History of Athens
The History of Athens is one of the longest of any city in Europe and in the world. Athens has been continuously inhabited for over 3,000 years, becoming the leading city of Ancient Greece in the first millennium BC its cultural achievements during the 5th century BC laid the foundations of western civilization. Its infrastructure is exemplar to the ancient Greek infrastructure.
During the Middle Ages, the city experienced decline and then recovery under the Byzantine Empire, and was relatively prosperous during the Crusades, benefiting from Italian trade. After a long period of decline under the rule of the Ottoman Empire, Athens re-emerged in the 19th century as the capital of the independent Greek state.
Here are a few of the milestones regarding the background of Ancient Athens, throughout recorded history.
Origins and Setting
Athens began its history in the Neolithic as a hill-fort on top of the Acropolis ("high city"), some time in the turn between the fouth and the third millennium BC. The Acropolis is a natural defensive position which commands the surrounding plains. The settlement was about 20 km (12 mi) inland from the Saronic Gulf, in the centre of the Cephisian Plain, a fertile dale surrounded by rivers. To the east lies Mount Hymettus, to the north Mount Pentelicus.
As part of Athens in ancient times, the River Cephisus flowed in ancient times through the city. Ancient Athens occupied a very small area compared to the sprawling metropolis of modern Athens. The walled ancient city encompassed an area measuring about 2 km from east to west and slightly less than that from north to south, although at its peak the city had suburbs extending well beyond these walls. The Acropolis was just south of the centre of this walled area. The Agora, the commercial and social centre of the city, was about 400 m (1,312 ft) north of the Acropolis, in what is now the Monastiraki district. The hill of the Pnyx, where the Athenian Assembly met, lay at the western end of the city.
One of the most important religious sites in ancient Athens was the Temple of Athena, known today as the Parthenon, which stood a top the Acropolis, where its evocative ruins still stand. Two other major religious sites, the Temple of Hephaestus (which is still largely intact) and the Temple of Olympian Zeus or Olympeion (once the largest temple in Greece but now in ruins) also lay within the city walls.
The Acropolis of Athens was inhabited from Neolithic times. By 1400 BC Athens had become a powerful center of the Mycenaean civilization. Unlike other Mycenaean centers, such as Mycenae and Pylos, Athens was not sacked and abandoned at the time of the Doric invasion of about 1200 BC, and the Athenians always maintained that they were "pure" Ionians with no Doric element.
By the 8th century BC Athens had re-emerged, by virtue of its central location in the Greek world, its secure stronghold on the Acropolis and its access to the sea, which gave it a natural advantage over potential rivals such as Thebes and Sparta. From early in the 1st millennium, Athens was a sovereign city-state, ruled at first by kings (see Kings of Athens). The kings stood at the head of a land-owning aristocracy known as the Eupatridae (the "well-born"), whose instrument of government was a Council which met on the Hill of Ares, called the Areopagus. This body appointed the chief city officials, the archons and the polemarch (commander-in-chief).
During this period Athens succeeded in bringing the other towns of Attica under its rule. This process of synoikismos - bringing together in one home - created the largest and wealthiest state on the Greek mainland, but it also created a larger class of people excluded from political life by the nobility. By the 7th century BC social unrest had become widespread, and the Areopagus appointed Draco to draft a strict new lawcode (hence "draconian"). When this failed, they appointed Solon, with a mandate to create a new constitution (594).
Reform and Democracy
The reforms of Solon dealt with both political and economic issues. The economic power of the Eupatridae was reduced by abolishing slavery as a punishment for debt, breaking up large landed estates and freeing up trade and commerce, which allowed the emergence of a prosperous urban trading class. Politically, Solon divided the Athenians into four classes, based on their wealth and their ability to perform military service. The poorest class, the Thetes, who were the majority of the population, received political rights for the first time, being able to vote in the Ecclesia (Assembly), but only the upper classes could hold political office. The Areopagus continued to exist but its powers were reduced.
The new system laid the foundations for what eventually became Athenian democracy, but in the short term it failed to quell class conflict, and after 20 years of unrest the popular party led by Peisistratus, a cousin of Solon, seized power (541). Peisistratus is usually called a tyrant, but the Greek word tyrannos does not mean a cruel and despotic ruler, merely one who took power by force. Peisistratus was in fact a very popular ruler, who made Athens wealthy, powerful, and a centre of culture, and founded the Athenian naval supremacy in the Aegean Sea and beyond. He preserved the Solonian constitution, but made sure that he and his family held all the offices of state.
Peisistratus died in 527, and was succeeded by his sons Hippias and Hipparchus. They proved much less adept rulers, and in 514 Hipparchus was assassinated after a private dispute over a young man (see Harmodius and Aristogeiton). This led Hippias to establish a real dictatorship, which proved very unpopular and was overthrown, with the help of an army from Sparta, in 510. A radical politician of aristocratic background, Cleisthenes, then took charge. He was the one who established democracy in Athens.
