Richard On-Camera: We're embarking on a great odyssey in Greece, land of the Gods. From the amber of ancient times to the present, the Western world has basked in the glorious inspiration of the Greek myths. These strangely magnificent stories are deeply embedded in our culture and even our collective unconscious.

Richard Voice-Over: On this trip I hope to discover what relevance and meaning the great gods of Olympus might have for us today.

R VO: Ancient Greece...In the tangled skein of history, it was really just a fleeting moment. Yet it was one of humankind’s most extraordinary periods of cultural and intellectual transformation. From this prolific era sprang the very essence of Western civilization...our poetry and architecture, our sciences, and our democratic form of government.

R VO: Greek author Nicolas Gage has written:
"In the fifth century before Christ, an unprecedented idea rose from a small Greek city on the dusty plains of Attica and exploded over the Western Hemisphere like the birth of a new sun. Its light has warmed and illuminated us ever since… The vision—the classical Greek idea—was that society functions best if all citizens are equal and free to shape their lives and share in running their state."

R VO: Essential to this revolution of human thought were the gods of Greek mythology. There was a time when the Greek gods were the mightiest and most revered deities in the western world.

R OC: They touched every aspect of life, and influenced every action. Yet, somehow they vanished from our cosmology, leaving behind only temples, ruins and myths… Or did they?

R VO: Human beings have always created stories to help explain the world around them. But what was it about the Greek myths that made them so exceptional? Could they have relevance in modern life? If so, how?

R VO: My quest for understanding the gods really began back home in Los Angeles, talking with my friend, Arianna Huffington as I planned a trip to Greece. Arianna, co-founder of the online publication Huffington Post, is a native of Greece and author of a respected book on the gods.

Richard: "Arianna, why is there such an interest even today with supernatural beings from the distant past…we all know they are merely myths?"

Arianna: "Don’t be so sure, Richard. I think when you go to visit the home of the gods, you’ll be amazed at what you discover. That’s why I want you to meet my sister Agapi. She has fascinating insights into the personal natures of the gods. She might even help you discover a goddess who resonates with your interest in the environment and caring for the planet."

R VO: So I travel to Athens to meet Agapi, author and expert on the gods, and immediately she pulls me along like a kite on a journey to understand the impact of Greek mythology today.

Agapi: Welcome to my homeland.

R: Great to be here.

A: So good to see you, don’t you love it already?

R: God, it is so beautiful, it is such an amazing city, you are so lucky to have been born here.

R: Now Arianna said that you understood the spirit of the gods then and now perhaps better than anybody!

A: Well, you know the gods are still alive. They are alive in us and they are alive in everything you see.

A: They are the archetypes, they are in all of us and they are everywhere: in the land, in the tavernas, in the people talking.

A: And that is what I want to show you, how they are alive in the people, not just how they are alive in the temples but in life. And that is what the Greeks today live and breathe is that kind of spirit. That aliveness that we all want.

A: You like to see something?

R: If you would show me around I would love it.

A: Pame. It is the Greek word for ‘Let’s go’

R VO: Greece and its many islands lounge in the southeastern corner of Europe, lapped by the waters of three seas, waters deep as thought. We begin in Athens, and then head to Olympia, birthplace of the Olympic Games. We travel to the island of Ithaca, then on to the site of mystical oracles at Delphi, and finish at the home of the gods, Mt. Olympus.

R VO: The Golden Age of Greece began about five hundred BC. Over the next century and a half, the great philosophers Socrates, Plato and Aristotle strolled the streets of Athens, and the Greeks made huge leaps in philosophy, science and the arts.

R: Now it seems to me that the deities of the religions of today are all about purity and loftiness that humans can only aspire to but the gods of ancient Greece were very different.

A: Yes, very different. You see...think of it this religion we say that god created man in his image. In Greek mythology we say we created the gods in our image. So we can better understand our selves. There were 14 gods and goddesses, 7 men, 7 women. Very equal. Each one of them exemplifies a particular human characteristic. The good and the bad, the weaknesses and the strengths, so they were mirroring ourselves. It was what Karl Jung the 21st psychologist said that they are part of the collective unconscious. Think of it as the software of the psyche.

