Wednesday, 4 April 2018

Who were the Greeks? Episode Two

Above is part two of Michael Scott’s BBC documentary Who Were the Greeks? in which the classicist looks at why Greek civilisation was so creative – which he puts down to the competitive spirit at the heart of Greek culture; why that civilisation has proved so enduring and appealing – which he associates not only with its continuing relevance but also the conquests of Alexander the Great – the spreading of Hellenism that came in their wake – and how captive Greece took Rome captive with the brilliance of its culture; and at (allegedly) new thinking about Greece – such as the use of paint and colour in Greek art, indicating that Greek art was not monochrome, as surviving statues and structures might lead us to believe, but technicolour.

I don’t think Scott gets much wrong, although for those who already have a reasonable understanding of Greek civilisation he doesn’t say anything original – and the trend of this country’s classicists to try and explain Greek civilisation by making comparisons to contemporary British popular culture makes them look stupid and trivial. Of course, this is only a TV programme and I suppose its purpose was not to tell you something different about a culture that you would need several lifetimes to study and appreciate to any satisfactory degree, but to give those who don’t know much about it some kind of introduction and to encourage them to look at Greece for themselves.