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Veiled dancer (now in the Metropolitan Museum)

Hellenistic Athens: Veiled dancer (now in the Metropolitan Museum)

The Peloponnesian War

Athenian democracy was badly shaken by the Peloponnesian War, which started in 441 BC. As the Athenians began to lose the war to the Spartans, some people thought they should abandon the democracy. Maybe they should go back to an oligarchy. Even Socrates and Plato thought so.

The Peloponnesian War
Classical Athens
Who was Alcibiades?
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Alcibiades, whose relative Cleisthenes had started the democracy, wanted Athens to stick with the democracy. When they were desperate, the Athenians tried oligarchy, but it didn’t help, and in 404 BC they lost the war anyway.

Philip of Macedon

Philip of Macedon

After the war: Philip of Macedon

After the war was over, the Athenians did go back to their democracy, and the new democracy of Hellenistic Athens soon convicted Socrates of “corrupting the youth” and sentenced him to death.

Who was Socrates?
Athenian law courts
Philip of Macedon

During the 300s BC, Hellenistic Athens was still a democracy, but not as powerful as during the Classical period. Demosthenes warned the Athenians that they were in danger, but they didn’t listen. When Philip of Macedon came south from Macedon and attacked Athens, the Athenian army could not defend their city, and Athens fell under the control of Macedon.

Athens and Alexander the Great

From this time on, Athens was under the control of a monarchy. First the king was Philip, then his son Alexander, and then there were a lot of Hellenistic kings. Inside the city of Athens, the Assembly and the Council of 500 kept meeting, and the juries kept deciding cases, and the Assembly kept electing strategoi, but these groups could only decide things inside the city, and only so long as the king approved.

Alexander of Macedon
Aristotle the philosopher
Menander writes plays
Hellenistic government

Athens under Ottoman rule

Athens under Ottoman rule

The Romans conquer Greece

Only a hundred and fifty years later, the Roman army arrived and conquered Greece. Then Athens fell under the control of the Roman Republic.

The Roman Republic
Roman government
The Ottoman Empire

The democracy kept meeting inside Athens, but again they could only do what the Roman governors of Greece allowed. And after the time of Augustus, the Athenians were part of an empire – under the Roman emperors, and then, from the 1400s AD on, under the Ottoman Empire.

Learn by doing: put on a Greek play
More about Sparta

Bibliography and further reading about ancient Athens:

More about Sparta
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