R VO: Early the next day, I head out to meet Agapi at the Acropolis, the very heart of old Athens. The morning light brings the sinuous roads of this ancient city into high relief, and while my feet move forward, my senses embark on a dizzying journey backward in time.

R VO: One of the most perfect poems in stone, the Parthenon on Athens’ Acropolis was a temple dedicated to Athena, goddess of wisdom, warfare, handicrafts and reason.

A: She is a goddess of tremendous mind ability. She is the goddess of civilization and the city Athens takes the name after Athena. She's the protectress of the city. And, she gives us a sense of leadership, a sense of peace.

R VO: How Athena did became the patron of Athens? Well in competition with Poseidon, the two gods agreed that each would give the Athenians a single gift. Poseidon stuck his trident in the ground releasing a spring that provided life-giving water. Athena planted the first domesticated olive tree which offered food, fuel and a symbol of peace. Athena’s gift won the day.

A: She's also a gifted weaver and she weaves everything together and that is really her power is that she brings balance, creativity, nurturing. She weaves everything together. The political arena, where she brings the whole together and she's a master strategist. She brings compassion, passion, strength, discipline, intellect, the masculine & the feminine, all together integrated to a complete whole.

A: And in our lives, she can be a role model about weaving all the pieces together to integrate our lives into a complete whole.

R VO: While the first known theatrical event was performed in Egypt, it was the ancient Greeks who began formalizing theatre as an art. Many of the great Greek tragedies and comedies centered on the gods and their foibles.

Artistic director: Everything was in the image of a human being, it was a humanized civilization. Theater was what was happening in life, and all the gods were behaving like human beings. They were falling in love, they would betray their wives, they had problems with their kids, so the whole thing was human.

R VO: It’s true, the Greek myths do sometimes read like soap operas out of antiquity. Zeus, the king of the gods, was a relentless womanizer and his wife Hera was always jealous. Zeus once even changed one of his mistresses into a cow to keep his wife from finding out about her. In another story, Demeter, goddess of the harvest, was devastated when her daughter Persephone was kidnapped by Hades, ruler of the underworld. Though Persephone was eventually allowed to come home, Hades tricked her into returning to the underworld three months of each year. That’s when Demeter mourns, and we get winter.

R VO: Agapi leaves me for a time, and I continue ambling Athens’ old town looking for links to the past. As I encounter local people, I begin to witness what she means about the spirits of the gods continuing to thrive within Greece today.

R VO: In the shop of a modern silversmith, there are echoes of Hephaestus, the Olympian god of fire and the forge. The blacksmiths of ancient times crafted tools and jewelry from bronze and iron, and today’s metal workers continue that tradition creating intricate works by hand.

R VO: The god Hephaestus was the son of Zeus and Hera.

Translator: He was working for nine years underground.

R VO: An angry Zeus had thrown his hapless son off of Mt. Olympus after Hephaestus had sided with his mother during one of his parents’ quarrels.

R VO: Hephaestus was the only Olympian who worked. The other gods put energy into plotting and controlling events, but they didn’t work in the sense that we understand the word today.

T: And because Hephaestus was making very nice works,

R: So he made beautiful works.

T: Zeus took him and put him in Olympus and make him again a god.

R: So because his handicraft was so good, Zeus took him back to Olympus and Pantheon. And he made shields and swords and helmets and jewelry for the gods. Fantastic.

R VO: Hephaestus is the embodiment of man’s unquenched creativity—the creativity that forged the bridge between our primordial dependence on nature and our industrial world.

R VO: Agapi explains to me that each God is entirely different, and each stands in completeness of what he or she represents.

R VO: One of the most familiar Olympians to modern Westerners is the goddess Aphrodite.

A: So here she is mighty Aphrodite. The goddess of love and beauty, Eros, symbolizing primordial femininity. The pure erotic love. One of the things that the Greeks, Richard, really knew well was to honor the body.
A: And what she teaches us is, she was the only goddess by the way that appeared nude, she teaches us to love ourselves unconditionally, and if we want to have more of her energy in our lives we must suspend judgments about body image. Love and adore ourselves just they way we are.

R VO: Today we see her spirit embodied not only in images of young lovers, but in the enduring beauty of art and classical architecture.

