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Athens was a powerful city-state during the classical period of Greece. A center for the arts, learning and philosophy, home of Plato’s Academy and Aristotle’s Lyceum, it is widely referred to as the cradle of Western civilization and the birthplace of democracy, largely because of its cultural and political impact on Europe and in particular the Romans.

Terrain and Climate[]

Athens sprawls across the central plain of Attica that is often referred to as the Athens or Attica Basin. The basin is bounded by four large mountains: Mount Aigaleo to the west, Mount Parnitha to the north, Mount Pentelicus to the northeast and Mount Hymettus to the east. Beyond Mount Aegaleo lies the Thriasian plain, which forms an extension of the central plain to the west. The Saronic Gulf lies to the southwest. Mount Parnitha is the tallest of the four mountains (1,413 m (4,636 ft). Athens is built around a number of hills. Lycabettus is one of the tallest hills of the city proper and provides a view of the entire Attica Basin. The geomorphology of Athens is deemed to be one of the most complex in the world because its mountains cause a temperature inversion phenomenon which, along with the Greek Government's difficulties controlling industrial pollution, was responsible for the air pollution problems the city has faced. The Cephissus river, the Ilisos and the Eridanos stream are the historical rivers of Athens. Athens has a subtropical Mediterranean climate (Köppen Csa) and receives just enough annual precipitation to avoid Köppen's BSh (semi-arid climate) classification. The dominant feature of Athens's climate is alternation between prolonged hot and dry summers and mild winters with moderate rainfall. With an average of 414.1 millimetres (16.30 in) of yearly precipitation, rainfall occurs largely between the months of October and April. July and August are the driest months, where thunderstorms occur sparsely once or twice a month. Winters are mild and rainy, with a January average of 8.9 °C (48.0 °F); in Nea Filadelfeia and 10.3 °C (50.5 °F) in Hellinikon; Snowstorms are infrequent but can cause disruption when they occur. Snowfalls are more frequent in the northern suburbs of the city. The annual precipitation of Athens is typically lower than in other parts of Greece, mainly in western Greece. As an example, Ioannina receives around 1,300 mm (51 in) per year, and Agrinio around 800 mm (31 in) per year.

Early Period[]

Athens has been inhabited from Neolithic times, possibly from the end of the 4th millennium BC, or nearly 5,000 years, according to books. By 1412 BC, the settlement had become an important center of the Mycenaean civilization and the Acropolis was the site of a major Mycenaean fortress whose remains can be recognized from sections of Cyclopean walls. On the summit of the Acropolis, below the later Erechtheion, cuttings in the rock have been identified as the location of a Mycenaean palace. Between 1250 and 1200 BC, a staircase was built down a cleft in the rock to reach a protected water supply, in a similar way to ones at Mycenae. Unlike other Mycenaean centers, such as Mycenae and Pylos, it is unclear whether Athens suffered destruction in about 1200 BC, an event often attributed to a Dorian invasion, and the Athenians always maintained that they were “pure” Ionians with no Dorian element. However, Athens went into economic decline for around 150 years following this. According to legend, Athens was formerly ruled by kings, a situation which may have continued up until the 9th century BC. It is believed that these 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 (Areopagus), and appointed the chief city officials, the archons and the polemarch (commander-in-chief). Four tribes based upon family relationships dominated the area. The members had certain rights, privileges, and obligations. During this period, Athens succeeded in bringing the other towns of Attica under its rule. This process of synoikismos—the bringing together into 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 code of law. When this failed, they appointed Solon, with a mandate to create a new constitution (in 594 BC).

Foundations for Democracy[]

The reforms that Solon initiated dealt with both political and economic issues. The economic power of the Eupatridae was reduced by forbidding the enslavement of Athenian citizens as a punishment for debt, by 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 Thetai who formed the majority of the population, received political rights for the first time and were 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 twenty years of unrest the popular party, led by Peisistratus, a cousin of Solon, seized power in 541 BC. Peisistratus was a very popular ruler, who made Athens wealthy, powerful, and a center of culture, and instituted 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 BC and was succeeded by his sons Hippias and Hipparchus. They proved to be less adept rulers and in 514 BC, Hipparchus was assassinated. This led Hippias to establish a real dictatorship, which proved very unpopular, and he was overthrown in 510 BC. A radical politician with an aristocratic background named Cleisthenes then took charge, and it was he who established democracy in Athens. The reforms of Cleisthenes replaced the traditional four tribes 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, and each trittys had one or more 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 public offices were filled by lot, although the ten strategoi (generals) were elected. This system remained remarkably stable, and with a few brief interruptions, it remained in place for 170 years, until Philip II of Macedon defeated Athens and Thebes at the Battle of Chaeronea in 338 BC.

Classical Athens[]

Prior to the rise of Athens, Sparta considered itself to be the leader of the Greeks. In 499 BC, Athens sent troops to aid the Ionian Greeks of Asia Minor, who were rebelling against the Persian Empire. This provoked two Persian invasions of Greece. In 490 BC, the Athenians, led by the soldier-statesman Miltiades, defeated the first invasion under Darius I at the Battle of Marathon. In 480 BC, the Persians returned under Darius’ son Xerxes. When a small Greek force holding the pass of Thermopylae was defeated, the Athenians evacuated Athens. It got captured and sacked twice by the Persians within one year after Thermopylae. Subsequently, the Athenians (led by Themistocles), with their allies, engaged the much larger Persian navy at sea in the Battle of Salamis. The Persians were routed, with their king Xerxes witnessing the defeat. This is considered a turning point in the war. In 479 BC, the Athenians and Spartans, with their allies, defeated the Persian army at the Battle of Plataea. However, Athens 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 Athens at this time, the political satire of the Comic poets at the theatres 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 physician Hippocrates, 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 Delian League members to build the Parthenon and other great monuments of classical Athens. The resentment felt by other cities at the hegemony of Athens led to the Peloponnesian War, which began in 431 BC and pitted Athens and its increasingly rebellious overseas empire against a coalition of land-based states led by Sparta. The democracy in Athens was briefly overthrown by a coup in 411 BC, due to its poor handling of the war, but it was quickly restored. The conflict ended in 404 BC with a victory for Sparta and the end of Athenian command of the sea. This civil war left the Greeks weak and divided leading to Macedon taking over Greece. Sparta's former allies soon turned against her, due to her imperialist policy, and soon Athens' former enemies Thebes and Corinth had become her allies; they fought with Athens and Argos against Sparta in the indecisive Corinthian War (395 – 387 BC). Opposition to Sparta enabled Athens to establish a Second Athenian League. Finally, Thebes defeated Sparta in 371 BC in the Battle of Leuctra. But 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.

Athens under Macedonian and Roman Rule[]

By the mid-4th century BC, 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 an alliance of some of the Greek city-states including Athens and Thebes at the Battle of Chaeronea, effectively ending Athenian independence. Subsequently, 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 a leading power. In 88–85 BC, most Athenian buildings, both houses and fortifications, were leveled by the Roman general Sulla (138 BC – 78 BC), although 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, in the 2nd century AD, constructed a library, a gymnasium, an aqueduct which is still in use, several temples and sanctuaries, a bridge and financed the completion of the Temple of Olympian Zeus. The city was sacked by the Heruli in AD 267, 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 center of learning and philosophy during its 500 years of Roman rule, patronized by emperors such as Nero and Hadrian. The city remained an important center of learning, especially of Neoplatonism—with notable pupils including Gregory of Nazianzus, Basil of Caesarea and emperor Julian—and consequently a center of paganism. Christian items do not appear in the archaeological record until the early 5th century. The Emperor Justinian I closed down the city's philosophical schools in 529, an event whose impact on the city is much debated, but is generally taken to mark the end of the ancient history of Athens.

