Antoninus Pius, Agora, Athens

Antoninus Pius, Agora, Athens


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Typical of the Hellenistic age, the stoa was more elaborate and larger than the earlier buildings of ancient Athens and had two rather than the normal one storeys. The stoa's dimensions are 115 by 20 metres (377 by 66 ft) and it is made of Pentelic marble and limestone. The building skillfully makes use of different architectural orders. The Doric order was used for the exterior colonnade on the ground floor with Ionic for the interior colonnade. This combination had been used in stoas since the Classical period and was by Hellenistic times quite common. On the first floor of the building, the exterior colonnade was Ionic and the interior Pergamene. Each story had two aisles and twenty-one rooms lining the western wall. The rooms of both stories were lighted and vented through doorways and small windows located on the back wall. There were stairways leading up to the second story at each end of the stoa.

The building is similar in its basic design to the Stoa that Attalos' brother, and predecessor as king, Eumenes II, had erected on the south slope of the Acropolis next to the theatre of Dionysus. The main difference is that Attalos' stoa had a row of 42 closed rooms at the rear on the ground floor which served as shops. [2] The spacious colonnades were used as a covered promenade.

A dedicatory inscription engraved on the architrave states that it was built by Attalos II, who was ruler of Pergamon. The stoa was a gift to the city of Athens for the education that Attalos received there under the philosopher Carneades. His elder brother and his father had previously made substantial gifts to the city. The building was constructed on the east side of the Agora or market place of Athens and was used from approximately 150 B.C. onwards for a variety of purposes. [2] The stoa was in frequent use until its woodwork was burned by the Heruli in AD 267. [2] The ruins became part of a fortification wall, which made it easily seen in modern times. Between 1859-62 and in 1898-1902 the ruins of the Stoa were cleared and identified by the Greek Archaeological Society. Their efforts were completed by the American School of Classical Studies during the course of its excavation of the Agora which had commenced in May 1931 under the supervision of T. Leslie Shear. [3]

In 1948 Homer Thompson (who was field director of the Agora excavations from 1946–1967 being undertaken by the American School of Classical Studies at Athens (ASCSA) proposed that the Stoa of Attalos be reconstructed to serve as a museum to house archaeological finds. The Stoa was a suitable size and enough architectural elements remained to assist in producing an accurate reconstruction. In particular enough of the northern end remained to allow engineers to ensure that the reconstructed building would be the same height as the original building. [1] His proposal was accepted and so in June 1953, Ward M. Canaday (president of the Board of Trustees of ASCSA from 1949–1964) authorized the beginning of the work, and in January 1954, the landscape program was formally inaugurated. [4]

Funded by contributions from American donors (including a US$1 million financial contribution from John D. Rockefeller Jr.) the reconstruction of the Stoa was carried out by the ASCSA under the general supervision of the Department for Restoration of Ancient and Historic Monuments of the Ministry of Education, directed by Anastasios Orlandos. [4] The plans were drawn by John Travlos, architect of the Agora excavations, while the reconstruction was supervised by the New York architecture firm of W. Stuart Thompson & Phelps Barnum. Greek civil engineer George Biris served as consulting engineer. [4]

The building was reconstructed on the original foundations but in order to facilitate its new role as a museum some changes were made to the basement storage area, window sizes and door positions while some internal walls were eliminated. [4] The building incorporated as much of the original structure and materials as possible. In particular the north end, the southernmost shops, part of the south wall, and the south end of the outer steps were able to be retained. [1] Quarries in Piraeus and on Mount Pentelicus were opened so as to provide material similar to the original. The walls were built of limestone from Piraeus, while the facade, the columns and interior trim used Pentelic marble from Mt. Pentelicus, and the roof tiles, clay from Attica. [2] As many as 150 workmen were employed, including 50 master masons, 20 carpenters, and five steelworkers. [1] With the exception of the reconstruction of the Panathenaic Stadium in 1895–1896 the rebuilding of the Stoa of Attalos was the most ambitious reconstruction of a freestanding ancient building carried out in Athens to that time. [4] The reconstruction is particularly important in the study of ancient monuments because it is a faithful replica of the original building, to the degree possible within the limits of archaeological knowledge. [ citation needed ]

The Stoa was formally dedicated on 3 September 1956 at an event attended by members of the royal family, the Archbishop of Athens, various politicians and members of the public. [4]

In 1957 the Greek state assumed responsibility for the administration and security of the museum and the archaeological site. [5]

The ceremony of the signing of the 2003 Treaty of Accession of 10 countries – Cyprus, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Hungary, Malta, Poland, Slovakia, and Slovenia – to the European Union was conducted in the Stoa of Attalos on 16 April 2003.

The Greek Ministry of Culture undertook further renovations in 2003 to 2004. [6]

The second floor of the building was refurbished and reopened in 2012. [6]

The Stoa of Attalos houses the Museum of the Ancient Agora. Its exhibits are mostly connected with the Athenian democracy. The collection of the museum includes clay, bronze and glass objects, sculptures, coins and inscriptions from the 7th to the 5th century BC, as well as pottery of the Byzantine period and the Turkish conquest.


History and Timeline

560&ndash510 B.C. Rule of Peisistratos and his sons. First public buildings erected.

508/507 B.C. Democratic reforms under Kleisthenes. More public buildings and boundary stones erected.

480/479 B.C. Sack of Athens by the Persians

460&ndash429 B.C. Age of Perikles. Repairs and new buildings.

431&ndash404 B.C. Peloponnesian War (Peace of Nikias 421&ndash415 B.C.)

338 B.C. Battle of Chaironeia marks beginning of supremacy of Macedon

323 B.C. Death of Alexander the Great

322 B.C. Macedonian occupation of Athens

3rd&ndash2nd centuries B.C. Hellenistic Period. Philosophical schools flourish

159-138 B.C. King Attalos II of Pergamon. Builder of the Stoa of Attalos.

146 B.C. Corinth sacked by Mummius. Ascendancy of Rome begins.

86 B.C. Siege of Athens by Sulla after misjudged alliance of Athens with Mithridates of Pontus.

27 B.C.&ndashA.D. 14 Reign of Augustus

A.D. 117&ndash138 Reign of Hadrian

A.D. 138&ndash161 Reign of Antoninus Pius (Pausanias visits Athens ca. A.D. 150)

A.D. 267 Buildings in the Agora burned by the Herulians

A.D. 396 Invasion by the Visigoths under Alaric

4th&ndash5th centuries A.D. Large villas built in the area of the Agora

A.D. 529 Closing of the pagan philosophical schools by the Christian emperor Justinian.

A.D. 582/3 Devastation probably caused by Slavs

7th&ndash10th centuries A.D. Area of the Agora abandoned

1204 Lower city of Athens devastated by Leon Sgouros from Nauplia

1456&ndash1458 Capture of Athens by the Turks (lower city, 1456 Acropolis, 1458)

1821&ndash1828 Greek War of Independence

1834 Athens becomes the capital of modern Greece

1859-1912 Explorations around the Stoa of Attalos, the Odeion, and the West Side of the Agora by the Archaeological Society of Athens

1890s Explorations in the area of the Temple of Hephaistos by the German Archaeological Institute

May 25, 1931 Commencement of systematic excavations by the American School of Classical Studies at Athens

January 4, 1954 Inauguration of the project to landscape the Agora

September 3, 1956 Dedication of the rebuilt Stoa of Attalos and the restored Church of the Holy Apostles

2006 Celebration of 75 years of American excavations in the Athenian Agora


Dignity of a Bygone Age - Emperor Antoninus Pius

The Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius never intended to publish his Meditations. This does not come as a surprise - he recorded his thoughts with an alarming frankness, even vulnerability. No other figures in Greco-Roman Antiquity have afforded us such an intimate glimpse into their minds.

At the beginning of his writings, Marcus lists the people whom he credits with a positive influence on his life. He speaks at length of his adoptive father. Antoninus Pius taught Marcus, among other things, "gentleness" and "putting a stop to the homosexual love of young men". The esteem in which Marcus held his predecessor was hardly unique. Antoninus Pius was widely hailed as one of the personally greatest men to ever rule the Roman Empire.

Despite his illustrious reputation, Antoninus Pius is an obscure figure. Even for many students of history, he is little more than a name, filling up space between the more eventful reigns of Hadrian and Marcus Aurelius. This obscurity is unfortunate, but can be understood as a consequence of Antoninus' quiet reign. The Roman Empire was not devoid of violence or controversy in the middle decades of the 2nd Century CE, but Antoninus Pius and his subjects enjoyed the Pax Romana perhaps more than any generation before or after.

The man we call Antoninus Pius experienced a number of name changes throughout his life. For most of his life, he was known as Titus Aurelius Fulvius Boionius Arrius Antoninus. During the final months of Hadrian's reign, he went by Titus Aelius Hadrianus Antoninus. He received the cognomen Pius - "the Loyal" - early in his reign as emperor, due to his determination to honor his predecessor. Since his death, he has been identified almost invariably as Antoninus Pius.

