Revered as the birthplace of Western thought and democracy, Athens is much more than an open-air museum filled with crumbling monuments to ancient glory. Athens takes readers on a journey from the classical city-state to today’s contemporary capital, revealing a world-famous metropolis that has been resurrected and redefined time and again.
Although the Acropolis remains the city’s anchor, Athens’ vibrant culture extends far beyond the Greek city’s antique boundaries. James H. S. McGregor points out how the cityscape preserves signs of the many actors who have crossed its historical stage. Alexander the Great incorporated Athens into his empire, as did the Romans. Byzantine Christians repurposed Greek temples, the Parthenon included, into churches. From the thirteenth to fifteenth centuries, the city’s language changed from French to Spanish to Italian, as Crusaders and adventurers from different parts of Western Europe took turns sacking and administering the city. An Islamic Athens took root following the Ottoman conquest of 1456 and remained in place for nearly four hundred years, until Greek patriots finally won independence in a blood-drenched revolution.
Since then, Athenians have endured many hardships, from Nazi occupation and military coups to famine and economic crisis. Yet, as McGregor shows, the history of Athens is closer to a heroic epic than a Greek tragedy. Richly supplemented with maps and illustrations, Athens paints a portrait of one of the world’s great cities, designed for travelers as well as armchair students of urban history.
McGregor uses a chronological approach to paint a vivid and engaging portrait of the city and its inhabitants from the preclassical period to the development of Athens as a modern metropolis. McGregor pays the necessary tribute to the classical heritage, but he also sheds light on aspects of the Byzantine, Ottoman, and modern periods, and he deftly shows both the elements of continuity and the breaks with the past. The result is a well-deserved tribute to a great city.
McGregor describes the great city of Athens in solid detail as it spirals out from its core on the Acropolis.
McGregor…takes readers through centuries of Greek history, art, and architecture to provide both ‘a coherent narrative’ and a travel guide.
What is remarkable about McGregor’s Athens is its uncanny clarity: not only the author’s eloquence in exploring an archaic, classical, Hellenistic, and modern Greek world but the wisdom that has gone into reconstructing that world from its first settlers to the vast and sprawling metropolis that is now contemporary Athens. McGregor has truly captured the pulse of the city.
- 256 pages
- 6-1/8 x 9-1/4 inches
- Belknap Press
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