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Old July 26th, 2008, 08:48 PM   #1
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Athens a history of 8000 years. 2nd Edition.


Second edition, July 26, 2008


It's been over a year since I've cleared the old version of this thread for reasons that now are out of the scope of this one.

It's been also five months since I've started working on this guide, geez that's a long time!

Five months of long research (both in books and internet), compilation, writing, translation, document formating and data pasting as well .

When I've started, the idea was to restore the old thread and complete it, as it covered the history of Athens until 1912. But later I thought it would be a better idea to improve it or in other words...upgrade it to a "guide" category; a guide that as time went by, became something more like a book, since the outcome of all this work is a document with a total of 280 written pages (not including the images).

Did I mention images? Well yes, as you may have heard, an image is worth one thousand words. So in order to complement all the text information, I've decided that adding photos, drawings and maps depicting how the city looked like in each period, would help you even more on getting an idea of what you are reading.

Of course I made lots of improvements, like adding lots of missing data, I’ve also included, as mentioned before, quite a number of interesting maps showing how Athens looked like in past centuries as well as old pictures, lithographies and much more.

So if you’ve already read the old version, this is a new version alltogether, much richer in information than its older counterpart.

By the way, coincidentally, since each post will be dedicated to a certain period of history, and since this is my post number 999; the beginning of this guide coincides with my post number 1000.

Finally I want to thank to all those sites and people who provided all this reach information; who by the way have a whole bibliography chapter dedicated to them at the end of the guide.

I'll divided this guide into chapters according to the time era.
So, Ladies and Gentlemen, please sit down, put your seats in upright position, fasten your seatbelts, tray tables up and please turn your cellphones off; because it's time to begin our long journey into the past of Athens.

Last edited by GrigorisSokratis; July 27th, 2008 at 04:24 AM.
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Old July 26th, 2008, 08:53 PM   #2
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The view of modern Athens from above, from any point of any of the mountains that surround the Athenian basin, impresses the observer causing mixed feelings. The city fills all the extent of the basin, climbing the aforementioned surrounding mountains, while it finds an exit through the natural passes between them and disappears beyond its natural limits.

From this massive geography emerges as a sovereign the imposing physiognomy of the holy rock of the Athenian Citadel and the clump of neighbouring hills and in dynamic contraposition the towering Lykavitto and the even higher Hills of Vrilissiou (Toyrkovounia). An impressive picture of a metropolis with intense popular character.

However, this city while clearly showing that it suffers from gigantism, actually extends itself within the limits that had been shaped by the mesh of ancient Athenian municipalities. The picture is differentiated today because the city presents itself compact and not as a set of smaller scattered villages. The modern city lives in intense rythms. Of course, the current residents of Athens, lost in the routine of the daily grind, do not perceive that behind the dense cover of modern urban life, the historical past of the city can be easily seen; moreover, it even represents the base of the current urban structure of Athens.

However, the Athenian past has scattered its presence all around the extent of the basin, making it a still persistent entity nowadays; in Athens the past is part of the present and it’s still alive. The innumerable monuments of antiquity that dominate in the urban landscape, the astounishing big number of Medieval Byzantine churches and structures, the neoclassic buildings and the official palaces are linked harmoniously with the environment, constituting a connection of the past and the present. The emergence of the past is a permanent phenomenon in modern Athens and the evidences of historical continuity abound. Few people know the fact that the city’s urban network is founded on its ancient (still existent) one; many of the urban streets and main roads are the same ancient streets or they follow the directions of those (we are going to cover this with more detail later).

What impresses an observer more, are the similar uses of the urban space, no matter the moment of history studied. For all the above it is worthwhile to take a moment of our life to learn all those secrets, we think are hidden, when they are actually before us and are eagerly waiting to be discovered. Let’s begin this journey into the history of the oldest metropolis not only of Europe, but of the whole world.

Last edited by GrigorisSokratis; July 27th, 2008 at 04:17 AM.
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Old July 26th, 2008, 09:00 PM   #3
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Prehistoric Athens (6,000BC – 1,600 BC)



The city of Athens, this vast urban monster that is constantly expanding, has a long history, starting many millenia ago, thousands of years before the use of writing and the recording of History.

The first people arrived in our city during the Neolithic Era, Sometime around the 6,000BC. Their few remaining traces show that they were the first to choose the area of the rock of the Acropolis for their permanent place of living. Possibly, at first they did not wish to stay exactly on the top, but excavations have shown that they had certainly dispersed along the southern and northern sides of the rock, and that they occasionally used the two small caves over Dionysus’ (Διόνυσος) theatre. Water, the first and most fundamental element for the development of a new settlement, was provided from 21 shallow wells, 3-4 metres deep, that had been dug at the northwest of the rock, in the same place where, in later historic years, stood the famous ‘Water Clock’ (Κλεψύδρα) fountain.

The area of the acropolis and its immediate neighbourhood have been inhabited since the sixth millennium Β. C., making Athens possibly the oldest continuously inhabited city in Europe. The remains of Neolithic houses and graves have been found on and around the Acropolis. Archaeological evidence supports the view that this area was continuously inhabited from that time through to the Bronze Age, which began circa 3,000 B.C., at which time there were also settlements in eastern Attica, at Marathon, Spata, Vraona, Τhοrikοs and elsewhere, suggesting a high degree of security and prosperity for the entire region.

From the scant finds it seems that the Neolithic inhabitants of Athens were in contact with the coasts of the Saronic Gulf, Aegina and Kea where important settlements have been found.

Few and far between, the houses on the side featured solid built bases while their walls and roofs were knitted from branches covered with mud. Inside their one single area there was a built stove, used for heating and cooking food. Food and other commodities, acquired via land cultivation and barter, were stored inside simple shallow dug outs on the ground. Animal hunting in the area was of vital importance, not only for the meat it provided, but also for the skins.

Apart from taking care of their various living necessities, these people also decorated their bodies with stone and bone jewelry and it is also possible that they painted their faces with ochre. Four obese female statuettes bear testament to the worship of the female deity of fertility, the same one that dominates the East throughout the Prehistoric Era.

Another group of people had probably settled in the neighbouring hill of the Olympeion (Ολυμπίειον), which was later flattened, so that the temple of Olympeion Zeus (Ολύμπειος Δίας) could be built upon it. Nothing remains from it (nor would it have been possible, since the soil was cut and removed), but the shape and position of the hill make the spot ideal for a Neolithic settlement: low ground angle, close to a river and flat area surroundings with fertile soil for cultivation.

From these sparse findings, and more particularly from the types of pottery, it can be figured that the people who resided on the sides of the Acropolis in the Neolithic times were oriented towards the sea and kept in close contact with the coasts of the Saronic (Σαρωνικός), Aegina (Αίγινα) and Kea (Κέα). Their relations with the Northeastern Peloponnese (Πελοπόννησος), Thessalia (Θεσσαλία) and Asia Minor (Μικρά Ασία) were a lot less tight.

The early Bronze Age (3200–2000 BC) settlement continued uninterruptedly around the Acropolis but new sites prove the spread of inhabitants over a wider area; this age finds the residents of then modern Athens a lot more influenced by the Neolithic way of living. Originally, they remain within the bounds of their own area, but soon afterwards, they start to communicate with the Peloponnese, Sterea (Στερεά), and the Cyclades (Κυκλάδες). No houses and permanent constructions have survived, but the sparse traces of pottery found show that they continue to reside in their old places; while others now definitely live on top of the rock close to the Erectheion (Ερεχθείο), where clear traces of them have been found. Inside the Ancient Marketplace (Αγορά) a pathway leading to Plato’s Academy (Ακαδημία Πλάτωνος) in the West begins to be formed; this pathway will later become a road.

In the East it is certain that the hill of the Olympeion is made use of, and one of its inhabitants was found buried in a small carved grave of the time. That and another grave in Cerameicos (Κεραμεικός) show from their shape and their burial gems (κτερίσματα) that the residents of the area both retained their close connections with the Cyclades or the Cycladic settlements of Attica, and followed a lot of customs of their own.

After all these sparse and poor remains one can't fail to be impressed by the wealth and variety of the findings from the second Βronze Age, of the Middle Helladic period (2000-1600 BC). Houses, wells, stoves, storage dug outs, graves of various types and all kinds of pottery with plenty of material can be found scattered over a large area. On top of the rock, at the east of the Erectheion, there used to remain five small box-shaped (κιβωτιόσχημος) graves, and, at the north of the same temple, a layer of a levee. On the southern side, signs of the Middle Helladic Era can be found not only close to the Proto Helladic ones, but everywhere where an excavation took place. Two stoves, two storage dug outs, a burial inside a large jar, a burial tomb north of Eumenus’ Gallery (Στοά του Ευμένους), two rooms or houses, one well, two small simple graves, and, lower, towards the east of the Museum hill, one large well-constructed grave, another couple of earlier ones, and, of course, pottery everywhere.

A large amount of pottery was also found in the east, around the area of the Olympeion. In the north, inside the ancient Marketplace, wherever the rock had retained its older levee Middle Helladic use is hinted. Pottery, two storage dug outs at the base of the Areios Pagos (Άρειος Πάγος) and, especially, parts of a road in the centre and in the northwestern corner, above the pathway of the Proto Helladic period.

Clearly, the Middle Helladic findings cover a wide area, a lot greater than all known Middle Helladic settlements. Of course it would be pointless to regard this whole area as a uniform and continuous settlement. However, the findings are real and where they stand we should place houses, built in groups and more densely on the southern and the northern side; another group should be placed east of the Museum hill, and others on the Olympeion and the Marketplace. The residents of these settlements do not appear to remain confined in their places of residence. On the contrary, they maintain close relations and continuous contact with Sterea, the Peloponnese and the Cyclades. From the various traded goods we only know the pottery items. Burial customs are now clearly Helladic without any Cycladic influences.

The Kerameikos area began to be used for the burial of the dead and at the Agora there were early traces of a road leading westwards.
On a cultural level, there were contacts with the Cyclades which thrived during this period and with the important coastal settlements of Attica such as where modern day Agios Kosmas is.

At the end of third millennium B.C. around 2100 BC Greek-speaking people, sometimes called Achaeans, first entered the Peloponessus originating from the Eastern pindus range region; later about the 2000 BC their Ionian Greek brothers followed and settled in Attika coming from Western Macedonia and Western Thessaly. The Athenians always distinguished themselves from non-Greek-speaking people, whom they usually referred to as Pelasgians. It is not known whether they massacred them, drove them out, or subjugated them. Traces of their non-Hellenic tongue are still to be found in many of the topographical names of Attica. Even the name 'Athens' itself does not appear to be Indoeuropean. Topographical names with the forms '-ssos' and '-ttos', such as Kifissos, Ilissos, Ardettos, Lykabettos and Hymettos, are also believed to belong to the pre-Greek language once spoken in Attica. This extensive adoption of existing topographical names by the Greek-speaking incomers, together with later claims by the Athenians to represent the indigenous inhabitants of the area, suggests that in Attica the invaders did not drive out or massacre their predecessors, but cohabited with them, intermixed and they finally have been assimilated.

There’s another theory that suggests that the mingling of the newcomers with the natives led to the creation of ancient Greek civilization specially in Athens. Resulting in the Ionian character to be nothing more than a mixture of Prehellenic people with Hellenic speaking ones.

The name of Athens in Ancient Greek was Athinai (Αθηναι, pronounced, "at-heh-nye"). The actual etymology of the word is obscure and its origin prehellenic. An etiological myth on how Athens acquired this name was well known amongst ancient Athenians and even became the theme of Parthenon's West pediment sculpture. Both Athena and Poseidon requested to be patrons and give their name to the city, so they competed, offering the city one gift each. Poseidon produced a spring by striking the ground with his trident, symbolizing naval power. Athena created the olive tree, symbolizing peace and prosperity. The Athenians under Cecrops accepted the olive tree and named the city after Athena. Athιnai is a plural form: the city was called "The Athenses" since it was originally a group of ten cities which Theseus unified into one city. In his dialogs Cratylus, Plato gives the etymology of Athena's name based on the view of the ancient Athenians.
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Old July 26th, 2008, 09:10 PM   #4
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Mycenaean Athens - The Athens of Legend (c.1,600 BC-1,100 BC)


Near the end of the Bronze Age, the Achaeans began to demonstrate increasing cultural sophistication under the influence of the civilization of Minoan Crete, named after the legendary King Minos. At the same time, they retained their own distinctive ways. The result of this synthesis is known as the Mycenaean civilization, since the most important city exhibiting this cultural fusion was Mycenae. Α syllabic script, Linear Β, was used to put the Greek language into writing, and this, together with the work of the archaeologists, gives us some insights into their society.

And so we reach the later Bronze Age, the Post-Helladic (Υστεροελλαδική), better known as 'Mycenaean' (Μυκηναϊκή). Its 500 years can be broken down into smaller periods, of 100 or 150 years each, each with its own characteristics. The first years of the Mycenaean civilisation (1600-1500), which appears and matures in Argolida (Αργολίδα), find the residents of Athens deeply influenced by the Middle Helladic (Μεσοελλαδικό) way of living.
The Era of the royal pits and of the gold Mycenae, with their luxurious vessels and novel styles, is, for most Athenians, unknown. The city's art and customs follow Middle Helladic models and retain their Middle Helladic character. The new style is accessible only to a few people - the ones residing upon the hill, on the southern side and on the Olympeion. Other types of findings, especially graves, show that some families did pass from the one Era to the other, and experienced the period of cultural change without modifying their traditional customs.

In any case, after the period that followed, the Post-Helladic II (1500-1400), Athenians acquire Mycenaean styles and proceed along the same lines in terms of art, perhaps even also of administration. The top of the hill and its sides are the place of residence of the king and of the ruling class. In these areas people utilize luxury items and keep in their houses items from Argolida and Crete (which has only just started exporting some of its products to Athens).

The chief Mycenaean settlements were usually built around a royal palace, maintained by an elaborate bureaucracy working under a king. Around the foot of the eminence on which the palace was built lived the freemen and slaves who worked the land.

It is likely that during this period the kings of Athens had such a palace on the Acropolis. Unfortunately, later building has destroyed most of the evidence dating from this period. It is most likely that this building consisted of a great hall, or megaron, and a forecourt, like the palaces at Mycenae, Tiryns and Pylos. Α rich chamber tomb has been found on the northern slopes of the Acropolis containing fine Mycenaean pottery, gold and bronze ornaments and a carved ivory box, making it evident that the burial was that of a woman, probably of royal birth. It is referred to as 'the Ρrincess” Tomb. Another family chamber tomb found under the temple of Ares was in use between 1450 and 1200 B.C. Excavations in the area of the later Athenian agora have revealed a cemetery from this period. Mycenaean tholos tombs are found scattered about the countryside of Attica: in Τhοrikοs, Spata, Marathon and Menidi.

The size of the settlement in the lower city is not clearly defined during this period. However, findings show that apart from the older positions that have always been inhabited (east of the Museum and of the Olympeion), another area relatively further away begins to be used, with houses that form part of a new complex. Their inhabitants are buried in a different cemetery, next to a turn of Ilissos (Ιλισός) river, at the end of what today is Dimitrakopoulou street.

These people's burial places are built according to the new standards of the thalamoeid (θαλαμοειδής) grave, while older families still use Middle Helladic box-shaped graves.

In the third Mycenaean period, the Post-Helladic ΙΙΙ, and especially during its first years (1410-1380), Athens undergoes its greatest development. Its population spreads out to the southern part and everything speaks of a general prosperity both in terms of quality and means of living. Some graves in Athenian cemeteries contain burial gems (κτερίσματα) comparable to those of Argolida. By contrast, the northern side appears to remain temporarily uninhabited. Still, there must have been a settlement somewhere in that area, because in the Marketplace, especially around the Gallery of Attalus (Στοά του Αττάλου) a cemetery is formed, too large to have been only for the families residing on top of the rock (pic. 6). The really rich Athenian graves were found in Areios Pagos (Άρειος Πάγος), carved into the rock, and at least these must have hosted lords.

Finally, another cemetery, the third of the settlement, seems to develop at the west of the Acropolis, at the root of the hill of the Nymphs.
All this area that is defined at its edges by two and three cemeteries is larger than any previous one and cannot possibly be accepted that it was a uniform and continuous settlement. To get closer to reality, we must assume that Athenians were concentrated in groups, or “κατά κώμας” (kata komas) as Thucydides would say, with their central core on top of the rock and on the southern side. Some houses must have formed another group at the west of the Acropolis, others at the east of the Museum, or along the western bank of Ilissos and others at the Olympeion. It should be clarified, though, that this structure didn’t have anything to do with any particular economic or social differentiation of the population, because the burial gems of the two great cemeteries are totally comparable in terms of quality. Higher quality ones could only be found inside the graves of Areios Pagos, but, as we noted, these were royal ones.

This "kata komas" (groups) population structure shown by excavation findings in the area leads to a certain speculation. The word ‘Αθήναι’ (Athinai), as shown by its suffix ‘–ήναι’ (inai), precedes historic times and is always put in the plural. It could be that the plural number refers exactly to this division and referred to the total of the smaller settlements that together formed a co-settlement, as it happens in the cases of cities like Mycenae and Thebes.

This interpretation is simply a speculation, with no further evidence to prove it, while tradition attributes the name to later years, subsequently to the co-settlement of Theseus (Θησέας), and ancient authors mention older names for the city such as Cecropis (Κεκροπίς) and Erecthees (Ερεχθηίς).

From the variety of findings in Athens we conclude that relations with Argolida, Boeotia (Βοιωτία) and the rest of Attica are close. However, the quality of the imports is not excellent and this seems to imply that Athenians were not particularly keen at spotting high art. Local workshops try to imitate those of Argolida, but rather unsuccessfully, while certain ones remain attached to, or simply remember and reproduce forms and styles of the Middle Helladic Era. Some local uniqueness is encountered in certain vessels with crumbled surface and some water vessels constructed in exactly the same manner as the Middle Helladic ones, with the same clay, dyeing and decoration. We should mention also, Athens’ relations with Crete. According to myth the youths of Athens, Theseus and Aegeas (Αιγέας), are connected with Crete and the Minotaur in a tragic manner. However, our available evidence does not prove any essential Minoan influence that would justify such a myth.

In the second half of the 14th Century (Post-Helladic ΙΙΙ Α2) life continues along conservative lines. Residents remain in their places without moving out into new areas, while they do not develop any special activity either. This is quite puzzling, as it is exactly during this period that the first serious expansion of the Mycenaean civilisation out into the Aegean Sea takes place, with new settlements appearing everywhere – even in Attica.

Only Athens does not take part in the ongoing "cosmogony" and our own findings cannot seem to provide an explanation for this. Still, we may be allowed to surmise that the most vital parts of the population moved towards the sea and settled down in coastline settlements (which, as we know, prosper during this time), such as Alyki in Voula, Varkiza, Faliro and others. The most conservative part of the population remained in the older houses and continued to work at their own pace.

This relative isolation and conservatism lasts for about half a century. By the start of the next century, the 13th, Athens enters the most important phase of its development. The size of the small town remains the same, but from the findings it can be deduced that the northern part, with its easier access to the Acropolis, is now used more. A few houses are built upon the northern side and it is almost certain that the residents of the area use the pathway around the rock that will later develop into the well known Peripatos (Περίπατος).

The area upon the rock is reformed. Where later will be erected the Erectheion and the first hundrent-staired temple of Athena (Αθηνά), a flat area with a levee is formed, upon which the Mycenaean palace is built. Very little remains from this building, but from what is left (two flights of stairs to the second level, one pillar of wide diameter) we can conclude that the palace had the same shape and basic characteristics as the known Argolidean ones. Within the generation that follows, it gets fortified with a powerful cyclopean wall surrounding the rock's higher surface. Its foundation, construction technique, materials, planning and route, all parts of the wall adhere to Argolidean models.

The main entrance is equipped with a strong tower that allows only a narrow passage, so as to entrap possible invaders within a small space. The second access gateway to the north, where there had always been the path leading to the top of the rock, is now blocked by the wall. Finally, the underground descend to the northern fountain is constructed, that is meant to supply the besieged with water. The fountain lies at 40 metres from the top and the staircase, made of stone and wood, was ingeniously grounded within a vertical fissure so as to be invisible from the outside.

Nothing is known of the Mycenaean kings of Athens except a few names and legends, and what may be inferred from excavations. The traditional date assigned to the founder of the royal line, Kekrops was 1581 B.C. He was said to have selected the goddess Athena as patron of the city and named it after her. It is equally possible that the goddess is named after, and personifies, the city. Other royal names include Kodros, Εrichthοniοs, Erechtheos, Pandion, Aegeus and Theseus.

However, the construction of the Acropolis presupposes a king powerful enough to impose his will upon a large population. Findings from the lower city and ‘tas komas’ (groups) are not many, but they are enough to show that the old positions are not abandoned, and that people, especially the older families, do not leave their homes.

The continuous development and prosperity of the Mycenaean world is set back at the beginning of the 12th Century. The reasons for this are to be found outside the Helladic domain and it is a fact that the turmoil in the East affects the trading of goods and seriously damages the trade of the Achaean palaces. The consequences will also be felt by the Athenian king, who, suddenly, loses control and warding of local commerce.

The demographic change was swift and apparent. The craftsmen, producers and merchants that gathered around the palace are released from their administrative and financial dependence, spread out to the islands and other opportune areas and take care of the distribution of their products themselves. The population of Athens thins down, the houses gathered in the Northeastern ascend are abandoned and the residents disperse even within the small town. The northern fountain remains in use for a few more years, but all remains and findings attest to the general drop in quality. Very few burials take place in the Marketplace and in the western cemeteries, while another burial is spotted in Kerameikos. In that spot will be formed the first core of what will, in historic times, become the main cemetery of the city of Athens.

However, the lord remains on the Acropolis and completes his settlement with a few more houses south of the Parthenon. These last Achaeans (Αχαιοί), with their poorly means and limited capabilities, save the city from complete depopulation, and after the short time of the Sub Mycenaean (Υπομυκηναϊκά) years, Athens enters the Historic Age, which elevated the city into the cradle of civilization.

For many centuries, the Athenian legends and traditions constituted the spiritual heritage of the population and in them Athenians identified their first History. Traditions refer to specific persons, kings and heroes, whose various life events are connected with facts or spots of the area. Newer research repeatedly tried to locate the historical essence in them and separate it from mythic or other additional elements. The identification of topographic elements of the myth with particular places in the area is not always easy. However, now that we have painted the picture of Athens via the findings, let us examine the possible relationship of the mythical traditions of Athens with the facts and topography.

During the historic times, various chthonian worships had concentrated upon the rock, and especially around the Erectheion, as well as the graves of the two founders of the city, Cecrops (Κέκρωψ) and Erectheus (Ερεχθεύς), that are very tightly associated with the Athenians’ faith in their indigenous origins. In particular, Cecrops’ grave was below the Protases of the Daughters (Κόρες) and further to the West the temple of Cecrops. Erechthonios (Εριχθόνιος), an infant deity born from the Earth and raised by Athena, was usually identified with Erectheus, a sacred figure and mythical king, who had been buried inside his later built temple.

Scholars usually believe that the two graves (of Cecrops and of Erectheus) are located in the particular spot because of their antiquity and the existence there of the Mycenaean palace. As we saw, however, during the Proto Helladic and the Middle Helladic periods, exactly on the spot where the Erectheion was built, and because, for purely pedologic reasons, access was easier, a small settlement had developed.

Besides, we should note that tradition could not have pinpointed the two graves of the city’s founders in that spot, at the time when the Mycenaean palace -a structure both well known and in use- was still there. The creation of the myth must have started from older elements that not even they could specify chronologically. It is therefore logical to assume that around the Erectheion should have been not only the five Middle Helladic graves we know of, but a few more, that were brought to light in the Mycenaean Era, quite possibly during the construction of the palace’s levees. Their forms and shapes showed that they were older, the place was the seat of the king, so it was natural that the impression was created that within lay buried the ancient kings and founders of the city.

Aegeas’s residence is placed in the Olympeion. He is the only Athenian king who did not use the Acropolis as his seat, but, according to Plutarch (Πλούταρχος) that was west of the ‘Αιγέως πυλών’ at what was known as Perifracto (Περίφρακτο) of the Delfinios (Δελφίνιος), (according to tradition, Delfinios’ temple had been built by Aegeas himself in the same year when Theseus arrived in Athens). Some attributed the connection between Aegeas and the Olympeion to the fact that Aegeas was not an Erectheidis (Ερεχθείδης), meaning an indigenous Athenian. Others thought that an old palace used to be in that spot. Both views, however, had serious disadvantages. Firstly, it is not possible to have a king so close to the palace of another king, and secondly, the area of the Olympeion from the YE III B-III Γ period (1300-1100 BC), that is the time when the palace must have been built and inhabited, gave findings of relatively lower quality, which bear no resemblance to known palace artifacts.

Following the topographic examination of Athens, we are in position to express some tentative assumptions, without having conclusive proofs. In the Olympeion settlement that we discussed, there may have been a family of royal origins, such as the one that was buried at the end of the southern cemetery, and that must have stayed there for centuries, as shown by some graves. Thus, folk tradition connected this exceptional family with a mythical figure, a king, who, however, came from a different place. Theseus is the mythical Athenian figure par excellence. An Ionian hero and a king of Athens, his activities spread out to a number of places and counties. Born in Troizina (Τροιζήνα) he comes to Athens when still young, and his feats are connected with the mainland Greece, and the islands in the Aegean, particularly Crete. From the vast literature, it can be surmised that Theseus does not stand for one person only, but rather for the national hero of Athens, to whom are attributed acts and deeds spanning many different periods quite far apart from each other.

As we discussed, the trip to Crete cannot be interpreted in the light of the known relations between Athens and Crete.

Another achievement of Theseus’ is the realization of the so-called ‘co-settlement’. By this is not meant the general concentration, but the direct subordination of the population to a single authority. The memory of the rise and the preponderance of the Athenian king as the lord of the various settlements scattered all around Attica must have been preserved up until the historic times, distorted and adapted to the administrative system of the Greek city. The notion of ‘co-settlement’ may conceal in it the variform dependence of Attica’s settlements on the king of Athens. This, according to archaeological evidence, must have taken place within the Post-Helladic III B period (1300-1230 BC), at the time when the palace and its fortification were built and the city expanded to the North. Such a move could not have been possible neither before nor afterwards, because before there are no tokens of political radiance, whereas afterwards, the Achaean world is dissolved.
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Old July 26th, 2008, 09:14 PM   #5
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Dark Age Athens - The Centuries of Obscurity (1,100 BC-800 BC)


Α. DARK AGES (1.150 BC/1.100 BC – 900 BC)

At the beginning of the twelfth century the Mycenaean palace-cities were first more strongly fortified, with water supplies secured within the walls, and then later abandoned. This is generally attributed to the invasion of Peloponnesse and southern Aegean by another Greek-speaking people coming from Epirus and Macedonia distinguished by their dialect and customs as Dοrians. These invaders swept down through central Greece into the Peloponnese, and burned Mycenae Tiryns and Pylos.

As in the rest of mainland Greece, in Attica the collapse of the Mycenaean civilization marked the beginning of a long period of social upheaval and of various transformations.

The recomposition of the picture of the settlement and social organization in Athens during the sub-Mycenaean phase (13th cent BC.) is not an easy task, since our knowledge about this period is restricted to a few evidences which come almost exclusively from material remains of limited number and range (ruins of tombs and wells, bronze objects, iron weapons and tools and, mainly, pottery). In parallel, we have the first indications for systematic habitation north of the Acropolis, at an area later occupied by the Agora, which continued to be in use also for burials. In the sub-Mycenaean (1.100 BC - 1.025 BC) and proto-Geometric periods (1.025 BC – 900 BC) this organized cemetery was extended until the Dipylon and in the Geometric period (900 BC – 700 BC) covered almost the whole of the area of the Agora and of the Dipylon. In addition, sub-mycenaean and geometric graves were found in other spots of Athens, in their grand majority on both sides or near streets, a discovery which contributed to the tracing of the street-plan of ancient Athens.

The Athenians always maintained proudly that they were autochthonous, or 'sprung from the earth'; that is, that they were not incomers but 'the people of the land', already settled on their land before the Dοrian invasion. The evidence of excavations on and near the Acropolis suggests that this claim to continuity is correct. The tombs in the cemetery in the Keramikos have yielded an uninterrupted sequence of pottery spanning some five hundred critical years. One particular group, dating over some fifty years, shows a range of Mycenaean pottery lying together with the characteristic long bronze shoulder pins and safety pins which were introduced into Greece by the Dοrians. Moreover, the important pottery remains show a gradual transformation from one style to another, without any sharp breaks.

In the 1930s the Swedish-American archaeologist Oscar Broneer discovered evidence that the walls and defences of Athens, like those of other Mycenaean cities, had been strengthened around 1300B.C. A section of this wall is visible today near the entrance to the Acropolis. There is evidence that at the same time, housing beyond the north-east wall was abandoned.

On the same wavelength, the historical sources, which have been the object of propaganda of the Roman imperial period, do not mention the period under examination but only within the framework of a mythical narration, as happens for instance in the case of the – both of settling and of political character – synoikesmos (settlement) of the Attic komai (small towns) by Theseus or in relation to the nurture of the idea that the Athenians were autochthonous (indigenous) and did not experience the so-called ‘Dorian invasion’. In particular, as far as the first fact is concerned, according to the latest excavation results the synoikesmos dates back to the beginning of the 9th century BC, following the completion of the settlement of a part of the Athenian population in Ionia after the middle of the 10th century BC.

There are few traces of buildings dating from the centuries which followed, and the tomb gifts are poor, showing a deterioration in the economic condition of the Athenians, and possibly a reduction in population. But it is clear that the Dοrian invasions passed Athens by without the destruction of the city or its inhabitants. On the far side of Mount Hymettos, on the sheltered Midland Plain and the north-east coast of Attica, Mycenaean burial pottery continued to be manufactured and deposited in graves for some time, suggesting the survival there of a style, and perhaps a culture, which had been destroyed elsewhere in Greece. The result everywhere, however, was a 'dark age' in which writing disappeared entirely and both the population and the standard of living fell. As a result of the destruction beyond the borders of Attica, Athens, although a minor Mycenaean town, may have become by default the most important city in Greece, and something of a refuge for the Mycenaeans. An ancient tradition states that refugees from Pylos fled to Athens after the destruction of that city. The father of Κing Kodros, Neleus, was supposed to have come from Pylos, and the name 'Neleus' appears in the genealogy of King Nestor of Pylos. Neleus was supposed to have saved the Athenians from the Dοrian invaders at the cost of his life, by agreeing to be sacrificed in accordance with the promise of an oracle. From him some famous Athenians, such as Solon, Peisistratos and PIato, later claimed descent. The precise significance of this legend is by no means clear, but it may be based upon a genuine historical memory of a king who lost his life successfully repelling the invaders from the borders of Attica.

In the sixth generation after the Trojan war, some of these refugees from Mycenaean Greece allegedly went to Asia Minor, where they settled. Certainly, at a level dated about 1000 BC in Old Smyrna, to the north west of the modern city, locally produced pottery has been found decorated in a style which seems to be very closely imitative of Athenian protogeometric style. It is certain also that there was a general migration from the mainland across the Aegean to the Western Anatolian Aegean coast (modem Turkey) at about that time. Most cities along the that Aegean coast were subsequently Greek speaking (must be pointed out, that these cities started being founded from the 15th century BC on by Achaeans, being now mainly the turn of the Ionians). Their dialects showed that those in the central region were Ionians, akin to the Athenians; and the Athenians were later to claim, correctly or not, that Athens was the metropolis of all the Ionians of the Aegean islands and the Ionian Aegean shore.

The evidence provided by pottery assumes great importance during the Greek 'Dark Age', for when all else rots or rusts, pottery survives. Also, the Athenians began to develop the art of ceramics as a major form of artistic expression, so that it can tell us much. Finally, their practice was to bury pots with the dead, and the burial ground at the Keramikos was used continuously for several centuries, providing archaeologists with evidence over a long period of time. Moreover, since each society developed its own style, similarity of pottery in different places reveals the existence of commercial contacts or cultural influence.

The development of the distinctive style of protogeometric pottery in Athens in the eleventh century is held to show that some degree of peace and prosperity gradually returned to Attica; while the appearance of the geometric in the ninth suggests increased prosperity. Stylistic influences from the east in the later eighth century provide evidence of renewed commercial contact with the Aegean world. Some historians infer from the superior character of Athenian pottery during much of this period that Athens was then the most highly-developed state in Greece.

Although most of what we know about this period has to be inferred from later traditions, it is clear that during this 'Dark Age' that some of the most distinctive characteristics of the city states of the later Archaic and Classical periods evolved.

At some point, the kings of Athens lost their power to the landowning aristocracy, which met in council on the Areopagos Ηίll. The aristocrats were divided into four tribes and rival clans, the members of each of which claimed a common descent. The members of a clan, together with their retainers and supporters, were enrolled in 'brotherhoods'. Enrolment into a brotherhood signified that a person was officially a citizen of Athens.

The chief duties of government came to be shared among three archons, or officials, chosen from among the aristocracy: the king archon, who performed the religious duties of the former king; the polemarch, who led the citizens in battle; and the eponymous archon, who presided over the civil administration and gave his name to the year. Later these were assisted by a board of six 'lesser' archons, known as thesmothetai, who were responsible for the interpretation of customary law. With the transfer of power, the institutions of government were symbolically located in the lower town; while the Acropolis became a 'sacred rock' reserved for religious sanctuaries and monuments, as well as remaining a place of refuge in times of danger.

The eupatridai, or 'well-born', owners of large estates on the fertile plains, enjoyed control of the Areopagos Council and these offices of state. The ekklesia, an assembly of freemen, probably had no rights other than that of giving, or withholding assent to decisions made by the aristocrats. Even though there were conflicts between great families and prominent personalities, these 'Few' were united by their common interests against the 'Many'.

During the early 'Dark Age' Attica was a land of independent towns and villages which sometimes went to war with each other, so that we hear, for example, of a war between Athens and Eleusis; but the various communities became united in a single polity. This extended the authority of the city over a wide area including the plain of Thria, and the Midland Plain. Unification was probably achieved over a long period as the result of a gradual process, one not quite completed in the late sixth century, when the island of Salamis was taken from Megara. However, in accordance with the widespread ancient practice of attributing important political developments to a single occasion, and the work of a single prestigious ancestor, the union was attributed by the Athenians to the semi- mythical King Theseus, who had lived in the distant Mycenaean Age. However achieved, this union created a single state larger than any other in Greece except those of Sparta, Epirus, Thessaly and Macedonia.

The upward trends in the amount of graves and wells from the 10th to the 8th cent. are probably indicative of the constant increase of the population of Athens in this period, while the contents of the graves are suggestive of a social stratification similar to that of the Archaic period, when the aristocratic class held the reins of government. It seems that already from this phase fundamental political and constitutional changes were under way, which radically influenced the course of Athens in the forthcoming centuries.

During the eighth century there was a power vacuum ίn the eastern Mediterranean. Many Greek city states were able to take advantage of this by sending out settlers to found new colonies. Corinth and Megara and the cities of Euboea were very active, but Athens was not. Despite its unusual size, Athens was surprisingly underdeveloped commercially before the sixth century. The most active cities were comparatively close to Athens, which may have been overshadowed by more powerful neighbours. The Aeginetans adopted the use of coinage at least fifty years before the Athenians, and seem to have then played a more active role in Aegean politics. They, in particular, may have stifled Athenian commerce and hampered its progress, for Herodotus hinted of 'an ancient hatred' between the two states.

Β. GEOMETRIC PERIOD (900 BC – 800/750 BC)

The 8th century BC was marked by the emergence and establishment of a new socio-political formation, the city-state, while the contacts of the Greek world with the East were intensified at the same time. Writing was restored in Greece after a silence of three centuries, and the outset of Greek literature (Homer, Hesiod) is dated in the same period. The sanctuary of Zeus Ombrios on Mt. Hymettus and a geometric oinochoe (jug) from a tomb of Kerameikos offer us some of the earliest examples of writing in mainland Greece. In the 8th century BC a small temple dedicated to Athena was built on the Acropolis, at the place of the older Mycenaean palace, which had been entirely ruined. The Athenians showed and preserved devoutly some primeval ‘sacred symbols’ of the gods’ presence in the vicinity of the temple, such as the olive-tree planted by Athena, the signs of Poseidon’s trident on the rock, the Kekropion (burial monument of Kekrops), the Erechthiis thalassa and others.

In the 8th century we have the first indications of worship in many of the sanctuaries of Attica (sancturary of Demeter and Kore in Eleusis, sanctuary of Artemis in Brauron, sanctuary of Athena on Sounion), which in the following periods were enriched through the erection of new temples and of other edifices and were adorned by numerous sculptures and other offerings. Traces of habitation have been discovered at the fringes of the later Agora, while burials have continued north of the hill of Areopagus.

The end of the 8th century BC is characterized by the sudden and rapid interruption of the intense activity of the previous years in Athens. The archaeological record of the 7th cent. is quite scanty compared to that of the 8th cent. The number of burial monuments in Athens and, generally, in Attica is distinctly smaller than before. A similar picture we get with regard to the wells, most of which fell into disuse in the area of the later Agora, while at the same time signs of intense use of space are observed at the sanctuaries of Ombrios Zeus on Hymettus and of Artemis in Brauron. The evidence converge on the hypothesis that around the end of the 8th century BC Athens suffered a heavy blow, perhaps on account of a drought followed by famine and epidemic diseases. It is beyond doubt that the city went through a phase of upheaval and great decline in the years around and just after 700. It was then that the amounts of imported pottery in Attica outnumbered by far those of exported local pottery, a unique phenomenon in the age-old history of Athens.
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Old July 26th, 2008, 09:25 PM   #6
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Archaic Athens I - The Age of the Tyrants (800 BC/750 BC -528 BC)


The written testimonies preserved for Geometric Athens are very few and the same is valid for the next period; however, along with the oral traditions bequeathed to the next generations, they reveal important institutional changes in the government of the city. During the Late Geometric period (8th cent.) but mainly in the beginning of the 7th century BC the inhabitants of Athens did not participate actively in the colonization which had been inaugurated by several other Greek cities. Nevertheless, it would not be incongruous to allege that an internal ‘colonization’ took place in Athens, since the significant incoming quantities of raw materials and the progress of local craftsmanship led to the gradual formation of the first organized quarters of the city. The death of the last patriarchic king of Athens Kodros in 684/3 BC signaled the final abolition of kingship (monarchy). From the following year the exercise of political power passed on to the hands of elective officials of aristocratic origin, amongst which the Nine Archons were the main administrative body while the Boule of Areopagus were in control of the judicial authority.

