A Brief Reference to the History of Athens
Athens was named according to the
Greek mythology from
competition that the goddess Athena had with
about who will become protector of the city. The myth says that
Poseidon gave a spring with sea water whilst Athena offered an olive
tree as she touched the ground of the sacred rock of the Acropolis.
The people of Athens choose Athena as their protector and so the
city was named after the goddess of wisdom. The myth is symbolic but
the two Gods symbolising the strength of Athens as a city of wisdom
and as a sea power. The first settlement of Athens 3000 BC was
situated on the rock of Acropolis.
According to the tradition, Athens was founded, when the king
Theseus united in a state several settlements of Attica. The
last king of ancient Athens was Kodros, who sacrificed his life in order to
save the homeland. Later came to power the nobles (wealthy
landowners). The nobles ruled Athens by their consul the Supreme
Court (Arios Pagos), from this consul where elected the 9 rulers of
Athens . During this time was existed the assembly of the Athenian
citizens (Ecclesia of Demos) but during this period did't had the
power that had later with the lows of Solon.
After the the period of colonisation and expansion of trade, many
citizens of Athens became rich and wealthy from the trade and
shipping, and they wished to participate in the administration of
the state, while from the other hand the lower classes of the city
where facing poverty. This fact resulted riots between the poor who
wanted land and new lows with more social justice and the nobles
that wanted to keep their power and authority.
Those riots tried to exploit the ambitious Kylon aiming to become a
tyrant, but he failed. His movement stayed in history as 'Kylonion
Agos'. After this , the nobles tasked Drakon to write new laws in
response to peoples demand. But the laws of Dracon were too
hard and peremptory and thus disappointed the Athenians.
As the laws of Dracon did not meet the expectations of the people of
Athens who they tasked Solon, which was considered as a very wise
man, to write new laws.
Solon gave back the debts of the citizens and let free all
those who had been slaves from their debts. That law, because
released the people of Athens from a very heavy burden, was named 'seisachtheia'
Solon split the Athenians into four classes, depending on their
income. Archons (rulers) had the right to become only the rich. But,
Solon strengthened politically and the poor, because he gave the
great strength to the Ecclesia of Demos, namely, the assembly of
citizens. The assembly decided on all major issues and was voting
the laws which were prepared by the House of the four hundred. Solon
founded the large peoples court, the Iliaia. Those where the first
steps towards democracy.
But even the laws of Solon reassured the Athenians. The poor wanted
reframing, namely re-division of the land. During this period the
nobility lost much of their old power and Peisistratos managed to
gain the support of many people and become a tyrant.
Peisistratos supported the farmers and produced numerous
projects in Athens. His sons and successors, however, Hippias and
Hipparchos , were hard to the Athenians and had no happy ending.
Hippias escaped to Persia, where he died in exile and Hipparchos was
killed by the Athenians.
With the end of the Tyranny, the Athenians start to organize
democracy. The main creator was Kleisthenes, who radically
reformed the constitution. Kleisthenes divided the Athenians in 10
races with ten municipalities each. In each race belong citizens
from various areas of Attica and thus the rich ceased to be a noble
themselves and a strong class as they mixed with other fellow
Kleisthenes gave all the power at the Ecclesia of Demos. From
that assembly were elected the 10 generals who governed not only the
military, but the state itself. The parliament of 400 of Solon was
replaced by a new parliament with 500 deputies. The members of the
new parliament where 50 Athenians from each race, selected annually
by draw. With this system all the citizens of Athens were likely to
be some day members of the parliament. The task of the parliament
was to prepare the topics to be discussed by the Ecclesia of Demos.
Kleisthenes in order to secure the new constitution, introduced the
ostracism. Every citizen was writing on a piece of broken vase
(shell) the name of a politician who could have been dangerous for
the democracy, after that they where counting the oysters and where
sending to exile for 10 years the ones who had gathered 6 thousand
shells with their name.
Thus was born in Athens, the democracy, the constitution that gives
all citizens the right and duty to participate in the governance of
the state. Democracy was one of the most significant achievements of
the ancient Greeks.
Athens lived its most glorious times during the 5th century BC
under the reign of Pericles. During this period the Golden Age of
Athens Parthenon was build. Arts , Philosophy, Drama, developed to
their highest point. Unfortunately the
Peloponnesian war between
the Athenians and Sparta gave an end to this glory.
But Athens continued to be a centre of culture and intellectual importance even
during the Roman times. On his journeys to Greece St Paul spoke to
the Athenians from the rock of Arios Pagos (Areopagos) in 44 AD .
During the reign of the Roman Emperor Hadrian , Athens became his
beloved city. Hadrian build and decorated Athens with magnificent
monuments like the Hadrian's Library. He use to say 'to the south of
Acropolis is Theseus Athens and to the north of Acropolis is
With the fall of the Roman Empire declined Athens
importance as well. During the Byzantine times Athens was a
provincial town of the Byzantine Empire. But even during this times
many Byzantine churches where build in Athens. The Crusaders invaded
the city in the 13th century until the
15th century when the city was occupied by the Turks. After the
Greek war of Independence
Athens became the Capital of Greece in
1833. Under the reign of the first king of Greece, Otto the city
extended to the north and many buildings where build from German and
HISTORY OF GREECE GREEK
THE ATHENIAN DEMOCRACY
Solon Cleisthenes Ephialtes Pericles
Pericles' speech to the Athenians during the
HELLENIC COSMOGONY Find interesting parts of the Greek mythology
MILITARY AND POLITICAL LEADERS OF
ALEXANDER THE GREAT
PERICLESTHE FATHER OF THE ATHENIAN DEMOCRACY
DEMOSTHENES GREEK PHILOSOPHERS HISTORIANS AND
THALES OF MILETUS
HOMER THE GREAT EPIC WRITER OF
SCULPTURES AND ARCHITECTS
MODERN GREEK HISTORY
ANCIENT GREEK HISTORY