Lecturer: Dr Luca Asmonti
The early decades were difficult and challenging times for the citizens of ancient Athens. The humiliating defeat in the fratricide war against Sparta had deprived the city of its fleet and empire. On top of these enormous material losses, the Athenian citizens faced to reinvent their political and civic identity following the abolition and successive restoration of their democratic constitution. The fall of the maritime empire, which for fifty years had foraged the transformation of their city into one of the most thriving and splendid city of the Mediterranean, also meant that the Athenians had to rethink their international role before the other Greek poleis and the non-Hellenic powers of the Aegean.
Under the circumstances, the Athenians demonstrated remarkable resilience and rationality. As observed in the Aristotelian Constitution of the Athenians, the transition from the bloody regime of the Thirty Tyrants was carried out in relative harmony and without bloodshed. In the early years of the IV century, the Athenians seem also to have recovered some of their former allies and of their Aegean ascendancy, in the face of the Spartans' inability to establish a credible and durable Aegean leadership.
By the early-fourth century, however, the days of the old rivalry between Athens and Sparta, had now gone: the Aegean was becoming an increasingly multi-centric political arena, where new Greek powers were emerging and the struggle for power between the Persian satraps of Asia Minor inevitably reverberated in the affairs of the Hellenic poleis. This paper will discuss how the Athenians tried to rethink their city and its identity in this changing environment and will ask the question how the enduring democratic culture of the city contributed to shape this process.
Luca Asmonti is Lecturer in Classics and Ancient History at the University of Queensland, Australia. He is a graduate of the University of Milan and completed his PhD at King's College London. He specializes in the political history of the Greek Aegean in the V and IV centuries B.C.
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