Antoninus was born in September of 86 CE, when the last Flavian, Domitianus, was emperor. Both his father and his grandfather were named Titus Aurelius Fulvus. They hailed from Nemausus, in southern Gaul, but had relocated the family to central Italy. As with the other emperors of the 2nd Century, it is unclear as to whether Antoninus was descended from Roman settlers, or Romanized provincials. Regardless, both his father and his grandfather became prominent men, each attaining a consulship in Rome.

The future emperor spent his childhood at Lorium, near a village in Etruria not far from Rome. He was to fondly regard Lorium as his home for the rest of his life during his reign, he built a palace there. His early life was wracked by tragedy, however, upon the premature death of his father. The date and the circumstances of Aurelius Fulvus' death are lost to history, but it is known that the boy's maternal and paternal grandfathers jointly attended to his education.

The path to power and influence in ancient Rome was traditionally a blending of political and military posts. Nonetheless, Antoninus does not appear to have ever commanded any soldiers. As a young man, he was involved in the politics of Rome herself, and this culminated in a consulship in 130. By this point, Antoninus was married. His wife was Annia Galeria Faustina, the aunt of the future emperor Marcus Aurelius. Despite later rumors, the marriage was probably a happy one. It produced two daughters - Faustina minor, and Aurelia Fadilla.

By the early 130s, Antoninus was a prominent senator and a trusted favorite of Emperor Hadrian. He spent several years serving as a circuit judge in Etruria and Umbria, the central Italian regions that would remain close to his heart all of his life. In the middle of the decade, he received a provincial posting, serving as a proconsul in Asia. This appears to have been his only post outside of Italy. It may well have been the only time in his life that he saw the world outside of Italy.

The issue of succession troubled Hadrian in the final decade of his life. The Emperor's relationship with his wife, Vibia Sabina, had been stormy and probably sexless at any rate, she died before her husband. Initially, Hadrian planned to give the throne to his elderly brother-in-law, Julius Ursus Servianus. In 136, however, the Emperor executed Servianus and his grandson Salinator, apparently on the suspicion that they were plotting against him. He instead chose the prominent senator Lucius Ceionius Commodus to succeed him, but was thwarted again when Commodus died suddenly in January of 138.

A month after the death of Commodus, Hadrian chose Antoninus to succeed him. By this point, Antoninus was a member of the Emperor's intimate circle - he was also well-known and respected amongst his fellow senators. Hadrian ordered Antoninus to adopt his nephew and the orphaned son of Commodus, who would be subsequently groomed as his own successors. These boys, aged seventeen and seven respectively, are now known as Marcus Aurelius and Lucius Verus. Marcus was loathe to be brought into the public spotlight. How his own adoptive father felt about Hadrian's choice is unclear.

The final months of Hadrian's life were miserable. Antoninus effectively controlled the government, but also kept a close eye on the Emperor's failing health. At one point, Antoninus narrowly thwarted Hadrian's attempt at suicide. The suffering Emperor finally succumbed in July of 138, leaving Antoninus in control of the Roman Empire.

Hadrian had not been popular with the Senate, and Antoninus spent much of the early energy of his reign campaigning to have him declared a god. Here, his own popularity with his fellow senators proved to be a key asset. Not only was Hadrian declared a god, Antoninus was also awarded the titles of Pius and Pater Patriae.

Tragedy struck Antoninus' life again, early in his reign as emperor. Late in 140 or early in 141, his wife Faustina died. The widowed Emperor never remarried, and does not appear to have taken any lovers. His grief for the empress appears to have been genuine, and he celebrated her life with acts of charity. Shortly after her death, the Emperor built an orphanage for the poor young women of Rome, to save them from lives of prostitution and squalor.

The orphanage built to honor Faustina was representative of a wider trend in Antoninus' reign. The new Emperor had no interest in wars or foreign adventures - he never even set foot outside of Italy during his reign. He spent money lavishly, though not frivolously, with the intention of bettering life for his subjects, particularly those in Rome herself. Few subsequent emperors would ever take such a personal interest in the Mother City.

Contrary to popular depictions, however, the reign of Antoninus Pius was hardly without bloodshed. Warfare raged in the province of Britain throughout his reign under the supervision of the governor Lollius Urbicius, territory north of Hadrian's Wall was occupied. The new series of fortifications were known as the Antonine Wall, but were evacuated later in the century. Raiding in north Africa was a particular problem during the 150s, and there was also small uprisings in Egypt, Judea, Dacia, and most bizarrely, even in Greece. Antoninus was also the subject of two plots organized by ambitious senators. In both cases, the ringleader suffered the consequences, but Antoninus refused to partake in any witch-hunt amongst their fellow senators. This was in stark contrast to most emperors, both before and after.

Antoninus Pius died in March of 161, leaving the Empire jointly to his adoptive sons Marcus and Verus. It was the first time in Imperial Roman history that an emperor had left the purple to multiple heirs - fortunately, they proved capable of cooperation with one another. The deceased Emperor himself was widely respected for his humility, gentility, and his apparently genuine concern for his subjects. No doubt, in the plagues, wars, and pogroms of the nobility that followed in the next several decades, many in the Roman Empire must have looked back on his seventeen year reign with nostalgic longing.

Primary Sources and Further Reading:

Marcus Aurelius - Meditations
Anthony Everitt - Hadrian and the Triumph of Rome
Michael Grant - the Roman Emperors
Historia Augusta


A brief golden age: Trajan, Hadrian and Antoninus Pius, AD 98&ndash161

After the crisis of AD 66&ndash70, it had been hoped that the Flavian victory might herald another century of peace and security like that after Actium. Rebels, mutineers and civil-war factions had been crushed, and, during the 70s AD, with order and discipline restored under strong rulers, the army pushed forwards again on the frontiers &ndash in Britain, in Germany, in the East. Then things seemed to unravel in the mid-80s. The Dacians had invaded Roman territory and defeated Roman armies. Domitian had punished them, but left them unbroken, a great kingdom just over the Danube, a skulking menace in the vastness of the Carpathians. Instead of settling with Decebalus, he had been provoked by plotters into turning on his own people, and blood had flowed among the rulers of Rome in the 90s. From great victories to punitive raids and civil strife: the later years of Flavian rule seemed to follow a depressing, downward trajectory. Was Roman power waning?

Two of Rome&rsquos greatest emperors, ruling in succession, Trajan (AD 98&ndash 117) and Hadrian (AD 117&ndash138), offered radically different solutions to the crisis of empire in the early 2 nd century. The contrast reveals the uncertainty of an imperial ruling class past its peak: the uncertainty that occurs when unexpected weakness is exposed and the attempt to continue in the old way falters. The history, traditions and values of Old Rome denied this possibility: was it not the divinely ordained destiny of the race of Romulus to rule the world, &lsquoto command the nations, to impose peace, to spare the submissive, to crush the proud&rsquo? Yet a different image of the future had intruded, one in which shadowy forms of barbarian hordes and insurgent masses appeared in the frame. Perhaps the priority was to stiffen the empire&rsquos defences, and to foster the loyalty, unity and commitment of those standing behind them to draw a line across the world, &lsquoseparating Romans and barbarians&rsquo, them and us, rallying all the human and material forces of the empire in the cause of civilization. To continue to conquer in the old way, or to build a new commonwealth of peoples: this was the choice represented, respectively, by Trajan and Hadrian.

Trajan&rsquos immediate predecessor, the emperor Nerva (AD 96&ndash98), had been an old man of little account. Representing no one in particular, he had had no particular mission to perform. He had been an historical dud, a convenient fill-in while the Roman governing elite recovered its nerve and found a way forwards. Once they had, Nerva obligingly died. By then, his regime was tottering, propped up at the last minute by one of the few wise decisions he made: naming Marcus Ulpius Traianus his successor. Trajan was a true soldier-emperor. An experienced and successful career officer, he was, at the time of his accession, serving as Governor of Upper Germany, making him one of Rome&rsquos top generals and a man rooted in one of its three major army-groups. Though of Romano-Spanish origin, his family was already established in the Senate, so, if he was a soldiers&rsquo candidate, he was equally acceptable to the politicians. Having named this popular successor, Nerva could be left to die peacefully, which he did just a month or two later. Trajan, still in Germany, was immediately hailed emperor without opposition.

Like Tiberius or Vespasian &ndash but unlike Caligula or Domitian &ndash Trajan did not have to prove his fitness to rule, and happily dispensed with the flummery of power that lesser men found necessary. His court was simple, the etiquette minimal, his person approachable, straight-talking, on the level. In this respect he was a Roman of the old school. So, too, in other, more important respects: for Trajan was, above all, a general and a conqueror.

Strangely &ndash for he is one of Rome&rsquos greatest emperors &ndash our written sources for his reign are poor. Our principal source for his two great campaigns of conquest in Dacia is his own victory monument &ndash Trajan&rsquos Column, which still stands in the centre of Rome, its outer surface adorned with a spiralling ribbon of carved stone, just under a metre wide, some 200 m in length, depicting more than 2,500 separate figures engaged in the successive stages of war. It is, of course, a tainted source. It depicts only Dacians dead and dying, never Romans, and we can guess that much else about the imagery is selective. Yet, close reading of the ribbon, of one image following another &ndash supplemented by fragments of evidence from elsewhere &ndash allows a tentative reconstruction of events in Dacia in AD 101&ndash102 and 105&ndash106.