The reforms of Cleisthenes replaced the traditional four "tribes" (phyle) with ten new ones, named after legendary heroes and having no class basis: they were in fact electorates. Each tribe was in turn divided into three trittyes while each trittys had one or more demes (see deme) - depending on the population of the demes -, which became the basis of local government. The tribes each elected fifty members to the Boule, a council which governed Athens on a day-to-day basis.
The Assembly was open to all citizens and was both a legislature and a supreme court, except in murder cases and religious matters, which became the only remaining functions of the Areopagus. Most offices were filled by lot, though the ten strategoi (generals) were, for obvious reasons, elected. This system remained remarkably stable, and with a few brief interruptions remained in place for 170 years, until Alexander the Great conquered Athens in 338 BC.
Prior to the rise of Athens, the city of Sparta considered itself the leader of the Greeks, or hegemon. In 499 BC Athens sent troops to aid the Ionian Greeks of Asia Minor, who were rebelling against the Persian Empire (see Ionian Revolt). This provoked two Persian invasions of Greece, both of which were defeated under the leadership of the Athenian soldier-statesmen Miltiades and Themistocles (see Persian Wars).
In 490 the Athenians, lead by Miltiades, defeated the first invasion of the Persians, guided by the king Darius at the Battle of Marathon. In 480 the Persians returned under a new ruler, Xerxes. The Persians had to pass through a narrow strait to get to Athens. A call had been sent via a runner to Sparta for help. The Spartans were in the middle of a religious festival, and so could only send three hundred men. The 300 Spartans and their allies blocked the narrow passageway from the 200,000 men of Xerxes (the Battle of Thermopylae). They held them off for a number of days, but eventually all but one Spartan was killed. This forced the Athenians to evacuate Athens, which was taken by the Persians and seek the protection of their fleet. Subsequently the Athenians and their allies, lead by Themistocles had defeated the still vastly larger Persian navy at sea in the Battle of Salamis. It is interesting to note that Xerxes had built himself a throne on the coast in order to see the Greeks defeated. Instead, the Persians were routed. Sparta's hegemony was passing to Athens, and it was Athens that took the war to Asia Minor. These victories enabled it to bring most of the Aegean and many other parts of Greece together in the Delian League, an Athenian-dominated alliance.
The period from the end of the Persian Wars to the Macedonian conquest marked the zenith of Athens as a center of literature, philosophy and the arts . In this society, the political satire of the Comic poets at the theaters, had a remarkable influence on public opinion. Some of the most important figures of Western cultural and intellectual history lived in Athens during this period: the dramatists Aeschylus, Aristophanes, Euripides and Sophocles, the philosophers Aristotle, Plato and Socrates, the historians Herodotus, Thucydides and Xenophon, the poet Simonides and the sculptor Phidias. The leading statesman of this period was Pericles, who used the tribute paid by the members of the Delian League to build the Parthenon and other great monuments of classical Athens. The city became, in Pericles's words, "the school of Hellas".
Resentment by other cities at the hegemony of Athens led to the Peloponnesian War in 431, which pitted Athens and her increasingly rebellious sea empire against a coalition of land-based states led by Sparta. The conflict marked the end of Athenian command of the sea. The war between the two city-state Sparta had defeated Athens.
The democracy was briefly overthrown by a coup in 411 due to its poor handling of the war, but quickly restored. The war ended with the complete defeat of Athens in 404. Since the defeat was largely blamed on democratic politicians such as Cleon and Cleophon, there was a brief reaction against democracy, aided by the Spartan army (the rule of the Thirty Tyrants). In 403, democracy was restored by Thrasybulus and an amnesty declared.
Sparta's former allies soon turned against her due to her imperialist policy and soon Athens's former enemies Thebes and Corinth had become her allies. Argos, Thebes, Corinth, allied with Athens, fought against Sparta in the indecisive Corinthian War (395 BC - 387 BC). Opposition to Sparta enabled Athens to establish a Second Athenian League. Finally Thebes defeated Sparta in 371 in the Battle of Leuctra. Then the Greek cities (including Athens and Sparta) turned against Thebes whose dominance was stopped at the Battle of Mantinea (362 BC) with the death of its military genius leader Epaminondas.
By mid century, however, the northern Greek kingdom of Macedon was becoming dominant in Athenian affairs, despite the warnings of the last great statesman of independent Athens, Demosthenes. In 338 BC the armies of Philip II defeated the other Greek cities at the Battle of Chaeronea, effectively ending Athenian independence. Further, the conquests of his son, Alexander the Great, widened Greek horizons and made the traditional Greek city state obsolete. Athens remained a wealthy city with a brilliant cultural life, but ceased to be an independent power. In the 2nd century, after 200 years of Macedonian supremacy, Greece was absorbed into the Roman Republic.
In 88-85BC, most Athenian houses and fortifications were leveled by Roman general Sulla, while many civic buildings and monuments were left intact. Under Rome, Athens was given the status of a free city because of its widely admired schools.
The Roman emperor Hadrian would construct, a library, a gymnasium, an aqueduct which is still in use, several temples and sanctuaries, a bridge and would finance the completion of the Temple of Olympian Zeus.
