Ancient Athenians


Athens is one of the oldest named cities in the world, having been continuously inhabited for at least 5000 years. [1] Situated in southern Europe , Athens became the leading city of Ancient Greece in the first millennium BC, and its cultural achievements during the 5th century BC laid the foundations of western civilization .

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From very early on the imperial period, but accelerating in the third century AD, the centre of the Roman Empire moved towards the eastern half of the Mediterranean basin. The Empire became Christianized, and the use of Latin declined in favour 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).

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