A: And what the Greeks knew so well, and she is also the role model of that, is to live in the moment, in the glory of the moment. So if we want to be more like Aphrodite and exemplify more of this Greek passion, we must also live in the moment.

R VO: To more deeply delve into the personalities of the gods and goddesses we venture out of the city to explore the time-cracked hills and seaside cliffs of the Greek countryside.

R VO: Cape Sounion is about an hour’s drive southeast of Athens, surrounded on three sides by an infinity of sea.

R VO: This is a place of rarefied silence, broken by the powerful secret language of the winds, and the whispers of the waters. Even the Romantic poet Lord Bryon found inspiration in this sea-sprayed vista. He wrote:
Place me on Suniun's marbled steep, Where nothing, save the waves and I, May hear our mutual murmurs sweep; There, swan-like, let me sing and die.”

R VO: This commanding temple, which lords over water that surges like ideas in turmoil, was dedicated to Poseidon, god of the sea.

A: Poseidon is the god of water & horses. He's the most primitive of all the gods. He brings us unleashed feelings & emotions & he actually represents what the Greeks called the power of the water which is the unconscious. So, he brings to us passion, unleashed sexuality, unleashed emotion & Poseidon was the source of life. So, when we think of him, think of the power that is uncontrollable because how can you control the ocean?

R OC: The ancient gods were flowers of explanation strewn on the rocky paths of existence. When there were typhoons, storms or earthquakes, Poseidon was angry; when the sea was smooth, he was content.

R VO: And fishermen, then and now, learned to read the moods of the trident-wielding god.

R VO: As Agapi talks more about Poseidon as a paladin and life force, it seems impossible to ignore not just the immense power, but the increasing vulnerability of today’s oceans; how we’re all dependent on their health for our own existence; and how, more than ever, we need a Great Water God to inspire our care and stewardship for perhaps our most vital resource.

R VO: As the personalities of the gods emerge it becomes apparent that, while they possess many profound and admirable traits, they are far from perfect. In fact, they often embody the quirks and shortcomings, the bickering and pettiness we usually associate with human beings.

R VO: ‘Nectar of the Gods…’ While wine was first produced in Persia, it was the ancient Greeks who transformed what was a simple craft into an art form. The Greeks pioneered new methods of viniculture and their techniques spread far across the Western world. The fruits of the vine took on cult status, and wine lore was woven throughout Greek mythology.

R VO: Dionysus is the god of wine, festivals, madness and merriment. He takes us on inconclusive pilgrimages of revelry and perception. He represents not only the intoxicating power of wine, but also its social and beneficial influences.

A: He's the god of dance & singing & ecstasy.

R: Aahhh.

A: He is the liberator.

A: And, he completely exudes enthusiasm. You know, enthusiasm is the Greece word for within God. Theos means God.'s one of my favorite Greek words.

A: So, he helps us rediscover our enthusiasm, our celebration for life, to live in the moment, the joy of the moment & breaks loose of our own rigidity, of our own walls. He's the one that the worst in civilization tries to suppress but hardly can do that because he is unsuppressible.

R VO: Sprawling under groves of shade trees, the ruins of ancient Olympia murmur and sigh with echoes of the gods. This area’s been inhabited since prehistoric times and though the ancient temples and athletic arenas were repeatedly toppled by earthquakes and flooded by rivers, their considerable remains forge on. This was a place that cultivated ideals, both spiritual and physical; a place of struggle, honor, and endurance.

R VO: The ancient world’s longest running show was the original Olympic Games. The Olympics began as a small regional festival that grew into a wildly popular event held every four years for more than a millennium. It drew thousands of spectators from across the Greek city-states. The contests, drinking and festivities lasted for days. The games, open at first only to Greek-born men and later to Romans, included discus, javelin, foot races, wrestling, and chariot racing. Beyond the athletic events, there were also competitions in poetry and writing, as well as wheeling and dealing between businessmen and politicians.

R OC: It’s said that Zeus himself organized the first Olympic Games here in 776 BC, in the aftermath of his victory over Chronos, his father, for the domination of the world.

A: So I brought you here at the site of ancient Olympia, Richard, because I wanted to tell you more about Hermes.