The city was sacked by the Heruli in 267 AD resulting in the burning of all the public buildings, the plundering of the lower city, and the damaging of the Agora and Acropolis. After this the city to the north of the Acropolis was hastily refortified on a smaller scale with the Agora left outside the walls. Athens remained a centre of learning and philosophy during 500 years of Roman rule, patronized by emperors such as Nero and Hadrian.
But the conversion of the Empire to Christianity ended the city's role as a centre of pagan learning the Emperor Justinian closed the schools of philosophy in 529 AD. This is generally taken to mark the end of the ancient history of Athens.
By 529 AD, Athens was under rule by the Byzantines and had grown out of favor. The Parthenon and Erechtheion were transformed into churches. During the period of the Byzantine Empire Athens was a provincial town, and experienced fluctuating fortunes. In the early years many of its works of art were taken by the emperors to Constantinople.
Furthermore, although the Byzantines retained control of the Aegean and its citys throughout this period, during the seventh and eighth centuries direct control did not extend far beyond the coast. From about 600 the city shrank considerably due to barbarian raids by the Avars and Slavs, and was reduced to a shadow of its former self. As the seventh century progressed, much of Greece was overrun by Slavic peoples from the north, and Athens entered a period of uncertainty and insecurity. The one notable figure from this period is the Empress Irene of Athens, a native Athenian, who seized control of the Byzantine Empire in a palace coup.
By the middle of the 9th century, as Greece was fully reconquered again, the city began to recover. Just as other cities benefited from improved security and the restoration of effective central control during this period, so Athens expanded once more.
The invasions of the Turks after the battle of Manzikert in 1071 and the ensuing civil wars largely passed the region by, and Athens continued its provincial existence unharmed. When the Byzantine Empire was rescued by the resolute leadership of the three Komnenos emperors Alexios, John and Manuel, Attica and the rest of Greece prospered.
Archaeological evidence tells us that the medieval town experienced a period of rapid and sustained growth, starting in the eleventh century and continuing until the end of the twelfth century. The agora or marketplace, which had been deserted since late antiquity, began to be built over, and soon the town became an important centre for the production of soaps and dyes. The growth of the town attracted the Venetians, and various other traders who frequented the ports of the Aegean, to Athens. This interest in trade appears to have further increased the economic prosperity of the town.
The 11th and 12th centuries were the Golden Age of Byzantine art in Athens. Almost all of the most important Byzantine churches around Athens were built during these two centuries, and this reflects the growth of the town in general. However, this medieval prosperity was not to last. In 1204, the Fourth Crusade conquered Athens and the city was not recovered from the Latins before it was taken by the Ottoman Turks. It did not become Greek in government again until the 19th century.
From 1204 until 1458, Athens was ruled by Latins in three separate periods. It was initially the capital of the eponymous Duchy of Athens, a fief of the Latin Empire which replaced Byzantium. After Thebes became a possession of the Latin dukes, which were of the Burgundian family called De la Roche, it replaced Athens as the capital and seat of government, though Athens remained the most influential ecclesiastical centre in the duchy and site of a prime fortress. In 1311, Athens was conquered by the Catalan Company, a band of mercenaries called almogávares. It was held by the Catalans until 1388. After 1379, when Thebes was lost, it became the capital of the duchy again. In 1388, the Florentine Nerio I Acciajuoli took the city and made himself duke. His descendants ruled the city (as their capital) until the Turkish conquest of 1458. It was the last Latin state in Greece to fall.
Under the Burgundian dukes, a bell tower was added to the Parthenon. The Burgundians brought chivalry and tournaments to Athens they also fortified the Acropolis. They were themselves influenced by Greek culture and their court was a syncretistic mix of classical knowledge and French knightly haute couture.
The history of Catalan Athens, called Cetines (rarely Athenes) by the conquerors, is most obscure. Athens was a veguería with its own castellan, captain, and veguer. At some point during the Catalan period, the Acropolis was further fortified and the Athenian archdiocese received an extra two suffragan sees.
The Florentines had to dispute the city with the Republic of Venice, but they ultimately emerged victorious after seven years of Venetian rule (1395-1402).
Finally, in 1458, Athens fell to the Ottoman Empire. As the Ottoman Sultan Mehmet II the Conqueror rode into the city, he was greatly struck by the beauty of its ancient monuments and issued a firman (imperial edict) forbidding their looting or destruction, on pain of death. The Parthenon was converted into Athen's main mosque.
Despite the initial efforts of the Ottoman authorities to turn Athens into a model provincial capital, the city's population severely declined and by the 17th century it was a mere village. Great damage to Athens was caused in the 17th century, when Ottoman power was declining. The Turks would begin a practice of storing gun powder and explosives in the Parthenon and Propylaea. In 1640, a lighting bolt would strike the Propylaea, causing its destruction.
In 1687, Athens was besieged by the Venetians, and the temple of Athena Nike was dismantled by the Ottomans to fortify the Parthenon. A shot fired during the bombardment of the Acropolis caused a powder magazine in the Parthenon to explode, and the building was severely damaged, giving it the appearance we see today. The occupation of the Acropolis continued for six months, but even the Venetians participated in the looting of the Parthenon. One of the west pediments of the Parthenon would be removed causing even more damage to the structure. The following year Turkish forces set fire to the city. Ancient monuments were destroyed to provide material for a new wall with which the Ottomans surrounded the city in 1778.
