Who Were the Greeks? Visit 5 top spots from the show

BBC2 presenter Michael Scott reveals where to visit the locations from the show for legends about blood, sacrifice and ancient nakedness...

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The Greeks not only gave us the Olympics, six-packed half naked warriors and democracy, they also created some of the most incredible architecture known to man. In Who Were the Greeks? assistant professor Michael Scott ventures to European sites and teaches us the weird, wonderful and plain bizarre facts about how this ancient civilisation lived. We caught up with him for the best places to visit from the series…

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1. Olympia, Greece

Scott says: “This is the home of the Olympic Games. When we think about the Olympics, we think about its legacy, but in the real Olympics people were covered in blood, it was all part of a sacrifice, there were hundreds of ox having their throats slit, the athletes were running around naked and had their penises tied up to make them smaller. It was a very weird and different place from the Olympics that’s become a part of our culture.”


 Visit the historic sites of Greece with Radio Times Travel, see here for more info


2. British Museum, London

Scott says: “See the Parthenon sculptures. Here they are doing some absolutely cutting edge science. On these sculptures they’re able to identify traces of the original colours that they were painted. It’s completely changing what we perceive the ancient world to be like – our sense of classical architecture and the beautiful white marble etc. Actually, they could have been painted bright blue. Using this infrared technology you can see the remains of bright Egyptian blue on the Parthenon sculptures – it has never been seen before and is absolutely astonishing.”


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3. Selinus, Sicily

Scott says: “It’s important to understand that Ancient Greece wasn’t just in Greece, it was all over the Mediterranean and southern Italy, Sicily, North Africa and modern day Turkey. Sicily has some of the most outstanding ruins and Greek architecture you will ever find. Sites to see include Selinous, Agregento and there you will see Greek temples bigger and better than anything you can actually see in Greece. People on the edge of a world of opportunity would often louder to make themselves part of that world, to show that they were really Greek.”


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4. Priene, Turkey

Scott says: “This is a beautiful archeological site, which was absolutely deserted when we were there, and has a temple built by Alexander the Great that was fished by the Emperor of Augustus. That’s also the last key point of the programme, is that the legacies that the Greeks have left us have been fiddled with and played with and manipulated by everyone by every single generation between us and them. The Romans went around changing lots of things and shaping the legacy of the Greek world.”


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5. Parthenon, Greece

“This, of course, is the symbol of everything Greek, nowadays it’s a symbol of liberty and democracy, but actually in the ancient Greek world the Parthenon was built with money extracted by subservient state, so for many it was a symbol of oppression rather than freedom. It was also a victory monument for the Athenians, as part of their celebration for defeating the Persians. Since ancient times, it has been turned into everything from a church, mosque a gunpowder store and now it has been restored. And even though we now know the top of it was painted bright green, bright red and bright blue, we are not going to restore the colour because no one wants to see that kind of Ancient Greek world.”


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Visit the historic sites of Greece with Radio Times Travel, see here for more info