Ancient Greece was a civilization belonging to a period of Greek history that lasted from the Archaic period of the 8th to 6th centuries BC to the end of antiquity (c. 600 AD). Immediately following this period was the beginning of the Early Middle Ages and the Byzantine era. Included in ancient Greece is the period of Classical Greece, which flourished during the 5th to 4th centuries BC. Classical Greece began with the repelling of a Persian invasion by Athenian leadership. Because of conquests by Alexander the Great of Macedonia, Hellenistic civilization flourished from Central Asia to the western end of the Mediterranean Sea.
the Greeks the people glorious and arrogant valiant and headstrong Oh all these were the men and women who laid the very foundations of Western civilization their monuments still recall perhaps the most extraordinary two centuries in history a time which saw the birth of science and politics philosophy literature and drama which saw the creation of art and architecture we still strive to me and the Greeks achieved all this against a backdrop of war and conflict for they would vanquish armies navies empires many times their size and build an empire of their own which stretched across the Mediterranean for one brief moment the mighty warships of the Greeks ruled the Seas their prosperity unequaled these achievements achievements which still shape our world we're made not by figures lost to time but by men and women whose voices we can still hear whose lives we can still follow man such as Themistocles one of the world's greatest military generals Pericles politician vision and jeans and Socrates most famous philosopher in history this is the story of these astonishing individuals of the rise and fall of a civilization that changed the world [Applause] 508 BC five centuries before the birth of Christ in a town called Athens a tiny city in mainland Greece pandemonium ruled the streets the ordinary people had turned on their rulers demanding freedom from centuries of oppression at this moment one man looked on an athenian nobleman named Cleisthenes Cleisthenes have been brought up from birth to be a ruler to look down on these common people with contempt but this one night would be a turning point in his life in the history of Greece and in the history of civilization in a flash of inspiration Cleisthenes would see that these ordinary people's should have freedom a chance to shape their own destiny to govern themselves and with this decision Cleisthenes would set his fellow Greeks on the path to Empire historians estimate that Cleisthenes was born around 570 BC he was hardly the type to become a man of the people for he had been born into one of the richest families in Greece his home a palace by the standards of the day Cleisthenes family were called the alchemy onit's they were a wealthy and long-established political dynasty he grew up in a world of great privilege a world in which men of an elite background would expect to have certain privileges just given to them the origin of Cleisthenes family fortune is a tale typical of ancient Greece a curious story lost half in myth the first Greek historian herodotus claimed the Cleisthenes grandfather once performed a favor for a great king named Croesus a king of the measurable wealth in return he was told he could take a gift of gold dust from Croesus Treasury but according to herodotus Cleisthenes ancestor couldn't restrain himself just to loading up his pockets he stuffed every orifice of his body his ears and his mouth with shimmering gold dust and then poured more over his head in here and to rot at his rights that King Croesus was so amused by this bravado that he let him take all the gold he was carrying and as much again but whenever the source of Cleisthenes family wealth there is no doubt that they had used it effectively to gain power from his earliest days the young Cleisthenes was taught that he was an aristocrat ancient Greek for a member of the ruling class in the sixth century BC these aristocrats controlled everything that happened in Cleisthenes hometown a small settlement called Athens you Athens lay in the center of a Mediterranean Peninsula which sliced the knees new as Helles which we now call Greece in the days of Cleisthenes youth it would have seemed impossible that this city would soon rule an empire it certainly is not what we call us as you forget Manhattan Athens in the center has public buildings but otherwise I think one should imagine more village style of accommodation and habitation the town was built around the Acropolis a steep sided outcrop of bare rock a stronghold from which the Athenians could fend off the attacks of their neighbors in the narrow street surrounding the acropolis puddled the simple homes of farmers and tradesmen most of the houses perhaps mud-brick there there was no sewage there was no waste collection we would find it very much like wandering through a third-world village you would certainly Dale to smell Athens as you approached it for man life was past working in the fields on basic crafts women spent our days cloistered in the home cooking spinning weaving for these Athenians reading and writing was a rare skill there was nothing that we might call science or medicine life expectancy at birth was less than 15 years I think the idea that ancient Greek life was nasty brutish and short would be entirely accurate certainly life was extremely tough this was no society of equals the common Athenians lived under the yoke of the aristocrats men such as Cleisthenes father the traditional political Melia from which Cleisthenes arose was one in which all effective political power was being dominated by a relative handful of people the possibility that the ordinary people of Athens would actually matter was the furthest thing from the mind of the traditional Greek elites for the Greek writer Aristotle this was a world riven by injustice the whole country was in the hands of a few people a hardest and bitterest thing for the masses was their state of serfdom not that they weren't discontented with anything else for to speak generally there had no part nor share in anything Athens was in a sense turned against itself you had one part of the population the aristocratic elite holding power at the expense of the rest of the citizen population dominated by aristocrats interested only in preserving their own power Athens hardly seemed a state on the verge of building a great empire but then Greece also seemed an unlikely land to give rise to greatness if you look at the physical world of Greece it's not the kind of place that you'd immediately expect to produce a great civilization simply too many mountains Greece does not have the obvious kind of physical unity that typically seems to be associated with the really great imperial civilizations of the ancient world the great civilizations of Cleisthenes day had grown up around rivers and the fertile plains stretching from their banks to the south of Greece lay Egypt with the regular flooding of the Nile sustained a civilization already 2,000 years old and to the east lay the Persians at the heart of their empire lay the Tigris and Euphrates rivers this was the very birthplace of civilization the home of the world's first cities but mainland Greece had no great open plains this was a landscape riven by mountain ranges offer coasts play countless tiny islands it seemed impossible for a single ruler to dominate this fragmented world instead Greece was divided into countless tiny nations called city-states each fiercely independent each with its own culture and history in Cleisthenes time there were over a thousand of these city-states jostling with each other for land and power they never were politically unified or at least in the Classical period never politically unified and indeed each individual great city-state each polis sought to maintain its own independence sometimes successfully sometimes unsuccessfully in the early 6th century Athens was not nearly the most powerful or important of these tiny nations Argos had stood for over a thousand years though citizens were able to trace their history back to the mythical days of the Trojan War the corinthians dominated greek trade their ships plied the mediterranean ferrying goods back and forth from Egypt Assyria and Italy but there was one city state which had military power which appeared that it might come to dominate all of Cleisthenes Greece in the south of Greece around the reedbeds of the river euro toss lay the city-state of Sparta the Spartans were brought up from birth to be soldiers raised in the field separated from their families their lives structured around discipline and war center of an average Spartan man's life was his barracks and he was brought up to be a military man the Spartans lived a life stripped of comforts with few possessions apart from their weapons and their cloaks dyed red to conceal their other victims blood Spartans were brought up to put up with anything and all sorts of stories the best being of a visiting Sybarite visiting Sparta eating the local food and saying now he understood why the Spartans were so willing to die because death was as nothing to eating their food the Spartans were ruthless expansionists by Cleisthenes time that conquered all of the surrounding regions more than 4,000 square miles and they had reduced these conquered populations to a slave class known as the helots the helots were forced to work in the fields for their Spartan overlords and they were ruled with an iron fist the Spartans every year declared war on the helots and the point of this was partly of course to reinforce their sense of identity as a warrior community but also rather calculatingly to make it legitimate to kill a helot and helot culling as opposed to killing was a regular practice if there was any part of Cleisthenes grease that looked like it might build an empire it was spotter for the rest of the Greeks they were a threat always on the horizon this was the world of Cleisthenes childhood brought up a member of a self-interested elite in a state that was only a third-rate power it was an unlikely beginning for the man who would set Greece on the path to Empire but then Cleisthenes had always been a man fired by a dream the uniquely Greek vision of the greatness a man could achieve if there was one thing that inspired Cleisthenes and his fellow Greeks it was their stories ancient tales and myths the country was continually criss-crossed by hundreds of travelling bards who recited these stories to whoever would pay these were