Byzantine Athens[]

From very early on the imperial period, but accelerating in the third century AD, the center of the Roman Empire moved towards the eastern half of the Mediterranean basin. The Empire became Christianized, and the use of Latin declined in favor of exclusive use of Greek: in the early Roman period, both languages had been used. The empire after this transition is known today as the Byzantine Empire due to its focus on the imperial capital at Constantinople, the old Greek city of Byzantion. The division is historically useful, but misleading, with an unbroken chain of emperors continuing up until the thirteenth century, and all citizens identifying themselves as fully Roman ("Rhomaioi"). The conversion of the empire from paganism to Christianity greatly affected Athens, resulting in reduced reverence for the city. Ancient monuments such as the Parthenon, Erechtheion and the Hephaisteion (Theseion) were converted into churches. As the empire became increasingly anti-pagan, Athens became a provincial town and experienced fluctuating fortunes. Many of its works of art were taken by the emperors to Constantinople. Athens was sacked by the Slavs in 582, but remained in imperial hands thereafter, as highlighted by the visit of Emperor Constans II in 662/3 and its inclusion in the Theme of Hellas. The city was threatened by Saracen raids in the 8th–9th centuries—in 896, Athens was raided and possibly occupied for a short period, an event which left some archaeological remains and elements of Arabic ornamentation in contemporary buildings—but there is also evidence of a mosque existing in the city at the time. In the great dispute over Byzantine Iconoclasm, Athens is commonly held to have supported the iconophile position, chiefly due to the role played by Empress Irene of Athens in the ending of the first period of Iconoclasm at the Second Council of Nicaea in 787. A few years later, another Athenian, Theophano, became empress as the wife of Staurakios (r. 811–812). Invasion of the empire by 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 11th century and continuing until the end of the 12th century. The agora or marketplace, which had been deserted since late antiquity, began to be built over, and soon the town became an important center 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 Middle Byzantine churches in and 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.

Latin Athens[]

From 1204 until 1458, Athens was ruled by Latins in three separate periods. Athens 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, although Athens remained the most influential ecclesiastical center in the duchy and site of a prime fortress. 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 Byzantine Greek culture. In 1311, Athens was conquered by the Catalan Company, a band of mercenaries called Almogavars. It was held by the Catalans until 1388. After 1379, when Thebes was lost, Athens became the capital of the duchy again. The history of Aragonese Athens, called Cetines (rarely Athenes) by the conquerors, is obscure. Athens was a veguería with its own castellan, captain, and veguer. At some point during the Aragonese period, the Acropolis was further fortified and the Athenian archdiocese received an extra two suffragan sees. In 1388, the Florentine Nerio I Acciajuoli took the city and made himself duke. 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). The descendants of Nerio I Acciajuoli ruled the city (as their capital) until the Turkish conquest of 1458.

Ottoman Athens[]

The first Ottoman attack on Athens, which involved a short-lived occupation of the town, came in 1397, under the Ottoman generals Yaqub Pasha and Timurtash. Finally, in 1458, Athens was captured by the Ottomans under the personal leadership of Sultan Mehmed II. As the Ottoman Sultan 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 Athens' main mosque. Under Ottoman rule, the city was denuded of any importance and its population severely declined, leaving Athens as a "small country town". From the early 17th century, Athens came under the jurisdiction of the Kizlar Agha, the chief black eunuch of the Sultans' harem. The city had originally been granted by Sultan Ahmed I (r. 1603–1617) to Basilica, one of his favourite concubines, who hailed from the city, in response of complaints of maladministration by the local governors. After her death, Athens came under the purview of the Kizlar Agha. The Turks began a practice of storing gunpowder and explosives in the Parthenon and Propylaea. In 1640, a lighting bolt struck the Propylaea, causing its destruction. In 1687, during the Morean War, Athens was besieged by the Venetians under Francesco Morosini, 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 (26 September), and the building was severely damaged, giving it the appearance we see today. The occupation of the Acropolis continued for six months and both the Venetians and the Ottomans participated in the looting of the Parthenon. One of its western pediments was removed, causing even more damage to the structure. The Venetians occupied the town, converting its two mosques into Catholic and Protestant churches, but on 9 April 1688 they abandoned it again to the Ottomans. Ancient monuments were destroyed to provide material for a new wall which the Ottomans built around the city in 1777. Between 1801 and 1805 Lord Elgin, the British ambassador to the Ottoman Empire, arranged for the removal of many sculptures from the Parthenon (the Elgin marbles). Along with the Panathenaic frieze, one of the six caryatids of the Erechtheion was extracted and replaced with a plaster mold. All in all, fifty pieces of sculpture were carried away, including three fragments purchased by the French. Athens produced some notable intellectuals during this era, such as Demetrius Chalcondyles (1424–1511), who became a celebrated Renaissance teacher of Greek and of Platonic philosophy in Italy. Chalcondyles published the first printed editions of Homer (in 1488), of Isocrates (in 1493), and of the Suda lexicon (in 1499), and a Greek grammar (Erotemata). His cousin Laonicus Chalcondyles (c. 1423–1490) was also a native of Athens, a notable scholar and Byzantine historian and one of the most valuable of the later Greek historians. He was the author of the valuable work Historiarum Demonstrationes (Demonstrations of History) and was a great admirer of the ancient writer Herodotus, encouraging the interest of contemporary Italian humanists in that ancient historian. In the 17th century, Athenian-born Leonardos Philaras (c. 1595–1673), was a Greek scholar, politician, diplomat, advisor and the Duke of Parma's ambassador to the French court, spending much of his career trying to persuade western European intellectuals to support Greek independence.

Independence and a Unified Greece[]

In 1822, a Greek insurgency captured the city, but it fell to the Ottomans again in 1826 (though Acropolis held till June 1827). Again the ancient monuments suffered badly. The Ottoman forces remained in possession until March 1833, when they withdrew. At that time, the city (as throughout the Ottoman period) had a small population of an estimated 400 houses, mostly located around the Acropolis in the Plaka. 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 made it one of his first tasks as king to conduct a detailed archaeological and topographical survey of Athens, his new capital. He assigned Gustav Eduard Schaubert and Stamatios Kleanthis to complete this task. At that time, Athens had a population of only 4,000 – 5,000 people, located in what today covers the district of Plaka in the city state Athens. Athens was chosen as the Greek capital for historical and sentimental reasons. There are few buildings dating from the period of the Byzantine Empire or the 18th century. Once the capital was established, a modern city plan was laid out and public buildings were erected. The finest legacy of this period are the buildings of the University of Athens (1837), the Old Royal Palace (now the Greek Parliament Building) (1843), the National Gardens 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). In 1896 the city hosted the 1896 Summer Olympics.

Athens in the Modern Day[]

Athens experienced its second 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. The Great Famine (Greece) was heavy in the city. Several resistance organizations were created. After the liberation, in 1944, there was heavy fighting in the city between the communist forces and the government forces 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 at that time. 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 why Athens failed to secure the 1996 centenary Olympic Games. Following the failed attempt to secure the 1996 Summer Olympics, 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 center of the city. As a result, Athens was awarded the 2004 Olympic Games. Despite the skepticism of many observers, the games were a great success and brought renewed international prestige (and tourism revenue) to Athens. Athens was chosen as the reference city for the 14th dokumenta major international art Event in 2017 under the title Learning from Athens.


  • The patron goddess of Athens was Athena, who according to legend won the right after she gave the city a gift of an olive tree - far more useful than Poseidon's gifted salt water spring.



Pericles was arguably the most prominent and influential Greek statesman, orator and general of Athens during the Goldern Age. He was descended, through his mother, from the powerful and historically influential Alcmaeonid family. Pericles turned the Delian League into an Athenian empire, and promoted the arts and literature. Most of the surviving structures on the Athenian Acropolis were the result of an ambitious project started by him. He also fostered Athenian democracy to such an extent that critics called him a populist.