The population of Athens in this period was divided in three social and vocational classes or ethne, the eupatrides (aristocrats), the geomoroi (farmers) and the dimiourgoi (artisans). The latter of these classes has been the cradle of a wealthy category of merchants and craftsmen who, being indignant against the demands of the aristocrats, desired to vindicate political rights – it is not fortuitous that from this period on the written sources refer to the Athenians as to a united political body. Kylon, an Olympic victor and son-in-law of the tyrant of Megara, attempted to take advantage of the emerging conflict and strived to set up a tyrannical regime in the year when Megakles the Alkmaeonid was the Eponymous Archon of the city (636 BC). Yet, his supporters were slaughtered while they were moving away from the altar of Athena Polias. This incident went down in history as the Kyloneion agos and stigmatized Megakles and his Alkmaeonid descendants, one of which was Perikles.

In the late seventh century the darkness begins to dissipate, although our knowledge of the earliest period is limited to isolated incidents and developments.

When we first learn of events in Athens it is clear that the city was already rent by internal divisions of two types, rivalries between prominent aristocrats and between the social classes: 'the Few and the Many'. The divisions within the aristocracy were based upon loyalties to important families which wielded influence in particular parts of Attica, which were no doubt evident in the form of confrontations between their rival heads and their supporters as they jockeyed for influence and power in city politics. It may have been an outcome of such a conflict that from the chief officers of the state, the archons, were limited to holding office for ten years.

When one clan became too powerful, its head might try to seize power by force, and become a tyrant. In such an attempt in 632 B.C., Κylοn, seized the Acropolis with the help of his father-in-law and friends. Athenians flocked in from the countryside and besieged them. In the end, Kylon escaped, but his supporters were slaughtered in the sanctuary. Following this sacrilegίοus murder, those considered most immediately responsible, Megakles and the family of the Alkmaeonids, were banished. This incident led to a war between Athens and Megara.

The first known Athenian law code was issued by Drakon circa 621 BC, possibly as a consequence of these events. Ιt was later described as extremely harsh, and as 'written in blood'; giving us the word 'draconian'. It authorised generous application of the death penalty.

By the beginning of the sixth century, the social strains in Athens were becoming severe. Wealth had come to be concentrated in the hands of a clique of important landowners. In 620 B.C. two Athenian colonies were founded at the approaches to the Black Sea, suggesting that the Athenians had an interest in the important grain trade from that region. The widespread scattering of Athenian olive jars of this date found across the Mediterranean indicates that olives and olive oil were the main product of Athenian agriculture at this time, and that the city may have needed to import grain to feed its citizens. Olive production, which requires substantial investment which will not yield fruit for many years, can only be satisfactorily accomplished on a large scale by wealthy landowners, not by subsistence farmers who have to live off their land from year to year.

Many Athenian freemen had got themselves into debt with these great landowners by offering their persons as security. When they were unable to pay off their debts, some had been enslaved, while others had chosen exile. At the same time, changes in the techniques of warfare had led to the development of hoplite armies. Warriors equipped with a round shield and long spear would advance upon the enemy in ranks. The men who could afford to equip themselves with the necessary arms and armour for this style of fighting, and who could not afford the horse and groom necessary to fight in the cavalry, were mostly small farmers. Each man's shield covered his own left hand and partially guarded his neighbour. This method of fighting required that the men developed a sense of loyalty to their comrades so as not to beak the 'shield wall'. It was therefore to be expected that the hoplites would develop a sense of a corporate identity and pride as those upon whom the safety of the city now depended, and would begin to look out for their common interests. The small farmers became increasingly unwilling to put up with economic insecurity; and in any case, whenever a man lost his land, and was no longer able to provide himself with a shield and spear, the city lost a valuable warrior.

Fearing civil strife, the extraordinary step was taken of appointing the well-travelled and widely-respected Solon as mediator and extraordinary legislator in 594, with a commission to solve the problem within one year. An aristocrat, who believed firmly in the privileges of the few: he claimed that he made just those reforms as were strictly necessary to avoid open civil strife -but no more.

The first step he took was to dissolve all existing debts. Solon seems to have believed that wealth, rather than ancestry, should determine who should actively participate in the government of the state, and that that government should be in accordance with just laws. He implemented the apo timimaton politeia, an economic system of taxation based on the sole criterion of the possession of wealth. He divided the Athenians into four classes, based upon wealth (and ability to perform military service). the pentakosiomedimnoi, the triakosiomedimnoi or hippeis, the diakosiomedimnoi or zeugitai and the thitai (Thetes). The poorest class, the Thetes, who were the majority of the population, received some political rights for the first time, being able to vote in the assembly of citizens (ekklesia), but political office remained restricted to the upper class. The area of the agora, a space dedicated to the conduct of public affairs in the lower town, was probably cleared and set aside for this purpose at this date.

Solon also issued a detailed law code. Ιt was written on four-sided wooden tablets set in frames; each tablet rotating on an axon, or axle. The laws were referred to in the following manner: 'the fifth law from the fourth axon.' Witnesses report that these tablets were to be seen on the Acropolis for many centuries. Perhaps wisely, Solon went into self-imposed exile for ten years afterwards.

In parallel, until the beginning of the 6th cent. the demos of Eleusis, one of the biggest and most powerful districts of Attica, and its environs devolved completely to the Athenian state, while the control of the Eleusinian sanctuary, a place of panhellenic impact, constituted a determining factor towards the establishment of the Athenian power onwards.

One part of these efforts was the building project put into practice by Solon through the transposition of the Agora, a task continued by Peisistratos. The new Agora, known in antiquity as Agora or Kerameikos (from the name of the homonymous demos, on the area of which it was founded), started its route as the epicentre of political life of Athens around the dawn of the 6th century BC (according to the accumulated material found in the graves and wells of the area). It was situated at the level ground east of the Agoraios Kolonos, between Areopagus and Eridanos River, near the old agora of Theseus, where the ancient cemetery of the city lay. It is possible that the same place was in use even from prehistoric times as a place for the congregation of the citizens and for the settling of common issues amongst them. The area was crossed by the main arterial road of the city, which joined Athens with the surrounding demoi and the rest of Greece; at the same place, close to the Eleusinion, in the southeast side of Athens, was the most important spring of the city, the renowned fountainhouse Kallirhoe.

Paradoxically, the archaeological evidence for the first three decades of the 6th cent. are limited. The only architectural remains which can be safely attributed to Solon’s time belong to tombs, wells and houses, while a remarkable lack of remains from temples, buildings of secular character or of other monumental constructions is noticed. One of the earliest buildings of the period, mentioned in written sources of later times, was the Prytaneion, which descriptions place somewhere on the north foot of the Acropolis, below the later Tholos at the north side of the Agora; most probably it sheltered copies of Solon’s laws. The oldest examples of secular buildings in the Agora must have been the so-called Buildings C and D (early 6th and shortly after the middle of the 6th century respectively), whose positions were occupied by certainly public buildings in the future. At that time, as some researchers believe, the foundation of the sanctuary of Artemis Brauronia on the Acropolis should be sought for as well. The possibility of the erection of a new surrounding wall for the protection of the city cannot be ruled out, although there is no hint for its existence, nor are we able to know its exact placement. In broad outline, the city must have expanded considerably around the Acropolis and principally to its north side, to which consents the expansion of the Agora towards the same direction.

At the neighbouring sanctuary of Eleusis one of the oldest buildings of religious character in Attica was built in the beginning of the 6th century BC. This was the central chamber dedicated to the cult of Demeter, which was already flourishing there for at least a century, later incorporated in the Telesterion of the Classic period. Finally, the earliest samples of monumental sculpture in Athens and in Attica at large are observed at the sanctuary of Poseidon on Cape Sounion, at a time much earlier than the construction of the first temples in the area.

Solon’s mediocre and counter-balancing reforms didn’t manage to silence in total the ongoing climate of restlessness which had been consolidated in Attica already from the previous century. In the next years the social categorization of the inhabitants of Attica took on a more organized character. In particular, the pedieis, namely those residing in the fields, the paralioi, those living at the SE coasts of Attica, and the diakrioi, those dwelling in mountainous pieces of land, belonged to three corresponding parties under the leadership of Lykourgos, of Megakles, son of Alkmeon and Agariste, and of Peisistratos respectively.

Although Solon's reforms may have prevented immediate breakdown, they did nothing to solve the issue of rivalries between powerful families. In 580-79 ΒC. a certain Damaisias tried to retain his power as archon beyond the allotted period of one year. He lasted for two years and two months before being expelled by the aristocrats. On other occasions, no archons were elected, perhaps because ousted rivals would not concede defeat.

In 561 BC. Peisistratos, a leading citizen from Brauron on the north-eastern coast of Attica, who originated from the family of the Philaids, made three attempts (561/0, 559, 545) to establish a tyrannical ragime in Athens. He seized control of the acropolis with an armed bodyguard, but was soon ejected. He later returned in an alliance with Megakles, leader of a family which enjoyed influence in the area of Phaleron. They dressed up a tall woman from Paeania, on the other side of Mount Hymmettos, as the goddess Athena, and with her in tow, re-entered and took over the city. They soon quarrelled, and Peisistratos was forced into exile once more. After acquiring a state in Thrace, he returned with an army, defeated his enemies at Pallene, swiftly entered the city during the afternoon siesta, and captured it for a third time.

Peisistratos ruled Athens for 18 years, from that point until his death in 527 BC. Although he had seized, and held, power by force, he took good care to disguise the basis of his regime by outward conformity to law and custom. The laws of Solon continued to be observed, and the archons held office as usual, but it is likely that the tyrant took care to ensure that those people, elected to office could be relied upon to do his bidding. Thus when accused of murder, he duly attended the court, but significantly, his accuser dare not put in an appearance. He also took up residence on the Acropolis, which at that time had come to be reserved for religious sanctuaries. Despite the fact that his regime was founded upon force, over time he earned the reputation of being a consistent and just ruler who worked successfully to build up the wealth and power of the city.

In order to glorify the city, and thereby his own rule, and to bind the inhabitants of Attica together, he carefully fostered religion in all its forms.

He deliberately built up the state cult of Athena. In 566 B.C., he reformed the Panathenaic festival held annually in her honour, making it famous throughout Greece The festival was held every year as before; but every four years there was to be a 'Greater Panathenaia', with dancing contests for boys and youths, a torch race, a chariot race and athletic contests, in which the prizes were amphoras filled with olive oil. The highlight of the festivities was a magnificent procession from the Dipylon Gate to the Acropolis, in which many of the citizens took part, having as its focal point a new richly embroidered robe carried on a boat on wheels, to offer to the ancient xoanon or olive-wood statue of Athena Polias. The celebration ended with sacrifices, feasting and dancing. Peisistratos probably also built a new temple dedicated to Athena on the acropolis.

Similarly, he instituted the festival of the Greater Dionysia. The followers of Dionysos in the foothills of Mount Pendeli, in the area today known as Dionysos, celebrated the god by singing his praises in goatskins. In 534 BC Thespis, an Athenian, initiated the practice by which an actor conducted a dialogue with this chorus. Peisistratos permitted this new dramatic form of the festival to be performed from a cart in various places, usually at the village threshing floors, which provided level space. Thus was the Western drama born. Soon, plays were being performed in Athens itself at the City Dionysia in an open space below the northern walls of the Acropolis, the audience sitting on the slopes above what was later to become the Theatre of Dionysos.

He extensively rebuilt the ancient Mycenaean sanctuary of Demeter and Kore at Eleusis, erecting the first teleuterion or hall of mysteries. The public rites celebrated in connection with initiation into the mystery cult were probably first integrated into the Athenian calendar of observances at this time.

Peisistratos planned, but failed to carry to completion, the building of an ambitiously large temple of Zeus, known as the Olympeion. Aristotle thought that the enterprise was deliberately planned to absorb all the energies of the Athenians, so that they would be less likely to rise up and expel him. The foundation of several other shrines nearby are also attributed to his patronage, including the temples of Artemis in the fields, Apollo Delphinios, and the shrine of the Nymphs.

Peisistratos built temples across Attica on the site of ancient shrines, at Rhamnous, Sounion, and his native Brauron. He carried out a ceremonial purification of the island of Delos, the island lying in the centre of the Cyclades, sacred to Apollo and revered by all the lonian Greeks. All bodies buried within sight of the god's temple were disinterred and reburied elsewhere. In doing this he was probably deliberately laying the basis for an Athenian claim to primacy over all lonian Greeks and over Apollo's island shrine.

Peisistratos was a patron of the arts in other ways as well, but usually with a clear political motive. He supervised the standardisation of the oral tradition attributed to Homer, transmitted by the recitations of the rhapsodes, or bards, by having an 'authorised' text written down. It seems likely that it was in his time that many of the legends of the hero Theseus were developed as state propaganda in deliberate imitation the much more ancient legends of Herakles, in order to provide a sense of patriotic pride for the citizens, and for the glorification of the city. An indication of his success was that poets such as Anakreon and Simonides were attracted to Athens. Athenian black figure pottery, depicting scenes from legend and ordinary life, ousted the work of Corinthian rivals, and came to be exported across the Mediterranean world.

Peisistratos was no less attentive to the infrastructure of the city. He built roads, while aqueducts brought water from Hymettos to the fountain house of Enneakrounos in the agora. He erected law courts and other public buildings in the agora, quarrying high-quality marble on Mount Pendeli. He levied a property tax to subsidise poor farmers, and sent circuit judges into the far reaches of Attica to settle disputes, consolidating the incorporation of the people of those areas into the full life of the Athenian state. He imported miners from northern Greece to work the silver mines of Laourion, in the southeast of Attica, and struck coins showing the head of Athena and her sacred owl.

He established ties of friendship with many states on the mainland, and with the tyrants of Naxos and Samos. He acquired the Greek Thracian Chersonese cities of the Hellespont, and laying the first foundations of the later Athenian empire, and further safeguarding the all-important grain route from the Black Sea.
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Archaic Athens II - The Birth of Democracy (528 BC -494 BC)


It could fairly be said that Peisistratos laid the foundations of future Athenian greatness. He was undoubtedly a man of great ability, and perhaps for that reason, his tyranny was generally accepted.

After Peisistratos’s death in 527 BC the Athenians, having appreciated his work, confided the government of the city in his sons, Hippias, Hipparchos, Hegesistratos (widely known under the appellation ‘Thessalian’), and Hiophon. His successors are known as the Peisistratidai. Hippias was at the head of political planning, Hipparchos became known for his intellectual interests, while Hegesistratus was a man of military virtue. The fact which put their tyrrany under tottering was the assassination of Hipparchos at the Leokoreion in the Agora by Harmodios and Aristogeiton in 514. The motives for the murder were personal, since Hippias prohibited Harmodios’s sister participation as a kaneforos at the festival of Panathenaia of that year; however, the nomination of the two young men as glorious conveyors of the ideal of democracy (‘Tyrannicides’) and the erection of two statues in their honour in the Agora (490 BC) imply that political causes, too, had a share in this violent act. Hippias continued to rule for 30 years thereafter, using violence frequently and under pressure to increase taxes, since the Persians forbade the exploitation of the rich deposits of Mt. Paggaeon. In 511-10 BC, Ηippias fortified the hill of Munychia, overlooking Phaleron, where the warships were beached. The powerful Alkmeonid family then engineered his overthrow by calling upon the aid of King Kleomenes of Sparta. Wealthy patrons of Delphi, the Alkmeonids bribed the oracle to urge the Spartans to free Athens. Two attempts were necessary, but a Spartan army drove away the Thessalian cavalry which Ηippias had summoned to his aid, and besieged him on the Acropolis. When some of his children, hiding in the lower city, were caught by the besiegers, he surrendered and left under safe conduct.

The Spartan king then tried to interfere in the internal affairs of Athens in support of his ally Isagoras, in his rivalry with Kleisthenes, head of the powerful Alkmeonid clan, and expelled the latter, but when the Spartans withdrew, Kleisthenes placed himself at the head of the people against the return to power of the discredited aristocracy. He ostensibly 'took the people into partnership' and profoundly reformed the government of Athens in 507 B.C. These changes clearly had two purposes: to destroy once and for all the persistent and divisive loyalties to rival local leaders, and to create a situation of isonomia, or equality before the law, with an equal chance for everyone to participate in the government of the city. In this way he sought to defuse the divisions between rival families and between social classes which had so rent the life of the city before Peisistratos had imposed his tyranny, and at the same time remove the local bases of their power.

Every Athenian citizen was enrolled in one of the new 'tribes', depending upon where they lived. The land of Attica was divided into three large areas representing the power bases of the main rival clans: the south-western shore, the city and its surrounding plain, and the land beyond the surrounding mountains. Each of the tribes was allotted people who lived in one area of each of these regions, and these areas were deliberately not adjacent to each other.

The ten tribes each sent fifty members, chosen by lot, to a new council, called the Boule, or Council of the Five Hundred. The year was divided into ten parts, and one tenth of the council, the Prytany, would meet during each period. The Prytany would prepare the agenda for the ekklesia, a function they probably took over from the Areopagus, which retained only limited judicial functions. Α Bouleuterton was built for the meetings of the council on the west of the agora. As a further measure against the division of the people into factions by the ambitions of powerful rival individuals, Kleisthenes also introduced the legal process of ostracism. The Assembly would vote each year on whether to hold an ostracism. If the vote was positive, a day would be appointed upon which the people would vote whom to exile. They would write the name of their choice on an ostrakon, or potsherd. If 6,000 citizens participated, the person whose name appeared on most ostraka had to leave the city within ten days, and could not return for ten years.

Although Kleisthenes' motives may have been limited to gaining short-term advantage against rivals, his reforms provided the foundations for the world's first known democracy. It is one thing to empower the people, and another for them to possess the self confidence to employ that power. It was to be twenty years before these new rights were exercised, but by that time events had conspired to endow the people of Athens with precisely that spirit of self-confidence which would enable them to take their destiny into their own hands.


During this whole period, the image of the city was enriched. A great emphasis was shown for the execution of public works, which now acquired monumental proportions.

At the sanctuary of the Acropolis, as at other contemporary sanctuaries, an intense building activity is noted. Amongst the preserved remains we can make out those of two temples of big dimensions: of the Old Temple of Athena (529 BC - 520 BC – according to a group of scholars this was the second phase of the temple after a former phase around 570 BC); of the Hekatompedos (570 BC – 566 BC), built at the north part of the rock, next to the older temple of Athena of the 8th century BC, and rebuilt several times, the Parthenon being its splendid upshot. A rearrangement of the entrance of the Acropolis to the east and the foundation of a nearby altar to the cult of Athena Nike should be dated to the second quarter of this century. In parallel with the great temple or temples, there have also been found several architectural fragments and architectural sculptures of the mid-6th century BC which appertained to smaller structures of obscure position and function, the oikimata; in terms of morphology they are reminiscent of the treasuries of the panhellenic sanctuaries and might have sheltered offerings and valuable objects. Besides, in the 6th cent. the space of the Acropolis began to be rife with votive offerings (e.g the Korai ) which surpassed those of the preceding years in wealth, in size and in artistic value and demonstrated the city’s political power and economic prosperity. The establishment of the sanctuary of Dionysos Eleuthereus and the construction of a small temple in honour of the god at the South Slope of the Acropolis also dates back around the end of the 6th century BC, in the governing of the Peisistratids or a little later.

In the second and third quarter of the 6th century BC the Agora was extended gradually eastward and southward. Older wells were covered and earlier houses were demolished in order to facilitate the erection of new buildings and other structures at the place previously used for settlement and as a burial ground. The Altar of the Twelve Gods (522/1 BC) at the northwest entrance of the Agora, placed at the junction of the main communication lines of the city, served as an asylum (place of refuge) and as a starting-point for the measurement of the road distances. Very close to the Altar traces of the Leokoreion were tracked down. It was located at crossroads of today Ermou and Melidoni streets next to Kerameikos.

Despite this map shows how Athens looked like during the Classical and Hellenistic times it gives us some hints of the later 6th century look of the city, so you can compare it with the descripitions given in the above paragraph as well as the one below.

At the south edge of the west side Building F (550 BC – 525 BC), destroyed by the Persians in 480, might have been used as a palace or as headquarters of Peisistratos and his successors. At the southwest corner of the Agora square there was the lawcourt of Heliaia (middle of 6th century), while at the southeast corner, where some of the houses remained in use during the third quarter of the 6th cent., the Southeast Fountainhouse was built (530 – 520 BC). In the centre of the Agora, an area which hosted various theatrical-dancing events and exhibitions, a circular Orchestra was constructed (6th cent. BC) where dramatic and musical competitions took place. Close to it, at the spot much later occupied by the Odeion of Agrippa, there might have been the shrine of Dionysos Lenaios. The Panathenaic Way crossed the Agora diagonally, thus connecting the northwest part of the city with the Acropolis. Two inscriptions from the Agora make mention of a repair of the Dromos of the Agora, which the great procession crossed during the celebration of the Panathenaic festival. The beginning of the Dromos must have been a little north of the Altar of the Twelve Gods, in front of the Hermai, and its end near the Eleusinion. Along with the erection of new buildings, an embellishment of the whole space of the Agora was attempted. In the last quarter of the 6th century BC a big sewage system, which flew into Eridanos river, was constructed at the west side of the Agora to drain away rain waters. Thus, during the second half of the 6th cent. BC the Agora acquired its basic form, on the plan of which it developed in the subsequent centuries.

Southeast of the Acropolis, in the area of thr Olympieion, the Peisistratids initiated the project of the erection of the huge temple of Olympian Zeus, emulating the gigantic temples of Samos, Ephesos and Miletos. The temple remained unfinished and was never completed in practice until the Roman times (in the reign of the emperor Hadrian, 2nd century A.D.). At short distance from the Olympieion, near the bed of Ilissos River, an irrigation work of paramount importance was constructed, the so-called Enneakrounos (fountain with nine water-spouts), into which the water of the spring Kallirhoe was canalized. At the same side of the city Peisistratos the Younger consecrated a monumental altar to Apollo Pythios (522/1 BC). Southwest of the later temple of Apollo Delphinios and in contact with it lay the Lawcourt at the Delphinion, a late archaic structure (around 500 BC) which was repaired between the end of the 4th and the beginning of the 3rd century BC.

The widening of the Athenian influence on the Greek political scenery during the second half of the 6th cent. is vividly reflected in Delphi as well. The aristocratic family of the Alkmaeonids, being antagonistic towards the tyrants, strived to obtain political benefits from their active involvement in the political life and in the external affairs of Athens; therefore they undertook the funding of a big part of the works for the erection of the fifth temple of Apollo (the denominated ‘temple of the Alkmaeonids’) between the years 525 BC – 505 BC, after the destruction of its predecessor because of a fire in 548 BC.

By contrast to public architecture, the number and form of the private houses of this period cannot be determined but only approximately. With the exception of a few sporadic remains at the whole north side of Areopagus, no other traces of residences have come to light in the immediate environs of the Agora. Our knowledge of the layout of archaic Athens is equally limited. No concrete town planning appears to have existed; the streets of the city were in their majority narrow and irregular in shape, while the inhabitants built their houses arbitrarily (an inference also drawn from the extremely stringent rules issued by Hippias on this matter).

It seems that from the beginning of the 6th cent. BC most of the burial spots had been transposed out of the city walls; the only organized (family) cemetery of these years has been located west of the Areopagus. From the middle of the century onwards another organized cemetery was in operation in the outer Kerameikos, near the Dipylon.

The periphery of the rest of Attica was treated with special care by the tyrants. The old sanctuary of Demeter in Eleusis was enclosed by a big surrounding wall, while an early temple was built at the sanctuary of Artemis in Brauron in honour of the goddess and the demos of Thorikos was adorned with the oldest known theatre of Attica (late 6th century BC). In the 6th cent. BC the three most famous Gymnasia of ancient Athens (those of Academy, of Lykeion, and of Kynosarges) were founded by the state at a considerable distance from the city.

Through all these interventions and modifications, Athens began to achieve specific form as a city in the 6th century BC After the end of the tyrannical regime and the experience the citizens had on every type of institutional change, the transition to political stability and, finally, to democracy was to be undertaken by Megakles’s son and Alkmeon’s grandson Kleisthenes.

This period is characterized by the scheme for the social and political reorganization of Attica. As far as the city of Athens is concerned, in this whole period a startling development in population and in settlement rates took place which, unfortunately, could not be fully imprinted in the archaeological record because of the evacuation of the city, the movement of its population to Troizen, to Salamis and to Aegina and the subsequent destruction of the city by the Persians in 480/79 BC. From the excavation data we are informed that in the lower city new public buildings were raised to shelter various branches of the new polity, thus rendering the Agora the political nucleus of Athens on permanent basis. The limits of the Agora were formally defined by a series of marble boundary stones, the horoi(ca. 500 BC), which were placed at the entrances of the square and served religious and practical expediencies. The Old Bouleuterion (ca. 500), along the west side, was destined to accommodate the members of the Athenian Boule of the 500. At the northwest corner of the Agora, the Royal Stoa (around 500 BC – according to others in the mid-6th century BC or even after 480 BC) constituted the seat of the archon-king, the second in hierarchy official of the city; close to it the elaborate Altar of Aphrodite Ourania was built (around 500 BC), yet it is unknown whether it was accompanied by a temple. A new place for the gathering of the Athenians was established on the Pnyx Hill, where the citizens’ Assembly would hold their meetings at regular dates thereafter. What is more, apart from the old temple of Athena south of the later Erechtheion, whose construction is dated to these years by some researchers, numerous votive offerings adorned the Acropolis.

In the echo of the decisive prevalence of the Greeks over the Persians at Marathon (490 BC), a series of buildings were constructed in Athens in commemoration of the glorious victory.

At the field of Marathon, where the great battle took place, the dead Athenians were cremated and buried at the spot where they met death; a massive mound covered their remains as a tumulus (Tomb of Marathon), and at the same time a victory trophy was set up at the same area. A second burial place, discovered at the neighbouring region of Vrana, has been reluctantly identified as the Tomb of the Plataians, allies of the Athenians at Marathon. Miltiades, the leader of the Greek army during the battle, who might have been buried at the battlefield as well, dedicated his bronze helmet at the sanctuary of Zeus in Olympia in token of his gratitude to the god.

The cults of several minor divinities, semi-gods and heroes (e.g. Theseus, Pan, Nemesis) were in blossom after 490 BC, as they were thought of by the Athenians as helpers of the Greeks during the battle of Marathon. One of them was Pan, to whose cult was dedicated a small cave on the North Slope of the Acropolis. Herakles, who was very popular in Athens already from the time of Peisistratos and his sons, acquired an extra bond with Marathon; not only had the Athenians encamped at Herakles’s sanctuary before the battle, but also the spring of the area was named Makaria after Herakles’s daughter.

Soon after 490 BC a new temple was raised on the Acropolis in honour of Athena, the Pro-Parthenon, predecessor of the classical Parthenon which occupied the space where the latter was later built. The sanctuary of Zeus Polieus on the rock must have been founded around these years, too. On the contrary, reduced mobility is observed in the Agora.
Aside from Marathon, important projects were implemented in the rest of Attica and outside it. On cape Sounion the erection of the temple of Poseidon was inaugurated, while the sanctuary of Nemesis in Rhamnous was adorned with a small Doric temple which housed the marble cult statue of Nemesis made by Agorakritos. At the panhellenic sanctuary of Apollo in Delphi we find around these years the Treasury of the Athenians (others claim that it had been dedicated already from 507 BC), as well as bronze statues which depicted Apollo, Athena, old kings of Athens and the general Miltiades along the Sacred Way (Iera Odos).


The columns of the northern wall were first studied in 1807 by the eminent W.M. Leake, who climbed the steep rock. Leake, concluded that: the columns drums should belong to that older temple, that mentions Esyquios when he refers to the newly constructed Parthenon.

Thus began the study of the Proparthenon that, according to Leake, it was slightly smaller than the Parthenon and certainly a previous to the Persian wars construction. The Leake’s job was continued by Ross, in 1835, with excavations to the west and to the south of the Parthenon, revealing us the following:
  • The foundations of Parthenon is in the biggest part that of an older temple. This part constitutes the visible pedestal of an older temple. From the dimensions of pedestal (31,4x76,8 m.) it is concluded that this temple was also very big and with rather oblong proportions.
  • In the Eastern part of the Parthenon the huge pedestal does not fit the classic temple, as it is longer, by almost 5 metres, than the first level of the stairs.
  • The foundations of Parthenon is in the biggest part that of an older temple. This part constitutes the visible pedestal of an older temple. From the dimensions of pedestal (31,4x76,8 m.) it is concluded that this temple was also very big and with rather oblong proportions.
  • In the Eastern part of the Parthenon the huge pedestal does not fit the classic temple, as it is longer, by almost 5 metres, than the first level of the stairs.

Today the crowds that visit the Acropolis, after having passed through the Propylaia, trample upon the ruins of a temple without any suspicion that they are in a place of particular significance, noticing only the Erechtheion to the left and the Parthenon to the right. But this very fact indicates that in the plan of the Acropolis as conceived by Pericles these ruins occupied a central position. When the Acropolis was rebuilt in the second half of the fifth century B.C., in the wake of Athens’ final victory over the Persians, the Propylaia were given a new orientation in order to direct attention to these ruins. Those who ascended the Acropolis, after having passed through Pericles’ Propylaia, had their view and way barred by the wall that supported the Terrace with the ruins of the Old Temple of Athena. This temple had been sacked, burned and wrecked by the Persians when in 480 B.C. the Athenians, for the sake of the national resistance to the barbarian invaders, made the extreme sacrifice of abandoning their homes and temples to the enemy. The ruins of this temple were the monument of Athens’ greatest claim to glory, a claim that was used to justify Athens’ assumption of the leadership of the Greek world and further to justify the transformation of this leadership into imperial domination. The Athenians wanted to bare their wounds, wounds that were proffered as the main rationale for Athenian policy in the fifth century B.C. Because the Athenians did not want to obliterate the memorial of the Persian invasion, the temple that was intended to replace the destroyed temple, the one popularly called the Parthenon, was not erected on top of the old one, as might have been expected, but to the south of it.

The ruins were given further emphasis by placing against their supporting Terrace and on the axis of the Propylaia a bronze statue of Athena, known as Athena Promachos, that reached the colossal height of about thirty meters. Since it was erected when the construction of the Parthenon was beginning, it follows that statue and temple were part of a single conception. The ancient visitors to Pericles’ Acropolis, after having been properly impressed by this towering statue, directly on the axis of the new Propylaia, had to continue their way by turning to the right and passing between the long side of the ruins of the Old Temple and the long side of the Parthenon.

The route taken by the ancient visitors was substantially the course of the Sacred Way, designed for Athens’ greatest ceremony, the Panathenaic Procession. After having formed outside the main gate of the city on the bank of the river Eridanos, which represented the westernmost limit of the world, the procession reached the end of its trek by passing between the ruins of the Temple of Athena that had been destroyed by the enemy and the Temple of Athena that had been erected as a piously necessary replacement for it. Upon reaching the top of the hill, the procession reached its final goal by turning to the right to encounter the image of Athena Parthenos in the Parthenon. In earlier times, before the destruction of the Old Temple, the procession had passed through the earlier Propylaia in a more northerly direction and, after ascending the Terrace, continued along the northern flank of the Old Temple, before turning right to reach the image of Athena Polias inside this temple. It is remarkable that the altar of Athena, as far as we are able to establish, continued to be in front of the ruins of the Old Temple. If the modern visitors to the Acropolis were forced to follow the Sacred Way, instead of swarming like a mob of barbarians over the ruins of the Old Temple, not only would they be taught the proper respect for the views and feelings of the ancient Athenians, but also would be led to grasp the esthetic organization of Pericles’ Acropolis as a whole.

The modern visitors cannot be blamed if they look at the Acropolis without any sense of its religious and intellectual significance, because this is the way in which it has been seen by archaeologists. The present conception of ancient studies manifests itself most clearly in the way the Acropolis is seen by scholars: it is seen as a living room full of bric-a-brac displayed for its supposed antiquarian, sentimental or decorative value in order to enhance the prestige of its owner. Not one scholar has even tried to see the Acropolis as an organic structure. But if we consider with unprejudiced eyes the spatial organization of the Acropolis, it becomes clear that the heart of the Acropolis is the Terrace of the Old Temple.

In the Mycenaean Age, even before the Acropolis became a citadel by the construction of a defense wall around it, its most important structure was a terrace which with slight modifications became the Terrace of the Old Temple. Archaeological investigations have revealed that the Terrace of the Old Temple is the oldest known substantial construction on the Acropolis; it dates from the very close of the Bronze Age, presumably about 1300 B.C. At that time the Acropolis was not fortified. Access to the Terrace was gained by ascending the Acropolis from the north side and then stepping onto the Terrace by a staircase, oriented from north to south, which ended where there was later the east side (backside) of the rectangle of the altar.

At the close of the Mycenaean Age, presumably ca. 1000 B.C., the Acropolis was fortified by constructing a megalithic wall, the Pelasgic Wall, which extended the area of the Acropolis to the maximum allowed by the natural features of the ground. This wall followed an irregular curved course determined by the need to exploit the characteristics of the rock. The entrance was rotated ninety degrees to the west and was made to run between the supporting wall of the Terrace and the new line of fortification. The wall was similar in conception and in type of construction to the fortification wall of Tiryns. At this time the Acropolis became a place of refuge for the surrounding population in case of attack, whereas before it must have been merely a religious and political center.

Either at the time of the construction of the fortification wall or soon thereafter, the Acropolis was provided with a second gate, located at the southwest corner, where the ascent is more gentle. Today visitors ascend from this side. In order to protect this entrance which, for the same reason that it was more convenient was most dangerous in case of attack, there was constructed a bastion (pyrgos), extending to the west, which later became the support of the Temple of Athena Nike. The gate was just to the north of this bastion.

Practically nothing is known about the history of the Acropolis from the close of the Mycenaean Age to the Persian invasion of 480 B.C. As far as we know, the system of fortifications was still the original one at the time of the Persian invasion. The only modification was the opening of the fortification line in correspondence with the western gate.

The opening of the fortifications of the Acropolis was achieved by constructing a decorative entrance hall with columns, the propylaia, which replaced the fortified western gate. The foundations of these Propylaia have been found below the foundations of the much larger and more monumental Propylaia constructed later by Pericles. Apparently the Propylaia were erected by the early democracy, damaged by the Persians, repaired in some way after their withdrawal, and finally demolished when Pericles sponsored the construction of completely new Propylaia, designed by the architect Mnesicles (437-432 BC).

Whereas the later Propylaia of Pericles were oriented so as to face the western wall of the Terrace of the Old Temple, the first Propylaia were oriented about 30 degrees more to the north. This indicates that at the time the most important area of the Acropolis, after the Terrace, was that north of the Terrace, between the north wall of the Acropolis and the north wall of the Terrace. The pre-Persian Propylaia were oriented to what was then the most important area of the Acropolis and remained forever the most holy one, the side against the north wall. They were aimed exactly to a point just north of the present North Portico, where the olive of Athena grew inside the ancient Erechtheion. After the Persians reduced this temple to rubble and the olive tree to a smoldering stump, the Erechtheion was rebuilt so that its western wall came to form a backdrop for it, allowing visitors to admire its new shoots (Herodotos VIII.55). Earlier, there had been a road that went from the Propylaia to the olive tree, coasting the north side of the Terrace that supported the Old Temple of Athena. We may presume that within the original fortified Acropolis the main internal road went from the north gate to the west gate, passing along the north side of the Terrace. At the time of the construction of the first Propylaia there was a staircase of access to the Terrace from the north side. It was only after the withdrawal of the Persians, when the area of the Acropolis was extended to the south in preparation for the construction of the Parthenon, that the most important road within the Acropolis, that followed the Panathenaic Procession from the western gate to the altar, was made to skirt the south side of the Terrace. Let us remember that the Terrace of the Old Temple was still standing in the Periclean age, although at the middle of it there were only ruins. The Persians had razed the Old Temple to the ground, or almost to the ground.

There is an extreme conservatism in the history of the architectural arrangement of the Acropolis. When the Acropolis was built up in the Mycenaean Age, before it was surrounded by a fortified wall, the main structure was the wall that retained the Terrace which became later the Terrace of the Old Temple. This Terrace was still the main feature of the Acropolis when the Persians seized Athens in 480 B.C. At the time of the Persian invasion the circuit of the walls of the Acropolis was essentially what it had been at the end of the Mycenaean Age and the Temple of Athena was about at the center of it. This fortified wall remained substantially the defense line when the Persians stormed the Acropolis. When the Acropolis was rebuilt after the Persian destruction, the line of the walls was radically changed on the west by the construction of the Periclean Propylaia and on the south side by the erection of the Cimonian Wall, but on the north side it remained essentially what it had been in the Mycenaean Age. In the Periclean Acropolis the Terrace of the Old Temple was no longer the main element, but it remained the focal point around which all the rest was organized spatially.

This architectural conservatism of the Athenian Acropolis affects the matter that concerns us the most here. We shall see that the Old Temple of Athena shows characteristics that are unusual in a Greek temple, but are the result of the fact that this temple follows closely the internal organization and dimensions of a Mycenaean Royal Megaron. We shall see that the Periclean Parthenon was planned to follow many of the internal details and dimensions of the Old Temple, so that one must turn to Mycenaean architecture to explain some of the aspects of the Parthenon.

The Old Temple of Athena:

In the preceding pages it was have emphasized that for the ancient Athenians the remains of the Temple of Athena destroyed by the Persians in 480 B.C. were the most important monument of their history. Not only was the Old Temple the center of the Acropolis before 480 B.C.; its ruins remained the focus of the reconstruction of the Acropolis after the Persian Wars. These fundamental points have been obscured by the circumstance that the true location of the Old Temple was established late in the history of the investigations of the monuments of the Acropolis.

In the course of the nineteenth century scholars searched for the ruins of the temple destroyed by the Persians (Old Temple) under the foundations of the Parthenon. Since the ancient texts emphasize that the Parthenon was a larger replacement for the destroyed Old Temple, it seemed logical to assume that the new temple was built on top of the temple it was intended to replace. But what was not realized was that the ruins of the Old Temple had become sacred as such, as a monument to the Persian destruction. For this reason the Parthenon was built to the south of the Old Temple parallel to it. We shall see that the placing of the new temple in this location created serious engineering problems and a costly extension of the area of the Acropolis to the south. But the Athenians could not conceive of obliterating the area of the Old Temple under the foundations of the Parthenon.

