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Athens(ăth`ĭnz), Gr. Athínai, city (1991 pop. 2,907,179; 1991 urban agglomeration pop. 3,072,922), capital of Greece, E central Greece, on the plain of Attica, between the Kifisós and Ilissus rivers, near the Saronic Gulf. Mt. Aigáleos (1,534 ft/468 m), Mt. Parnis (4,633 ft/1,412 m), Mt. Pendelikón (3,638 ft/1,109 m), and Mt. Hymettus (3,370 ft/1,027 m) rise in a semicircle around the city. The capital of Attica prefecture, Athens is Greece's largest city and its administrative, economic, and cultural center. Greater Athens, which includes the port of PiraiévsPiraiévs
, city (1991 pop. 182,671), E central Greece, in Attica, on the Saronic Gulf; part of Greater Athens. It is the port of Athens and the chief port in Greece.
..... Click the link for more information. and numerous suburbs, accounts for most of Greece's industrial output. Manufactures include silk, wool, and cotton textiles, machine tools, steel, ships, food products, beverages, chemicals, pottery, printed materials, and carpets. Greater Athens is a transportation hub, served by rail lines, major roads, airlines, and oceangoing vessels. There is a large tourist industry. Water for the city is supplied by the Marathón reservoir (1931), formed by a dam made of Pentelic marble.
The main landmark of Athens is the acropolisacropolis
[Gr.,=high point of the city], elevated, fortified section of various ancient Greek cities.
The Acropolis of Athens, a hill c.260 ft (80 m) high, with a flat oval top c.
..... Click the link for more information. (412 ft/126 m high), which dominates the city and on which stand the remains of the ParthenonParthenon
[Gr.,=the virgin's place], temple sacred to Athena, on the acropolis at Athens. Built under Pericles between 447 B.C. and 432 B.C., it is the culminating masterpiece of Greek architecture. Ictinus and Callicrates were the architects and Phidias supervised the sculpture.
..... Click the link for more information. , the propylaeapropylaeum
, in Greek architecture, a monumental entrance to a sacred enclosure, group of buildings, or citadel. A roofed passage terminated by a row of columns at each end formed the usual type. Known examples include those at Athens, Olympia, Eleusis, and Priene.
..... Click the link for more information. , and the ErechtheumErechtheum
[for Erechtheus], Gr. Erechtheion, temple in Pentelic marble, on the Acropolis at Athens. One of the masterpieces of Greek architecture, it was constructed between c.421 B.C. and 405 B.C. to replace an earlier temple to Athena destroyed by the Persians.
..... Click the link for more information. . Occupying the southern part of Athens, the Acropolis is ringed by the other chief landmarks of the ancient city—the Pnyx, where the citizens' assemblies were held; the AreopagusAreopagus
[Gr.,=hill of Ares], rocky hill, 370 ft (113 m) high, NW of the Acropolis of Athens, famous as the sacred meeting place of the prime council of Athens. This council, also called the Areopagus, represented the ancient council of elders, which usually combined judicial
..... Click the link for more information. ; the Theseum of Hephaesteum, a well-preserved Doric temple of the 5th cent. B.C.; the old Agora and the Roman forum; the temple of Zeus or Olympieum (begun under Pisistratus in the 6th cent. B.C. and completed in the 2d cent. A.D. under Hadrian, whose arch stands nearby); the theatre of Dionysius (the oldest in Greece); and the Odeum of Herodes AtticusHerodes Atticus
(Tiberius Claudius Atticus Herodes) , c.101–c.177, Greek Sophist, rhetorician, and patron of learning, b. Marathon. A great public benefactor, he used his fortune to adorn Athens and other Greek cities. One speech, doubtfully attributed to him, is extant.
..... Click the link for more information. .
There are many Roman remains in the "new" quarter, built east of the original city walls by Emperor Hadrian (1st cent. A.D.); there the modern royal palace and gardens also stand. The stadiumstadium
, racecourse in Greek cities where footraces and other athletic contests took place. The name is the Latin form of the Greek word for a standard of length and originally referred merely to the measured length of the course.
..... Click the link for more information. is E of the Ilissus River. Parts of the ancient city walls are still visible, particularly at the Dipylon, the sacred gate on the road to Eleusis; however, the Long Walls connecting Athens and Piraiévs have almost entirely disappeared. The most noteworthy Byzantine structures are the churches of St. Theodora and of the Holy Apostles, both built in the 12th cent. Athens is the see of an archbishop who presides over the Synod of the Greek Orthodox Church. The city is the seat of the National and Capodistrian Univ. (1837), a polytechnic institute, an academy of sciences, several schools of archaeology, and many museums and libraries. The National Opera and National Library complex (2016), designed by Renzo PianoPiano, Renzo
, 1937–, Italian architect, b. Genoa. Piano attended architecture school at Milan Polytechnic, graduating in 1964. The prolific Piano has been lauded for responding to the needs of each building site rather than cleaving to a single architectural style and has
..... Click the link for more information. and Richard RogersRogers, Richard, Baron Rogers of Riverside,
1933–, British architect, b. Florence, Italy, studied Architectural Association, London (1954–59), Yale (M.Arch., 1962). With Norman Foster and two other architects he cofounded (1963) Team 4, his first firm.
..... Click the link for more information. , is located in a park in neighboring Kallithea, and a nuclear research center is at Aghia Paraskevi.