R VO: Relaxed and elegant, this statue of the Hermes was uncovered from the ruins of a temple here in Olympia. God of flight, commerce, and travelers, Hermes was the messenger of the gods. He was also a guide who showed the way for dead souls to Hades' realm.

A: He’s our guide. And he transports us from one place to the next. Physically, emotionally, psychologically, and spiritually. He is the one that helps us when we’re stuck to bring us to new beginnings. He catches us by surprise. Encouraging us to explore our lives in a new way. So that nothing is monotonous about him.

R VO: The statues and art of Greece’s golden era make clear that there were changes occurring within the Greek psyche. Earlier sculptors in places such as Egypt and Mesopotamia created images of gods and kings that were stiff and unapproachable. But the Greeks began transforming those intimidating images into something more human and accessible. The gods were portrayed in naturalistic poses, performing human activities. And on vases and pottery, artists showed not only divine beings, but ordinary people engaged in everyday tasks.

R VO: What was happening here? Could it be that by endowing gods with human traits, the Greeks were also starting to change the way they viewed the world around them? There was a new thought process developing, one in which the gods weren’t quite so powerful as before, and humanity was becoming the measure of all things. The island of Ithaca, floats with salty originality in the Ionian Sea off the west coast of the Greek mainland.

R VO: Ithaca is a place that makes the world seem as if it can occupy both present and past in a single moment...a dream world, buffeted by endless briny winds, inhabited by enigmatic creatures and everyday sights that hint at something deeper. It’s easy to be hypnotized by the lilting harbor views and the sunlight playing off unceasing fishing nets that pull life from the sea.

R VO: Ithaca earned its fame as the legendary home of the Greek king, Odysseus, hero of Homer’s epic poems, the Iliad and the Odyssey.

R OC: Odysseus is one adventurer I can raise my paddle to! The Greek heroes were mythopoetic, much like their gods, and the fates were often intertwined. Odysseus spent ten years trying to get home to Ithaca after the Trojan War, battling the Cyclops, enduring the wrath of Poseidon, and being protected by grey-eyed goddess Athena.

R VO: Athena, who liked to intercede in human affairs, helped Odysseus because he was intelligent—she admired that in a man.

R VO: Many filaments of Greek myths permeate the Iliad and the Odyssey of Homer, which form the core of the Western literary tradition.

R: So, Agapi, we have not been suffering from a paucity of hospitality on this trip. What is it about this land-?

A: And food.

R: And food. And food.

A: And food.

R: Yes. So-so, why does this place have this feeling of so much abundance?

A: Well, that's because of one of the most important goddesses in Greek mythology, the goddess Demeter. And, she is the ultimate mother. She represents the mother and she represents the mothering aspects in ourselves. She is the goddess of plenty. She is a caretaker, she's a nurturer, she's a great healer. And, at the core of her being sits her abundant heart, her generous heart and an amazing powerful love. So, when you look at the Greek women, you see the Demeter aspect in them.

A: She's the goddess that gave us the sickle and the plow. She gave us the corn, the wheat… And she, she told us, she said, "Go and plow the earth, and be fertile and harvest the good and be abundant.

R VO: Agapi says that Demeter would approve of today’s efforts toward organic farming and sustainability, and that her spirit of caretaking and nurturing should extend to all of our natural resources.

A: So here’s to Demeter, the great earth goddess, the mother. Yassou.

R VO: Like Odysseus, as I travel here I am losing the illusion that I know where I am. The next marker is Delphi, favorite site of the sun god Apollo.

R VO: The ruins of Delphi open up like a grand amphitheatre embraced by sun-drenched hillsides. They fill unsuspecting mortals with a quiet sense of wonder.

R VO: This was a center of worship of the great god Apollo.

A: He was an illuminated god, he was the god of light. He brought us into the light, he was the god of the sun.

A: He is the god of science and mathematics of music. He is the god of symmetry the balance that you feel here, the stillness, the perfection.

A: And what is amazing about here, aside from the energy that you feel is that this place here had everything. It had what the Greeks believed in body, mind and soul. They had gymnasium for the body, temple for the soul and for the intellect for the mind, the theaters. So everything was here.

R VO: In ancient Delphi, the Greeks spent most of the year worshipping Apollo, but they devoted the winter months to Dionysus, the god of wine and dance.

A: So what Delphi was a little bit of both, it was the reason and the intuition.

