The golden age
Athens emerged as a dominant power after the united Greek armies dealt a decisive blow to the Persians in 479 BC. The Persian Empire had been launching various attacks on Greek city-states, known as the Persians Wars, that lasted for over a decade.
A year before the great victory, Athens had fallen prey to the powerful Persian army, which sacked it and set fire to the Acropolis, destroying the ‘ancient sanctuary’, the pre-Parthenon and the entrance buildings. Many of the treasures today located in the Acropolis Museum were excavated from the very place where they were buried by the Athenians as they began to rebuild from the Persian attack.Triumph over the Persian navy at the Battle of Salamis (an island just off the coast of Piraeus) and the discovery of silver mines near Lavrio on the east coast of Attica gave Athens the opportunity to grow steadily into a dominant power in the Aegean Sea. The city enjoyed a period of unprecedented glory that would leave its mark on Western civilization.
The so-called Golden Age of the Athenian city-state coincided with the leadership of Pericles (495-429 BC), a brilliant general, statesman and patron of the arts who transformed the city into a leading city-state and a radiant cultural hub that attracted residents from throughout the ancient world..
Pericles was a prolific orator who emerged as the leader of Athens’ democratic party and sponsored the establishment of Athenian colonies. As the leading general, he led military campaigns and orchestrated the creation of the Delian League, an empire forged out of military alliance and religious tributes that was dominated by Athens. He also tapped into the city’s resources to offer subsidised theatre admission, giving pay for jury duty and civil service, and funding enormously difficult cultural projects like the Parthenon..
His plan focused on the Acropolis and included the Temple of Athena Nike, the Erechtheum.The imposing Parthenon replaced an earlier temple destroyed by the Persians, this time without sparing any expense. These structures were built to the highest standards of aesthetics, engineering and mathematics by the most best artists and engineers of the time.
Many buildings were also constructed for the Agora, which was transformed into a great complex of public institutions and commercial markets alongside temples, altars and innumerable works of art. Athenians built their homes in residential areas which spread around the Acropolis and the Agora.
In the Agora of Athens, citizens and migrants mingled to discuss business, politics, current events, the nature of the universe and the divine.Greek democracy was not merely a set of institutions and buildings. Democracy created a sense of possibility and innovation, as well as wealth, and helped make Athens into the glorious city.