When Roman Emperor Constantine gave Christianity official sanction in 326 AD, he looked for a "New Rome" in the eastern Mediterranean. Athens hoped to be chosen but the title of new capital went to the former Greek colonial town of Byzantium (Constantinople), now Istanbul. Under Byzantine rule the city of Pericles sank into deep provincial obscurity. It merited only a few brief mentions in the history of the following centuries. Christianity had taken early root in Greece,
as a result

of St. Paul's visit to Athens somewhere around 50 AD. Polytheism p
ersisted until 529, when an edict by Emperor Justinian outlawed the last "pagan" temples and closed the famous Athenian schools of philosophy. From the 12th to the 14th century, Athens found itself governed by a number of European nobles from Florence, Catalonia and Burgundy. In 1456 Athens and Attica were taken by the Turks in their rampage across the disintegrating Byzantine Empire. The following four

centuries of Ottoman rule are known as Greece's darkest age. Athens was all but forgotten. Through this difficult period, only the Orthodox Church could provide the Greek people with any sense of identity
and continuity. Venetian forces attempted to wrest the city from Ottoman control twice. The second time, in 1687, a shell hit a munitions store in the Parthenon, badly damaging the 2 000 year-old structure.