Make A Playlist: Add a video to get started!
faq  |  playlists  |  log in  |
Make A Playlist: Add a video to get started!
Add to Playlist

Ancient Greek Theaters and the Golden Mean


Ancient Greek civilization peaked in the 5th century BC. The theaters of that age (with their fine acoustics); the idealized statues of gods and athletes (with their sophisticated contrapposto poses); and guiding principle of balance, nothing in excess — the Golden Mean, make it easy to appreciate that Golden Age.

Complete Video Script

[108, Stoa of Attalos, Ancient Agora, Athens] The Golden Age — roughly around 450 BC — was the peak of Greek civilization. It was the age of Socrates and Plato, of democracy, philosophy, and a flowering of the arts — including drama and performance arts.

[109, Ancient Greek theater at Epidavros, Greece, late fourth century BC] Every city had a theater. Performance arts were woven into society — going to a play was like going to church — it was where morals were taught.

[110, Ancient Greek theaters at Ephesus in Turkey and Taormina in Sicily] Greeks generally built their theaters into hillsides. Given their size — often with over 10,000 seats — and the obvious lack of modern amplification, the acoustics needed to be excellent…and they still are.

[111, theater at Ephesus]
Rick: Friends, Greeks, wayfarers, in these times of discord, fear is rampant in our society. I contend that the flip side of fear is understanding. And those who travel will reap great understanding — by meeting people who find other truths to be self-evident and God-given."

[112, Temple of Hephaestus, c. 450 BC, ancient Agora, Athens] During the Greek Golden Age, the age when the Greeks created some of the greatest works of art ever, the guiding principle was the Golden Mean: in other words, "nothing in excess." In both life and art, it was all about the Golden Mean: everything was to be in balance.

[113] For the Greeks, the human body epitomized the balance and order of the cosmos. The balanced contrapposto pose — again, weight resting on one leg — is found on countless statues. They were looking for the perfect balance between opposites, between stillness and motion — like this athlete as he coils — pausing just before unleashing the discus. The correct proportions of these perfect humans echoed the order of the Greek cosmos and symbolized their highest ideals. The optimistic Greeks portrayed their gods as humans with perfect anatomy.

[114, Venus de Milo, c. 150–125 BC, Louvre, Paris] This well-proportioned statue, from a later period, is Venus de Milo. This "goddess of love" epitomizes the balance the Greeks so admired. Split Venus down the middle, from nose to toes, and see how the two halves balance. Her contrapposto pose sets her entire body in motion. Her left leg rises, while her right shoulder drops. Her knee points one way, her face the other. All this gives her body a pleasing S-curve, as Venus slowly orbits around her vertical axis. Amid an entourage of twisting and striding statues, each modeling the ideal human form, Venus de Milo reigns supreme, summing up all that was best in the ancient Greek world.

[115] For the Greeks, the evolution of their goddesses mirrored the evolution of their society: from the simple figurines of prehistory to the stiff-but-stable statues of the Archaic period after their centuries of turmoil, settling into the Golden Age, — becoming ever-more relaxed and realistic — and, finally, the wild exuberance of this goddess emblematic of the next stage in Greek art: the Hellenistic era.