Early Years[]

Pericles was born c. 495 BC, in Athens. He was the son of the politician Xanthippus, who although ostracized in 485-484 BC, returned to Athens to command the Athenian contingent in the Greek victory at Mycale just five years later. Pericles’ mother was Agariste, a member of the powerful and controversial noble family of the Alcmaeonidae, and her familial connections played a crucial role in kickstarting Xanthippus’ political career. Agariste was the great-granddaughter of the tyrant of Sicyon, Cleisthenes, and the niece of the Athenian reformer Cleisthenes. According to Herodotus and Plutarch, Agariste dreamed, a few nights before Pericles’ birth, that she had borne a lion. One interpretation of the dream treats the lion as a traditional symbol of greatness, but the story may also allude to the unusually large size of Pericles’ skull, which became a popular target of contemporary comedians. Pericles belonged to the tribe of Acamantis. His early years were quiet; the introverted young Pericles avoided public appearances, instead preferring to devote his time to his studies. He learned music from the masters of the time, and he is considered to have been the first politician to attribute importance to philosophy. He enjoyed the company of the philosophers Protagoras, Zeno of Elea, and Anaxagoras. Pericles’ proverbial calmness and self-control are also often regarded as products of Anaxagoras’ influence. He was married to one of his closest relatives, with whom he had two sons, Paralus and Xanthippus, but he divorced her around 445 BC. His first wife’s name is unknown. The woman who became Pericles’ mistress was Aspasia of Miletus, which garnered many reactions. Even his own son Xanthippus did not hesitate to slander his father.

Entering Politics[]

In the spring of 472 BC, Pericles presented The Persians of Aeschylus at the Greater Dionysia as a liturgy. It has been argued that Pericles’ selection of this play, which presents a nostalgic picture of Themistocles’ famous victory at Salamis, shows that the young politicians was supporting Themistocles against his political opponent Cimon, whose faction succeeded in having Themistocles ostracized shortly afterwards. Pericles must have taken up a position of leadership by the early 460s BC, in his early or mid-thirties. In 463 BC, Pericles was the leading prosecutor of Cimon, the leader of the conservative faction who was accused of neglecting Athens’ vital interests in Macedon. Cimon was acquitted. Around 461 BC, the leadership of the democratic party decided it was time to take aim at the Areopagus, a traditional council controlled by the Athenian aristocracy, which had once been the most powerful body in the state. The leader of the party and mentor of Pericles, Ephialtes, proposed a reduction of the Areopagus’ powers. The Ecclesia (Athenian Assembly) adopted Ephialtes’ proposal without opposition. This reform signaled the beginning of a new era of “radical democracy”. The democratic party gradually became dominant in Athenian politics. In 461 BC, Pericles achieved the political elimination of Cimon using ostracism. The accusation was that Cimon betrayed his city by aiding Sparta. Pericles continued to promote a populist social policy. He proposed a decree that permitted the poor to watch theatrical plays without paying, with the state covering the cost of their admission. With other decrees, he lowered the property requirement for the archonship in 458-457 BC and bestowed generous wages on all citizens who served as jurymen in the Heliaia (Supreme court of Athens) sometime just after 454 BC. His most controversial measure, was a law of 451 BC limiting Athenian citizenship to those of Athenian parentage on both sides.

Leading Athens: The Early Years[]

Ephialtes’ murder in 461 BC paved the way for Pericles to consolidate his authority. He made his first military excursions during the First Peloponnesian War, which was caused in part by Athens’ alliance with Megara and Argos, and the subsequent reaction of Sparta. In 454 BC, Pericles attacked Sicyon and Acarnania. He then tried unsuccessfully to conquer Oeniadea on the Corinthian gulf before returning to Athens. In 451 BC, Cimon returned from exile and negotiated a five years’ truce with Sparta. Cimon stuck a power-sharing deal with his opponents, according to which Pericles would carry through the interior affairs and Cimon would be the leader of the Athenian army. In the mid-450s, the Athenians launched an unsuccessful attempt to aid an Egyptian revolt against Persia, which led to a prolonged siege of a Persian fortress in the Nile Delta. The besieging force was defeated and destroyed. In 451-450 BC, the Athenians sent troops to Cyprus. Cimon defeated the Persians in the Battle of Salamis, but died of disease in 449 BC. In the spring of 449 BC, Pericles proposed the Congress Decree, which led to a meeting of all Greek states in order to consider the question of rebuilding the temples destroyed by the Persians. The Congress failed because of Sparta’s stance. During the Second Sacred War, Pericles led the Athenian army against Delphi and reinstated Phocis in its sovereign rights on the oracle. In 447 BC, Pericles engaged in the expulsion of barbarians from the Thracian peninsula of Gallipoli, in order to establish Athenian colonists among its subjects. In 447 BC, the oligarch of Thebes conspired against the democratic faction. The Athenians demanded their immediate surrender, but after the Battle of Coronea, Pericles was forced to concede the loss of Boeotia in order to recover the prisoners taken in that battle. With Boeotia in hostile hands, Phocis and Locris became untenable and quickly fell under the control of hostile oligarchs. In 446 BC, Euboea and Megara revolted. Pericles crossed over to Euboea with troops, but was forced to return when the Spartan army invaded Attica. Through bribery and negotiations, Pericles defused the imminent threat, and the Spartans returned home. With the Spartan threat removed, Pericles crossed back to Euboea to crush the revolt there. The landowners of Chalcis lost their properties, while the residents of Histiaea were uprooted and replaced by 2,000 Athenian settlers. The crisis was brought to an official end by the Thirty Years’ Peace (winter of 446-445 BC) in which Athens relinquished most of its possessions and interests on the Greek mainland which it had acquired since 460 BC, and both Athens and Sparta agreed not to attempt to win over the other state’s allies.

Last Battle with the Conservatives and the Delian League[]

In 444 BC, the conservative and the democratic factions of Athens confronted each other in a fierce struggle. The ambitious new leader of the conservatives, Thucydides (not to be confused with the historian of the same name), accused Pericles of profligacy, criticizing the way he spent the money for the ongoing building plan. He managed to incite the ecclesia in his favor. Pericles responded resolutely, proposing to reimburse the city for all the expenses from his private property, under the term that he would make the inscriptions of dedication in his own name. His stance was greeted with applause, and Thucydides suffered an unexpected defeat. In 442 BC, the Athenian public voted to ostracize Thucydides from the city for 10 years and Pericles was once again the unchallenged ruler of the Athenian political arena. The process by which the Delian League transformed into an Athenian empire is generally considered to have begun well before Pericles’ time, as various allies in the league chose to pay tribute to Athens instead of manning ships for the league’s fleet, but the transformation was speeded and brought to its conclusion by Pericles. The Athenian defeat in Egypt led to the revolt of several allies, such as Miletus and Erythrae. Athens transferred the treasury of the alliance from Delos to Athens in 454-453 BC. By 450-449 BC, the revolts in Miletus and Erythrae were quelled and Athens restored its rule over its allies. Around 447 BC Clearchus proposed the Coinage Decree, which imposed Athenian silver coinage, weights and measures on all of its allies. Surplus from a minting operation was to go into a special fund, and anyone proposing to use it otherwise was subject to the death penalty. It was from the alliance’s treasury that Pericles drew the funds necessary to enable his ambitious building plane, centered on the Acropolis, including the Propylaea, the Parthenon and the golden statue of Athena, sculpted by Pericles’ friend, Phidias. In 449 BC, Pericles proposed a decree allowing the use of 9,000 talents to finance the major rebuilding program of Athenian temples.