From 1885 to 1889 the Curator of Antiquities Panagotis Kavvadias, assisted by the German architect Georg Kawerau, conducted a systematic campaign of excavations on the Acropolis, which in most areas removed the entire soil to reach the level of natural rock. This process of removing all accumulated layers of material was conducted with particular thoroughness around the Parthenon. As an immediate result of these excavations Wilhelm Dörpfeld was able to recognize that the Old Temple, the temple destroyed by the Persians in 480 B.C., was located in the middle of the Terrace, to the north of the Parthenon. Up to the time of these excavations, nobody had thought of searching in this area, even though the Periclean Propylaia point to it as the key location of the Acropolis.

The Persians did such a thorough job in wreaking vengeance on the Athenians who had eluded them, that Dörpfeld did not find in place any element of the Temple structure above ground level, except for an occasional piece of the stylobate of the peripteros. Even though only the foundations of the Old Temple remained in place, Dörpfeld proved his exceptional skill in tectonic archaeology by reliably reconstructing the main features and dimensions of the Old Temple from these remains. One can gather a great deal of information from his report, although it has been marred by his having started his observational task with the preconceived notion that the Old Temple was planned by the so-called Aiginetic foot of 328 mm. This made even more difficult the already arduous task of inferring from the foundations the arrangement and structure of the visible parts; but in spite of this Dörpfeld produced a masterpiece of archaeological documentation. There is general agreement that the discovery and reconstruction of this temple is one of the major achievements of Dörpfeld. Today nobody disputes the main points of his reconstruction, and my metric analysis proves that it is even sounder than may have been believed.

Dörpfeld was able to establish that the Old Temple underwent three stages of construction.

a) In a first phase, which we will call Old Temple I, the temple was a simple rectangular construction without outside columns, of the type that archaeologists call megaron. Dörpfeld understood that this temple was planned in what he called Solonian feet (Roman feet in my terminology), and therefore dated it in the age of Solon. But this temple can be dated a century earlier because of its archaic features.

b) In a second period this temple was completely remodeled by adding to the original structure a colonnade an each of the two fronts, which changed it into an amphiprostyle temple (Old Temple II). Since a very substantial part of the decoration of this temple, made of painted poros limestone, has been found scattered through the Acropolis, it is possible on stylistic grounds to set the date of construction in the first third of the sixth century B.C. Since we know that the festival of the Panathenaic Pro-cession began to be celebrated in 564 B.C., there is a possibility that this is the date of the consecration of Old Temple II.

c) Finally the temple was changed into a peripteral one by erecting a colonnade all around it. The new peristyle, supporting a magnificent polychrome pediment and roofing, surrounded and enshrined the older structures. The older amphiprostyle temple became the cella of this peristylar temple. The fragments of this temple permit dating it in the very last years of the rule of the tyrants, a few decades before the beginning of the Persian Wars.

It appears that the Persians destroyed a temple which had been started rather humbly and had been made larger and more splendid by two successive alterations. A number of scholars have assumed that the eastern part of the Old Temple was intended to overlap the megaron of an ancient palace, this room having been the sacred area in prehistoric times. Two Mycenaean round bases, made of poros stone, for wooden columns, have been found in place under the level of the eastern part of Temple I. The soundness of this hypothesis was further strengthened by Iakovidis, who established that the terrace of the Old Temple dates back to Mycenaean times, being one of the very oldest constructions of the Acropolis. But what has not been noticed is that the plan of Old Temple I copies both in structure and in dimensions the royal megarons of Mycenae, Tiryns and Pylos.

Old Temple I consists essentially of two square rooms. The eastern room corresponds to the throne room of a Mycenaean royal megaron; the western room is further divided into two halves by a wall, running in the sense of the width, of which one corresponds to the vestibule and the other to the porch of a royal megaron.

All of this indicates that in Mycenaean times the location of the Old Temple was occupied by a royal megaron which faced west. Iakovidis has established that in early Mycenaean times there was on this side of the terrace a monumental staircase which gave access to the terrace. It may be assumed that the staircase was in front of the porch of the Mycenaean royal megaron, the plan and dimensions of which were copied in Old Temple I.

At this point it is necessary to discuss the problem of the orientation of the temples of the Acropolis. The casual visitor to the Acropolis is surprised when he is told that the main front of the Parthenon is the eastern one, since the natural inclination of the ground, combined with the orientation of the Propylaia, makes the western front strikingly more prominent to the observer. In reality, the Parthenon can be considered to be a double temple, since its cella is divided into two separate parts by a wall without openings. The part of the Parthenon to the east of the separation wall is the temple, or neos in the narrow sense of the term. The part to the west was called the opisthodomos. The Greek term opisthodomos, like its Latin equivalent posticum, means an additional part of a building attached to the rear and to which entrance is gained from the rear. Therefore the Parthenon in a sense can be said to have two fronts.

Dörpfeld concluded that the Old Temple was similarly divided by a separation wall without openings. The part to the east of the separation wall was the equivalent of the neos part of the Parthenon, and like it contained the image of the goddess. The part to the west of the separation wall corresponded to the opisthodomos part of the Parthenon and like it was used as the place of safekeeping of the treasury of the city of Athens. There is no reason to doubt that the Old Temple was so divided; the Erechtheion, which in size and ground plan is most similar to the Old Temple, is also divided by a separation wall without openings between a temple facing east and rooms directed in the opposite direction.

As far as we know, there were no rules regarding the orientation of Mycenaean royal megarons. The royal megaron of Athens was oriented to the west, because this gives greater prominence to the facade, since the plateau at the summit of the Acropolis has an inclination from west to east. As noted above, in Mycenaean times there was a monumental scalinade in front of the porch of the royal megaron. We may compare this scalinade with the row of steps which we see today in front of the western front of the Parthenon.

When the Mycenaean royal megaron was rebuilt as a temple in the seventh century B.C., the builders had to conform to the rule that Greek temples face east. The solution was found by dividing the rectangle of the temple into two parts. The part which used to be the throne room became the temple in the narrow sense of the term and was opened to the east. This arrangement was functional because the original gate to the Acropolis was from the north, just east of the Old Temple. The same pattern was repeated in the Parthenon, even though by then the entrance to the Acropolis was from the west. The existence of a western gate in the fortifications of the Acropolis, in addition to the original north gate, further contributed to making the temples Janus-like.

There is a peculiar reference to this problem of orientation in Herodotos: in speaking of the area where there are to be seen the charred remainders of the Persian destruction, he mentions ”the megaron which is turned to the west”. It is generally understood that here Herodotos refers to the western half of the Old Temple, and that he refers to the eastern half of it when he speaks of ”the adyton of the goddess”. The term adyton, which literally means ”not to be entered,” refers to the innermost temple, the true abode of the divinity.

Greek temples used to face east because they were conceived as the abode of the divinity, whose image had to face the rising sun. When the Parthenon was converted into a Christian church, the issue of orientation arose once again, since early Christian churches used to face west, in order that the congregation might face the rising sun. Given the ambiguity of the orientation of the Parthenon, Christians had no difficulty in solving the problem: the eastern door of the cella was closed by a semi-circular apse, the separation wall was pierced by doors, and the western front of the Parthenon became the facade of the Church of Holy Wisdom. In thus restructuring the Parthenon, the Christian builders reintroduced the architectural scheme which had been characteristic of the Mycenaean royal megaron about two millennia earlier. They did it unwittingly, but they were guided by the very nature of the physical arrangements.

Dörpfeld recognized that the original part of the Old Temple was 50 feet wide, even though it was not a matter of the 50 feet he expected. From the foundations Dörpfeld estimated the width at 13.45 m. Now, 50 trimmed lesser feet correspond to 13,872 mm. This is a very important fact, because the trimmed lesser foot (277.4489 mm.) is the standard of Mycenaean sacred monuments, and because both the royal megaron of Mycenae and that of Pylos, which the Old Temple resembles in its internal structure, were 50 trimmed lesser feet wide. The royal megaron of Tiryns was narrower, being 45 such feet, because it was calculated sexagesimally as 30 cubits, instead of being calculated centesimally as the other two, and the Old Temple of Athena.

As mentioned earlier, about the middle of the sixth century B.C. or a few decades earlier, the megaron was changed into an amphiprostyle temple by adding at each end a porch of 4 columns. Dörpfeld does not mention directly any figure for the length of the megaron, but he states that the amphiprostyle temple had a length of 34.56 m., with two porches 2.70 m. deep, so that he implied that the length of the original part was 29.16 m. It appears that each of the two added porches measured 10 trimmed lesser feet, or 2,775 mm, so that the amphiprostyle temple had a total length of 125 trimmed lesser feet (34,681 mm). This length gave a proportion of 2:5 to the sides of the amphiprostyle temple. Thus the original part of the temple had a length of 105 feet (29,132 mm).The megaron as a whole had been planned as two near-squares of 50 x 52½ trimmed lesser feet, that is, 13,872 x 14,566 mm.

It can be concluded that the main dimension of the megaron, which proves to have been the width, had been set at 50 feet (trimmed lesser feet). Dörpfeld recognized by implication what was the real unit of measurement when he observed that the front of the temple was 50 feet wide. He based his conclusion on the famous entry in the dictionary of Hesychios, which explains the phrase ”hekatompedos neos” in these terms: ”hekatompedos neos: a one-hundred foot temple erected for the Maiden on the Acropolis by the Athenians, being fifty feet greater than that burned by the Persians.” Hesychios refers to the fact that in the Parthenon, which doubled the dimensions of the Old Temple, the width was 100 feet.

On architectural grounds, the megaron of the Old Temple can safely be dated in the seventh century B.C., a hundred years before Solon. Unfortunately it has not been possible to date it by pottery sherds or any other stratigraphic datum.

The two parts of the megaron of the Old Temple were conceptually unrelated: to the east there was the neos, or ”shrine” and to the west there was the opisthodomos. What Dörpfeld did not realize is that the neos measured 50 trimmed lesser feet in both directions. He reported only the inner dimensions of the neos as 10.5 x 10.65 m. Most likely the neos was a square with a side of 10,543 mm., or 38 feet as measured on the inside. With walls 6 feet thick the outer dimensions come to be 50 x 50 feet. Leicester B. Holland has observed that the square shape of the neos of the Old Temple is unusual. Archaic temples usually are long and narrow. The square shape and its division by two rows of columns suggests that the neos was modeled after the throne rooms of Mycenaean palaces.

The neos was divided lengthwise by two rows of stylobate blocks which supported columns. The space between the stylobate blocks, that is, the nave of the inner temple, appears to have been 18 feet, or 4,994 mm. The stylobate blocks were apparently 5 feet (1,387 mm.) wide and the space between the inner stylobate and the lateral walls 5 feet as well.
The neos consisted of a unit of 50 feet square (surface of ¼ plethron). To this square with sides of 50 feet there was attached another structure called opisthodomos. Since it was an additional building, it did not include in its dimensions the separation wall. Without this wall it had a length of 55 feet, of which the western wall of the opisthodomos accounted for 5 feet (1,387 mm.). Dörpfeld reports the thickness of this wall as 1.35 m. The total temple thus had dimensions of 50 x 105 feet, conforming to the usual pattern of a double near-square.

The opisthodomos was divided into two rooms of equal size by a wall running north-south. Dörpfeld reports that the rooms are 6.20 m. wide, but does not provide any figure for the thickness of the wall between them. The two rooms have a length of 22½ feet (6,243 mm.) each, the wall between them being 5 feet (1,387 mm.) thick.

As we have seen, the partitions of the Old Temple are most symmetric and regular, but there is one partition which is odd and irregular. The inside half of the opisthodomos is subdivided into two cubicles by a small wall running east to west, in the direction of the length of the temple. These two cubicles are not equal in size: according to Dörpfeld the northern one has a width, from north to south, of 4.50 m., and the southern one of 4.85 m.
Since in the Parthenon the western part, that is, the opisthodomos, was used as the place of safekeeping of the state treasury of Athens, it can be presumed that the western part of the Old Temple served a similar purpose. It may also be presumed that within this area there was built a cubicle as the safe vault of objects of particular value.

There is a text that provides us with information about the location of the original safe vault of Athens. The climax of Aristophanes’ comedy Plutos is provided by the establishment of the worship of the god Plutos, ”Wealth,” in the opisthodomos ”where it was worshipped originally, ever watching over the opisthodomos of the goddess.” (lines 1194-95). This seems to imply that there was a time, earlier than the construction of the opisthodomos of the Parthenon, when Plutos was worshipped in the opisthodomos of a temple of Athena. A scholium on these lines of Aristophanes explains the term opisthodomos as follows: ”In the back of the neos of the temple of the so-called Athena Polias there is a double wall with one door, where there was the treasury-safekeeping.” The reference to the double wall fits well the internal divisions of the opisthodomos of the Old Temple. It is possible that for the sake of security the larger cubicle, which was used as a safe vault and apparently had been sacred to Plutos, did not have any opening to the west, but had a single door which opened into the smaller cubicle, which served as a sort of hallway. Thus in order to gain access to the larger cubicle, one had to open the door of the opisthodomos, and then open another door to the smaller cubicle, to finally arrive at the door of Athena’s treasury.

The two cubicles of the Old Temple would not have been made of different sizes unless there was a reason why one of them or both of them should have particular dimensions.

The Hekatompedon:

A location on the Athenian Acropolis for the Hekatompedon area is suggested north of the Peisistratid temple. This location is based on both epigraphical and archaeological evidences. It also identifies some of Wiegand's minor buildings as part of the Hekatompedon. An architectural reconstruction of this religious area is given for the sixth century BC.

Because the Hekatompedon is mentioned together with the Kekropion we will focus on the area north of the temple for a location of the Hekatompedon. This area was of special interest for the Athenians. Besides the grave of the mythical king Kekrops there were many ancient cults. This was the place where the holy olive-tree of Athena stood, and where Poseidon or Zeus struck Erechtheus. This spot was marked by five peculiar holes in the rock, which were said to be made by Poseidon's trident or Zeus' thunderbolt.
In both versions of the legend they mark the spot of the hero's grave; if Poseidon drove Erechtheus into the rock with his trident it is obviously the hero's grave, and if Zeus struck the hero with a thunderbolt he should have been buried there, since a person who was struck by lightning was buried on that very spot 3). Another holy place north of the temple was the so- called thalassa, a salt-water spring. This was probably more a token for Aphrodite; the element from which she was born, than for Poseidon 4). Both Aphrodite and her parents, Zeus Naios and Dione Naia according to one Athenian tradition, have been worshipped in the Erechtheion, while there are no reverences to Poseidon on the Acropolis besides the holy marks of his trident 5). Traces in the foundations of the Erechtheion indicate the existence of a temenos on the site of the cella of the Erechtheion 6). This temenos preceded the Erechtheion as a place of worship for the ancient cults. This religious area north of the temple was limited to the west by the building of the temenos-wall of the Pandroseion in the fifth century B.C.

The placement of the west-wall of the Pandroseion temenos was not arbitrary. It was placed on that spot were according to the religious tradition the area had its boundaries.

When we look for a Hekatompedon in this area we must look at the fifth century B.C. boundaries and take their location as pre- existent. The inscription text starts with the area between the temple and the altar, and proceeds with the Kekropion and the Hekatompedon, so describes the several entities from east, from the front-side of the temple. Following the text and starting from the front-side of the temple, the religious area measures from the eastern orthostate of the Peisistratid temple to the west-wall of the Pandroseion temenos about 100 Attic feet (i.e. 32.7 m.).

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This makes this location highly probable to be the Hekatompedon. So far nothing is said about the appearance of the area. The inscription gives only one clue; the existence of treasuries.

The structures found in the area north of the Peisistratid temple go back to the Mycenaean city. Just northeast of the Erechtheion are the remains of a fortified entrance. This entrance, which was built like the gate of the lions in Mycenae, once formed one of the main entrances to the citadel. It was built on the lower terraces just underneath the Mycenaean palace. From this gate ran a narrow road to the west, which was widening into a small plaza just north of the later Erechtheion. This plaza was enclosed by terraces on the east and the south-side, forming some sort of theatral area, recalling on a modest scale the areas for public spectacles which have been found in Crete in connection with the palaces of Cnossos and Phaestos. In the west this plaza was limited by the cultplace of Poseidon or Zeus, marked with the holes in the Acropolis rock. Because the theatral area laid some 50 cm higher than the Acropolis rock, we must assume that some coffer-dam of stone surrounded the cultplace keeping the rock free from invading earth (VII).

The theatral area was still existing in the fifth century B.C. It then became paved with poros slabs and surrounded by steps, which replaced the old Mycenaean ramps, on which spectators could sit (VI). It is most probably that this area was also in the Archaic period in use for religious ceremonies. To the north this theatral area was limited by the Acropolis wall. Other evidence for the reconstruction of the Hekatompedon is found in the foundations of the Erechtheion. Where the foundations of the east-wall reaches the foundations of the south-wall cavities in the stones show that there might be a low parapet of upright slabs when the Erechtheion was built (at point B).

The altitude of these cavities show that this parapet stood on a low terrace above the theatral area north of it. This parapet enclosed a temenos which later became the Erechtheion. This temenos was narrower than its successor because there are no similar cavities in the foundations of the north-wall of the Erechtheion. This give the opportunity to reconstruct a ramp from the theatral area to the terrace of the temenos. From a point in line with the eastern jamb of the door to the Porch of the Maidens (from point A) eastward the wall of the foundations of the peristyle of the Peisistratid temple is dressed to an even face (III). This dressing is visible for about 2.5 m. before the Erechtheion walls come to close to the temple terrace. The dressing of this wall shows that from that point eastward it must have been visible. The dressed surface probably continues to the point where the eastern parapet is reconstructed (IV). Together with the cavities which mark the eastern limits the temenos might be almost as large as the Erechtheion (V). This temenos probably housed many of the cults of its successor. L.B. Holland stated in his Erechtheum Papers that the existence of the Porch of the Maidens indicate that the stairs inside this porch must have been pre-existing. The building of the porch was required to camouflage these stairs, otherwise they would leave the Erechtheion through a simple door in the wall. Building the Porch of the Maidens gave them a better appearance, incorporated in the new building. These stairs were probably the successors of the Mycenaean stairs from the lower terraces to the terrace of the palace. The megaron of this palace is reconstructed just west of these stairs, underneath the west-cella of the Peisistratid temple. If these stairs indeed go back to LH III, they might have existed also in the Archaic period, leading from the Hekatompedon to the temple terrace. In that case there must have been a second flight of steps to climb the ramp to the temenos terrace from the Hekatompedon level, otherwise they would have ended right in the ramp of the temenos terrace.

The ground level of this western part of the Hekatompedon was probably on about the same height as that of the Pandroseion. In the foundations of the north porch of the Erechtheion a poros step of pre-Periclean and post-Persian date is found which indicates the entrance of the Pandroseion temenos in the beginning of the fifth century B.C. This step probably dates from the comparatively cheap and rapid restoration of the sanctuaries after the Persian sack. It is unlikely that the area was raised during this restoration, so the step not only indicates the early fifth century level, but also that of the sixth century B.C. (level II). If so, the western part of the Hekatompedon laid about 2.30 m. lower than the temple terrace. Another importing architectural feature of the Hekatompedon was the existence of treasuries. The existence of treasuries is in a religious area as described above very likely, e.g. the treasuries in Olympia, Delphi and on Delos are all set in or at the rim of religious areas. The finding of various architectural remains of small buildings and the various small fragments of pediment sculptures indicate the existence of treasury-like buildings on the Athenian Acropolis. These fragments, described by Wiegand are said to come from at least five minor buildings: Wiegand's building A-E.

Further studies by Heberdey, Dinsmoor and Beyer distinguish Wiegand's Building A into two separate buildings; Building A and Building Aa. This distinction is based on the several pediment sculptures to be reconstructed on these buildings. Heberdey distinguished Building A into three different buildings, based on the remains of the sculpture, but Dinsmoor's distinction based on the architecture is more likely. Wiegand's Building B stood probably outside the citadel, on the terrace were Mnesikles' Pinacotheca was built. Of the other five buildings Building D and E were built long after 480 BC.

For a reconstruction of the Hekatompedon in the sixth and early fifth century BC. we must focus on the Buildings A, Aa and C.

Based on the measurements of the triglyphs and architrave Wiegand calculated the width of his Building A as about 5.00 m., keeping the possibility for a pediment with a length of 3.80 m. This width is calculated with the premise that the building have had four supports in the front. In analogy with the known treasuries it is likely that this building was distyle in antis. One of the pediment sculptures that Beyer reconstructs on these buildings is the so-called 'Baum' pediment. This pediment, with an image of a olive-tree suggests a strong link between this building and the holy olive-tree of Athena. Therefor this building, might have been a small temple for Pandrosos. This temple probably stood in the northeast corner of the Pandroseion area (XI). This temple might have survived the Persian sack, or else was reconstructed in the temenos after 480 B.C., because it is mentioned in texts of later date. The other buildings were the treasuries mentioned in line 14 of the inscription. The building which Dinsmoor calls Building Aa was of the about the same size and proportions as the temple for Pandrosos described above; also about 5 m. wide. The exact length is unknown, but when we take the proportions of the triglyphs as a standard proportion for the entire building, it was about 6.6 m. long. This building might have had the painted lioness in the pediment.

Building C was considerably larger: based on the width of the triglyphs and metopes it was about 7.3 m. wide when distyle in antis. This width allows the Hydra pediment to be reconstructed on this building. The length of this building would then be about 11.7 m., again taken the proportion of the triglyphs as a proportion for the entire building. Both these treasuries can be placed in the open space north of the cult area, between the later Pandroseion temenos and the Acropolis wall (X).

West of these treasuries a line of poros foundations of post-Persian date is found running from the Acropolis wall towards the northwest corner of the Pandroseion temenos-wall.

This probably was a fifth century retaining wall which formed a boundary of the religious area. In earlier days this boundary could have been formed by the westernmost treasury. This reconstruction of the area matches the inscription text and fits in the 100 Attic ft. area discussed above. This makes this area very likely to be the Hekatompedon. Another proof might be found in the social-historic context of the inscription.

The Mycenean Wall

One of the most important discoveries of the excavations south of the Parthenon was also the Mycenean wall. Most parts of it were found inside the southern wall of the Acropolis. Parts of it were found even in the area, which at the moment of the excavations, was already occupied by the museum. It was possible to follow the course of the wall; only after the floors of certain rooms of the northern side of the museum were temporarily removed and some excavations between its foundations were performed.

Now, regarding the course of the wall, it must be mentioned that most of it coincides with the steep limits of the Acropolis rock, however in the area of the museum it changes its way inwards the rock; resulting in a longer wall as well as leaving an open area of a few hundreds of square meters; matching more or less with the land occupied nowadays by the museum.
The reason for which they made a niche in this area; is due to the presence of a defensive gate exactly in the southern part of the Acropolis during the Mycenean times. It is well known that back in those days the construction of such defensive gates in the deepest part of the front yards, increased substantially the defensive results of the walls; so the existence of such a niche as an entrance was extremely required and explains the reason of its inwards change of direction.

Unfortunately, the results for the area where that gate was most probably located in, were not quite satisfactory due to the impossibility of performing substantial excavations in the area; because of the presence of the foundations of the museum as well as because of the bad state of that part of the ancient wall.

So, the aforementioned gate as it is shown in the sketches of J.A. Bundgaard are Hypothetical but still highly probable. On the other hand there are many evidences that prove the existence of such a defensive wall.

It must be noted also that back in the Mycenean days the southern side of the rock was more accesible than its western side. Nowadays, for those who are familiar with the topography of the rock, it might be seem as an incredible view; but we should keep in mind the 5th century BC additions and the artificial morphological changes and adaptations performed by engineers during the Hellenistic times.

One of the most concerning matters among scholars is the bad preservation conditions of the Mycenean wall. In some sections the level of destruction is so high that there are only just a few remaining stones or just traces of it. One of the arising questions is, if this sort of destruction is the result of natural erosion:

The time span separating the moment of its construction in the 13th century BC with the classical age is of just eight centuries, not enough for a substantial process of erosion, taking into consideration the resistence of these kind of wall, as it can be easily proven by the excellent state of preservation of the walls in Mycenes and Tyrinth. This kind of constructions cannot be eroded that easily. So it rather must be the result of human intervention. From this conclusion another question arises; who are the responsibles of such a destruction:

One thing is for sure, that it wasn’t a result of the Persians attack to Athens. That is proved by the southwestern angle of the stereobate of the Parthenon which was constructed over a section of the destroyed wall, that leading us to the conclusion of by the time of the arrival of the Persians it was already destroyed. Otherwise it should have been constructed after their arrival in 490 BC; but from chronological studies we clearly know that the stereobate was built previously, during the 6th century BC.

So the resulting arising question remains unanswered; who destroyed partially that wall:

There is a possibility that it was destroyed during an invasion; but from historical and archeological evidences we know the Dorians never invaded the region of Attika or at least they didn’t cause any, destruction to the area of the Acropolis; another possibility might be that it was torn down by the Athenians during the transition from a monarchical system during the proto-archaic period; in order to avoid the restitution of such a political system.

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PART II - Classical Athens I - The Persian Threat (494 BC -478 BC)



At the end of the sixth century BC the very existence of Athens was threatened by a danger looming in the east. The expansion of the Persian Empire, the superpower of its time, had reached the Aegean shore and absorbed the Greek cities of Ionia. It was not to be expected that the fiercely independent spirit of the Greek city states could be crushed easily, even by such overwhelming force; and in 499 B.C. the Ionian city of Miletos led a concerted revolt against Persian rule. Answering their call for aid, the Athenians sent twenty ships to assist them. Although the rebels burned Sardis, the seat of the Persian satrap, the revolt was soon extinguished at the battle of Lade. In brutal reprisal, Miletos was destroyed, and its entire population massacred or enslaved. The strong identification of the Athenians with the Ionian cause was evident shortly afterwards, when Phrynichos put on his play The Capture of Miletos in Athens. Many in the audience burst into tears. Phrynichos was fined one thousand drachmas and his play banned.

In 492 B.C. the Persian king, Darius, sent an expedition to conquer Thrace and Macedonia which was only withdrawn after much of his fleet was destroyed by a storm while rounding the peninsula of Athos.

The Aegean, however, was no barrier to the spread of Persian power, for the islands of the archipelago, for the most part lying within sight of each other, invited further expansion. In June 490 BC Darius sent another force, which sailed from island to island across the Aegean receiving submission and tribute, and reducing any cities which resisted. This expedition was probably designed only to subdue the islands and then to reconnoitre the European shore; but the Athenians, conscious of the assistance they had rendered to rebel Miletos, expected Persian retribution. When, in September, having subdued Euboea, the Persians landed their forces in the Bay of Marathon, the Athenians feared the worst.

It is not known at that time whether the lower city was surrounded by a wall, but no unambiguous trace of one has yet been detected by the archaeologists. The defencelessness of the city has been used to explain why, with only some six hundred Plataean allies, the Athenian citizen army, under the command of the polemarch Kallimachos and the ten generals, numbering perhaps ten thousand men in all, marched out to Marathon.

The Athenians stationed themselves on the lower slopes of the hills above the bay to observe the invaders, having already sent a runner to Sparta to seek assistance. He seems to have had some sort of religious experience while crossing the mountains of Arcadia, which he interpreted as an encounter with the god Pan. When he arrived, the Spartans warmly expressed willingness to come to the aid of the Athenians in principle, but also explained that they. were forced to delay actually setting out to help them on account of a religious holiday they were observing. It seems likely that the Spartans were not unwilling to see the destruction of a potential rival.

The Athenian forces contented themselves with observing the Persians watering their horses at a lake on the north of the plain for several days Then when he saw an opportunity to strike, one of the generals, Miltiades, who had acquired experience of the fighting practices of the Persians in the Straits area, led a surprise attack against the invaders and defeated them. Then the victorious warriors rushed back to defend their city from further attack in case the fleet should land a force at Phaleron, but the reconnoitring ships did not put anyone ashore.

Our knowledge of this battle comes almost entirely from a single source: Herodotus. His Histories was written more than one generation after the events he narrates, and were designed to be read aloud before an Athenian audience, so he was unlikely to present a clinically detached viewpoint. In addition, there are some important respects in which his account is deficient. For example, he writes that King Darius had special ships built to transport cavalry horses, yet in his account of the battle itself, the cavalry plays no part, and he never accounts for their absence. Again, he describes the Persians as defeated at Marathon and fleeing in panic to their ships, yet he inconsistently portrays the Athenians as afraid that, when the fleet rounded Cape Sounion, the Persians might land a force at Phaleron and take the city. He never explains why the Persians, if they intended to take Athens, landed at Marathon, on the wrong side of the peninsula, and stayed there for such a long period. With the overwhelming force he attributes to them, a landing at Phaleron would have been the obvious preliminary to an attack on the city.

There is reason to believe that the expedition may have been over already, as far as the Persians were concerned. They probably landed at Marathon to water and graze their horses at the lake which then occupied the north of the plain, in preparation for the return journey back to Asia Minor. There is some late evidence that most of their forces had already embarked on the ships when Miltiades launched his attack, so that only a fraction of the Persian forces were actually defeated; hence the nervousness of the Athenians that their city was still in danger from the Persian forces after the battle.

Yet despite all these qualificattons, Marathon remains one of the most important battles in world history. The Athenians lost only one hundred and ninety-two men, and their 'victory', how- ever insignificant it may have seemed to the Great King in distant Susa, filled the Athenians with a heady sense of their own potential, the results of which were to play a crucial role in the history of the long upward march of the human spirit. Α new self-confidence filled the people of Athens, and this spirit, however insecure its basis, was to have momentous consequences for the history of civilisation.

The results were not slow in coming. An awakening of confidence of the citizens in their ability to govern themselves is evident in the new readiness of the people actually to exercise their powers of ostracism against prominent citizens. The first ostracism was voted in 488-7 B.C. It was probably in the next year that the method of choosing the archons by lot was introduced. This was a profound move towards genuine democracy. It destroyed the advantage which the wealthy and well-known necessarily enjoy in elections, and removed a source of corruption. It also indicated that these, and all, offices of state were no longer to be as important as they had been, that ambitious citizens would no longer campaign for their election, and that the boule and ekklesia had taken upon themselves a greater role in the government of the country. The various specific duties of government were generally taken up by boards of officials chosen by lot, who could serve only once. Only the ten generals were elected, and could serve an indefinite number of times.

It was intended to erect a magnificent new temple to Athena, now known as the 'older Parthenon', on the acropolis. Older buildings were demolished and the rubble used to extend the surface area of the citadel. New temples were constructed at Rhamnous and Sounion. The cult of the rural god Pan was introduced into Athens. The sanctuary of Pan in the cave on the northern side of the acropolis was dedicated following the victory of Marathon. An annual torch race and sacrifices were established in honour of the god. Another sanctuary to Pan lay by the IIissos, near the present church of Ay. Photini, where a carving of the god could still be seen on the rock until recently. In the countryside of Attica he frequently came to share the caves originally sacred to the nymphs.

The first prominent citizen who was to win his position by his ability, and whose origins lay outside the ranks of the old aristocracy, was Themistokles. He saw clearly that the expansion of Persian power had not really been checked, and that the Athenians must prepare for the real threat which would inevitably come.

A stroke of pure luck provided the means to make preparations to beat off an invasion. Α particularly rich vein of silver was discovered in the mines of Laurion. Themistocles knew his fellow citizens well enough to realise that there was no way that he could persuade them to spend this money on building a navy to protect their shores from a distant enemy whose resources and strength they did not yet appreciate. So he took advantage of a long and inconclusive war with the Athenians' nearby rivals, the Aeginetans, to persuade the citizens to use their new wealth to make Athens a great naval power. Α new war fleet of two hundred ships was built; and instead of beaching the ships at Phaleron, as had been the practice, the three natural harbours at Piraeus were developed and fortified.

When it became clear that King Xerxes was planning a campaign to subdue the whole of Thrace, Macedonia and the Greek peninsula, a meeting those states determined to resist met at the Isthmus. The Hellenic League was formed, and the Spartans were accepted as head of this alliance. All wars between its members, including that of Athens with Aegina, were promptly ended.

The attack, when it came in 480 B.C. was by both land and sea. In an attempt to prevent the Persian army entering the peninsula, a detachment was sent to block the Vale of Tempe. But when the leaders of this force found out that there were other ways into Greece, they returned to the Isthmus. Α second blocking attempt was made at the pass of Thermopylae. Most of those soldiers left when the Persians appeared; and the Spartan rear guard was surrounded and annihilated. As so often happens in wartime, this defeat was transformed by propaganda into a 'moral victory', but one that in no way held up the advance of the Persians. Despite the loss of many of his ships in a storm off Euboeia, and an indecisive engagement with Greek ships at Artemiston, the Thebans and some other states decided to side with the invaders, while the Peloponnesians built a wall across the Isthmus of Corinth, leaving Athens defenceless against overwhelming force.

The Delphic oracle had instructed the Athenians to rely on their 'wooden walls'. Themistocles convinced the people that this was a cryptic reference to their ships, and the new navy was employed to evacuate the citizens to the nearby islands of Salamis and Aegina, and the peninsula of Troizen, while the fleet of the Hellenic League, having protected the operation, put into Salamis. Nine days after the engagement at Artemiston, the Persian fleet anchored in the Bay of Phaleron.

When Persians land forces arrived at Athens there were just a few people left behind, described as the Treasurers of the Temple of Athena and a mass of poor people, all barricaded on the acropolis. Because it was thought impregnable, the defenders had left the steep north side of the hill unguarded, and Persian soldiers managed to scale the cliff and the walls. The despairing defenders flung themselves from the battlements or fled into the temples, where they were slaughtered. The lower city and the temples on the acropolis were alike plundered and burned.

Themistokles had to employ all his cunning and duplicity to prevent the Greek fleet from either withdrawing to defend the Peloponnese, protected by its hastily built wall, and abandoning the rest of Greece, or simply breaking up, with the various contingents going their several ways. In secret communications with Xerxes he lured the Persian fleet into the narrow Bay of Salamis after convincing him that the Greek ships would otherwise escape his clutches, and provoked a battle in which the Persian fleet was decisively defeated. In this victory the new Athenian fleet played a key role, although it was agreed at the time that the first prize for valour in the battle really went to the Aeginetans. '

Disgusted, Xerxes went home, leaving his general Mardonius with part of his forces to winter in Greece and complete the subjugation of the region in the next spring. Mardonius, however, was defeated by the combined land forces of the Hellenic League at the battle of Plataea, and on the very same day, the Greek fleet, which had gone onto the offensive, defeated a Persian fleet at Cape Mycale, in Asia Minor. The Greeks of lonia promptly rose in revolt once more, and drove out the Persians, whose power in the Aegean was set to fade from this time onwards.
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Classical Athens II - The Golden Age (478 BC - 431 BC)


The years immediately following the Persian defeat must have been hard ones for the Athenians. They had lost their homes, property and temples, which were probably nearly all destroyed. Two consecutive harvests had been lost. Yet if the battle of Marathon had given the Athenians new self-confidence, the victories of Salamis, Plataea and Mycale inspired them to new heights of creativity.

The new Persian invasion of 480 BC brought about large-scale ravages, which were intensified by a second sack of the city by the commander-in-chief of the Persians Mardonios soon after (479) the Greek victory at the naval battle of Salamis in 480. The peribolos (surrounding wall) which protected the city was torn down. All grandiose temples (‘old temple’ of Athena, Pro-Parthenon, early temple of Athena Nike, oikimata) and offerings (Korai, other sculptures, etc.) on the Acropolis suffered serious damages, while we find clear indications of almost complete devastation in the lower city, where all secular buildings of the Agora lay in ruins. The situation was similar in other parts of Attica: the Telesterion of Eleusis, the unfinished temple of Poseidon on Sounion and the small archaic temple of Rhamnous were also demolished.

After the triumphal victory of the Greeks at Plataeai and at Mykale (479) and the final repulse of the Persians, the gradual establishment of Athens as leading power (hegemony) and the new demands that occurred set the conditions for the development of a new circle of intense economic activity in the city. The gradual augmentation of the population, the influx and assimilation of foreign elements and the policies adopted had a major effect on the form and the aims of the projects which were put into practice.

In the three decades which followed the Persian Wars, only a few non-defensive works were carried out; priority was given to the fortification of the city and to the reconstruction of the inhabited centres, while the few new buildings were predominantly due to individual initiative. Some of the exceptions to this rule were the Stoa of the Athenians in Delphi (478 or 456) – the only known Athenian project of this period outside Attica – and the poros temple of Athena Nike on the Acropolis, monuments via which the citizens expressed their restrained pride for the resounding successes of the city.

Themistocles in 478 BC arranged the immediate building of a wall around the lower city with thirteen gates, known as the Themistocleian Wall, traces of which remain today and for whose erection building material from older structures and offerings was used.

After the reconstruction of the city walls, Kerameikos was split into two parts, the ‘Outer Kerameikos’ (outside the walls), which continued to function as a burial place, and the ‘Inner Kerameikos’ (within the city’s boundaries), which was gradually equipped with several public buildings. Simultaneously, Themistokles persuaded the Athenians to complete the fortification of the ports of Piraeus, a task which himself had initiated as an archon in 493/2 BC and which was brought to conclusion by Kimon a few years later. Thus, a rapid transformation of Attica’s agricultural population into urban population of Athens – a policy realized by the other powerful man of that time, Aristeides – and finally into ‘professional’ took place; in other words, all citizens of the democracy were provided for from the public treasury and, consequently, they were able to dedicate themselves to the exercise of political activity in the city.

The erection of the temple of Artemis Aristoboule in the demos of Melite, west of the Agora, is generally put around these years, definitely prior to the ‘ostracism’ of Themistokles in 472 BC.

The temples on the Acropolis and the other sacred edifices of Attica were left in ruins and were not replaced for almost a generation thereafter, apparently in compliance with the oath taken by the Athenians at Plataiai neither to restore the damaged buildings nor to raise new ones so as to keep alive the memory of the war and of the ravages it caused. Only a few buildings were repaired roughly in order to ensure the continuation of worship or to prolong their use wherever necessary. In their vast majority, the ruins of the Acropolis were left as sacred relics and were buried in situ, thus filling the rock’s cavities and preparing the temenos for its most brilliant period.

