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James H. S. McGregor
Copyright Date: 2014
Published by: Harvard University Press
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  • Book Info
    Book Description:

    Revered as the birthplace of democracy, Athens is much more than an open-air museum filled with crumbling monuments to ancient glory. Athens takes readers on a journey from the classical city-state to today's contemporary capital, revealing a world-famous metropolis that has been resurrected and redefined time and again.

    eISBN: 978-0-674-36945-0
    Subjects: History, Architecture and Architectural History

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Maps
    (pp. vii-xii)
  4. Introduction
    (pp. 1-9)

    Athens, Greece, is the hometown of Western thought, the birthplace of democracy, and the starting block for the modern Olympics. This city’s art, architecture, and literature have risen from the ground not once but time after time to transform painting, writing, sculpture, and city planning. We honor Athenian thinkers for their exploration of law and justice, for their philosophical theorizing and their logical grounding of assertion, and for their deeply felt and complexly articulated conclusions about what is good and what makes for a good life. It is harder, however, to get a handle on Athens itself, as a city...

  5. 1 On the Rock
    (pp. 10-35)

    Like much of the coastal Mediterranean, Athens is, at heart, recycled ocean floor. The city’s raw materials slowly filtered through and settled beneath the shallow waters of an ancient pre-Mediterranean sea named Tethys. Sand, broken down from continental rock, and mud from flatlands and marshes surged with floodwaters or drifted offshore on the wind. In those same shallow waters, tiny sea creatures with calcium-rich shells lived, bred, and died. Their soft bodies decomposed, but their shells remained, and over unimaginable generations these shells consolidated and petrified to produce layers of limestone hundreds of feet thick.

    Tethys happened to occupy a...

  6. 2 The Acropolis in the Fifth Century
    (pp. 36-77)

    By the time any threat of Persian attack ended in the second half of the fifth century, preserving the ruined Acropolis as a war memorial had lost its appeal. Like other Greek cities that had suffered during the prolonged conflict, Athens was ready to move on. The task of restoring the Acropolis to its former glory and prominence was a formidable one. It is believed that no building remained intact on the hill. The Hekatompedon was evidently taken down early in the fifth century, its sculptures reused in other structures. The Old Temple was either gone or too damaged to...

  7. 3 The Athenian Agora
    (pp. 78-100)

    At its heart, the Athenian Agora was an all-purpose downtown open space where people could meet to buy and sell, to talk politics, and to make decisions about the affairs of their city. The Agora that has been excavated during the centuries of Greek independence is the city’s second. Remains of graves found during the course of excavation revealed that it had once been a marginal area outside the town limits. As the Acropolis developed into a powerful shrine, and the Panathenaic processional grew in importance, a new pathway was created leading up the hill. The ramp prompted a major...

  8. 4 On the Perimeter
    (pp. 101-117)

    Just up the slope from the Agora—and visible from many places within it—was the Hephaisteion, a temple to the craftsman of the gods, the lame Hephaistos, husband of Aphrodite. Hephaistos played a major part in Greek literature. In theIliad, Homer described him at work forging armor for the Greek hero Achilles. Excavations on the slopes of the little mound that elevates the temple have uncovered remains of the forges of metalworkers for whom the god of fire and craftsmanship held special significance. That association was reinforced by the temple’s proximity to the craftsmen’s quarters or Kerameikos. Hephaistos...

  9. 5 Hellenistic and Roman Athens
    (pp. 118-146)

    Athens was at its most autonomous and most successful during the fifth century when its prominent role in resisting and, ultimately, defeating the Persian invaders catapulted it to leadership among Greek cities. As the century advanced, Athens leveraged its prominence among equals into a position of dominance over its neighbors, and transformed a system of alliances into a self-serving empire. Old allies became heavily taxed members of a regional confederacy with Athens at its head. As the foreign policy of the city expanded from a relatively narrow focus to a more ambitious scale, Athens stumbled.

    The rise of Athens to...

  10. 6 Late Antique and Medieval Athens
    (pp. 147-175)

    Within a hundred years of its completion, the Odeon of Herodes Atticus, and most of Roman Athens with it, was wrecked by Herulian pirates. The Heruli were Goths, a people whose homeland on the perimeter of the Black Sea had never been incorporated into the Roman Empire. Centuries of uneasy coexistence with these and other unruly neighbors broke down in the third century when tribes who had once been cowed by overwhelming Roman force began to surge across the borders that had long kept them out. The Heruli were a little different from the norm: most invaders came overland, but...

  11. 7 The War for Independence and the Creation of a National Capital
    (pp. 176-200)

    The Greek War for Independence was an extended one, and when even a few of its tangled roots are traced, its history becomes especially complex. A logical place to begin is with the Orlov Revolt of 1770. An unsuccessful and precocious prelude to full-scale revolution, this revolt owed its origins to the Great Power politics of the era. Its inception and fate both reflected the precarious international context in which political actions in the Eastern Mediterranean have always been set. The Orlov who gave a name to the revolt was not a Greek but a Russian admiral. He and his...

  12. 8 Modern Athens
    (pp. 201-226)

    In the years between independence and the first modern Olympics, Athens grew from a modest city of ten thousand to a capital with a population of one hundred thousand. According to some estimates, that number was the maximum that the ancient city and the Attic region together had ever sustained. Though the city’s nineteenth-century population had grown tenfold in less than eight decades, nearly 80 percent of its residents could have been accommodated together in a single structure, the Panathenaic Stadium. By the time Athens again played host to the Olympics in 2004, the city of one hundred thousand had...

  13. Further Reading
    (pp. 229-230)
  14. Acknowledgments
    (pp. 231-232)
  15. Index
    (pp. 233-242)