Between 1801 and 1805 Lord Elgin, the British resident at Athens, removed reliefs from the Parthenon (see Elgin marbles for more detail.) Along with the Panatheniac frieze, one of the six caryatids of the Erechtheion was extracted and replaced with a plaster mold. All in all, fifty sculptural pieces were carried away from the Parthenon including three fragments purchased by the French.
In 1822 a Greek insurgency captured the city, but it fell to the Ottomans again in 1826. Again the ancient monuments suffered badly. Partially funded by Lord Byron, the Greeks continued to fight. Ottoman forces remained in possession until 1833, when they withdrew and Athens was chosen as the capital of the newly established kingdom of Greece. At that time the city was virtually uninhabited, being merely a cluster of buildings at the foot of the Acropolis, where the Plaka district is now.
In 1832, Otto, Prince of Bavaria was proclaimed King of Greece. He adopted the Greek spelling of his name, King Othon as well as Greek national dress, and moved the capital of Greece back to Athens. Othon's first task as king was to make a detailed archaeological and topographical survey of Athens. He assigned Gustav Eduard Schaubert and Stamatios Kleanthes to complete this task. At that time Athens had a population of roughly 4,000-5,000 people, located in what today covers the district of Plaka in Athens.
Athens was chosen as the Greek capital for historical and sentimental reasons, not because it was a large city: there are few buildings in Athens from the period of Byzantine Empire and the 18th century. Once the capital was established there, a modern city plan was laid out and public buildings erected.
The finest legacy of this period are the buildings of the University of Athens (1837), Old Royal Palace (now the Greek Parliament Building) (1843), the National Garden of Athens (1840), the National Library of Greece (1842), the Greek National Academy (1885), the Zappeion Exhibition Hall (1878), the Old Parliament Building (1858), the New Royal Palace (now the Presidential Palace) (1897) and the Athens Town Hall (1874).
Athens experienced its first period of explosive growth following the disastrous war with Turkey in 1921, when more than a million Greek refugees from Asia Minor were resettled in Greece. Suburbs such as Nea Ionia and Nea Smyrni began as refugee settlements on the Athens outskirts.
Athens was occupied by the Germans during World War II and experienced terrible privations during the later years of the war. In 1944 there was heavy fighting in the city between Communist forces and the royalists backed by the British.
After World War II the city began to grow again as people migrated from the villages and islands to find work. Greek entry into the European Union in 1981 brought a flood of new investment to the city, but also increasing social and environmental problems. Athens had some of the worst traffic congestion and air pollution in the world. This posed a new threat to the ancient monuments of Athens, as traffic vibration weakened foundations and air pollution corroded marble. The city's environmental and infrastructure problems were the main reason Athens failed to secure the 1996 centenary Olympic Games.
After this, both the city of Athens and the Greek government, aided by European Union funds, undertook major infrastructure projects such as the new Athens Airport and a new metro system. The city also tackled air pollution by restricting the use of cars in the centre of the city. As a result, Athens was awarded the 2004 Olympic Games. Despite the scepticism of many observers, the games were a great success and brought renewed international prestige (and tourism revenue) to Athens.
Industry and trade
Since World War I Athens has become the hub of all mercantile business, export and import. With Piraeus it is the most important manufacturing city in Greece. Athens accounts for half of the jobs in industry and handicrafts, and earnings are much higher than the national average. There are cloth and cotton mills, distilleries, breweries, potteries, flour mills, soap factories, tanneries, chemical works, and carpet factories. Exports include olive oil, tomato products, wine, cement, bauxite, and textile manufactures. Publishing enterprises are important.
The brilliant Attic light, however, is now dimmed by the pall of air pollution hovering over the city. To discourage new factories from further adding to the problem and to stimulate the economic growth of other regions, an industrial wage tax has been imposed in the Athens area, and tax incentives have been offered to new factories set up in other areas.
Camp, J. M. (1986). The Athenian Agora . Excavations in the heart of classical Athens, 38
Raja, R. (2012). Urban development and regional identity in the Eastern Roman provinces, 50 BC-AD 250: Aphrodisias, Ephesos, Athens, Gerasa. Museum Tusculanum Press
Rotroff, S. I. (1997). The Athenian Agora. Results of Excavations conducted by the American School of Classical Studies at Athens . XXIX. Hellenistic Pottery. Athenian and Imported Wheelmade Table Ware and Related Material. Part II: Illustrations
My name is Edward Whelan and I graduated with a PhD in history in 2008. Between 2010-2012 I worked in the Limerick City Archives. I have written a book and several peer reviewed journal articles. At present I am a. Read More
Athens, Agora, Heliaia
Heliaia (Greek: ἡλιαία): the supreme lawcourt of classical Athens.
