AIA Kress Lecture: The Athenian Naval Bases in the Piraeus – the Backbone of the World’s first Democracy

Tuesday, February 28, 7:30 PM

“The Athenian Naval Bases in the Piraeus – the Backbone of the World’s first Democracy”        

Prof. Bjørn Lovén (SAXO Institute, University of Copenhagen)

Location: Buchanan A202

This year’s AIA Kress Lecturer takes us back to Athens at the height of its power. Athens in the 5th and 4th century BC was preeminent because of her naval power, and with the navy’s importance came that of her harbour city, the Piraeus, where naval bases housed the hundreds of triremes that served as the primary arm of Athenian might. The architectural glories of the Acropolis stood in second place to her naval bases. As an unnamed Athenian writer sang, “O Athens, queen of all cities! How fair your naval base! How fair your Parthenon! How fair your Piraeus!”

The Zea Harbour Project, digging on land and underwater in 2002 to 2012, has uncovered extensive archaeological remains of the Athenian naval facilities. This lecture will explore a complex archaeological puzzle and show how the remains can be connected to the dawn of Athenian power in the late 6th and early 5th century BC; to the young democracy at the time of the Persian Wars; to the age of empire when Athens ruled the eastern Mediterranean; and to the waning years of the 4th century BC when Athens stood in the shadow of Macedonia.

The Zea Harbour Project is a collaboration between the Ephorate of Underwater Antiquities and the Ephorate of West Attica, Piraeus and Islands (both under the Greek Ministry of Culture and Sports), the SAXO-Institute, the University of Copenhagen, and the Danish Institute at Athens under the Danish Ministry of Education. It is directed by Dr. Bjørn Lovén. The Carlsberg Foundation finances the project.