R: Coming together

A: Coming together! So you get the sense of wholeness, and that was the healing, and that’s what western man today struggles with the order, spontaneity, celebration and the freedom.

(background noise of tourists talking)

R So they are looking for balance?

A: for balance.

R: The balance between the two, the interconnectedness.

A: Exactly.

R OC: As dabblers in the narratives of mythology, many of us assume that the Greek myths emerged as full-blown, completely formed stories. But the truth is a bit more complex. The gods and myths of Greece evolved over a very long time incorporating elements from other cultures and earlier eras, a sort of mythological melting pot.

R VO: Many of the stories found their roots in Egypt and Mesopotamia. The ancient island culture of the Minoans had a sea god who the Greeks later called Poseidon. And the conquering Indo-European warriors known as the Mycenaeans brought with them their ancient sky father, Zeus. We will never know the proportions of import and export in these stories because, often by design, the ancient Greeks were great storytellers. We try today to decipher the enduring statues, artwork, temples and ruins; to inhabit the past with meaning. One part of their history can be seen with the eyes; the other, only with the imagination.

R VO: Northern Greece’s countryside is wreathed in olive trees and russet hills.
Searing the landscape is one of Greece’s transcendent sites: the sandstone peaks of Meteora. If there is an architecture of impending danger, it is here. In the 9th century, hermit monks occupied these otherworldly pinnacles, and today Meteora holds the second largest complex of Eastern Orthodox monasteries in Greece. The arrows of rock take clear aim at the imagery of heaven and hell—the fall into the gorges a deadly, terrible possibility; the medieval monasteries hovering like angels in flight in the clear air.

R OC: Meteora means "suspended in the air," and in fact the world meteor comes from this place. Geologists say these towering pillars were created by water and wind erosion. But we know better. Local by legend says these rock needles are meteors hurled to earth by the angry gods.

R VO: Human beings by nature seem drawn to ancient sites such as Meteora and to the classical Greek ruins to try to understand the spiritual quests of earlier times. We journey on, looking for clues to basic, universal truths expressed in the rituals, legends, and myths of all the world’s cultures and across all time.

R VO: Below the soft prayers and muffled rituals of the monasteries, there are chimney-topped homes where another quiet grace resides. Agapi tells me we can sense the presence of the goddess Hestia here...

A: Hestia actually means the fireplace "Hestia". So Hestia was the goddess that was really worshipped around the home, in the intimacy in the sacredness of the home

A: She symbolizes the life of which we return to replenish ourselves. So she is really about connectedness, intimacy and sacredness and happiness the happiness we feel when we are... like now, quiet, intimate, when it is not about action and she is the one who brings us back to the center.

R VO: Another manifestation of the goddess Hestia is the community square. And Litochoro, a small town at the foot of Mt. Olympus, is a case in point.

R VO: Resting between the soft songs of the sea to the east and the thundering mountains to the west, Litochoro is a community that personifies the ancient Greek concept of Harmony.

R VO: Here, even travelers from far off lands feel the warm breath of Hestia.

A: In Greece she was worshipped in the platia, in the piazza, in the middle there would be a fire burning for the city, there would be a fire burning for each person for each family so in each home there was a fire burning

A: So she is really about the homecoming, but the coming home to ourselves, returning to our own center and she is protecting us from the bustle and the hustle of the outside world.

R VO: From Litichoro, the high hope of my quest is at last in sight. Tomorrow I’ll climb Mt. Olympus, home to Zeus, king of the gods.

R: So the gods were all powerful, they were like super heroes. But they were always battling each other and loving each other somehow though Zeus rose above them all. How did he do that?

A: You mean the dysfunctional family of Olympus right? He was King of the kings, he was god of the gods, he is the one who created the whole pantheon of the gods, he had to overcome so much, Richard, to be come the king, he had to devour his father, he had to destroy the Titans and kill the Cyclops.

A: He was a master strategist

A: He teaches us about leadership but most of all he teaches us about power, to own that power. He was the most powerful of the gods he ran Olympus the way he wanted it

R VO: Once victorious, Zeus established a new cosmic order—an order based not on brute strength but on intellectual supremacy and above all on alliances, both sacred and political.