A force of perhaps 100,000 men was involved. Their supply was a logistical challenge of the highest order. The key was to use the Danube to ship grain from the Black Sea, but the rapids at the Iron Gates were an insuperable barrier to up-river navigation until Trajan&rsquos engineers cut a canal to bypass the worst, and restored a towpath that was part-carved into the cliff-face and part-projecting on a cantilevered timber frame. Then troops, transports and equipment were concentrated, new store-bases, forts and signal-stations constructed. Finally, the army crossed on pontoon bridges, the legionaries wearing new reinforced helmets and arm-guards, amply supplied with high-tech artillery, and supported by numerous auxiliaries, including archers, slingers and armoured cavalry.

But Decebalus was a cunning old fighter. He withdrew deep into his mountains, burning the ground behind him, until he reached Tapae, where, posting his warriors on the slopes above the pass, soon turned into slides of mud by torrential rain, he held shut the gates of Dacia. The following year, Trajan attacked again, this time in two columns, one to hold the enemy at Tapae, the other to force a way through by a second route, outflanking the main Dacian defence. The Column shows the native hill-forts on the approach reduced one by one &ndash testimony to the fort-busting power of Roman siege-assaults &ndash as the protective shell around Decebalus&rsquos capital at Sarmizegethusa was cracked open. Then, at the eleventh hour, Decebalus sued for peace. He saved his kingdom from annexation, but it was reduced to client status, and he was compelled to demolish his remaining hill-forts and accept a Roman garrison at his capital. Presumably the Dacian resistance had been strong enough to prevent outright victory, the capital perhaps just beyond Trajan&rsquos grasp at the end of a second summer.

Three years later, Decebalus felt strong enough to break free. He first took the commander of the Roman garrison at Sarmizegethusa hostage. But the general, an old friend of Trajan, killed himself to leave the emperor free to act. Again, two columns invaded, moving fast, reducing hill-forts in rapid succession, fighting with greater brutality than ever against men now deemed rebels. This time the Dacian capital was besieged and captured, though the king fled into the mountains, hotly pursued by Roman cavalry. The images on the Column are graphic: we see the king on the ground, isolated, surrounded, knife poised to take his own life, as so many of his followers had already done meantime, towns and villages are torched, fugitives cut down, captives rounded up and dragged into slavery and then an image of the dead king&rsquos head, held aloft before Trajan&rsquos assembled army.

In 1965, in a field in northern Greece, the tombstone of a Roman soldier was found: it was that of the man who had captured Decebalus and carried his severed head to Trajan. It read: &lsquoHe was made a duplicarius [junior NCO] by the divine Trajan in the Second Pannonian Cavalry, and then an explorator [scout]. He was decorated twice in Trajan&rsquos Dacian and Parthian wars. He was promoted to decurio [senior NCO] in the same cavalry regiment because he captured Decebalus and brought his head to Trajan at Rannistorum. He was honourably discharged by Terentius Scaurianus.&rsquo(13) This, of course, was the ultimate victory: the enemy dispersed his capital taken his leader slain his territory plundered, laid waste, stripped of men. Dacia was ethnically cleansed, its people enslaved, at least 50,000 of them, though possibly, if there is no error in transmission of the written source, as many as 500,000 others, no doubt, were driven into the wilderness, where they perished. New settlers were introduced, and a new Roman province built, with roads, towns, pastures, salt-works and gold-mines.

The conquest of Dacia was celebrated in the old-fashioned way. A corrupted written source records the haul as 2.25 million kg of gold, 4.5 million kg of silver, and 500,000 slaves. Assume a simple transmission error and we might reduce these astronomical figures to a tenth of the size even then, they represent, at the equivalent of around 675 million denarii, more than the whole sum of disbursements recorded by Augustus in the Res Gestae. We see something of this booty still preserved in surviving monuments of stone. A new commercial harbour, nearly one kilometre across, with berthing for 100 ships, ringed by great warehouses, was built at Portus near the Tiber mouth: a guarantee of the city&rsquos grain-supply. A massive public bath-house was erected, no doubt with deliberate symbolic intent, on the ruins of Nero&rsquos Golden House on the Esquiline Hill. Ancient slums were cleared in the zone immediately north of the Forum, and a great chunk of the Quirinal Hill, to a maximum depth of 38 m, was cut away, creating a wide open space, 200 m by 120 m, for the greatest of Trajan&rsquos buildings. The space was filled by a new imperial forum and basilica, the latter 80 m long by 25 m wide and lavishly decorated with imported marble columns. Beyond the basilica, on the western side of the complex, was a pair of libraries, and these framed the famous Column, allowing visitors to the library a close view of the sculpted scenes of the emperor&rsquos Dacian wars. Behind the imperial forum, resting against the cut-away hill to the north, a multi-storey complex of vaulted passageways, arcaded shops and luxury flats was built. Trajan&rsquos Markets still survive as the best place in the modern city to get a sense of what it was like to walk the streets of ancient Rome. There was a message in all of this. Trajan&rsquos answer to the crisis of empire was the familiar one: war is glorious, and it is conquest that yields security and riches. The empire was not weakening: Rome was still an earth-shaking colossus striding the globe.

But the richest rewards, as always, glittered beyond the haze of the eastern deserts. Here, the Flavian policy of border annexations had brought the legions up to the Parthian frontier. Then Trajan had ordered the annexation of Nabataean Arabia (centred on the great caravan city of Petra) in AD 105&ndash108. Soon a new road was being built, linking Syria with Petra, Aqaba and the Red Sea. Tension mounted. In AD 110, Osroes succeeded to the throne of Parthia, a king committed to aggressive defence. The pro-Roman puppet ruler of Armenia was ejected and replaced by a kinsman of the Parthian king. Trajan, no less aggressive than Osroes, champion of traditional imperialism, victor over Decebalus, set himself the ultimate challenge: a great war of conquest in the East to eliminate the Parthian threat forever. Concentrating massive force &ndash eight legions plus supporting auxiliaries (80,000 men) &ndash he unleashed a military blitzkrieg in AD 114, overrunning Armenia, descending into northern Mesopotamia, sweeping up hasty declarations of allegiance from the Parthian client-kings in his path. The following year, his army raised to 13 legions (130,000 men), he pushed on south, down the lower Tigris and Euphrates, finally to reach the Gulf, the whole of Mesopotamia under his control. It was a dizzying achievement. The Land of Two Rivers was among the oldest, richest and most heavily populated centres of civilization in the world. It had been the supply-base of numerous great empires over millennia of time, but no Roman &ndash not Sulla, Crassus, Pompey, Caesar, Antony or Octavian-Augustus &ndash had ever come nearly so far. That winter of AD 115/116, Trajan appeared greater than them all: a new Alexander.

But Alexander had fought two great battles of annihilation against the armies of the Persian Empire before he marched on Babylon. His enemies&rsquo military power had been broken before he took their capital cities. Trajan&rsquos achievement was puny by comparison. He had not yet faced the Parthian army at all &ndash that enemy was still very much at large. His communications stretched back over hundreds of miles of river, desert and mountain. Vast populations were held in thrall by relative handfuls of soldiers. The Roman defence-line was wafer-thin. In the vast expanses of the East, the social and military weight of eastern humanity threatened to swamp the scattered pockets of Roman officials and soldiers among them. And so it came to pass. In AD 116, the Parthian Empire struck back. The main royal army, mustered on the Iranian plateau, swept down the passes of the Zagros Mountains, assailed the Roman supply-line, and crushed the battle groups sent against them. The ancient cities of Mesopotamia exploded into revolt: Roman garrisons were massacred, and Trajan was soon embroiled in a war of sieges to hold and retake key strategic centres. Meantime, deep in the Roman rear, a revolt among the Jews of Cyrene quickly spread to Jewish communities in Egypt, Cyprus and eventually Palestine itself. Finally, gut-wrenching news filtered through to the embattled army commanders in Mesopotamia that there was trouble in Britain and on the Danube: frontiers stripped of men for Trajan&rsquos eastern war were now exposed to attack as enemies learned that the army was bogged down. Trajan headed for home, leaving Hadrian, his principal lieutenant, in charge in the East. But on the way, in August AD 117, he fell ill and died. And, with the whole East in flames, his attempt to resolve the crisis of imperial overstretch by a return to untrammelled expansionism had died with him. Roman imperialism had lurched forwards, kangarooed and crashed.

The roots of Trajan&rsquos failure were deep. Ancient military imperialism was dynamically expansionist because it paid for itself and yielded a profit: it generated in plunder and tribute more than it cost. If this had not been so, it would have ruined the states that engaged in aggressive war, and impoverished their ruling classes &ndash in which case there would have been neither the incentive nor capacity to wage it. Quite simply, war and empire were profitable. But only up to a point.