people who in an age without writing had memorized over a million lines of poetry it's very easy to underestimate the power of the human memory when we live in a culture like ours which has so many means for recording things before the Greeks got the alphabet they seemed to have been able to remember vast tracts of poetry and pass it on over the generations in quite remarkable way these travelling barns would have regularly visited the Athens of Cleisthenes childhood and their stories would have influenced and shaped him from his earliest days the two most famous tales these singers told are still preserved the Iliad and the Odyssey composed by the legendary poet Homer these works tell of mighty battles and epic struggles and at the heart by the heroes mythical figures whose strength had won them power and glory heroes almost by definition were doers of great deeds the more heads you knocked and the more young women that you deflowered the greater your heroic status images of heroes are found all over Greek art these warlike figures valiant beautiful determined to seize victory at all costs with a Greek ideal the heroic ideal was absolutely sinful for the whole world Greek culture heroes were terrific achievers and one might hope to achieve heroic status by modeling oneself on the deeds for example Achilles the kilise was the archetypal Greek hero as a child he had been offered the choice between a long ordinary life or a brief burst of glory in the battlefield the ghillies choice have been an early death and eternal fame this the vision of the hero the ideal of the man of action was the model that Cleisthenes was brought up to follow to pursue a life of greatness and glory one through strength and valor to seize power and victory for himself and himself alone to become a real-life hero but Cleisthenes was not the only one to take the tales of the mythical heroes to heart there's a big change in the middle of the sixth century when one man seizes control of the government as what the Greeks called a tyrant the story of how this tyrant or sole ruler came to power has been preserved by the historian Herodotus one day a man of dignified and noble bearing rode into the city of Athens the sytem stood a tall and beautiful woman a woman he claimed was the patron goddess of Athens Athena this dashing figure demanded that he be given the rule of Athens for like one of homeless heroes he had the protection of a goddess surprisingly he was welcomed by the Athenians as their new ruler despite the fact that the goddess was simply a particularly tall girl from a neighboring village the heroic figure was an ordinary man call my sister Otis place filiz own brother-in-law paisa status was I think an excellent politician he was a man without doubt with an eye for the main chance but as he consolidated his rule it became clear that paisa Stratos had far greater ambitions than simply gaining power persist Redis was an extremely intelligent man he clearly understood that if he was going to maintain control of athens if he was going to be able to consolidate his rule and pass it on to his sons which is clearly his ambition he would have to find allies my sister Otis took an extraordinary step he turned to the common Athenians for support undermining the whole hierarchy of aristocrats and colonized that had endured for centuries my sister otters reduced taxes and introduced free loans to allow the people to build up their farms and by offering the Athenians the chance of prosperity my sister otters began to transform this city with the rise of prices purchased we start to see the success of agrarianism accelerated at Athens and that's going to be a kernel that's going to grow and grow and grow in the ensuing two centuries one of the results of that is we see more vines and olives you olive trees manifests themselves in every aspect of Greek culture economically they allow people to have cooking oil they allow people to eat olives they allow people to use lubricant so fuel so it's a very valuable economic commodity the land around Athens produced excellent oaths the best in the Greek world and as production soared the Athenians found a ready market for this or not only in the other Greek States but across the sea in Egypt in Phoenicia Persia and Assyria for Athens was ideally situated to export to the entire eastern Mediterranean Greece is in the middle of an extraordinary grouping of ancient civilization it's bounded on the east by the great Persian Empire on the south by the age-old civilization of Egypt on the west the Etruscans and the Romans Greeks were scattered Plato has a rather nice phrase like and so frogs round a pond the eastern Mediterranean was the greatest market place of the ancient world it seemed that everyone had something to sell grain from cydia salt fish from the Black Sea wine from the great vineyards of the island of keels gold silver art and finery from Egypt and everyone was willing to trade for Athenian olive oil as goods flowed in and out of the Athenian Harbor the Athenians found their wealth and prosperity on the rise but the most astonishing consequence of Athens sudden expansion was to be found in the darkest streets of the city Athens first great artistic legacy the VARs I think what what's fascinating about the pottery is that in its own time it wasn't a big deal artistic there what was inside the pots was almost invariably worth more than the pot itself here in the area known as the kerameikos ancient athens red-light district could also be found the potters workshops these common artisans were amongst the lowest of the low and Athenian society if you are a Potter in Athenian society I won't tell you were the scum of the earth but you certainly had no especial respect it was hard incessant work uninvaded by the citizen population pottery had been a staple across the ancient world for hundreds of years used in the kitchen at home and for transporting oils and food but it had always been simple in design using geometric patterns and basic figures designs based on Egyptian and the Syrian art but Athenian potters as they decorated their work began to develop a whole new style of painting a freshness and a naturalism never before seen a style still astonishing today it's now become almost commonplace for a Greek VARs on the modern antiquities market to fetch millions of dollars or pounds and if the makers of those father's had any idea what we were shelling out for them their graves would spin with either resentment or just absolute polarity these athenian potters seem to have been motivated not by the idea of producing great art for eternity but about doing each other I'm one particularly fine VARs we find the proud comment youth I'm a tease son of Polly us through this and then underneath and I'll bet you fro Gnaeus couldn't have managed it for the first time in their history the ordinary Athenians had tasted freedom and they had shown their capacity for extraordinary achievement Cleisthenes brute a man who had gone to pieces Stratos rule and he saw how Athens changed his home had turned from a modest rural settlement into an international economic power but paisa stratus rule of benevolent tyranny was not to last forever in the year 527 BC he died and was laid to rest here in the Athenian graveyard his son Hippias took over at first Hippias followed in his father's footsteps ruling athens with a fair hand but soon the Athenians discovered the peerless nature of tyranny historians tell us that in the year 514 BC Hippias brother was murdered aggrieved and bitter the tyrants behavior completely changed if he asked not only executed the murderers but cruelly tortured one of their wives to death as well Aristotle described the ruler slide towards madness after this the tyranny became much much harsher for Hippias hoarded numerous executions and sentences of exile in revenge for his brother and he became embittered and suspicious of everybody the freedoms that the common Athenians had gained under piasa status we're now stripped away there was now a real tyranny in the modern sense in Athens paisa Stratos had come into power for a cause his son now had no cause other than self-preservation life for Cleisthenes had now become increasingly dangerous for the paranoid dictator knew that it was from here from the aristocrats that the greatest threat to his power could come and Hippias fears will be proved right with the hardening of the attitude of the tyranny the time now seemed to be ripe Cleisthenes decided to take his first great gamble he would try to overthrow Hippias to gain power for himself and his family Kleiss Lee's ambition to make his mark upon scene is something that of course would have been impressed on him from a very early age from the stories of the heroes that there need to succeed and to strike at the right time for Cleisthenes himself it would be an achievement by Sonny's assembled a conspiracy to overthrow the tyrant Hippias was trapped in this remote captured and banished from Athens forever the year was 510 BC and Pleiss tonie's was now one of the most powerful figures of lizards he had lived up to the heroic myths he'd been brought up to follow since childhood a Greek society was changing the heroic urns that drove Cleisthenes was no longer reserved for the elite it was now permeating every level of Greek society this is Olympia in southern Greece here at once every four years men from across the Greek world would gather to compete in a vast contest of athletic skill this was the ancestor of the modern Olympic Games for the ancient travel writer Passini as' the Olympics were the highlight of any visit to Greece many are the sights to be seen in Greece and many other wonders to be heard but on nothing does heaven bestow more care than the Olympic Games the Olympic Games were founded in 776 BC two centuries before Cleisthenes had even been born then they had been an exclusive competition for the wealthiest of the Greeks but by Cleisthenes time the games had evolved to allow anyone to take part a nobleman could now race against a porter a king against a fishmonger the Olympic Games were a chance for any Greeks to display the sort of heroic qualities that the heroes of Homer had displayed the competitions have their roots from the skills required on the ancient battlefield chariot racing running wrestling boxing but here there was no real prize just to read the Volland Fame throughout Greece [Applause] a competitor would be surrounded by the largest gathering of Greeks in peace that he would ever experience perhaps as many as 40,000 Greeks would gather