Airdate October 20, 2004
Curriculum Social Studies

Athens is a BrainPOP Social Studies video launched on October 20, 2004.







"How great are the dangers I face to win a good name in Athens." – Alexander the Great, Greek military commander.

“A short saying often contains much wisdom.” – Sophocles, Athenian playwright.

“The wisest of the wise may err.” – Aeschylus, Athenian playwright.

“The most virtuous are those who content themselves with being virtuous without seeking to appear so.” – Plato, Athenian philosopher.

“Moral excellence comes about as a result of habit. We become just by doing just acts, temperate by doing temperate acts, brave by doing brave acts.” – Aristotle, Athenian philosopher.

“Of all men's miseries the bitterest is this: to know so much and to have control over nothing.” – Herodotus (pictured), Athenian historian.


As Tim and Moby mention in the movie, the Olympic Games were born in Ancient Greece in 776 B.C.E.!

The ancient Olympics were actually part of a major religious festival honoring Zeus, the most powerful of the Greek gods. As a matter of fact, in the middle of the festivities, everyone would take a break in order to sacrifice 100 oxen to Zeus!

That wasn’t the only difference between the ancient and modern games. Back then, all athletes were male, and nearly all of them competed in the nude! There were also far fewer events.

The athletes competed in boxing, running, wrestling, and the pentathalon (which included discus, javelin, and jumping). They also matched skills in equestrian (horseback) events, as well as a grueling combination of boxing and wrestling called pankration. The only moves that were outlawed were biting an opponent or gouging his eyes, nose, or mouth with one’s fingernails.

Like today’s Olympics, the ancient Olympics drew athletes from all over the civilized world. People traveled to Olympia, Greece from as far away as present-day Spain, Ukraine, and Libya!

And like today’s Olympic athletes, the athletes of yesterday were viewed as superstars and heroes in their home regions. In Athens, for example, Olympic victors were entitled to a free meal at the city hall every day for the rest of their lives!

If you'd like to learn more about the Olympic Games, check out our Olympics movie.

Arts and EntertainmentEdit

Probably the most famous play to emanate from the Dionysia festival that Tim and Moby discuss in the movie was the Oedipus trilogy, written by Sophocles around 425 B.C.E.

The three plays are based on a well-known myth. The first play, Oedipus the King, tells the story of Oedipus, King of Thebes (a city in North Africa). The city has been hit by a terrible plague, and Oedipus investigates to find out why. It slowly comes to light that the plague is punishment for the king’s own wrongdoing.

He learns that when he was a baby, a prophet told Oedipus’s parents that their son would end up killing his father and marrying his mother. Upset by this prediction, his parents abandoned Oedipus on a mountainside, but he was rescued by a shepherd and raised by the King and Queen of Corinth.

Through a series of unlikely events, Oedipus wound up doing just as the prophets had predicted: unknowingly killing his father in a fight, and later marrying his mother, the queen Jocasta. Upon learning the truth, Jocasta kills herself, and Oedipus blinds himself with two pins from her dress.

The story of Oedipus has had an enormous influence on popular culture. Psychoanalyst Sigmund Freud coined the term Oedipus complex to describe a stage in the development of young boys. According to Freud, the Oedipus complex occurs when a very young child unconsciously desires the total love of his mother. He is thus jealous of his father, who he sees as a competitor for this love.

Around The WorldEdit

One of the world’s greatest cultural monuments was built 2,500 years ago on a hilltop in Athens. This building, the Parthenon (pictured), still stands today. It was built as a temple to the goddess Athena, Athens’s patron goddess, and originally featured a tremendous statue of her in ivory and gold.

With its sculpted columns and perfectly symmetrical dimensions, some scholars call the Parthenon one of the greatest temples ever built. The most famous feature of the Parthenon may be its frieze, the sculpted images that protrude from high up on its outside walls. The frieze, completed around 483 B.C.E., shows a procession during a festival of Athena called the Great Panathenaia, which included athletic competitions, chariot races, and contests in poetry and drama.

Other sculptures carved into the architecture show the birth of Athena from the forehead of the god Zeus; mythical battles waged by both the Olympian gods and the armies of Athens; and other scenes from Greek mythology. Today, you can see many of these sculptures at the Acropolis Museum in Athens, the British Museum in London, and the Louvre in Paris.

The Parthenon stood largely intact until the 17th century, when it was damaged in a fierce battle between Venice and the Turkish Empire. Many of the sculptures were destroyed, and the roof and several pillars collapsed. It was not until 1975 that the Greek government began to restore the Parthenon, filling in gaps with marble and strengthening it against further damage.

FYI ComicEdit

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