Everything depended on whether the land fought over could yield a return. Empire and civilization were based, broadly, on plough agriculture. Regions of intensive cultivation, supporting large populations and numerous settlements, produced surpluses that could be expropriated as booty, taxes, rents, tithes, interest and labour services. But the lower the level of agricultural development, the more marginal the potential gains. Beyond the plough-lands, in the marshes, forests, mountains and deserts of truebarbaricum, regions populated sparsely by nomads, pastoralists and scattered crofters, there was little portable wealth. Here, moreover, armies could be swallowed up in great tracts of uncharted wilderness, starving at the end of long, fragile supply-lines, harassed by elusive guerrilla bands, bogged down in unwinnable and pointless wars. Heavy investment in men and hardware might count for little in such environments, even be liabilities. War and empire in the wilderness were not profitable, for there was little profit to be had they were merely a drain on the plough-lands of the hinterland required to support the effort of conquest. Everywhere, the Roman Empire reached its natural limits where the ploughed met the unploughed, ancient agriculture bordered primitive wasteland, civilization confronted barbarism &ndash in the mountain ranges of north-west Africa, at the desert fringes of Libya, Egypt, Palestine and Syria, along the Danube and in the Rhineland of continental Europe, and in the hill-country of northern Britain.

Almost everywhere: the exception was the narrow border with Parthia. Here, in contrast, the enemy was a rival empire, another super-power based on plough-agriculture. Rome and Parthia confronted one another in a corridor of cultivated land which ran north-west to southeast along the river lines of the upper Tigris and Euphrates. Invasions on this route were hedged with hazard. Elsewhere, on every other frontier, Rome now held the outer line of the plough-lands, and her army was stretched thin along it, often dangerously so. Yet to mount an invasion of Parthia, she had to mass great forces, for the strength of any army was sapped with each march forwards, by attrition in the field, and by the guards and garrisons that had to be left in the rear. Parthia&rsquos vast spaces, the great distance to her heartlands, the invincibility of her armoured cavalry and horse-archers on the open steppe, these things made a Roman conquest of the Orient a supreme military challenge. Repeatedly, since Crassus at Carrhae in 53 BC, the limits of Roman imperial power had been tested against the Parthian Empire, and each time they had been reached far short of any final victory. Rome was at an impasse on the eastern front: though able to contain it, she lacked the means to overthrow the Parthian Empire. Trajan had tried harder than any of his predecessors: his failure in consequence was more complete.

Publius Aelius Hadrianus, like Trajan, was Romano-Spanish. The two men were, in fact, related, and after Hadrian&rsquos father had died when the boy was ten, he had been entrusted to Trajan&rsquos care. Much later, he was married to Trajan&rsquos great-niece, Sabina, a loveless marriage without affection or issue, but one convenient in fixing Hadrian&rsquos position at the centre of his patron&rsquos network. Close family ties made Hadrian trustworthy, but he was also intelligent, well educated and energetic, a man suited to high responsibility. By the time of his elevation in AD 117, he was already a veteran general, having served in all three of Trajan&rsquos wars &ndash as a staff officer in the Second Dacian War, a legionary commander in the Third, and, successively, as Governor of Syria and then commander-in-chief during the Parthian War. Even so, the accession was murky and contested. Nor is it difficult to guess what issue lay at the heart of the bloody clash at the top that inaugurated Hadrian&rsquos principate.

The written sources for Hadrian&rsquos reign are little better than those for Trajan&rsquos, and we have few details of the generals&rsquo plot of AD 117. Before reaching his capital, Hadrian&rsquos Praetorian Prefect had arrested, condemned and executed four of Trajan&rsquos leading marshals, charged with plotting against the new emperor. Probably, with some reason, they had argued that Hadrian was neither the appointed successor, nor an appropriate candidate. Trajan&rsquos death had been sudden. No heir had been publicly announced &ndash perhaps for fear of igniting animosities among the army commanders. But Hadrian was the late emperor&rsquos ward, favourite, nephew by marriage, and commander-in-chief in the East, so perhaps his inheritance was implicit. The formal announcement, however, and the passing on of the imperial signet-ring had been a death-bed scene witnessed only by Trajan&rsquos wife, Hadrian&rsquos mother-in-law, the Praetorian Prefect, and a personal servant of the emperor &ndash who, suspiciously, died suddenly soon after the event. The succession document bore his wife&rsquos, not Trajan&rsquos, signature. Was Hadrian, perhaps, a usurper? The new emperor was certainly at pains to win approval. He spent almost a month among the soldiers before arriving in the capital, determined first to show his face to the frontier legions and collect their acclamations. Then, a shower of largesse: large donatives were paid to the soldiers and the city mob &lsquocoronation gold&rsquo, a tax traditionally paid at the accession of a new emperor, was remitted for Italy and reduced in the provinces and all debts to the state were cancelled, at the spectacular cost of 225 million denarii.

The root of both the plotters&rsquo malevolence and the emperor&rsquos anxiety lay, almost certainly, in a deep split within the army command about the military débâcle in the East and the future direction of the empire. For Hadrian had resolved to pull out and consolidate. More than that: to stamp this policy on the empire forever. The contrast between the politics of Trajan and those of his protégé could not have been more radically different. Two men, both reared in the same stable, the one the pampered favourite and intimate of the other, reached diametrically opposed conclusions about how the empire should be governed. And while both were ideologically driven, Trajan&rsquos vision was a reactionary one, an attempt to return to the glory days of war and conquest, whereas Hadrian was a radical trying to make sense of new realities and fashion a new model empire. It was perhaps crucial that he was a provincial emperor. Reared in Spain, he had travelled during his career in Gaul, Germany, the Balkans, Asia Minor, the Levant and Mesopotamia. Italy, for him, was just one among the many provinces of the empire. He was the first emperor for whom the traditional imperial title pater patriae (father of his country) &ndash which, like his model, Augustus, he adopted only at the end of his reign &ndash meant not merely protector and patron of Rome and Italy, but of all the provinces of the empire. He wished to raise all to the same level of peace, prosperity, good governance, urban life and classical culture to create a commonwealth of peoples enjoying the benefits of thePax Romana and united by their allegiance to emperor, empire and Roman values. Thus would the empire grow stronger within. Thus would its people more willingly shoulder the burden of defence. Thus would the frontiers &ndash now better defined, fortified and garrisoned &ndash more easily be held. Hadrian set out to create a dichotomous world, in which the difference between civilization and barbarism was to be made sharper, the boundaries between them more rigid and immutable. It was a vision and a policy for an empire that had reached its limits.

Hadrian spent much of his reign travelling. But while his predecessors had sometimes done this in order to make war, Hadrian travelled in order to govern. The restless energy of the top commander that he had been became that of the visionary statesman, the nation-builder, the modernizing reformer, determined to see everything for himself, to make assessments on the spot, and to set in train the great projects needed to remake the world. He first toured the western provinces &ndash the Rhineland, Britain, Gaul, Spain and Mauretania (Morocco) &ndash in AD 120&ndash123. Then he visited the Greek cities of Asia Minor, Old Greece and Sicily in AD 124&ndash126. After two years in Rome, his third trip took him to Africa in AD 128. His fourth, in AD 129&ndash131, was again to the East, to revisit Athens, and then on to Antioch, to Palmyra and Damascus, to Jerash and Petra, to Jerusalem, to Alexandria in Egypt and Cyrene in Libya.

Everywhere he went the emperor seems to have left an indelible mark: the archaeology of the Roman Empire still bears, on the frontiers and in the great classical cities, the imprint of Hadrian the Builder. He had made himself known already to the legions in the East and on the Danube, so in the early years of his reign he visited the men stationed on the Rhine, in Britain and in North Africa. Over some ten years Hadrian completed a great tour of inspection of the entire army and frontier system. &lsquoHe personally viewed and investigated absolutely everything,&rsquo explained Dio Cassius, &lsquonot merely the usual installations of the camps, such as weapons, engines, trenches, ramparts and palisades, but also the private affairs of everyone, both of the men serving in the ranks and of the officers themselves &ndash their lives, their quarters, their habits &ndash and he reformed and corrected in many cases practices and arrangements for living that had become too luxurious. He drilled the men for every kind of battle, honouring some and reproving others, and he taught them all what should be done.&rsquo(14) The praises of the commander-in-chief, witness to a military tattoo at Lambaesis legionary fortress in North Africa, were proudly recorded on the base of a stone column: &lsquoYou did everything in orderly fashion. You filled the field with manoeuvres. Your javelin hurling was not without grace, although you use javelins which are short and stiff. Several of you hurled your lances equally well. And your mounting was smart just now and lively yesterday. If there was anything lacking, I should notice it if there were anything conspicuously bad, I should point it out. But you pleased me uniformly throughout the whole exercise. My legate Catullinus, vir clarissimus, devotes equal care to all the branches he commands &hellip Your prefect evidently looks after you carefully. I bestow upon you a largesse &hellip&rsquo(15)

But it is the frontier defences that most visibly record the emperor&rsquos passing. Open lines controlled by forts, signal-stations and patrols were replaced by continuous linear barriers formed of ditches, palisades and walls. Hadrian&rsquos Wall in Britain is the supreme and best-studied example. Extending 73 miles (117 km) from Newcastle to Carlisle, it comprised a stone wall up to 3 m thick and perhaps 4.5 m high, with small forts for around 30 men every mile, and observation turrets every third of a mile. It was fronted by a wide, deep, V-shaped ditch, and between wall and ditch was an entanglement of forked and sharpened branches &ndash the Roman equivalent of barbed wire. Gateways at the milecastles provided the only approved crossing-places, such that traffic over the border could be controlled and tolls perhaps levied on traders. Outpost forts were built north of the wall to facilitate long-range patrolling. The system of mile-castles and turrets &ndash though without the wall between &ndash was extended far down the Cumberland coast. As work progressed, plans were modified: the thickness of the wall was reduced sections built originally of turf were replaced in stone a continuous linear earthwork (the Vallum) was dug to the south, defining a broad belt of land behind the wall as a &lsquomilitary zone&rsquo and, most importantly, a series of regimental forts were built along the line of the wall, at first 12, eventually 16, putting 6 or 7,000 auxiliary troops on the frontier line itself.