for the Olympic Games Greeks would travel hundreds of miles to attend the Olympics and during the festival the land surrounding the stadiums would be covered with encampments but the games were very much a male experience women were prohibited from entering the competitions or even the stadium but for the Greek man whatever his origin class to win here would be the highlight of his life you had briefly a moment of glory of extreme fame which was what the competitive culture of the Greeks valued so highly here the Greeks had perhaps found a civilized way to satisfy the heroic ideal they have built a meritocracy based on skill and ability where anyone could win but a world where everyone could seize victory could only make Athens even more unstable the soonest Cleisthenes gained power he found that others were conspiring against him here heroism still meant one thing seize power whenever and however you can the only rule is that you get what you can and that you fight you have to go in there and show that you can win the most ambitious of those conspiring against Cleisthenes was a man named i sagres i sai giris was another Athenian aristocrat he too had been brought up to believe that power was his right but I Sai giris also knew that he could not gain power on his own my cigars took an unprecedented step he turned outside Athens for support he sent a message to the Spartans Greece's most feared warriors my giris was an old friend of the Spartans rumor had it that he had shared his wife with a Spartan King Spartans immediately provided a force of their finest troops to back out by Psygnosis bid for power to help him betray his city i sagar is really was upping the stakes it brought in the most powerful state in greece it was pretty clear he was going to turn athens into a subject state to sparta with his spot enforce my sagar estates to cool seizing control of athens he and his troops would rule from the high point of the city the stronghold atop the Acropolis the first targets of the new tyrant were the other aristocrats Cleisthenes most of all you over 700 households were cast out of Athens including Cleisthenes and his entire family Cleisthenes would leave his city living once again under the hand of a despotic dictator a dictator who now ruled with the support of the most fearsome power in Greece the Spartans but licenese pull his childhood lessons seen betrayed he had been brought up to be an aristocrat and a ruler to emulate the mythical heroes but all this had led to was conflict and feuding death and exile power struggles amongst an aristocratic elite alka Nathan's ever escaped from this pointless cycle of violence but even this Cleisthenes agonized in exile Athens was rocked by an extraordinary event [Applause] like they're mythical heroes the ordinary people of Athens now tuck their destiny into their own [Applause] they rose up revolution [Applause] my grace and his Spartan allies blockaded themselves atop the Acropolis the high point of the city but even there they could not escape the fury of the common fields for two days and nights my sagres held out against this extraordinary uprising until finally in the morning of the third day he was forced to surrender the year was 508 BC this would be Athens first step to Empire and glory for the first time in recorded history the people had turned on their rulers and seized power for themselves Athens at this point is in control of the mob the ordinary people who had risen up without organized leadership and then the question is what happens now this new dome the Athenian people now turn to one man a figure whose life whose experiences and disappointments had given him a unique vision Cleisthenes was recalled from exile and asked to build a government when Cleisthenes returned to Athens after the expulsion of the Spartans he faced a really remarkable challenge there was no possibility for just simply putting back in power a group of aristocrats there was no possibility for him to declare himself tyrant in a sense what closeness had to do is design a revolutionary governmental solution for a revolutionary political situation but Cleisthenes the problem was how to give his fellow athenians to say in their future that he knew they must now have on an athenian hillside he had a great meeting place carved out from the bare rock here and the shadow of their croppers the citizens of Athens could now gather to discuss the future of their state on these very steps rich and poor alike could stand and address their fellow citizens this is the ancestor of the British House of Commons the American Congress of Parliament's across the world and where government had once been decided by the strength of the sword arm or the thrust of a sharpened spear Cleisthenes instituted the simple vote a white pebble for yes a black pebble for no with this elegant and simple idea Cleisthenes instituted the rule of the people a system of government which we now know as democracy the great Athenian assembly would gather every nine days to vote on issues covering the entire administration of the state from the raising of taxes to the building of roads from the price of figs to the declaration of war Athenian democracy is very different sort of democracy from ours one has a sense as an Athenian citizen that you really can make a difference there is no us and them there is no government separate from the ordinary Athenian citizen body they are the government democracy represented a sharp break and originally a latest heroic culture was now turned on its head and the idea was that even ordinary Greeks who weren't aristocratic who were not rich could be as it were heroes in politics it was a system of government that would transform this tiny state I would set off one of the greatest flowerings of civilization the world had ever seen [Applause] it's not just an accident that you had democracy and you had this tremendous flourishing of culture I think that democracy really does yeah in a very real way unleash make patek make possible potentials within human societies that are very unlikely to be unleashed to be made actual in any other way the Athenians would take what had been the greatest achievements of the ancient world and transform them they would take the monumental pyramids and temples of the Egyptian pharaohs and with them built an architecture of Grace and splendor they would take the myths and tales of the travelling bards and transform them into theater entertainment for a whole city and the great stone sculptors of Assyria and Egypt would be remade with an intimacy and emotion that still touches us today but just as Cleisthenes democracy was gaining strength a new threat was gathering in the east the mighty Persian Empire the Persians were the greatest power of the day they ruled an empire that stretched from India to the Mediterranean but as Athens had grown and power and confidence the Persians realized that this tiny state on their eastern border might soon pose a threat they mobilized a force of 30,000 men to invade Greece a meeting Cleisthenes democracy hardly born was now to face its greatest test Greece the Year 490 BC here a revolution has begun that will change the world the moment of chaos and anarchy the people of a tiny state named Athens have seized control of their city and established democracy for the first time in history but now this tiny state will face a greater challenge Athens will be pitted against the greatest power of the day a tyrannical Persian Empire you know contests spread across land and sea that were lost over a decade Athenian democracy will be tested in the crucible of war this is the story of an extraordinary moment in history and of two men who would change the course of civilization Themistocles military genius of the ancient world and parrot Lee's a visionary whose legacy still shapes the world today this is the story of the Greeks 490 BC a lone figure runs across the mountainous terrain of Greece his name is vitaveggies citizen of a tiny democracy named athens on this day fie deputies will make one of the most astonishing athletic achievements in israel the inspiration for our modern mouth but vitaveggies quest is not for glory but survival this homeland is about to be conquered by the mighty Persian Empire in the early fifth century BC the Persians were the greatest power in the world state their vast empire straights from India and the East to Turkey in the West now out on their western frontier the tiny state of democratic Athens was gaining power this was a threat that the Persians would have to destroy the Persians lived in a culture of unbending tyranny at the head of their empire sat darius known to the Greeks only as the great king so plans had to cover their mouths and his presence just to avoid tainting the air he breathed for fie deputies and the democratic Athenians conquest by Darius and the Persians would mean the destruction of their entire way of life there is a huge cultural difference between the Greeks and the Persians the Greeks are a people who emphasize freedom the Persians would put far more emphasis on obedience is a struggle between freedom and slavery the Persian force landed at a sandy bay called mouth just 26 miles from Evans news of the invasion spread through the streets like wildfire this was a city without a standing army every male citizen would have to come to the defense of his state the poorest citizens have Spears sticks bows and arrows whatever weapons they can find but the heart of the Athenian force would be the hoplites man who could afford heavy bronze armor a shield a spear a sword the Athenians would filled a small but determined force that's probably the first time in the history of the athenian state that the entire population had been mustered and for them to feel 10,000 hoplites out of a citizenry that might have been only been 20 or 30,000 it's a level of involvement that's astounding but as they face the Persians on the battlefield the Athenians held out little hope of victory they were outnumbered by two to one by deputies desperate mission was to run for help from one of Athens local rivals the Greek state of Sparta even as Iran by dipa T's must have imagined the horror that his fellow Athenians now faced [Applause] you're dodging Spears from your men in front and your man behind you probably couldn't see or hear all you would feel would be pressure [Applause] you wouldn't see the sort lungs that took one of your testicles off you would not see the spear thrust that took your head off [Applause] you would have no idea what was going on just the