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Attica


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The territory of Athens, a triangular promontory some 2,400 sq. km. (930 sq. mi.) in area divided from the rest of the Greek mainland by the mountain range of Parnes. Attic topography is varied, with fertile upland valleys, waterlogged lowland valley‐bottoms, more or less barren mountain slopes and productive coastal and inland plains. Almost all the peninsula falls below the 400 mm. (16 in.) isohyet, making agriculture a precarious occupation. The rugged hills of southern Attica were a source of silver and lead, exploited from the bronze age (Laurium), and the mountain ranges of Hymettus and Pentelicon were a source of fine marble, used from the 6th cent.

Athens is the only place in Dark Age Attica where continuity of occupation can be clearly shown, and some archaeologists see the Archaic and Classical settlement pattern in Attica as resulting from ‘internal colonization’ from Athens. Archaic Attica is notable for outstanding dedications and burials, marking an élite rooted in the countryside; this is consistent with the traditions about the Solonian crisis (see solon) and about the locally based factional struggles which led to the tyranny of Pisistratus. Local factions are absent from the Classical historical record, presumably as a result of Cleisthenes' (2) reforms, which institutionalized a voice for some 139 local communities (demes) on his new council of 500 (see boule). The continued vigorous life of these demes testifies to the extent to which Athenian lives remained rooted in the countryside.

Continued expenditure in the countryside is marked by 5th‐cent. building at all the major rural sanctuaries (Eleusis, Sunium, Rhamnus, Brauron). Extension of agriculture into marginal areas, along with the apparent agricultural base of most élite wealth, suggests that even when Athens could afford to become reliant on imported foodstuffs, there was no exodus from the land. In the Hellenistic period evidence for rural occupation declines; by Roman times much of Attica is in the hands of only a few landowners.

Some forts were constructed along Attica's northern border in the 5th cent., and forts on the coast were added during the latter stages of the Peloponnesian War, but only in the 4th cent. was a system of forts constructed, and garrison duty became part of military training.

Subjects: Classical Studies.


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