Two more unidentified small shrines of Athens, a small cella southeast of the peribolos of the temenos of Dionysos Eleuthereus on the South Slope of the Acropolis and a bigger one in a broader triangular temenos of Melite (sanctuary of Herakles Alexikakos? temenos of Dionysos en Limnais?) are likely to be dated to the years between 479 and 468. In the Agora the Prytaneion was arranged with no special care as a room whose central part was used to cover institutional needs. Works were also under way at the sanctuaries of Poseidon and of Athena on Sounion, while in the demos of Flya (modern Chalandri) the so-called Telesterion of the Great Gods was repaired.

The overall image of Athens remained almost unchanged, giving the same cumulative impression as in the past, which presented irregular arrangement of the constructional elements, the ways of the roads and streets still adjusted to the topographical singularities of the city. Several destroyed houses were repaired and others were rebuilt on their older foundations; most of the houses of this period continued to be used within the pre-existing road system, while there were only sporadic efforts for a more systematic arrangement of the settlement environment. A distinct case is that of Piraeus, where the experts experimented with new methods and innovative architectural patterns were applied.

The victory of the Athenian expeditionary force at Eurymedon River (470 BC) yielded big economic profit to Athens, which permitted a more comfortable and systematic organization of the various activities. Even more Greek city-states voiced their desire to join the Delian League, while the Peloponnesian League, Sparta standing out as the main rival of Athens, were trying to organize a resistance movement against the new – in essence Athenian – status quo.

The Spartans put considerable pressure on the Athenians to desist. They clearly felt that their traditional position of primacy in Greece was threatened by the new assertiveness of the Athenians. Themistokles used his diplomatic skills to delay any action on their part until it was too late for them to do anything about it.

The Hellenic fleet under Pausanias, the Spartan victor of Plataea, captured Cyprus and Byzantium, securing control of the Aegean in north and south. The occupation of Byzantium was more important to the Athenians, for it could be used to control the all-important Black Sea grain trade route. Pausanias installed himself as ruler but they complained about his tyranny and accused him of conspiring with the Persians. He was recalled and punished, but cleared of the last charge. It is clear that the Athenians did not want a Spartan in control of this strategic city. When, in 477 BC, the Spartans sent a replacement contingent to join the Hellenic fleet, it is clear that the Athenians and Ionians had come to an agreement to reject their aid, and they were asked to go home. In this way the Spartans found themselves deliberately excluded) by Athenian machinations from Aegean politics.

This left the field clear for the Athenians, led by Aristeides, who promptly founded a new alliance, known as the Delian League, to provide mutual protection for themselves and the Greeks of the coastlands of Asia Minor and the Archipelago. Perhaps one hundred and fifty states joined almost immediately. Each state contributed to a fleet for their common defence against the Persians; the larger states contributing ships and men, and the smaller states the money to pay for their upkeep. The treasury of the League was located on the central Ionian sanctuary of Delos, but its treasurers were Athenians. This was to be an alliance in which the Athenians were much more than equal members with the others.

Cimon encouraged the larger states of the Delian League to substitute money payments for the ships and crews due as their contribution to the common effort. As a result, the fleet of the League became, in reality, an Athenian fleet, maintained by a form of taxation on the other states. With the decisive defeat of the Persians in 468 BC at Eurymedon, the ostensible purpose of the League was accomplished. Previously, it had been popular as the member states had received protection against a return of the Persians for their money. But afterwards, its real purpose was seen to be the subjugation of the islands and the coast of Ionia to Athenian rule. The experience of the people of Naxos c.470 BC and Thasos in 465 BC showed that any state attempting to leave the League, would be punished, and restrained, if necessary, by force. Athenian primacy had become by default Athenian hegemony, and the Delian League an Athenian Empire.

The large and active Athenian fleet provided work for many citizens of the lower classes who could not afford to provide themselves with the arms and armour of a hoplite warrior. They found employment as oarsmen on the ships This kept large numbers of them away from the city for long periods, and may be why the old nobility were able temporarily to recover some of their influence. Under the leadership of the wealthy and well-connected Cimon, son of Miltiades, who soon came tο dominate Athenian public life, the Persians were driven them from the shores of the Aegean, and the Athenians acquired the coast of Thrace and Skyros.

On Skyros were 'discovered' the bones of Theseus. These were solemnly transported to Athens and interned in a new temple dedicated to the hero. An indication of the range of activities abroad in which the Athenians were engaged during this period is given by a war memorial, which records that in 458 B.C., one hundred and seventy-seven Athenians from just one of the ten 'tribes' were killed. They died in Cyprus, Egypt, Phoenicia, Halieis, Aegina, Megara, etc.

Cimοn levelled the devastated temples on the Acropolis, previously left in ruins as a memorial of Persian barbarism, and used the stonework to build ramparts on the summit of the rock to enlarge its surface area. In this rubble were later found many fine statues and architectural pieces. He also erected the Painted Stoa, on which scenes from the great victories of the Persian Wars were painted by Polygnotus. He was praised by contemporaries for planting many trees to beautify the city, especially in the public gardens known as the Academy. He also rebuilt other sanctuaries in Attica, such as that of Eleusis, which had been destroyed by the Persians.

Just behind the Stoa, in a narrow alley, a carefully constructed aqueduct (ca. 475 - 450), similar to the one which supplied for the Southeast Fountainhouse, was designed to carry water outside the city to the northwest, leading straight to the direction of Academy whose gymnasium was repaired.

By favouring ambitious building projects, Kimon put emphasis on works which aimed at the fulfillment of organic needs and at the embellishment of the city as well as at the elevation of the standards of living. Works relevant to the memories of the Persian Wars were not absent, like the temple of Artemis Eukleia (468 BC – 461 BC), built on the North Slope of the Acropolis, near the Eleusinion.

In the 460s BC Cimon led an expedition to rescue the Spartans from a revolt by their slaves, who had taken advantage of a disastrous earthquake which had killed many citizens. In his absence, a certain Ephialtes led a peaceful revolution in Athens, bringing about constitutional changes which moved power even more decisively and firmly into the hands of the ordinary people. The powers of the aristocratic Areopagus were virtually abolished. Most government functions came to be administered by boards often men chosen by lot.

The Heliaia, previously a court of appeal, became one of the chief means of holding officials responsible for their actions. Six thousand citizens were enrolled each year to act as jurymen, and were paid, enabling the less well-off to enjoy the free time to perform the duties of a citizen. When Cimon returned, having been insulted by the Spartans he had set out to aid, he was ostracised. Paradoxically, recent constitutional reforms in the direction of direct democracy made it impossible for the aristocracy to wield much influence, yet that very levelling enabled a dynamic and well-respected citizen to enjoy real power -as long as he did what the mass of the people wanted him to do. In this manner, influence in the state passed to Pericles.

Bringing an end to all pretence, in 451 BC the Treasury of the Delian League was moved to Athens, and the wealth of the League was diverted for the rebuilding, fortification and glorification of the city.

Already, in 458 BC, a huge bronze statue of Athena was erected on the acropolis by Pheidias as a monument to Athenian valour in the war. Athena was represented as holding a spear and helmet, and came to be known as Promachos or “Champion.” Thirty feet high, the crest of the goddess' helmet and the point of her spear glinting in the sun were visible from ships rounding Cape Sounion.

In these years there was also a progress in the construction of the Long Walls (Phaleric and North Wall, 459 - 456), through which the safe communication of Athens with the ports of Phaleron and of Piraeus was accomplished. At the same time, the south part of the Acropolis, which had been left unfortified, was surrounded by a new peribolos (Kimoneian wall).

Border forts were built at Panakton and Phyle, etc. in order to make the ring of mountains encircling the city part of its defences. During this period the port of Piraeus grew in importance. Ship sheds and dry docks were constructed for the warships. Much of the city was rebuilt in accordance with a plan devised by Hippodamus. Many foreign residents settled there, bringing with them the worship of foreign gods, and giving the port a cosmopolitan and politically radical character. As mentioned in the above paragraph, defensive walls were built, enclosing the fortifications of Athens and Piraeus, and connecting the city with the Bay of Phaleron, allowing the Athenians unfettered access to the sea and use of their fleet dυriηg a siege. On Ρericles' suggestion, a second reinforcing wall was built parallel to the northern wall a few years later. The line of these two walls roughly follows the course of the present Pireos Street, while that of the Phaleron Wall is less well established.

Other buildings in the agora were: the Tholos or Skias (470 - 460 BC), south of the New Bouleuterion and of the Metroon, which was used as a dining-hall and was also the seat of the executive committee (Prytaneis) of the Boule. The Stoa of the Herms, where the three Herms (Hermaic stelai) dedicated by Kimon to celebrate his victory on Skyros were exposed, lay at the spot of the main, northwest entrance of the Agora but has not been identified up to date; it was probably identical either with the Poikile or with the Basileios Stoa. The plantation of the Agora and of the Academy by Kimon is another indication of his attempt to beautify Athens.

Even though the works for the erection of the Parthenon were not proceeded with, the rearrangement of the Acropolis within the framework of the Kimoneian building project cannot be examined independently of the planning for the construction of the big temple of Athena (the Parthenon). A group of scholars suppose that the erection of the new Parthenon started in this period, was interrupted on account of Kimon’s death and was continued by Perikles. Another work attributed to Kimon is the configuration of the Klepsydra, an underground fountain of considerable proportions at the northwest slope of the Acropolis.

As for the environs of Athens, one of the many different phases of the Telesterion and one of the phases of the fortification wall of Eleusis have been attributed to the age of Kimon as well. Two external Ionic colonnades were added to the east and south side of the temple of Athena on Sounion. Other works took place at the sanctuary of Artemis Brauronia in Brauron and outside Attica.

The Delian League absorbed the vibrations from the clash with the Peloponnesian League in all the preceding years (461 – 446 BC), not without casualties, since the peace of Kallias between Athens and Persia (449 BC) was not enough to prevent Kimon’s death on Cyprus (446 BC) and the defeat at Koroneia (447 BC), due to which the Delian League lost control of Boeotia. Nevertheless, the role of Athens in Greece remained predominant thanks to the thirty-year peace treaty concluded with Sparta (445 BC). Perikles took advantage of the following period in order to promote his policy and several measures in various sectors, while in parallel an unprecedented building and artistic project was put into practice.

Along with the evidence for the start of this new project, which was brought to fruition rather unhindered, there are indications that some older projects were abandoned. Many of the important works which were implemented in this period do not seem to be related – at least not directly – with the policy of Perikles, and it is absolutely legitimate to assume that, apart from the execution of works of public benefit, there were also other initiatives driven by inclinations parallel or diverge to those of Perikles.

The construction of the Long Walls was brought to an end with the erection of the so-called South Wall or dia mesou (in between) wall between the North Wall and the Phaleric Wall.

The temples on the acropolis were magnificently rebuilt, as a demonstration of Athenian self- confidence. Α new Parthenon was designed by Iktinos and Kallikrates, while Pheidias was in charge of building operations.
The rearrangement of the Parthenon took place on all the surface of the sacred rock and was realized on a premeditated plan. The new building phase was introduced in 447 BC with the commencement of the erection of the Parthenon (447 - 432), which housed in its cella the gold and ivory cult statue of Athena Parthenos by Pheidias already before the completion of the temple. North of the Parthenon there was a workshop (?) which obviously served the needs of the temple. The Altar of Athena, already in existence on the Acropolis from the age of Homer for the worship of the goddess and of Erechtheus, east of the later Old Temple, continued to be in use in order to cover the demands of the new temple of Athena (the Parthenon).

The marble was brought from the nearby quarries on Mount Pendeli. Inside was placed a gold and ivory statue of Athena, more than ten metres high. These precious substances were locked into a wooden framework so that they could be removed in case of necessity. Α ceremonial way was designed by Mnesikles as an imposing entrance to the Acropolis.

The Parthenon was followed by more structures: the Propylaia of Mnesikles (437 - 432), the monumental entrance at the west side of the rock, occupied the place of the older ones with slightly different orientation of their axis; works east of the Propylaia (434 - 432), which obviously were meant to serve the rearrangement of the west part of the Acropolis between them and the Parthenon so that the construction of the new Propylaia could go on; the marble temple of Athena (Apteros) Nike (437 - 424, according to another view 426 or later-soon before 421); the Erechtheion (421 - 415 and 409/8), the sacred spot par excellence on the Acropolis rock and to its west the Pandroseion; the sanctuary of Artemis Brauronia; the Chalkotheke (mid-5th century, with additions of the 4th cent. or of the first decade of the 4th cent.); the sanctuary of Pandion, at a position where presumably there was an earlier sanctuary which had been buried under the landfills of the beginning of the 5th cent.; a refurbishment of the sanctuary of Zeus Polieus northeast of the Parthenon; the Arrephorion (5th cent.); the colossal bronze statue of Athena Promachos (ca. 465 - 450). The south wall of the Acropolis was completed, while the Enneapylon disappeared, lending its place to a wide rising road which started from the Panathenaic Way and ended at the space in front of the Propylaia. Around the Acropolis and along the Peripatos, older sanctuaries were repaired and new ones were established, close to which several other structures sprang up.

On the southeast foot of the rock the Odeion of Perikles was built (447 - 443/2), where initially musical and later also theatrical competitions took place.

The remarkable turn towards religious-cult structures was coupled by a reverse shift of the interest for the lower city, which now appears to be partly neglected. What little attention it received was confined mainly to cult buildings, such as the Stoa of Zeus Eleutherios (430-420) and a small triangular sanctuary (of Hekate?) at the southwest corner of the Agora, which must have existed there since the 7th cent. and was renovated. The small quadrangular enclosure at the crossroads of the northwest corner of the Agora (third quarter of 5th cent.) was identified as the Leokoreion, the house of the daughters of Leos (= of the people) which in the past sacrificed their lives to save the city at a time of a great epidemic disease. The Leokoreion was in use already from the 6th cent.; in the end of the 4th cent. it came out of use, yet there are signs of continuity of the worship there in later times. South of the Agora, next to the street which led to the district west of the Areopagus, an unidentified structure of limestone of the mid-5th cent. was discovered. The only certainly secular-administrative buildings of the time of Perikles are the trapezoidal Strategeion (?), a little south of the Tholos, which was the seat of the Athenian generals, and the Hipparcheion, also used for activities of military nature. The remains of a building of the mid-5th cent. outside the southwest corner of the Agora have been attributed to the unidentified public prison of Athens, while others consider it as a building of commercial character or as a hospice.

Amongst the monuments of the lower city a special place was reserved for the impressive marble temple which crowns the hill of Agoraios Kolonos, the so-called Hephaisteion. It is the best preserved ancient Greek temple on Greek soil. Although it was not a part – strictly speaking – of the wider project of reconstruction, it is relatively contemporary with other perikleian buildings (somewhere between 460 and 450 - 448), while in a later phase its upper part was completed and the cult statues of Hephaistos and Athena (421 - 415) were set up in its interior. Amongst the houses near the southwest corner of the Hephaisteion there might have been another sanctuary, the Eurysakeion.

In Kerameikos the sanctuary of the Tritopaters (Tritopatreion) was recognized amongst other monuments thanks to inscribed horoi of the late 5th cent. Epigraphic evidence inside the sacred temenos attest to its existence already from the 6th cent. Another distinct area in periklean Athens was the so-called ‘Demosion Sema’, ‘Polyandrion’ or simply ‘Mnema’, a renowned place inextricably related to Kerameikos in antiquity, extending in front of the Dipylon at the wayside of the road to the Academy, which constituted the official public burial place of the Athenians deceased at war.

In the area of Ilissos, south of the Olympieion, the temple of Apollo Delphinios (?) was built in the middle of the 5th cent. (ca. 450 BC). A small temple at the left river-bank of Ilissos, dating to 445 - 435, has been identified either with the sanctuary of Artemis Agrotera or with the Metroon in Agrais where the minor Eleusinia, preparatory of the Great Eleusinia, are said to have been performed. Somewhere in the vicinity there was also the sanctuary of Aphrodite ‘en Kipois’ (440 - 430? BC), the exact place of which remains unidentified in modern research.

At the nearest to the city gymnasium of Athens, the Lykeion, significant works took place. Vague epigraphic evidence and archaeological findings bear witness to the execution of several minor works of public interest (construction of baths, repairs of fountainhouses) in the city with the aim to cover basic needs such as the lack of adequate water supply. Special attention was paid by the Athenians to the embellishment of the city through the configuration of large groves and gardens in the Agora, at the three big Gymnasia and elsewhere. The sanctuary of Apollo Delios in Phaleron (432/1 BC) might have appertained to a minor building project achieved through the common contribution of the state and of individuals. Amongst the small-scale works undertaken at the suggestion and under the surveillance of Perikles is included the ‘Stoa Alphitopolis’ in Piraeus, a space used for the storage and trade of imported grains.

Unavoidably, the impact of the periklean building project influenced the rest of Attica. At the sanctuary of Eleusis, the space of the temenos was enlarged to the south and subsequently the peribolos of the early 5th cent. BC was extended for its better protection; the Telesterion, the temple of the mystic cult of Demeter and the Kore, already in use for several decades and gone through different building phases until its destruction by the Persians, was reconstructed acquiring huge dimensions. On Cape Sounion, the erection of the new temple of Poseidon (ca. 449/8 – 440 BC) was followed by a refurbishment of the whole sanctuary in the last quarter of the 5th cent., while at the sanctuary of Athena a second temple in honour of the goddess was built. The new temple of Nemesis in Rhamnous (before 450/49 BC, works persisted in the 430s BC and 420s BC), whose construction was interrupted at the outbreak of the Peloponnesian War in 431 BC, was practically left unfinished but was in operation for a long time. In the second half of the 5th cent. we can also list the unfinished Stoa of Thorikos, a building of unusual shape and insufficiently studied.

In conclusion, one more marble Doric temple was constructed in Attica in this period. In Roman times (1st cent. A.D.) it was transferred literally in its entirety from the place where it stood initially (Acharnai or Pallene) to the Agora, where it was recomposed on new foundations and was dedicated to the cult of Ares (440 BC).

As for the private residences of this period we do not know much. Their main bulk concentrated around the Acropolis and the Agora, occupying almost all the city area. It seems that in the third quarter of the 6th cent. Athens had expanded so much that it reached the borders of the new fortification walls. On the eve of the Peloponnesian War, at the triangular space shaped between the city wall and the Sacred Gate, the so-called Building Z was built (Z1, ca. 430), succeeded by the Building Z2 (fourth quarter of 5th cent.) and Z3 (mid-4th cent.) as well as by two more buildings (Z4 and Z5) in the 3rd cent. Even though it is possible to discern some shared characteristics of the Athenian houses, their shape presents irregularities, their internal layout varies and their density at different parts of the city is not homogeneous. By contrast with Piraeus, where the circumstances allowed for the realization of a standardized building plan, notwithstanding the constant increase of the population, the city of Athens continued to lack an organized town-plan and to develop freely and unevenly.

Private homes during this period formed a contrast with the fine public buildings. Narrow, streets surfaced with gravel wound in irregular fashion around the foot of the acropolis, as on many island towns today, and the houses erected on them had to accommodate their peculiarities. They were usually built of sun-dried mud brick on stone bases. Small homes were often a single room with a courtyard in front, and other rooms on either side of it. Furniture was sparse. Many houses had stone-lined cess pits. 'Home' meant less to the Athenians than it does to us. The men met each other and conducted their business in the agora, and took their exercise and recreation in the gymnasia.

Nonetheless, it must be noted that during these years the modern Athens urban layout begun to take its current form. So, during the 5th century BC, and in spite of the common belief, many of the current main roads of Athens (quite familiar to modern Athenians as a matter of fact) took their initial shape, and they can be traced back to the classical period.

In the list of these roads we can include among others many streets of the area of Plaka, being a noteworthy one Adrianou street, another one is Tripodon street. Now if we move towards the area of Syntagma square and further to the northeast; we may find that current Athinaidos-Perikleous-Karageorgi Servias-Georgiou A´-Vassilissis Sofias can be traced back to those times as they follow exactly the course of the ancient road to Marathon, crossing the ancient city wall through the gate of Diochares located exactly at the intersection of Kar. Servias with Voulis.

To the south we find that current Vouliagmenis Ave. follows the course of ancient Road to Sounion.

In the area around the Acropolis we can mention Dionissiou Aeropagitou-Apostolou Pavlou.

Now changing our view towards the northern gates of the ancient city; and what may surprice to more than one modern Athenian is the fact that the triangular pattern of the historical center of Athens can be traced back to the classical period. As the combination of Stadiou-Sofokleous-Kornis-Psaromilingou (the two latter being parallel to Pireos road and just 100 meters away from it), follows the diagram of the ancient walls of Athens; from the intersection of Kolokotronis and Stadiou all the way to Keramikos; and from there joining the road to Piraeus (which is no other but current Pireos Ave) through the gate of Dypilon; this format continued to exist throughout the upcoming centuries to our days.

At the north side of the walls, in the intersection of Sofocleous with Eolou, there was the ancient Acharnian gate, from where the road to Decelea started heading to the north; and believe it or not that road was modern Patission Ave. It must be added that after entering the city through the Acharnian gate, this road followed the direction of modern Eolou all the way down to the intersection with Athinaidos, which, as mentioned above, was the continuation of the road to Marathon, within the city walls.

Another road worth of mention is Kifissias (which still holds its ancient name); though unlike nowadays which finds its ends at its intersection with Alexandras, back in those days it continued all the way down along modern Zoodohou Pigis st. to the Acharnian gate, sharing the entrance to the city with the Decelian road (Patission), and with the road to Acharnes (Acharnon), which back in those days instead of finding its end in the area of modern Vathis square, it continued its way crossing modern Omonoia diagonally to the Acharnian gate. Stratigraphical evidence indicates that the street was laid out in 480 BC and was widely used throughout the fifth century BC.

The area of the Acharnian gate area was a heavily transited one (by the standards of those days of course), as it was the crossroads of the three main thoroughfares mentioned above. We could see this area as the Omonoia square of classical Athens; and as a matter of fact it is not that far from there, just 500 meters away.

From ancient accounts it is well known that the marbles of the Acropolis, which have been extracted from Penteli, were brought using the Road to Kifissia; passing through the Acharnian gate to enter the ancient city. So the next time you are standing at the intersection of Eolou and Sofokleous, close your eyes for a moment and imagine those carts bringing the marbles of the glorious buildings to be built on the sacred rock and entering city through this same point you are standing in.

The archaeological site at Kotzia Square, opposite the Athens City Hall, yielded many important archaeological finds. It is located directly outside the ancient city's fortification, part of which was also revealed and is currently preserved in front of the National Bank of Athens building and at the Aiolou pedestrian precinct. Excavations revealed the three ancient roads, a dense cemetery dating from the Protogeometric period (ninth century BC) until the Late Roman period (third century AD), a large complex of pottery workshops of the Late Roman period (late third - fourth century AD), and several houses.
Part of the ancient Acharnon road, (which as mentioned before continued its course to the Acharnian gate and crossing Omonoia diagonally, occupies the centre of the archaeological site.

The cemetery stretched on both sides of Acharnean Street. The grave gifts found in association with burials and cremations cover a wide time span. They include all manner of terracotta vases, some of them by famous ancient pottery workshops, human and animal figurines, glass and terracotta unguentaria, bronze mirrors, gold jewellery, coins, and other objects. A large number of sculptures from funerary monuments, such as columns, pillars, and marble vases, were discovered throughout the excavated area. Many of these were inscribed with the names and origin of those buried in the cemetery.

We should not include in this list roads like the Sacred way (Iera Odos), as it can be traced back to the Archaic period; or the Peripatos road, located at the north side of the Acropolis and which is a Mycenean road.
So basically and mostly the foundations of the subsequent layout of Athens streets may be found during this period of history. For more detailed and visual information check the ancient maps of Athens included in the Roman period section.

When Ρericles dominated the city by the force of his personality, the arts flourished, and men of letters everywhere looked to Athens for stimulation and patronage. Ρericles himself called the city 'an education for Greece.' Herodotus was encouraged to give readings of his travels in the Persian Empire. Aeschylos, Sophocles and Εuripedes brought Greek drama to new heights. The plays were put on by wealthy men, who were awarded monuments for their work, of which the monument to Lysikrates in Plaka is the sole survivor.

Map of ancient Attika

View of ancient Piraeus:

View of ancient Piraeus:

Map of ancient Athens-Piraeus:

Last edited by GrigorisSokratis; July 26th, 2008 at 10:51 PM.
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Classical Athens III - The Great Peloponnesian War (431 BC-404 BC)


It was inevitable that resentment among the so-called 'allies' of the Athenians at their subjugation and exploitation would fester. The 'allies' were subject to the laws decided upon in the Athenian ekklesia: Athenian magistrates were imposed on them; legal cases involving the death penalty had to be referred to Athens. Athenian coinage and weights and measures were enforced upon them. The Allies had discovered the lessons, so obvious in our own day, that an 'alliance' with a greater power may turn into the subversion of one's own government and effective subjugation, and that democracies may give some liberty to their own citizens, while simultaneously denying it to those of other states effectively under their power. Resentment was also felt keenly in rival Sparta, which had for centuries been regarded as the leading power in Greece. It was equally natural that all those independent states, such as Megara and Corinth, which felt themselves threatened by the growing power and 'political meddlesomeness' of the Athenians should line up with 'the Spartans and their allies', known to history as the Peloponnesian League. Thucydides says that: 'the growth of Athenian power alarmed the Spartans and compelled them to war.' After a false start, war broke out between those states loyal to Athens and those which wished to bring about the downfall of Athenian power.

This was a terrible war, involving at one time or another most of the Greek states. Since the Athenians were identified with democracy, and rule by 'the Many', the dominant aristocracies of the conservative states feared the attraction of Athens for their own people, and in many states, civil wars broke out, with the aristocrats favouring Sparta, and the common people Athens.

This was not merely a war between states, it was a struggle between two different ideals and ways of life. The Spartans stood for the old-fashioned militaristic values of the Dοrians, while the Athenians represented radical new ways of thinking, which required rational justification for institutions and actions rather than blind appeal to custom. This made many fearful, even among the aristocrats in Athens itself.

Ρericles' policy was to fight offensively at sea, where the large Athenian navy could be used to best advantage, and to fight defensively on land, withdrawing behind the Long Walls and avoiding direct confrontation with the superior Spartan hoplites, who were by far the most powerful and prestigious fighting force in Greece.

During the war, each year, at the beginning of the campaigning season the Spartans invaded Attica, and the country people were obliged to abandon their homes and fields, and retire behind the Long Walls. Many encamped in an area below the eastern walls of the acropolis known as the 'Black Stones', where the Delphic oracle had expressly forbidden settlement, in the area of the modem Anafiotika. An unforeseen consequence was that, crowded together under siege conditions during the hot summer months, epidemics broke out. Ρericles himself died in this manner in 429BC.

Athens was an open society, and the long, inconclusive but damaging war provoked some real questioning. Socrates began his own struggle for understanding and truth in his dialogues with leading young aristocrats. Amazingly, after six years of warfare Aristophanes was able to put on his play The Acharnians, a plea for peace, ascribing the beginning of the war to 'a bunch of good-for-nothing individuals.' It won first prize. How many modem states, including those which most loudly claim to be democratic, would tolerate the public performance of an anti-war play during a long and exhausting war, let alone reward its author!

When Mytilene seceded from the Delian League, the Assembly voted to massacre all the inhabitants, sending out a ship with those orders. On the next day, the people relented and contented themselves with ordering the destruction of the city's defences and the loss of their fleet and land. They sent out another ship with new orders to overtake the first. At the time this was seen by some Athenian aristocrats as an indication of the inherent instability of democracy.

After a decade of bitter fighting a truce was agreed by the exhausted parties in 421BC, after the Athenians had managed to capture some Spartans hoplites on an island in the mouth of the bay of Pylos. Contrary to the reputation which they carefully fostered, the Spartans hoplites surrendered.

Influence in Athens began to pass from generals to orators, such as Kleon, who could sway the Ekklesia. Remarkably, when the fighting ended, building immediately began again in Athens. In 420BC the Asklepeion at the southern foot of the Acropolis was founded, when the god was brought up to the city from Zea, perhaps ultimately from Epidaurus. Work began on the temple of Athena Nike and the Erechtheion.

The Ρeace was not destined to last. The most prominent man of his day in Athens, the handsome and charismatic young nobleman Alcibiades, persuaded the Athenians to launch an ambitious naval expedition to go to Sicily to threaten the grain supply of the Spartans and their allies by taking Syracuse, the Spartans' most powerful allies on that island. This was the largest naval expedition the Athenians ever mounted, and it set out with high expectations.

One night just before the fleet was due to set sail, some of the erect phalloi of the Hermai, stylised representations of the god Hermes which were set up on property boundaries in the streets, were broken off. This shocked many conservative citizens, and after the departure of the expedition, investigations were held. Household slaves were interrogated, and Alkibiades and his friends were accused of mocking the Eleusinian mysteries in wild drinking parties. The state trireme was sent to arrest Alkibiades and bring him back to Athens to face trial in the absence of his supporters in the fleet. Not unaware of his enemies' intentions, he escaped and offered his services to the enemy.

Without the dynamic leadership of Alcibiades, the Sicilian Expedition proved a disaster. Now poorly led, after a failed siege of Syracuse, the Athenians were themselves threatened by Sicilian forces reinforced by Spartans. The besiegers found themselves besieged. After several failed attempts to extricate themselves, the Athenians were pursued and cut down. The survivors were imprisoned in the quarries of Syracuse, and either died there or were sold as slaves. Late in 413BC the news of the disaster, and the total loss of ships and men, reached Athens.

The war had already been resumed. But this time, on the advice of Alcibiades, the Spartans converted Dekelea, twenty kilometres from the acropolis, into a permanent base, so that the end of the campaign season would bring no relief to the besieged country folk packed behind the Long Walls. Some twenty thousand slaves from Laurion deserted to the Spartans at Dekelea, and the lucrative silver mines had to be closed down. Yet despite the odds, the indefatigable Athenians built themselves a new navy using a special reserve fund they had set aside for such an emergency twenty years before.

Under the strain of renewed war and siege, bitter social divisions began to appear once more among the Athenians. In 411 BC a group of four hundred oligarchs took over the city for several months, breaking into the bouleuterion and paying of the councillors. This coup was overthrown by the sailors who returned from Samos and had a law passed which condemned to death anyone trying to subvert democracy. Yet despite their internal problems, a victory at sea persuaded the Athenians to turn down a Spartan offer to end the war in 410 BC.

The Spartans called upon Persian aid, and after a long struggle of attrition, Athenian naval power was finally extinguished in the battle of Aegospotami in 405 BC, when their ships were surprised onshore and one hundred and sixty destroyed. It was said that on the night when the news of this defeat was brought to Piraeus by the galley Paralos, the people of Athens first knew that something was terribly wrong when they heard a cry of wailing approaching the city from the port. Not only was Athens' last fleet lost, the route from the Black Sea, by which the grain which fed Athens was imported was severed. Athens was blockaded for several months by land αnd sea by Lysandros.

In 404 B.C., facing famine, the city finally surrendered. Α Spartan garrison was installed, and the Athenians were forced to demolish their own Long Walls to the sound of pipe music.

At the west part of the Acropolis, just below the tower of Athena Nike, several traces confirm the existence of a sanctuary of Aphrodite Pandemos, close two which the twin cults of Gaia Kourotrophos and Demeter Chloe were sheltered. On the North Slope we find the sanctuary of Aphrodite and Eros, the cave of Aglauros and in a westward direction, between the cave of Pan and the Klepsydra, the caves of Apollo Hypoakraios and of Olympian Zeus. On the South Slope of the rock, between the Odeion of Perikles and the east part of the Pelargic wall the sanctuary of Asklepios and Hygieia was consecrated by the individual Telemachos (420). Pausanias makes mention of a temple of Themis and of the tomb of Hippolytos west of the Asklepieion, yet none of the two monuments has been uncovered. Between the Asklepieion and the temple of Themis lay a small fountainhouse. On the same side, at a little lower level, a space surrounded by a simple enclosure was dedicated to the Nymph (Nymphaion), along with an altar of raw stones of 650 - 625 (the earliest known altar of Athens). The Theatre of Dionysus of the 5th century has not survived. Moreover, in the area of Ilissos was situated the sanctuary of Kodros, Neleus and Nymph Basile (second half of 5th century, ca. 418/7 BC).

Except for the new cult facilities, building activity persisted within the city walls throughout the war, the emphasis now laid on public structures. The Basileios Stoa, damaged during the Persian invasion, was repaired in the 5th cent., perhaps in this period. In 416/5-409/6 a New Bouleuterion was erected in the Agora, west of the Old one. The cult of the mother of gods Rhea, previously housed in an archaic temple just north of the Old Bouleuterion which was destroyed by the Persians, was transferred to the Old Bouleuterion which was renamed as the Metroon (409 - 405). Thus, the Metroon-Bouleuterion-Tholos complex constituted the actual core of Athenian democracy, sheltering several key administrative functions. In connection to the Metroon and to its permanent archival collection lay the nowadays lost pedestal of the Eponymous Heroes (ca. 420?) used for provisional information of the citizens and for ephemeral record-keeping; only parts of its foundations have been preserved. North of the Old Bouleuterion (Metroon), on the east descend of Agoraios Kolonos, the Synedrion, an additional meeting place of the citizens was instituted in these years and remained in use until the late 4th cent. Aside from the buildings of political, administrative and legislative character, more public buildings were raised in the Agora: the South Stoa I (430 - 420), along the south side, was used for commercial purposes; two building complexes, at the northwest and southeast corner of the Agora respectively, probably functioned as lawcourts. Outside the borders of the Agora square we also meet private buildings, such as workshops of metalworkers, sculptors and marble-workers, a shoemaking industry and wine shops.

Perhaps on the occasion of the loimos, the Athenians dedicated a statue of Apollo Alexikakos, made by Kalamis, and another one in honour of Herakles Alexikakos at the heroe’s sanctuary in the Agora. In the same period, the cult of Asklepios was introduced in Piraeus along with that of Bendis, a healing deity of Thracian origin.

Artemis was given special tribute, too; her sanctuary in Brauron was adorned with an impressive Doric stoa (around 425), while a phase of the temple of Artemis and a bridge constructed above Erasinos River are thought of as contemporary to the stoa. A later inscription informs us of the repair of at least seven monuments of the sanctuary. In Oropos the sanctuary of the deified hero Amphiaraos (Amphiaraeion), to whom curative virtues were attributed as well, acquires monumental form for the first time via the erection of a small temple and two altars (second half of 5th cent.). In the area of Daphni two more sanctuaries, dedicated to Apollo and to Aphrodite, seem to have existed.

Another strong indication of the unpleasant atmosphere created in Athens because of the loimos and of the diffusion of the cults of healing deities was the situation on Delos, birthplace of Apollo, whose sanctuary was under Athenian control in this period. In an attempt to propitiate the traditional destroyer-redeemer god Apollo, the Athenians disinterred and transferred all burials to the neighbouring Rheneia and raised a new Doric temple (around 425) to adorn the sanctuary.

View of part of the Themistoclean wall found during an excavation in Dragatsaniou street. (By I. Travlos, “Urban development of Athens, 2nd edition, Athens 1993).
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Classical Athens IV - The Intellectual Centre (404 BC - 339 BC)


The long period of warfare and plague had set up tensions within the city which could only be resolved by blood, and the Athenians now turned upon each other. Lysandros allowed the 'Thirty tyrants', an anti-democratic group of aristocrats, to assume power, upon which they instituted a reign of terror. Thrasyboulos retreated to the fortress of Phyle, gathered support, and returned to restore the democracy in 403 BC. But the horrors which Athenians had undergone raised profound questions of responsibility and punishment in the minds of many. Socrates, who was associated with many of the aristocrats who had imposed the tyranny, was selected as a scapegoat, and forced to drink hemlock in 399 BC.

Despite their failure in the great war, the Athenian spirit was irrepressible, and in 394 BC Conon defeated a Spartan fleet off Knidos in Asia Minor. The Long Walls and the fortifications of Athens and Piraeus were soon rebuilt, and an Athenian League was founded in alliance with Thebes. The Thebans destroyed Spartan supremacy once and for all under Epaminondas at the battle of Leuktra. From that point onwards, the Athenians began to fear the Thebans as their main rivals.

After the termination of the war (404 BC) and until the end of the 5th century no remarkable building activity is attested in Athens. The most characteristic of all is the example of the Acropolis, where from that point up to the end of antiquity no public structures were added to the older ones, with the exception of the small monopteral temple of Rome and Augustus (end of 1st century AD). The Athenians were obliged by the Lakedaimonians to demolish all the city walls (of the asty, of Piraeus and the Long Walls) and to dissolve their fleet. On the other hand, the Thirty Tyrants did not possess enough power to promote any considerable building project. According to the written sources, they established their headquarters in the Tholos and took action for the reconfiguration of the space of the Pnyx, the old meeting-place of the Assembly. We also know that about 1.400 people were put to death by the Thirty Tyrants after trials which took place in the Basileios Stoa.

In 403, the restoration of democracy in Athens by Thrasyboulos and the quick recovery of the city from the tribulations of war created new potential for development. Nevertheless, the dedication of the Athenians to the effort to maintain their strong position in the Greek political-military nexus in comparison with Sparta and Thebes and to achieve an advantageous balance on the level of alliances in order to gain control of the administration of Delphi deprived Athens from notable building projects.

The Spartans who fell in the battle in support of the oligarchic party of Athens were buried in a prominent position of a large burial ground (Tomb of the Lakaidemonians) which flanked the road which led from Dipylon to the Academy where Plato had sheltered his homonymous philosophical school. The Mint (around 400) at the southeast corner of the Agora, close to South Stoa I and perhaps in relation to it, is one of the few samples of building activity in Athens in the last decade of the 5th cent. In the years around 400 the Pompeion was erected in the area of Kerameikos, between the Dipylon and the Sacred Gate, the starting-point of the Sacred Way (21 - 22 km. long) which ended at the sanctuary of Demeter in Eleusis.

If the 5th century marked Athens’ characterization as an ‘empire’ and the Hellenistic years as a ‘school’, the 4th cent. was something in between: democracy was reinstated in 403 by Thrasyboulos an the changes brought about because of this institutional turn were accepted by the Athenians uncomplainingly and under normal conditions. The desire for change was such that, unlike in the past, when changes were always related to a certain person, no new protagonist was distinguished in the political scene.

Yet, the permanent residents of Athens, were not going to enjoy the restoration of democracy of a long time. This happened because on the diplomatic level Athens of the time of Konon and Iphikrates soon was forced to confront the Spartans at the Boeotian-Corinthian War of 395 - 387, yet this time having by its side an old enemy, Persia, within the spectrum of the Peace of the Basileus (‘Antalkideios’, 387). In particular, at the naval battle of Knidos (394) Konon stood out as a real leader of a fleet which was basically financed by the Persians. All these facts have left their imprint on numerous burial monuments of the Kerameikos; the grave stele of Dexileos (394/3) is one of the most representative examples. After the Athenian victory over the Spartans at the naval battle of Knidos, the city walls were reconstructed by Konon.