momentum that carried you ahead all you would be aware of is that you had to push forward and keep starving and keep on your feet and you would hope that everybody else would do that vitaveggies run was to become the stuff of legend fired by the terror that his fellow citizens were being slaughtered he ran 140 miles in just two days but by deputies quest would end in failure help would be refused he was left only with the knowledge that his fellow Athenians would have to fight alone vitae bodies could never have imagined that the Greeks would in fact win glorious victory the Athenians had rushed at their foe in a headlong charge and the Persians had scattered in the face of their assault the athenian slaughtered over 6,000 persians in one fateful day the world's first democracy had survived its first great test every Athenian knew that he had voted to fight and that this reflected the majority vote of the citizens and that was not true of the Persian whatever you want to say about democracy it feels the most patriotic enthusiastic and often large armies the Athenians returned to their city to celebrate their victory but amongst them was one from the war with Persia had only just begun an athenian general named Themistocles the mist at leas had fought on the battlefield at marathon he was typical of a new generation of Athenian leaders a man who had risen to power through democracy the mystic leaves is a fascinating character very much an example of the effect of democracy in Athens it's relatively clear that he doesn't come from the inner circle of the landed aristocracy that traditionally had ruled in Athens the restorer he's told about his feeling rather touchy about the fact that he hadn't had a traditional aristocratic operating for example music and poetry in fact I might have given him a spur to to show that he could do as well as someone who had gone to all the right schools as it were the mr. Lee's opinion of his common origins was blunt and straightforward I may not know how to play the lyre or flute but I do know how to make a city great the mr. Cleese had learnt the skills of leadership here the Democratic assembly of Athens here any Athenian could stand before his fellow citizens and tried to convince them to follow his leadership from this very podium Themistocles would now show himself to be one of history's greatest leaders the savior of his city for Themistocles alone recognize that the Persians might still be a danger and that next time victory for the Athenians might not prove so easy the mystical ease realized that the Persians if they came again it would be in a way that made sure that they weren't going to be defeated by land again there was no way that the Athenians could rely on traditional hoplite fighting technique Themistocles began to form up old and new strategy employing the most advanced weapon of the day the trireme triremes have been developed by the Greek state of Corinth the ancient world's finest shipbuilders stacking 170 oarsmen on three levels their combination of lightweight and raw power gave them astonishing speed and maneuverability there was nothing else like them on the water contemporary terms a trireme is a missile the object of trireme is to ram the enemy ship it is a very narrow very light very sleek and very fast weapon of these triremes were also exceedingly expensive Themistocles vision of a vast Athenian Navy might never have come to pass if it had not been for one stroke of luck in the year 483 BC the Athenians discovered a great vein of silver in their territory worth a hundred talents a vast amount in the ancient world the Athenians wanted to divide these newfound riches among themselves but then the mystically stood up in the assembly he wanted to spend the money on ships but he also knew that this would be a hard proposal to sell and so Themistocles played a complex Bluff his argument is not that the money should be used to build a fleet against Persia but rather it should be used to build a fleet against Athens local rival of the Greek city-state of Aegina the reason for mystical ease does this is that he knew it would simply be too upsetting to remind people of the Persian threat it's a difficult argument to make and attribute to his political skill that he's able to do it Themistocles convinced the Athenians to build the greatest naval force in Greece I'm not a moment too soon the great Persian King Darius died in 486 BC and his son Xerxes assumed his Father's throne Xerxes first action was to valve engines for his father's defeat at the hands of the Athenians on my father's behalf and on behalf of all my subjects I will not rest until I have taken hath ins and burnt it to the ground as an imperial power the Persians cannot allow small regional states like this to beat them with impunity Xerxes began to gather his forces he conscripted troops from every corner of his empire Arabians Egyptians Phoenicians as well as Persians rumors began to leak back to Athens that Xerxes army numbered nearly two million men that was the greatest force the world had ever seen but soon it would be ready to march and then finally in the spring of 480 BC news reached Athens the Persian army had set out for Greece history records that Xerxes troops drank rivers dry trampled fields to the war ravaging the land as they marched on towards Greece Xerxes was confident of victory we shall so extend the Empire of Persia that its boundaries will be God's own sky so that the Sun will not look on any land that is not ours when the Greeks realized that the Persians were invading again terror gripped the whole country for the Athenians who knew that they would be Xerxes first target it seemed that this could only be the end as panic gripped the city they turned desperately to their gods they sent a messenger to the Oracle to find out their fate here hi and the Greek Mountains can still be found the site of Delfy the most famous of the Greek Oracle's built around a vast chasm in the mountain from which a sacred spring still flows here the Greeks would come to discover their future they would ask questions of the Pythia the mysterious priestess who spoke with the voice of the god Apollo people came from all over the Greek world to consult Delfy and sometimes came from outside the Greek world as well it was considered to be the center of the universe the omphalos the navel stone of the whole world was at Delphi people asked questions about their private life which are just the sorts of questions people want answers to now archaeologists have discovered copies of the questions asked of these ancient Oracle's there has arystar stolen the wool from the mattress Hawaiian asks what should I do to have useful children but as the Athenians walked up this path two and a half thousand years ago the question was simple and grave what could they do to save themselves the Oracles response could not have been more negative why sitio doomed ones fly to the ends of the earth all his ruin for fire and the headlong god of war shall bring you low when this message came back to Athens the Democratic assembly dissolved into uproar it seemed that even the gods had deserted them butthe misted Lee is refused to panic he had spent every day since the Battle of Marathon waiting for this moment he sent the invoice back to Delfy for a second prophecy though all else shall be taken Zeus the all-seeing grants that the wooden wall only shall not fail argument raged as to what this wooden wall could be some said it meant the stronghold at the center of Athens the Acropolis but Themistocles had a different idea he read the Oracle and he insisted that it had a different interpretation he said the ships of the the wooden barricade which are going to be the key to our success Themistocles plan was daring avoid a conflict on land and fight the Persians at sea he ordered the evacuation of Athens for the first time in her history this order for evacuation carved into a stone tablet for public display is still preserved discovered in the back of a Greek coffee house the Athenians shall send their children and wives to the village of troyzan all the men should embark on the 200 ships that have been prepared to fight the Barbarian Themistocles ordered that his fleet of triremes should gather at Salamis a tiny island of the Athenian Coast Themistocles strategy is remarkable not only because it is innovative and because it is bold but because it requires extraordinary self-sacrifice on the part of the Athenian people he wants every man woman and child to leave their homes and possessions and to go into exile with Athens abandoned Xerxes mighty force entered the city the Persians marching and go on to the Athenian Acropolis the symbol of Athens and they burn it they burn the temples to the ground then you can see the smoke rising from Salamis this would have been a devastating sight and humiliating one they wouldn't sure have seen their country occupied by a fearsome foreign invader surely they would have wondered if they would ever be able to go home again as night fowl themistocles met the leaders of the other Greek city-states on the island of Salamis they had also assembled their much smaller fleets here the scouts had reported back the Persians now not only held Athens but it also gathered a mighty fleet four times the size of the Greek forces but the mist Italy's plans were laid Themistocles sticks to his guns and his plan is to defeat the Persians at sea he wants to fight in this narrow body of water between the island of Salamis and the Athenian mainland the trick is going to be to get the enemy to fight there because the Persians are on stupid Themistocles sent his servant to Xerxes with a seemingly traitorous message the Greeks are afraid and are planning to slip away they're squabbling with each other and will offer no opposition you have at this moment an opportunity of unparalleled success so eager with Xerxes for a crushing victory he was happy to believe the mr. klain's ploy Xerxes marshals his Admirals and they embark and they spend the night rowing they send a contingent along the eastern defile the straight there and try to block up the straights only as the dawn rose that the Persians realized the true nature of Themistocles plan they discovered the Greeks not in disarray but ranged in a battle line across the Narrows in front of them the Persian fleet had been lured so far up the Straits that it had no room to maneuver powerful Greek triremes pour down on them without mercy the Greek playwright Aeschylus fought in the battle and live to tell the tale we heard from every