The cultural legacy of ancient Athens to the world is incalculable; to a great extent the references to the Greek heritage that abound in the culture of Western Europe are to Athenian civilization. Athens, named after its patron goddess Athena, was inhabited in the Bronze Age. Its citizens later proudly claimed that their ancestors had lived in the city even before the settlements of Attica were molded into a single state (according to legend, by TheseusTheseus
, in Greek mythology, hero of Athens; son of either King Aegeus or Poseidon. Before Aegeus left Troezen he placed his sword and sandals beneath a huge rock and told his wife Aethra that when their son, Theseus, could lift the rock he was to bring the gifts to his kingdom
..... Click the link for more information. ).
According to tradition, Athens was governed until c.1000 B.C. by Ionian kings, who had gained suzerainty over all Attica. After the Ionian kings Athens was rigidly governed by its aristocrats through the archontate (see archonsarchons
[Gr.,=leaders], in ancient Athens and other Greek cities, officers of state. Originally in Athens there were three archons: the archon eponymos (so called because the year was named after him), who was the chief officer of the state; the archon basileus,
..... Click the link for more information. ), until SolonSolon
, c.639–c.559 B.C., Athenian statesman, lawgiver, and reformer. He was also a poet, and some of his patriotic verse in the Ionic dialect is extant. At some time (perhaps c.600 B.C.) he led the Athenians in the recapture of Salamis from the Megarians.
..... Click the link for more information. began to enact liberal reforms in 594 B.C. Solon abolished serfdom, modified the harsh laws attributed to DracoDraco
, fl. 621 B.C., Athenian politician and law codifier. Of his codification of Athenian customary law only the section dealing with involuntary homicide is preserved.
..... Click the link for more information. (who had governed Athens c.621 B.C.), and altered the economy and constitution to give power to all the propertied classes, thus establishing a limited democracy. His economic reforms were largely retained when Athens came under (560–511 B.C.) the rule of the tyrant PisistratusPisistratus
, 605?–527 B.C., Greek statesman, tyrant of Athens. His power was founded on the cohesion of the rural citizens, whom he consolidated with farseeing land laws. His coup (c.560 B.C.) was probably not unpopular.
..... Click the link for more information. and his sons HippiasHippias
, tyrant (527 B.C.–510 B.C.) of Athens, eldest son of Pisistratus. Hippias governed Athens after the death of his father. His younger brother Hipparchus was closely associated in office with him until Hipparchus was assassinated in 514 B.C.
..... Click the link for more information. and HipparchusHipparchus
, c.555–514 B.C., Athenian political figure, son of Pisistratus. After the death of his father, he was closely associated with his brother Hippias, tyrant of Athens, in ruling the Athenian city-state.
..... Click the link for more information. . During this period the city's economy boomed and its culture flourished. Building on the system of Solon, CleisthenesCleisthenes,
fl. 510 B.C., Athenian statesman. He was the head of his family, the Alcmaeonidae, after the exile of Hippias, and with Spartan help had made himself undisputed ruler of Athens by 506 B.C.
..... Click the link for more information. then established (c.506 B.C.) a democracy for the freemen of Athens, and the city remained a democracy during most of the years of its greatness.
A Great City-State
The Persian WarsPersian Wars,
500 B.C.–449 B.C., series of conflicts fought between Greek states and the Persian Empire. The writings of Herodotus, who was born c.484 B.C., are the great source of knowledge of the history of the wars.
..... Click the link for more information. (500–449 B.C.) made Athens the strongest Greek city-state. Much smaller and less powerful than SpartaSparta
, city of ancient Greece, capital of Laconia, on the Eurotas (Evrótas) River in the Peloponnesus. Spartan Society
Sparta's government was headed by two hereditary kings furnished by two families; they were titular leaders in battle and in religion.
..... Click the link for more information. at the start of the wars, Athens was more active and more effective in the fighting against Persia. The Athenian heroes MiltiadesMiltiades
, d. 489 B.C., Athenian general who commanded at Marathon. He succeeded his uncle as ruler (c.524 B.C.) of an Athenian dependency in the Gallipoli Peninsula. He accompanied (c.513) Darius in the Persian expedition into Scythia.
..... Click the link for more information. , ThemistoclesThemistocles
, c.525–462 B.C., Athenian statesman and naval commander. He was elected one of the three archons in 493 B.C. In succeeding years many of his rivals were eliminated by ostracism and he became the chief figure of Athenian politics.
..... Click the link for more information. , and CimonCimon
, d. 449 B.C., Athenian general and statesman; son of Miltiades. He fought at Salamis and shared command (with Aristides) of the fleet sent to rescue the Asian Greek cities from Persian domination. From 478 to 477 he helped Aristides form the Delian League.
..... Click the link for more information. were largely responsible for building the city's strength. In 490 B.C. the Greek army defeated Persia at MarathonMarathon
, village and plain, ancient Greece, 20 mi (32 km) NE of Athens. Here the Athenians and Plataeans under Miltiades defeated a Persian army in 490 B.C. (see Persian Wars).
..... Click the link for more information. . A great Athenian fleet won a major victory over the Persians off the island of Salamis (480 B.C.). The powerful fleet also enabled Athens to gain hegemony in the Delian LeagueDelian League
, confederation of Greek city-states under the leadership of Athens. The name is used to designate two distinct periods of alliance, the first 478–404 B.C., the second 378–338 B.C.
..... Click the link for more information. , which was created in 478–477 B.C. through the confederation of many city-states; in succeeding years the league was transformed into an empire headed by Athens. The city arranged peace with Persia in 449 B.C. and with its chief rival, Sparta, in 445 B.C., but warfare with smaller Greek cities continued.