Established in the first half of the sixth century BCE by Solon as an appeal court, the Athenian Heliaia took over several responsibilities from the Areopagus in the course of the fifth century. The jury, which gathered in a building in the southwestern corner of the agora, consisted ot 501, 1001, or 1501 members, chosen by lot from among 6,000 citizens over the age of 30. (The large number of heliasts made bribing impossible.) Pericles introduced a juror's fee (one obol per day) in order to allow the poorer citizens to exercise this democratic right. According to Aristophanes' play The Wasps, staged in 422, Cleon had increased this pay to three obols.
A lawsuit conisted of an oath, a set of speeches by the prosecutor and the accused in a secret ballot without debate, the jury had to decide whether the accused was guilty. If the jury decided that the accused was guilty, there were two speeches and a second vote about the punishment. For example, Socrates was found guilty by 280 against 220, and received the capital punishment by a vote of 360 against 140.
Because the Heliaia originalle was a court of appeal, it was impossible to appeal against a verdict. The necessity to defend oneself - lawyers did not exist in Greece - was an incentive for professional speech writers. If less than a hundred jurors decided that the accused was guilty, the persecutors were convicted and had to pay the trial costs, which could be quite substantial.
Athens (Greek: Ἀθῆναι): one of the main Greek city-states.
Athens, Kerameikos, Dipylon krater
Athens, Agora, Terracotta of a woman with snakes
Athens, Agora, Stoa Poikile
Classical Age: fifth century
Athens, Acropolis from the north
Athens, Acropolis, Erechtheion, the Caryatids
Athens, Agora, Temple of Hephaestus
Athens, Acropolis, Temple of Nike
Classical Age: fourth century
Athens, Kerameikos, Bull from the grave enclosure of Dionysius, son of Kollytos
Athens, Statue of a Minotaur
Athens, Agora, the Demos crowned by Democracy
Athens, Roman Forum, Tower of the Winds
Athens, Roman Forum, Library of Hadrian
Athens, Coin with portrait of Athena
Rome, Baths of Caracalla, Harmodius and Aristogeiton
Athens, Theater of Dionysus, seen from the Acropolis
Athens, Acropolis, Parthenon, Phidias' statue of Athena Parthenos (reconstruction)
Athens, Black-figured dish with a Scythian archer
Athens, Inscription with a fragment of the Athenian tribute list (425/424 BCE)
Perikles, son of Xanthipos became the leader of Athens after Kimon&rsquos death in 450 BCE, and during his leadership Athens enjoyed unprecedented prosperity and extraordinary social, political, and cultural development. The era of Pericles is known as the Golden Eon of Athens. With funds appropriated from the donation of the Delian League states, Pericles embarked on an impressive building program that adorned Athens with a splendid array of buildings and art, the likes of which influenced art and architecture for the next two millennia, and are still admired today.
The sculptor Pheidias was chosen to oversee the construction of a multitude of temples and sculptures under a master plan, and the best architects and artists were hired to complete the project. The construction plan included the Parthenon and the Propylaia on the Acropolis, the Odeion of Perikles, the Long Walls and the Hephestion in Athens, as well as the temple of Poseidon at Sounion.
Iktinos, Kalikrates, and Mnesikles were the architects who designed the monuments under the supervision of the sculptor Pheidias.
Ceramicus Redivivus. The Early Iron Age Potters’ Field in the Area of the Classical Athenian Agora. With a contribution by Michael R. Schilling. Hesperia Supplement 31
Generations of Athenian topographers have puzzled over why ancient authors such as Pausanias refer to the Agora of Athens as the “Kerameikos,” since the historic “potters’ quarter” of the city lay to the northwest of the Athenian Agora. Papadopoulos’ monograph makes it clear that this appellation almost certainly goes back to the area’s long-standing use by potters from the Protogeometric Period until at least the first half of the 7th century BC: the Agora was called “Kerameikos,” because it was the original potters’ quarter of the city. It is important to note that this volume is NOT the comprehensive publication of the Early Iron Age deposits from the Agora that Papadopoulos has been working on for some time and that some readers may be anticipating. The formal purpose of this work is to present the evidence for early pottery manufacture in the area of the Classical Athenian Agora. Although the purpose of the volume is thus rather narrow, in fact the book looks broadly at the technology of pottery production it also contains an important synthesis of recent discoveries and studies that have reshaped understanding of the city’s development. The book sometimes has a rather sprawling sense, as the author ranges well outside the Early Iron Age, but in my view the expanded coverage of certain issues is appropriate.
The book is divided into five chapters and an appendix, the latter written by M. Schilling. The first chapter serves as an introduction to the study, setting out some background on the Agora excavations, as well as major deposits of Early Iron Age (Protogeometric — Subgeometric) pottery that have provided evidence of actual pottery manufacture in the area. Most of the evidence comes from abandoned wells that had been filled with debris. This is followed by a section discussing the use of test-pieces by potters to check on the status of fabric and decoration during the firing process. The use of such test-pieces is especially helpful with a complex three-stage firing process such as that employed with Attic Black and Red Figure, although it seems clear that even potters in the Protogeometric Period were employing such pieces to ascertain the appearance of the glossy black surfaces on their vessels . Papadopoulos’ discussion of test-pieces is extensive, drawing on examples from Renaissance Italy and China, in addition to ancient Greece.
