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NHS x NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC

The National Hellenic Society is a proud co-sponsor of the three-part miniseries, The Greeks, produced by National Geographic Television that aired on PBS Nationwide.


The Greeks mini-series is a companion to the incredible exhibit,  The Greeks: Agamemnon to Alexander the Great that debuted at the National Geographic Museum, featuring nearly 600 artifacts from 22 museums in Greece.  The exhibit covers a 5,000 years time span of ancient Greek history in 2016.   The exhibit featured many artifacts that have never left Greece and helped to inform people of the contributions that Greeks made to today's society.

 

The Greek Guide to Greatness

National Geographic and the National Hellenic Society have produced a companion digital series, The Greek Guide to Greatness, that is available on the PBS and National Geographic websites in addition to below.

  • The U.S. is a democracy right? Well, the inventors of Democracy might disagree... Our system of government got its start in ancient Athens, and democracy was a lot different back then. Each Greek citizen (just males) voted not on who would represent them, but on the issues themselves. Imagine that in the U.S. today: 300 million plus men and women voting on each and every political issue. Could it work? We might have the technology to do it now, but while America’s founding fathers recognized the potential in this novel system of government, they were also wary of mob rule. Is there a danger in giving too much power to the people ... or is that just what we need right now? There’s still much to be learned from that first democratic experiment in ancient Greece.

  • Facebook. Twitter. Instagram. Snapchat. We may think modern tech pioneers invented the social network, but really, the concept goes back to the ancient Greeks. In classical Athens’ Agora, citizens exchanged ideas with figures as iconic as Socrates, Phidias, Herodotus, and Hippocrates. (Socrates’ social network exceeded the average Facebook user’s friend list!) And at symposia, the Greeks debated concepts as wide-ranging as utopian societies, revolutionary artforms, and ideal states of love. We may have made some improvements to ancient Greek models of idea sharing. But do the social networks of today really propel progress — or are they corroding our ability to communicate with each other?

  • Freedom of speech has always been controversial. Today, we debate how far our politicians’ rants can go; how intellectually safe our university students need to feel; how disruptive our protests can get. Greeks were just as conflicted about what we call an “unalienable right.” Athenians were so proud of their freedoms that they even named some of their ships after them. But they didn’t always live up to their ideals. The great philosopher Socrates was put to death — supposedly for corrupting the youth, and spreading a false religion ... but really for exercising the same rights Athens claimed to give all citizens. Some view his execution as the end of the classical age, where ancient Greece reached its apex. Are we in similar danger of decline — by giving up on one of our most cherished ideals?

  • The U.S. is a democracy right? Well, the inventors of Democracy might disagree... Our system of government got its start in ancient Athens, and democracy was a lot different back then. Each Greek citizen (just males) voted not on who would represent them, but on the issues themselves. Imagine that in the U.S. today: 300 million plus men and women voting on each and every political issue. Could it work? We might have the technology to do it now, but while America’s founding fathers recognized the potential in this novel system of government, they were also wary of mob rule. Is there a danger in giving too much power to the people ... or is that just what we need right now? There’s still much to be learned from that first democratic experiment in ancient Greece.

  • The Greeks lived to compete, and while a competitive spirit pushed them to greater heights it also pulled them together. Athletics in Ancient Greece were about much more than individual achievement. They saw that greater communities and a stronger sense of identity could be forged around athletic contests. In 776 BC, the Greek world united around the first Olympic Games, and similar festivals throughout Greece became so important, city-states at war would enact temporary truces in order to attend. Today, the modern Olympic Games brings nations together and spreads a message of peace, but could the Games somehow play a role in conflict resolution? Scientists have found positive psychological correlations between fighting in war and competing in combative sports. Could more organized conflict through sport lead to less conflict through war?

  • There’s no shortage of entertainment in America today. Hundreds of movies are released each year, many more TV shows, live events, stage plays, concerts, books, magazines, and endless streams of content for the web ... like this series. But what’s the point of it all? Is there more to it than escapism? In ancient Greece, it was about art’s capacity to inform. Audiences swarmed to the theater to engage with the critical issues of their time. It wasn’t just art for the sake of art ... every play, poem or public contest carried a message. Looking back at ancient art and entertainment, can we uncover how it inspired greatness in their society and how it still does in ours today?

  • Today, politicians and thought leaders argue over the state of our separation of church and state. But in the classical Greeks’ time, there was no such conflict. Religion was woven into the fabric of essentially all aspects of life. That’s not to say they were fundamentalists; Greek religion varied from valley to valley — there was no rulebook or definitive text. Though their beliefs may feel alien, there may be much to learn from the Ancient Greeks when it comes to how communities balance their spiritual beliefs with their beliefs in how a society should operate.

  • What allows science to flourish? Today’s American physicians take the Hippocratic oath, named for Hippocrates, the so-called father of medicine; grade-school students learn the Pythagorean theorem, named for Pythagoras; and scientists everywhere are forming hypotheses to try to understand the natural orders of our world. If you’re at all into science, you should thank the ancient Greeks. But why was science able to take off there? In the 5thcentury BC, Greeks offered their citizens the freedoms required for the sciences to emerge by freeing themselves from the dogmas that gobble up curiosity...from the prison of thought that says any one person has it all figured out. Perhaps we should be reminded that Socrates was considered to be the wisest man in Greece because he knew just how much he didn’t know. An open mindset may be more important now than ever before.

  • It might come as a surprise that the world’s first capitalist was a poet. In the 8th Century BC, Hesiod highlighted two kinds of strife: one that drives people to war and cruelty, and another that inspires people to compete and work for a better life. This good kind of strife drives the U.S. economy, too. When people compete fairly, they create better products, do better work, come up with better ideas. Whether in their proto-market economy, in their athletic contests like the ancient Olympics, or in their intellectual sparring matches, the virtues of good competition were on full display for everyone to see in ancient Greece. Perhaps they realized reminders of the good strife, and what it is, are important... especially, when the dark side of capitalism can lead to inequality.

  • Philosophy degrees were once considered anathema to getting a job in the United States. But today — even in challenging economic times — philosophy grads are suddenly the rage, earning more on average than their friends in accounting. Why? It appears we’re coming back around to why Greeks cherished philosophers, and why they invented the entire field in the first place. Employers are eager for candidates with open and questioning minds, with paradigm-shifting ideas, with ways of envisaging a radically different future. The Greeks might have admired our about-face on the value of philosophy. But they might also warn us that philosophers become more valuable in times of rising instability, uncertainty, and strife…

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