Article

Topography of Athens

Jeffrey M. Hurwit

in Classics

ISBN: 9780195389661
Published online May 2011 | | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/obo/9780195389661-0066
Topography of Athens

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The ancient city-state (or polis) of Athens was contiguous with the region known as Attica, a large, triangular peninsula extending southeastward from the Greek mainland into the Aegean Sea. In the western angle of Attica, on a coastal plain surrounded by four mountains (Hymettos, Pentelikon, Parnes, and Aigaleos), lay the city itself. Although the modern city has thickly spread up the slopes of the mountains as well as to the sea, the study of Athenian topography concentrates on the monuments, buildings, and spaces of the ancient urban core, an area roughly 3 square kilometers surrounding the Acropolis and defended in the Classical period by a wall some 6.5 kilometers in length. Athens is the ancient Greek city that we know best, and it is unquestionably the Greek city whose art, architecture, literature, philosophy, and political history have had the greatest impact on the Western tradition and imagination. As a result, “Athenian” is sometimes considered synonymous with “Greek.” It is not. In many respects, Athens was exceptional among Greek city-states, not typical: it was a very different place from, say, Thebes or Sparta. Still, the study of Athens, its monuments, and its culture needs no defense, and the charge of “Athenocentrism” is a hollow indictment when one stands before the Parthenon or holds a copy of Sophocles’ Antigone. This article will refer to the following periods in the history of Athens and Greece (the dates are conventional): late Bronze, or Mycenaean, Age (1550–1100 bce); Dark Age (1100–760 bce); Archaic (760–480 bce); Classical (480–323 bce); Hellenistic (323 –31 bce); and Roman (31 BCE–c. 475 ce).

Article.  17906 words. 

Subjects: Classical Studies ; Classical Art and Architecture ; Classical History ; Classical Literature ; Classical Philosophy

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