Late Hellenistic and Roman Athens
The Hellenistic city of Athens benefited significantly from its reputation as a steadfast fighter against the Macedonians in the early decades of Roman hegemony over Greece, being rewarded with the addition of several islands to its territory. The Roman upperclassdiscovered Athenian culture in 155 BC. (especially philosophy and rhetoric): the Athenians had made a failed attempt to annex the port city of Oropos, but had been whistled back by the senate and ordered to pay a fine of 500 talents of gold. Then they sent the leaders of the three major philosophy schools of Athens (the Stoa, Academy and Lyceum) to Rome to plead their case. The Romans, who had never heard so much eloquence and wisdom, reduced the fine to a hundred talents and from then on sent their sons to Athens to study philosophy and rhetoric (as well as many Hellenistic princes) and to make a so-called grand tour through Greece . One of the many grateful students was the later monarch Attalos II of Pergamon, who expressed his gratitude by building a regal stoa, nowadays called ”stoa of Attalos (restored by the American excavators) on the agora.
With the establishment of the Roman province of Achaia (after the destruction of Corinth by Mummius), Athenian independence ended, after which the Athenians bet several times on the losing horse in this turbulent period. In 88 BC. The Athenians (led by the peripatetic philosopher Athenion and later the epicurean Aristion) sided with Mithridates of Pontus in his (doomed) war against the Romans, after which general and dictator Sulla inflicted heavy damage on the city: the Dipylon gate was bombed, the Pompeion behind it was destroyed, the Long Walls from Athens to Piraeus demolished, while the defenders, in turn, burned down the Odeion of Pericles, to prevent the rafters from being used to build weapons of war. Huge quantities of artwork were transported to Rome (and some even simply forgotten in the harbor, to be found 2000 years later!), while Aristotle’s library went up in flames, and thousands upon thousands of civilians were killed. In the later struggle between Caesar and Pompey, the Athenians again chose wrongly, but fortunately Julius Caesar was inclined to mercy. Caesar even had a new market built, the so-called Roman Agora, which was later completed by Augustus.