Chapter 2 constitutes the bulk of the book, taking up nearly two-thirds of the total text. The chapter is essentially an analytical catalog presenting test pieces and other evidence for pottery manufacture, including kilns, wasters, and production discards. Most of the definite test-pieces consist of large sherds or vessel sections cut from unfired vessels that probably had flaws making them unsuitable for firing they usually have a large perforation that allowed them to be drawn for inspection with a long hook from a hot kiln. Since they were never going to see practical use and the potter only wanted to check the firing of the clay body and state of the painted decoration, test-pieces may also have uncanonical decoration that allows them to be distinguished from ordinary sherds. Wasters are fragments of pots that were discarded after misfiring. The typical waster is usually recognized by a vitrified surface or an entirely melted appearance that is produced by overfiring. “Production discard” is a vaguer category, to which belong pots or sherds that exhibit flaws in shape, imperfect adhesion of paint, or other irregularities that suggest they might not have been saleable Papadopoulos is rightly circumspect in employing this term.
The pieces are presented in a more or less chronological order, beginning with the Early Protogeometric deposits. Papadopoulos treats each deposit separately, providing for each a summary of the context and the date, followed by the catalog entries for test-pieces and other evidence of pottery manufacture. Virtually every piece is provided with a drawing of the decorated surfaces and a photograph most have profile drawings as well. The catalog entries themselves are somewhat surprising at first: the trend in recent ceramic publications has been to provide increasingly telegraphic catalog entries, allowing the drawings and photographs to do as much of the “speaking” as possible. Papadopoulos’ catalog has a rather more “old-fashioned” structure, with much fuller commentary than one typically sees these days in publications of Protogeometric or Geometric pottery. In the case of this publication, the longer entries are often helpful, but given the profile drawings, some of the shape descriptions are unnecessarily detailed discussion of paint condition is obviously of interest here, but the sometimes minute treatments of paint cracking may strike some readers as overkill.
Near the end of the chapter, Papadopoulos provides a fairly full treatment of Deposit S 17:2, which lay to the east of the later Southeast Fountain House, along the Panathenaic Way. He regards this deposit as important for establishing the continuity of pottery manufacture in the area of the later Classical Agora at least until the middle of the 7th cent. BC and probably even later. The ceramic artifacts recovered also indicate that a nearby pottery workshop was manufacturing not only pots, but also lamps, figurines, spindle whorls, loomweights, and other items.
The third chapter is a wide-ranging discussion concerning what the test pieces and other evidence indicate about the manufacture of Athenian pottery. The somewhat eclectic, but interesting topics include literary and pictorial evidence for pottery manufacture, especially that relating to problems that confront potters in firing their wares, as well as an informative discussion of ancient pottery kilns. Papadopoulos has read widely and provides references ranging from Minoan kilns all the way to those of the Ottoman Period. For the most part, however, kiln technology did not change much over this long period, since the Greeks employed fairly simple updraft kilns with perforated floors. Papadopoulos also employs the test pieces to show that the three-stage firing process known to have been used in later Black and Red Figure wares was being utilized as early as the Protogeometric Period. The sequence consisted of firing under oxidizing conditions, followed by reduction, and finally another period of oxidation, followed by cooling. Connected with this discussion is the book’s appendix, by Michael Schilling, which presents the results of a study of firing temperatures in the Agora test-pieces. What is surprising here is that temperatures indicated by this study are considerably lower than previously imagined, ranging from 700-800 degrees Centigrade, with maximum temperatures no greater than ca. 850 degrees Centigrade. The appendix contains an up-to-date presentation of different techniques for determination of firing temperature and related information, along with improved procedures suggested by Schilling for interpreting actual firing temperatures from raw results given by various kinds of thermomechanical analysis. Other topics discussed in Chapter 3 include the issue of the so-called “fast wheel,” the multiple-brush compass, and the evidence for foreign potters in Athens.
Chapter 4 is a study of test pieces from the Archaic through Hellenistic Periods. The examples presented include pieces not only from Athens, but also from Corinth, Crete, Sindos, Thasos, and several sites in Italy. Even specialists in later periods than the Early Iron Age can read this chapter with profit.
For many readers, the concluding chapter may be of the greatest interest, since it contains an extended treatment of the vexing question of the topography of early Athens. When I took a course in Athenian topography more than twenty years ago, the prevalent view was that although the area of the later Classical Agora contained cemeteries, residential areas developed here as well, beginning in the Protogeometric Period. It was conceded that terracing operations connected with the later Agora would have obliterated most of the actual evidence of houses, but the numerous wells discovered were thought to be connected with residential units. Papadopoulos argues that in fact the cemetery areas were much more extensive than is commonly believed, and that many of the wells were connected with pottery establishments, given the evidence of test-pieces and other waste found within them. Most of the wells with evidence of pottery manufacture were found in areas of the later Agora in which cemeteries were absent, so we are not dealing with a situation in which cemeteries and potters’ establishments were mixed in the same plot. It is not clear to me whether Papadopoulos sees these workshops as being completely separate from the actual residences of potters at this stage in Greek history, it seems peculiar to demand segregation of residence from work area.