Debate about the purpose of the wall continues. The recent discovery of the thicket of spikes along its front implies a military purpose. But contemporary Roman military doctrine had it that pre-emptive and punitive aggression was the best form of defence, so the wall was more likely intended as a police and customs barrier. Even this, perhaps, is to over-rationalize a profoundly political project. If Trajan offered battles and military glory, Hadrian offered instead great buildings, monuments to imperial grandeur, a symbolic marking out of boundaries, a way of &lsquoseparating the Romans from the barbarians&rsquo. Hadrian&rsquos frontier works, moreover, were part of a larger package. It had been necessary to settle the soldiers &ndash with bribes, flattery and hard work. But then, having ritually charged the boundaries of the empire by marking them with lines of earth and stone, Hadrian turned his attention to the people within, the subjects of Rome, all of whom were now to become stakeholders and loyalists in an imperial commonwealth. The showcases of the new world order would be, of course, the cities of the empire.

Here, not only was Hadrian&rsquos the vision, but very often so too were the plans, the blueprints, the engineering needed to monumentalize it in stone. Hadrian, it seems, was something of an architect. His masterpiece was the Pantheon in Rome. In it, the structurally redundant pillars of Greek temple architecture were abandoned, and the central shrine, released from its cage, became the whole building. But instead of a traditional box, the full potential of the Roman vault was realized, and the shrine was built as a huge dome, one describing a complete and perfect circle from apex to floor and from side to side. The huge span, an awesome 43.20 m, has been surpassed only in modern times, an achievement made possible by having an immense ring of concrete as foundation, by the use of top-quality Roman mortar, and by a careful grading of the thickness and types of material used in constructing the dome from top to bottom.

Rome, as ever, was intended as a model for the provinces. Hadrian, as he travelled, initiated great building projects in city after city. Today, when we visit ruined Roman cities around the Mediterranean, a good proportion of what we see belongs to the &lsquogolden age&rsquo of Hadrian and Antoninus Pius, his immediate successor. Over several decades, the downtown areas of scores of imperial cities were transformed into building sites and recast with new complexes of monumental classical architecture and baroque decoration. Take Athens, for example, an old Greek university town that was a special favourite of the philhellene emperor. Close to the ancient agora, he built a library complex, more than 120 m by 80 m in extent, complete with walled garden, lily-pond, surrounding colonnades, and sitting-out places. On the edge of the city, he completed &ndash 600 years after the foundations were laid &ndash the Temple of Olympian Zeus, one of the largest classical temples in the world, of which 17 towering Corinthian columns still stand. More than that, in the area around the temple, he laid out an entire new city suburb, memorializing this achievement in a stone arch positioned between the old and new cities: &lsquoThis is Athens, the ancient city of Theseus&rsquo reads the inner face, &lsquoThis is the city of Hadrian, not of Theseus&rsquo reads the outer. The past &ndash the glory that was Greece, the fount of classical civilization, the foundation on which Hadrian planned to build &ndash this was honoured. But it was added to, made yet grander, renewed by Hadrianic monuments which appropriated that past to the exigencies of the present. Here, however, in his great projects of acculturation, no less than Trajan in his of subjugation, Hadrian discovered that empire had limits.

Not for the first time in the history of the Empire, the Jews of Palestine proved themselves the hardest rock of resistance. For 200 years, the peasants of Galilee and Judaea had rejected the temptations of Romanitas, and withstood the insults and bullying of its local agents. At root, they knew, Rome meant the rule of landlords, tax-collectors and government soldiers. The trinkets and trappings were mainly for the rich. The new gods were pagan idols offensive to the righteous. Here, for Hadrian, on the other hand, was a worm of corruption within his commonwealth, a class of men whose boorishness could feed an irrational opposition and a weakening of the body-politic. In AD 70, the Jewish Temple in Jerusalem had been destroyed, the Temple tithe diverted to Jupiter, and a Roman legion stationed on the Temple Mount. Yet, Judaism and a Jewish national identity had survived, even in Roman-occupied Jerusalem, where at least seven synagogues remained. The race, the monotheism and the nationalism of the Jews made them an enemy within, and Hadrian came to Jerusalem in AD 130 determined to destroy them, to ethnically cleanse his empire, to obliterate an ideological alternative, to impose by force the Graeco-Roman norms that had become compulsory.

Jerusalem was re-founded as a Roman colony &ndash Aelia Capitolina &ndash and a temple for the worship of Hadrian-Jupiter was built on the Temple Mount. The practice of circumcision &ndash the single most distinctive marker of Semitic identity &ndash was banned on pain of death. Hadrian declared himself successor to Antiochus Epiphanes, the Greek ruler who had tried to destroy Judaism three centuries before, and he erected a monument to Pompey, the first Roman enemy of the Jews. Alexandria and Cyrene, Greek cities devastated in the Jewish Revolt of AD 115&ndash118, were conspicuously reconstructed. By AD 132 the Jews had been goaded into revolt. In scale, duration and ferocity, the resistance fully matched that of AD 66&ndash73. Led by Bar-Kokhba, &lsquoSon of the Star&rsquo, a new Jewish messiah who was to prove himself a brilliant guerrilla commander, and by the radical-nationalist rabbi Akiba, the revolutionaries took immediate control of Jerusalem, restored the worship of Yahweh, and issued coins announcing the &lsquoRedemption of Israel&rsquo. Quickly reinforced by returning emigrés and a general rising in the countryside, the rebels overwhelmed local Roman forces. Two legions were not enough. The empire was trawled for troops. With fresh legions poured into the war zone, Jerusalem was retaken but the rebels re-established themselves at Herodium and various remote desert cave-complexes. It took four years to crush the revolt entirely. By the time it ended, in AD 136, 50 fort-resses and 1,000 villages had been destroyed, and 500,000 people killed or enslaved Palestine, Dio Cassius tells us, was left a wilderness of wolves and hyenas feeding on corpses.

By now, Hadrian, back in Italy, was embittered and dying. His vision of a commonwealth of peoples had been consumed in the Palestinian apocalypse: all that remained there was the arrogance of foreign overlords and pagan gods. His relations with his commanders and officials had soured. The emperor&rsquos philhellenism, his open homosexuality, his public affair with the beautiful Greek youth Antinoös, the creation of a cult in his honour after he was drowned in the Nile: all this offended the sensibilities of conservative members of the Roman governing class. It seemed to many to symbolize the decadence of the regime. The withdrawal from Mesopotamia, the failure to advance elsewhere, the freezing of the frontier lines, the favouritism towards Greeks, the diluting of Roman citizenship, the spilling out of imperial wealth on the embellishment of provincial cities: all highly questionable. It was not just Jewish freedom-fighters who contested the Hadrianic vision so, too, did the Old Guard at home.

Hadrian retreated to the grand country residence he had built for himself at Tivoli, in the hills a short distance from Rome, a palace and garden-city modelled on Athens and Alexandria, sprawling across some 300 hectares (making it not much smaller than Rome itself). He seemed no longer to care. He named as successor a handsome young fop with a reputation for idleness, self-indulgence, and reading love poetry and cookery books while reclining on scented cushions strewn with flowers. Presumably he was the old man&rsquos fancy. The fop predeceased his master. Hadrian then adopted an old friend: Titus Antoninus &ndash soon to be Antoninus Pius &ndash and thereafter relapsed into bitter apathy and derangement, awaiting death &ndash sometimes, it is said, trying unsuccessfully to hasten it &ndash a man psychologically and politically broken by the contradictions of an empire at bay.