During the time of PericlesPericles
, c.495–429 B.C., Athenian statesman. He was a member of the Alcmaeonidae family through his mother, a niece of Cleisthenes. He first came to prominence as an opponent of the Areopagus (462) and as one of the prosecutors of Cimon, whom he replaced in influence.
..... Click the link for more information. (443–429 B.C.) Athens reached the height of its cultural and imperial achievement; SocratesSocrates
, 469–399 B.C., Greek philosopher of Athens. Famous for his view of philosophy as a pursuit proper and necessary to all intelligent men, he is one of the great examples of a man who lived by his principles even though they ultimately cost him his life.
..... Click the link for more information. and the dramatists AeschylusAeschylus
, 525–456 B.C., Athenian tragic dramatist, b. Eleusis. The first of the three great Greek writers of tragedy, Aeschylus was the predecessor of Sophocles and Euripides.
Aeschylus fought at Marathon and at Salamis. In 476 B.C.
..... Click the link for more information. , SophoclesSophocles
, c.496 B.C.–406 B.C., Greek tragic dramatist, younger contemporary of Aeschylus and older contemporary of Euripides, b. Colonus, near Athens. A man of wealth, charm, and genius, Sophocles was given posts of responsibility in peace and in war by the Athenians.
..... Click the link for more information. , and EuripidesEuripides
, 480 or 485–406 B.C., Greek tragic dramatist, ranking with Aeschylus and Sophocles. Born in Attica, he lived in Athens most of his life, though he spent much time on Salamis. He died in Macedon, at the court of King Archelaus.
..... Click the link for more information. were active. The incomparable Parthenon was built, and sculpture and painting flourished. Athens became a center of intellectual life. However, the rivalry with Sparta had not ended, and in 431 B.C. the Peloponnesian WarPeloponnesian War
, 431–404 B.C., decisive struggle in ancient Greece between Athens and Sparta. It ruined Athens, at least for a time. The rivalry between Athens' maritime domain and Sparta's land empire was of long standing. Athens under Pericles (from 445 B.C.
..... Click the link for more information. between Sparta and Athens began.
The war went badly for Athens from the start. The Long Walls built to protect the city and its port of Piraiévs saved the city itself as long as the fleet was paramount, but the allies of Athens fell away and the land empire Pericles had tried to build already had crumbled before his death in 429 B.C. The war dragged on under the leadership of CleonCleon
, d. 422 B.C., Athenian political leader. The son of a tanner, he had little education; nevertheless, he was a gifted speaker. He began his political career with a series of relentless attacks on Pericles. He was antagonistic to Sparta and successfully opposed (425 B.C.
..... Click the link for more information. and continued even after the collapse of the expedition against Sicily, urged (415 B.C.) by AlcibiadesAlcibiades
, c.450–404 B.C., Athenian statesman and general. Of the family of Alcmaeonidae, he was a ward of Pericles and was for many years a devoted attendant of Socrates. He turned to politics after the Peace of Nicias (421 B.C.
..... Click the link for more information. . The Peloponnesian War finally ended in 404 B.C. with Athens completely humbled, its population cut in half, and its fleet reduced to a dozen ships.
Under the dictates of Sparta, Athens was compelled to tear down the Long Walls and to accept the government of an oligarchy called the Thirty TyrantsThirty Tyrants,
oligarchy of ancient Athens (404–403 B.C.). It was created by Lysander under Spartan auspices after the Peloponnesian War. Critias and Theramenes were prominent members. It was overthrown at Piraeus (now Piraiévs) by Thrasybulus.
..... Click the link for more information. . However, the city recovered rapidly. In 403 B.C. the Thirty Tyrants were overthrown by ThrasybulusThrasybulus
, d. c.389 B.C., Athenian statesman. A strong supporter of the democratic and anti-Spartan party, he successfully opposed (411 B.C.) the oligarchical Four Hundred and later had Alcibiades recalled.
..... Click the link for more information. , and by 376 B.C. Athens again had a fleet, had rebuilt the Long Walls, had re-created the Delian League, and had won a naval victory over Sparta. Sparta also lost power as a result of its defeat (371 B.C.) by Thebes at LeuctraLeuctra
, village of ancient Greece, in Boeotia, 7 mi (11.3 km) SW of Thebes. There the Spartans were defeated (371 B.C.) by the Thebans under Epaminondas. A brilliant tactical success, the battle also dealt a severe blow to Spartan hegemony.
..... Click the link for more information. ; and, although Athens did not again achieve hegemony over Greece, it did have a short period of great prosperity and comfort.
The Decline of Athens
The growth of Macedon's power under Philip II heralded the demise of Athens as a major power. Despite the pleas by DemosthenesDemosthenes
, 384?–322 B.C., Greek orator, generally considered the greatest of the Greek orators. He was a pupil of Isaeus, and—although the story of his putting pebbles in his mouth to improve his voice is only a legend—he seems to have been forced to
..... Click the link for more information. to the citizens of Athens to stand up against Macedon, Athens was decisively defeated by Philip at Chaeronea in 338 B.C. The city did not dare dispute the mastery of Philip's son and successor, Alexander the Great. After his death Athens revolted (323–322 B.C.) against control by Macedon, but the revolt was quashed, and Athens lost its remaining dependencies and declined into a provincial city. Its last bid for greatness (266–262 B.C.) was firmly suppressed by Antigonus IIAntigonus II
(Antigonus Gonatas) , c.320–239 B.C., king of Macedon, son of Demetrius I. He took the title king on his father's death (283) but made good his claim only by defeating the Gauls in Thrace and by taking Macedon in 276.