Papadopoulos broadens his discussion to encompass the topography of early Athens in general. This is a very full and well-documented discussion of the controversy concerning the question of an earlier agora, the main residential areas, the use of the Acropolis in Athens’ early history, and when the area of the Classical Agora actually began to be developed as such. Papadopoulos supports the idea of an “old agora,” which lay to the east of the Acropolis given the development of the evidence and debate over this issue that has taken place over the last twenty years, this seems to be close to incontrovertible. He sees the main residential areas as lying to the south of the Acropolis and even on the Acropolis itself in the earliest stages of the Iron Age. His argument for secular use of parts of the Acropolis until the 7th century BC is thought-provoking and should give pause to those who see the entire Acropolis being purely given over to religious functions from the earliest stages of the city’s development.
In terms of the Athenian Agora, it now is absolutely clear that the area of the later Agora was not developed as such until near the end of the Archaic Period at the earliest. Papadopoulos deals skeptically with suggestions connecting the development of the Agora with the Peisistratids in particular, he disputes, on good grounds, the reconstructed plan of Building F (sometimes called the “House of Peisistratos”) underneath the later Prytanikon and its connection with any public function or indeed, the Peisistratids. Papadopoulos argues that it was probably a potters’ workshop. The “Tholos Kiln,” discussed extensively by Papadopoulos in Chapter 2, is clear evidence for pottery manufacture in the area of the later Prytanikon at least until the 7th century BC, but any connection with Building F is uncertain. To summarize, Papadopoulos clearly believes that the Agora was developed after the Persian War ended, but concedes that some earlier origin connected with the Kleisthenic reforms and their immediate aftermath cannot be ruled out. The final chapter can be recommended as an excellent resource for anyone needing a current presentation of the debate over early Athenian topography.
The production staff at Hesperia have much to be proud of with this volume. The figures, which include both line drawings and photographs, are of exceptionally high quality the layout of text and illustrations is pleasing and easy to follow generous gutter margins make annotations easy for those so inclined. Typographical and other errors are negligible. At only $45, this volume is a remarkable bargain as well.
Ceramicus Redidivus is an important work of scholarship that deserves a wide audience among those interested in Athenian pottery production and topography.
Witchcraft in Athens: Group Curse Inscribed On Vessel
Professor Jessica Lamont, a classics professor at Yale University, published an article in the March 2021 edition of the journal Hesperia. The researcher wrote that archaeologists found the 2,300-year-old ceramic jar , along with a coin, beneath the floor of the Agora's Classical Commercial Building that was a hub of ancient craft workers .
The author explained that somewhere around 300 BC, the names of 55 people were inscribed on the vessel, and that the Greek words for “we bind” were also present. Then, the curse was activated when a large iron nail was driven through the pot that contained the “dismembered head and lower limbs of a young chicken.”
In a Live Science article Lamont explained that both nails and chicken parts were commonly used in ancient curses and were believed to have “an inhibiting force and symbolically immobilized or restrained the faculties of [the curse's] victims.”
An image of energy transferal depicting the flow of magical energy emanating from female hands. It was “dark” energy transferal that brought 55 people together to put a curse on one person, according to the witchcraft in Athens research study. ( Laura Сrazy / Adobe Stock)
Athenian Agora and Acropolis - History
The Acropolis hill, so called the "Sacred Rock" of Athens, is the most important site of the city. During Perikles' Golden Age, ancient Greek civilization was represented in an ideal way on the hill and some of the architectural masterpieces of the period were erected on its ground.
The first habitation remains on the Acropolis date from the Neolithic period. Over the centuries, the rocky hill was continuously used either as a cult place or as a residential area or both. The inscriptions on the numerous and precious offerings to the sanctuary of Athena (marble korai, bronze and clay statuettes and vases) indicate that the cult of the city's patron goddess was established as early as the Archaic period (650-480 B.C.).
During the Classical period (450-330 B.C.) three important temples were erected on the ruins of earlier ones: the Parthenon, the Erechtheion, and the Temple of Nike, dedicated to Athena Parthenos, Athena Polias, and Athena-Apteros Nike, respectively. The Propylaea, the monumental entrance to the sacred area was also constructed in the same period.
The monuments on the Acropolis reflect the successive phases of the city's history. Some of them were converted into Christian churches, houses of the Franks and later on, of the Turks. After the liberation of Athens from the Turks, the protection, restoration and conservation of the monuments was one of the first tasks of the newly-founded Greek state. This major effort is continued until today, with the large-scale restoration and supporting of the monuments, which started in the 1970's and is still in progress.
The first excavations on the hill were conducted between 1835 and 1837. More systematic work was carried out in 1885-1890 by Panagiotis Kavvadias.
