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Open Access Publications from the University of California

A New Neighborhood for an Old City: The Resettlement of the Athenian Agora in the Middle Byzantine Period


When Rome fell in 476 CE, the city of Athens in Greece also shrank, moving inside its walls to protect its people. This left the Agora, the bustling marketplace which sat outside the walls, abandoned. In the tenth century, at the economic height of the Byzantine Empire, Athens expanded outside its walls, ushering in a new period of rebuilding in the Agora. This project sought to characterize the shift in domestic architecture from before and after the abandonment, which led to a better understanding of Athenian identity as expressed through architecture. Research conducted on excavation reports from the American School of Classical Studies in Athens (ASCSA) revealed that the houses in these new neighborhoods were modest, more closely resembling homes seen in the Roman period than contemporaneous Byzantine constructions. While they may not be known for the innovative, extravagant architecture of their ancestors, the Byzantine Athenians are ultimately remembered for the simple accomplishment that they were there at all— attempting to rebuild, repopulate, and worship a new faith in an old city.

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