The constant struggle against Sparta resulted in the attempt for the establishment of the 2nd Athenian League in 378, whose overall appraisal was characterized by mixed feelings, regardless of the panegyrics of orators such as Isokrates. Thebes, whose power was ascending, had adhered to the League up to the moment of its defeat by Sparta at Leuktra (371), which led to the precipitation of the convergence between Athens and Sparta, in spite of the aggressiveness revealed on the part of Athens through the double attempt to re-occupy Amphipolis and the establishment of an Athenian klerouchia on Samos (366).

With regard to the poleodomic data of the period, the institution of the 2nd Athenian League didn’t suffice for Athens, which had not recovered fully from the past turbulence. Therefore, during the first half of the 4th cent. building activity in the city is poor. The appreciable but secondary role of Athens in the arena of foreign policy and the intense antagonism between the Spartans, the Thebans, the Thessalians and the Macedonians for primacy in Greece rendered indispensable the fortification of the gap known as the Dema between Mt. Parnes and Mt. Aigaleos so as to close the natural invasion route into Attica from the plain of Eleusis.

The battle at Mantineia (362), along with the developments in the insular parts of the Aegean and the War of the Allies (358 - 355), which led to the break-up of the Athenian League anew and to the outburst of the 3rd Sacred War, wavered the cohesion of Athenian diplomacy; as a result, when in 351 Demosthenes attempted to shift the focus of attention for the first time to the forthcoming menace from the north, and in pariculat to Philip II of Macedonia, it was too late to reverse the situation to the benefit of Athens. The Peace of Philokrates (346), just after the final loss of Amphipolis, offered the Athenians a sense of ease only temporarily.

Prosperity returned to Athens no sooner than the middle of the 4th cent., when the systematic exploitation of the mines of Laureion yielded considerable economic profit to the city.

Despite this military revival, there seems to have been a sense at the time that something wonderful had passed away for ever. The domination of Athens by its past had already begun. People began to look backwards. Even the language of the past came to be considered more dignified than that of the present.

Athenian democracy came to be increasingly dominated by orators, who were trained to speak in public. They were the lawyer-politicians of their day. From 355 BC, Euboulos directed Athenian policy towards peace, a less ambitious foreign policy, social harmony and sound management of the economy.

During these years several new institutions came intο existence which made Athens the centre of the scholastic world, institutions founded by intellectual giants without peer. Plato, a pupil of Socrates, created a philosophical school outside the city walls at the shrine to Akademos, from which it took its name as “the Academy.” This drew other philosophers to Athens, and in 335 BC, Plato's student, Aristotle, from Stagira, in Macedonia, in turn founded the Lycaeum, outside the walls on the other side of the city, near the present Parliament Building. At the end of the fourth century Zeno of Κition, in Cyprus, founded the Stoic School, and Epicurus of Abdera, in Thrace, created the school which bore his name. Yet their work, however profound, was essentially reflective. It lacked something of the freshness, and the sense of towing seamlessly out of the experience of life, of the thought of the fifth century.

In the middle of the fourth century, the political and military centre of gravity in Greece moved northwards, to Macedonia, where a strong-minded king, Philip II was able to build up a powerful permanent army and extend his power over all of Greece. The orator Demosthenes saw clearly what was happening and warned the citizens of Athens of their danger. But Philip decisively crushed all opposition at Chaeronea in 338. This battle can be seen as the point of Greek history when finally after centuries of being politically divided into city-states and kingdoms the Greeks were finally unified into one single state. The Athenians might have expected the worst, but by this time the name of their city was already surrounded by such a halo of renown that the Macedonian king, conscious of his cultural heritage, spared the city. His son, Alexander, personally visited bearing the ashes of the Athenian dead yet when Philip died and Thebes rebelled, the οnly reason that the Athenians were not directly involved was that its army was too slow to take the field.

Alexander, no less proud of this inheritance, nursed the ambition to take revenge for the destruction of Athens by Xerxes by taking the offensive in the clash of civilisations. Α brilliant general, he was so speedily and so overwhelmίngly successful in his invasion of Asia that in a few years he was able to take over the Empire, from Egypt to what is now Afghanistan, and then to extend its eastern borders to India. He sent back to Athens as trophies of his victory three hundred Persian shields, which were thereafter hung in the Parthenon.

Macedonian hegemony turned out to be of no immediate disadvantage to the Athenians. During the period of the great expedition, the orator Lykourgos, a financial genius, was able to resume the ambitious building plans abandoned by Pericles because of the outbreak of the Peloponnesian War. He replaced the treasures of the Acropolis spent during the Great War. He repaired the walls, the ship-sheds, and many of the public buildings. He renovated the Pnyx, built a stoa between the temple and theatre of Dionysos, laid out the theatre of Dionysos in its present form, and also constructed the first Panathenaic Stadium.
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Hellenistic Athens – Cultural capital of Hellenism (339 BC - 168 BC)


In the following decades Athens, under Euboulos and Lykourgos, was a different city, which strived to find a new role in Greek reality. Using education as a vehicle, it turned into a distinct intellectual centre and it managed to preserve its previous glare.

In the third quarter of the 4th century BC, while Alexander turned his attention to the East campaigning against the Persians, Athens went through a phase of relative calmness and economic growth. Under the guidance of Euboulos, new plans were put into practice for the reconstruction of older buildings and the erection of new ones, which were completed by Lykourgos, thus providing the city with structures proper for the hosting of various religious, military and other cultural activities. Other projects of minor range have been connected with the two men, yet there is no clear evidence about them.

On the South Slope of the Acropolis the sanctuary of Asklepios was enriched through the addition of an altar, of a small temple and of an imposing two-storeyed stoa. The big Theatre of Dionysos was refurbished, while a second temple was built – at a spot different from that of the first temple – in honour of the god at his sanctuary (late 4th century BC), which became full of decades of trophies from theatrical and musical competitions. Indirectly connected with the Theatre of Dionysos, lay the aforementioned Street of the Tripods, which led from the sanctuary of Dionysos Eleuthereus to the east and around the Acropolis, heading to the Prytaneion. Along the street were set up a series of tripods which had been awarded as prizes to the choregoi (patrons) of victorious theatrical productions; amongst them only the Choregic Monument of Lysikrates (335/4 BC) has reached us in good state of preservation.

The cardinal meeting-place of the Athenians, the Pnyx, already in use from the end of the 6th cent. and reoriented at the time of the Thirty Tyrants (404/3 BC), went through a third building phase (345/0 - 335/0 BC). A large stepped speaker’s platform, the Bema, was chiseled out of the hill’s surface at the southwest to serve the needs of the speakers more efficiently, supported by a strong retaining wall which was raised to sustain the area reserved for the gathering of the auditorium. To these were added two stoai, presumably for the protection of the audience, which were never fully carried out.

In the Agora, where interest in new constructions was limited also in this period, several buildings were erected. The temple of Apollo Patroos at the west side (2nd half of 4th century BC, perhaps around 330 BC), between the Stoa of Zeus Eleutherios and the Metroon, was founded upon the relics of an older building of the 6th cent., which probably belonged to an archaic predecessor of the temple. The remains of a small building, contemporary with the temple of Apollo, between the temple and the Stoa of Zeus, have been identified with the small temple dedicated to the cult of Zeus Phratrios and Athena Phratria.

Around 330 BC a second monumental pedestal of the Eponymous Heroes was raised along the west side, at the spot where it is seen today. It seems logical to assume that a series of rectangular structures at the northeast corner, some of which were not finished, functioned as lawcourts. A rare example of a monumental water-clock (klepsydra, second half of 4th century BC), found during the excavations, might have been used for the measurement of time of the speeches delivered in the lawcourts. Its only parallel was found in Oropos, where it has been preserved almost intact. A new irrigation facility, the Southwest Fountainhouse, was constructed in 350-325 BC at the southwest corner of the Agora square. Taking into account the excessive care shown by the Athenians in the construction of other irrigation works, it is reasonable to claim that in the second half of the 4th century BC the city faced a period of intense drought: another public fountainhouse was built next to the Dipylon gate (perhaps replacing an older fountainhouse of the 5th century BC) and a new aqueduct was made for the water-supply of the city from springs on the feet of Mt. Parnes.

Many of the athletic contests of the Panathenaia, which until then were hosted in the Agora together with theatrical shows, were transferred to the southeast side of Athens, near the Ilissos River. There, at a physical gorge between two hills, the Panathenaic Stadium was built; its constructional details cannot be determined with precision because of the marble stadium of the 2nd century BC which lies above it. At the same area, north of the sanctuary of Kodros, Neleus and Nymphe Basile, several remains of the end of the 4th century BC have been excavated and have been identified by some researchers with the Lawcourt at the Palladion. Great emphasis was laid also on the development of the Gymnasium of the Lykeion, where Aristotle founded his philosophical school in 335 BC.

Piraeus, the main haven of Athens, was furnished with military facilities in the years of Lykourgos. Its three ports (Kantharos, Zea, Mounichia) were supplied with ship sheds for the protection of the Athenian triereis, replacing older structures which the Athenians were compelled to dismantle by the regime of the Thirty Tyrants. The Skeuotheke at Zea, where the detachable parts of the ships (sails and ropes) were stored, falls within the spectrum of these works. A great interest for the development of Piraeus was shown also by Demetrios Falireus (317 BC - 307 BC).

Similar attention was paid to the protection of the Athenian army. The walls in the areas which had been fortified already from the years of the Peloponnesian War (Eleusis, Rhamnous, Thorikos, Oinoe, Sounion, Phyle, Dekeleia, Panakton, Eleutherai) were preserved, reinforced by new supplementary facilities.

Last but not least, a huge marble prosthoon (porch) was added to the east façade of the Telesterion of Eleusis (works probably started in the 350s BC and were completed later by Lykourgos), while according to epigraphic evidence the irrigation facilities at the sanctuary of Amphiaraos were refurbished and another fountainhouse was repaired in Oropos.

With all the aforementioned works, the site-planning of Athens was brought to completion, despite the threats which would be brought into play by the forthcoming situations (Demetrios Poliorketes, Galatic danger). At the dawn of the 3rd cent., on account of the simultaneous crystallization of its poleodomic network and of the flourishing of all aspects of intellectual and philosophical life (Epikouros, Zenon), Athens succeeded in preserving a significant part of its past identity and to safeguard its presence in the new environment which arose after the death of Alexander the Great.

Despite the benefits of the peace imposed by the Macedonians, the call of freedom proved irresistible, and on Alexander's early death in June 323 BC the southern Greeks, including the Athenians, rebelled against their northern brothers. Feeling against the Northerners was so strong in Athens that Aristotle considered it prudent to retire to Chalkis. Under the leadership of Leosthenes, the rebels forced Antipater to retire Lamia, where he was besieged. During the course of siege operations Leosthenes was killed, and reinforcements from Macedonia forced the lifting of the siege. The northern Greeks fleet defeated the Athenians at Abydos and Amorgos; while the southern Greeks decisively defeated in battle on land by Antipater and Krateros at Kranon in Thessaly in August 322 BC. The future of Athens and all of southern Greece was to remain at the mercy of the vagaries of Macedonian politics.

Demades and Phokion, who had opposed the rebellion, were chosen to lead peace negotiations. The Macedonian generals insisted on a limitation of Athenian democracy, that the poorer half of the citizens be disenfranchised, and that those who had proposed the war be executed. Demosthenes fled the city and committed suicide when facing capture. Α garrison of northern Greeks was installed in Piraeus. When, in 319, the pro-Macedonian Demades and his son went to Antipater to request their removal, they were summarily tried and executed.

The death of Alexander did not merely spark a revolt in Greece, it ushered in a period of almost universal strife as his generals fought over the spoils of his empire. In Europe, when Antipater died, and passed on his territories to Polyperchon, bypassing his son, Kassander, civil war became inevitable. Kassander demanded of all the disputed cities that they transfer their allegiance to him, and Nicanor was sent to Athens to secure their loyaIty with the 'bribe' of a lavish programme of public entertainment. Polyperchon launched his appeal to the Athenians by calling for the restoration of full democracy.urging the citizens to take back their ancient rights.

In August 317 BC, Kassander occupied Aegina and Salamis, and Polyperchon was defeated at Megalopolis. The Athenians decided to make their peace with Kassander. The philosopher Demetrios of Phaleron, a student of the Lyceum, was chosen as one of the delegates sent to conduct the delicate negotiations with the new hegemon. Like his teacher, Aristotle, Demetrios was a polymath. He had written works on political theory and philology, on Athenian history and politics, and had collected the fables of Aesop for publication. He impressed Kassander so much that he was appointed governor of Athens.

Demetrios moved some power back to the ancient Council of the Areopagus, strengthened the powers of the “Guardians of the Laws”, and created a special force to police women. He seems to have been an austere man, who was much concerned at the social rivalries and dissatisfaction generated by ostentatious displays of wealth. He passed a series of sumptuary laws, for example, limiting parties to thirty guests, and allowing only plain small columns to be used as funerary monuments, in place of the ever more extravagant works of art which were crowding the roadsides out of the city. The liturgies rich men were expected to perform at festivals were abolished, and replaced by state sponsorship. Like most of his measures, this was to the benefit of the wealthy, since the liturgies had been a form of progressive taxation.

Demetrios held a census of the population, which revealed that at that time there were 40,000 citizens, which with their families were 140,000; the metics (those who did not have citizen rights and paid for the right to reside in Athens) were 70,000 while slaves were estimated between 150,000 to 400,000. No one can explain the huge number of slaves, even taking into account the numbers employed at Laurion, and most authorities believe his assessment to have been simply inaccurate.

When Ptolemy, ruler of Egypt, captured Megara and threatened Athens, his rival Antigonous sent his son Demetrios, later known as 'the Besieger', to Athens with a fleet. It was admitted into Piraeus by error, under the impression that it had been sent by Ptolemy. This second 'Demetrios' occupied the city, and exiled Demetrios of Phaleron.

Although officially he restored Athenian democracy and autonomy, he became, in effect, its tyrant. He moved into the sacred buildings connected with the Parthenon. He insisted on being initiated into all the degrees of the EIeusinian Mysteries on a single occasion, and the rules were stretched to accommodate his whims.

Between 307 BC and 261 BC the government was changed several times, as the successors of Alexander sought to control the city.

In 301 BC after the battle of Ipsos, at which Antigonous was killed, the wars between the successors of Alexander the Great came to an end, but this did not ensure peace for the Athenians. An attempt was made by a certain Lachares to drive out Demetrios. He took control of the city, but his opponents were able to hold on to Piraeus. From there Demetrios blockaded the city. Lachares took the gold plates from the statue of Athena Parthenos and melted them down to pay his soldiers But in the end the city was starved into surrender, and he fled.

In 287 B.C. there was another rebellion against Demetrios, with the support of Ptolemy. This was successful, and the Athenians regained genuine independence for a short time. An attempt by Ptolemy to throw the Macedon led, in 262 BC, to the reimposition of Macedonian rule over the city by Antigonous Gonatas Α third 'Demetrios', this one a grandson of Demetrios of Phaleron, was appointed governor. When he died, in 229 another revolt took place, headed by Diogenes, the commander of Piraeus.

During the extended wars between Macedonia and the Achaean League, the Athenians wisely sought to stay out of the endemic conflict, faνουriηg an alliance with the conveniently distant but powerful Ptolemies. The gymnasium of Ptolemy was probably erected during this period in honour of Ptolemy.

At the end of the third century there was a widespread revolt against Macedonian hegemony in Greece, and the Athenians were inclined to side with the rebels. In 200 B.C., two youths from Acarnania who happened to be in Eleusis casually slipped into the performance of the Mysteries. The penalty for unauthorised entry was death, and the youths were duly executed. There was an Acarnanian raid on Athens in reprisal, and so the Athenians, in concert with Rhodes, Pergamon and Rome, declared war on both them and their ally and hegemon, Philip V of Macedon.

Philip marched on Athens, occupying the suburbs, where his forces did considerable damage. Macedonian soldiers stormed the Dipylon Gate but found themselves trapped in an especially designed courtyard facing an inner gate, and under heavy fire from the defences on either side. It was only with difficulty that Philip extracted his forces, after which he gave up the siege. Perhaps out of vindictiveness, his troops systematically destroyed religious shrines across Attica, from Rhamnous to Brauron. Ultimately, it was the rising power of Rome which was to secure the exclusion of northern Greeks power from southern Greece, and in the end subdue it.

There followed another golden age in Athens. By now, thanks to the conquests of Alexander, Greek culture dominated the known world. In Asia and in Egypt Greek rulers presided over Greek courts, built Greek cities. The upper classes over whom they ruled everywhere rushed to adopt Greek culture and Greek fashions. 'Greek culture' largely meant 'Athenian culture', and as a resu1t, the fame of Athens as a centre of learning became unrivalled. Hellenised rulers sent their sons to Athens to be educated, so that students from all over the ancient world flocked to study in its great institutions of learning. Athens became the chief university city of the ancient world.

These Hellenised rulers often later remembered their student days in Athens fondly, and vied with each other as benefactors of the city. Eumenes IΙ, king of Pergamon (197 BC -159 BC) built a stoa on the southern slope of the Acropolis beside the Theatre of Dionysos. The original Stoa of Attalos in the agora was erected by his brother, King Attalos II (159 BC -138 BC) as a token of respect for the city in which he had received his education. Attalus' brother-in-law and fellow student, King Ariathes V of Cappadocia (162 BC -130 BC) built the Middle Stoa. These were shopping centres with colonnades for walking, doing business and sitting in the shade.

In 175-163 BC, the Seleucid emperor Antiochus IV employed a Roman architect, Cossutius, to resume Peisistratos' project of building a massive temple to Olympian Zeus. The roof was still unfinished when he died in 163 BC, and the project was abandoned once again. The huge columns still visible today date from this period.

Although in the process of time intellectual leadership in mathematics and science would pass to Alexandria, in Egypt, Athens would remain the centre of the philosophical world. The arts also flourished. During this period, Menander, a native of Kifissia, wrote his comedies, less dependent upon local events and personalties than the comedies of Aristophanes, and so more universally appreciable.

When, in 171 BC open war broke out between Rome and Greece again, the power of Macedonia was finally broken at the battle of Pydna. Greece fell decisively under the shadow of Roman hegemony.
In the new Hellenism that emerged from Alexander the Great’s expeditions, the city occupied a special place for its heritage.

Up until the end of the ancient world, Athens retained its old unregulated, dynamically created since the Archaic and the Classical periods, planning system. Our knowledge of that system is limited; still the general principles from which it emerged are obvious. Acropolis was the initial core. Some main streets started at its entrance, as well as from the road immediately surrounding it, proceeded radially throughout the city and came to an end at the city wall gates (for more information about ancient streets still existing today check the Classical Athens II section). In doing so, they left some free areas, the most important of which was the Marketplace.

As we shall see, the Hellenistic years brought only limited changes. During that time, the city preserved its old city wall borders, the gates at which the roads ended and its old neighbourhoods. We have some idea of the form of its planning network, with its winding paths and the accumulated surrounding habitats, from older excavations, (e.g. that of the hill of the Muses, or of the Areios Pagos), but also from more recent ones. There is evidence that, during the Hellenistic years, resistance to changes in the built environment was high, and that the practice of repairing old buildings dating from the classical era was common.

This unwillingness for radical changes could be attributed to the financial difficulties of the era; however, it could also be seen as an expression of conservatism and attachment to the givens of the great productive era that had preceded it. For instance, in the Hellenistic years are retained not only the great official shrines of the City (Asty), but also smaller (and rather only locally important) ones such as Aglaurus’; the worship of local deities is renewed, whereas that of newer ones emerges.

Any changes (in the shape of extensive destructions and degradations in architecture) seem to involve the countryside only and are due to the war campaigns that took place around the city during the 3rd Century BC.

An overall picture of the city’s residential areas (in which the drawbacks of its antiquity become obvious) is given in Pseudo-Decearchus’ (Ψευδο-Δικαίαρχος) famous section on Hellenistic Athens. However, immediately afterwards in that same description follows a discussion of the city’s impressive monuments, to which we should have directed our attention.

Faced with a general Hellenistic tendency towards regularity on the one hand (i.e. organization of buildings and free spaces into a system of rectangular axes), and towards large (both in width and length) roads surrounded by utility buildings on the other, the city of Athens, despite the inherent difficulties posed by its irregular design, responded quite satisfactorily. Its modernization was the product of generous external donations; however, it is also obvious that the intentions and the programming to achieve this existed within the city itself.

The Marketplace is the most well-known case. The systematic excavations and publications of the American School help us to follow its development. Around 180 BC, the huge Middle Gallery (Μέση Στοά) radically split the Marketplace into two, separating what was called ‘south square’ (with its commercial character), from the rest of the area, that retained its social and political functions.

In this manner it responded to the old Aristotelian requirement for making out one marketplace for the civilians and another for the merchants. The Middle had a clear north-to-south orientation and enclosed the communal area of the Marketplace to the south. The intention for regularity is proven on the one hand by the demolition of the older “South gallery I”, so that its successor, “South gallery II” would become parallel to the Middle; and on the other by the erection, twenty years later, of the Gallery of Attalus (shown in the picture below), with its axis strictly vertical to that of the Middle. The completion of the Hellenistic programs even later on seems to have given the communal area of the Marketplace an almost regular shape, surrounded exclusively by colonnades, with spaces between the buildings. In that manner it preserved a lot of its classical buildings, still managing to adapt to the general demand for regularity. Onians’ accurate observations of the existence of other axis relationships in the Athenian market, confirm the theoretical intentions of the era.

The same spirit of Hellenistic planning solutions seems to have characterized the road that connected the Dipylon (Δίπυλον) with the Marketplace, the one referred to as “Road”. Relatively early information provided by Pausanias (Παυσανίας) and Hemerius (Ιμέριος) convince us that it was 20 metres wide and encircled by galleries of commercial character, Hermes’ Gymnasium, Dionysius Melpomenos’ (Διονύσιος Μελπόμενος) temple, Euvulides’ (Ευβουλίδης) great offering and a host of statues. Sadly, the archaeological testimony is very poor and any representations are totally schematic.

Moreover, the dating is on the whole somewhat vague: the galleries of a road certainly much older (given that it had been part of the PanAthenian Procession) are dated after 86 BC, even though their materials had been used before, perhaps in the same location. Still, the great offering of Euvulides is testimony to the importance of the complex during the Hellenistic years.

Vague also is the archaeological evidence for another complex of gallery buildings of the Hellenistic era, erected north of the Acropolis in the immediate vicinity of Cerrystus’ Solar Clock and of the Office of the Market Inspection Officer Agoranomeio: the two-level gallery, whose parts were used for the repairs of the inside of the Parthenon much later; and another similar one, arranged in parallel a bit further to the north, presumably related to the “Romeus’ Gallery” (Stoa tou Romaiou), known from its inscription. Both of these galleries were identical in style to those of Attalus and of Eumenus. Although it is still too early for conclusions, it is certain that one more complex of rectangularly shaped utility buildings was incorporated into the planning network of Athens during the 2nd century BC.

Other planning interventions for the erection of utility buildings in Hellenistic Athens, in line with the spirit of that age, could be the Garden of the Muses and the gallery of Eumenus. The former is related to the program of Theophrastus close to the Lyceum, with galleries, gardens, and walkways; unfortunately however, archaeological testimony for it is extremely poor. The latter (shown in the picture below) is the realization of a grandiose Pergamenian idea of a gallery building and a huge walkway combined with a theatre, which called for the demolition of a string of old residences in the area south of the Acropolis.

Cerrystus’ Solar Clock

The absence of new holy complexes could be seen as the reason for not encountering in Hellenistic Athens what Pollit called ‘theatricality in the architecture of the era. Indeed, Pericles’ great program in honour of the city’s patron goddess (with the prestige that it had conferred upon the city) served all immediate and less immediate needs, as well as the city’s intentions. Consequently, the Hellenistic temples in Athens were few, small and isolated. Thus, the intention for dramatic views and unexpected changes in a visitor’s architectural impressions did not have the opportunity to manifest. Acropolis was the ancient power symbol and a stable point of reference for the whole City. Its shape didn’t lend itself to the Hellenistic pattern of constant accession with a variety of impressions. Any possible preferences for scenographic impressions were thus materialized by the galleries, with their various honorary and memorial monuments arranged at their fronts.

One should also examine the degree to which Athens was then modernized in terms of urban planning. Whether, in other words, it developed common facilities for its citizens, along the lines of the new urban centres of the time. Evidence from excavations, especially from those covering the entire the city is on this matter invaluable.

Despite Decearchus’ words of the city being “poor in water” («…ξηρά πάσα, ουκ εύυδρος…») it would seem that the situation in terms of water supply had improved markedly compared to the classical years. Excavations reveal the building of water aquaducts, one of which, notably, was constructed as a monument at the point where it met the city wall. It is also well established that within the city there were wells, water reservoirs, but also Hellenistic baths.

As already discussed, during the Hellenistic years, no changes were made to the road network. Nevertheless, circumstantial excavations have provided a lot of information about the roads, especially concerning repairs, new layerings and revetment walls that date from that time. The same more or less goes for the cemeteries that were used outside the city at the time, and on which there is also a lot of fresh information. These relate to the roads, but rarely do they present any architectural interest.

The tracings of Athens’s fortification don’t seem to have changed after the time of Conon (Κόνων) and their drastic improvements in the late 4th Century. However, excavations show that the new fortification practices of the Hellenistic years did have an impact on Athens, since in many places one can discern wall fortifications and the building of protective stank. It would seem that around the same time the Long Walls between Athens and Piraeus are abandoned. One of the scientific gains that resulted from the recent circumstantial excavations would have to be the now accurate representations of the walls’ course at the northern and eastern border of the Hellenistic city.

The Hellenistic tendency for introducing impressive plastic works in public areas (which, at the time, was fully materialized mainly in Pergamos), was combined, in Athens, with the old local tradition of attributing honour via the erection of memorial-honorary monuments – usually statues on pedestals. When we read Pausanias we realize that the important sculpture works had become, in Athens, landmarks and played a decisive part in the character of the city’s free areas, thus making for an impressive and dramatic urban planning style.

Perhaps the most impressive of these honorary monuments were the three identical, extremely tall, prismatic pedestals on which stood brazen four-horse chariots with statues of kings of Pergamos. These were exchanges through which the Municipality of Athens showed its gratitude to the kings for some serious benefactions. Only one has been retained in good condition – the one in front of the Acropolis Propylaia, known by its posterior name as “pedestal of Agrippas”, (shown in the picture below). The second one used to stand in front of the gallery of Attalus, and, according to recent excavations, the third one was placed at the northeastern corner of the Parthenon.

Equally impressive, not in terms of height, but of length, must have been the complexes of statues, which were placed in Athens during the Hellenistic years. Mainly from Pausanias, we learn about Attalus Ist’s great offering close to the southern wall of the Acropolis, with a lot (if relatively small) statues that depicted a battle of giants, amazons, and scenes from battles against the Persians and the Galls. Euvulides’ offering also showed a scene with a multitude of faces, 26 metres in height and placed along the monumental road, which, as was noted earlier, joined the Dipylon with the Marketplace. Although very little remains of that offering, it is clear that both the style of the marble statues and the work being intended as a prominent urban planning element place it among the most important works of the Hellenistic era.

Finally, a comparable incorporation of plastic works, in complexes or not, during the same period is Theophrastus’ complex in the Garden of the Peripatitics, close to the Lyceum.
We can comprehend Athens’ role in the development of Hellenistic architecture, by examining issues of morphology and typology in the various (and variously important) Athenian buildings.

The major innovation of the time in the area of architectural morphology is the propagation of the Corinthian rhythm and its use in perimetric temple colonnades. This innovation begins in Athens.

Indeed, the temple of Olympeion, which Antiochus epiphanus began to rebuild after 174 BC above the stereobate of an archaic building, was the first column-surrounded temple of Corinthian rhythm. The role played by the Athenian building as direct or indirect model seems to have been decisive, given that the rhythm, which during the 4th Century was only confined to the buildings’ interiors, emerged as the first choice of preference during the Roman times. Antiochus’ intentions aside, the importance of the Olympeion for Hellenistic architecture is indeed great.

A second building, along with its architecture, confirms Athens’ pioneering character in matters of rhythm. Joachim von Freeden put forth some convincing arguments, claiming that Andronicus Cerrystus’ famous Solar Clock is not a Roman construction, but a much older Hellenistic one. This means that the column capitals at its entrance, with the pointed reed leaves on their upper sections, not only precede the rest of their instances, but also that they are purely Hellenistic creations, simplified derivatives of the Corinthian capitals. As it would also seem, capitals of this form were used here later, and were generally associated with Athens. However, Cerrystus’ Solar Clock displays formal originality, both in its details, and as a whole. So strong is that originality that it has come to be mentioned in ancient sources – despite the fact that it did not serve as a direct model for other buildings.

The fact that, apart from the Olympeion, no other new temples were built in Athens at that time prevents us from studying here the evolution of the other two rhythms of the period. It is possible that some idiosyncracies of the 4th Century BC (for example using grey marble from Ymmetus combined with marble from Penteli continued. Still, except for ascertaining the good technical execution of architectural forms in marble, it is somewhat difficult to trace, in the city’s architecture, classicist phenomena comparable to those that can be observed in the city’s sculpture.

The intentions of the Hellenistic era for monumental dimensions and for the development of fronts in the form of plain surfaces manifest in Athens in the galleries, as already discussed. Most of these, of course, are not to be credited to the Athenian architecture; their Pergamenian origin is obvious not only from their famous donators, but also from a host of other elements. It was through these that the scenographic taste of Pergamos was brought into Greece. In the gallery of Attalus, behind an array of pedestals and statues, one could see a vast, neutral marble front, 1350 square metres in range, organized so as not to disrupt the established analogical relationships, and adding a luxury never before encountered in a utility gallery.

The obvious use of arches is also regarded as a Hellenistic novelty. Although it had already been used in Prieni to highlight a gate, in Athens (where it is introduced with the Pergamenian buildings) we encounter it a lot earlier in the so called “gate of the cavalry battle”, on one of the entrances to the Marketplace, together with the trophies and the mounted statue of a victory. If the suggested representation is accurate, we have here a deliberate use of an arch as a sign of triumph. The Athenian gate can thus be regarded as a pioneering work that heralds the Roman triumphal arches, two centuries later.
Improving the buildings’ functionality was also among the objectives of the Hellenistic architecture. During the 4th Century BC and the Hellenistic era, a lot of buildings are erected or modernized in the Athenian Marketplace, precisely in order to improve them in terms of functionality. Among these one can distinguish the Arms Depot, the new Parliament, and the City Register.

In the case of Basil’s gallery, some functional additions actually deduct from the building’s form. Modernization is also witnessed in the Gymnasiums and in Dionysus’ theatre, whose phases IV and V are identified as Hellenistic – but not the background building.

Perhaps even more interesting, though, are buildings with special functions, related to the then new scientific advances – the knowledge that started out in Alexandria and involved the exact measurement of time. Thus Cerrystus’ well known Solar Clock was built to house such a measuring system, while, at the same time, the oldest hourglass in the Marketplace was modernized so that it could make use of the new knowledge.

The Athenian residences have already been discussed in terms of urban planning. Cheap construction, difficulties in dating and various fragmentary excavations have made studying the Hellenistic house in an individual separate way difficult. It seems, however, that luxury houses were not unknown in Athens. Recent circumstantial excavations throughout the city bring to light an impressive number of houses remains (usually incompletely dated) which make a good study subject. Very roughly, it can be said here that only one of a house’s areas is identified, i.e. the men’s communal area (andron), with its standardized ground plan (usually with seven settees on a perimetrically elevated base) and a well looked after construction (mosaics or plaster on the floors). Notable also is the discovery of colour coatings which reproduced the well known Hellenistic system of imitation of equally-structured wallwork as found in houses in Delos and in Pella. Pompeio’s repaired apartments in the Hellenistic period confirm this way of decorating the inside of a living room in Athens as well.

The events in the Athenian political history for the 240 years after Alexander’s death are quite familiar. William Scot Fergusson’s book on the subject (which proposes a division into seven periods) has not lost its value. Obviously, after the battle in Chaeronea and the solidification of the Macedonian power with the Asian expedition, Athenians saw their old dream of hegemony collapse. With the democratic nature of their political regime going through lurches, but with no essential changes in the internal administrative structure, Athens gradually entered an era of decreased activity, in the shadow of the great political powers of the time, i.e. the Macedonians, and the kings of Egypt, of Pergamos, of Rome and of Pontos.

The new conditions had already brought about an interdependence of the economies of the various cities. For a long while Athens maintained excellent relations with the great powers of the time, and from what it seems, retained the role of an important trade centre, despite the decline of the old way of production. Socially, the new economy elevated a new class of businessmen, merchants and handcraftsmen; however, the part played by the old Athenian aristocracy (and not only on cultural matters) was not small at all.
The practice of donations by the kings of the East becomes of decisive importance to the city's architecture and generally its appearance. These donations are not confined to Athens only. It has been suggested that these were not just political acts of philhellenistic character, but that they also served financial objectives. In any case, after 197 BC mainly, donations allowed the realization of great programs that modernized and decorated the city.

This practice, in a way, overturns the generally accepted view that the arts, architecture in particular, evolve together in a thriving economy. Indeed, in Hellenistic Athens, funding of the great projects came from abroad – large sums of money were invested, for the sole reason that the city still retained its prestige as Greece's cultural centre.

This phenomenon has been repeatedly commented on. It is related to the city's uninterrupted function as an educational centre (mainly in philosophy and rhetoric art), with the great ease with which philosophers, scholars, and artists were able to move, and, finally, with the city's importance as a centre for the arts, but also for the commerce and the export of works of arts, and artifacts in general. Mainly, however, it is about the competitions among the Heirs in the cultural arena, and their strong tendency for self-promotion in a place of Pan-hellenic renown. At the same time, the Municipality of Athens was over-generous in acknowledging the donations of kings – which also had both direct and indirect impact on artistic sponsorships.

Newer studies have showed that some of the then donated buildings were Pergamenian, not simply in terms of their architectural types but also in terms of their construction. Accepting donations usually meant accepting foreign architectural ways as well.

Despite the adversities of the period, Athens of the Hellenistic times preserved its radiance. If during the previous ages it was a political power in Greece, now it represented an educational and cultural power not only of Greece but of the then known world. Its great name in all cultural matters helped it then and also later on, during the period of the Roman emperors. As showed earlier, Athens adapted to the general style of the times, but it did retain its own light. With a vast cultural tradition behind it, and despite the fact of endorsing foreign models in many ways, it did not lose its originality – it even managed to pioneer in some areas. It could be argued thus that as a centre it functioned in a dual fashion: sometimes endorsing foreign ideas unaltered, and others spreading out its own.

In any case, a lot of generations following Alexander the Great saw Athens as the educational centre of Greece par excellence, the place that offered both its citizens and the many foreigners it was host to a high quality of living and the feeling that they took part in the best that the Hellenic world had to offer.

Dionysius Theater
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Roman Athens I - Athens Under the Republic (183 BC-BC 31)


The extension of loose Roman hegemony over Greece produced immediate benefits for the Athenians. The Roman Senate, appreciative of the Athenians' long opposition to the Macedonians, granted to the city the islands of Delos, Skyros, Lemnos and Imbros. Piraeus was made a free port in a deliberate attempt to undermine the prosperity of the port of Rhodes. Athenians went out to settle on Delos. They expelled the existing inhabitants and developed the island as a prosperous trading centre.

However, when the Athenians tried to annex the port of Oropos, which the Boeotians also claimed, the city was fined five hundred talents. The Romans intended to discourage initiatives of that sort. Yet even this worked, in the long run, to the advantage of the Athenians. In 155 B.C. a deputation, consisting of the heads of the three leading philosophical schools, the Academy, the Lyceum and the Stoa, was sent to Rome to plead their case. Their knowledge and eloquence proved a revelation to upper class Romans, who reduced the fine to one hundred talents. Although proud of their martial superiority, the Romans were made acutely aware of their intellectual and cultural inferiority, and saw a way to put that right. Wealthy and well-born men began to send their sons to Athens to complete their education, while the adoption of Stoicism among educated Romans became fashionable. Thus was laid the foundation of that cultural victory of the Greeks over the Romans which was to bear so much fruit much later.

In 146 B.C. the Roman general Mummius defeated the army of the Achaean League and sacked Corinth. Direct Roman rule was extended over much of Greece, although Athens still remained nominally independent. Under Roman influence, however, Athenian democracy was seriously compromised by constitutional changes. The practices of choosing officials by lot, and of publicly examining their accounts on leaving office, were abolished.

At this time the Athenians seemed to have acquired a special talent for political incompetence. They contrived to position themselves consistently on the losing side in the succession of revolts and civil wars which led to the end of the Roman republic and the establishment of imperial rule.

In 88 B.C., led by Athenion, an Aristotelian philosopher, the Athenians chose to throw in their lot with King Μithridates VI of Pontus in his revolt against Rome, after he promised to restore the democracy. In the name of this 'democracy' Athenion seized the opportunity to impose a most unphilosophical reign of terrοr upon the city, persecuting all those who had been friendly to the Romans, and arbitrarily confiscating the wealth of some of the richer citizens. When his rule became insupportable he was overthrown by another philosopher-tyrant, the epicurean Aristion.

The consequences of their ill-considered support of the revolt became all too apparent in 86 B.C., when the city was besieged by Sulla. The Long Walls, the fortifications of Piraeus, the arsenal and most of the town were all destroyed in the siege. Unwilling to suffer the same defeat as Philip V, this man of many contradictions, who claimed to admire Greek culture and collected Greek books, cut down the trees in the Academy and the Lyceum in order to build his siege engines. Mounds of stone and earth were heaped up outside the Dipylon Gate from which his forces could fire down on the fortifications and destroy them. These siege operations destroyed many of the monuments in the Keramikos, which afterwards fell into disuse as a burial ground. The Pompeion, and the Themistokleian Walls in the neighbourhood of the Dipylon Gate were also destroyed, and there was considerable damage to the buildings in the agora. When Sulla's army broke into the lower city, Aristion and his followers retreated to the Acropolis, burning the Odeion of Pericles as they did so, in order to prevent the timbers in its roof from being appropriated for the building of siege engines. When lack of water forced a surrender, a bloody massacre took place. The city was plundered of precious metals and statues, and also of such priceless relics as Aristotle's personal library. The Long Walls and the fortifications of Piraeus were never to rise again.

