Brief History of Athens Greece

athensHistory of Athens

Athens was named according to the Greek mythology from competition that the goddess Athena had with Poseidon 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.

The main characteristics of Athens are quite different from those of Sparta, because despite the existence of laws and the state, the concept of the individual-citizen was important. The main concern of the legislators was to strengthen the national conscience and to protect the democratic state. At the same time, however, local freedom was encouraged and each municipality had the opportunity to decide on its local affairs, but the state intervened when it deemed it necessary. Each municipality sent its representatives to the city which was the cohesive web of the state. The national consciousness was strengthened with the creation of several festivities but also public works that increased the sense of pride of the inhabitants but also prevented social explosions, by employing to do those works the unemployed and the poor Athenians

At the same time, the existence of laws that favored equality and the creation of a humanitarian culture, enabled the Athenian citizens to emerge and evolve. This fact was unthinkable for cultures outside Greece (where everything in a person’s life was predetermined and given) and will be a significant noticeable difference of Greek culture from the rest. The Athenians were always proud to belong to the Ionians, a race that had lived in the area for a long time. The creation of the city of Athens is largely due to Theseus and the name of the Goddess Athena who prevailed over Poseidon. Nevertheless, the cities of Ionia have the avant-garde in Greece followed by Athens .

The gradual rise of Athens will begin in the middle of the 7th century BC. As in most cities, so in Athens there were  significant problems, with many people finding it difficult to cope with their obligations resulting in the conversion of several of them into slaves. While the bourgeoisie is unhappy, since although it participates in the financial burdens of the state it does not have the corresponding participation in the political events… Although there will be reactions and unrest here, it will be easier than elsewhere to move from the absolute power of the king to the oligarchic and from there in a democratic regime. So throughout the 6th century there will be laws that will protect the weak but also a gradual transition to democracy. The most important legislators were Solon in the twilight and Cleisthenes in the twilight of the sixth centuryBC.

In Athenian society it is a fact that women are subject to restrictions (with the exception of the prostitutes) who were also deprived of political rights, but they had legal rights and no one could arbitrarily harm them. Women basically stayed at home not because it was forbidden to go out of it, but because it was considered an element of dignity. Thus the informal restrictions were more applicable to the women of the nobles, while on the contrary the position of the women of the lower economic strata and especially of these rural areas was more free due to the need for agricultural hands. The women married mostly young, while the legal status of the marriage was validated by the guarantee between the bride’s master and the groom and was completed with the transfer of the bride to her new home. At the same time, the family together with the bride handed over the agreed dowry. The dowry after the wedding was still the property of the bride and the future groom could manage it, but if he wanted to divorce the bride he should have known that he would lose the dowry together…

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.