..... Click the link for more information. , king of Macedon.
Through the troubled times of the Peloponnesian War and the wars against Philip, Athenian achievements in philosophy, drama, and art had continued. AristophanesAristophanes
, c.448 B.C.–c.388 B.C., Greek playwright, Athenian comic poet, greatest of the ancient writers of comedy. His plays, the only full extant samples of the Greek Old Comedy, mix political, social, and literary satire.
..... Click the link for more information. wrote comedies, PlatoPlato
, 427?–347 B.C., Greek philosopher. Plato's teachings have been among the most influential in the history of Western civilization. Life
After pursuing the liberal studies of his day, he became in 407 B.C. a pupil and friend of Socrates. From about 388 B.
..... Click the link for more information. taught at the Academy, AristotleAristotle
, 384–322 B.C., Greek philosopher, b. Stagira. He is sometimes called the Stagirite. Life
Aristotle's father, Nicomachus, was a noted physician. Aristotle studied (367–347 B.C.
..... Click the link for more information. compiled an incredible store of information, and Thucydides wrote a great history of the Peloponnesian War. As the city's glory waned in the 3d cent. B.C., its earlier contributions were spread over the world in Hellenistic culture.
Athens became a minor ally of growing Rome, and a period of stagnation was broken only when the city unwisely chose to support Mithradates VI of Pontus against Rome. As a result, Athens was sacked by the Roman general Sulla in 86 B.C. Nevertheless, Athens sent out many teachers to Rome and retained a certain faded glory as a moderately prosperous small city in the backwash of the empire. It remained so until the time when the Eastern Empire began to fall to the barbarians. Athens was captured in A.D. 395 by the Visigoths under Alaric I.
From Byzantine to Ottoman Rule
Athens became a provincial capital of the Byzantine Empire and a center of religious learning and devotion. Following the creation (1204) of the Latin Empire of Constantinople (see Constantinople, Latin Empire ofConstantinople, Latin Empire of,
1204–61, feudal empire established in the S Balkan Peninsula and the Greek archipelago by the leaders of the Fourth Crusade (see Crusades) after they had sacked (1204) Constantinople; also known as the empire of Romania
..... Click the link for more information. ), Athens passed (1205) to Othon de la Roche, a French nobleman from Franche-Comté, who was made megaskyr [great lord] of Athens and Thebes. His nephew and successor, Guy I, obtained the ducal title, and the duchy of Athens, under Guy I and his successors, enjoyed great prosperity while becoming thoroughly French in its institutions. In 1311 the duchy was captured by a band of Catalan soldier-adventurers who offered (1312) the ducal title to King Frederick II of Sicily, a member of the house of Aragón. Members of the house of Aragón carried the title, but Athens was in fact governed by the "Catalan Grand Company," which also acquired (1318) the neighboring duchy of Neopatras.
The French feudal culture disappeared, and Athens sank into insignificance and poverty, particularly after 1377, when the succession was contested in civil war. Peter IV of Aragón assumed sovereignty in 1381 but ruled from Barcelona. On his initiative, the devastated duchy was settled by Albanians. Athens again prospered briefly after its conquest in 1388 by Nerio I Acciajuoli, lord of Corinth, a Florentine noble. Under the Acciajuoli family's rule numerous Florentine merchants established themselves in Athens. However, the fall of the Acropolis to the Ottoman Turks in 1458 marked the beginning of nearly four centuries of Ottoman rule, and Athens once more declined. Venice, which had held Athens from 1394 to 1402, recovered it briefly from the Turks in 1466 and besieged it in 1687–88. During the siege the Parthenon, used by the Turks as a powder magazine, was largely blown up in a bombardment.
Modern Athens was constructed only after 1834, when it became the capital of a newly independent Greece. Otto IOtto I,
1815–67, first king of the Hellenes (1833–62). The second son of King Louis I of Bavaria, he was chosen (1832) by a conference of European powers at London to rule newly independent Greece. He ascended the throne under a highly unpopular regency of Bavarians.
..... Click the link for more information. , first king of the Hellenes (1832–62), rebuilt much of the city, and the first modern Olympic games were held there in 1896. The population grew rapidly in the 1920s, when Greek refugees arrived from Turkey. The city's inhabitants suffered extreme hardships during the German occupation (1941–44) in World War II, but the city escaped damage in the war and in the country's civil troubles of 1944–50.
The 1950s and 60s brought unbridled expansion. Land clearance for suburban building caused runoff and flooding, requiring the modernization of the sewer system. The Mornos River was dammed and a pipeline over 100 mi (160 km) long was built to Athens, supplementing the inadequate water supply. The development of a highway system facilitated the proliferation of automobiles, resulting in increased air pollution. This accelerated the deterioration of ancient buildings and monuments, requiring preservation and conservation programs as well as traffic bans in parts of the city. The Ellinikon airport was modernized and enlarged to accommodate increased tourism. A strong earthquake jolted the city in 1999, and in 2004 the summer Olympic games were held there again.
The Greek geographer PausaniasPausanias,
fl. A.D. 150, traveler and geographer, probably b. Lydia. His Description of Greece is an invaluable source for the topography, monuments, and legends of ancient Greece. There are translations by J. G. Frazer and W. H. S. Jones.