Samian War and Personal Attacks[]

The Samian War was one of the last significant military events before the Peloponnesian War. After Thucydides’ ostracism, Pericles was re-elected yearly to the generalship, the only office he ever officially occupied, although his influence was so great as to make him the de facto ruler of the state. In 440 BC, Samos went to war against Miletus over control of the Ionian city of Priene. The Milesians came to Athens to plead their case against the Samians. When the Athenians ordered the two sides to stop fighting and submit the case to arbitration in Athens, the Samians refused. In response, Pericles passed a decree dispatching an expedition to Samos. In a naval battle, the Athenians led by Pericles and nine other generals defeated the forces of Samos and imposed on the island an Athenian administration. When the Samians revolted, Pericles compelled the rebels to capitulate after a tough siege of eight months. He then quelled a revolt in Byzantium, and gave a funeral oration to honor the soldiers who died in the expedition when he returned to Athens. Between 438-436 BC Pericles led Athens’ fleet in Pontus and established friendly relations with the Greek cities of the region. He also focused on internal projects, such as the fortification of Athens, and on the creation of new cleruchies, such as Andros, Naxos, Thurii, and Amphipolis. Pericles and his friends were never immune from attack. Just before the eruption of the Peloponnesian War, Pericles and two of his closest associates, Phidias and his companion, Aspasia, faced a series of personal and judicial attacks. Phidias, who had been in charge of all building projects, was first accused of embezzling gold meant for the statue of Athena, and then of impiety, because when he wrought the battle of the Amazons on the shield of Athena, he carved out a figure that suggested himself as a bald old man, and also inserted a very fine likeness of Pericles fighting with an Amazon. Aspasia was accused of corrupting the women of Athens in order to satisfy Pericles’ perversions. She was acquitted thanks to a rare emotional outburst of Pericles, but his friend Phidias died in prison. Another, Anaxagoras, was attacked by the ecclesia for his religious beliefs. The ecclesia attacked Pericles himself by asking him to justify his ostensible profligacy with, and maladministration of, public money.

Peloponnesian War[]

Many ancient historians lay the blame for the Peloponnesian War on Pericles and Athens. Pericles was convinced that the war against Sparta, which could not conceal its envy of Athens’ pre-eminence, was inevitable if unfortunate. He sent troops to Corcyra to reinforce the Corcyraean fleet, which was fighting against Corinth. In 433 BC, the enemy fleets fought at the Battle of Sybota, and a year later the Athenians fought Corinthian colonists at the Battle of Potidaea. During the same period, Pericles proposed the Megarian Decree, which excluded the merchants of Megara from the market of Athens and the ports in its empire. This ban strangled the Megarian economy and strained the fragile peace between Athens and Sparta, which was allied with Megara. After consultations with its allies, Sparta sent a delegation to Athens demanding certain concessions, such as the immediate expulsion of the Alcmaeonidae family, including Pericles, and the retraction of the Megarian Decree, threatening war if the demands were not met. In exchange for retracting the Megarian Decree, the Athenians demanded from Sparta to abandoned their practice of periodic expulsion of foreigners from their territory and to recognize the autonomy of its allied cities. These terms were rejected by the Spartans, and the two cities prepared for war. In 431 BC, Archidamus II, king of Sparta, sent a new delegation to Athens, demanding that the Athenians submit to Sparta’s demands. Athens refused to admit the emissaries, so the Spartans invaded Attica, founding no Athenians there. Pericles had arranged to evacuate the entire population of the region to within the walls of Athens. In seeing the pillage of their farms, the Athenians were outraged, and soon began to indirectly express their discontent towards their leader. While the Spartan army remained in Attica, Pericles sent a fleet of 100 ships to loot the coasts of the Peloponnese and charged the cavalry to guard the ravaged farms close to the walls of the city. During the autumn of 431 BC, Pericles led the Athenian forces that invaded Megara and a few months later (winter of 431-430 BC) he delivered his monumental and emotional Funeral Oration, honoring the Athenians who died for their city.

Later Life and Death[]

In 430 BC, the army of Sparta looted Attica for a second time. Unwilling to engage the Spartans in battle, Pericles again led a naval expedition to plunder the Peloponnese coast. In the summer of that same year, an epidemic broke out and devastated the Athenians. The exact identity of the disease is uncertain. The city’s plight triggered a new wave of public uproar, and Pericles was forced to defend himself in an emotional final speech. However, his enemies managed to deprive him of the generalship and fine him an amount estimated between 15 and 50 talents. Despite this, the Athenians forgave Pericles and re-elected him as general in 429 BC. That year, he witnessed the death of both his legitimate sons from his first wife, Paralus and Xanthippus, in the epidemic. Not even Aspasia could console him and the Athenian general died of the plague in the autumn of 429 BC. Pericles’ death was a disaster for Athens, according to Thucydides, because his successors were inferior to him. He was buried in a tomb along a road near the Academy.

Judgement of History[]

Pericles’ most visible legacy can be found in the literary and artistic works of the Golden Age. The Acropolis, though in ruins, still stands and is a symbol of modern Athens. In politics, it has been argued that a basic element of Pericles’ legacy is Athenian imperialism, which denies true democracy and freedom to the people of all but the ruling state. The promotion of such an arrogant imperialism is said to have ruined Athens. Nonetheless, Pericles is lauded as “the ideal type of the perfect statesman in ancient Greece”, and his Funeral Oration is nowadays synonymous with the struggle for participatory democracy and civic pride.

Unique Components[]

Assault Trieres[]

Though the exact provenance of the trireme is ambiguous, with many sources attributing it to the Phoenicians of Sidon, it was the Greek City-States, and more specifically the Athenians, who made the three-banked ships into weapons of war used to dominate the Mediterranean. It was under the statesman Themistocles during the Persian wars that Athens first built a great trireme navy, and the 200 ships approved by the Athenian assembly were decisive agents in the rebuking of the Persian navy at Artemisium and Salamis.

The Assault Trieres used by Athens to control the Greek world starting in the Fifth Century were fearsome ships not only due to their ramming capabilities, driven by three banks of oarsmen who could reach speeds of up to 8 knots, but due to the marines stationed on board, who served not only as guardsmen for the rowers but as an assault force in their own right. So powerful were the trieres that the defeat of Athens in the Peloponnesian Wars was only sealed upon the Peloponnesian League’s destruction of 170 Athenian Trieres in the decisive Battle of Aegospotami.


Gymnasia were, broadly speaking, large structures that were often situated outside of city walls due to their scale. They contained spaces for various forms of exercise alongside other features, notably a stadium and various porticos where public lectures and disputations were held.

Though originally conceived as an institution that would provide physical training to young men throughout the Hellenic states, the gymnasium eventually developed and became a hotbed of political, philosophical and intellectual pursuits.This in some ways was inevitable as in Greek societies Athletics, Education and Healthcare were all intrinsically linked. Despite being originally trained under the supervision of Gymnasiarchs and Gymnastai - who filled the role of teacher and trainer - the young also owed much of their education to the numerous Philosophers and Sophists who would frequently lecture at such institutions.

In Ancient Athens there were considered to be three great Gymnasia; the Academy - founded by Plato and dedicated to Athena, The Lyceum - where Aristotle founded the Peripatetic school of Philosophy and finally The Cynosarges, the gymnasium where Antisthenes is believed to have lectured. Furthermore, the Athenian Gymnasia were maintained through the appointment of ten Gymnasiarchs whose shared responsibilities included  looking after competitors, conducting various Athenian games and maintaining the building itself, among many others. Despite being a cornerstone of Athenian and wider Hellenic society, the gymnasium failed to maintain its popularity, especially with the growing influence of Rome, the people of whom perceived the gymnasia as conducive to Idleness and Immorality.

The Academy[]

(Requires Sukritact's Events and Decisions)

What was later to be known as Plato's school probably originated around the time Plato acquired inherited property at the age of thirty, with informal gatherings which included Theaetetus of Sunium, Archytas of Tarentum, Leodamas of Thasos, and Neoclides. According to Debra Nails, Speusippus "joined the group in about 390 BC". She claims, "It is not until Eudoxus of Cnidos arrives in the mid-380s BC that Eudemus recognizes a formal Academy." There is no historical record of the exact time the school was officially founded, but modern scholars generally agree that the time was the mid-380s, probably sometime after 387 BC, when Plato is thought to have returned from his first visit to Italy and Sicily. Originally, the location of the meetings was on Plato's property as often as it was the nearby Academy gymnasium; this remained so throughout the fourth century.



