BBC - The First Eden: The Mediterranean World S01E02: The Gods Enslaved (1987)
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The First Eden: The Mediterranean World and Man is a BBC documentary series written and presented by David Attenborough, first transmitted in the UK from 8 March 1987.
Here Attenborough focuses on the cradle of Western civilization, tracing the life of the Mediterranean from salt bed to lush paradise and its ultimate exploitation. History, natural history and archaeology come together in a narrative that portrays the changing attitudes of mankind toward the environment. He surveys early plant and animal life, discussing climatic and seasonal changes. The domestication of the horse opened the doors to wars and migration. Attenborough chronicles the movements in both directions from the Huns to the Crusaders and, finally, looks at more recent despoliation and areas of preservation. It was one of the shorter series that followed the phenomenal success of The Living Planet.
It comprises four programmes, each of 55 minutes' duration, which describe man's relationship with the natural habitats of the Mediterranean, and is a glorious portrait of the landscape, wildlife and plants of the Mediterranean. From the earliest human settlements to the cities of today, from the forests of the North African shore and the Middle East to Southern Europe, this series tells the dramatic story of man and nature at work.
Episode 2. The Gods Enslaved
Attenborough explores the shift over time from mans prehistoric view of the natural world as divine to a complacent view of it as a larder to be raided with impunity.
Cave paintings in Spain and France of wild animals as game 15,000 years ago show that wild Bulls were regarded with almost religious awe.
10,000 years ago Bulls were domesticated and mountain goats tamed. The domestication of wild pigs began.
9000 years ago in the grasslands of the Nile delta cattle owning tribes developed a much more elaborate way of life. Worship of a bull as the god Apis. The Falcon was worshipped as Horus the lord of the skies. Over time the worship of birds became generalised to all types of birds. The hippo was worshipped as Tawaret (protector of pregnant women), the crocodile Sobek (the God of evil) the cat was mummified as an associate of the god of war (Pasht). There were Lion, Ram, Hawk and Goat gods. The images of them that stood in temples were given human bodies to show that they represented not ordinary animals but divine beings.
Fertilisation of fields by Nile floods. Wheat and Barley cultivation.
Crete was settled by people 9000 years ago. Olive oil was the main form of wealth. It was used for cooking, lighting and anointed on the body for cleaning. Eight thousand years ago the domestication of wild grape vines began and were propagated from cuttings. There were over 100 palaces in Crete and they all centred around a large paved arena. Here was held the great ritual that dominated the lives of the people, a blend of ritual devotion, athletic prowess and great bravery where men would somersault over a bull.
Fishing in the Mediterranean.
By the beginning of the first century AD the Romans had become the dominant nation in the Mediterranean; hunting was a Roman passion and they ransacked their vast empire for animals, the stranger the better. They were taken to the arenas that were the centres of mass entertainment. "The Roman public's thirst for blood and pleasure in witnessing pain seems to have been unquenchable and without limit." "The caged animals were kept in dungeons below the main arena. The terrified animals in their cages were hoisted up from this pit. And not only animals, human beings too, criminals, slaves and prisoners of war. And here in this arena they were set one upon the other to provide the crowd with spectacles of the most appalling carnage. It still continues to this day in Spain." Bullfighting.
The cult of Artemis. During the first century BC a cult of bull worship appeared and soon spread across the Empire. Mithras a new God. The bull is still seen as the source of all life but now it requires a God in human form to release its fertility.
Roman Lepis Magna, Libya. By the end of the first century AD North Africa was supplying half a million tonnes of grain per year and two thirds of Rome's wheat. The southern shores of the Mediterranean were among the most fertile territories in the Roman Empire. -Desertification of land around the city.
In 43 AD St Paul settled in Ephesus, his message of Christianity began to strike at the trade in trinkets to pilgrims to the shrine of Artemis and a riot ensued, however erosion of the land and subsequent silting of the harbour at Ephesus stopped trade and caused the city to become abandoned. See Deforestation during the Roman period.
The bull, one of the most important of the gods was dethroned, so today castrated and subdued it works out its days in harness as man's patient slave.
But at the other end of the Mediterranean the sun was just a little less harsh, the rainfall more generous, so there nature is able to a little better withstand man's assaults and so over the next few centuries the centres of human power and population slowly move to the other end of the sea.
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