Antoninus Pius (AD 138&ndash161) was mercifully free of ambition, whether of Trajanic or Hadrianic type. The spirit of the age was mediocrity, and Antoninus was a fitting figurehead. Neither great generals, nor revolutionary leaders, nor reforming ministers were needed merely an administrator who would do nothing to upset the geopolitical equilibrium. Expansion had ended, but retreat had not yet begun. This was the essence of Gibbon&rsquos golden age: &lsquoIn the second century of the Christian era, the empire of Rome comprehended the fairest part of the earth, and most civilised portion of mankind. The frontiers of that extensive monarchy were guarded by ancient renown and disciplined valour. The gentle, but powerful, influence of laws and manners, had gradually cemented the union of the provinces. Their peaceful inhabitants enjoyed and abused the advantages of wealth and luxury. The image of a free constitution was preserved with decent reverence: the Roman Senate appeared to possess the sovereign authority, and devolved on the emperors all the executive powers of government. During a happy period of more than fourscore years, the public administration was conducted by the virtue and abilities of Nerva, Trajan, Hadrian, and the two Antonines.&rsquo(16) Peace, order, wealth, civilization: the 2 nd century empire certainly offered these. But all the while the mole of history was at work. Several phases passed in quick succession: the exhaustion of expansion under Trajan the consolidation of frontiers under Hadrian an equilibrium of forces under Antoninus and then, under Marcus, a collapse along the upper Danube and a great flood of German tribesmen into northern Italy.

On the surface, all seemed calm. Almost everywhere there was peace. The only major campaign of Antoninus&rsquos reign was in northern Britain, a push forwards to take in the Southern Uplands and form a new line between the Forth and the Clyde. The reasons are obscure, but they were surely to do with improving frontier security not that it worked, whatever the plan may have been, for the Romans were back on Hadrian&rsquos Wall a generation later. Elsewhere, it was a matter of small local campaigns and police operations &ndash the straightening out of a stretch of frontier in Germany, a war against mountain &lsquobrigands&rsquo in Mauretania, a tax revolt in Egypt: routine stuff. Meantime, across the empire, materialized in the archaeology of ten thousand Roman sites, the imperial economy was booming. Basilicas, temples, bath-houses, theatres, amphitheatres and shopping malls went up in town centres. Grand town-houses filled the suburbs, while villas were built on nearby country estates. Local aristocrats thus equipped themselves to shuttle comfortably between the amenities, social round and public duties of the town, and the relative tranquillity of their rural seats. A Mediterranean ambience was universal. A single Graeco-Roman cultural koine defined the elites of the empire. Everywhere it was colonnaded courtyards, frescoed and mosaic-floored living rooms, gardens filled with classical statuary, box-hedges and marble fountains. People drank wine, conversed in Greek or Latin, made offerings to Jupiter, and read &ndash or claimed to read &ndash the classics. Trade and the crafts flourished, and so did the larger farms with a surplus to sell and good roads or waterways to take it to market: for the empire and its civilization, the soldiers and the elite, the forts and the towns, all needed an unceasing supply of grain, meat, salt, cloth, leather, timber, stone, pottery, ironwork, bronze, silver, gold, and much else.

Yet the true stakeholders were a minority. The majority were slaves, serfs, poor peasants, or at best middling peasants with enough for themselves and their families but little to spare. These were perhaps three-quarters or more of the empire&rsquos people. They were the producers from whom surplus was creamed in tax, rent, interest and forced labour &ndash the surplus that was invested in forts, towns and villas, the surplus that made empire and civilization possible. As things stood, though the empire brought no benefit, though it offered only a life of toil and trouble to the mass of rural people, nonetheless it generally left them enough to carry on, enough for some sort of life. But the balance was a fine one. The margin of safety for millions &ndash the margin between how much went in tax and what was needed to feed a family and stock a farm &ndash was perilously narrow. Tip the balance just a little, and millions might plunge to ruin.

For the state, too, the balance was fine, the margin of safety narrow: it currently took just enough in tax to support the minimum of soldiers needed to man the empire&rsquos defences. But the line &ndash thousands of miles of stone, earth, iron and flesh &ndash was stretched thin. Dangerously thin, as the skies darkened in the far north.


Agora of Athens Museum

The Archaeological Museum of the Athenian Agora is hosted in the Hellenistic Stoa of Atallos. The Stoa was rebuilt in the 1950's from the ground up with the purpose of storing the artifacts unearthed in the Agora excavations, and to house the museum where the most important items can be exhibited.

The museum highlights include art dating all the way back to the stone age, every-day life objects, and artifacts directly related to the Athenian democratic functions during the Classical period. Large boards with text provide explanations, and reproduction drawings accompany many important artifacts.

It is a small museum, prone to getting crowded in mid-day, and most of the artifacts are displayed behind glass. The museum's portico is a beautiful area In Ancient Greece, this part of the Stoa would be busy with merchants bartering with buyers behind their benches, and today it is a nice area where one may find refuse from the sun and to get some rest from sightseeing among some beautiful statues from the Greco-Roman era.


Very little is known of Aristides, except for the introductory information given by Eusebius of Caesarea and Saint Jerome. According to their account, Aristides practiced philosophy in Athens, where he lived, prior to and after his conversion to Christianity. Eusebius writes in his Ecclesiastical History "Aristides also, a faithful disciple of our religion, has left an Apology of the faith dedicated to Hadrian." [2] Eusebius and Jerome both state that the Apology was given to Hadrian at the same time that Quadratus delivered his own apology. This suggests that Aristides gave his apology during Hadrian's reign (r. 117–138) as emperor of Rome, which supports the theory of Aristides died between the years 133–134 AD. It is also supported by the express language of the Apology in the Armenian version. It is contradicted only by the second superscription to the Syriac version, which says that the Apology was given to Emperor Antoninus Pius in the year 140. If this is taken to mean that it was delivered in person by Aristides, it would rule out the dating of Aristides's death in 133-134 AD. It has been suggested that Eusebius was confused by the fact that Antoninus Pius had adopted the name "Hadrianus" (Caesar Titus Aelius Hadrianus Antoninus Augustus Pius) and believed it was Hadrian to whom the Apology was given, and further that Jerome had never read the Apology and copied Eusebius's mistake accidentally. [3] But Jerome tells us that the Apology was extant in his day, and he gives an account of its contents. The testimony of Eusebius and Jerome and the text of the Armenian version are all in favor of its being delivered to Hadrian, probably in circa 124–125 AD.

The Apology of Aristides Edit

In 1878, an Armenian fragment of an apology titled To Emperor Hadrian Caesar from the Athenian Philosopher Aristides was published by the Mechitarists of San Lazzaro in Venice from a 10th-century manuscript. The Armenian translation was accepted by most scholars as the long lost Apology of Aristides however, a few did dispute its authenticity, most notably Ernest Renan. In 1889, the authenticity of the fragment was confirmed with the discovery of a complete Syriac translation of the Apology by British scholar Rendel Harris in the Monastery of St. Catherine on Mount Sinai. With this new discovery, J.A. Robinson was able to show Aristides's work had been in fact extant and edited in the religious book The Life of Barlaam and Josaphat since the 7th century. [4] Another fragment of the Apology containing two portions of original text in Greek was published in 1922 by the British Museum on papyri. [5] The Apology of Aristides is the oldest extant Christian apology since only a fragment of the older apology of Quadratus exists. [3]

In the 1889 Syriac translation, Aristides begins his apology by stating his name, where he is from and that he is delivering it to Antoninus Pius. In the first chapter, he proclaims God exists because the world exists and that God is "eternal, impassible and perfect." [2] In the second chapter, he writes that there are four races of the world (1) Barbarians, (2) Greeks (includes Egyptians and Chaldeans), (3) Jews, and (4) Christians. He then devotes chapters 3-16 to describing the different groups of people and how they practice religion. The Barbarians (chapters 3-7) worship dead warriors and the elements of the Earth, which he claims are the works of God, therefore they do not know who the true God is. [6] The Greeks (chapters 8–13) are next because:

". they are wiser than the Barbarians but have erred even more than the Barbarians, in that they have introduced many gods that are made and some of them they have represented as male and some of them as female and in such a way that some of their gods were found to be adulterers and murderers, and jealous and envious, and angry and passionate, and murderers of fathers, and thieves and plunderers." [7]

In other words, Aristides is calling the Greek gods corrupt, immoral and guilty of being human. He concludes his chapters on the Greeks by commenting on the religious beliefs of the Egyptians, who he claims are the most ignorant people on earth since they did not accept the beliefs of the Greeks or Chaldeans and instead worshiped gods modeled after plants and animals. The Jews (chapter 14) are only commented on in a concise manner. Aristides commends them for their worship of God as the Creator and almighty but claims they have gone "astray" because "their service is to angels and not to God, in that they observe sabbaths and new moons and the passover and the great fast, and the fast, and circumcision, and cleanness of meats: which things not even thus have they perfectly observed." In chapters 15 and 16, Aristides describes the commandments of God and claims Christians "walk in all humility and kindness, and falsehood is not found among them, and they love one another." He explains "they ask from Him petitions which are proper for Him to give and for them to receive: and thus they accomplish the course of their lives." [8] He concludes the Apology in chapter 17 by requesting the emperor to stop persecuting the Christians and convert to their faith where he ends with a nice description of the Christian life. [6]

Other works Edit

It has been suggested that Aristides is the author of the Epistle to Diognetus. This theory is supported by similar writing styles, descriptions of Christians, the treatment of Jews, as well as other similarities. Abbé H. Doulcet was primarily the leading voice of this theory in the late 19th century. The Epistle to Diognetus has been credited to Justin Martyr but without any sufficient evidence. [9] Aristides is also credited with a sermon on Luke 23:43.