Corinth was an ancient Greek city-state in the northeastern part of the Peloponnesus peninsula in present day Greece. Neolithic pottery suggests that the site of Corinth was occupied from at least as early as 6500 BC. The site of Corinth was likely not heavily occupied until around 900 BC, when it is believed the Dorians settled there. The ancient myths portrayed Corinth as the site where Jason abandoned his wife Medea. Corinth had been a backwater in 8th-century Greece. The Bacchiadae, a tightly-knit Doric clan, were the ruling kinship group of archaic Corinth in the 8th and 7th centuries BC, a period of expanding Corinthian cultural power. In 747 BC, an aristocratic revolution ousted the Bacchiad kings. The royal clan of Bacchiadae dispensed with the kingship and ruled as a group, governing the city by electing annually a prytanis, who held the kingly position for his brief term. During Bacchiad rule, from 747 to 650 BC, Corinth became a unified state. In 733 BC, the city established colonies at Corcyra and Syracuse. In 657 BC, the polemarch Cypselus became the first tyrant of Corinth after seizing power and exiling the Bacchiadae. In the 7th century BC, under the rule of Cypselus (r 657-627 BC), and his son Periander (r. 627-585 BC), the city sent forth colonists to found new settlements, including Epidamnus (modern day Durrës, Albania), and Apollonia in Illyria. Corinth was one of the nine Greek sponsor-cities to found the colony of Naucratis in ancient Egypt. Periander was considered one of the Seven Wise Men of Greece. He was the first to attempt to cut across the Isthmus to create a seaway between the Corinthian and the Saronic Gulfs. This venture was abandoned due to extreme technical difficulties, but Periander had the Diolkos (a stone-built overland ramp) built instead. In 581 BC, Periander’s nephew and successor was assassinated.

In Classical times, Corinth rivaled Athens and Thebai in wealth. Until the mid-6th century, Corinth was a major exporter of black-figure pottery to city-states around the Greek world. There was a temple of Aphrodite, employing some thousand hetairas (temple prostitutes). The city was also the host of the Isthmian Games. The third main style of classical architecture after the Doric and the Ionic, the Corinthian order was developed. The city had two main ports, Lechaion to the west, and Kenchreai to the east on the Saronic Gulf. During the years 481-480 BC, the Conference at the Isthmus of Corinth established the Hellenic League to fight the war against Persia. In 435 BC, Corinth and its colony Corcyra went to war over Epidamnus. In 433 BC, Athens allied with Corcyra against Corinth. In 395 BC after the end of the Peloponnesian War, Corinth and Thebai moved to support Athens against Sparta in the Corinthian War. The conflicts weakened the city-states in the Peloponnese, setting the stage for the conquests of Philip II of Macedon. Corinth eventually fell under the control of Alexander the Great. In 308 BC, the city was captured from the Antigonids by Ptolemy I. It was recaptured by Demetrius in 304 BC, remaining in Antigonid control for half a century. After Roman intervention in 197 BC, the city was permanently brought into the Achaean League. The Achaeans went on to take control of the entire Peloponnesus and made Corinth the capital of their confederation.

In 146 BC, Rome declared war on the Achaean League. The Romans led by Lucius Mummius besieged and captured Corinth. All the men were put to the sword and the women and children sold into slavery. The site remained largely deserted until Julius Caesar refounded the city as Colonia Laus Iulia Corinthiensis in 44 BC, shortly before his assassination. Corinth once again became a major city in Southern Greece or Achaea. Corinth was mentioned many times in the New Testament, largely in connection with Paul the Apostle’s mission there. Paul wrote at least two epistles to the Christian community. The city was largely destroyed in the earthquakes of 365 AD and 375 AD, followed by Alaric’s invasion in 396. The city was rebuilt, but covered a much smaller area than previously. Four churches were located in the city proper, another on the citadel of the Acrocorinth, and a monumental basilica at the port of Lechaion. During the reign of Justinian I, a large stone wall was erected from the Saronic to the Corinthian gulfs, named Hexamilion. Corinth declined from the 6th century on. It became the capital of the theme of Hellas and later the Peloponnese. In the 9th century, the city began to recover and reached its apogee in the 11th and 12th centuries, when it was the site of a flourishing silk industry. An earthquake struck the city in November 856. The Sicilian Normans plundered Corinth in 1147 and it never fully recovered. In 1210, the Acrocorinth fell to the Crusaders, becoming a part of the Principality of Achaea, governed by the Villehardouins from their capital in Andravida in Elis. It was captured by the Ottomans in 1395 and by the Byzantines of the Despotate of the Morea in 1403. In 1458, Corinth was conquered by the Ottoman Turks, who renamed it Gördes. The Venetians captured it in 1687 and it remained under their control until 1715. The city was officially liberated from the Ottomans in 1832. It was one of the candidates for the new capital city of the recently founded Kingdom of Greece. The ruins remain a tourist attraction today.


Delphi was a city in central Greece, known for its oracle. It started to have a pan-Hellenic relevance as both a shrine and an oracle in the 7th century BC. The Delphic Oracle was consulted before major undertakings, such as wars, and the founding of colonies. Delphi was reclaimed by the Athenians during the First Sacred War (597-585 BC). This conflict resulted in the consolidated of the Amphictyonic League, which had both a military and a religious function centered around the protection of the Temple of Apollo. The shrine was destroyed by fire in 548 BC. The Second Sacred War (449-448 BC) resulted in the Phocians gaining control of Delphi and the management of the Pythian Games. In 356 BC, the Phocians, led by Philomelos, captured and sacked Delphi, leading to the Third Sacred War (356-346 BC). This conflict ended with the defeat of the Phocians, and the rise of Macedon under the reign of Philip II. In Delphi, Macedonian ruled was superseded by the Aetolians in 279 BC, and by the Romans in 191 BC. The site was sacked by Lucius Cornelius Sulla in 86 BC, during the Mithridatic Wars, and by the Emperor Nero in 66 AD. A Thracian tribe also raided the sanctuary in 83 BC, stealing the “unquenchable fire” from the altar. The Oracle fell into decay and the surrounding area became impoverished. Roman Emperor Hadrian is believed to have visited Delphi twice, offering complete autonomy to the city. Constantine the Great looted several of the monuments to decorate his new capital, Constantinople. Despite the rise of Christianity across the Roman Empire, the oracle remained a religious center throughout the 4th century, and the Pythian Games continued to be held at least until 424 AD. A large three-aisled basilica was built in the city, in addition to a church building in the sanctuary’s former gymnasium. Delphi was abandoned in the 6th or 7th centuries, but a single bishop of Delphi is attested in an episcopal list of the late 8th/early 9th centuries. During the Ottoman period, the village of Kastri was founded on the site. Before a systematic excavation of the archeological site could be undertaken, the village had to be relocated. However, the residents resisted. An earthquake damaged the village, and the villagers were offered a completely new village in exchange for the old one. In 1893, the French Archaeological School removed substantial quantities of soil from numerous landslides to uncover the major buildings and structures of the sanctuary of Apollo and of Athena Pronoia, as well as numerous artifacts. Now a UNESCO world heritage site, Delphi is popular with tourists.


