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History of Athens City

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The exciting history of Athens started approximately 6000 years ago, with the arrival of the first pre-Hellenic tribes.

According to the myths. Athens was established through the union of the scattered settlements of Attica under the initiative of king Theseus. The history of Athens was identical, from its very first day, with the history of Attica itself. The timetable that follows presents a brief picture of basic historical periods up to the present day.

Neolithic period: 6000-2800 BC

Scattered settlements lay all over Attica, but mainly on the coastline and near caves.
The residents of that period were hunters, farmers, fishermen and seamen. They were also involved in pottery and weaving.
In Athens the first signs of settlement are dated from around 4000 years ago.

Early Bronze Age: 2800-2000 BC

Several old settlements were abandoned, while at same time new ones were created, again near the coasts (for example Rafina, Agios Kosmas and Marathon).
New people arrived in Attica prefecture, The indo-europeans. Perhaps they were those that were later called Pelasgians. They were marines and merchants, which is why they preferred locations near the coasts that formed natural ports.
The Pelasgians and the other Hellenic tribes, Which tradition has it lived here prior the arrival of the Ionians, around 2000 BC, fortified the Acropolis and gave the mountains and rivers of Attica their ancient names, which have remained in use to this day: Hymettos, Ilissos, Lykabettos and so on.

Middle and Late Bronze Age: 2000-1100 BC

A new tribe settled in Attica, the Ionians. During the Mycenaean Period (1600-1100 BC ) Attica was divided into independent kingdoms. Attica population was 20000 people, according to a census conducted by king Cecrops. In the 13th century BC all of Attica’s “Demoi”(municipalities) were united, according to tradition, under king Theseus. Athens’ domination over the whole of Attica was a great importance for the subsequent flourishing of the city. At that period the 1st invasion of the Dorians took place, a new tribe that tried to invade the city but was repelled by the citizens of Athens. Modern researchers claim that this invasion never happened.

Early Geometric and Geometric Period: 1100-700 BC

After the collapse of the Mycenaen culture and the institution of monarchy, the dominant form of government became the aristocratic one. The rulers were elected from the class of the best, in other words the noblemen and landowners .Commerce flourished and created new classes, the wealthy merchants and craftsmen.


The conflicts that broke out between the classes were the reason why the the Athenians assigned Solon, in around 600 BC, to settle their differences by enacting laws. Solon divided citizens into different classes depending on their income and instituted laws that aimed at resolving the conflicts. Then followed the period of tyranny of Peisistratus. The Cleisthenes reform (508-507 BC) was a decisive importance for the establishment of democracy. Cleisthenes introduced the division of Athenian citizens into 10 tribes assumed the administration of the city.


Having assumed a dominating place among the other city-states during this period, especially after the Persian Wars (490-479 BC), Athens reached the zenith of its glory, both politically and culturally. An important role in this development was played by great men, such as Themistocles, who fortified Athens with walls, Cimon, who led the Greeks to Victory Over the Persian army and built the Long walls, and Pericles, who envisioned Athens as center of international culture. This period came to an end with the Peloponnesian war and defeat of Athens.


Athens fought against other city-states, such as Sparta and Thebes, for influence and power. The rise of Macedonia and their eventual domination in the Greek area was sealed with their victory at the battle of Chaeronea (338 BC). During the Hellenistic and Roman Period, Athens was decorated with buildings and works donated by the kings of the Hellenistic states, Roman emperors and wealthy citizens. However, it’s cultural glory gradually faded, until the recognition of Christianity as the official religion of the empire led to the closure of ancient temples and schools of philosophy and the decline of the city.


After the establishment of Constantinoupolis by Constantine the Great, Athens started to decline culturally. Emperor Theodosius II transferred important sculptures to Constantinople, while Justinian forbade the operation of philosophical schools and closed all the Ancient Greek temples. Many of those temples were changed into Christian churches or were destroyed. The city experienced relative prosperity during the 11th and 12th century, when many beautiful churches were built, many of which are preserved till the present day.

The Latin Occupation of Greece: 1204-1456 AD

Under the pretext of liberating the holy Lands from the Muslim occupation, the Franks occupied Greece and divided it amongst them. The French Dukes de la Roche and the Brienne (1204-1311) were appointed Governors of Athens, while afterwards followed a period of harsh tyranny under the Catalan rule of the Almogavares (1311-1388). Then followed a period of prosperity under the Florentine dukes Acciaiuoli (1388-1456).


The first period of the Turkish occupation was particularly harsh to Athens, especially after the Athenians’ attempt to conspire with the Acciaiuoli against the Turks. In 1687 the city, and especially the Parthenon, underwent the destructive attack of the Venetian Morosini. A Venetian bomb blew up the Parthenon (which the Ottomans used as a store house
for gunpowder), something that proved to be one of the most barbarous actions against the city. In 1688 the Venetians stopped the siege of and left, taking with them wonderful monuments in order to decorate their city. The return of the Turks resulted in an extended period of looting and the citizens fled the city and remained away for three years. After their return, Athens once again reached a population of 10,000 citizens, while travelers started to visit the city, admiring its Ancient Greek glory (especially from the 18th century onwards) and recording monuments and landscapes in engravings. In the period between 1775 – 1795 the Athenians had to endure the extremely harsh rule of the Turkish governor Hadji Ali Haseki. After a struggle that lasted for many years, Greece gained its independence with the signing of the London Protocol in 1830.

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