Athens: City of Wisdom

Athens City of wisdom book cover

A sweeping history of Athens, telling the three-thousand-year story of the birthplace of Western civilization, from Runciman Award winner Bruce Clark.

‘A stunning retrospect and beautifully written overview of one of the world’s greatest cities’ Paul Cartledge

‘Courageously grand in scale yet sensitive to the details that make Athens’ extraordinary history come alive’ Sofka Zinovieff

‘Bruce Clark brings an eye for the quirky, human detail, a pithy turn of phrase, and an affection for his subject honed over many decades’ Roderick Beaton

‘Bruce Clark’s enchantingly readable history revealed how little I knew’ Literary Review

‘A classic journalistic and academic analysis of the ancient and the modern’ Irish News

‘An exhaustive yet compelling history of the Greek capital… Unmissable and highly informative’ Financial Times

‘A triumph of a book that should be read by those who already know this city’s importance and charm and those who want to. It is an extraordinary achievement’ Economist

‘A comfortable, entertaining read which glides seamlessly from one chapter to the next’ Kathimerini

Athens: City of Wisdom tells the tale of a city that occupies a unique place in the cultural memory of the West. Each of the book’s twenty-one chapters focuses on a critical ‘moment’ in the city’s long history, from the reforms of the lawmaker Solon in the sixth century BCE to the travails of early twenty-first-century Athens, as a rapidly expanding city struggles with the legacy of a global economic crisis. Bruce Clark has a rich and revealing sequence of stories to tell. They include the familiar golden age of Classical Athens, the removal from the Acropolis of the Parthenon marbles by agents of the 7th Earl of Elgin in the early nineteenth century, and the holding of the first modern Olympic Games in 1896. His stories also cover the less fêted later years of antiquity, when St Paul preached on the Areopagus and neo Platonists refounded the Academy that Sulla’s legions had desecrated. He also delves into Athens’ forgotten medieval centuries,
unearthing jewels gleaming in the Byzantine twilight, and tales of Christian fortitude and erratic Turkish governance from the four centuries of Ottoman rule that followed. Few places have enjoyed a history so rich in artistic creativity and the making of ideas as Athens;
or one so curiously patterned by alternating cycles of turbulence and quietness. Writing with scholarly rigour and undisguised affection, Bruce Clark brings three thousand years of Athenian history vividly to life.