Ephesus was a city located in Western Anatolia (modern day Turkey). The area surrounding it was already inhabited during the Neolithic Age (circa 6000 BC). During the Bronze Age, it may have been called Apasa, the capital of the Kingdom of Arzawa mentioned in Hittite sources. In 1954, a burial ground dating from the Mycenaean era (1500-1400 BC) was discovered close to the ruins of the basilica of St. John. Ephesus was founded as an Attic-Ionian colony in the 10th century BC on the Ayasuluk Hill. The mythical founder of the city was a prince of Athens, Androklos, who had to leave his home city after the death of his father. According to legend, he founded Ephesus on the spot where the Delphian oracle’s pronouncement became reality. The Artemis worshipped at Ephesus was a fusion of the Greek goddess Artemis and the Anatolian goddess Kybele. Her statue was many-breasted and venerated in the Temple of Artemis, one of the ancient Seven Wonders of the World. Circa 650 BC, Ephesus was attacked by the Cimmerians. After they were driven away, the city was ruled by a series of tyrants. A council ruled it after a revolt. Notable figures who came from the city included the elegiac poet Callinus, the iambic poet Hipponax, the philosopher Heraclitus, the great painter Parrhasius, the grammarian Zenodotos, and the physicians Soranus and Rufus. Around 560 BC, Ephesus was conquered by the Lydians led by King Croesus, who treated the people with respect and became a main contributor to the reconstruction of the temple of Artemis. After the defeat of Lydia by the Persians, the Ionians offered to make peace. Cyrus insisted they surrender and become part of the empire. They were defeated by the Persian general Harpagos in 547 BC, with the Greek cities of Asia Minor incorporated into the Achaemenid Empire. When taxes were raised under Cambyses II and Darius, the Ephesians participated in the Ionian Revolt against Persian rule in the Battle of Ephesus (498 BC). In 479 BC, the Ionians, together with Athens, were able to oust the Persians from the shores of Asia Minor. The next year, the Ionian cities formed the Delian League with Athens against the Persians. During the Peloponnesian War, Ephesus was first allied to Athens, but later sided with Sparta (which had received the support of the Persians). The cities of Ionia were ceded to Persia. In 356 BC, the temple of Artemis was burnt down, by an arsonist named Herostratus according to legend. An even larger and grander one was built in its place. After Alexander the Great defeated the Persians at the Battle of Granicus in 334 BC, the Greek cities in Asia Minor were liberated. Seeing that the temple of Artemis was not yet completed, he proposed to finance it and have his name inscribed on the front. The Ephesians did not accept his proposal, claiming that it was not fitting for one god to build a temple to another. After Alexander’s death in 323 BC, Ephesus came under the rule of one of his generals, Lysimachus in 290 BC. The river Cayster silted the harbor and the resulting marshes caused malaria among the people. They were forced to move to a new settlement two kilometres (1.2miles) away, officially named Arsinoea after Lysimachus’ second wife. Lysimachus was defeated and killed at the Battle of Corupedium in 281 BC. The town was again named Ephesus and it became part of the Seleucid Empire. Ptolemy III invaded and Ephesus fell under Egyptian rule between 263 and 197 BC. When Seleucid King Antiochus III the Great tried to regain the Greek cities in Asia Minor, he came into conflict with Rome. He was eventually defeated by Scipio Asiaticus at the Battle of Magnesia in 190 BC. Ephesus came under the rule of the Attalid King of Pergamon, Eumenes II. When his grandson Attalus III died without a male heir, he left his kingdom to the Roman Empire. Taxes rose considerably and the treasures of the city were plundered. In 88 BC, Ephesus welcomed Archelaus, a general of Mithridates the Great, king of Pontus, when he conquered Roman Asia. Around 80,000 Roman citizens were slaughtered. When the Ephesians saw how badly the people of Chios were treated by another of Mithridates’ general Zenobius, they refused entry to their city to his army. Ephesus became for a time, self-governing. After the defeat of Mithridates by Roman consul Lucius Cornelius Sulla, Ephesus went back to Roman rule in 86 BC. Sulla imposed a huge indemnity, along with five years of back taxes. When Augustus became emperor in 27 BC, he made Ephesus the capital of proconsular Asia. The city entered an era of prosperity, becoming the seat of the governor and a major center of commerce. Strabo claimed it was second in importance and size only to Rome. The population of Ephesus at this time is calculated to be between 138,000 and 172,500, with an alternate estimate giving the city a range of 33,600 to 56,000 inhabitants. The city was known for its Temple of Artemis, the Library of Celsus, and a theater capable of holding 25,000 spectators (later used for gladiatorial combat). Ephesus was sacked by the Goths in 263 AD, marking the decline of the city’s splendor. The Emperor Constantine I rebuilt much of the city and erected a new public bath. The Basilica of St. John was built during the reign of Emperor Justinian I in the 6th century. The importance of the city as a commercial center declined as the harbor was slowly silted up by the river. The ruins of the temples were used as building blocks for new homes. Sacks by the Arabs in the years 654-655 and in 700 and 716 hastened the city’s decline further. When the Seljuk Turks conquered Ephesus in 1090, it was but a small village. The Byzantines resumed control in 1097 and kept it until 1304. The town surrendered to a Turkish warlord, Sasa Bey. Contrary to the terms of the surrender, the Turks pillaged the church of St. John and deported most of the local population to Thyrea, Greece. The town experienced a short period of prosperity during the 14th century under the Seljuks. Ephesus was incorporated into the Ottoman Empire for the first time in 1390. After the defeat of the Ottomans by Tamerlane in 1402, the region reverted back to the Anatolian beyliks. It was once more incorporated into the Ottoman Empire in 1425. By the 15th century, Ephesus was completely abandoned. In 1863, the British architect John Turtle Wood, with the sponsorship of the British Museum, began to search for the Temple of Artemis. The pavement was discovered in 1869, but excavations stopped in 1874. In 1895, German archaeologist Otto Benndorf resumed excavations at Ephesus. In 1898, he founded the Austrian Archaeological Institute, which plays a leading role in Ephesus today. Finds from the site are exhibited in the Ephesos Museum in Vienna, the Ephesus Archaeological Museum in nearby Selçuk, and the British Museum. In 2015, Ephesus was declared a World Heritage Site. It is a popular tourist attraction in the area.


Epidauros was a city in what is now modern day Greece. It formed a small territory called Epidauria. It was reputed to be the birthplace of Apollo’s son, Asclepius the healer. The sanctuary was situated about five miles (8 km) from the town. Also present was a theatre. The cult of Asclepius at Epidaurus is attested in the 6th century BC. The asclepeion at Epidauros was the most celebrated healing center of the Classical world, a place where the sick went in the hopes of being cured. To find out the right cure for their ailments, they spent a night in the enkoimeteria, a big sleeping hall. In their dreams, the god himself would advise them what they had to do to regain their health. The fame and prosperity of Epidauros continued throughout the Hellenistic period. In 87 BC, the sanctuary was looted by the Roman general Sulla, and in 67 BC, it was plundered by pirates. In the 2nd century AD, the sanctuary enjoyed a new upsurge under the Romans, but the Goths raided it in 395 AD. Even after the introduction of Christianity and the silencing of the oracles, the sanctuary at Epidauros was still known as late as the mid-5th century, but as a Christian healing center. Now in ruins, Epidauros became a World Heritage site in 1988. Tourists still visit the site, especially its well preserved theatre.


Miletus was a city located in southwestern Anatolia (present-day Turkey). The site of the city was originally inhabited by a Neolithic population in the period 3500-3000 BC. Miletus was first mentioned in the records of the Hittite Empire and the Mycenaean records of Pylos and Knossos, during the Late Bronze Age. Starting around 1900 BC, Minoan trade goods arrived at Miletus. There was legend claiming the city’s foundation by the Cretans, as recounted by Strabo. Miletus was a Mycenaean stronghold from ca. 1450 to 1100 BC. In c. 1320 BC, the city supported an anti-Hittite rebellion in nearby Arzawa. Hittite king Mursili ordered his generals to raid Millawanda (as Miletus was called at the time), and they proceeded to burn parts of it. During the collapse of Bronze Age civilization, Miletus was burnt again. Myths tell of Ionians killing the men of Miletus and marrying their widows, beginning an enduring alliance between Athens and Miletus. It ended up as one of the twelve Ionian cities of Asia Minor. Miletus is also known to have ties with Megara. In the late 7th century BC, the tyrant Thrasybulus preserved the independence of Miletus during a 12-year war fought against Lydia. The city was an important center of philosophy and science, producing men like Thales, Anaximander, and Anaximenes. By the 6th century BC, Miletus had a maritime empire with colonies. It fell under Persian rule after Cyrus defeated Croesus of Lydia in the middle of the 6th century BC. In 499 BC, Milesian tyrant Aristagoras led the Ionian revolt against the Persians. It was quashed and Miletus was punished by Persia. The women and children were sold into slavery, and the men were either killed or turned into eunuchs. The intent was to make sure no Milesians were ever born again. In 334 BC, the city was liberated from Persian rule by Alexander the Great. During the Hellenistic period, Miletus reached its greatest extent. The city was mentioned in the New Testament as the site where the Apostle Paul met with the elders of the church of Ephesus, near the end of his third missionary journey in 57 AD. It seems like Paul made another visit to Miletus, perhaps as late as 65 or 66 AD. During the Byzantine period, the see of Miletus was raised to an archbishopric and later a metropolitan bishopric. A small castle was built on the hill next to the city. Seljuk Turks conquered the city during the 14th century, using it as a port for trade with Venice. As the harbor became silted up, Miletus was abandoned. The ruins of the city now lie some 10 km (6.2mi) from the sea. The first archaeological excavations at the site were conducted in 1873, and still continue today. The Market Gate of Miletus was transported piece by piece to Germany, currently residing at the Pergamon museum in Berlin. The main collection of artifacts from the site are in the Miletus Museum in Didim, Turkey.