..... Click the link for more information. wrote an extensive description of ancient Greece. HerodotusHerodotus
, 484?–425? B.C., Greek historian, called the Father of History, b. Halicarnassus, Asia Minor. Only scant knowledge of his life can be gleaned from his writings and from references to him by later writings, notably the Suda.
..... Click the link for more information. , ThucydidesThucydides
, c.460–c.400 B.C., Greek historian of Athens, one of the greatest of ancient historians. His family was partly Thracian. As a general in the Peloponnesian War he failed (424 B.C.
..... Click the link for more information. , XenophonXenophon
, c.430 B.C.–c.355 B.C., Greek historian, b. Athens. He was one of the well-to-do young disciples of Socrates before leaving Athens to join the Greek force (the Ten Thousand) that was in the service of Cyrus the Younger of Persia.
..... Click the link for more information. , and PolybiusPolybius
, 203? B.C.–c.120 B.C., Greek historian, b. Megalopolis. As one of the leaders of the Achaean League and a friend of Philopoemen, he was influential in Greek politics.
..... Click the link for more information. were great Greek historians. Modern general works on ancient Greece include those of J. B. BuryBury, John Bagnell
, Irish historian, an authority on the Byzantine Empire. He was professor at the Univ. of Dublin from 1893 to 1902 and at Cambridge from 1902. Bury considered history a science, stressed historical continuity, and considered accident a frequent determinant in
..... Click the link for more information. and Michael RostovtzeffRostovtzeff, Michael Ivanovich
, 1870–1952, American historian, b. Kiev, Ukraine. He studied at the Univ. of St. Petersburg where he was professor of Latin and of Roman history from 1898 to 1918.
..... Click the link for more information. . See also A. H. M. Jones, Athenian Democracy (1957, repr. 1986); J. C. Hill, The Ancient City of Athens, Its Topography and Monuments (rev. ed. 1969); C. M. Bowra, Periclean Athens (1971); R. Meiggs, The Athenian Empire (1972); W. S. Ferguson, Hellenistic Athens (1986); D. Kagan, The Fall of the Athenian Empire (1987); M. H. Hansen, The Athenian Democracy in the Age of Demosthenes (tr. 1999); J. T. Roberts, The Plague of War: Athens, Sparta, and the Struggle for Ancient Greece (2017). See also bibliography under GreeceGreece,
Gr. Hellas or Ellas, officially Hellenic Republic, republic (2015 est. pop. 11,218,000), 50,944 sq mi (131,945 sq km), SE Europe. It occupies the southernmost part of the Balkan Peninsula and borders on the Ionian Sea in the west, on the Mediterranean Sea
..... Click the link for more information. .
Athens.1 City (1990 pop. 45,734), seat of Clarke co., NE Ga., on the Oconee River, in a piedmont area; inc. 1806. The city was founded as the site of the Univ. of Georgia. Its industries include poultry processing, research and development, and the manufacture of textiles, electronic goods, pharmaceuticals, and clocks and watches. Numerous Georgia statesmen have lived in Athens, and some of their houses are among the city's fine examples of classic revival style—the Howell Cobb house (1850), the T. R. R. Cobb house (1830–43), and the Joseph H. Lumpkin house (c.1845). 2 City (1990 pop. 21,265), seat of Athens co., SE Ohio, on bluffs overlooking the Hocking River, in a coal-mining area of the Appalachian foothills; inc. 1811. Printing and tool-making industries are in the city. Athens was surveyed in 1795–96 by the Ohio Company of Associates as the site of a university and was settled shortly thereafter. It is the seat of Ohio Univ. Wayne National Forest lies to the north.
(ancient Athens), the city-state (polis) in Attica that, together with Sparta, played a leading role in the history of ancient Greece. The archaeological study of Athens was begun in the 1830’s, but the excavations took on a systematic character only with the formation of French, German, and British archaeological institutes in Athens during the 1870’s and 1880’s. The literary sources and archaeological material that have been preserved are of great help in re-creating the history of the Athenian polis. The basic literary source for the history of Athens during the period of its formation as a state is Athenian Politics by Aristotle (fourth century B.C). According to Athenian traditional belief, this polis came into being as the result of the so-called synoecism—the unification of the separate clan communities of Attica around the Athenian Acropolis, where even during the Mycenaean period there existed a fortified settlement and “palace” from the 16th to the 13th centuries B.C. Ancient Greek legend attributes responsibility for this unification to King Theseus (according to tradition, around the 13th century B.C.); actually, the process of unification lasted for several centuries, starting in the first millennium B.C.
To Theseus is also attributed the introduction of the oldest structure of Athenian society, which divided its population into the eupatridae (aristocrats), geomoroi (peasants), and demiourgoi (public workers). Gradually, the clan aristocrats (the eupatridae) concentrated large landholdings in their hands, and the majority of the free population (petty landowners) became dependent upon them. A system of debt bondage arose. Insolvent debtors had to pay back their creditors not only with their possessions but also with their personal freedom and the freedom of their own families. The debt bondage system was one source of slavery, which had already developed significantly. Besides slaves and freemen, an intermediate class existed in Athens—the metics—who were personally free but were deprived of political and certain economic rights. The old division of the demos into phylae, phratries, and clans was preserved.