part is voice of exhortation advance see sons of Greece from slavery save your country save your wives your children save a stay the common cause of all demands your valour the Greek forces smashed into the corner Persian fleet Xerxes himself watts the carnage from his golden throne placed on the shore at the end of the battle the Persians had lost 200 ships for the Greeks it was a stunning and conclusive victory victory at Salamis is tremendously important for Greece and for the Athenians it breaks the Persian Navy the Persians can no longer guarantee that they can feed their army nor can they guarantee the safety of the Persian king you must immediately get back to Asia Minor while the going is good in practical terms the game is over than the Greeks have won the mr. Lee's triumph was complete he had persuaded the Athenians to build a Navy he had convinced them to sacrifice their entire city to bring them victory and see his instincts had been proved white he had defeated the greatest Empire of the day and he had now placed Athens in a position where she could build an empire of her own after the years of conflict this was a new dawn for Athens flush with victory equipped with the largest fleet in the eastern Mediterranean the tiny democracy began to grow you the Athenians are going to have naval superiority in the eastern Mediterranean and that is how great their victory over the Persian fleet is and this has a momentum of its own before you know it the Athenians are the head of a naval Confederacy and they're on the road to becoming a superpower the Athenians founded the Delian League an alliance of Greek States designed to keep the persians and check its Treasury was located here on the island of Delos but the ruins still remain by 450 BC this league had more than 200 member states but Athens was the undisputed leader the Delian League had become Athens Empire in all but name Nathan's naval supremacy also gave her economic power she became a city at the center of a vast trading network goods from all over the Mediterranean flooded into her harbors in its heyday Athens was the Big Apple or if you will the big olive of the eastern Mediterranean constant coming and going of traders the wharves would be busy full of people in a cacophony of language one contemporary author gave an account of the diversity of goods in the Athenian marketplace from Sri Nia oxides from the Hellespont Mackrell and all kinds of salted fish Libya provides abundant ivory Pagis a provides tattooed slaves carthage rugs and many colored cushions the Athenian Empire was unprecedented in the degree of prosperity that came to it because of its role as a center of trade the Athenians had access to a quality of life that probably no Greek had ever had before [Applause] Athens rise to economic and political supremacy occurred at lightning speed after the Battle of Salamis she became the dominant power in the eastern Mediterranean in less than a generation and of the city's heart still lay her unique system of government democracy the system of voting using pebbles olive leaves or the show of hands that decided every aspect of the city's government democracy gave the Athenians a great advantage of unleashing talents powers opportunities that other cult cultures simply cannot match the Athenians keenly protected their democracy from any threat foreign or domestic once a year each citizen can scratch the name of an individual onto a shard of pottery known as an ostrich ax and place it into a pot in the assembly the person whose name came up most would then be ostracized banished from the city this was the Athenians method of protecting their government expelling any person they felt might become too powerful but Athenian democracy could turn on any citizen even its greatest war hero the mr. Glee's now found himself under attack the threat was gone now his raison d'etre has been taken away this is something he can't understand the mystic Elise reacts perhaps in an uncharacteristically crude way he reminded the Athenian voters of what they owed him voters don't want to be reminded in any period of what they owed to their politicians they want to be told what their politicians can do for them the Athenian people turned on the aging politician calculated cruel but deeply democratic they ostracized the man who had led them to the greatest victory Themistocles was ostracized I believe because he was simply regarded as having gotten too big for his boats some of the ostraca with Themistocles name still inscribed upon them have been found hidden down in ancient world archaeologists believed that these had been pre prepared by Themistocles enemies to be handed out to Athenian voters who couldn't write the mr. Lee's never recovered from his humiliation he was to spend the rest of his year as wandering from state to state finally dying in exile in Persia the country whose defeat had been his greatest triumph the Athenians were now looking for a leader who might fulfill their newfound sense of imperial glory they found a man who seemed the perfect reflection of this new ideal a man who would change the face of Athens forever a man named Pericles it's probably not a more important figure in the history of classical Greece than Pericles he was the leader of Athens at the height of its power and of its artistic achievement he was the figure associated appropriately with bringing Athenian democracy to its climax to its height but parent Li's was no obvious Democrat like Themistocles or he had been born into one of Athens most elite families nobody had blower blood than Pericles his father was a famous and successful general his mother came from one of the most distinguished senior political families Pericles was born with advantages and eminence that Themistocles lacked and perhaps because of his aristocratic origins Pericles knew what the people of Athens now want it a City fit to rule an empire it seems clear that Pericles had in mind to create a city whose greatness would be admired by the people who live there by everybody else in the Greek world well into the future ratley's announced a glorious new vision to the Athenian assembly all kinds of enterprises should be created which will provide inspiration for every art find employment for every hand we must devote ourselves to acquiring things that will be the source of everlasting Fame Pericles turned his attention to the Acropolis the sheer peak in the center of Athens home of the city's patron goddess Athena 20 years earlier the Persians had burnt down the temples that stood here ever since the Athenians had left these ruins untouched as a memorial to those killed in the war but Pericles had other ideas he proposed a massive reconstruction plan at its center would be a new Parthenon a temple to Athena and it would be one of the most astonishing buildings of the ancient world this new construction program was of unprecedented magnitude and expense the Parthenon in particular was extraordinarily expensive it was filled with all sorts of architectural refinements Pericles planned to spend over 5,000 talents in the first year alone total budget of more than a billion dollars in today's terms his project would require 20,000 tons of marble the athenian quarries at mark intellicus just outside the city resounded as hundreds of workmen traced out and carved great blocks of marble from the mountain this temple will be decorated like none before sculptors and craftsmen would gathered from all over the Greek world with them stood Pericles for he treated the building of the Parthenon as his own personal project he selected architects he selected the men who designed the plans Pericles was directly involved in the planning process some protested that he was decking out the city like a prostitute but when the building was completed and only 15 years his critics were silenced the Parthenon was and still is the most glorious symbol of Athens Empire here was the spiritual heart of the city the mark of a width power and artistic genius when you first came through the door you'd have been just stunned you'd have been confronted immediately by an enormous 40-foot high statue of Athena in gold and ivory and studded with jewels I think the impression of a statue of that size and with that kind of dressing must have truly overwhelming they're at Lee's had embellished his temple like no other though this astonishing statue has since been lost to history other traders from the Parthenon have survived for over 2,000 years the most famous is the Parthenon frieze a 500 foot long stretch of carved marble which ran around the inner wall of the temple Parthenon frieze is only two-and-a-half inches thick at its maximum depth and yet in this space the sculptors carved ranked upon right of crowded figures a great procession of Athenians glorious and elegant here apparently is offered his fellow citizens a vision of themselves and their democratic state at the height of their lorry democracy itself becomes her alized in that moment it's a very democratic thing that wants to include all those citizens who participated in beating off the first great threat to democracy which was from versions these are ideals to which you can aspire the monuments that Pericles built for his fellow Athenians still stand on the peak of the Acropolis they remain the most striking legacy of classical Athens of one of the great empires of the ancient world 20,000 tons of perfectly proportioned marble-carved to submillimeter accuracy the entire structure of the Parthenon is subtly designed to compensate for optical distortion there isn't actually a single right angle in the entire temple pillows swell the floor is curved all to give the appearance of perfection it is an astonishing testament to the achievements of Athenian democracy the Pericles was not simply concerned with astonishing construction projects under his leadership Athens will also become the intellectual center of the ancient world the traditional center of Athenian upper-class life had always been the symposium or dinner party where guests would gather to eat drink and talk in these years Pericles played host to an astonishing generation of individuals figures whose achievements would shape Western civilization Pericles was remarkable in that he associated with the leading minds of his day in just about every field of endeavor Pericles was acquainted with the world's first scientists figures such as an X a giris the first man to realize that the moon was lit by reflected sunlight new Herodotus the world's first historian who wrote one of the earliest