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The playwrights Aeschylus, Sophocles and Euripides flourished in Athens during this time, as did the historians Herodotus and Thucydides, the physician Hippocrates, and the philosopher Socrates.
Guided by Pericles, who promoted the arts and fostered democracy, Athens embarked on an ambitious building program that saw the construction of the Acropolis of Athens (including the Parthenon), as well as empire-building via the Delian League.
By the end of Late Antiquity, the city experienced decline followed by recovery in the second half of the Middle Byzantine Period, in the 9th to 10th centuries CE, and was relatively prosperous during the Crusades, benefiting from Italian trade.
After the Fourth Crusade the Duchy of Athens was established.
However, this did not prevent Athens from being captured and sacked twice by the Persians within one year, after a heroic but ultimately failed resistance at Thermopylae by Spartans and other Greeks led by King Leonidas, The decades that followed became known as the Golden Age of Athenian democracy, during which time Athens became the leading city of Ancient Greece, with its cultural achievements laying the foundations for Western civilization.Athens is a global city and one of the biggest economic centres in southeastern Europe.It has a large financial sector, and its port Piraeus is both the largest passenger port in Europe, in 2011, the functional urban area (FUA) of Athens was the 9th most populous FUA in the European Union (the 6th most populous capital city of the EU), with a population of 3.8 million people.Later, under Rome, Athens was given the status of a free city because of its widely admired schools.The Roman emperor Hadrian, in the 2nd century CE, ordered the construction of a library, a gymnasium, an aqueduct which is still in use, several temples and sanctuaries, a bridge and financed the completion of the Temple of Olympian Zeus.