The best place to discover and learn about that period is Byzantine Museum. Athens passed difficult times since it was the philosophical center of the ancient (pagan) world for Christian Byzantine Empire. Ancient Greek religion was fought a lot, in order Christianity to prevail as the total religion to Easter Roman Empire.
The 6th century AD found Athens without the schools of the previous 10 centuries that gave the city its global impact. Athens had became a provincial town and experienced fluctuating fortunes. Many of its works of art were taken by the emperors to decorate the New Rome, Constantinople.
After numerous invasions, fires and destruction, the 582 Slavs and Arabs’ invasion followed. Since the 6th century, people started to bury Christians on Acropolis, so it was also used as a cemetery. Only two Byzantine emperors honored th city’s temple. Christian Parthenon in 662 was rededicated in honor of the Mother of God, and remained so until 1204, that renamed Santa ti Atene.
Hefaistion also became a church, at the 7th century, dedicated to Saint George (during the 18th century many protestant Christians were buried there and in 1834 welcome ceremony of King Otto. Then it was a museum, till the excavation of American school in 1930).
Nevertheless, Athens was honored by the visit of Emperor Constans II (Constantine the Bearded 641-668) 662/3 and its inclusion in the Theme of Hellas. During the 7th century there was economic development of Byzantium that is also seen from Contans II embassy to Chinese in 643. Byzantines Boduoli (波多力, visited Emperor Taizong of Tang, bearing gifts such as red glass and green gemstones. Byzantium started to rise globally.
Moreover, Athens was elevated from a bishopric to a Metropolis about 733-746. Athens is commonly held to have supported the iconophile position, chiefly due to the role played by Empress Irene of Athens in the ending of the first period of Iconoclasm at the Second Council of Nicaea in 787. A few years later, a third Athenian Empress, Theophano, became the wife of Emperor Staurakios (r. 811–812).
After Slavs’ invasion of Athens in 582, the next was Saracens in 936-943. Athens had never lost its fame, so it was like a Christian holy place during Christian times, and kept its sacred character. In matters of trade it was the middle station between Corinth and Theba, having an mostly an assisting role, with Piraeus being a main port.
Empress Irene of Athens
Empress Irene was related to the noble Athenian Sarantapechos family. When she was 14 years old she followed two monks and probably went to Monastiraki church, at that time it was a female monastery. Also the Little Metropolis church may was an estate of her family.
Irene saw the enormous economic value of the Byzantine silk production after she arrived in Constantinople for her marriage in 769 to the Byzantine Emperor Leo IV.
Athens was threatened by Saracen pirate raids from Crete in the 8th–9th centuries—in 896, Athens was raided and possibly occupied for a short period, also in 936 and 943. Raids were made in western coastline from Sounio, till Marathon. Emirate of Crete was recaptured in 961 by Byzantines.
Athens Towards Latin Occupation
Athens was again Emperor Basileios Boulgaroktonos after defeating Bulgarians visited Athens in 1019 and paid a tribute to Panagia. The built up of 40 churches, shows the religious character of the city during the acme of Byzantine empire, that lasted until Constantinople acme, 10-11th century. After 11th century, a decline started for most parts of the Empire, due to corruption, heavy taxation and incapability in management.
One more raid to Athens took place in 1147 because of its role in the silk trade. Roger II, king of Sicily (1130-1154), dispatched a fleet to invade Byzantine territories. Michael Choniates relayed that Sicilian forces captured Corinth and Thebes and carried away female silk workers and fine golden cloths. Otto of Freising provided a similar account and included Athens among the cities captured. He also reported that the motivation for kidnapping was to obtain skilled workers to teach weaving arts known only by Greeks among the Christians.
Moreover, Arab geographer Idrisi is describing Athens of 1154 as a developed and multi cultural city, before Athens destruction again before 1204, not like Constantinople. . At the same year Athens was again destroyed by the Saracens.
Additionally, Latins and pirates had overcome trade in Aegean. Before the Latin occupation of Athens there were two bishops Nicholas Hagiotheodorites (died 1175) who raised buildings in Parthenon, and the last Orthodox Archbishop, Mihail Choniatis. In 1204 Constantinople is sacked by Latins and Greece is under their occupation.
Duchy of Athens 1205-1308
Mihail Choniatis was born in 1138 from a wealthy and noble byzantine family. He was also a brother to historian Nikitas Honiatis. In 1182 he was send to Athens as archbishop. In 1187 he was given Aigina in order to increase income of his region, but the situation in Greece was really bad, since the island was abandoned and only pirates were there. He organized Athens defense successfully in 1203 against Leon Sgouros, a local governor in Peloponnesus.
So Athenians after 1204 and the sack of Constantinople (was not Istanbul yet), became a Frank ducat. Athens was sucked, so was Parthenon and its library that Choniatis had organized there. He abandoned the city with many Athenians.
The Parthenon church was named Santa Maria di Atene.
After Latins occupied Constantinople, Alexios III gave Leon Sgouros his daughter so as to shelter him. Sgouros tried to face Latins in Thermopylae but Greeks abandoned him and he retreaded in Ancient Corinth Rock Acrokorinthos. He committed suicide in 1208 and Latins occupied the rest of Peloponnese. After De la Roche family, the temple was donated to Notre Dame in the southwest corner a campanile was built. After Ottoman occupation, Parthenon was made a mosque, and the Frankish campanile into a minaret.
After extensive destruction at the beginning of the 13th century, Athens area seems to have been largely abandoned except for a few squatters, until the partial reconstruction and remodeling of some buildings in the Ottoman period.
Latin conquest of Athens was followed by Catalan conquest of the Catalan Company between 1311-1388. It was a company of mercenaries led by Roger de Flor in the early 14th century and hired by the Byzantine Emperor Andronikos II Palaiologos to combat the increasing power of the Turks. Later, in 1388 the Acciaioli family of Florence captured Athens and hold it till 1456 and Ottoman conquest and period.
Visit the medieval Attica monuments
Athens is famous about its ancient history, Acropolis, theater and democracy.
But its byzantine and latin period are not well known. Inside the modern city of Athens, remains of its medieval past are the churches, like Monastiraki, Ragavas, Little Metropolis, who were built between 10-11th century and we renovated.
What is really worth discovering though, is the medieval remains of the Latin past of Athens. Two spots are of magnificent beauty, historic importance and architecture: The tower at Vravrona and the two Monasteries at Penteli.
Athens after Latin period had a period of Ottoman occupation, as the rest of Balkans. This is why Athens and Greece as well are a mixture of cultures, tastes and aromas.
Athens Latin conquerors wanted to protect their investment in the Greek peninsula, but the Aegean islands as well. So they created a network of towers but also fortresses, sometimes combined in monasteries. So except East Attica, so Nafplio, Naxos, Chalkida at Evoia, Methoni, Chlemoutsi castle at Western Peloponnesus, all there areas where medieval centers of the Latin companies.
Unfortunately the Latins didn’t leave nice memories to the occupied Orthodox Christian population of Greece. They were considered to be barbaric and vicious, and even they were supported against the Ottomans, Greeks suffered a lot for this stance of them. Latins abandoned them to the menace and terror of Turks not a few times, so there was no respect for them at all.
Today the castle network that exist in Greece does not have the local or public support to be promoted as it should.