records of Greek life and poets and authors such as Aeschylus and Euripides whose works are still standards a more literature Pericles was well aware of his City stature our whole city is an education for our citizens excel all men in versatility resourcefulness and brilliance even Pericles partner a woman named aspasia was unique and distinguished Pericles had divorced his wife and set up home with a foreign woman a woman whose occupation was hardly to be expected for Aspasia was what was known as a hetero Greek for a companion yes she was in a technical sense I guess a prostitute but she was more than that a woman of charm of style of intellect she really was very extraordinary she had an extraordinary mind this relationship caused scandal throughout Athens not just because of his phases profession but because Pericles treated her as an equal something deeply unusual in 5th century Athens one of the things that created such a stir was that Pericles had her participate in conversations that he had with some of the most important individuals with whom he talked this jokes to suggest that Aspasia actually was the person who wrote Pericles speeches Pericles and his circle were to become one of the most famous and influential groups in Western history but in 5th century Athens the highest achievements of arts and culture were not restricted to the elite here in the shadow of the Acropolis it's the world's first theater twice a year the Athenian population would gather here to watch a great festival a festival of drama television cinema theater although their existence to this place for here is the home of popular entertainment there's one huge difference between the ancient theater and our own and that is that it was incredibly noisy we hear stories of how when they didn't like a play the audience booed and they hissed and they actually got actors driven off the stage but there's other stories that showed that when they were going with the story and deeply involved in it they actually all collectively burst into tears the favorite tales of the Greek stage were called tragedies these were stories as shocking as a contemporary horror movie the tragedies told stories of great men falling from our Heights losing everything he owned Greek tragedy shows human beings however able however brilliant however intelligent quite unable to alter the destinies which have been decreed for them these tragedies have fascinated audiences ever since this 19th century painting shows the story of the mythical ruler Agamemnon who was murdered by his own wife another tragedy told of King Oedipus who gouged out his eyes when he discovered that he had married his own mother these Athenians nathan's of the greatest city in the ancient world seemed to revel and seeing how frail greatness could really be I don't think we can use group tragedy to tell us exactly what happened in reality it's not a document of Athenian social life but what it does do is take us directly and immediately into this psychological heart of those Athenian men the kind of dreams and fantasies and fears and imaginary scenarios that they came up with in the theater have to tell us just as much about them as any document of everyday reality good theaters were built in every major Greek city in Sparta Corinth on the island of Delos hereand Delfy Athens was the heart of a cultural revolution that would spread across the Mediterranean and echo around the world Periclean Athens seems to me to belong in the smallish collection of cities where truly great moments in the human experience took place culture in the broadest sense reaches a peak but after 20 years of building the cultural capital of the Western world Pericles and his fellow Athenians would now find that their theater and their tragedies would hold a bitter sting it is possible to think of purpose indeed I think of him as a man with a tragic flaw as the sort of man whose greatest qualities the ones that make him most admirable and successful turn out to be the seeds of his own destruction ultimately it can be said they lead to the destruction of the Athens that he prized more than anything else in the coming years Pericles would embroil his city in the greatest war in the history of classical Greece he would see her devastated by siege and plague and he himself would fall victim to evade the equal of any tragic hero you Athens the world's first democracy the most glorious city in the ancient world a city of wealth and power the center of a mighty naval Empire at the head of this state stood one man man who seemed to embody all the Athenians achievements Pericles apparently z' would now risk everything he and the athenians had built in one great gamble a war that he hoped would make Athens the undisputed ruler of the Mediterranean this conflict would indeed transform Athens but in a way Pericles could never have imagined it would make this man a common Athenian named Socrates to the ruler of an extraordinary new empire an empire that remains the Greeks last great legacy empire of the mind a prison cell in the city of Athens the Year 399 BC Socrates the world's most famous philosopher prepares for his execution around him lies a city ruined by war a nation stripped of glory and empire the people who have lost everything Socrates is perhaps the one man who could have saved his fellow citizens from the greatest defeat in their history instead they have condemned him to death how could the Athenians come to execute one of their most brilliant minds how could they lose everything that had once made them great it is a tale that begins three decades before in the year 431 BC the city-state of Athens was the greatest power in the Mediterranean under the leadership of the patrician Pericles this tiny state had built a naval empire that stretched across the Aegean the mighty fleet of trireme warships was the most powerful of the day Athens lay at the center of a great trading network that Delton goods from as far afield as Britain on the west and India in the East bringing untold wealth into the city and Pericles had personally devoted himself to making this city the most glorious of the ancient world he had commissioned the Parthenon a mighty temple to the goddess Athena one of the most extravagant monuments in ancient history but for all his power and sway Heracles did not rule the city for Athens was a democracy this is the assembly area of the Penix home of Athenian democracy the system that gave every Athenian citizen a say in the running of their state here Pericles had to stand before his fellow citizens and win the right to lead one day in the year 431 BC Pericles took the podium and presented the Athenians with a bold new plan a proposal that would offer Athens her final crowning glory Pericles intended to vanquish Athens last grade rival the city-state of Sparta Sparta was the only other Greek state that matched Athens power the Spartans ruled all of southern Greece and they were a fearsome military force the citizens were trained from birth and the arts of war tension had been building between Athens and Sparta for decades the Pericles it was now time to take on this dangerous adversary to make Athens the undisputed leader of the Mediterranean if we go to war as I think we must be determined that we are not going to climb down for it is from the greatest dangers but the greatest glory is to be one the Assembly embraced Pericles plan the Athenians were never once to shrink from the fight the ancient Greeks as a whole were not by any stretch of the imagination a peace-loving people peace was an interruption of war rather than vice-versa and the Athenians were as bellicose as any other Greeks but Pericles knew that any war with Sparta would not be easy to win for the Spartan infantry were far superior to Athens forces Athens strength lay on her Navy so Pericles proposed a strategy of astonishing complexity and sophistication he convinced the Athenians to abandon all the land around Athens and retreat behind the great long walls that stretched down from the city to its harbor at Piraeus parrot lays would supply the city by sea margin mem would bring in grain wheat and other essential supplies from Athens colonies and allies across the Mediterranean protected by the mighty Athenian fleet and Pericles would use this great Navy to attack the Spartans from the coast it was a strategy based on a set of finely judged assumptions Pericles expectation was that after a year or two but no more than three the Spartans would realize that they could not win the war because the Athenians would never give them the infantry battle they needed in order to win and they had no other device available Athens fleet had always been key to the city success it had won the city great military victories and it had built her an empire Pericles was sure that this fleet could now bring Evans her greatest triumph the Athenians crowded behind the city walls confident in their vision of imperial power and glory they assumed the parity strategy could only bring them victory but among this teeming multitude could be found one man who refused to assume anything a man unique in Athenian society a man called Socrates if you were an ancient Athenian citizen the first thing you'd see as a man who was unbelievably ugly his head was too big his eyes were too large his nose was all the wrong shape Socrates appearance breaks every rule of classical Greek aesthetics of the idea of proportion and measure Socrates walk the streets of Athens barefoot clad only in a dirty robe he cared nothing for appearance or any of the other conventions of his day Socrates was interested only in the mind this unlikely figure would become the leader of a revolution a revolution in thinking that had been gathering strength across the Greek world for thousands of years mankind had assumed that the world around them the Sun the Stars and the moon were gods and spirits believing they were recording messages from their gods ancient civilizations such as the Babylonians had gathered great catalogues of astronomical data this detailed astronomical calendar from Babylon records the rising and falling of the constellations and the gods they represented this knowledge and study of the heavens had been slowly spreading across the ancient world until it reached greek colonies on the coast of what is modern-day Turkey they're a shattering change occurred for the Greeks took this astronomical knowledge and transformed it they took the Gods out of the heavens and replace them with reason gradually the Greeks begin to say these are Lord persons these