of Christ. Its impact on history was large. Fine arts and sciences blossomed. The most famous philosophers taught in Athens. The people gave the world a new type of government: democracy. This documentary follows the story of a woman who lived in Athens. She was a woman of wealth and beauty, however, her pride led her to danger. What was life like for this woman in Athens?
In Fifth Century BC, Athens had 300,000 people. There was a period of decline in Athens. Athens finally regained its ancient size in the Twentieth Century. Presently, the Parthenon is in the process of being restored. The Athenians had built it to celebrate their victory over the Persians. The process of restoring the building involves taking it apart piece by piece and slowly repairing previous decades of restoration mistakes. When the work is done, it will still look like a ruin. Only pieces too damaged to use will be replaced. This opportunity is allowing scholars and architects to study the Parthenon closely and learn the techniques of the ancient builders. This restoration is revealing the secrets of the Parthenon.
Athens allowed ideas to flourish. Such ideas include the Pythagorean theorem as well as the atom being the smallest piece of the universe. The math that was discovered in Athens allowed the Athenians to build the Parthenon. The ideas of democracy were also in place in Athens. Athenians would practice the ideas in the Agora. It was a place where citizens could interact with each other daily.
A team is working to excavate the Agora. The Agora was the village square of Athens. It was the place where the administrative buildings were housed. There were a variety of buildings: the senate, magistrates office, commissioners, and courts. It is where this woman Phryne would spend her day. She was a woman of wealth and success. However, this wealth and success brought suspicion. She was accused of a capital offense: blaspheme. There are rumors that she commissioned a statue of Aphrodite in her likeness. People portraying themselves as gods make the citizens fear that the gods would punish them for such cheek.
Part of the excavations of the agora included the discovery of the well. The well was very deep and dug at the time of the Parthenon. The well has been studied for three years and it is giving a team of archeologists a glimpse of what the site looked like. The agora was surrounded by houses and they were lived in by people who came from different backgrounds. The poorest people lived in densely packed houses around the agora. There were also villas where the rich lived near the agora.
There were a variety of finds on the site as well. Small bowls seem to indicate that the poorest Athenians made sacrifices in hopes the gods would give them a better life. The Parthenon also shows the ties the Athenians had with their gods. The gods demanded humility from their people, and so Phryne’s sculpture would have been an affront to them. If gods took on a human form it was an expression of their divinity, but for a woman to take the likeness of the gods, it would have been an affront. Phryne’s life and liberty would be in danger. Why would Phryne’s life be in danger? Tune into the rest of this episode to find out.
This documentary has an old-school feel. The recreation of Phryne’s life and crimes was an interesting look as well. The sections about the restoration of the Parthenon were fantastic and would be appropriate for a STEM classroom. There was also a good section on the crafts of Athens which would be interesting for an art class. Mine the Parthenon sections for STEM classrooms and you can show the rest of the documentary for a history class.
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