Athens was governed by nine archons who were elected annually from the aristocratic class and by the Areopagus—a council of elders composed of former archons. With the growth of inequality in property, socioeconomic contradictions became more profound, and the struggle grew more acute between the clan aristocracy and the demos, who were striving for equal rights, division of the land, liquidation of debts, and abolition of the debt bondage system. In the middle of the seventh century B.C. the aristocrat Cylon made an unsuccessful attempt to seize power. Around 621 B.C., during the archonship of Draco, the legal customs were first written down, thus somewhat limiting the arbitrary actions of the aristocratic judges.
In 594–593, under pressure from the common people, Solon carried out certain reforms that essentially changed the entire structure of Athenian sociopolitical life. The system of debt bondage was abolished, the further selling of citizens into slavery for debt was prohibited, land debts— which had been oppressive for the petty landowners—were eliminated, the freedom to make wills was established—this facilitated the growth of private property—and a new state organ was set up—the Council of the Four Hundred. Finally, a number of measures were implemented to extend crafts and commerce. Also attributed to Solon is the division of the citizenry into four categories according to property qualifications; the category to which a citizen belonged determined his rights and duties before the state. Nevertheless, the sociopolitical struggle did not come to an end. The reforms were unsatisfactory to both the peasants, who had not gained any reallotment of land, and to the clan aristocracy, which had lost its previous privileged position.
Around 560 B.C. there was a political revolution, and the tyranny of Pisistratus was established. He carried out policies favorable to the peasantry and the layer of tradesmen and artisans among the demos and unfavorable to the clan aristocracy. Under his rule Athens achieved great success in its foreign policy; its influence was extended to a number of islands in the Aegean Sea and was strengthened on both shores of the Hellespont. Athens grew and was beautified by new buildings and statues. A main water conduit was constructed. Under Pisistratus and his sons the best poets were invited to court.
After the death of Pisistratus in 527, power passed to his sons Hippias and Hipparchus, but, as was the case throughout Greece, tyranny did not last long. Hipparchus was murdered by conspirators, and Hippias was overthrown in 510. An effort by the clan aristocracy to seize power brought about an uprising of the common people led by Cleisthenes in 508. Their victory strengthened the reforms; the four old clan phylae were replaced by ten new ones based on territorial recognition. Two new organs of government, the Council of the Five Hundred and a board of ten strategists, were created. As a result of Cleisthenes’ reforms, the last vestiges of the clan aristocracy were abolished, and there was a culmination of the process of establishing the state as an instrument for the domination of the slave-owning class.
Athens took a leading part in the Greco-Persian Wars (500–449 B.C). Of the Greek poleis, it was the only one to support the uprising of the Ionian cities, winning a brilliant victory over the Persians at Marathon (490). Athens was also among the first to join a defensive alliance of the Greek states. The Battle of Salamis (480), which was a turning point in the war, took place on the initiative of the Athenians; in particular, it was because of them and their strategist Themistocles that the Persian fleet was completely destroyed. The role of Athens in the battles fought in 479 at Plataea and the cape of Mycale was no less significant. In the succeeding years Athens, which had become the head of the Delian League, completely took over the direction of military actions. (In fact, the Delian League was soon transformed into an Athenian maritime power—an Athenian empire.) At this time Athens entered the period of its greatest supremacy. Piraeus, the port of Athens, became the trading crossroad for many countries in the ancient world.
The state structure was an ancient slave-owning democracy, which at that time was the most progressive type. It was based on well-developed craft, commerce, and sea trade and existed within a situation of sharp conflict between the oligarchic group—led by Aristides and then by Cimon—and the democratic group—led by Themistocles and later by Ephialtes and Pericles. It reached its peak under Pericles, who was a strategos from 444 or 443 to 429. Supreme power was transferred to the Popular Assembly, and all other organs were made subordinate to it. Legal cases were tried in a court of jurors (the Heliaea), whose members were chosen by lot from the citizenry. Funds were allotted for carrying out state functions, which were decided by a vote of the people; these funds were paid out of the state treasury. This policy made possible the political participation of citizens with low incomes. The theoricon, whereby citizens were given money to attend the theater, was also established. The growing expenses for these state rolls were covered by a tax called the phoros, which had to be paid regularly by allied cities that were members of the empire.
During the second half of the fifth century B.C., Athens reached its greatest cultural flowering (the so-called Golden Age of Pericles). Important scholars, artists, and poets lived and worked in Athens—for example, the historian Herodotus, the philosopher Anaxagoras, the sculptor Phidias, the poets Aeschylus, Sophocles, and Euripides, and the writer of comedies Aristophanes. The Athenians’ political and legal eloquence was imitated by orators from all the Greek cities. The language used by Athenian writers—an Attic dialect—received universal acceptance and became the literary language of the Hellenes. In Athens an enormous amount of building was done. Piraeus was redesigned according to a plan by Hippodamus, and the so-called long walls were connected with the fortified hills so that they formed a single defensive unit. Construction was also completed on the principal structures of the Acropolis, a masterpiece of world architecture. The Parthenon (built 447–438; architects Ictinus and Callicrates), the statues of Phidias, and other works of fifth-century Athenian fine art have served as models for artists throughout the centuries.
