Hellenist author Bruce Clark, who has a long association and a deep understanding of Greece from ancient times to modern, has written a major new work on the history of Athens.
The book, published recently and titled “Athens: City of Wisdom”, is a sweeping narrative history of Athens, telling the three-thousand-year story of the birthplace of Western civilization.
Born in Northern Ireland, Clark is also a lecturer and journalist. As a journalist for Reuters, the Times, the Financial Times and the Economist he traveled numerous times to Greece. His command of modern Greek enables him to delve deeply into the politics, society, culture and history of the country.
“I can see an inner self-confidence which can have good and bad results,” he had said of the Greeks. “There is an impressive ability to recover from disaster, but also a temptation to court disaster by flying too near the sun,” he told Greek Reporter in a recent interview as he was working on “Athens: City of Wisdom.”
Clark brings Athens history to life
From the legal reforms of the lawmaker Solon in the sixth century BC to the travails of early twenty-first century Athens, as it struggles with the legacy of the economic crises of the 2000s, Clark brings the city’s history to life, evoking its cultural richness and political resonance in this epic, kaleidoscopic history.
“Athens is one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world. It has been a place of human settlement for at least 5,000 years. But its fortunes, and its relationship with the wider world of Greekness, have fluctuated wildly,” Clark says.
In a note to Greek Reporter, Clark brilliantly summarizes how the status of Athens has fluctuated over centuries.
“After spawning one of the world’s most prosperous, creative and extrovert societies in the golden century (500 to 400 BCE) Athens underwent a bewildering mixture of fates. It became a cultural jewel in the imperial crowns of Macedonia and then Rome.
“As barbarians assailed the Roman empire and the Christian religion spread, it was a last redoubt of polytheist worship and philosophy. Later it was a place of medieval Christian pilgrimage; a modest Ottoman town whose ruins fired the imagination of rich young Westerners; and then the capital of a fragile new kingdom, built on German dreams of the Hellenic past.
“Only in the 20th century, amidst war, refugee flows, occupation and rapid expansion, did Athens take shape as the chaotic, dynamic hub of modern Hellenism. In the early 21st century, after recovering against the odds from economic disaster, a sprawling conurbation of four million people teeters between exuberant, multicultural creativity and ecological dystopia.”
Watch below a video of Bruce Clark discussing his new book: