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 About Athens

As a city state, the coastal capital of Athens reached its heyday in the fifth century BC. The head of the statesman, Pericles ? between 461BC and his death in 429BC ? saw an unprecedented spate of construction resulting in many of the great classical buildings ? the Parthenon, Erechtheion, Hephaisteion and the temple at Sounion ? now regarded as icons of ancient Greece. Physical evidence of the city's success was matched by achievements in the intellectual arts. Democracy was born, drama flourished and Socrates conceived the foundations of Western philosophy. Remarkably, although the cultural legacy of this period has influenced Western civilisation ever since, the classical age in Athens only lasted for five decades. Under the Macedonians and Romans, the city retained a privileged cultural and political position but became a prestigious backwater of the Empire rather than a major player. The birth of Christianity heralded a long period of occupation and decline, culminating in 1456 and four centuries of Turkish domination, which has left an indelible cultural mark on the city. By the end of the 18th century, Athens was also suffering the indignity of having the artistic achievements of its classical past removed by looting collectors.

 

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