Olympia was a city located in the Northwestern Peloponnese peninsula of present-day Greece. Remains of food and burnt offerings dating back to the 10th century BC give evidence of a long history of religious activity at the site. No buildings survived from this early period. The first Olympic festival was organized on the site by the authorities of Elis in the 8th century BC, with tradition dating the first games at 776 BC. Major changes were made to the site around 700 BC, including the levelling of land and the digging of new wells. Elis’ power diminished and at the beginning of the 7th century BC, the sanctuary went into the hands of the Pisatans in 676 BC. They organized the games until the late 7th century BC. The earliest evidence of building activity on the site dates from around 600 BC. The Skiloudians, allies of the Pisatans, built the Temple of Hera. The Treasuries and the Pelopion were built during the course of the 6th century BC. Secular structures and athletic arenas were also under construction during this period, including the Bouleuterion. The first stadium was constructed around 560 BC, consisting of just a simple track. It was remodeled around 500 BC with sloping sides for spectators and shifted slightly to the east. Over the course of the 6th century BC, a range of sporting events were added to the Olympic festival. In 580 BC, Elis, in an alliance with Sparta, occupied Pisa and regained control over the sanctuary.

The Classical period, between the 5th and 4th centuries BC, was the golden age of Olympia. A wide range of new religious and secular buildings and structures were constructed. The Temple of Zeus was built in the middle of the 5th century BC. Its size, scale and ornamentation was beyond anything previously constructed on the site. Its golden statue of Zeus was considered one of the seven wonders of the world by ancient writers. Sporting facilities, like the final iteration of the stadium, and the hippodrome were constructed. The Prytaneion was built at the northwest side of the site in 470 BC. In the late classical period, more structures were added to the site. The Metroon was built near the Treasuries circa 400 BC. The erection of the Echo Stoa, around 350 BC, separated off the sanctuary from the area of the games and stadium. The South Stoa was built at the southern edge of the sanctuary at approximately the same time. The late 4th century BC witnessed the erection of the Philippeion. Around 300 BC, the largest building on the site, the Leonidaion, was constructed to house important visitors. With the increasing importance of the games, further athletic buildings were constructed, including the Palaestra (3rd century BC), Gymnasion (2nd century BC), and bath houses (c.300 BC).

During the Roman period, the Olympic games were opened up to all citizens of the Roman Empire. A program of new buildings and extensive repairs, especially for the Temple of Zeus, took place. In 150 AD, the Nympheum was built. New baths replaced the older Greek ones in 100 AD, and an aqueduct were erected in 160 AD. The 3rd century saw the site suffer heavy damage from a series of earthquakes. Invading tribes in 267 AD led to the center of the site being fortified with robbed material from its monuments. The Olympic festival continued to be held at the site until the last Olympiad in 393 AD, after which the Christian emperor Theodosius I implemented a ban. The Temple of Zeus was apparently destroyed around 426 AD following an edict by Theodosius II enforcing the ban on pagan festivals. The workshop of Pheidias was turned into a basilica and the site was inhabited by a Christian community. Archaeological evidence suggests that small scale Olympic events (possibly in Christian guise) were still being held secretly until Justinian’s plague and two earthquakes devastated it by the mid-6th century. Repeated floods ensured that the settlement was finally abandoned in the early 7th century. The site was buried by ocean waters resulting from repeated tsunamis. Researchers figured this out due to the presence of mollusk, gastropod shells, and foraminifera at the site. The exact site was re-discovered in 1766 by the English antiquarian Richard Chandler. The first excavation of the sanctuary at Olympia was not carried out until 1829, by a French expedition. Since the 1870s, the excavation and preservation of Ancient Olympia has been the responsibility of the German Archaeological Institute at Athens. The site was inscribed on the World Heritage list in 1989. The legacy of the Olympic games lives on today.


