Babylon Is Everywhere: The City as Man's Fate

By Wolf Schneider; Ingeborg Sammet et al. | Go to book overview

Chapter 5
ARCHIMEDES AND CLEOPATRA

IN ANCIENT times the Greek empire was a region of islands and shores that included a part of today's Turkey. And, just as the Sumerians during the fourth millennium B.C. established colonies on the Indus river, so the Greeks at the beginning of the first millennium established footholds in many parts of southern Italy and North Africa, and on the shores of the Black Sea as well. In 445 B.C., Pericles, at the head of the Athenian fleet, even visited the Crimean peninsula. The peoples of those rather thinly settled shore regions had little with which they could oppose the military and economic power of the Greek settlers.

The Greeks conquered the west coast of Asia Minor by military force, and constituted the upper class in the ancient cities Miletus and Ephesus in Ionia. During the sixth century B.C. these two seaports, together with Syracuse in Sicily and Corinth in Greece proper, were the great commercial and cultural centres of the Greek world. Homer was a colonial Greek from Ionia.

Miletus, the destination for several caravan routes out of Asia Minor, was hardly less luxurious than Babylon, though the population probably was only about 50,000. Most of all, Miletus was not a city of monumental buildings, but a trading centre where wholesale merchants, shipowners and big landowners set the pace. There, in about 700 B.C., the first metal coins in the history of money were issued. Most of the inhabitants were slaves; they handled the oars of the big ships, they carried the loads, they worked the fields. And they were not treated as they were treated later in Athens; here they were really driven so hard that several times there was great unrest and once a big revolt in which women and children of the rich citizens were murdered. When finally the merchants and traders had regained the upper hand, they lighted the city squares with the rebel leaders as living torches.

In 494 B.C. Miletus was burned down by the Persians. The architect Hippodamus began the city's reconstruction in 479 B.C. Miletus now became a city planned in all details for the needs of a population of 80,000 people, with a network of streets crossing each other at right angles, and with a perfect canalization system. His achievement in Miletus brought Hippodamus other such

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