However, the Golden Age lasted a comparatively short time. The prosperity of the Athenian citizens was based not only on the exploitation of slaves but also on the exploitation of people from the allied cities. This gave rise to continual conflicts within the Athenian Empire. These conflicts were aggravated by Athens’ unrestrained striving to extend its sphere of political and economic domination, which led to confrontations with another group of Greek poleis, in which the oligarchic order predominated—the Peloponnesian League, headed by Sparta. In the final analysis the antagonisms between these groups led to the Peloponnesian War (431–404). After being defeated, Athens forever lost its leading position in Greece. During the first half of the fourth century B.C., it managed at times to improve its position and even achieved some successes. Thus, during the Corinthian War (395–387), Athens, which was supported to a large extent by Persian subsidies, managed to reconstruct its fleet and restore the fortifications around the city (which had been torn down in accord with the terms of surrender of 404). In 378 and 377 the Athenian alliance was received, although in a limited form, but it did not survive long. After the defeat at Chaeronea (338) of an anti-Macedonian coalition headed by the Athenian political leader Demosthenes, Athens was forced into subordination to Macedonian hegemony, as were the other Greek poleis.
During the Hellenistic period, when Greece became the arena of combat among the large Hellenic states, the position of Athens changed several times. There were short periods when Athens managed to achieve relative independence, but there were times when Macedonian garrisons were stationed there. In 146 B.C., sharing the fate of all Greece, Athens fell under Roman rule; it found itself in the position of being an allied city (civitasfoederata), which enjoyed only a fictitious freedom. In 88, Athens joined the anti-Roman movement begun by Mithridates VI Eupator, the king of Pontus. In 86 the army of Cornelius Sulla captured Athens by storm and sacked the city. Out of respect for its past, Sulla preserved the fictitious freedom of Athens. In 27, after the formation of the Roman province of Achaea, Athens became a part of that. Beginning in the third century A.D., when Balkan Greece began to be invaded by barbarians, Athens went into a decline.
REFERENCESEngels, F. “Proiskhozhdenie sem’i, chastnoi sobstvennosti i gosudarstva.” Chapter 5. In K. Marx and F. Engels, Soch., 2nd ed., vol. 21.
Buzeskul, V. P. Afinskaia politiia Aristotelia kak istochnik (Ilia istorii gosudarstvennogo stroia Afin do kontsa V v. Kharkov, 1895.
Zhebelev, S. A. Iz istorii Afin (229–231B.C.). St. Petersburg, 1898.
Kolobova, K. M. Drevnii gorod Afiny i ego pamiatniki.Leningrad, 1961.
Zel’in, K. K. Bor’ba politicheskikh gruppirovok v Attike v VI v. do n.e. Moscow, 1964.
Dovatur, A. Politika i politii Aristotelia. Moscow-Leningrad, 1965.
Wiliamowitz-Moellendorff, U. von. Aristoteles und Athen, vols. 1–2. Berlin, 1893.
De Sanctis, G. Storia delta Republica atheniense, 2nd ed. Turin, 1912.
Ferguson, W. S. Hellenistic Athens.London, 1911.
Day, J. An Economic History of Athens Under Roman Domination. New York, 1942.
D. P. KALLISTOV
(Greater Athens), the capital of Greece and the political, economic, and cultural center of the country.
The name “Athens” was linked by the ancient Greeks to that of the goddess Pallas Athena, considered the city’s protectress. Athens is located on the Attica Peninsula, close to the shores of the Aegean Sea, on a plain watered by the Cephissus River and its tributary stream, the Ilissus. The plain is intersected by a chain of limestone hills, the principal peaks of which—the Acropolis (c. 125 m) and Mount Lycabettus (c. 275 m)—dominate the city. The plain is surrounded on three sides by mountains and opens onto the Saronic Gulf.
The climate is typically Mediterranean, with dry hot summers and rainy winters. The average temperature in July is 27° C and in January is 9° C; during the winter, however, there may be a few slight frosts and, in rare instances, snow.
At a distance of 8 km from Athens lies Piraeus, the country’s largest seaport, which has actually merged with the capital.
In Athens the population has grown as follows: 14,900 in 1839; 112,000 in 1896; 293,000 in 1920; 481,000 in 1940; and 628,000 in 1961. Greater Athens, including Piraeus and the suburbs, occupies an area of 433.28 sq km; in 1961 it had a population of 1,852,700, more than 20 percent of the entire population of Greece.
Municipal government. The organ of self-government in Athens is the municipal council, elected by the population for a term of four years; it is composed of 31 members. The mayor of Athens and the council are elected together. There is also a municipal commission, consisting of three or four members, which is elected by the council. The commission is headed by the mayor and deals principally with problems of city finance.
Historical information. The exact date of the founding of Athens has not been established. According to tradition, the first settlement on the site of present-day Athens appeared in the 16th—13th centuries B.C. Athens was a very large economic, political, and cultural center of ancient Greece; it was a city-state in Attica. In 146 B.C., Athens fell under Roman domination. From the fourth century A.D. to 1204 it was part of the Byzantine Empire. From 1204 to 1458, Athens was the capital of the Duchy of Athens, and in 1458 it was captured by the Turks. Since the time of the Greek national liberation revolution (1821–29), Athens has been the administrative as well as the cultural and political center of Greece; since 1834 it has been the capital. On Apr. 27, 1941, it was occupied by German fascist invaders. The population of Athens undertook a struggle against the occupying forces. On Oct. 13, 1944, the city was liberated by ELAS—the army of the Greek National Liberation Front. Since the military-fascist coup of Apr. 21, 1967, Athens has become the principal center of the struggle of democratic forces against the dictatorial regime.
