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In 510 BC, an obscure Greek city located literally on a backwater revolted against its tyrant. This was not extraordinary; such things happened regularly in the many Greek city-states. What followed however was extraordinary, and even world-changing. Athens became a democracy. Then just seventeen years after that, Athens and its tiny ally of Plataea defeated a raid by the mighty Persian Empire. The great century of Athenian glory had begun.Yet the history of Athens did not end with either Spartan victory in the Peloponnesian War, or with the supremacy of Macedon, or even with conquest by Rome.
While never quite attaining its heights under Pericles, Athens was often important; and even when it was relatively unimportant, it always remained interesting. The history of Athens, both during its decades of glory and its centuries of relative peace and quiet, is chronicled by Bruce Clark in his new book Athens: City of Wisdom. Clark is a writer for The Economist, where he covers European affairs and religion. He moves from Athenian origins, to Periclean Athens; from to the medieval city when the Parthenon was the castle of the Duke of Athens, to Ottoman conquest; to Greek independence, and Athens becoming the capital of a new Kingdom of Greece; and all the way into the 21st century.
For Further Investigation
- Also by Bruce Clark, a history of events mentioned in our conversation (as well as in the conversation with Roderick Beaton): Twice a Stranger: The Mass Expulsions That Formed Modern Greece and Turkey
- For a very important part of Athenian history we deliberately ignored, see the conversation with classical historian Jennifer Roberts in Episode 121: The War Between the Greeks, or, The Forever War
- For another different perspective on Athens, see Episode 179: What’s the Good of Ambition, or, Socrates and Alcibiades
- The Acropolis Museum
- Atlas Obscura is one of my favorite sites to browse, and here’s The Atlas Obscura Guide To Athens: 55 Cool, Hidden, and Unusual Things to Do in Athens Greece
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