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Block By Block: Piecing Together Athenian Democracy

  • 5 Apr 2022
  • 5:00 PM (EDT)
  • Virtual

Block By Block: Piecing Together Athenian Democracy

AIA Society: New Haven
Lecturer: Jessica Paga

In 508/7 B.C.E., after years of stasis and uncertainty, the city of Athens was rocked by a momentous occurrence: the passage of a series of reforms that resulted in the creation of what has come to be known as the world’s first democracy.  Exactly how the Athenians did this is still a fundamental question 2,500 years later.  The reforms transformed the very nature of what it meant to be Athenian and their far-reaching effects would come to leave their mark on nearly every aspect of society, including the structures at which they prayed and in which they debated legislation.

This lecture investigates the built environment of ancient Athens precisely during this time, the Late Archaic period (ca. 514/13 – 480/79 B.C.E.).  It was these decades, filled with transition and disorder, when the Athenians transformed their political system from a tyranny to a democracy.  Concurrent with the socio-political changes, they altered the physical landscape and undertook the monumental articulation of the city and countryside.  Interpreting the nature of the fledgling democracy from a material standpoint, this lecture approaches the questions and problems about the early political system through the lens of buildings.  The lecture draws attention to a pivotal period of Athenian political history through the built environment, thereby exposing the richness of the material record and illustrating how it participated in the creation of a new democratic Athenian identity.

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