Review by Mark Wiechman

Stars:  Stan Bernard (narrator)
Director:   Various
Video:  Color full screen
Audio:  Dolby Stereo
Special Features:  None
Studio:  A&E Home Video
Length:  Three discs, 7 hours 50 minutes total
Release date:  March 16, 2010

“Zeus never has an encounter with a woman that does not produce a child, so in that sense it is extreme virility and extreme power.   Zeus’s ability to sleep with anybody matches a kind of fantasy that ancient Greek males wanted their lives to be. Men fantasized about such things and they thought if there was an all-powerful god out there, well he would surely act on those fantasies.”  - Historians discussing Zeus’s power over women, which was also his downfall.

Film ***1/2

Regardless of what religion any of us belong to, or even if you have no religion at all, we have all been shaped extensively by the power of myth, especially Greek mythology.  To the ancient world, these myths were how children learned the difference between right and wrong, and everyone behaved and lived in a way to keep the gods from punishing them.  Science was barely a word yet so all ancient cultures used divine beings to explain frightening natural events. 

Ironically of course in the mythology of almost every culture, the gods did not treat each other well, as the Nordic gods portrayed so excruciatingly in Richard Wagner’s Gotterdammerung which means “The Twilight of the Gods.”  In this new program from A&E, we also learn the origins of gods such as Zeus, Hercules, the Minotaur, Thor, and Medusa.  There are some dramatizations but mostly we hear from historians and experts who provide insight as to why certain key figures did this or that.  They also eloquently tie the legends and myths into concepts from even our own century.  The thread of every social science, especially psychology, sprang from not just the legends themselves but the way in which authors of ancient worlds projected their own fears into the stories.

For example, cannibalism was very real in the ancient world, as was incest, rape, and murder, and mythology gave ancient cultures a means of expressing their own opinions and morality about these things by showing what gods, goddesses and other deities did and were punished for. 

Interestingly we learn about gods such as Chromos, but no one mentions that his name is the origin of the world chronometer, but instead the story is told very dramatically, more like a movie than a documentary, and it works.

There are several incredible special effects sequences, maybe not quite on the level of modern CGI but honestly they are more believable than some recent movies such as 300 which I found to be exciting but completely unrealistic.  We learn about Typhon, for instance, who created storms and volcanic eruptions, and you can probably guess what word comes from his name…

Video ***1/2

Many different video sources and styles, special effects and animation mixed with live drama and still photographs, often showing the ruins and relics in Greece today.   The special effects and interviews are all woven together very smoothly and sharply with few if any artifacts or problems. 

Audio ****

Only stereo, but well-narrated, with a few good sound effects and music, all mixed very well.  Narrators are a bit louder and more clear than most similar releases.   

Features (zero stars)

None.  But then this series is equivalent to a whole year of college mythology, so no one will miss special  features! 


Whew!  Being a god or goddess is so much work, this series wore me out!  But it is an excellent preparation for upcoming remakes of Clash of the Titans and others, and even students of Christianity and other religions will learn about how early civilizations contributed to the way we worship and think of divinity today.

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