R VO: Agapi sends me off for my final adventure alone, to climb the mountain that was home to the pantheon of the gods.

R VO: I spend a restless night in the towers of my dreams, imagining the pilgrimage to come and the aerial spirits of Olympus.

R VO: Emerging from the clouds is the supreme dwelling of the gods, Mount Olympus. Zeus, the king of the gods, is the ruler of the mountain and the god of the sky and thunder.

R VO: As I begin my ascent, I remember that Agapi had told me to be on the lookout for the spirit of one more goddess: she’s known as 'Gaia,' or mother Earth.

R: Well we're stuck on the flanks of Mt. Olympus in the midst of a thunder and lightning storm, the type of which Zeus was so famous for. We’ve already had one guy pass us on a stretcher with a broken leg, so this is not a trivial mountain.

R OC: Hiking the flanks of Mt. Olympus, it's easy to dial back to Gaia, who preceded even the Olympian gods. According to mythology, the primordial goddess Gaia, emerged from chaos, the void. And it was from her that all the Olympian gods and all living things ultimately sprang.

R VO: Scientists in the 1960’s choose the name Gaia for a new theory that argued that Earth and all of its creatures and organisms are so closely intertwined that they form a single life form. This system attempts keep all aspects of our planet in balance.

R VO: Scientists still debate the theory, but what is unavoidable is the fact that, like the ancient gods of Olympus, all life forms originate from mother Earth and are essential to nature’s ecosystem.

R: So we’re above the snow line, we’re about to go above the tree line. There’s snow all throughout here in the summer time. We’re probably around 8500 feet, well over a mile and a half high. Can start to feel the effects of altitude at this altitude. It’s very difficult to see where we’re going I can see how people have fallen off these sheer cliffs in the mist. It’s easy to get lost up here.

I think we’re going to make it, just a few more steps.

Whoa, this is it! We’re on top of the highest mountain in Greece!

R VO: Here, standing on the top of Mt. Olympus, I’m utterly overcome—not just from the heart-stopping views, but also from my admiration and gratitude for the curious minds that came before me. Those great, imaginative thinkers who looked deeply into the natural world toward the very essence of life. And with their myths, built a bridge between human understanding and the mysteries of eternity.

R OC: The ancient Greeks, with their artists, playwrights, philosophers and scientists, changed the basic relationship between humans and gods. It was as if a light bulb came on. By making the gods more human, humanity somehow became more divine.

R VO: And some Greeks actually began to give up the idea that gods—or their earthly representatives, the kings and pharaohs—controlled the universe. In a sense, the Greeks liberated us. Humans were no longer trapped helplessly in a world in which they existed only to serve divine beings. All of sudden it seemed reasonable that all men could participate in the running of society. And perhaps there were different explanations, even rational explanations, for the forces of nature that surround us.

R VO: Reflecting back on our odyssey through Greece, it’s clear that the spirits of the Greek gods never went away...they are very much alive the people of Greece. In the fisherman, and the mothers, the silversmiths and the winemakers. And they’re evident in the unique temperament and makeup of the Greek people, their way of welcoming the world, their outlook, their attitudes, their joy, their singular spirit.

R VO: Thanks to Agapi, I now see that by probing the legion of personalities of the Greek gods, we can find applicable insights into our own psyches.

R VO: The Greeks found the humanity and imperfections in the gods, and at the same time found the divinity in themselves. Those mythic deities, who once provided explanations for the forces of nature can today help us recognize our own place in the natural order—our interconnectedness with the life around us and our power to cut and cast our world for the better.

R OC: It’s hard not to appreciate the glory that was ancient Greece. The culture that pushed the envelope of human reason instigated a revolution in perception and thought, laying the foundation for a system of values that respects equality, and balance.

R OC: And over two thousand years later, it’s time to push the stone of civilization even further: to honor the sacredness in all living things, and assume the responsibility to protect them.

R VO: What you can do:

  • Learn more about Greek mythology
  • Support the preservation of ancient archaeological sites
  • Look for the spirit of the divine in all living things
  • Visit Greece and see for yourself

R VO: For more information and links, go to our website:


Acropolis Temple


Richard at Poseidon Temple


Richard at Meteora

Richard at Delphi

Richard at a waterfall in Mt Olympus