Something of the immense loss of works of art at this time was made evident in 1959 when workmen came upon a unique collection of statues which had been stored in a stoa in Piraeus, presumably for shipment to Rome by Sulla, and then forgotten. If they really were forgotten, they must have constituted only a small part of the treasures looted at that time.

Considerably impoverished, the Athenians were forced to sell the island of Salamis to raise cash. Yet foreigners, particularly Romans, continued to flock to the city, both as tourists and as students. Α Roman financier, Titus Pomponius quickly established himself as a noted benefactor, for which he was awarded the name 'Atticus’. He several times saved the city from debt and food shortages, the latter out of his own pocket. Foreign dignitaries continued to befriend the city. Ariobazarnes ΙΙ, king of Cappadocia, rebuilt the Pompeion. Appius Claudius Pulcher, govemor of Cilicia, built a magnificent ceremonial entrance to the sanctuary of Eleusis. In 51 BC Cicero had the house of Epicurus restored. Also in the middle of the first century B.C. Pompey took it upon himself to rebuild much of the city of Piraeus.

It is thus perhaps hardly surprising that when war broke out in 49 BC between Pompey and Julius Caesar, the ill-fated Athenians chose to support Pompey. Fortunately, the victorious Julius Caesar forgave them. He even endowed a new forum, now known as the Roman agora, on the site of the original marketplace in 44 BC, a project unfinished at the time of his assassination.

After Caesar's death, his murderers, Brutus and Cassius, fled to Athens to seek support. After their defeat, Caesar's avenger, Octavian, visited the city, and attended lectures and athletics competitions.
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Old July 26th, 2008, 11:21 PM   #14
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Roman Athens II - Athens Under the Empire (31BC - AD 303)


Mark Anthony loved the city, and took up residence there with Octavia, Octavian's sister, in 39 BC. When Anthony was defeated by Octavian in 31 BC, he asked to be allowed to retire to Athens, but his request was refused. When Octavian returned to the city, he half-heartedly punished the Athenians for their disloyalty to him by taking Aegina and Eritreia from them, but then distributed grain before being initiated into the mysteries at Eleusis. He then awarded the Athenians some islands and took over the unfinished project of the Roman agora, which was dedicated in 11 BC -10 BC. The Roman Agora was still being used as the wheat market, known as the Wheat Bazaar, and the original Roman weights were still being used to weigh out the wheat, until 1672 at least. Just to the east of the Parthenon a small circular temple of Rome and Augustus was erected, modelled on the Temple of Vesta in the Roman Forum. At the same time, Agrippa, who visited in 15 B.C., built an Odeion, or concert hall, which seated one thousand people. The unique Tower of the Winds, with its sundial and ingenious water clock, and perhaps even a Ρlanetarium, a gift of Andronikos of Kyrrhos, in Syria, was probably built at this time. In AD 45 the temple of Nemesis at Rhamnous was dedicated to Augustus' wife, although there was some despoiling of Attic sanctuaries to adorn the city.

Under the emperor Claudius, some improvements were made. In AD 61, the emperor Nero νisited the city. He looted statues from here as elsewhere in Greece, and had an inscription in bronze lettering placed on the Parthenon recording its (temporary) rededication to himself. However, he did improve the Theatre of Dionysos, which was adapted for gladiatorial contests, much to the disgust of many Athenians. Under Trajan the lower length of the Panathenaic Way was covered with a colonnade in '' accordance with the contemporary fashion. '

Οne οf the least noticed visitors during this period was Saint Paul, who preached a sermon on the Areopagos Hill in or near AD 51, and left behind him a small community under Dionysios Areopagitos. His successor as leader of the Athenian church, Publius, was martyred under Trajan.

In ΑD 114-116, during the reign of Trajan, C. Julius Antiochus Philopappos, king of Commagene, in Asia Minor, built the funerary monument on the summit of the hill which bears his name today. The small kingdom he had inherited had fallen under Roman rule, 1eaving him rather redundant, so he chose to live in Athens, where he was a generous benefactor at festivals. It is characteristic of the cosmopolitan nature of the times that he recorded the details of his career on his monument in Latin, while he listed his titles in Greek.

The most munificent of all the benefactors of Athens was the Philhellene emperor Hadrian (117-138). By this tirne the Athenians had learned their lesson, and adjusted their behaviour to suit a city which had to make its way in a world dominated by a single superpower. Hadrian had been courted by the Athenians, and he loved Athens in return, long before he rose to power. When he became emperor in 117, the Athenians created a new tribe in his honour and made him head of it. When he actually visited the city for the first time, in 122, he was initiated into the Eleusinian Mysteries, presided over a dramatic competition in the Theatre of Dionysos, was elected archon, and was accorded the honours of a god under no less a title than Zeus 0lympios.

Αll this ingratiation paid off handsomely. By the time of his second visit, in 125, a building programme had already been initiated. Many old buildings and monuments were repaired, including the Ρnyx and the Theatre of Dionysos. An entire new suburb, called Hadrianopolis, was built on the east of the city outside the walls, in the area of the present National and Zappeion Gardens and beyond. The gateway between the old city and this suburb still remains, with its double inscription. On the side seen by those approaching Athens it says 'This is Athens, the former city of Theseus.' On the other side: 'This is the city of Hadrian, and not of Theseus.' Hadrian it was who finally carried out the unrealised intentions of the tyrant Peisistratos by finally completing the huge temple of Olympian Zeus, six hundred and forty-seven years after the project had been initiated. It contained a huge chryselephantine statue of the god, modelled upon the statue of Zeus created by Pheidias at Olympia. In addition to other sanctuaries in the same area, he founded a library and a gymnasium, each with a hundred columns. The gymnasium has disappeared, but the ruins of the library, which may have been able to hold 200,000 rolls of parchment in especially designed recesses, stands above the mosque on Monastiraki Square. He also built the Panhellenion, a common meeting place for all the Greek states, and established a new festival, the Panhellenia, with a special 'Greater Panhellenia' every four years. The site of the Panhellenia is unknown.

Works also began to build an aqueduct to bring water into the city from Mount Pendeli, and to build a reservoir on Lycabettus. These massive enterprises were completed by Ηadrian's successor, Antoninus Pius, and continued to deliver water into the city until 1778, one of the delivery points being revealed by the Metro works under Monastiraki Square. Athens was also granted a free distribution of grain: the οnly city in the empire, other than Rome itself, to enjoy this priνilege.

Hadrian's governor, Plutarch, the procurator of Achaia, spent as much time ίη the city as he could, and sought to beautify it on his own account. The later Antonine emperors followed Hadrian's example; thus Marcus Aurelius endowed professorships on the occasion of his visit to the city.

These efforts were crowned by the achievements of a local worthy, Herodes Atticus of Marathon. More properly Lucius Vibullius Hipparchus Τίberius Claudius Atticus, he was without doubt the greatest priνate benefactor in the long history of the city. Herodes' father had enjoyed an incredible stroke of good fortune. He was supervising structural alterations to one of his father's houses in the city, when a wall that was being demolished was found to conceal a secret room containing a huge fortune in coin. This was almost certainly his father's accumulated treasure, which he had prudently hidden away from the agents of the grasping emperor Domitian.

Heir to a vast fortune, Herodes was educated in Rome, in the most exalted imperial circles, where he succeeded in building a reputation as one of the greatest orators of his day, and was known in Rome as 'the tongue of Athens.' In ΑD 143, he enjoyed the singular honour, for a Greek, of being appointed Roman Consul.

When Herodes' father died, it was discovered that in his will he had left the sum of five minae for each of the citizens of Athens. Atticus had been a money lender, and many of the citizens were in his debt. Herodes provoked great resentment when, as each man came to collect his portion, he first subtracted from it outstanding debts owed to his father. This apparent stinginess was keenly resented at the time, but Herodes intended to use his wealth, augmented by a good marriage, to enrich the city.

Αt the Panathenaic Games of 138-9, when he publicly took upon himself the duty of providing for the next Games in four years’ time, he announced that he would stage them in a marble stadium. He made good his word by magnificently surfacing the entire stadium seating in marble from his quarries on Mount Pendeli. He also built a temple to Fortune on the hill of Ardettos, just above, together with a bridge over the River Ilissos to connect the stadium with the city.

He may also have remodelled Agrippa's Odeion at this time to function as a lecture hall. Perhaps his greatest gift to the Athenians, however, was the Odeion he dedicated to his wife, Regilla, although nowadays it is usually referred to as the Odeion of Herodes Atticus. Seating five thousand, the audίtοrium was roofed over with cedar wood. Its acoustics can be appreciated even today - even without the roof - when concerts are held there.

Although Herodes had inherited the family estate at Marathon and houses in the city, he especially favoured his residence at the Villa Kifissia. This shady inland town, built on the lower slopes of Mount Pendeli, had long been a summer resort for wealthy Athenians. The Villa Kifissia became famous throughout the ancient world as a centre of intellectual enquiry and philosophical debate. In his Attic Nights, Aulus Gellius describes its unique atmosphere of intellectual questioning and aristocratic leisure in an idyllic setting. This enchanted visitor waxed lyrical over its spacious groves, long promenades, elegant baths with an abundance of sparkling water, and the charming cool villa 'which was everywhere melodious with plashing waters and tuneful birds.'

An ambitious builder and benefactor throughout Greece, who regretted most never fulfilling his dream of cutting a canal through the isthmus of Cοrinth, Herodes also rebuilt some of the countryside shrines in Attica, such as the temple of Artemis of the Wilds at Maroussi.

During the Hadrian’s era the old walls were repaired and the new Hadrian city was enclosed with walls too. These new walls started at the junction of the Voulis street and Colocotrones street and expanded to the east following the axon of Vassilisis Sophias Avenue until the Merlin Street, then proceeded to the south east until the Presidential Mansion and from there was proceeded to south west until Olympieion, there was the meeting point with the old Themistoclian Wall.

Model of ancient Athens during the 2nd century AD (I. Travlos). View of the neighborhoods surrounded by the walls, the Acropolis, the Agora, the Sacred road (Iera odos) with the Dipilo, the Roman Agora, the Hadrian Library and the Olympeion among other landmarks.

The long and peaceful period that followed had as a result to remain unattended the walls of Athens. Only in the middle of the third century AD, according to the emperor’s Valerianus (253-260 AD) context of defensive programme, the Athenian Walls were systematically rebuilt and expanded.

We are lucky in having a detailed descriptiοη of the many monuments of Athens at some time between 160 and 177 by Pausanias. His timing was magnificent, for, as Peter Levi observed, 'every.. important monument of Greek antiquity was standing in his time. Here and there a temple had been moved bodily, ivy had covered an inscriρtiοη, a roof had fallen in, but his was the only lifetime in which the final embellishments of Hadrian and Herod of Athens could be seen, yet seventeen centuries of neglect had not begun.' However, like many later visitors, he had eyes mainly for the relics of the classical period, and tended to ignore the 'modern' Roman buildings.

The practice of having future rulers of the empire educated in Athens could be a mixed blessing. When Septimus Severus was a student in Athens he was widely derided for his uncouth accent When he became emperor (193-211) he returned the compliment and the Athenians found themselves deprived of many privileges. Worse still, under his successor, Caracalla (212-217), when all citizens of the empire were made Roman citizens, Athens lost important tax exemptions.

During the second and third centuries Christianίty made significant progress in many parts of the empire, but met with only limited success in Athens among the lower classes to the fierce persecutions during the reign of Decius (249-261), bishop Leonides of Athens and seven women of his flock were martyred in Cοrinth.

In the mid-third century pressure on the borders of the empire by barbarian tribes led to widespread concerns about security. The ability of the Romans to enforce a universal peace was limited. The barbarian tribes in the north, attracted by tales of wealth unimaginable, pressed constantly against the borders, and occasionally burst through with devastating consequences. As a precaution, under the emperor Valerian (253-60) the damaged sections of the Themistokleian Walls were rebuilt, and the circuit extended in the east to include the new suburb (new Athens) built by Ηadrian.

Unfortunately, these concerns were well-founded, and the city described by Pausanias was not to survive for long. In 267 the Heruli, a German tribe from Scandinavia who were established in the north coast of the Black Sea, set sail in some fifty ships from Crimea and raided on Aegean’s islands and on the mainland of Greece. They later landed at Piraeus. The repaired fortifications proved inadequate, and the tribesmen were able to break ίn and sack the city. Only the Acropolis and, in a lesser degree, its surroundings were untouched, the Acropolis was mainly saved by its own fortifications. Many of the ancient monuments in the lower city were reduced to ruins, particularly those in the agora. Among the buildings probably largely destroyed at this time were the Library' of Hadrian, the Odeion of Herodes Atticus, the Metroon, which held the state archives, and the Stoa of Eumenes. Many of the Athenians had fled to the wooded slopes of Parnes and Pendeli. Α certain Publius Herennius Dexippus quickly rallied a force of about two thousand armed men, who returned to the city, killed many of the invaders and drove out the others.

A thick layer of ash has covered the whole area of the city and the only things that distinguished from it were the burned ruins of resplendent monuments and buildings.

The Athenians, now no longer so carefree, withdrew into a smaller area north of the acropolis, roughly that of the present day Plaka and part of the Monastiraki and Psyrri districts, and hastily surrounded it with a new defensive wall, known as the Valerian Wall. Many of the great buildings of the city, such as the temple of Zeus and the Odeion of Herodes lay outside the circuit. Others, such as the Library of Hadrian, were incorporated into the wall itself. So hastily was it constructed that readily available stonework was used wherever possible. In consequence, archaeologists have found it to be a rich store of fragments of earlier buildings and monuments.

Despite those repairs, in the next decade the walls were proved insufficient to protect effectively the city from the barbaric menace. The Heruls’ raid in 267 AD caused to Athens a terrible destruction and temporal decrease of population. Hence, the whole demographic and urban character of the city was subverted. The urban network was dwindling and confined in the main part of the city, which was the space around the Roman Agora. Walls surrounded this area, which extended northern of the Acropolis hill. The walls were established by the end of the third century A.D, perhaps during the reign of Provos (276-282 A.D) or little later. This new fortification was starting at the northwest end of the Acropolis walls, and was directed north along the eastern side of the Panathenian’s street reaching the Attalus’s Colonnade, which was invigorated to it. From the northern side of the vault the wall proceeded to the east reaching the south wall of Hadrian’s Library, which was invigorated too and then it was directed eastern for about 350 metres until the place where later the family of Venizelos would establish their mansion and then turned south back to the Acropolis walls.

It is obvious form all the above that this fortification walls were established very quickly under the status of uneasiness and fear. Besides the Athenians had still in their minds the remembrance of the Heruls riots. Hence, the inhabitants of the city, established a fortified wall by using as building materials the ruins of the ancient buildings. By doing this the Athenians had gained time and labour. For the last decades of the 3rd century AD, Athens was a small and restricted city without many inhabitants, which tried to survive among ancient ruins.

Despite all the above daily life returned back to normality and during fourth century AD Athens regained its status of an important centre of culture and education. Famous scholars, such as Livanius taught there and young students from the entire Roman-Greek world were arriving there again as in the period before the destructive attack of the Heruls. Among the students were some of the most brilliant minds of the later antiquity such as Gregory Nanzianzenus and Basil the Great.

Yet Athens survived as a university town, and the Library of Ηadrian was restored. Since students will be students, and were the spoiled children of the wealthy, it was a lively place. Contemporaries wrote about a great deal of the pranks and collective violence, as groups of students fought each other for the honour of their teachers, kidnapped the followers of rival teachers, and held wild parties. Inevitably, there were also times when conflict arose between 'town and gown.' Rival teachers drew their following from students from different parts of the empire. Some of these teachers became wealthy, and built large houses to the south of the Acropolis, in the area now known as Makryianni. Inevitably, there was also a large population of 'eternal students', who had failed to win professorial chairs, yet who could not bear to leave the city, and the life, they had come to love.

When the emperor Constantine made Christianity the official religion of the empire, it is unlikely that many Athenians were content with his decision. Nevertheless, Constantine was proud of the honours conferred upon him by the Athenians. Despite robbing the city of many treasures to adorn his refoundation of Byzantium as 'New Rome' (Constantinople), he rewarded them with tens of thousands of bushels of wheat annually.

The emperor Julian the Apostate, who had studied in Athens, briefly re-established paganism during 361-3. Although the grandson, nephew and cousin of emperors, he had conducted himself modestly as a student. Despite the dominance of the pagan schools, many fathers of the Church also received their education in Athens, such as Basil of Caesaria and Gregory Nazianzus.

View of the Agora

Maps of ancient Athens during the Roman period

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PART III - The Last Roman Century and Medieval Athens 330 - 1000 - The first period of the Byzantine/Greek Empire


The Last Roman Century and Medieval Athens 330 - 1000 - The first period of the Byzantine/Greek Empire

Map of Athens during the 267 AD – 408 AD. From the Heroulian attack of Athens to the times of emperor Theodossios II. (By I. Travlos, “Urban development of Athens, 2nd edition, Athens 1993).

In 364 the emperor Valentinian Ι divided the empire into two parts, the eastern half to be governed from Constantinople. The growth of the new capital was swift and phenomenal. It quickly became a large conurbation, sucking the rural population not only from eastern Thrace, but from the entire Greek world. This had the effect of diminishing the importance of all the cities within its sphere of influence, including Athens.

During the 4th century Athens definitely, had started expanding again outside the internal wall and this had as a result the repairing of the external ancient fortification. Hence, in the whole area of Athens despite the riots and devastations, now there is a new structural activity around the end of the fourth century and at the beginning of the fifth. Therefore, in the the Ancient Agora, where the only untouched building was the temple of Hephaestus, namely Theseum, the Tholos and the Metroon were repaired, and in the south side of Agora, where the Agrippa’s Conservatory was, a new building was established around 400 AD, the Gymansium. This was an edifice that includes classrooms, library, arena and public baths. There were also established many private schools at the south side of Aeropagus hill. Moreover, Herculius who was governor of the Illiricos between the years 402-410 repaired the Hadrian’s Library.

So as mentioned before, towards the end of the century, the old city defences were repaired. It was none too soon. In 396 there was another barbarian incursion. Alaric the Goth advanced upon Attica and devastated the countryside. Thebes was saved only because of Alaric's haste to get to Athens. His troops occupied Piraeus preparatory to besieging the city. Then, according to a chronicler, there took place one of those 'miraculous' events which seem not to have been uncommon in this age. Alaric and his soldiers believed that they had witnessed the goddess Athena, bearing arms and pacing the battlements. Impressed by whatever it was they had seen, the barbarian offered peace to the city. He entered with just a few companions, visited the baths, was entertained at a sumptuous banquet, and received impressive gifts. He then withdrew from Attica doing no further harm. When at a safe distance from the city, however, he resumed his plundering: first sacking Megara and then crossing into the Peloponnesus, where he left a trail of devastation behind him before withdrawing to the north. Unfortunate as it always is to spoil a good story, recent archaeological evidence suggests that Alaric actually plundered the city before he departed. The Athenians once more repaired the damage as best they could.

For educated Romans, Neo-Platonic philosophy was the chief rival world-view to Christianity at that time. There was a strong revival of this pagan philosophy with the teaching of Priscus, and Plutarch, in Athens. Under their successors, Syriacus and especially Plotinus, the fame of Athens was once again to eclipse that of its rival Alexandria. Athens became the most popular place for scholars from all over the known world to complete their education.

In 435 an edict of the emperor Theodosius II closed all the pagan sanctuaries, although it was largely ignored. Indeed, travellers to Greece found that Athenians were still leaving offerings to the Fates and nymphs in various caves in the eighteenth century. Although Athens was a provincial city, several of its young women were to be raised to the imperial family. The first was the daughter of an Athenian philosopher, Athenais, who had married the emperor Theodosius in 421, whereupon she had converted to Christianity. She erected the first churches in Athens. One was inserted into the Library of Hadrian, and a shrine to the martyr-bishop Leonides erected on the banks of the Ilissos.

The death-blow to the intellectual life of the ancient world was delivered in 529 when, in an attempt to eradicate all traces of paganism, the emperor Justinian (527-65) closed the Academy, the last remaining of the philosophical schools. The function of Athens as a centre of learning, as a university city, was finally ended. From this point onwards, Athens began its long decline into an ordinary provincial city: distinguished only by the magnificence of its ruins and the imperishable glory of its reputation. Justinian removed many columns to use in the building of Ayia Sophia in Constantinople, but he did repair the Themistoklean and Roman walls. He may also have founded the fortress monastery of Daphne on the old Sacred Road to Eleusis.

However the expansion and development of Athens outwards of the post Roman wall was continued in the next centuries. This city’s expansion can justify the establishment of the external wall as well as the repair of the internal one, during the regime of the emperor Justinian I.

Despite the reestablishment of the external wall, the internal post-roman wall was never abandoned or fell in desuse. As a result for being considered useful in case of an emergency situation, the wall had been repeatedly repaired during the post Byzantine era and early Latin domination. During the second half of 11th century along with the reparations of the internal wall, was also established the Rizocastro which encircled the Acropolis hill. Therefore, by the end of Byzantine era, Athens had a complete defending system thanks to the three fortified rings.

A recent fortification, which was established by the order of Chadji Ali Chaseki in 1778 AD, included a smaller area than the one of the ancient walls, replacing the devastated medieval walls of Athens.

According to tradition the first Athenian Christian church was established in the first century at the northern suburb of Patissia; inside it was there was an icon of the Holy mother of God, which was painted by St. Lukas. This church was identified with the first Christian basilica, which K.Pittakis had discovered in 1859 in the area of Patissia at the site where during the 19th century there was a small church dedicated to St. Lukas. That church was replaced by the current bigger church devoted also to the same Saint.

The existence of a Christian church in Patissia during the first Christian centuries is absolutely justified. It is possible that the church was established within the property of a wealthy Athenian citizen who provided it as a place of safety in case of emergency, like raids. It is thought that in the same area there was a Christian cemetery in the form of Catacombs.

Outside of the city walls to the south side of Lycabettus in the place where the tomb of bishop Klematius was located, later during the 4th century, there was a Christian basilica.

In addition, at the left bank of Helissus river it was the Martyrion of Leonides, and also in the same spot during the second half of 5th century a basilica dedicated to the martyr bishop of Athens was constructed.

During mid 5th century, after the decrees of Theodosius, the second against the Pagans (473 AD), a process of convertion of the Pagan temples into Christian churches had begun. At the same time new churches were established.

Moreover, between Parthenon and Erechtheum, in the area where the temple of Athena Pollias was, a church for the worship of the Holy Trinity was constructed as well as in the area to the south of the Propylaea the place was rearranged in order to establish a Christian temple for the worship of the Archangels.

Other places dedicated to the Christian worship were also the caves of the Acropolis. Thus, the Panas’ cave was transformed into a church for the worship of St. Athanasius, the Clepsydra turned into a church for the worship of the Saint Apostles and the cave next to Thrasyllus monument into a church for the worship of the Holy Mother.

During the first half of the 5th century, a basilica was established in the theatre of Dionysus and another onr in the Aesculapius temple for the worship of the Saint Anargyri; as well as, on the top of the Herod Atticus’ Conservatory were another basilica for the worship of St. Andrews was established.

In the main part of the city, encircled by the post roman wall; the Agoranomeion turned into basilica and the Cyrestus’ Horologion was transformed into a baptistery. Moreover, at the beginning of the fifth century, inside the area of the Hadrian’s library, the fourth apse church of the Great Holy Mother was established, which possibly was the Cathedral of Athens. However at the beginning of sixth century, this temple was rearranged to a smaller basilica and during the same time other churches were constructed too. At the Agoraios Kolonos hill the Hephaestus’ temple was turned into Christian church for the worship of St. George. At the foot of Areios Pagos there was an old-christian church for the worship of St. Dionyseus Aeropagita and next to it we may find a more recent temple, constructed around the 17th century, for the worship of the same Saint. In the cave, which is in the Nyphae hill a church dedicated to the worship of St. Marina was established. Another old-christian temple was also constructed at the north side of ancient Agora where nowadays stands the church of St. Philip. There was another old-christian temple in the place where the church of St Thecla is located. Another paleo-christian church worth of mention is the one which was located, in Euripides Street, in the same place where the small medieval church of St. John of Column now stands.

At the east side of the Acropolis there were five paleo-christian churches, one was in the area where later the church of St. Catherine was constructed, another one in the site where the church of the Virgin Mary the saviour of Lycodemus was cxonstructed. The third one is the basilica inside the National Garden and the fourth is the basilica at the northern side of Olympieion for the worship of St. Nicolas. Finally the last one was located at the south side of the Olypmeion.

The temple of Demeter and her daughter at south riverbank of the Helissus was turned into the Holy Mother’s church. Despite the convertions of a pagan temples or places into Christian churches, which took place during this period, people still preserved the worshiping character of the place and they only changed the name of the pagan Gods into a corresponding Christian Saint. Thus, the Parthenon, a temple dedicated to the virgin Athena, was turned into a church for the worship of the Holy Mother, the Propylaea was turned into a church for the worship of the guardian Archangels, the Aesculapeum was turned into the church of the Saint Anargyri where a water source considered as a source of holy water was located. Finally, the area around the ancient temple of Demeter and her daughter, whose worship was relevant to death, there was a Christian cemetery.

There were also another eight Christian cemeteries in Athens; two of them were inside the city, at the southern side of the Acropolis, in the same area where the St. Andrews church was and the basilica of the Dionysus theatre. All the others were outside of the city, in the area of Kerameikos, in the area of the Old Parliament, at the southern side of Lycabettus, near thr Helissus river, where the temple of Demeter and her daughter was and finally in the area of Kynosargus and at the southern side of Philopappus Hill.

Map of Athens during the period that spans from the times of Emperor Theodosios II to the times of Justinian (408-565). (By I. Travlos, “Urban development of Athens, 2nd edition, Athens 1993).

In 580, Greece was invaded by Slavic tribes, many of whom settled north of the Maritsa river and south the Danube (today territories of Serbia and northern Bulgaria). Once again, the walls failed to secure the lower city, and it was sacked. There is reason to believe that on this occasion the damage was very extensive. During the 590s, Athens was recovered from this disaster.

Under the emperor Heraclius the government of the empire was reorganised, and the territory divided into themes, each one placed under a strategos, or general, who represented the emperor. Athens lay under the imfluence of Thebes, an indication of its 'fallen' state. Nevertheless, the emperor Constans II spent the winter in Athens on his way to Sicily in 662, while Theodore of Tarsus, later archbishop of Canterbury (669-690), studied in the city.

The excavations brought to light Byzantine houses, workshops and a variety of buildings as well as entire neighbourhoods, which were located in the area of Ancient Agora, Agoaraios Kolonus, also between the Nyphae’s hill and Areios Pagos, at the south side of Rizocastro and north of Olympieion. Many buildings and neighbourhoods in the area of the Agora and its surroundings dated between the 7th ans 15th century.

During the eighth century, the Eastern Church was rent by the Iconoclastic Controversy, a dispute about whether it is right for Christians to venerate images. The Isaurian dynasty not only banished the icons but also persecuted the monks. The Athenians seem to have come down firmly on the side of the icon-worshippers. It was probably during this period that Mount Pendeli, riddled with above sixty known caves and hollows, acquired the name 'Mountain of Amomon (the Sinless Ones), as persecuted monks went into hiding. Carvings of angels on the rock walls of the Cave of Amomon, or Davelis, at a height of some 720 metres on the south-west face of the mountain above an ancient quarry, have been provisionally dated to this period on the basis of their style.

In 780 a second Athenian woman managed not only to marry an emperor, but for a time to rule as empress herself (780-802), when she tried to resolve the dispute in favour of the worship of icons. She is credited with the original foundation of the churches of Αy. Anargyroi in the Plaka and Pantassa in Monastiraki Square. Shortly afterwards, in 807, a third Athenian, Theophano, married a son of the emperor. She is also credited with the building of churches.

Few years before the first half of eighth century was complete, Athens is promoted ecclesiastically from bishopric to metropolis; this indicates that the city underwent renewed development. In the ninth century there is a new development regarding the architecture of churches.

During this period new churches were erected all around the city, such as the one of St. John the Baptist of Maggouti, which was built in 871 AD in the lower northern part of the Acropolis at Mnesicleus Street. A large number of churches were also erected in Athens from the tenth century till the end of twelfth century; however they are going to be covered in more details in the next chapter.

During mid 8th century, a new style in the Athenian architecture of churches was introduced; being that of two or four columned inscribed crossed type with vault. Churches of this type are the most prevailing ones from this period, nowadays in Athens, with a few exceptions like the church of the Holy Mother saviour of Lycodemus, which follows the octagonal form of structure.

During the tenth century Attica was subject to sporadic attacks by Saracen pirates. Near the end of that century it is possible that for a brief time they actually captured the city and erected a mosque. Saint John the-Hunter was founded on Mount Ηymettos.

In 996 the Bulgars plundered Attica and Viotia. They were returning north from their campaign when they were attacked on the banks of the river Sperchios and defeated by the armies of the Greek emperor, Basil II. He followed up his victory by taking the war deep into the territory inhabitated by Bulgar tribes north of the Maritsa. In 1014 he caught the main Bulgar army in the valley of the river Strymon, and took 15,000 prisoners. He blinded all of them, except one man in every hundred, whom he left sighted to conduct his fellows home. In 1018 the defeated Bulgars accepted Byzantine rule, and emperor Basil 'the Bulgar-slayer', as he became known, travelled to Athens and celebrated his triumph in the Parthenon.

The Erectheion in early 6th century, after its modification into a christian church. (By I. Travlos, “Urban development of Athens, 2nd edition, Athens 1993, page 137)

View of the paleochristian basilica built in the Asklepeion during the 5th century AD. (By I. Travlos, “Urban development of Athens, 2nd edition, Athens 1993, page 140)

Early 5th century AD Megali Panaghia church

View of the Hephestus temple converted into the church of Aghios Georgios in the 5th century AD
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The Athenian renaissance (1000-1205)


The eleventh century seems to have provided a period of renewed prosperity, perhaps as a result of increased security. The Rizokastron Wall was built to enclose an inner area of the town on the northern side of the Acropolis. This wall included the Odeion of Herodes and the Stoa of Eumenes along its length as part of its structure.

View of the 11th century Rizokastro’s wall at the north side of the Stoa of Eumenes. (By I. Travlos, “Urban development of Athens, 2nd edition, Athens 1993).

It was also a time of intensive church building. From this period date the churches of Kapnikarea, Αy. Asomati, Αy. Theodori, Αy. Nicholas Rangavas, Αy. Apostoloi in the agora, and the Omorphiekklesia in Galatsi among others.
It is estimated that during this period the number of churches scattered all around Athens was forty.

It is likely that most were built on the foundations of previous churches or temples, following ancient practice.

The vast majority of churches were erected in a wide area of Athens, which expanded outside of the post roman wall, as the excavation’s elements, which are dated between ninth and twelve century, indicate.

Απ unknown patron, possibly the 'the Bulgar-Slayer' himself, cleared the ruins of Daphne Monastery, built a new church with an enormous dome, and embellished it with wonderful mosaics. Although more than three quarters of these have been lost, enough has escaped the ravages of time to inspire visitors to ecstasies of admiration. Kaisariani Monastery and the monastery of Saint John the Forerunner at Kareas, both on the slopes of Mount Hymettos, were also founded at about this time.

The medieval churches of Attica fall naturally into two distinct groups: the larger ones which are more or less quadrilateral, belong to the basilica type. The smaller and more numerous churches, built in the shape of a cross, are known as the cruciform type. In these the nave, chancel, and transepts are higher than the other parts of the building, and give the appearance of a Latin cross. Sometimes the length of the transepts north and south corresponds to the length of the church east and west, thus retaining the proportions of the greek cross. Each of these arms is usually finished by a tiled cupola, and over the centre of the church, where the arms meet, a large cupola is raised on a higher drum, giving it a marked predominance. The rectangular spaces between the arms and the body of the church are often filled in by vaults or apses. Such a church becomes a group of swelling curves which lead the eye upward to the central dome that rests on its slender drum.

In the basilica group the cross transepts are not indicated by difference in roof-level. The central space is surmounted by a single dome of rather wide proportions. This rests on a low drum that does not rise much above the level of the roof. The narthex, which was originally the porch for the reception of those not yet admitted to church-membership, is now an extension of the nave. The effect of these churches is less slender and graceful than those of the cruciform group. Their massive proportions make them suitable for more important buildings, such as the large monasteries of Daphni and Daou.

As regards ornament no two churches are alike. The same motives are found but their application is different in each case. The church at Daphni was the only one wealthy enough to cover its interior wall surface with mosaic designs, and nothing can compare with the rich haphazard collection of sculpture in the outside walls of the old Metropolis Church at Athens. Yet among the smaller churches each has its own piece of special decoration, fresco or carving or brickwork, just as each part of the church had its own particular fragment of dogma or sacred history assigned to it. The walls are generally made of yellow stone, ornamented with red bricks, and the domes are covered with dark tiles. The bricks were often placed so as to form the sacred initials of Christ's name, as is seen in the Alpha and Omega frieze which runs round the Church of Saint Nicodemus.

Athens is well known for its ancient buildings and monuments but it must be noted that the number of surviving medieval buildings is equally large; adding Athens to the list of cities with the largest numbers of medieval structures in almost perfect state of conservation.

Listing them all would require a whole separate chapter of its own, but here are some worth of mention.

These are the ones located in Athens center:

Aghia Aikaterinis in Plaka which is dated to the second quarter of the 11th century. It is a complex, four-columned, cross-in-square church with an Athenian dome. Initially it must have been dedicated to Hagios Theodoros, as indicated by the votive inscription preserved in a fragment of a big, cylindrical column supporting the altar. It is situated in the district Alikokko in Plaka, close to the monument of Lysikrates.

Aghia Aikaterini. 11th century (National Hellenic Research Foundation)

Aghioi Anargyroi in Psyrri a cross-in-square church dated to the 11th century. The dome is unique, since it is not Athenian, but it is separated into two parts by a horizontal cornice.

Aghioi Apostoloi, (Solaki) in the Ancient Agora, is a cross-in-square church built in 1000 AD, with certain elements that distinguish it from a typical cross-in-square plan. The simple, four-columned, cross-shaped center is covered with a dome. The four cross-arms end in semicircular conches. Between them are interposed four smaller ones, which constitute the corners of the square that inscribes the cross. The unknown architect combined elements of a central plan building, a tetraconch and a cross-in-square one. In fact, the church plan is a unique combination of a circular building and a cross-in-square naos. The monument, in terms of architecture, could be considered as an experimental “application” of the early Christian octagon to the aesthetic vocabulary of the middle Byzantine period. This circular design conveys a strong impression of unity in the interior. In the ordinary cross-in-square Byzantine church this is only restricted to the lower level of the building: the usually low roofs of the corner-base as well as the small dome of the cross-in-square plan break the unity of the interior, destroying the up-lifting effect of the architecture.

Ahioi Apostoloi, Solaki. 1000 AD (National Hellenic Research Foundation)

Agioi Asomatoi, (Petraki) in Kolonaki. Nowadays, it is surrounded by a Monastery where the offices of the Synod of the Church of Greece are housed. It is dated to the end of the 10th century. It is dedicated to Hagioi Taxiarches. The name Petraki derives from the doctor and philosopher Peter Papastamatis, who renovated it in the 17th century. It is a complex, four-columned, cross-in-square church with many architectural traits that attest its age. The wall paintings are more recent (18th century) and have been attributed to George Markos.

Agioi Asomatoi. 10th century (National Hellenic Research Foundation)

Agioi Asomatoi in Thiseion. Situated northwest of the Theission, in Ermou Street and in the homonymous square. It is a cross-in-square church with an Athenian dome. Unfortunately, the monument has been severely damaged. As a result, it has lost its original form. It is dated around the second half of the 11th century.

Ioannis Theologhos situated in Erechtheos and Erotokritou intersection in Plaka. It is a two-columned, cross-in-square church with an Athenian dome built in early 12th century. Fragments of Byzantine wall paintings are preserved in the interior. Stylistically they relate to other wall paintings in various churches of Attica such as the small churches in Pentelis Cave or Hagios Petros in Kalyvia dated to the beginning of the 13th century.

Ioannis Theologhos. 12th century (National Hellenic Research Foundation)

Kapnikarea is a mid 11th century church located in the middle of Ermou street. It is a complex, four-columned, cross-in-square church. The exonarthex extending all over the western side of the church was added in the third quarter of the 11th century. The name may derive from the tax kapnikon. Therefore, it may be related to the founder, á tax collector, the kapnikarius. However, it could be related to the valuable textile, kamouha. The surviving wall paintings are recent; in fact have been painted in the 20th cenury by Fotis Kontoglou and his pupils, a school mainly influenced by Byzantine tradition.

Kapnikarea. 11th century.

Aghia Marina in Thesseion is an early 13th century church in a cave, which nowadays has been incorporated into the more recent, big church in Thisseion. This small church, which operates as a baptistery, lies annexed in the southern side of the church. Fragments of wall paintings are preserved in it. Many of them have been removed and are displayed in a certain area inside the church. These wall paintings are basically post Byzantine ones, although some of them are dated to the 13th century. The altar still exists in the eastern side of the old church, which is separated from the more recent one with a grating.

Metamorphossis is a church dated to the 11-12th century, situated in the north side of the Akropolis, in Klepsydras street. It is named Sotirakis (Metamorphosis Sotiros – Mikros Sotiras – Sotirakis) due to its small dimensions. It is a cross-in-square church with an Athenian dome.

Metamorphosis. 11th-12th century. (Photograph by Ch. Kontogeorgopoulou)

Aghios Nikolaos Ranghavas is a church situated in Stravon Street in Plaka and, as indicated by its name, it must have belonged to the aristocratic Rangava family. It is a simple, four-columned, cross-in-square church dated to the first half of the 11th century.
Aghios Nikolaos Ranghavas. 11th century (Photograph by Ch. Kontogeorgopoulou)

Panaghia Gorgoepikoos is also known as Hagios Eleutherios or the Small Metropolis. Is a late 12th century church situated next to the southern side of the Cathedral of Athens, in Mitropoleos Square. It is a cross-in-square church. The monument incorporates in a unique way 90 sculptures of different eras in its external walls. It resembles an open-air exhibition of sculptures, which are dated to the ancient, roman, early Christian centuries, but also to the middle Byzantine period. M. Chatzidakis associated the church with the bishop of Athens, Michael Choniates. The wall paintings are dated to the 20th century.