are things there's an orderly world which the human mind can actually capture it is subject to an understanding these Greeks began to calculate and predict the movement of the Moon and stars through mathematics and logic rather than using gods and spirits to explain everything it was the birth of science the first great Greek scientist a man named sally's wrote the earliest book of navigation and how to sail using the Stars as a guide and on a journey to Egypt Thalys was the first man to measure the height of the Great Pyramid brilliant idea he stood next to the pyramid until high knew when his shadow was exactly the same length as his height and at that point he measured the shadow of the pyramid and accordingly knew the the height of the pyramid which is action application of a rather sophisticated geometrical theorem these Greek scientists would go on to measure the circumference of the world when most people still thought it was flat to devise steam engines water pumps and suspension bridges but Socrates was not interested in the mechanics of the physical world he would use this new way of thinking using reason and logic to study people the great change comes with Socrates who turns his back so to speak to the world of nature what he cares about is the individual you become an object of study and care Socrates spent his days in conversation walking the streets of Athens talking and debating with anyone he met with over a hundred and fifty thousand people now packed behind Athens walls he was in his element one of the amazing things about Socrates is that he is the first fanatical bourbon individual he loves the city he makes life in the city one of his major concerns Socrates life was spent questioning the assumptions his fellow Athenians held about their lives what they felt was right and wrong what was good and bad and he was happy to turn convention upside down [Applause] you one of socrates followers recorded how at the end of a drunken dinner party socrates proved to a fellow guest that he was in fact the better-looking of the two my eyes must be more beautiful because they both out and therefore I can see better and by the same account my nose is more beautiful because my nostrils flare out and so I can therefore gather in more smells this is typical Socrates using reason and logic to examine the world in you Socrates says you must make every decision based on your own understanding of what is good and what is not good what is right and what is wrong for Socrates this freedom of thought was paramount even if it meant upsetting the whole notion of a beautiful note I tell you let no day pass without discussing all the things about which you hear me talking a life without this sort of examination is not worth living but a Socrates spent his days and debate his City was fighting a war the Spartans invaded Athenian territory and set about burning all the farmland around the city the Athenians became increasingly anxious they can only watch from the city walls as their fields and crops were destroyed but such was Pericles reputation he managed to convince the Athenians to stick with his plan the city could rely on her fleet and shipments from overseas to survive little did Pericles know that this fleet now carried an even greater threat one year into the war the grain boats that fed the city brought with them an additional cargo plague a disease that would now devastate Athens Pericles plan couldn't anticipate difficulties that we now would suggest were rather likely in those circumstances of crowding then the results were horrendous with the population crammed behind the city walls the affliction spread like wildfire the symptoms were horrific the Athenian historian Thucydides who lived through these years recorded its effects body was suddenly seized first with violent heats around the head and redness and inflammation of the eyes and then the disease descended into the bowels producing violent ulceration and uncontrollable diarrhea the sufferings of individuals seemed almost beyond the capacity of human nature the city must have looked terrible smell terrible been awful to be in and terror must have rained everywhere sufferers wracked with fever and overcome with unquenchable thirst would crawl into the city systems and water mains to die few said ''tis witnessed the scene and athens streets the bodies of dying men they one upon another and half dead creatures reeled about the streets the catastrophe became so overwhelming that men cared nothing for any rule of religion or law the plagues effects on Athens were absolutely devastating the whole fabric of Athenian society broke down morally people saw no point in being good why be good if the good and the evil die just as easily the plague would kill over 1/3 of Athens population and then it struck the city's figurehead parrot leaves plutarch Pericles biographer described his symptoms the plague seized Pericles not with sharp and violent fits but with a dull and younger in December wasting the strength of his body and undermining his noble soul by the end the patrician hero of the city was reduced to relying on potions and magic in an attempt to cure itself he showed one of his friends a charm that a woman had hung around his neck as if to say that he was very sick indeed when he would admit of such foolery as this finally after six months of lingering illness Pericles died in 429 BC Pericles had planned to make Athens into the Mediterraneans greatest power but his carefully calculated strategy had brought only disease and death like most brilliant men like most people who have had great success all their lives Pericles simply underestimated the degree to which some things are out of the control the very best intelligence in the very best knowledge that there are Pericles death would have far-reaching consequences it soon became clear that this one man had been the linchpin of the Athenian state without records that the changes were swift and dramatic those who while he lived and resented Pericles great Authority now realized that he had been the main protector of public safety so greater corruption than such a flood of mischief and vice followed the flaws in Athenian democracy now became apparent without a single strong leader countless figures now scrambled for the top position and they were prepared to do anything the people wanted if it gave them power Pericles successors who now wanted to occupy the top position simply follow the prejudices and passions of the masses in order to gain support [Applause] [Applause] Athenian democracy now revealed a new and terrifying potential the potential to slide into mob rule crippling our ability to fight a war as the conflict raged on an Athenian naval force won a skirmish with the Spartans in rough and storm-tossed seas the generals who had commanded the force returned to Athens expecting a hero's welcome instead they were thrown into prison the storm had forced the Athenian commanders to sail straight back to Athens without picking up any of the soldiers who had fallen overboard during the battle rabble-rousing speakers had convinced the assembly that this failure to rescue the men was a crime so appalling that all the generals should be summarily tried and executed we know of only one man who stood up and attempted to calm the fevered assembly Socrates socrates alone and against the very very serious and vocal and aggressive and mad furious reaction of the public stood his ground and said it was the wrong thing to do he was going to vote against it socrates principle of questioning the society he lived in now had a real and practical purpose he refused to bow to any pressure and thought for himself and do the thing that his conscience and his reasoning told him was the right thing to do but in the end Socrates was only one voice amongst the multitude and he could not sway the assembly the generals were condemned to death by drinking poisonous hemlock it would be a terrible loss to Athens war effort with the assembly in the hands of self-interested despots once mighty Athens began to lose our way after the death of Pericles Athens never again had a political leader with a well-thought-out general picture or a set of goals that he could pursue with reasonable hope of bringing them to fruition the war against Sparta degenerated into a bitter dragging conflict that spread over a decade the Spartans ravaged the land around Athens and the Athenian fleet kept the city supplied neither side was able to defeat the other deprived a victory the Athenians grew increasingly frustrated were they not the greatest state in all of Greece surely the time must come for Athens to prove her power once and for all then in the year 416 BC a daring proposal was put before the assembly a proposal which even if it did not defeat the Spartans would at least satisfy Athens Hungerford Laurie a small Greek colony on the island of Sicily have asked for protection protection from a neighbor allied with Sparta why should the Athenians not come to their aid humiliate their spartan adversary and perhaps conquer all of Sicily at the same time as one Athenian addressed the assembly this is the way we won our empire and this is the way all empires have been won let us set out on this expedition for it will destroy the arrogance of the Spartans and at the same time we shall become rulers of all Greece it was a bold clown to be executed on a vast scale requiring a great fleet of warships and a landing force of over 10,000 men the Athenians threw themselves into the project with fervor Armorer's beat out new weapons soldiers tested out their equipment stores were loaded onto a fleet of athenian triremes and the shipwrights prepared their vessels for the sea then to great fanfare a mighty invasion force set out for Cecil six months later word came back the campaign was not going as quickly as hoped they needed reinforcements and then nothing no news at all then in the autumn of 413 BC a sailor arrived in the city a man who needed a haircut and as he talked to his barber he told an appalling tale of a vast and terrible slaughter it was the story of an invading army that had been pinned down where it landed of how its leaders had argued with each other about strategy of how their food and water had run out of hounded attempted to Ford a great river in a desperate attempt to escape they rushed into it all discipline lost and every man wanting to cross first they fell over each other and trod each other underfoot and they drank thirstily the water was foul but still they went on drinking mud blood and all the