A sweeping history of Athens, telling the three-thousand-year story of the birthplace of Western civilization, from Runciman Award winner Bruce Clark
‘A stunning retrospect and beautifully written overview of one of the world’s greatest cities’ Paul Cartledge
‘Courageously grand in scale yet sensitive to the details that make Athens’ extraordinary history come alive’ Sofka Zinovieff
‘Bruce Clark brings an eye for the quirky, human detail, a pithy turn of phrase, and an affection for his subject honed over many decades’ Roderick Beaton
‘Bruce Clark’s enchantingly readable history revealed how little I knew’Literary Review
Dominated by the pillars and pediments of the Parthenon, a temple dedicated to Athena, goddess of wisdom, the ancient Greek city of Athens is for many synonymous with civilization itself.
Athens: City of Wisdom tells the tale of a city that occupies a unique place in the cultural memory of the West. Each of the book’s twenty-one chapters focuses on a critical ‘moment’ in the city’s long history, from the reforms of the lawmaker Solon in the sixth century BCE to the travails of early twenty-first-century Athens, as a rapidly expanding city struggles with the legacy of a global economic crisis. Bruce Clark has a rich and revealing sequence of stories to tell – not only of the familiar golden age of Classical Athens, of the removal from the Acropolis of the Parthenon marbles by agents of the 7th Earl of Elgin in the early nineteenth century, or of the holding of the first modern Olympic Games in 1896; but also of the less fÃªted later years of antiquity, when St Paul preached on the Areopagus and neo Platonists refounded the Academy that Sulla’s legions had desecrated. He also delves into Athens’ forgotten medieval centuries, unearthing jewels gleaming in the Byzantine twilight, and tales of Christian fortitude and erratic Turkish governance from the four centuries of Ottoman rule that followed.
Few places have enjoyed a history so rich in artistic creativity and the making of ideas as Athens; or one so curiously patterned by alternating cycles of turbulence and quietness. Writing with scholarly rigour and undisguised affection, Bruce Clark brings three thousand years of Athenian history vividly to life.