Athens, 416 BC . A tenuous peace holds. The city-state’s political and military might are feared throughout the ancient world; it pushes the boundaries of social, literary and philosophical experimentation in an era when it has a greater concentration of geniuses per capita than at any other time in human history. Yet even geniuses go to the bathroom, argue with their spouse and enjoy a drink with friends.
Few of the city’s other inhabitants enjoy the benefits of such a civilised society, though – as multicultural and progressive as Athens can be, many are barred from citizenship. No, for the average person, life is about making ends meet, whether that be selling fish, guarding the temple or smuggling lucrative Greek figs.
During the course of a day we meet 24 Athenians from all strata of society – from the slave-girl to the councilman, the vase painter to the naval commander, the housewife to the hoplite – and get to know what the real Athens was like by spending an hour in their company. We encounter a different one of these characters every chapter, with each chapter forming an hour in the life of the ancient city. We also get to spy on the daily doings of notable Athenians through the eyes of regular people as the city hovers on the brink of the fateful war that will destroy its golden age.