dead lying thick in the riverbed this was how the Athenians discovered that they had been the victims of one of the greatest defeats in ancient history over 50,000 men have been killed or taken prisoner to entire fleets of Athens prized triremes have been destroyed the Sicilian campaign is a mass for variety of reasons first of all it's a long way away it's over six or seven hundred miles once they arrive they squabble and fight about what to do but perhaps the biggest problem is there's not a tactical reason to do it there's not a strategic reason to do it the motivation is highly self-interested the Athenians entranced by a vision of imperial glory and in fact engaged in a pointless and vain campaign they believe it wrongly they could go quickly in raise the countryside and when a quick victory and a rich tributary subject state few Siddha teas recorded the scale of the devastation this was the most notorious action that we know of in Greek history for they were absolutely calamitous li defeated the losses were total army-navy everything was destroyed with athens military power now crippled her enemies began to close in the Persians whom the Athenians had humiliated fifty years before now saw the ideal opportunity for revenge they approached the spartans with the offer of help the Persians have been watching this carefully and they decide to intervene and subsidize the Spartans and that subsidy is in the form of manpower for rowing and fleet construction where previously the Spartans had never been enable nation now they had a fleet paid for with Persian gold with Athens Navy decimated by the defeat in Sicily the Spartans can now blockade the Athenian harbors the great grain convoys from Egypt and the colonies could no longer get through and finally the Athenians began to starve in the streets the people turned to their patron goddess Athena at the height of Athens glory only 30 years before Pericles had honored her with the most glorious temple ever seen but the goddess could offer no help Athens one so sure of her preeminence in the Greek world was now home to a population ravaged by plague and war besieged and starvin the Treasury is empty and a once-proud fleet crippled in 404 BC Athens finally surrendered to the Spartan commander Lysander the spartans tones were heavy the great walls which had defended the city were to be torn down her fleet was to be destroyed we have this wonderful scene of Lysander saving into the Piraeus and dismantling the Athenian fleet that's important because the destruction is symbolically a destruction of the Athenian Empire what remained of Athens mighty Navy was put to the torch with only 12 ships allowed to remain no longer which he ruled the Mediterranean the Athenians became convinced that they could do finally in the end more than they really could and I think this is really the the point in which the potential that Athenian democracy brought about could turn to tragedy they could achieve great things they could not achieve all great things but it would still take one more act of vanity and violence before the Athenians could redeem themselves and the city could be reborn humiliated their empire lost the Athenians looked for someone to take the blame for their defeat they search for an enemy within their city walls someone who had dared to question their dreams of supremacy they searched for Socrates Socrates was a critic he was critical of the thinking and the thought processes of his fellow-citizens and he was critical about the public affairs of Athens for over 50 years Socrates had been publicly questioning and attacking the traditions of Athenian life and around him he had gathered a group of youthful followers surely this must have weakened the city's moral character undermined her hunger for victory on the command of the assembly Socrates was arrested on charges of questioning the state religion and corrupting the youth of the city I am quite sure that especially in the relatively small society like Athens someone who is constantly questioning the principles by which the society has traditionally govern itself we perceive as a very major danger by at least some people in society you can easily see that a few hundred people might want him out and they did the Athenians would now put to trial the one man who dare to question the way they lived their lives Socrates trial would be held in Athens central marketplace under a canopy to shade the fierce heat of the Greek Sun you will be tried by a jury of his fellow-citizens chosen at random but this would not be a trial we would recognize Athenian legal system was remarkably different from a modern system there are no lawyers involved with this there is no trained judge involved with this it is in some ways a very frightening system from a modern point of view the law did not have the same stature in Athens that it has in a modern society Socrates would be judged by the same kind of group he had what's condemned six generals to summary execution seven years before he would be given only a limited time to defend himself all speeches in the Athenian courts were timed by a water clock one jar of water steadily running into another but Socrates shows no fear in the face of his accusers in fact he is positively stubborn he explains that far from corrupting Athens his life of questioning has done nothing but improved the city to put it bluntly I've been assigned to this city as if to a large horse which is inclined to be lazy and is in need of some great stinging fly and all day long I'll never cease to settle here there everywhere browsing and reproving every one of you it is not an approach designed to win sympathy Socrates is setting himself and his life against the entire Athenian State he is doing what he thinks is the right thing to do he thinks the life he has chosen this life of thinking for yourself is the best life as he says in his speech the unexamined life is not worth living for a human being if Socrates had simply apologized to the court he might well have been acquitted but instead he demands free dinners for life for all the work he is done I can just imagine what that jury in the audience of that trial must have thought at the dyers that must have been absolute speeches when the final vote came the verdict could hardly have been a surprise the court found Socrates guilty with the penalty of death but Socrates reacted with calm and serenity well now it is time to be off I to die and you to live but which of us has the happier prospect is unknown to anyone but heaven Socrates was taken from the court to Athens prison the site of this prison still exists we can still trace the layout of the cell and which Socrates was probably helped and we still have accounts of Socrates last days from friends who visited him in his cell they are among the most famous Greek writings for with his death Socrates would transform Athens he would show his fellow citizens that the principles of reason of questioning the world were something worth dying for Socrates would be executed in the traditional athenian manner by drinking hemlock some of the hemlock cups used for the poison are still preserved death by hemlock is excruciating ly painful causing gradual paralysis of the central nervous system but as the moment of his execution drew near Socrates turned to his friends treating the whole affair as if it were nothing at all for me the fated our calls in other words I think it's about time I took my bath I prefer to wash before drinking the poison rather than give the women the bother of washing me when I am dead but as the hemlock was poured his friends broke down we have the account of one named Fito in spite of myself the tears came pouring down so that I covered my face and wept broken heartedly and then everyone in the room broke down except Socrates himself who said really my friends what a way to behave I'm told that one should make ones end in a reverent silence calm yourselves and be brave a Socrates lay back on his bed and let the poison take effect his friends watched in silence here was a man who was dying not for glory offer fame and honor but for the sake of his principles because he believed that man should question the world around him it was a sight they would never forget Socrates in his life and in his death becomes a completely new Greek here from now on the hero is a person of conviction a person who will follow nothing but the dictates of his intellectual conscience and that is a new conception of what a human being is like and what a good human being must be well centuries the Athenians had believed in one ideal the vision of a martial warrior hero it had driven them to conquer great foes to build a mighty empire but now in the depths of defeat they discovered a new figure to venerate effigies of Socrates have been found amongst the ruins of the Athenian prison perhaps offerings to the dead philosopher perhaps the most important lesson that Socrates and laughs is the need to be critical and the need to be self-critical the interesting thing that I see in Athens in the years after the execution of Socrates is this same capacity to look at themselves and recognize that they have perhaps gone too far in the past and indeed to embrace a certain kind of maturity Athens was never again a great imperial power but neither did her democracy lapse again and to mob rule instead she became a city of intellectual inquiry the haven of study and discussion where Socrates students and his students students slowly began to build a world based on reason Plato tried to formulate the ideal Society Aristotle studied nature establishing biology and zoology and slowly the ideas and work of these Greek thinkers began to spread across the known world one could say that a major part of the energy of the Athenians turns into building what we might call empires of thought so we're before you had Athens sending its ships to the various islands in order to collect taxes here you have reason extending its dominion over all areas in which our lives are actually built Socrates principles of reason of questioning assumptions and the world around you still endure in the space of less than 200 years the ancient Greeks transformed their world for amongst these ruins a few great figures carved a mighty empire they invented democracy and politics science and philosophy they gave us literature and drama art and monuments which still take our breath away and ultimately these Greeks taught us how to reason and think two and a half thousand years later their astonishing achievements continue to shape our world