Economic sketch. Athens has grown economically since the second half of the 19th century. The proclamation of Athens as the capital and the rise of the city’s “capital functions,” as well as the appearance of industry in the city, transformed Athens, under conditions of intensive rural overpopulation in Greece, into the largest center to which the population was drawn. The growth of Athens was facilitated by its convenient geographic location near the crossing of the country’s principal north-south land routes and its east-west maritime routes (including the Corinth Canal). The location of Greater Athens near the sea opened up possibilities for expanding foreign trade. An important stimulus to population growth was the resettlement there of Greek refugees during the first quarter of the 20th century, after the Greco-Turkish War of 1919–22.
Greater Athens is a very important transportation center; the railroads and highways to Salonika and to the peninsulas of Peloponnesos, Lavrion, and Piraeus (Greece’s “gateway to the sea”), as well as the Athens airport at Hellinikon, are all of international importance. In 1961 more than half of those employed in the processing industry of the whole country were concentrated within Greater Athens. The capital’s industries consume about 80 percent of all the electric power produced and provide approximately 70 percent of the total Greek industrial output. Textile, garment, shoe and leather, food, metalworking.and metallurgical, chemical, printing, and other industrial enterprises are located in Great-er Athens. During the postwar years new installations sprang up in the environs of Athens—for example, the oil refinery at Aspropirgos, which refines more than 2.5 million tons of petroleum per year; the shipyard at Skaramagas; and the metallurgical plant at Eleusis. Greater Athens is the country’s largest trade, distribution, and financial center; through it passes 70 percent of the country’s imports and 40 percent of its exports. The two largest banks in Athens—the National and the Ionic-Trade—are the principal Greek banks.
Architecture. The combination of the great monuments of antiquity, the landmarks of the Byzantine Middle Ages, and the districts of new construction gives Athens a unique architectural appearance. The spontaneous development of the ancient city had taken place by the end of the seventh century B.C. The rocky hill of the Acropolis, the historical core of the city, became a cult center. The Agora (southwest of the Acropolis) and the Areopagus and Pnyx Hills (west of the Acropolis) were the centers of social and political life.
Most of the monuments of ancient art are situated on the Acropolis or near it. During the time of Pericles (444/443–429 B.C.) the principal structures of the Acropolis were built, and this citadel, which had been devastated by the Persians, was transformed into one of the most splendid architectural complexes in the world. The basis of this complex is a free design joining elements of symmetry and asymmetry and sequentially unfolding a series of architectural panoramas before the viewer. The general director of the construction of the Acropolis during the rule of Pericles was Phidias. The most important monuments of the Acropolis are the Prop-ylaea, which served as a processional entrance (437–432 B.C, architect Mnesicles); the temple of Nike Apteros, located on a projection of the fortress wall in front of the Propylaea (completed c. 420 B.C., architect Callicrates); the Erechtheum (421–406 B.C.); and the Parthenon, the principal structure of the Acropolis (447–438 B.C., architects Ictinus and Callicrates). The sculptural decoration of the Parthenon was completed by 432 B.C. by masters of Phidias’ circle.
Within the city are a considerable number of structures in varying degrees of preservation that date back to ancient Greek and Roman times—the temple of Olympian Zeus (begun in 175–164 B.C. by the architect Cossutius and completed in 129–132 A.D.), the Hephaesteum (second half of the fifth century B.C), the choragic monument of Lysicrates (c. 335 B.C), the Tower of the Winds (middle of the first century B.C.), and the cemetery monument to Philopappus (114–116 A.D.). Near the Dipylon—the main gate of ancient Athens—is the Dipylon necropolis, with tombstones dating back to the fifth and fourth centuries B.C.
From the Middle Ages principally church architecture of the Byzantine period has survived; examples are the Church of St. Eleuthere (11th century) and the Church of the Holy Apostles in the Agora (11th century).
Regular city planning of the 19th century, which included the main squares (Syntagma and Omonia) and streets (Panepistimiou, Stadiou, and Patission), was based on a design proposed in 1832 by the architect S. Kleanthis and the German architect E. Schaubert and revised by the German architect L. Klenze”. In this new center of the city the following public buildings were erected in the neoclassical style: the old royal palace, which is now the Parliament building (1834–38, the work of the German architect F. Gärtner with the participation of L. Klenze); the National Library (1832) and the university (1837—both by the Danish architect H. Hansen); and the Academy of Sciences (1859, by the Danish architect T. E. Hansen, completed in 1885). Housing before the beginning of the 20th century consisted mainly of one-, two-, or three-story, single-family dwellings (the architects included S. Kleanthis, L. Kautatzoglou, and E. Koumeles).
Present-day Athens is being built according to a strictly geometric design and is growing in all directions from the central streets. Among the major buildings of the 20th century are the Hilton Hotel (1959–63, architects P. Vassiliades, E. Vourekas, and S. Staikos), and the US Embassy building (1957–61, by a group of American architects headed by W. Gropius).
Educational, scientific, and cultural institutions. Athens has a university, a polytechnical institute, colleges of commerce and political science, the Academy of Sciences, and the Architectural Scientific Research Institute.
The principal museums are the National Archaeological Museum (founded in 1874), the Acropolis Museum (opened in 1878), the Agora Museum (founded in 1956), the Byzantine Museum (founded in 1914), the National Picture Gallery (founded in 1900), the Benaki Museum (founded in 1931), and the Ceramic Museum.
REFERENCESGregorovius, F. Istoriia goroda Afin v srednie veka. St. Petersburg, 1900. (Translated from German.)
Tiurina, L. U podnozhiia Akropolia. Moscow, 1965.
Kolobova, K. M. Drevnii gorod Afiny i ego pamiatniki. Leningrad, 1961.
Sidorova, N. A. Afiny. Moscow, 1967.