Culture of Athens: Topic 9 - Pericles Rebuilding Athens


The Persian Destruction of Athens

  • 480 BC - King Xerxes returns to Greece with a large fleet and land army.
  • They had already beat the Spartan and their allies at Thermopylae
  • The Persians marched in southern Greece, and the Athenians decided to abandon Athens
  • Women, children and the elderly were transported to the island of Salamis and to Troezen
  • The men manned the ships, preparing to fight the Persians at sea.
  • The Persians occupied Athens, they took the citadel with ease, plundered Athens' temples, and burnt the Acropolis to the ground.
  • Herodotus and Thucydides recall that hardly any buildings survived the Persian invasion.
  • Archeologists have found the remains of destroyed buildings at the Acropolis.
  • Many statues (now at the Acropolis museum), and pieces of fire-damaged pottery, also show signs of deliberate the sancturies and their offerings,
  • Excavations of the Agora and surrounding areas also show the destruction of the lower city
  • The excavation of wells show that they were filled with the debris of surrounding buildings
  • The Persians also caused significant damage to areas of Attica - the temples to Poseidon and other gods were destroyed and their statues carried off to Persia.
1 of 4

After the Persians

  • After the Persian Wars ended, the Athenains returned and began to rebuild their city.
  • Their primary concern was to create a new defensive wall around the city.
  • The Spartans were unhappy about the wall, but the Athenians continued construction anyway
  • After the defensive wall were built, their attention turned to the rest of the city.
  • However, they left the temples and sanctuaries untouched as permanent memorials of Persian barbarism after the battle of Plataea.
  • Lykourgos (Against Leocrates 81), records the oath made after the battle of Platea.
  • The historical accuracy of the oath has been questioned, but archaeological records seem to support his account, as the temples at the Acropolis and in attica were not rebuild for almost a generation after the oath was said to be made.
2 of 4

Pericles Rebuilds Athens

  • In the mid-fifth century (between 463 and 449 BC) a peace was made with Persia.
  • It was called the Peace of Kallias (after the Athenain ambassador who made it).
  • As a result of this peace, The Delian League wwas no longer neccessary.
  • However, the Athenians were powerful enough to force their allies to continue paying their contributions.
  • Pericles decided that the Oath of Platea should be nulified, and the allies' money be used to rebuild the temples burned by the Persians (most of which were in Athens or Attica).
  • During the latter part of the century, grand marble temples were built on the Acropolis, in the lower city, and throughout Attica, to replace those lost in the Persian Wars.
  • The building programme was expensive, and taking money from allies was not strictly ethical.
  • Allied and Athenian opposition had to be overcome in order to put the programme in place.
  • Pericles chief opponent, Thucydides son of Melesias was sent into exile in 443 BC.
  • Over the next 15 years, and after Pericles death in 428 BC, Athens was at the height of its power (economic and military).
  • Athens could afford the best craftsmen, artists, and materials available due to power/wealth.
  • Atjhens was remodelled into a powerful and famous city.
  • Pericles ensured that all of the buildings on the Acropolis were built (including the Parthenon).
  • The city also benefitted from new buildings in the Agora and elsewhere, and even Attica benefitted from the building programme.
3 of 4

Source: Lykourgos (Against Leocrates 81) - Oath of

  • They will not abondon their leaders whether they are alive or dead
  • They will bury all allies killed in battle.
  • If they a victorious over the Persians ('barbarians') they willnot destroy the cities of their allies.
  • However, they will consecrate 1/10th of everyone who sided with the barbarians.
  • They will not rebuild any of the shrines destroyed by the barbarians as a memorial to future generations and to show the barbarian's impiety.
4 of 4


No comments have yet been made

Similar Ancient History resources:

See all Ancient History resources »See all Culture of Athens resources »