Relation to contemporaries Edit

Aristides is the second Greek Christian apologetic of the 2nd century. His writing style and thesis are very similar to the likes of Quadratus, Aristo of Pella, Justin Martyr and the author of the Epistle to Diognetus. Jerome suggests Aristides's apology was the combined opinions of philosophers at the time and imitated by Justin Martyr afterwards. Negatively, Celsus used the Apology for his arguments against the Jews and "also certain features which he used in order to scoff at Providence." However, he was easily countered by Origen. [6]


Athens philosophers (until 31 BC)

But how did Athens managed to gain all this respect that sometimes it was enough to save from complete destruction? For centuries after Socrates (trial) and Pericles, Athens served global thinking as a center of human thought and philosophy until 6 th century AD and before Christianity prevailed in the western world, an era that is called today as Classic. The schools were these of Plato, Aristotle, Cynics and Antisthenes, in Kynosarges, where also Diogenes belonged to. But after Plato and Aristotle what? How did Athens passed to global history not like Rome and Carthage?

Plato’s Academy and Aristotle’s Lyceum could be seen as Socrates’ legacy to philosophy. But what followed after them, nobody could have ever imagined it. Plato managed to record birth of dialogue and logic, and Aristotle was the world’s first scientist. After them more followed and made Athens what it is today: a global symbol of wisdom and learning. Here is a selection of them .

Athens agora, still been walked from modern philosophers

Antisthenes & Diogenes. From Cynicism to Stoicism

Diogenes was born in Sinope, an Ionian colony on the Black Sea, between 412 and 404 BC and died at Corinth in 323 BC, some say the same day with Alexander the Great. Diogenes declared himself a cosmopolitan (after Socrates) and a citizen of the world and he proved it, by moving later from Athens to Corinth. Diogenes lived in Athens during Plato’s era, and he was famous for bulling him publicly in Agora but also during his lectures.

Diogenes was accused of money forgery in his hometown, his father was probably a banker, and he was exiled. After Athens, he was was captured by pirates and sold into slavery.

Cynicism was his philosophy, another path for Socrates passivity, that passed to Crates, who taught it to Zeno of Citium. Zeno established the school of Stoicism, one of the main philosophical schools ever. Diogenes first teacher was Antisthenes, pupil of Socrates.

Antisthenes (445-365), learned rhetoric under Gorgias (famous from Plato’s dialogues). He later became a pupil of Socrates. He followed a more “Christian” life, meaning ascetic. He is considered the founder of Cynicism, by lecturing at Cynosarges, where he founded a school.

Definitely there was no “cynicism” theory during his lectures, the term was developed later.

Crates, Zeno and Stoicism. Athens’ Paradigm to the world

The next century in Athens had one more surprise.. Crates was born in Thebes, a member of a wealthy family, but he decided to move to Athens, give away his wealth and follow Diogenes. He later met with Zeno, a Cypriot wealthy merchant, accidentally.

Zeno arrived to Athens after a sea journey (when probably he lost his fortune) and visited to a bookstore, probably in a Stoa of Athens agora. There he asked the bookseller where he could meet person like Socrates, (whose fame had already spread around Mediterranean). At that time Crates was passing by and the bookseller pointed at him.

Crates wrote many works, but none of them is saved today, and Plutarch wrote a biography, that is not saved as well. He was nicknamed the Door-Opener, because he could het into inside any house and people would welcome him. He was also married another immigrant in Athens, Hipparchia of Maroneia (from northen Greece), a sister of his student Metrocles. Their marriage was a real event, since they were both equal.

So Athens was a center for all people that wanted not only to educate themselves, but to live a life of a saint, as we would call it today. Crates’ student, Zeno, followed the same path and created his one philosophy, Stoicism.

Zeno was an innovative student and teacher. He was a student of Crates of Thebes but also of Xenocrates (from Chalcedon, near Constantinople) the director of Plato’s Academy. Moreover, he studied at the Megarian School which was directed by Stilpo, another notable philosopher.

Zeno begun his teaching carrer in the Poikile Stoa in 301 BC, this is why his students were name Stoics. Stoics were behaving and teaching Virtue- Areti- and were actually christinity’s forerunners.

Famous Stoics were Seneca (the Elder, 54 BC-39 AD) and Epictetus, even Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius. Generally, ancient Greek thought passed to Roman thought by the Roman admirers of ancient Greek culture, -that it was not ancient back then- till Rome lost its power as a capital and the Empire’s residence was transferred to Constantinople.

Modern scholars usually divide the history of Stoicism into three phases, Early Stoa, Middle Stoa and Late, with Epictetus, Seneca the Younger and Marcus Aurelius. After Stoicism declined, so did Rome, with the last Five Good Emperors (Nerva, Trajan, Hadrian, Antoninus Pius and Marcus Aurelius).

From Stoicism to the Garden of Epicurus

Epicurus (341-270) was born in Samos in 341 CB and was attracted by the philosophy of Democritus (as Karl Marx was). Thirty years later he began to teach in the island of Lesvos. Alexander the Great at Babylon and Diogenes at Corinth died at 323 BC. Around 311 Zeno arrived in Athens, aged 21, and Epicurus around 306, where he bought an estate. It was the famous Garden, from where was delivering his lessons to Athenians. With Alexander there was another philosopher travelling to Asia, Pyrrho of Elis, meeting the famous Gymnosophists in India. When Pyrrho returned to Athens, he was given the rights of citizenship.

The age between Alexander’s death and Actium (31 BC) is the period where Stoicism, Epicureanism coexisting with Platonism and Aristotelianism in Athens. Epicurus wrote hundrends of works, but few survived. Karl Marx’s PhD was about the differences of Epicurean and Democritus philosophy.

Why this ancient philosophy wave inclined and stopped? Because of poverty and the new religion of christianity, that changed the face of Europe and of course Athens.


Ancient Agora Museum (Athens)

Base dell'Allegoria dell'Iliade / Base for the Allegory of the Iliad.

Base dell'Allegoria dell'Iliade / Base for the Allegory of the Iliad.

Allegoria dell'Iliade / Allegory of the Iliad.

Dea / Goddess Edit
Erme / Hermai Edit
Matrona romana / Roman woman Edit
Testa di tritone / Head of a triton Edit
Afrodite / Aphrodite Edit
Base di un tripode / Base for a tripod Edit
Rilievi greci / Greek reliefs Edit

Pan e le ninfe / Pan and the nymphs.

Trofeo ippico / Cavalry relief.

Head of Nike / Testa di Nike. Edit

Head of Nike / Testa di Nike.

Head of Nike / Testa di Nike.

Head of Nike / Testa di Nike.

Head of Nike / Testa di Nike.

Head of Nike / Testa di Nike.

Varie statue / Miscellaneous statues Edit

Frammenti da un fregio / Fragments from a frieze.

Magistrato (sec. V) / 5th century magistrate.

Inscriptions / Iscrizioni Edit

363 BC law / Legge del 363 a.C.

363 BC law / Legge del 363 a.C.

363 BC law / Legge del 363 a.C.

367 BC contract / Contratto del 367 a.C.

367 BC contract / Contratto del 367 a.C.

Busto di Erodoto / Bust of Herodotus Edit
Busto di Antonino Pio / Bust of Antoninus Pius Edit
Togato romano / Man wearing a toga Edit
Mosaico Edit
Lucius Aelius Verus Edit
Busto di Traiano / Bust of Trajan Edit
Nike Edit

Ceramica greca / Ancient Greek pottery Edit

Rinfresca-vino / Wine cooler.

Rinfresca-vino / Wine cooler.

Modellino di granaio / Model of a barn.

Perfume bottle in shape of an athlete/Flacon à parfum en forme d'athlète.


Antoninus Pius, Agora, Athens - History


HISTORY OF ATHENS


Lycurgus of Athens, 396-323 BC

After the battle of Cheronia, Lycurgus, one of the ten Attic orators, ruled Athens from 336 until 324 BC. He was born in Athens ca. 396 BC and was the son of Lycophron, who belonged to the noble family of the Eteobutadae. In his early life he devoted himself to the study of philosophy in the school of Plato. Afterwards he became one of the disciples of Isocrates and entered upon public life at a comparatively early age. He was appointed three successive times to the office of manager of the public revenue and held his office each time for five years

His primary concern was to increase income and economic reserves allowing Athens to create an effective army and fleet and contributing to the creation of splendid buildings such as the Panathenaic Stadium, the portico at the Sanctuary of Asclepius and the Temple of Apollo Patroos in the Agora. In addition, Lycurgus is accredited with the reconstruction of the Theatre of Dionysos and the completion of the works at Pnyx Hill, at Eleusis and at the Amphiareion of Oropos. The city had not seen such building activity since the time of Pericles.