Panaghia Gorgoepikoos. 12th century.

Pantanassa in Monastiraki, which is one of the oldest and less known churches in Athens, is dedicated to Panagia Pantanassa.

The church is referred to as Big Monastery in a post Byzantine sigillium of 1678 and it is thus named during these years. Furthermore, in the same document it is mentioned that during the period of the Frankish rule it was annexed as a men’s monastery to Kaisariani Monastery. During the period of the sigillium the monastery functioned as a convent. From 1690 onwards the church became parish, same as the Kaisariani Monastery. From the revolution onwards, the church was no longer called Big Monastery but Mikromonastiro (Small Monastery) or Monastiraki. The monastery cells used to be in the location of today’s Square, while the whole area was full of small shops, many of which can still be found in the neighboring Pandrosos Street. The church is a barrel-vaulted basilica, namely a church type characteristic of the transition from the early Christian basilica to the cross-in-square church. In general, it signifies the transition from Late Antiquity to the Byzantine and Medieval World. The wall paintings are more recent. The church has undergone many modifications. Characteristic is the bell-tower, which is a more recent construction and annex. According to Orlandos, the church is dated to the 10th century. However, based on its masonry Sotiriou has dated it to the 7th – 8th century, while Wulff to the 8th – 9th century like all the barrel-vaulted basilicas of Athens. Xyngopoulos has dated the church to the 10th century, whereas Millet to the 11th – 12th century based on its capitals. The church is associated with many legends and traditions of old Athens.

Pantanassa. Around 8th century. (Photograph: I. Liakoura)

Soteira Kotakis is situated in Kydathinaion Street in Plaka, between Sotiros and Drakou Street, in the district Alikokko, like Hagia Aikaterini. It is thus named after the Kottakis family, who used to own it. It is a complex, four-columned, cross-in-square church dated to the first half of the 11th century. No wall paintings from the Byzantine period are preserved.

Soteira Kotakis. 11th century (Photograph by I. Liakoura)

Soteira Lykodemou is a domed octagon situated in Filellinon Street. It is best known as Russian church, since it was bought by the Russian community of Athens in the 19th century. An inscription dates it around 1031. No wall paintings are preserved, while the more recent ones are painted by Loudovikos Thirsios (1847). The high bell-tower was added at the time the Russian community obtained it for its religious needs.

Soteira Lykodemou. 1031 AD (Photograph by Ch. Kontogeorgopoulou)

Aghioi Theodoroi is a church located near Klathmonos Square, in Evripidou and Skuleniou Street. It is an eminent Byzantine monument of Greece dated to the middle of the 11th century. It is a simple, distyle, cross-in-square church. The historical evidence on the church is a founder’s inscription walled above its entrance in the west. The foundation date is mentioned in the inscription, 1049 or 1065 – specialists disagree on the reading of the date. Nikolaos Kalomalos, spatharocandidatus (Byzantine official), is its founder. The monument is characterized by heavy proportions and massive three-sided apses. In general, it has ancient features since it was built over an older church, which must have influenced the present one. The bell-tower is posterior and fragments from the marble screen of the church were incorporated into it.

Aghioi Theodoroi. 11th century

In addition to the 15 medieval churches mentioned above, which are all located in Athens center, there are many more scattered all around city.

Aghios Asomatos Kypolisto is located in Penteli, when we turn right on the street leading from Hagios Petros to Old Pentelis Square, in the sign with the indication “Hagioi Asomatoi”. Next to the church there is still a spring. It is an elegant basilica with exquisite 12th century wall paintings. Orlandos had dated the church to the 11th – 12th century. However, Pr. Bouras has dated it to the Palaeologan period (13th – 15th century). He also dates to the same period the built - with marble colonettes - screen, which Orlandos had also dated to the 12th century. The church is possibly identified with the so-called “Hagios Michael of Kipoulouezi” or “Sancti Michaelis de Kypolisto” mentioned in the western sources.

Aghios Asomatos Kypolisto. 12th century (photograph: Chr. Kontogeorgopoulou)

Aghios Georgios (Omorfoeklissia) is situated in Galatsi on Veikou Avenue. It is known as Omorphoklessia (Elegant Church) due to its grace and elegance. It is a two-columned, cross-in-square church with a chapel in its southern side. Thus, two apses exist in its eastern façade, the one of the Sanctuaries of the main church and that of the chapel. The dome of the church is Athenian and the masonry cloisonne. Orlandos has dated the church to the third quarter of the 12th century, just like Megaw. Pr. Bouras dates it to the same century but a bit later, which might justify the western elements evident not only in the chapel but also in the main church. He also considers that the main church is contemporary to the chapel. The church is decorated with wall paintings - exquisite specimen of the art of the last quarter of the 13th century - which cover the whole interior of the church. Unfortunately, time as well as the atrociousness of people have destroyed a significant part of the paintings, especially on the lower and more accessible parts. The chapel wall paintings are equally important. Characteristic wall paintings are the following: in the narthex we can detect scenes from the martyrium of Hagios Georgios, to whom the church is dedicated. In the main church, saints, anchorites, Apostles Peter and Paul, Hierarchs, the Virgin Mary with archangels, the Ancient of Days, the Evangelist Matthew (the only one preserved intact), Prophets and the Pantokrator in the dome. The latter is not characterized by the classicism of the one in Daphni but by the strength that derives from his features. Furthermore, in the main church we notice the Metamorphosis, the Raising of Lazarus, the Palm Sunday etc. In the chapel we detect the Last Supper, Abraham’s hospitality, the Recumbent Christ etc. All three parts of Omorphoklessia (narthex, church and chapel) have been painted by groups of artists, who interpret in their own way the contemporary artistic trends. Ag. Vassilaki-Karakatsani mentions that the greatest trait of Omorphoklessia in the second half of the 13th century was the proof that great art could reach humble areas, where everyday people were both capable and willing to adopt it. This indicates spiritual and artistic renaissance.


Aghios Ioannis (Kynigos) is located on a slope of a hill in Hymettus, beneath its northern summit, lies the Monastery of Hagios Ioannis Kynigos of the Philosophers, in a position that has a view over the Athens and Mesogeia plain. Nowadays, we can reach this point from the suburb of Hagia Paraskevi. We go up till the end of Hagios Ioannis street and follow the road signs with the indication “Monastery of Hagios Ioannis Kinigos”. After approximately one kilometer on the asphalted road that goes up the mountain, we can easily reach the monastery. The katholicon of the monastery belongs to the cross-in-square, two-columned churches and it was dated to the second quarter of the 12th century by Á.Megaw. However, according to latest scientific facts, Professor Bouras has dated it to the beginnings of the 13th century. We can get information on the monastery from certain inscriptions. The first one is a tombstone of 1235, where monk Loukas and Philosophos are mentioned. The second one is a votive inscription, from which we find out that the monastery was dedicated to Hagios Ioannis Prodromos. The third one is an inscription in cornice with the date 1205, which must have been incorporated into the building during its construction. The monk Philosophos is also mentioned here. Apparently, monk Philosophos, who came from the Monastery of Philosophers in Arkadia, was its founder after he had settled in Athens. The Monastery of Hymettus was dedicated to Hagios Ioannis Prodromos, following the pattern of the Arcadian monastery. Nowadays, from the old monastery are preserved the portal of the entrance in the west side of the monastery as well as the katholikon with more recent annexes in the west and in the south (the narthex in the west was added in the 17th century, while the open arch-shaped portico in the south is even more recent, probably of the 18th century). The masonry consists of rubble stones (rubble masonry) and cloisonne; porous stones – in certain parts walled with spolia deriving from older buildings. Great interest presents the fact that many marble architectural fragments of different periods exist around the katholikon. Moreover, in the courtyard in the south of the open arch-shaped portico and inside a fenced area is preserved the colonette with the “arai”, that is the curses against whoever would dare to pillage the monastery embezzling its property (vineyards etc.). Both the posterior narthex and the katholikon preserve wall paintings of a later date, that is of the 17th, 18th and 19th century. However, there are older painted layers in the main church and in the sanctuary, portraying mostly parts of clothing dated to the Byzantine period. The monastery is mentioned in the epistles of Michael Choniates, who used to correspond with the abbot. Nowadays, it functions as a convent.

Aghios Ioannis (Kynigos). 12th century. (Photograph by Ch. Kontogeorgopoulou)

Aghios Ioannis, (Benizelon) is a small church situated in Aigaleo, close to the third cemetery on Thivon Avenue. It is the old Merkati – Al. Benizelou estate that belonged to the old Athenian family of the Benizeloi. It is a triconch, domed church with a semicircular apse. The dome is cylindrical. The masonry is irregular lacking decoration. No wall paintings are preserved. Two marble panels, which derive from the old screen dated to the 12th – 13th century, are walled into the southern wall. According to Professor Orlandos, the church is dated to the 14th century.

Aghios Ioannis, (Benizelon). 14th century (Photograph by I. Liakoura)

Monastery of Kaisariani which is situated in the valley in the middle of the western slope of Hymettus, in the archeological site lies the Monastery of Kaisariani. It is a semi-complex, four-columned, cross-in-square church, which is dated to the second half of the 11th century. However, Professor Bouras claims that it could be dated to the 12th century. Its masonry is cloisonné. During the years of the Turkish domination, the chapel of Hagios Antonios was attached in the south of the katholicon, while a narthex was added in the west. The wall paintings of the katholicon are more recent, dated to the beginnings of the 18th century. The wall paintings of the narthex (painted by Ioannis Ipatos according to an inscription in situ) are dated in 1862. Apart from the katholicon, a bath is preserved in the south of the chapel from the Byzantine phase of the monastery (initially it was a triconch building with a semi-circular dome). An air-duct system and piers were revealed in its walls. The other buildings in the west and the southwest of the kátholicon (Refectory, Cells) are dated to the years of the Turkish rule. The origin of the name Kaisariani is not scientifically documented. According to a theory, this name originates from its founder, a certain Kaisarios, or from Caesars, the emperor’s brothers, who were exiled in Athens by the Athenian empress Irene. According to another theory, it was such named after an icon of the Virgin Mary, which came from Kaisareia (the Monastery is dedicated to the Presentation of the Virgin Mary). Its name is mentioned in 1209 in an epistle of Michael Choniates, who was self exiled in Kea, to the abbot of the Monastery. It is also mentioned as Santa Syriani in a document of Pope Innocent III. In the north of the Monastery lies the spring which was mentioned in sources as Killou Pera, Kouloupera, Koukloupera, or Kallia Pera. Today’s name Kalopoula is a corruption of this word. Moreover, close to the eastern entrance of the Monastery lies Kriokefali spring, while the holy water of the Ascension of Christ is found two hundred meters southeast. However, the first Christian center was not in the position of the Byzantine Monastery, but in the position “Cemetery of the Holy Fathers”, in the southwest of the monastery. Nowadays, in this position are preserved the remnants of an early Christian basilica of the 5th – 6th century, where another church was built in the 10th century. During the years of the Frankish rule, the catholic church of Hagios Markos was built in the south of the church. The name Frangomonastiro derives from this church.

Monastery of Kaisariani. 11th century

Karea Monastery is located close to the ancient quarries in Kara. It was founded in the Byzantine years (around the 12th century), since it is mentioned in a 11th – 12th century Record (of an unknown monastery in Attica). A church had existed in the position of the Monastery since the early Christian years, which apparently had been built on an ancient temple of Apollo dated to the 4th century B.C. It is next cited in post Byzantine years and more specifically in 1575, a date engraved on a marble fragment enwalled into the Katholikon entrance. In 1644, it is mentioned in a document published by the bishop of Athens, Parthenios. In 1676, the travelers Spon and G. Wheeler refer to it. The katholikon belongs to the simple, cross-in-square, four-columned churches. Initially, the western side of the entrance had three doors. The entrance is through the central door with a marble doorframe consisted of reused fragments. The other two side doors have been removed. It is rubble masonry. The use of ancient parts – especially in the western side – presents considerable interest. Thus, on top of the entrance door a 10th – 11th century panel has been walled into a shrine. It bears a representation of a cross with rosettes in the gaps. Furthermore, a fragment of an early Christian tombstone has been found in the katholikon floor.

Karea Monastery. 11th-12th century. (photograph: Chr. Kontogeorgopoulou)

Kleiston Monastery is located in Phylis area (Chassia) close to the ancient castle inside a gorge. The katholicon is a two-columned, cross-in-square church dated to the 13th century. The Monastery is mentioned in Pope Innocent’s IV document as casale Curiomonaster (the Lady’s Monastery, Kyriomonastiro). It is also mentioned in more recent documents (18th century) mainly concerning landed property of the Monastery. In these documents the Monastery is referred to as Panagia or Theotokos of Klisson, or Panagia Klissiotissa of Chassia. In even more recent documents it is mentioned as Theotokos of Eklissiotissa of Chassia. Moreover, we find out abbots’ names in the Monastery from other documents of the same period.

Kleiston Monastery. 14th – 15th century. (Photograph by I. Liakoura)

Aghios Markos was built during the period of the Frankish rule (described in the next chapter) in the southwest of the Katholikon of Kaisariani Monastery. Its position offers a view till Saronikos, which has also been mentioned in Michael Choniates’ epistles. The first Christian center of the Monastery was founded in this exact position known as the “Cemetery of the Holy Fathers”. The area is called Frangomonastiro after this catholic church. In the 11th century the monastic center was transferred to its present safer position with the foundation of the Katholikon of Kaisariani Monastery.

Aghios Markos in Kaisariani Monastery. 13th century. (Photograph by I. Liakoura)

Aghios Nikolaos is located in the west of Ntaou Monastery, when we turn right from the central road that leads from Rafina to Old Penteli, near a ravine. This road is called Kalission Street. The katholikon is a domed, single-naved basilica dated to the post Byzantine period. However, there are indications – mainly from unpublished excavation facts – of an older Byzantine phase. This point is strengthened by references in Pope Innocent III document, " Abbatia Sancti Nicolai", "casale Calixtes" (1209), and Pope Honorius document "S. Nicolai de Kalliscia de Montepentelli" (1218).

Aghios Nikolaos in Kalissia. (photograph: Chr. Kontogeorgopoulou).

Panaghia Marmariotissa is a small church situated in Chalandri, nowadays in the court in the west of the new church of the Virgin Mary. Its foundation is dated to the late Roman period. Initially it used to be a Roman mausoleum made of luxurious marble. But, afterwards it was converted into a church with the addition of a three-sided apse in its eastern side. The name Marmariotissa possibly originated from the material of its initial construction or from the spolia found in the church environment. It can be dated as early as the 5th century, making it one of the oldest well preserved medieval churches in the city of Athens.

Panaghia Marmariotissa. Around 5th century. (Photograph by Ch. Kontogeorgopoulou)

Panaghia Xydou is a small, cross-vaulted church of the Virgin Mary - known by the name Xydou (possibly deriving from a family name or the owner’s name) - is preserved in good condition in Kifissia, Tatoiou Street. It is dated to the late Byzantine years, maybe late 12th century.

Panaghia Xydou. 12th century. (Photograph by I. Liakoura)

Aghioi Pantes is a small late 11th century - early 12th century, elegant church situated in Tsocha Street in Ampelokipoi, very close to the hospital Hagios Savvas. It is a cross-in-square church, which is mentioned as the Monastery of the Confessors in the historical sources - more specifically in Michael Choniates’ epistles. Nowadays, it is dedicated to Hagioi Pantes.

Aghioi Pantes. 12th century. (Photograph by I. Liakoura)

Aghia Thekla is a church located in Aghia Paraskevi which in its present form, has the form of a single-aisled, barrel-vaulted basilica. However, during the latest excavations it has been established that the initial church, which is dated to the end of the 12th century – beginning of the 13th century, was a four-columned, cross-in-square church. It is probably connected with the neighboring monastery of Hagios Ioannis Kynigos in Hymettus. The milestone made in 1238 proves this point. It was situated in the northern side of the road leading to Mesogeia (today’s Mesogeion avenue) in order to signal the connection between the Athens and the Mesogeia plain. It is the so-called column of Neophytos, who probably was a monk in the above mentioned monastery in Hymettus. The church is not mentioned in historical sources but Neophytos’ column, with which it is directly connected, is a valuable historical source. This happens not only because it preserves the name of the manufacturer of Mesogeion street but also because of its connection with the monastery of Kynigos.

Aghia Thekla. Late 12th – early 13th century. (Photograph by I. Liakoura)

Triada tou Nerou is a church situated in Parnitha, in the position Metochi. It was named like that because the church was a metochion of the Monastery Archangelon Petraki in Athens, near the hospital “Evangelismos”. It used to be the katholicon of a Monastery dedicated to the holy and saint Trinity (“yperousion kai Hagian Triada”). This is mentioned in a document dated to 1761 and in a sigillion of 1796. The exact date of its foundation is not known. However, in all probability, the initial phase is dated to the Byzantine period, as various sculptures located in the spot indicate. Specifically, when the wooden screen of the church was replaced by a low marble one, marble panels and colonettes incorporated into the floor of the Holy Bema were used. The decoration of these panels (see photograph) consists of a rhombus in a rectangular frame, which surrounds an isosceles cross in a circle, very common subject during the middle Byzantine period. It is a single-aisled, cross-vaulted church with a narthex. The name “of the Water” (tou Nerou) derives from the holy water springing from a neighboring spring next to an age-long walnut tree.

Triada tou Nerou (Parnitha). (Photograph by I. Liakoura).

Triada tou Nerou (Penteli) is situated in the Old Penteli square. Nowadays, it is lime washed and the interventions inflicted make it difficult for us to recognize its Byzantine traits. The main church is cross-in-square. A contemporary narrow narthex has been annexed and much later a barrel-vaulted exonarthex. It is dated to the 14th or the 15th century (Orlandos). A painted decoration is not preserved. The church used to be a hermitage, where the founder of the post Byzantine Monastery of Penteli, monk Timotheos, used to live during the construction work in the Monastery. Besides, the distance between the church of Hagia Triada and the Monastery of Penteli is small. The name “of the Water” derives from a spring, which used to spring, close to the small church.

Triana tou Nerou (Penteli). 14th century. (Photograph by I. Liakoura)

Of course there is a significant number of other medieval structures all around the city and even more in the metro area (Attiki) but that would require a much longer list, however I think that the aforementioned gives you a clear idea of the amount of well preserved monuments from this period still standing in the city of Athens.

In the years of mid 12th century the emperor left a runic inscription οn the large stone lion at Piraeus which was to give that place its Medieval designation of 'Porto Leone'. In 1147, the city was again plundered, this time by King Roger of Sicily, who took away with him some silk manufacturers.

Just before the end of this difficult period, we have an account of life in Athens from the man appointed its archbishop, Michael Akominatos. He was not happy to take up residence in Athens. He described the inhabitants as 'an uncivilised horde' whose uncouth accent, he claims, it took him three years to learn.

His complaints were many. There were the agents, praetors, census-takers, scribes, tax-collectors, customs officials and other functionaries sent out from Constantinople 'every year as numerous as the plague of frogs which the Lord sent upon Egypt.' Aegina was a nest of pirates. Eleusis was attacked by them. The praetor had 'plundered' the Parthenon. The city was a ruin: 'there is no iron-worker, no bronze-worker among us, no maker of knives.' The priests were 'an evil lot.' The congregations chattered and walked about in church. There were only ill-fed women and children in the city, naked or in rags.

The picture he paints is one of total decay and ruin, suggesting that the coming Crusaders, and Turks had little to destroy. However, it is not clear how much reliance we should place on his diatribe. He was clearly not pleased to find himself in what they considered to be a God-forsaken hole. Much of his complaint is along the lines that there were no more philosophers, and always, the contrast of present poverty with a glorious past is implicit. This was to be a common theme of later Western visitors, such exaggerated contrasts between past glories and present poverty and decay lending themselves always to painting the present in the darkest possible colours as it used to happen with many other European cities of that time.

During the 10th – 13th centuries period, at the northern edge of the Agora, the area of Psyrri, was a densely populated neighbourhood, which saw a substantial decrease of population during the 13th century to finally experience a later increase of population and regain of density during the 18th century.

In mid 12th century Al-Idrisi an Arab geographer, referred to Athens and described it as largely populated city, which is surrounding by gardens and cultivated fields. Few years later, in 1166, the patriarch Luke Chresoverges did not hesitate calling Athens as a blessed land. Even the Michael Choniata, the scholar bishop of Athens, who is always complaining about Athens and its decline, sometimes is astonished by the natural environment and admits that Athens was once a largely populate city. Moreover, Choniata describes fields with olive oil trees, and vineyards and fields plenty of wheat. In addition the Attic landscape was completed by fields full of pine trees, which covered all the hills of the attic basin reaching to the feet of neighbouring mountains.

During the last quarter of 12th century and few years before Choniata arrived to Athens, the city was destroyed once again by Saracens who conquered it and tried also to take the Rizocastro and the Acropolis. Choniata came across a view of a damaged Athens when he celebrated in Athens the New Year of 1182.

The scholar bishop had in his mind the idea of ancient classic Athens and now what he saw was nothing else but a damaged city with devastated walls, houses excavated and transformed to fields, people starving and suffering from starvation and deceases. The bishop himself laments for the situation of Athens and in order to catch the attention powerful and influential people of the era, Choniata described in his letters the horrible situation of his metropolis and of his flock.

However and despite all his attempts to help, during his stay Choniata would witness the completion of the destroying process by the raids of Leo Sgouros, lord of Nauplion.

The Metropolitan defended with strength the city but the supplies and the courage of the inhabitants were defeated. The Athenians exhausted from the attacks and devastations would not be able to resist any further. So, the city became an easy target for the Franks who arrived in Athens and conquered it.

Choniata realised now that it was pointless to resist and surrendered the city to Frankish the knights and their leader Boniface of Montferrat. The new lords of the illustrious city, greedily, started plundering and pillaging all the treasures, which were in churches, the relics and all precious things, which also were inside the churches. Moreover, the Parthenon, the illustrious temple of Mother of God was pillaged too and Choniata’s library was looted while its rare manuscripts were torn apart. Choniata himself was forced to leave the city and after a long roaming in Thessalonica and Euboia, he finally arrived to the island of Kea. This period will be covered thoroughly in the next chapter.

For the area of Agoraio Kolonou and surroundings, to the west of Athens center, beyond the rail tracks, a big 12th century Byzantine building was discovered, which unfortunately was destroyed during the construction of the railway in the 19th century. This building consisted of thirty rooms and was abandoned perhaps during thirteenth or fourteenth century. Regarding its use, there are varied positions among scholars. Some consider it as the residence or mansion of a noble; others consider it as a medieval appartments building; while other support the theory of a market place or public building or even that of a residence for the monks of the neighboring monastery of St. George Theseum. Finally another theory supports the theory of an inn for pilgrims.

View of the building described in the previous paragraph

Other neighbouring structures to the north consisted of big residential buildings. These houses appeared to be demolished by a fire during the mid 12th century. The cause of their destruction was probably the Normans raid, which took place in 1147 AD.

In the same area also, which probably was an industrial neighbourhood during those times, archaeologists found a building which served probably as a cotton-mill.

Despite the continuous disasters and attacks, the basic urban streets network of Athens did not change substantially since ancient times. During the medieval period the roads of the city followed the same road plan of the ancient ones being mostly identical. It is interesting also to note that this continues to be a fact nowadays, since, especially in the historical center of Athens, many streets are the same ones of ancient and medieval times. Outside of the Athenian fortification the ancient road network remained the same until our days with some little variations in certain cases, but they follow mostly, exactly the same pattern from ancient times. For a deeper description of the Athens road network history check the Classical Athens II chapter.

Map of Athens during the period that spans from the years of Justinian to the occupation of the city by the Franks (565 - 1205). During this period and specially after the 11th century renaissance, the city was expanded its urban area beyond the Post-Roman walls and the Rizokastro, up to the ancient walls, where medieval neighborhoods had been developed; thus the city covered a big part of current Athens center. During these years Athens covered more or less the same land size of ancient times. (By I. Travlos, “Urban development of Athens, 2nd edition, Athens 1993).

At this time, the bloodthirsty tyrant Leo Sgouros ruled the Argolid from Nauplia. He had invited a predecessor of Michel Akominatos to dine with him, put out his eyes and threw him from the cliff. He demanded money from the Athenians to 'protect' them from Saracen pirates. Then in 1204 Sgouros advanced upon the city with an army, seeking the surrender of an enemy who had taken refuge there. He pillaged the lower town, but the archbishop talked him out of a siege of the Acropolis, and he went off to attack Thebes instead. It is clear that the ageing empire offered its provinces little security.

A map of medieval Athens showing many of the churches as well as the walls built in different periods starting from the 5th century BC.

Medieval houses. (A) 5th century AD. (B) 12th century (I. Travlos)

Excavation of medieval houses (12th century) in the area of Agoraio Kolonos (I. Travlos)

Topographical map of 12th century Athens (I. Travlos)
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Old July 26th, 2008, 11:54 PM   #17
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Crusader Athens I - Athens under the Burgundian occupation (1205 - 1311)


In 1204 a crusader expedition which was supposedly destined for Egypt to fight the Saracens and recover the Holy Land was diverted to Constantinople. The crusaders had not the money to pay the Venetians for their passage, and the Venetians, who longed to dominate the Eastern Mediterranean, diverted the expedition to Constantinople. The City was sacked, and the Venetians were paid with the booty. Instead of continuing with the Crusade, the Crusaders then decided to divide the conquested parts of the empire among themselves as feudal fiefdoms. The rest remained free, giving birth to three Greek kingdoms, that would struggle to liberate the occupied Greek lands. These three kingdoms were the Despotato of Epirus, ruled by the Doukas-Komnenos family; the Kingdom of Nicea, ruled by the Paleologos family and the Kingdom of Trapezounta by the Komnenos family.

Αll of the occupied Greece north of the Isthmus fell to Boniface III, Marquis of Montferrat, who held it as 'King of Thessaloniki'. In 1205 he arrived in Athens, where archbishop Michael Akominatos handed over to him the Acropolis, probably in order to be protected from the depredations of Sgouros. In accordance with Western feudal custom he parcelled out much if his lands to subordinates, in return for their support. Attica, together with Megara, Boeotia and Locris, were given to a Burgundian knight, Othon de la Roche. When the Burgundians arrived in Athens, they promptly plundered the cathedral treasury and library. Otho assumed the title Lord of Athens and Thebes “Grand Seigneur of Athens and Thebes”, and took up residence in Thebes, installing a governor on the Acropolis.

The Franks formed a ruling aristocracy, and initially they did not mix with the conquered Greek population, who were, in the main, probably reduced to serfdom. Under Othon's rule Athens prospered, but the citizens probably enjoyed little of this, as trading privileges were granted to Venetian and Genoese merchants.

Pope Innocent III sent a Latin archbishop, Berard, to replace Michael Akominatos, and Latin bishops to replace the other Orthodox bishops. The Latin rite of the West replaced the Greek rite in their churches. Αll the monasteries were placed under the control of the Catholic Archbishop. The abbot of Kaisariani promptly submitted to papal authority in order to ensure that his monastery should retain its tax exemption.

The Orthodox monks were expelled from Daphne. Despite their shared Christianity, the conquerors did not respect the monastery church. During restoration work on the cupola in 1895, two Crusader bolts were found embedded in the eyes of the famous representation of Christ as the Pαntokrator. In 1207, the pope invited the Cistercians to occupy the premisses. These 'white monks,' who knew the monastery as 'Dalfinet', added a western-style monastic cloister. The Cistercians were an austere, reformed order, and their churches were forbidden all superfluous decoration, so they may have covered the mosaics with plaster. The powerful dukes of Burgundy were by tradition buried in the mother house of the Cistercian order at Citeaux, and in imitation of this practice, the Burgundian rulers of Athens were each interned at Daphne.

The Latin clergy who came with the Crusaders were almost entirely either attached to cathedrals, functioned as private chaplains to great lords, or priests who held office in the cities and castles. The Latin priests were to remain a tiny and isolated minority in a hostile land. The Greeks saw the Latin priests as polluters. They rebaptized children baptized with the Latin rite, and washed clean altars used by Latin priests. No Orthodox archbishop of Athens was allowed to enter the city, and since the Latins had taken over the Parthenon, a church beside the Roman forum was adopted by the Greeks as their cathedral.

Many Orthodox monks may have retreated to the mountains to avoid persecution and to preserve their Byzantine tradition, and it is likely that the churches in the entrance of the Cave of Amomon (Davelis' cave) were erected at this time. The dome of the larger church is inscribed with the date 1234, and was decorated with a mural, now removed to the Byzantine Museum, which represented the last Greek archbishop of Athens, Michael Akominatos, suggesting the conscious championing of the disinherited rite.

The nature of the records which tend to be kept and preserved ensures that the political history of any feudal society concerns almost exclusively the fortunes of the great noble families and the religious houses. Athens was no exception, so our knowledge of the period is virtually limited to such matters. In 1207 the Latin emperor Henry of Flanders toured many parts of Greece after restoring order among his vassals and attended a Te Deum in the Parthenon. In 1225, the homesick Othon returned to France, leaving his lands in Greece to his nephew, Guy Ι. Two mοnasteries were founded during his reign: Saint John the Hunter at Marathon and the Enclosed Monastery at Phyle.

In 1246, William of Villhardouin Prince of Achaia, found himself at war with the Venetians and called upon his vassals to assist him. Guy de la Roche, who was technically his vassal, not only refused to aid him, but actually assisted his enemies. In retaliation, William crossed the Isthmus and confronted Guy's army at the pass of Mount Karydi. Guy fled the field of battle, leaving many of his warriors dead, and was forced to appear before the High Court of the barons of Achaia. But when Guy stood before the assembled lords, he asserted that William and the barons of Achaia were not his peers, and therefore not competent to judge him. He appealed over their heads to the most respected monarch of Christendom, King Saint Louis ΙΧ of France. At this, the assembled barons agreed to defer to the king's judgement. Guy duly appeared at the royal court, where the king decided that he had been guilty of a technical offence, but a minor one, and that his journey to Paris was penalty enough in itself. The king then told Guy he could not return empty-handed, and asked what favour he might desire. Guy requested the title 'duke of Athens', and his wish was granted. From that point onwards, the heads of the family of de la Roche rules as dukes. It may have been as part of this conflict that, as a French traveller records, an engagement took place in 1250 near the ruins of the Villa Kifissia, which, at that date, were said to be still substantial.

During the reign of Guy Ι Athens prospered. Venetians moved into Porto Leone (Piraeus). Duke John, who spoke Greek, succeeded him in 1263. He was in turn succeeded by his brother, William, who had married a Greek, and then by Guy II. When he died in 1308, the title passed to Walter de Brienne. Walter ambitiously sought to extend his territories at the expense of the restored Greek states by the Laskaris-Komnenos and Paleologos dynasties. When they combined against him, he called on the help of the Grand Company of Catalan mercenaries.

The Catalans had been employed by Frederick II to place him on the throne of Sicily. Some 4,000 of them, finding peace unrewarding, had set out under the leadership of Roger de Flor, a falconer's son and former Templar, to make their fortunes in the Levant. They arrived at Constantinople in 1303, where they were used with success against the Turks in Anatolia. Having employed them, the Greeks feared them, and sought to rid themselves of the danger by murdering Roger and attacking the Company where they were camped in the Dardenelles. The Catalans repelled all attacks, and until 1307 lived off the land, raiding the countryside up to the walls of the City. Then in that year they moved west, ravaged Thrace and Macedonia and entered central Greece.

Walter offered to employ them for six months against his enemies. He paid them two months wages in advance, and for the next six months they fought very successfully on his behalf. Then they demanded the remaining four months' wages due to them, and refused to hand over some castles they had taken in southern Thessaly, pleading that they had nowhere else to go. Walter reluctantly paid some five hundred of them, and then ordered the rest to go away. They would not.

In 1311, Walter summoned all the French knights in Greece to his aid to get Central Greece rid of the Catalan menace, and attacked them in Boeotia. The Catalans chose to confront the French in the Kopaic marshes. There the heavily armoured French knights sank in the mud and were massacred. Of seven hundred, only four are known to have escaped with their lives. Duke Walter himself was slain and beheaded.

During the two and half centuries of Latin dominion Athens transformed into a small town, which was more densely populated in the area inside the post Roman wall and included only the Rizocastro. The external wall was abandoned and by this time it surrounded a less populated (semi-suburban) area, the ancient ruins and Byzantine churches; an area which until early 13th century was extremely active and densely populated.

During the 13th century there were little interventions in the Athenian urban area. In the Acropolis the Burgundies lords of mid century, closed the main gate, named by them as the Beule gate, and they used the second smaller gate, which was located under the tower of the temple of Apteros Nikis. At this place was the ascending road to the Acropolis since the prehistoric years. In order to protect this place they also built a small wall, a part of which still remains nowadays.

During the same period they established a fortification in the source of Clepsydra, opened a path in the north wall of the Propylaia and built the stairs, which provide the connection between the Propylaia and the source of Clepsydra.

Moreover, in order to reinforce the fortification of the Acropolis they built at the south side of the Propylaia the Frankish Tower, which was later demolished in 1875. With this tower and another one built in the east side of the Acropolis, known as the Belvedere, it was possible a better view of the Athenian basin as well as a more effective surveillance and defense of the Acropolis.

During the construction of the Frankish tower an older Paleo-Christian church located at the south side of Propylaia was destroyed, which was later replaced by a new one.

Mid 19th century view of the Frankish tower, demolished in 1875 under the auspices of Heinrich Schliemann (I. Travlos)

Mid 19th century photograph of the Frankish tower with a background view of the area of Elaionas in western Athens, still in those times covered by Olive trees, fields and rural houses.

Plans of the Propylaia used as the government palace of the Franks
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Old July 27th, 2008, 01:08 AM   #18
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Crusader Athens II - Under the Catalan occupation (1311 - 1388)


Athens lay open to the mercenaries, who occupied it without opposition. Afraid of provoking universal wrath for upsetting the natural order of things by ruling without the sanction of royal or aristocratic blood, the Catalans decided to invite noble patronage as an insurance. They prudently asked Frederick II of Sicily to send one of his sons to be their ruler. He appointed Manfred, his five-year-old second son. For the next sixty years, as part of the duchy of Athens and Neopatras, Athens was theoretically governed from Sicily by a succession of dukes, not a single one of whom ever actually saw the Acropolis. They each governed through vicars-general.

The first two of these officers were very competent. Despite the enmity of both the Papacy and the Venetians, under Berenguer Espanol, and Don Alfonso Fadrique the Catalans consolidated their hold over the region. At first Catalan corsairs did considerable damage to Venetian trade in the region, then in 1319, after long negotiations, Don Alfonso Fadrique agreed to disarm their vessels and attack no other ships in the Saronic Gulf, or in the vicinity of Negroponte. Such ships as they had were to be drawn on shore, a plank taken from each vessel, and its tackle to be stored on the Acropolis. They could only maintain ships in the Corinthian Gulf, where they posed no problem to the Serene Republic.

Despite the presence of a governor, the several municipalities of the Catalans were virtually self-governing corporations; according to a contemporary 'true Catalan municipalities transferred to the very heart of classic Greece.' Documents for internal use were written in Catalan, and for external use in Latin. It seems likely that over time, the poorer Catalans sank to the social level of the Greeks. Continuous opposition by the Church alienated many Catalans, and in 1322 Pope John ΧΧII ordered the Latin Patriarch of Constantinople to take stern measures against apostates, suggesting that some of them had turned to Orthodoxy.

The Aegean was a very disordered region at this time. In 1329-30, the Turks ravaged Attica on no less than four occasions. In 1332 Turkish corsairs raided the coast, and in 1367 tried to take the Acropolis. Another danger lay in the mercenary company of Navarre, which had found a base in Boeotia. With the support of the Knights of St. John, these adventurers, so like the Catalans in their early days, also marched on Athens. They were resisted by the vicar-general, Romeo de Bellarbe and the Greek notary Demetrios Rendi. Two years later, they withdrew into the Peloponnese.

The Athenians then petitioned King Pedro IV for favours in recognition for their loyalty in this struggle. Demetrios Rendi received lands and serfs. Α village church near Athens and the area lying around it, now part of the conurbation, and still bears his name.

In the early 1420s a group of Christian Albanians from north Albania were invited to settle at Elefsina (ancient Eleusis). At this time, Nerio Acciajuoli, a Florentine adventurer who had become lord of Corinth and Megara, decided to add Athens to his dominions. He had alliances with the despot of Mistra, and the Imperial Viceroy in Thessaloniki. His forces were ready, he required only a pretext. In the county of Salona, a fief of the Catalan Duchy, lived the widowed countess Helene and her daughter, Maria. Nero made her an offer of marriage to his brother-in-law, Pietro Saraceno. The dowager countess, a descendant of a Greek emperor, scornfully refused to give her daughter to a 'Florentine merchant.” Predictably, in 1388 Athens, together with Thebes and Levadeia, was captured by Nerio. The king of Naples cοnferred upon him the title of duke.

The Catalans disappeared from Athens almost without trace. The memory of the Greeks in respect of the Catalans is uniformly negative. As late as the nineteenth century people would use the reproach 'What a Catalan!'
The Catalans turned the Propylaia into a government house (Palau del Castell de Cetines) and they also built the St. Bartholomew chapel. The government was established in the Acropolis; the garrison and some special nobles as well as the Latin bishop of Athens lived there with a corps of twelve priests of the Cathedral of Athens.
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Old July 27th, 2008, 01:15 AM   #19
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Crusader Athens III - Under the Florentine occupation (1388 - 1456)


As Greek was the language of his domains, Nerio learned Greek also to communicate with the local population and admitted that it should be the official language of the the newcomer Florentine rulers. Greek elders or demogerontes had some say in the government of the city. He asked the Patriarch of Constantinople to appoint a metropolitan to Athens, for the first time for nearly two centuries. He took up office in the church of Panayia Soteria (Our Lady of Salvation). Even though the man appointed, Dorotheus, had to be expelled in 1392 for plotting against the Acciauoli, Nerio nevertheless accepted a replacement, Makarios. Nerio also kept a Greek mistress, named Maria Rendi, the daughter of Demetrios Rendis.

Nerio was later held hostage by the Navarrese Company after their leader had treacherously agreed to safe passage for him to meet to discuss matters of common interest and was ransomed on the pleas of the Florentines and Genovese. In order to raise the money needed, however, the silver plates were stripped from the doors of the Parthenon, and most of its treasures, accumulated over centuries, sold to secure his release.

