Hellenistic Athens

Hellenistic Athens

During the hellenistic period Athens is found under the Macedonians. After the death of Alexander the Great, in 323 BCE, many cities in Greece, including Athens, rebelled against the Macedonians. Later however, after military defeats, they surrendered.

When Alexander the Great died, his successors begun to fight for the control of the empire. The Athenians had to chose one of them. Thus, they chose Kassandros, who had earlier occupied Aegina and Salamina. The Athenians sent the philosopher Demetrius Phalereus to negotiate with him, and named him governor of Athens in 317 BCE. Demetrius made a lot of important work for his city. One of them was the census that he conducted, which showed that Athens had a population of 21.000 citizens (men older than 21 years), 10.000 foreign residents and 400.000 slaves.

In 307 BCE the son of Antigonus, Demetrius the Besieger, occupied Athens and exiled Dimitrios Phalereus. Demetrius the Besieger resided in the opisthodomus of the Parthenon from where he ruled in a tyrannic way. In 301 BCE Lacharis accomplished to overthrow Demetrius. However Demetrius beseiged the city from Piraeus. Lacharis was forced to remove the gold from the statue of Athena in the Parthenon in order to pay his soldiers. The city however did surrender shortly after.

Athens changed many hands and finally, from the beginning of the 2nd century BCE, acquired some freedom. The city maintained the fame and the philosophical schools and became the artistic and philosophical centre of continental Greece. Many hellenistic rulers studied there and when they rised in power they dedicated to the city lots of buildings and sculptures. The most characteristic examples are Attalos II (159-138 BCE) and the Eumenes II (197-159 BCE) of Pergamon who built the homonymous stoas, and Ariarathis V (162-130 BCE) who built the Middle Stoa in the Agora.

Also, the king of Cappadocia Antiochus IV ordered the construction of the temple of Zeus Olympios (Olympieion) which had remained unfinished from the era of Peisistratos. The architect was the Roman Cossutius. The work had advanced enough, but with the death of Antiochos in 163 BCE, it stopped. The columns that today stand in the southeast part of the Olympieion are dated from that very period.

In 146 BCE the Romans defeated the Achaic Legue and begun to involve into the political matters of Greek cities. In 88 BCE the Athenians followed Mithridates VI of Pontus to a rebellion against the Romans. A two year siege of the city followed, commanded by the Roman general Sylla, who occupied and destroyed the city in 86 BCE.

 For the monuments of Hellenistic Athens click below: