Defeat and Recovery
The long period of warfare and plague had set up tensions within the city which could only be resolved by blood, and the Athenians now turned upon each other. Lysandros allowed the 'Thirty tyrants', an anti-democratic group of aristocrats, to assume power, upon which they instituted a reign of terror. Thrasyboulos retreated to the fortress of Phyle, gathered support, and returned to restore the democracy in 403. But the horrors which Athenians had undergone raised profound questions of responsibility and punishment in the minds of many. Socrates, who was associated with many of the aristocrats who had imposed the tyranny, was selected as a scapegoat, and forced to drink hemlock in 399.
Despite their failure in the great war, the Athenian spirit was irrepressible, and in 394 Conon defeated a Spartan fleet off Knidos in Asia Minor. The Long Walls and the fortifications of Athens and Piraeus were soon rebuilt, and an Athenian League was founded in alliance with Thebes. The Thebans destroyed Spartan supremacy once and for all under Epaminondas at the battle of Leuktra. From that point onwards, the Athenians began to fear the Thebans as their main rivals.
Despite this military revival, there seems to have been a sense at the time that something wonderful had passed away for ever. The domination of Athens by its past had already begun. People began to look backwards. Even the language of the past came to be considered more dignified than that of the present.
Athenian democracy came to be increasingly dominated by orators, who were trained to speak in public. They were the lawyer-politicians of their day. From 355, Euboulos directed Athenian policy towards peace, a less ambitious foreign policy, social harmony and sound management of the economy.
The Golden Age of Philosophy
During these years several new institutions came int´ existence which made Athens the centre of the scholastic world, institutions founded by intellectual giants without peer. Plato, a pupil of Socrates, created a philosophical school outside the city walls at the shrine to Akademos, from which it took its name as "the Academy." This drew other philosophers to Athens, and in 335, Plato's student, Aristotle, from Stagira, in Macedonia, in turn founded the Lycaeum, outside the walls on the other side of the city, near the present Parliament Building. At the end of the fourth century Zeno of ╩ition, in Cyprus, founded the Stoic School, and Epicurus of Abdera, in Thrace, created the school which bore his name. Yet their work, however profound, was essentially reflective. It lacked something of the freshness, and the sense of flowing seamlessly out of the experience of life, of the thought of the fifth century. font>
The Rise of Macedon
In the middle of the fourth century, the political and military centre of gravity in Greece moved northwards, to Macedonia, where a strong-minded king, Philip II was able to build up a powerful permanent army and extend his power over the Greek peninsula. The orator Demosthenes saw clearly what was happening and warned the citizens of Athens of their danger. A league was created to unite the southern Greeks against Philip, but he decisively crushed all opposition at Chaeronea in 338. The Athenians might have expected the worst, but by this time the name of their city was already surrounded by such a halo of renown that the Macedonian king, conscious of his cultural heritage, spared the city. His son, Alexander, personally visited bearing the ashes of the Athenian dead Yet when Philip died and Thebes rebelled, the ´nly reason that the Athenians were not directly involved was that its army was too slow to take the field.
Alexander, no less proud of this inheritance, nursed the ambition to take revenge for the destruction of Athens by Xerxes by taking the offensive in the clash of civilisations. ┴ brilliant general, he was so speedily and so overwhelm▀ngly successful in his invasion of Asia that in a few years he was able to take over the Empire, from Egypt to what is now Afghanistan, and then to extend its eastern borders to India. He sent back to Athens as trophies of his victory three hundred Persian shields, which were thereafter hung in the Parthenon.
Macedonian hegemony turned out to be of no immediate disadvantage to the Athenians. During the period of the great expedition, the orator Lycurgos, a financial genius, was able to resume the ambitious building plans abandoned by Pericles because of the outbreak of the Peloponnesian War. He replaced the treasures of the Acropolis spent during the Great War. He repaired the walls, the ship-sheds, and many of the public buildings. He renovated the Pnyx, built a stoa between the temple and theatre of Dionysos, laid out the theatre of Dionysos in its present form, and also constructed the first Panathenaic Stadium.
ę John L. Tomkinson