Between 1386 and 1394 more small groups of Albanians who had been invited by King Pedro to settle in Attica turned up, and were allowed to stay. These settlers, who generally occupied lands in Northern Attica, were usually small 'clans' of related families, under the command of a leader whose name was perpetuated in the name of the district in which they settled. These names, such as Malakassa, Liossia, etc., are still in use today as the names of the villages they built.

When he died, Nerio left a will which seems calculated to generate maximum mischief. He left the revenues of the city to the Catholic Cathedral. The income from his famous stud farm was to be used to maintain twenty canons to pray for his soul. He also ordered that the doors of the Parthenon should be replated with silver. He left to Antonio, a natural son by Maria Rendi, who was therefore as Greek as he was Italian, a property in Thebes and other in Livadia. He appointed his youngest daughter Francesca as his heir, and committed her to the care of Venice.

The Greek archbishop Makarios, insulted by the terms of Nerio's will, which he considered effectively gave the city into the hands of the Roman Catholic archbishop, Ludovico de Prato, invited the Turks to occupy the city. Α Turkish force arrived, but the Acropolis resisted, its governor, Matteo Montana, arranging to hand over the city to the Venetians on condition they respected the rights of the citizens. The nearest Venetian official, the baillie of Negroponte (Chalkia), sent a force which drove off the Turks, and in 1395 raised the lίοn of Saint Mark over the Acropolis.

Antonio, but was expelled by the Republic of Venice, the executor of Nerio's will.

The Venetians controlled the Duchy from 1395 to 1402. They were not inspired by the ancient associations of the city; nothing seemed to move them but commerce. The Acropolis was a strong fortress, and they simply wanted it to keep it out of the hands of the Turks. They actually had a lot of trouble finding someone prepared to take on the responsibility of governor, or podesta, before appointing the nobleman Albano Contarίni.

At this point, in February 1395, Νίccοlό da Martoni, an notary from Capua, visited Athens on his way back from a pilgrimage to Jerusalem. He kept a full diary and spent two days in the city, providing a description of Athens during this period. As Martoni referred the city is between two mountains and encircled by a marvellous plain filled with beautiful olive oil cultivations (plura et pulchra oliveta). He wrote that the city had been reduced to the size of a small city under the shadow of the Acropolis, and estimated that it had something like one thousand houses and constructions within the city post-Roman walls. Moreover, Athens had no inn or other place for accommodation of travellers. Thus, Martoni had to stay in the house of the Latin archbishop. The Italian visitor during his short stopover in the city showed a special interest to Athenian antiquities. Therefore, he visited the Hadrian’s aquaduct in the feet of Lycabettus hill and the named school of Aristotle. Then he descended the Helissus riverbanks and reached to Olympeion, which he thought that it was Hadrian’s palace. He also described the elegant Hadrian’s Gate, the ruins of the Stadium and the roman bridge of Ilissos river. Next stop in his tour was the Acropolis. Martoni there admired the ducal palace of the Propylaia and he was also astonished by the Parthenon, the great Church of Mother of God as he called it. The Martoni’s description of the building is quite detailed and has references to previous traditions regarding the Parthenon.

He described 'the great hall' of the castle, the Propylaea, as having 'thirteen great columns, over which were beams thirty feet long, and over these beams slabs of marble. Churchwardens conducted him over 'the Church of Saint Mary', (the Parthenon) which had sixty columns outside and eighty inside. There were four other columns which surrounded the high altar, which were of jasper and supported a dome. Rain fell through the open roof there into a beautiful cistern. He was then taken to see the relics of the cathedral, which included the figure of the Virgίη painted by Saίnt Luke, covered in gems, the head of Saίnt Makarios, arms of Saίnt Dionysios, Saίnt Cyprian and Saίnt Justίn, the elbow of Saίnt Maccabeus, and a copy of the Gospels written in gold letters on parchment by Saίnt Elena, mother of Saίnt Constantίne, with her own hand. On one of the interior columns, he was shown the cross made by Dionysios the Areopagite at the moment of the earthquake which took place when Jesus died on the cross. He saw in a cleft of the wall, 'the light which never fails'.

Outside, beyond the castle ramparts, he was taken to see the two pillars of the choragic monument of Thrasyllos, between which, he was told, there used to be an idol gifted with the power of sinking hostile ships as soon as they appeared on the horizon. In the lower city he noticed numbers of fallen columns and fragments of marble. He saw the Stadium, and visited the 'House of Hadrian' (the temple of Olympian Zeus), the 'study of Aristotle, and the remains of the ancient aqueduct at the foot of Lycabettos.

Fear of the prowling Turks and the feud between Nerio's two sons-in-law, made travelling in Attica difficult and dangerous. Niccοlό rode along the Sacred Way in fear of his life, and was relieved to reach the safety of Acrocorinth.

In 1397, Sultan Bezayit sent two generals with a force of 50,000 to devastate many parts of Greece. On returning from the Peloponnese, they may have sacked Athens in 1397, although such are the records that there is some doubt about the exact date, or even whether such a disaster ever actually happened.

Luckily for the hard-pressed Christians of the East, Sultan Bezayit was defeated by Tamarlane in 1402 at the battle of Ankara, and himself taken captive. This unexpected development ensured that for some time the power of the Turks would be eclipsed. This offered Antonio the chance to recover Athens for the Acciauoli. He suddenly marched against the city. The bailey of Negroponte collected 6,000 men to go to its relief, but Antonio laid an ambush in the Pass of the Anephorites, took him prisoner, and resumed the siege of the Acropolis. After seventeen months, when the last horse had been eaten, the garrison surrendered and were allowed to leave.

During his warlike career as duke from 1402 to his death, Antonio was a terror to his neighbours, but kept his domains internally peaceful. By his father's will he inherited the castle of Livadia and the government of the city of Thebes. He supported Theodore I Paleologos, Despot of Morea, against the Despot of Epirus.

On 31 March 1405, a peace treaty was signed between Antonio and Venice.

Antonio paid tribute both to the Venetians and the Turks, and so preserved his (relative) independence for many years.

Antonio's career was militaristic and adventuresome. In 1406, he took Staria and in 1410 joined the Ottoman Turks to devastate Venetian Nauplia. In 1419, a peace between the Turks and Venice called on Mehmed I to ask Antonio to cease harassing the Venetians. In 1423, he was at war with Theodore II Paleologos of Morea and occupied Corinth.

He married a priest's daughter from Thebes, and when she died, a Greek imperial aristocrat, Maria Melissini. He was able to provide Athens with an interlude of peace, when all around was in turmoil. The contemporary Athenian historian, Laonikos Chalcocondylis says that he even managed to improve the city.

Most authorities think that it was he who erected the tall 'Frankish Tower' in front of the Propylaea, opposite the Temple of Athena Nike. He built a villa by the Illissos at the spring of Kallirhoe, and took over a nearby chapel built on the site of a temple of Artemis known as Our Lady on the Rocks, for the personal use of the ducal family.

Antonio invited another small group of Albanians for settlement of areas of south-east Attica, at Spata and Liopesi, etc., where again the settlers' leaders gave their names to the districts in which they built their homes. These were unrelated to the Albanians who had already settled in the north of Attica.

There seems to have been no antagonism between the Greeks and the small Florentine community, which boasted names like Medici and Machiavelli, for Florentine rule was infinitely preferable to Burgundian, Catalan, Venetian or Turkish.

On 7 August 1422, he conceded privileges to Florentine merchants in Athens. In that year, Alfonso V of Aragon asserted his claim by appointing Tommaso Beraldo, a Catalan, duke. Giovanni Acciaioli, Antonio's brother and archbishop of Thebes, who was then in Rome, was sent to Venice to appeal the appointment of Tommaso to the senate there, but the pleas were ignored. Antonio died still in power in January 1435 and left the duchy to his nephews Nerio II and Antonio II under the regency of his widow Maria Melissini, who never gave him children.

Nerio arrived in Greece in 1419 on the death of his father when he was only three years old. He was named heir to his uncle Antonio I of Athens, but on his uncle's death in 1435, he had to fight his uncle's widow Maria Melissini and the Chalcocondylis family for the ducal throne; since when Antonio died, the Athenians felt sufficiently self-confident to make an attempt, in the person of his widow and her relative Georgos Chalcocondylis, to take charge of the city themselves. An Athenian archon, Michalis Laskaris, journeyed to the Turkish court to gain the consent of Sultan Murad II to this coup, but he was imprisoned. Antonio's cousin Nerio took over the city and banished the Chalcocondylis family.

Supported by Murad II, the Ottoman sultan, against the Greek King Constantine Palaeologos, Despot of Morea. After securing his position with Turkish help, he was removed by the intrigues of his brother Antonio II and driven from the Acropolis.

Under Nerio II the city enjoyed a brief revival. Between 1418 and 1435 some more groups of Albanians were invited to settle, bringing their flocks with them. Many crossed to Salamis and Aegina. Despite occasional Turkish raids, and an outbreak of plague in 1423, it was said that 'agriculture blossomed under the care of peasants and the wooded mountains were used for hunting and hawking.' Nicolo Machiavelli wrote to a cousin: 'You have never seen a fairer land nor yet a fairer fortress than this.'

Unfortunately, this idyllic picture is only relative. There were still pirate raids to contend with. In 1424, Turkish raiders attacked the monastery of the Annunciation, known as Daou Pendeli, on the far slopes of Mount Pendeli. They returned the next year, beating and torturing the sole survivor of the massacre with great savagery before finally killing him by driving a burning stake through his body.

In 1436 Cyriacus of Ancona visited Athens, wrote about his stay, and returned in February 1444. He was very interested in ancient monuments, and marvelled at the great walls which had crumbled under the weight of centuries; the marble buildings, houses, and temples, all kinds of sculptures, rendered with wonderful skill: but now a huge mass of ruins. He copied inscriptions and made sketches. On the Museion Hill, for example, Cyriacus sketched the Philopappos monument when it was still in an almost complete state of preservation. He also visited the ruins of Piraeus, and saw the great marble lion which gave to the port its medieval name.

Nerio returned to power in 1441 after spending a few short years in Florence. He immediately expelled his brother's widow Maria Zorzi. It is probably that Nerio was present when the Emperor John VIII made a proclamation of Catholicism in the Florentine Duomo on 6 July 1439. In 1444, Nerio went to war against the Turks on the side of Constantine Paleologos, but came to terms with the Ottomans. He subsequently lost Thebes to Constantine and was forced to pay him tribute and become his vassal.

In the summer of 1444, Constantine Palologos launched an invasion of the Latin Duchy of Athens from Morea, swiftly liberating Thebes and Athens and forcing its Florentine duke to pay him tribute. Thus Athens became a tributary of Constantine Palaeologos, the despot of Morea, accordingly part of the Greek Kingdom or Byzantine empire for the last time.

But Murad assisted Nerio in retaking Thebes for the Latins. In the fall of 1446, the Ottomans advanced on Morea with 50-60,000 soldiers. Constantine and his brother Thomas braced for the attack at the Hexamilion, which the Ottoman army reached on November 27, 1446. While the wall may have held against medieval attacks, Sultan Murad had cannons to supplement the usual siege engines and scaling ladders, leaving the Hexamilion in ruins by December 10. Constantine and Thomas barely escaped. The winter prevented a full conquest of Morea, and Murad left that to another day, but put an end to Constantine's attempt to expand his Despotate; he would be crowned as the last Emperor at Mistras on January 6, 1449.

On his death Nerio II, was succeeded by his young son Francesco under the regency of his widow Chiara Zorzi.

Chiara was the daughter of Nicholas III Zorzi, the titular margrave of Bodonitsa, and renowned for her beauty. When Νeriο died, his widow and Venetian Bartolomeo Contarini, who murdered his wife in order to marry her in Athens (1453), seized the dukedom. The Athenians asked for help to the Ottoman Sultan. Mehmet II intervened at the insistence of the people on the behalf of the young duke Franco, a nephew of Nerio. He was sent to Athens as a Turkish client duke and Chiara thus deprived of her power in the city. Evidently, the citizenry had mistrusted the two lovers influence over the young duke, for whose safety they may have feared. So Franco banished his aunt to Megara and then murdered her, whereupon it was the turn of Bartolomeo to complain to the Turks, appealing to the sultan for justice. The Sultan ordered Omer, his governor of Thessaly, to march against Athens. Desperately, Franco and some of the leading citizens tried to offer their city to various western rulers if they would come to their aid. But then Omer himself offered Thebes to Franco as a compensation for surrendering the city, and the Sultan confirmed it. At the same time, the last Latin archbishop of Athens made his way into exile. Ominously, a comet appeared in the sky on 29th May 1456, and remained for several days. In June, Omer Pasha entered Athens at the head of a Turkish army.

Athens was taken into Turkish hands and Franco II deposed.

During the occupation by the Florentine dukes of Athens; the Acciaiuoli family, increased the building activity of the city. Particularly, Nerio A’ Acciaiuoli (1387-1395) who repaired the walls, opened up new roads and turned the Propylaia into a ducal mansion. These repairs had as a result the transformation of the Propylaia into an independent mighty fortress. Nerio was also interested on the renovation of the Parthenon and the church of Mother of God, which was there, and it was now a church of the Latin doctrine. During the same period probably the church of St. John of Magoutis was established, which was also turned to the Latin doctrine.

Besides all the above, the restoration of the Orthodox Church and the reestablishment of the metropolitan throne by Nerio A’, had as a result the rebirth and development of the building activity in Athens. The majority of the Athenian churches were repaired during this period as well as new ones were built.

Some of the churches built during this period were, the small church of the Transfiguration at the north side of Acropolis, the church of St. Helias in the Roman Agora, which unfortunately does not exist anymore and the church of St. Frangus at Ilissos river, near the Stadium, known by traveller’s reports.

After the short Venetian occupation (1395-1403) the building activity continued in Athens during the regime of Antonio A’ Acciaiuoli. Despite the increase of this activity, during the Latin occupation, Athens did not expand its main urban area outside of the post Roman walls and the Rizocastro and remained a small town, which was laid on an area of 0.5-1 Kms while the town walls had a length of 2.170 m. The area outside the walls remained mostly suburban with a low poulation density. The rest of the Athenian basin was occupied by small scattered villages connected to the Athens village by the same roads since ancient times; which still survive nowadays in the form of Avenues.

However, this small town was accompanied by its illustrious past, which was confirmed by the ruins of the Antiquity’s monuments, the innumerable inscriptions and in addition to all the above monuments there were the old Christian period churches, as well as the churches of contemporary Byzantine times, which confirmed once again the uninterrupted cultural, social and historical continuity of Athens.

So, it is not strange the fact that Abulfeda a famous Arab warrior, historiographer and geographer of the first half of the 14th century, was astonished by the city and described it as the fountain of Greek philosophy and as the land, where sciences and philosophy still existed.

During the first half of 15th century the Italian antiquary Cyriaco de Pizzicoli from Ancona visited Athens twice in 1436 and 1444. Cyriaco observed more deeply the Athenian area and describe the antiquities, drawing them and transcribing the ancient inscriptions. In his first visit he saw the Hadrian’s aquaduct and thought that was the Aristotle’s school. Moreover, he also believed that the Olympeion was Hadrian’s palace and described the monuments of Lysikrates, Thrassylus and Philopapos. Cyriaco also referred the New Walls of Athens (nova moenia), which according to his opinion were established by Catalans or Florentines. It is obvious that Cyriaco described the post Roman wall of Athens, which had been repaired during the Latin occupation.

Outside of the wall Cyriaco visited the Theseum and he referred to it as the temple of Ares. During his second journey to Athens, eight years later, Cyriaco described the Horologion of Cyrestus the octagon temple of Aeolus as he quotes, and then he ascended to Acropolis and there he described the Propylaea and was astonished by the Parthenon for which he expressed “that excellent and marvellous temple” (exilimium illud et mirable templum). It is worth to note that Cyriaco is the first medieval western visitor of Athens who used the term “Acropolis” instead of the medieval term of “Castle” (Castrum).

Just a few years after mid 15th century, an unknown Greek author made out a guide of the Athenian antiquities with the title Theatres and Schools of Athens. This guide entitled as the Anonymous of Vienna consisted of real documents along with myths, legends and stories.

Of course the main purpose of the guide’s author was not to describe Athens but to identify the monuments and the places of the ancient city. Also he intended to identify the Schools of great Philosophers and tragic Poets using the description of the place and recalling the ideas of his era.

Therefore, he locates at the suburban Athens, some of the greatest Philosophical Schools. Hence the Academy was located at the place of Vasilika at the south of the city. The Plato’s College was located at the Paradeseon, known nowadays known as Patissia. The School of Helaeats was placed at Ampelokepi where the ancient municipal of Alopekis was established. Finally the schools of Diodorus and Polyzelous were placed on Hymettus hill. According to the guide inside the post Roman walls of Athens was the school of Socrates in the Horologion of Cerystus and west of it were the Themistoclean palaces as he called the ruins of the Roman Agora.

The guide also referred to the area of the Ancient Agora and the surrounding area, which expanded to the south side of the Acropolis. There were the ruins of Herod’s Conservatory which in the guide were identified as the Miltiades palace. The Eumenes Gallery was identified as the College of Aristotles. To the east of the Acropolis among others monuments still standing he mentioned the Torch of Diogenes today known as the Lamp of Diogenes.

In the guide he also mentioned the Hadrian’s Gate, the Olympeion and the source of Callirois. He also mentioned the temple of Demeter and her daughter, the Stadium and the Hadrian’s water supply and finally he mentioned the Acropolis, where he considered the temple of Apteros Niki as a small college for musicians established by Pythagoras Samios; he also mentioned the illustrious palace of Propylaea in which was the Chancellery.

He made also mentions of the ancient gallery, the arcade of Stoics and in the opposite side the college of the Epicureans. Finally he described the Parthenon the temple of the Holy Mother of God.

View of the Propylaia used by Nerio Acciajuoli as his duchal palace.
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Athens under the Ottoman occupation I (1456 - 1689)


Athens under the Ottoman occupation I (1456 - 1689)

In 1456 the Sultan ordered Omer, his governor of Thessaly, to march against Athens. The duke Franco II and the citizens hid themselves in the Acropolis and held out against the Turks until June 1456. In June, Omer Pasha entered Athens at the head of a Turkish army. Omer himself offered Thebes to Franco as a compensation for surrendering the city and allowed him to retain lordship of Thebes as his vassal. Thus the Ottoman occupation was established.

In 1460, Mehmed was informed by his Janissaries of a plot to place Franco once again in Athens. Franco was summoned to the Morea by Zaganos Pasha, one of the sultan's governors. After a long night of entertainment, Zaganos Pasha told Franco that his last hour had struck. Franco's last request was to be killed in his own tent, which was honored.

In autumn 1458, two years after its surrender to the Turks, Sultan Mehmet II visited Athens in person. On his approach the abbot of Kaisariani, adopting the servile attitude of his predecessor towards the Crusaders some two and a half centuries previously, presented to the conqueror the keys of the city. In recognition of this service, the Sultan allowed the monastery to retain its privileges, and exempted from all but nominal taxation.

Luckily for the Athenians, the sultan was a devout Philhellene who read Greek, as well as Latin, and was anxious to see for himself all the sites so famous from history. For four days he went about the city viewing the sites and asking questions, trying to reconstruct the ancient cityscape in his imagination. On climbing onto the Acropolis he exclaimed in wonder: 'How much, indeed, do we not owe to Omar, the son of Turakhan!' The Muslim religion condemned all representations of gods and men, and it may be due to Mehmet's express command that the statues and bas-reliefs on the Parthenon, including those now known as the Elgin Marbles, were spared their puritan iconoclasm.

Sultan Mehmet granted to the Athenians a degree of self-government under a subassi under the authority of the pasha of Negroponte (Chalcis). His konak was located in the Stoa οf Ηadrian. The disdar-aga, or commander of the garrison was billeted in the palace of the Acciajuoli in the Propylaea, while he housed his harem in the Erechtheion. Ottoman civil law was administered by a cadi, or judge. The demogerontes, or city councillors, drawn from the twelve archontic families, administered the affairs of the Greek community. Below the archontai were the nykokyriakoi, or landlords, the pazarites, or trades people, and the xotarides, or outsiders. The members of each class were distinguished by distinctive dress It is unlikely that these arrangements were invented at this time, but it is not clear how far back they date.

How Athens looked like when the Ottomans arrived:

Despite the ottoman conquest took place without demolitions and destructions, a few years later in 1464 Athens suffered by Venetians raids. The Venetians were by no means reconciled to Ottoman control over the Aegean. They tried to seize the Acropolis without any success. So, they achieved nothing but the plunder of the lower city.

In 1466 the Parthenon was referred to as a church, so it seems likely that for some time at least, it continued to function as a cathedral, being restored to the use of the Greek archbishop. The Cistercians had abandoned Daphne, and that monastery was also restored to the Orthodox.

Meanwhile the church which had served as a cathedral for the Greeks during the rule of the Roman Catholics, was converted into a mosque, with the name 'Mosque of the Conqueror.' Some time later - we do not know exactly when - the Parthenon was itself converted into a mosque. Α small edifice was built inside to hold the mihrab, indicating the direction of Mecca, necessary for the orientation of Muslim prayers, and a room for the imam, or preacher, while a minaret was added. The Greek archbishop moved into the church of Αghios Panteleimon, which stood in the square below.

The houses of the well-to-do at this time were constructed against one side of a courtyard, which was surrounded by a high wall. The house itself was usually two-storey, the lower floor sunk below ground level, was used for storage, workshop, kitchen and supplementary accommodation purposes. The upper floor, the main living quarters, would be supported upon arches. The courtyard would be used for poultry, and would be the living quarters during fine weather.

Around 1470 an unknown Venetian visited Athens and made out a remarkable description of the city. He mentioned the city’s location, he described the Castle –Acropolis- a being very beautiful and being astonished by Parthenon, which considered as a temple of the Roman times and by the palaces of Propylaea.

He said the fortified city, expanded north of the Castle, he said the innumerable ruins and relics of the ancient buildings could be easily found inside as well as outside the walls. Regarding the ancient walls he mentioned that despite being destroyed though they were still impressive.

The Venetian visitor mentioned the Olympeion and he described the Hadrian’s Gate as a beauteous arch (un bel arco triuphale), he transcribed the Gate’s two inscriptions. The visitor in addition saw the Hadrian’s water reservoir at the feet of Lycabettus, mentioned as the School of Aristotle, he described Lysicrates’ monument as a beautiful marble building shaped as a torch and established not far away from the walls of the inhabited area. He also mentioned the Thrassylous and Thrasicles monuments as well as the Philopappos monument.

As the tour proceeded the visitor mentioned the entrance of Hadrian’s library, which was used as the northern city’s gate, the Horologion of Cyrestus described as a remarkable building and finally he visited Piraeus where the marble lion was still in its place. It is quite obvious from all the above that all the documents provided by visitors, despite the differences among them based on their culture, lifestyles, interests and information, have some common elements that provide us with some specific conclusions.

The most important conclusion is that the urban area of the town of Athens was mainly reduced inside the post-Roman walls and Rizocastro (however the Athenian basin was full of other little towns which later would be unified to each other to form the huge metropolis Athens is today). Moreover, in all these documents it is mentioned the destruction of the ancient wall, the survival of certain edifices and monuments of the Acropolis and some others in the lower town. It is also quite clear in all these documents the focus of interest on antiquity and the lack of any kind of interest concerning the medieval monuments of Athens. Maybe this is due to the period that these documents were written in, the Renaissance; a time of history when anything related with antiquity was good at least to the eyes of scholars or western travellers to Athens. This reduction of the size of the town of Athens happened during the 13th century, from the moment of Leo Sgouros’ raid and on; before that time Athens was known as a mid-size medieval city; living a construction and economic renaissance as described in previous chapters.

In the suburban area there were impressive medieval monuments such as the monastery of Kaesariani, the monastery of Asterius and St. John’s the hunter, still standing unmodified in Hymettus hill. Apart of the monasteries there were lots of medieval chapels and churches all around the basin, such as the as well as the remarkable monastery of Dafni in which the Ciotercians Order was established and which was also used as a mausoleum for the Franks Dukes of Athens. Quite an impressive monastery was also the Monastery of Kleston, located in Parnitha.

All those monasteries were established from the middle tenth century until the beginning of thirteenth century and of course they are splendid monuments of Byzantine architecture.

During the medieval times the shape of the Athenian landscape changed because of human interventions. The Athenian olive groves, the vineyards, the gardens, the pine trees fields were usually destroyed during the attacks of foreign invaders like the Franks, the Catalans, the Venetians and the Ottomans.

The reconstruction of the area after the attacks followed different rhythms that focused on the circumstances and the population’s needs. The peasants’ houses were sometimes left destroyed because the needs of the people had changed. However, in some cases in the place of previous houses they built new ones.

Concerning the road system which communicated the town of Athens with the rest of the the basin and its neighboring villages and beyond, they had changed little during medieval era. The ancient road network was still intact and in use.

The roads of medieval and post medieval Athens went through the gates of the post Roman wall and crossed the low density and ruined urban areas of Athens reaching the gates of the external ancient wall, once there the roads radiated towards different directions; as described in previous chapters; becoming later the current avenues of modern Athens.

Going more to the west, the road that previously went through the Piraeus Gates of the ancient wall was still used to reach the harbour by following the same direction of modern Piraeus Street.

Iera Odos (the Sacred Road) made its way through the Sacred Gate reaching Eleusina and Peloponessus. At the Dipylon another road leaded to the Academy. In the northern part of the wall, at the conjunction of the Aeolou and Sophocleus Street, where the Acharnian Gate was located, there was the road leading to Acharnes and the one going to Patissia nowadays known as Patission. In the case of the road to Acharnes, known as Acharnon, after the liberation from the Ottomans, it was shortened to Vathis square.
The eastern part of the city, was crossed by a road that had the same direction of the modern Apollon Street and went through Deocharus Gates, modern Syntagma and proceeded to Mesogea and Kifissia by following the Streets of Mourouzi and Vassilissis Sophia.

Another road began from the eastern gate of the post Roman wall and proceeded until the entrance of the Stadium by following the Flessa, Nicodemus and Souris Streets, crossing the National and going through the gate of the Hadrian’s Wall.

Moreover, another road crossing in the axon north south of the area of the ancient city connecting at the the Acharnais Gates with the Diomees Gates in the Olympeion. The line of this road is identical with the modern streets of Aghiou Markou, Euvaggelistrias, and Aghias Philotheis along with Hadrian, Phrynihu, Athanasiu Diakou and Anapauseos streets.

At the southern part, from the Gate of Ragavas of the post Roman wall was a road that reached to Faliro by following the lines of modern streets of Tripodon, Selley, Byron, Makrigianni and Syggrou.

The line of an ancient road that reached to Dipylon, nowadays follows the way of Chatzichristou, Robertou Galli and Aghiou Pavlou streets.
15th century Adrianou street follows the same way of ancient Adrianou (and still does nowadays). Pandrosou followed also its ancient way.

The streets of Aghiou Philipou, part of G. Karaiskaki and Pallados Street followed the same way of an ancient road that connected the Agora with the Acharnian Gate; during the 15th and posterior centuries, it was the main artery for the supply of the agora with agricultural products coming from the surrounding fields and farms of the Athenian basin.

The modern Athenians who live at a faster urbanistic rhythm, proper of big cities, hardly can realise that asphalt has covered the same ancient roads, which despite being less congested, they still followed the same directions.
It would be a nice approach by the municipality of Athens to put inscriptions or labels indicating the ancient roads as well as the locations of the gates of the walls of the city.

During the 13th-15th centuries period, Athens proper (today Athens center), was a small town and its daily life was followed the pase of its era. The urban network of Athens sometimes was smaller and other was expanded in order to cover the circumstances that era had. However the city always wore the illustrious dress of Antiquity and always been crowned by the most remarkable crown, that of the Acropolis, the most precious jewel of the world as the poet king of Aragona and duke of Athens Peter IV described it in 1380.

The glory of Athens always caused the admiration of its visitors and made proud its conquerors. In 1423 Niccolo Macchiaveli an ancestor of the famous Florentine Macchiaveli had sent a letter to his uncle who was in Leukada describing Athens and quoting “My dear, you have never seen such a beautiful place like this and never seen such a beauteous castle”.

Aghios Elissaios Church (Chomatianos-Logothetis properti). Mid 17th century.

Chomatianos-Logothetis Mansion (adjacent to Aghios Elissaios). Areos 14b street. Mid 17th century.

Aghios Athanasios chuch. Areos 14 street. Aristofanous street 32. (ca. 1638)

Agia Zoni and Agios Spyridon Church. Lysiou 4 street. (mid 17th century)

Agia Dynamis Church. Mitropoleos 15 street. (ca 1670)

Aghii Anargyri Church (dependency of the Holy Sepulchre). Prytaneiou & Erechtheos Street. (ca. 1650)

Benizelos Mansion. Adrianou 96. (Late 16th - early 17th century). This four centuries gem requires immediate attention. It is a shame that such a valuable piece of architecture remains abandoned like this. If refurbished it could be used as a museum of exhibitions of this period, for example. It would also upgrade the general image of the area.

Life during the Ottoman occupation:

Despite the favours bestowed upon Athens by the Sultan, life under the Turks was always perilous. The non-Muslim, or rayah, had to pay a 'head tax' each year for the privilege of keeping his head on his shoulders. Church bells were banned. Non-muslims could not erect houses taller than Muslims, bear arms, ride horses, mount the acropolis, or wear certain clothes. At intervals the Toumatzimbashi, an Ethiopian slave, would arrive to collect boys of between ten and twelve to be taken for the janissaries, where they would be brought up as Muslims. The chronicle records that this child tribute was levied in 1543, 1547, 1553, 1555, 1559 and 1566. Girls were taken for the harem of the sultan. Those whose children were taken would carry out the rites for the dead on their behalf.

This was a period of strong growth for monasticism, perhaps not unconnected with the child tribute. The monasteries on the slopes of Mount Hymettos were full of monks. Many wall paintings date from this time. The founder of Pendeli Monastery, Saint Timothy, was born at Kalamos, in Attica, in 1510. Α bishop on Euboea, he returned to Kalamos to escape the ire of the Pasha of Halkis, who had ordered his arrest, and decided to set up a monastery on Mount Pendeli, which quickly flourished.

One of the most famous Athenians of 16th century was Rhigoula Benizelos, born of the union of two ancient families, the Benizeloi and the Palaeologoi, the latter of which may have had connections with the imperial court at Constantinople. At the age of fourteen she was married to a wealthy Athenian, Andreas Cheilas, and lived on what is now Aghios Andreas Street, between the Cathedral and the Plaka. Her husband, a crude and sadistic man, frequently beat and tormented her. When he died after only three years of marriage, she became a nun and used the wealth she had inherited from her husband for works of charity.

Despite her good works, she was an abrasive person, inclined to intemperate language. She quarrelled with Saint Timothy and nursed bitter resentments against the people of Attica. In 1570 she wrote a letter complaining about them to the Grand Logothete in Constantinople, which has been described as 'the ravings of someone mad with anger.' She claimed that the people of Attica behaved towards her with hostility and savagery.

The charitable work of Philothei, as she was known, was so successful that it excited the hostility of the Turks, who were particularly enraged when she gave shelter to four runaway slave girls. The Governor of the city had her arrested, but her relatives and the city elders protested against her imprisonment, so after paying an enormous fine, she was released. Then, on the night of 2-3rd October, 1588, a group of Turks broke into her house at Patissia, and severely beat her. She was taken to the district of Persos, now called Philothei in her honour, where she lingered for several months, before passing away on 18th February, 1589.

Βy the beginning of the seventeenth century the convent she left behind was already in trouble. Α large number of nuns were maintained, and the community engaged in a wide variety of enterprises, some of them very costly. For this reason, the nuns were repeatedly forced to seek for funds, yet they survived.

At this time, the Pantanassa convent in Monastiraki Square, a dependency of Kaisariani Monastery, provided some care for poor, homeless and elderly people. They were given permanent shelter, and earned their keep by being hired out to parishioners for house and farm work, by spinning, weaving, silk making, and seasonal labour such as at the grape or olive harvests.

Visitations of the plague were not infrequent. Α chronicle of 1616 records seven such from the Turkish occupation until that time. An inscription in the Thision records that one, in 1555, killed thousands in the city.

Βy this time the very name of Athens was forgotten among some Western travellers. William Lithgow, who passed through in 1609 called it Salenos. More usually it was Settines, from hearing the Athenians referring to travelling Stin Athina (to Athens).

In 1645 control of Athens was transferred into the hands of the Kislar Aga, the chief black eunuch who supervised the sultan's harem in the Topkapi Palace. The voivode of Athens became his agent. This was a concession due to the affection Sultan Alunet I felt for a favourite concubine from Athens known as Vasiliki.

In 1656 a bolt of lightning struck the Propylaea, where the Turks had stored their gunpowder. Yussef Aga, the disdar aga was killed together with his family. The Greek tradition says that it effectively pre-empted a plan to bombard the Christians attending the feast of Saint Dimitris at the small church of that name at the foot of the Pnyx Hill opposite.

The Greeks possessed some influence over the destiny of their town at this time, for in 1660, when the Turks wanted to convert the Thiseion, then the church of Saint George, into a mosque, the Greeks of the city obtained a firman from the sultan to prevent them.

In 1667, the indefatigable Turkish traveller, Evliya Tchelebi, visited Athens. His description of the city is in striking contrast to that of Michael Akominatos four and a half centuries earlier. Although he had travelled around Europe, from Rome to Amsterdam, he says that he never saw in any country as many marvels as at Athens. He was clearly overwhelmed by what he saw, and he does not make a good witness; but he was one of the last visitors to describe the Parthenon before its destruction. He also had some extremely odd notions, such as that the city had been founded by Κίng Solomon, who once visited it in company with the Queen of Sheba on flying thrones.

He thought that the Tower of the Winds, which he called the Tent of Plato and tomb of Philip of Macedon, had borne in its roof a magic mirror which would reveal approaching enemies. He believed that similar ancient magic had protected the city from fleas, lice, bedbugs, etc.

He also visited the area of Kifissia and described it as a small country town set in a fertile plain of heavenly beauty, with three hundred tile-roofed houses. Half the inhabitants of the town were Turks and half were Greeks. He records that there was a single mosque, without a minaret, and many small Christian chapels - some of which survive today.

At this time, Western visitors, informed by Renaissance learning, began to appear in Athens, showing interest in its remains. This allows us to learn something of the topography of the area Thus Bernard Randolph describe the extensive olive groves which lay to the west of the city, 10 kms in length (6 miles) and 3 kms in breadth (2 miles) (today's Elaionas).

In the 1660s a French Capuchin mission was set up on a plot of land which included the so-called Lantern of Demosthenes. The hollow monument was turned into a library/study. The friary was chiefly known as a hostel for visiting Westerners, many of whom made the notes for their books in the convent. In 1672 a French Capuchin,

Babin reported that in his day it was possible to enter the city without passing through a gate. There were two or three gates which were never closed, since the city had no walls. Most of the narrow unpaved streets resembled village roads. Modest houses built from the ruins of ancient buildings were decorated with pieces of marble columns as decoration. Marble steps with carved crosses were found on the doors and doorsteps of ruined churches. Nearly all the houses were of stone. Some, he considered beautiful.

He was astonished at the great number of small churches, some of which were made of marble. People told him that there were about three hundred. He thought that the number of Turkish mosques did not exceed eight or nine, but they all had minarets.

The port of Athens, which he considered beautiful, and larger than the port of Marseilles. The white marble lion stood at the inner port near a lonely uninhabited house, built for storing merchandise before it was loaded on board the vessels, and also used by the customs officer.

The British ambassador to the Porte, Lord Wίnchilsea, confirmed this picture. The town itself lay to the north-west of the Acropolis; spread out in length a mile and a half, in breadth somewhat above a mile; and four miles in circumference, while the nowadays suburbs in that time were separated nearby towns. It had no walls to defend itself; and as a result the inhabitants had been 'frequently surprised by the pirates from sea, and sustained great losses from them.' For that reason, some years previously they secured all the avenues into the town by new gates, and made the outermost houses, because they lay close together, to serve as a wall. While he was there, the gates were shut up every night. The Athenians seemed to him polished in manners and conversation.

He visited the monasteries on Μουnt Hymettos, the most important of which was that of Kaisariani. The abbot, Ezekiel Stephanaki, lived in Athens. He understood ancient Greek very well, and Latin indifferently, with a little Italian. He was a Platonist; and professed to be a physician. The honey of Hymettos was sent in great quantity to Constantinople, where it was much esteemed for making sorbets. Lord Winchilsea remarked: 'We eat of it very freely, finding it to be very good; and were not at all incommodated with any gripings after it.'

He claimed that although he had seen cities more prosperous regarding their commerce, he had seen few towns in the Ottoman Empire that had preserved themselves as well, or that enjoyed greater privileges. The Athenians appealed to the protection of the Kizlar Aga or Chief of the Black Eunuchs whenever they experienced any difficulty or abuse from the Turks. They had divided the town into eight districts, and for each of these, one of the most substantial and respected men was chosen to settle all problems in a friendly manner between Greeks and Turks. Thus they effectively governed themselves in matters that concerned only themselves.

This was borne out in 1671 when the voivode began to demand more taxes than was customary. Α deputation of clergy and notables went to Constantinople to protest. Clearly, their action achieved nothing because they had to complain again in 1675. On this occasion Michael Limbonas, a wealthy and cultured Athenian, lately returned from Venice, led the deputation. In spite of the fact that two other prominent citizens, John Benizelos (Limbonas' father-in-law) and Nicolas Cheilas, collaborated with the Turks, he was successful. The Chief Eunuch acknowledged the justice of the complaints, dismissed the voivode and the disdar aga, ordered them to return what they had unlawfully levied and fined them heavily.

Benizelos took refuge in the monastery of Pendeli, and his collaborator, Cheilas, also went into hiding. The Turks of Athens resenting Limbonas' success dragged their feet in carrying out the orders of the Kizlar Aga, so Limbonas went again to Constantinople and persuaded him to send his representative to carry out his commands. The Turks were further enraged, and in December 1678 they murdered him. The Athenians petitioned the Chief Eunuch to punish the murderers. Yussef Aga had them arrested and taken to Constantinople, where they were either imprisoned for life or exiled.

In 1676 Spon and Wheler arrived. Their meticulous record of monuments, buildings and churches; when published, stimulated travel to Greece. They viewed the temples of the Acropolis and described them as intact on their outcrop, but within eleven years they would be damaged by the Venetians during the siege the Acropolis.

Residential building ca. 1674. Later in after the liberation in the 19th century would house the Athens University

Panaghia Romvi. Mid 17th century
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