Rodos is a city located on the island of Rhodes in the Aegean Sea. The city of Rodos was formed by the cities of Ialyssos, Kamiros and Lindos in 408 BC, and prospered for three centuries during its Golden Age, when sea trade, skilled shipbuilders, and open-minded politicians of the city kept it prosperous until Roman times. The Colossus of Rhodes, one of the original Seven Wonders of the Ancient World was built by the Lindian sculptor Chares between 304 and 293 BC, which took 12 years and was completed in 282 BC. The statue represented their sun god Helios, which stood at the harbor entrance. The ancient city had a well-constructed sewage system as well as a water supply network as designed by Hippodamus. A strong earthquake hit Rhodes about 226 BC, badly damaging the city and toppling the Colossus. In 164 BC, Rodos came under Roman control. It was able to keep its beauty and develop into a leading center of learning for arts and science. The Romans took from the Rhodians their maritime law and applied it to their shipping. Many traces of the Roman period still exist throughout the city and give an insight into the level of civilization at the time. According to Acts 21:1, the Apostle Paul stopped at Rodos near the end of his third missionary journey. In medieval times, Rodos was an important Byzantine trading post, as also a crossroads for ships sailing between Constantinople and Alexandria. In the early years of the divided Roman Empire, the Isaurians, a mountain tribe from Cilicia, invaded the island and burned the city. In the 7th century AD it was captured by the Arabs. The latter were the ones who removed the scattered pieces of the Colossus from the port and moved them to Syria where they destroyed them to make coins. After the fall of the Byzantine Empire to the Fourth Crusade in 1204, the native noble Leo Gabalas took control of the island, but after his death and succession by his brother John, the island was briefly occupied by the Genoese before being returned to the Emperor of Nicaea, though ushering in a new, but short-lived, Byzantine period. The Knights Hospitallers captured and established their headquarters on Rodos when they left Cyprus after the persecution of the Knights Templar in 1307. Pope Clement V confirmed the Hospitallers possession of the Island in 1309. The Knights remained on the Island for the next two centuries. In 1444, the Mamluk fleet of Egypt laid a siege to Rodos, but the Knights aided by the Burgundian naval commander Geoffroy de Thoisy beat off the Muslim attack. After the Fall of Constantinople in 1453, the Ottoman Empire began a rapid expansion and in 1480 Sultan Mehmet launched an invasion of Rodos commanded by Mesic Pasha. The defenders repelled Turkish attacks from both landward and seaward sides and the invaders left the Island in defeat. The defeat halted a concurrent invasion of the Italian peninsula by Ottoman forces and prevented possible Muslim incursion and control of Western Europe. After the Ottoman defeat in 1480 the Knights Grand Master, Pierre d'Aubusson, oversaw the strengthening of the cities over the next few decades. By the time of his death in 1521, Rodos possessed the strongest fortifications of any Christian Bastion in the World. The Knights continued naval attacks launched from Rhodes on Muslim merchants until 1522 when the newly enthroned Sultan Suleiman the Magnificent led a second Siege of Rhodes in 1522. The vastly outnumbered Knights made a spirited defense of the city and inflicted heavy casualties upon the Ottoman besiegers. In December 1522 the Knights and Suleiman came to terms and the Knights were allowed to leave the city with all the wealth they could carry, in return there would be no retribution upon the inhabitants of the city and they would be allowed to continue to freely practice Christianity. On January 1, 1523 the Knights departed from the island, leaving it to Ottoman control. In the Ottoman era, new buildings were constructed: mosques, public baths and mansions for the new patrons. The Greeks were forced to abandon the fortified city and move to new suburbs outside its walls. The city maintained its main economic function as a market for the agricultural products of the interior of the island and the surrounding small islands. After the establishment of their sovereignty on the island, the Ottoman Turks converted most of the churches into mosques and transformed the major houses into private mansions or public buildings. This transformation was a long-term process that aimed to adapt the buildings to the Ottoman way of living. The Knights period façades with their sculptured decorations, the arched gates and hewn stone walls were enriched with the random character of the Ottoman architecture adapted to the local climate and culture. In this process most of the architectural features of the existing buildings were preserved. The most characteristic additions were the baths (usually in the back of the buildings) and the enclosed wooden balconies on the façades over the narrow streets. In this way most of the buildings of the Hospitaliers' period in the Medieval Town were well preserved. The result was a mixture of oriental architecture with imposing western architectural remains and more recent buildings, which were characteristic of the local architecture of the time. In the 19th century, the city was the capital of the Eyalet of the Archipelago, but the decline of the Ottoman Empire resulted in the general neglect of the town and its buildings, which further deteriorated due to the strong earthquakes that often plague the area. In 1912 Italian troops took the island over with the rest of the Dodecanese Islands, and established an Italian possession known as Italian Islands of the Aegean in 1923. The father of Italian Rhodes can be considered the Italian architect Florestano Di Fausto. He, in agreement with governor Mario Lago, was author of the city plan of 1923, choosing to respect almost totally the walled town, only demolishing the houses that were built on and around the city walls during the Ottoman era. He also turned the Jewish and Ottoman cemeteries into a green zone surrounding the Medieval Town. At the same time, he designed the new Italian Rodos in the zone of the Mandraki, planning a Garden City, and building along the main sea promenade the main edifices, as the Market, the Cathedral of Saint John of the Knights, the Palace of the governor. All these building were designed in an eclectic style, mixing Ottoman, Venetian, Renaissance and local elements. The Italians preserved what was left from the Knights' period, and destroyed all Ottoman buildings. They also reconstructed the Grand Master's Palace. Furthermore, an Institute for the study of the History and Culture of the region was established, and major infrastructure work was done to modernize Rodos. The British bombs that fell on the medieval city of Rodos in 1944 claimed human lives and destroyed a great number of buildings, leaving large gaps in the urban tissue. One of the first Decrees of the Greek administration designated those areas as reserved for future excavations and a number of edifices as safeguarded buildings. In July 1944 the Nazis ordered the deportation of over 1,600 Jews of Rodos including men, women, and children of which 1,200 were murdered at Auschwitz. In 1957, a new city plan was approved by a Decree and in 1960 the entire medieval town was designated as a protected monument by the Ministry of Culture. In 1961 and 1963 new Decrees were issued concerning the new city plan. They provided for the widening of existing streets and the opening of new ones. These were not implemented in the old city due to the resistance of the Archaeological Service. In 1988, the old town of Rodos was designated as a World Heritage City by UNESCO.


Thebai was an ancient Greek city-state located in Boeotia, now central Greece. Many legends about the early days of Thebai were told among the Greeks. The foundation of the citadel Cadmeia was attributed to Cadmus, a Phoenician king from Tyre and the brother of Europa. Another famous mythical figure associated with Thebai is Oedipus, who murdered his father Laius and married his mother Jocasta. Excavations in Thebai have revealed graves dating to Mycenaean times containing weapons, ivory, and tablets written in Linear B. From the early days of its existence, the Thebans endeavored to establish a complete supremacy over their kinsmen in the outlying towns. In the late 6th century BC, the Thebans were brought for the first time into hostile contact with the Athenians, who helped the small village of Plataea to maintain its independence against them, and in 506 BC repelled an inroad into Attica. This enmity with Athens explains the unpatriotic attitude of Thebai during the Persian invasion of Greece (480-479 BC). Although a contingent of 400 was sent to Thermopylae and remained there with Leonidas before being defeated alongside the Spartans, the governing aristocracy soon after joined King Xerxes I of Persia and fought zealously on his behalf at the Battle of Plataea in 479 BC. The victorious Greeks subsequently punished Thebai by depriving it of the presidency of the Boeotian league. An attempt by the Spartans to expel the city-state from the Delphic amphictyony was only frustrated by the intercession of Athens. In 457 BC, Sparta, needing a counterpoise against Athens in central Greece, reversed its policy and reinstated Thebai as the dominant power in Boeotia. In the Peloponnesian War, the Thebans, embittered by the support that Athens gave to the smaller Boeotian towns (especially Plataea), were firm allies of Sparta. They destroyed Plataea in 427 BC. In 424 BC, the Thebans inflicted a severe defeat on an invading force of Athenians at the Battle of Delium.

After the downfall of Athens, the Thebans, having learned that Sparta intended to protect the states that Thebes desired to annex, broke off the alliance. In 403 BC, Thebai secretly supported the restoration of Athens’s democracy in order to find in it a counterpoise against Sparta. A few years later, they formed the nucleus of the league against Sparta. At the Battle of Haliartus (395 BC) and the Battle of Coronea (394BC), the Thebans proved their rising military capacity by standing their ground against the Spartans. The result of the war was disastrous to Thebai, as the general settlement of 387 BC stipulated the complete autonomy of all Greek towns and so withdrew the other Boeotians from its political control. In 382 BC, a Spartan force occupied the citadel. It was expelled three years later, and a democratic constitution was set up in place of the traditional oligarchy. In the consequent wars with Sparta, the Theban army, trained and led by Epaminondas and Pelopidas, proved itself formidable. In 371 BC, the Thebans won a victory over the Spartans at Leuctra. They marched into the Peloponnesus and at the head of a large coalition, permanently crippled the power of Sparta. With the death of Epaminondas at the Battle of Mantinea (362 BC), the city sank again to the position of a secondary power. It invited Philip II of Macedon to crush the Phocians. In 338 BC, the orator Demosthenes persuaded Thebai to join Athens in a final attempt to bar Philip’s advance on Attica. They lost at the battle of Chaeronea. An unsuccessful revolt in 335 BC against his son Alexander the Great was punished with the destruction of the city, except, according to tradition, the house of the poet Pindar and the temples. The Thebans were mainly sold into slavery, with only the priests, leaders of the pro-Macedonian party and descendants of Pindar spared.

Thebes was re-established in 315 or 316 BC by Cassander. However, it never returned to its former prominence or power. It was besieged and taken by Demetrius Poliorcetes in 293 BC and again after a revolt in 292 BC. The city recovered its autonomy from Demetrios in 287 BC, and became allied with Lysimachus and the Aetolian League. During the early Byzantine period, it served as a place of refuge against foreign invaders. From the 10th century, Thebai became a center of the new silk trade. By the middle of the 12th century, the city had become the biggest producer of silks in the entire Byzantine empire. Though severely plundered by the Normans in 1146, Thebai quickly recovered its prosperity until its conquest by the Latins of the Fourth Crusade in 1204. After 1240, the Saint Omer family controlled the city jointly with the de la Roche dukes. Latin hegemony in Thebai lasted to 1458, when the Ottomans captured it. It was under Ottoman control until the War of Independence, except for a brief Venetian occupation between 1687 and 1699. The present day Thebai is a bustling market town. Its proximity to other, more famous travel destinations and the undeveloped archaeological sites have kept the tourist numbers low.