Movie Details

This episode is part three of The Greeks: The Crucible of Civilization series, directed and written by Cassian Harrison. It opens in 399 B.C., after the great philosopher Socrates has been sentenced to death and Athens lies in ruins after a war with Sparta. This episode, entitled Empire of the Mind and narrated by actor Liam Neeson, goes back to 431 B.C., to an Athens at the height of its cultural, political, and economic power. Having taken great leaps forward in every field of learning, and with a strong economy that dominates Mediterranean trade, Athens and its 150,000 residents are the envy of their neighbors, in particular, bellicose Sparta. Jealous of Athenian success, the Spartans yearn to spill Athenian blood and dominate the region. Of course, Pericles knows what is coming, and he orders the citizens to abandon open areas and take refuge inside the walls of Athens. The mighty Athenian fleet will provide supplies for the citizens through the port of Piraeus and a walled corridor between that city and Athens. Over time, the navy will prevail, as it had against the Persians, and win yet another victory. Much is at stake -- democracy, freedom, the whole Athenian way of life. As expected, the Spartans invade and burn the open areas around the city. But it is the unexpected that deals the most devastating blow to Athens. Incoming ships with supplies for the walled-in Greeks carry plague-bearing rats feeding on grain. The disease ravages the Athenians, inflicting agony on them and killing one out of every three. The Spartans are of little concern; what matters is surviving until tomorrow. Pericles' esteem plummets even as he himself contracts the plague and eventually dies. Finally in 404 B.C., Athens surrenders. According to the documentary, the people link Socrates to the Athenian defeat and sentence him to death. However, other issues -- notably Socrates' questioning mind that led young people to reject old ideas in favor of new ones -- were of more concern to the jurors who found him guilty. ~ Mike Cummings, Rovi