OU on the BBC: Ancient Greece: The greatest show on Earth

Join us on a journey to the ancient world and explore the heart of Athens: the theatre.

By: The OpenLearn team (Programme and web teams)

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Dr Michael Scott sitting on the steps of ancient Greek amphitheatre Copyrighted image Copyright: BBC Dr Michael Scott

The series

This three-part series by Dr Michael Scott (academic and broadcaster in Ancient History and Archaeology) examines the extraordinary career of Athens in the ancient world through the prism of one of its most important and culturally crucial spaces: the theatre.

The episodes

In Episode 1, Dr Michael Scott journeys to Athens to explore how drama first began.  He discovers that from the very start it was about more than just entertainment – it was a reaction to real events, it was a driving force in history, and it was deeply connected to Athenian democracy. In fact, the story of theatre, is the story of Athens.

In Episode 2, Michael looks at the dramatic decline of Athens and the remarkable triumph and transformation of theatre. During the fourth century BCE, Athens would lose its Empire, its influence and even its democracy. But theatre, that most Athenian of inventions, would thrive, spreading throughout the Greek world and beyond and giving rise to a new kind of comedy, one so popular and prevalent that it is still at the heart of our comedy today.

In Episode 3, Michael examines the vital role played by the Romans in the preservation of Greek drama and in the history of theatre. He explores how the Romans absorbed Greek theatre and adapted it to their own, very Roman, ends, and looks at how this famous Empire provides one of the crucial connections between our modern drama and the great plays of the ancient Greeks.

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