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Athens: From Paganism to Christianity
  Throughout the Early Byzantine period, Athens remained a stronghold of polytheist religion and learning. Its rhetorical and philosophical schools attracted numerous scholars. Julian (361-363), the last emperor to support polytheism, met several sophists and rhetors during his sojourn in Athens (355), and restored many of the pagan temples ruined in 267, when the Herulians sacked the city. Athens displays few and rather late signs of the rise of Christianity. The Library of Hadrian tetraconch, the first major church built in the city's monumental centre, dates of the fifth century. It was probaly dedicated to the Virgin Mary (as suggested by the name of the subsequent twelfth-century chapel, Megale Panagia or Great St Mary's), the natural rival of the city's traditional patroness, the goddess Athena, whose statue stood on the Acropolis until well into the fifth century, protecting according to common belief the city from alien invadors. Justinian's ban of 529 on teaching by polytheists, which led to the closure of the Athenian schools, was the final blow to the city's prestige. Under the same emperor (or by 693 at the very latest), the Parthenon, Athena's temple, was converted into a cathedral, and dedicated to the Virgin Mary.
  The city's glorious past nurtured the loyalty of its elite. Both the polytheist civic aristocracy and the growing Christian community invested their wealth into the revival of the city after the damaging Herulian (267), Gothic (396) and Slav (c. 582) invasions. Empress Eudocia was herself an Athenian. Born Athenais, she was the daughter of the polytheist sophist Leontius. Eudocia embraced Christianity upon marrying Theodosios II in 421, and distinguished herself as a patroness of the Church and monasticism both in Constantinople and in Palestine, where she sought refuge in the early 440s. In her native city, Eudocia erected a large palace for herself and her brother Gessius, who was made praetorian prefect of Illyricum (which included Greece) soon after his sister's marriage. She may also have commissioned the tetraconch church in the Library of Hadrian. The so-called Palace of Eudocia or Gessius', a grandiose complex combining private and public functions, was built in the Agora in the 420s. Its monumental porch was supported by four pedestals made of reused materials and adorned with six mid-second-century colossal statues of Giants and Tritons (three of which remain in place). The porch led onto a formal collonaded atrium. which a double vestibule and a semi-circular courtyard connected with the residence proper. Two peristyle courtyards articulated the residential and recreational wings, with their numerous rooms, bathing facilities (the latter added in the first half of the sixth century), and service areas; a spacious Triclinium lay at the far end of the larger court. The palace was surrounded by gardens.
  In its complex plan and generous proportions, Eudocia's palace resembles the vast rural villas of the Roman west, such as those of Piazza Armerina in Sicily, or Montmaurin in southern Gaul. It was, however, clearly set in urban surroundings. Just south of the palace, on the north slope of the Areopagus, several mansions and public bathing establishments have been excavated. The former were built or remodelled in the fifth and sixth centuries by polytheist aristocrats, and have arrangements similar to those of the urban mansions of Apamea, such as peristyle courtyards and opulent reception rooms. House C (also known as Omega House) features an interesting apsed Triclinium. The rectangular end of the room is paved with a broad pi-shaped mosaic, upon which the dining couches were placed. Its apsed domed end was occupied by a semi-circular stepped basin supplied in water by a natural spring. The Triclinium provided a cool getaway during the hot summer months. House C was adorned with a number of antique marble statues, all of which were removed and hidden in the early sixth century.

See also: Paganism and Christianity; Urban environment