Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Today I have two interesting reports related to ancient history. First one is that the Cononian walls will rise again! Read it here

In sum, a large portion of the Cononian walls of Piraeus, about 450m in length, will be restored to promote the antique aspects of the Athenian port. The restoration will include landscaping and building a wood and glass floor over the walls to view them. The remains had been revealed during landscaping work on Piraeus done for the 2004 Olympic Games. This is pretty cool news to me. 

The Cononian walls were built in 394BC by Conon, an Athenian general during the Peloponnesian War. Both Conon and the walls had an interesting and decidedly Athenian history. Conon presided over the Athenian defeat at Aegospotami in 405BC when they were defeated by the Spartans. The Spartan victory allowed them to create their own Aegean empire. Sparta then began raiding Persian territories on the easte4rn Aegean. Persia raised a large fleet to counter the Spartans but they needed an experienced commander. Though Athens was an enemy to the great empire of Persia, Conon agreed to lead the fleet. At the battle of Cnidus in 394BC, Conon overwhelmed the Spartans who lost much of their new empire. 

Athenian General Conon
{{PD-1923}} – published before 1923 and public domain in the US.

The Persians let Conon keep part of the fleet and even provided funds to Athens to fortify their port of Piraeus and rebuild the long walls connecting Piraeus and Athens. The long walls had originally been constructed in the mid 5th century BC and destroyed in 480 and 479 BC by Persians occupying Greece. The Persians were pushed out of Greece after the battle of Plataea in 479BC and the walls were rebuilt by Athens. Sparta and her allies objected to the walls because of the power that gave Athens. Hence they were destroyed by the Spartans in 404BC after the defeat at Aegospotami. 

1785 map of Ancient Athens by Bocage
{{PD-1923}} – published before 1923 and public domain in the US.

Athenian focus on the walls stemmed from the fact that Athens had made a conscious choice to develop a strong navy rather than try to defeat the Spartans in land battles. The walls helped to fortify Athens and its ports and almost turn them into an island of sorts.  In time though, the Macedonians took control of Athens and the city never regained the strong position it held in Greece. So it will be nice to see what the walls may have looked like in the days of past Athenian grandeur. If you’re interested in reading an excellent account of the Athenian Navy during this time of Athenian prominence, I strongly suggest Dr. John Hale’s eminently readable and informative work Lords of the Sea

Recommended Reading:

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