The South Slope of The Acropolis
The south slope of the Acropolis played a significant role in the artistic, spiritual and religious activity of ancient Athens. Important public buildings were erected in the area: the Odeion of Perikles, the sanctuary and theatre of Dionysos, the choregic monuments, the Asklepieion, the stoa of Eumenes and the Odeion of Herodes Atticus.
Recently, architectural members in the orchestra and the retaining wall of the east parodos of the Dionysos Theatre were restored.
Excavations at the sanctuary of Dionysos started in 1838 by the Greek Archaeological Society and lasted for about a century. They brought to light the theatre and the greater part of the sanctuary which includes the two temples of Dionysos.
The excavations at the Odeion of Perikles were carried out almost sixty years ago and revealed a large building with many columns. The excavations, conducted by Kastriotes (1914-1927) and Orlandos (1928-1931), revealed the north side of the building and five column bases at the NE corner.
The excavations at the Asklepieion were conducted in 1875-76 by the Greek Archaeological Service under the direction of St. Koumanoudis and uncovered the Early Christian basilicas and remains of the most important buildings of the sanctuary.
The Ancient Agora of Athens
The Agora was the heart of ancient Athens, the focus of political, commercial, administrative and social activity, the religious and cultural centre, and the seat of justice.
The site was occupied without interruption in all periods of the city's history. It was used as a residential and burial area as early as the Late Neolithic period (3000 B.C.). Early in the 6th century, in the time of Solon, the Agora became a public area.
After a series of repairs and remodellings, it reached its final rectangular form in the 2nd century B.C. Extensive building activity occured after the serious damage made by the Persians in 480/79 B.C., by the Romans in 89 B.C. and by the Herulae in A.D. 267 while, after the Slavic invasion in A.D. 580, It was gradually abandoned. From the Byzantine period until after 1834, when Athens became the capital of the independent Greek state, the Agora was again developed as a residential area.
The Roman Agora of Athens
Large building measuring 111 x 98 m., comprising a spacious rectangular courtyard surrounded by stoas, shops and storerooms. It has an east, Ionic propylon and a west, Doric propylon, known as the Gate of Athena Archegetis.
It was built between 19 and 11 B.C. with a donation of Julius Caesar and Augustus. During the reign of Hadrian the court was paved with slabs. After the invasion of the Herulae in A.D. 267 the city of Athens was restricted to the area within the Late Roman fortification wall, and the administrative and commercial centre of the city was transferred from the Ancient Agora to the Roman Agora and the Library of Hadrian.
During the Byzantine period and the Turkish occupation the area was covered with houses, workshops and churches along with the Fethiye Mosque. After the necessary purchase and demolition of the private houses and other buildings covering the area, a series of excavations were carried out by the Greek Archaeological Society (in 1837-45, 1890-91, 1920, 1930-31), by the Italians (in 1940-42), by An. Orlandos and P. Lazarides (in 1963-64) and by the 1st Ephorate of Antiquities (in 1955, 1965-66, 1968, 1984-85, 1989, 1991).
In 1915-19 restoration work was carried out by An. Orlandos on the Gate of Athena Archegetis and the Tower of the Winds. In 1942 some of the columns of the east peristyle were restored by the Italians, and in 1963 three columns of the south peristyle with their architraves were also restored by Orlandos. Further restoration work was undertaken in 1975-76 by the 1st Ephorate at the Tower of the Winds and the Gate of Athena Archegetis.
The triumphal arch lies on an ancient street that led from the old city of Athens to the new, Roman section, built by Hadrian. It was constructed by the Athenians in 131AD, in honor of their benefactor emperor. Two inscriptions are carved on the architrave, one on each side: the first, on the side facing the Acropolis reads "This is Athens, the ancient city of Theseus" the second, facing the new city reads "This is the city of Hadrian and not of Theseus". The central arched opening is supported by pilasters crowned with Corinthian capitals, Similar but taller pilasters flank the outer corners. The arch is crowned by a series of Corinthian columns and pilasters, with an Ionic architrave at the ends. The monument is was built with Pentelic marble.
The Olympion of Athens
According to tradition, the establishment of the sanctuary goes back to the time of mythical Deucalion. The site was inhabited in the prehistoric period and the cult of Zeus is attested in early historic times. In ca. 515 B.C., Peisistratos the Younger, began the construction of a monumental temple which was not finished because of the fall of the tyranny in Athens. Much later, in 174 B.C., Antiochos IV Epiphanes, the king of Syria, attempted to continue the erection of the temple, which was finally completed by the Roman emperor Hadrian, in A.D. 124/125. Inside the temple stood a colossal chryselephantine (gold and ivory) statue of Zeus.
Kerameikos was named after the community of the potters (kerameis) who occupied the whole area along the banks of river Eridanos. The walls of Athens, which were constructed in the 5th century B.C. by Themistocles, divided the area into two sections, the "inner" and "outer" Kerameikos. The wall had two gates, Dipylon and the Sacred Gate, placed at the outset of the two most important processional roads of Athens, the Panathenaic Way which led to the Acropolis, and the Sacred Way which led to Eleusis. Outside the city walls, along the sides of both roads lay the official cemetery of the city, which was continuously used from the 9th century B.C. until the late Roman period.