Lycurgus was entrusted with the superintendence of the city and the keeping of public discipline. The severity with which he watched over the conduct of the citizens became almost proverbial. He had a noble taste for everything that was beautiful and grand, as he showed by the buildings he erected or completed, both for the use of the citizens and the ornament of the city. His integrity was so great, that even private persons deposited with him large sums of money, which they wished to be kept in safety.

He was also the author of several legislative enactments, of which he enforced the strictest observance. One of his laws forbade women to ride in chariots at the celebration of the mysteries and when his own wife transgressed this law, she was fined. Another law ordained that bronze statues should be erected to Aeschylus, Sophocles and Euripides and that copies of their tragedies should be made and preserved in the public archives.

Lycurgus of Athens died in 323 BC while holding the office of director of the theatre of Dionysus.


The beginning of Macedonian rule

The already tense situation between Athens and Macedon came to a head in 323 BC when Alexander died. Athens played a leading part in the creation of an anti-Macedonian alliance with the Aetolians, the Thessalians, the Phoceans, the Lokrians and certain Peloponnesian states. The alliance was decisively defeated by the Macedonian general Antipater in 322 VC, in Krannon, Thessaly.

Athens capitulated with extremely onerous terms:

• a Macedonian garrison stationed at the port of Mounychia
• the democracy abolished
• those responsible for the war sentenced to death
• Oropos and Samos detached from the city.

The leadership of the city was given to the senior general Phokion who was put to death in 318 BC when democracy was restored. In 317 BC, Athens was obliged to ally with Cassander of Macedon and power was held for ten years by Demetrius Phalireus, a pupil of Aristotle, an eminent scholar and a lawgiver.


Demetrius (the Besieger), 307-287 BC

Demetrius I, son of Antigonus I Monophtalmus and Stratonice, was a Macedonian king (294-288 BC belonging to the Antigonid dynasty. At the age of twenty-two he was left by his father to defend Syria against Ptolemy the son of Lagus. He was totally defeated in the Battle of Gaza but soon partially repaired his loss by a victory in the area of Myus.

After an unsuccessful expedition against Babylon and several campaigns against Ptolemy on the coasts of Cilicia and Cyprus, Demetrius sailed with a fleet of 250 ships to Athens. He freed the city from the power of Cassander and Ptolemy, expelled the garrison which had been stationed there under Demetrius of Phalerum and besieged and took Mynycia (307 BC). After these victories he was worshipped by the Athenians as a deity under the title of Soter (savior).

Cassander did not accept the loss of Athens and between 307 and 304 BC he tried to retake it, without success. The Athenians took part in the battle of Ipsos (301 BC) on the side of the defeated Antigonus and Demetrius. Lachares became tyrant of Athens but soon Piraeus passed to the hands of the opponents and, in 295 BC, Demeterius successfully besieged Athens. Eight years later Demeterius, by now king of Macedon, was defeated and forced to abandon his kingdom. He thus failed to keep Athens but Piraeus remained in Macedonian hands.


From the Macedonians to neutrality, 287-200 BC

In 268 BC, in alliance with the Ptolemies of Egypt and King Ares of Sparta, Athens declared war against Antigonus Gonatas, King of Macedon and son of Demetrius the Besieger. The city was besieged and forced to capitulate in 262 BC. It remained under Macedonian influence until 229 BC.

The Ptolemaic dynasty was a Hellenistic royal family which ruled over Egypt for nearly 300 years, from 305 to 30 BC. Ptolemy, a Macedonian and one of Alexander the Great's generals, was appointed satrap (governor) of Egypt after Alexander's death in 323 BC. In 305 BC, he declared himself King Ptolemy I, later known as Soter (savior). The Egyptians soon accepted the Ptolemies as the successors to the pharaohs of independent Egypt. Ptolemy's family ruled Egypt until the Roman conquest of 30 BC.

After the dead of Demetrius II, son of Antigonu Gonatas, the Macedonian garrison withdrew and returned Piraeus, Salamis and the forts of Mounychia and of Rhamnous to the Athenians. The city leaders pursued a policy of strict neutrality with regard to the conflicts that prevailed during the last quarter of the 3rd century on Greek mainland, remaining however under the protection of the Ptolemies.


On the side of Rome, 200-88 BC

This situation was reversed in 200 BC when the city declared war against Philip V of Macedon, who had already gone to war with Rhodes and with Attalos of Pergamon. Unable to wage war by themselves, the Athenians solicited the help of Rome. The city was besieged by the Macedonians but was saved thanks to the Roman intervention.

In 197 BC, the defeat of Philip at Cynoscephalae led to peace. Athens took the side of Rome conclusively and assisted it in 192 BC against Antiochus III of Syria and against Perseus of Mecedon in 171-167 BC. In return, Athens won Lemnos and Delos which over the following years became a link between Asia and Italy, contributing considerably to the new affluence of the city.

During that period, building activity started again in Athens and added luster to the city thanks to the donations from the rulers of Pergamon and other Asian kings.

Allegiance to the Roman alliance was set aside in 88 BC when Athens sides with Mithridates VI Eupator, king of Pontus. The Athenians collaborated with Archelaos, the general of Mithridates, and subjugated the larger part of Greece while Mithridates freed most of the cities of Asia Minor and of the islands from the Romans.

In 87 BC Sulla, leading five legions, spearheaded the Mithridatic War on behalf of the Romans. He besieged Athens and Piraeus for many months. When the city eventually fell, there was a terrible massacre that, in the end, Sulla stopped himself. A little later he seized Piraeus and set fire to the famous skeuotheke (arsenal) of Philon and the dockyards.

Athens’ audacity in confronting Rome cost her dearly. The city lost Delos and Salamis and was decimated by the war, the siege and the ensuing massacre. Numerous works of art and precious metal offerings fell into the hands of the besiegers and were taken to Rome. Many city monuments were destroyed or seriously damaged. The city survived thanks to its name and prestige in the Roman world.

Athens was quick to recover from these disasters. During the 1st century BC, Greek culture began to appeal to the Romans. As a result, many Romans settled in Athens and the emperors embellished the city with remarkable new buildings. Julius Caesar inaugurated the new Athenian Agora, known as the Roman Agora, completed after the termination of the civil wars.

Under Augustus, the aspect of the ancient Athenian Agora changed with the Odeon of Agrippa and the transfer of temples from the Attic countryside to the Athenian Agora. The government of Tiberius and Claudius was oppressive but in the Emperor Nero, despite his disreputable historical image, Greece found a real benefactor. He declared the independence of Greek cities again followed by large tax alleviations.

During this period, specifically in 50 AD, the Apostle Paul preached Christianity in Athens, a fact that had little importance then but assumed gigantic proportions in the course of time. The reign of the Falvians was marked by opposition between the “men of letters” and the Roman administration since the former began to criticize the excess of power of the later. Several intellectuals, of which some Athenian, were persecuted.

During the Antonine period, Athens enjoyed a time of rebirth beginning with Marcus Ulpius Nerva Traianus, commonly called Trajan (98-117), and continuing with the great benefactor of the city Publius Aelius Traianus Hadrianus, known as Hadrian (117-137) and his successors. Hadrian, fond of Greek philosophy and of the city itself, visited Athens three times (124-125, 128-129 and 131-132).

At his command, the residential area of the city expanded eastwards, beyond the Ilissos river, while important public buildings were built or completed under imperial benefaction:

• the aqueduct and the nymphaeum (building consecrated to the nymphs)
• the library
• the Olympeion and the Temple of the Pan-Hellenic Zeus
• the Pantheon
• the Temple of Hera
• a new gymnasium and a new Pompeion (building used for the start of processions)

This was not all though. It was clear that Hadrian intended to give Athens its intellectual grandeur back. The construction of the Temple of Pan-Hellenic Zeus was accompanied by the foundation of the Panhellenion, a federation of all the Greek cities headed by Athens and by the institution of the Pan-Hellenic games that were held every five years in honor of the emperor. In addition, by forbidding unlimited exports of oil, Hadrian saw to the protection of the lower social classes against the avarice of food merchants. To honor the emperor, the city dedicated an arch to him near the Olympeion.

The beneficent policy towards Athens continued under Antoninus Pius (138-161), a period during which Herodes Atticus offered the city more splendid buildings such as the Panathinaic Stadium and the Odeon, but also under Marcus Aurelius (161-180), the emperor-philosopher.

Around the middle of the century, the traveller Pausanias wrote the “Hellados Periegisis”, (a description of Greece), a significant part of which was dedicated to Athens and its monuments thus preserving a picture of the city for future generations. About a century later, this picture was to change for good.

The invasions of barbarian tribes in the Balkans and in Greece had an effect on Athens as well. Under Valerianus (253-260), there was a last effort to fortify the city against the imminent invasions but the hastily constructed wall did not prevent the Herulians from seizing the city and destroying a large part of its public and private buildings.


Watch the video: Antoninus Pius - The Good Emperor #15 Roman History Documentary Series


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