The City of Athens

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Zeus Greek God

The city of Athens is one of the oldest cities in the world.

During ancient Greek times the city was the center of knowledge and culture.

Athens has a recorded history that dates back more than 3,000 years.

The ancient Greeks who lived in Athens invented many ideas and concepts like new theater, philosophies, art, architecture, and the city gave birth to a new political idea named democracy.

Each city-state in ancient Greece believed there were specific gods that protected them from harm.

The city of Athens was no different and is named after the goddess Athena.

This goddess was viewed as the patron of the city. She was powerful in wisdom, war, and creating civilization.

Government systems

Ancient Athens was ruled by an assortment of different political systems.

At times kings ruled and other times oligarchs or councils of powerful wealthy men ruled.

They were even ruled by tyrants at one point.

But for almost 100 years Athens was ruled by the people themselves with a new form of government named democracy.

Democracy was the creation of Cleisthenes who is known as the Father of Democracy.

This new political system put the people directly in charge of new laws, taxes, public projects, and government officials.

Democracy took place at the Assembly which was held on the slopes of hills.

During the Assembly any Athenian citizen could speak in favor or against a law, idea, or government official.

For an Assembly to take affect there needed to be at least 6,000 participates in the Assembly to vote.

Voting was restricted to male Athenian citizens over the age of 18 years old.

Women, slaves, and outsiders could not vote in the Assembly.

The Agora

Athens contained an area within the city known as the agora.

This was the main area for commerce and government.

The agora was a large open area or square encircled by buildings.

The buildings ranged from temples to gods like Hephaestus, Apollo, and Zeus.

There were also government buildings like the Mint where coins were made and military leaders met within the Strategeion where they planned out their war campaigns.

The agora is also where democracy took a foot hold. Citizens would gather in agora to not only buy and trade goods but to talk about new ideas, projects, and government officials.

The Agora

The Acropolis

One of the most important places in Athens is the Acropolis.

Located on a hill in the center of the city, the Acropolis was originally constructed with stone walls and used as a fortress or citadel.

The Acropolis provided a secure area within the city for people to retreat within during times of attack by enemies.

The Acropolis was also home to the Parthenon which was constructed during the Golden Age of Athens under Pericles.

This large structure was devoted to the goddess Athena and the Parthenon was used to store the cities gold. There are other temples on the Acropolis too such as temples dedicated to Athena, Erchteum, and Nike.

Acropolis of Athens

Theaters

Theater was an important part of Athenian lifestyle.

Huge amphitheaters were constructed that offered perfect acoustics and sight lines from every seat in the venue.

The ancient Greeks invented two types of new theater in comedy and tragedy.

There were festivals in Athens and playwrights would hold contests to see who wrote the best plays.

The largest theater constructed is on the slopes of the Acropolis and named the Theater of Dionysus, the god of wine, celebration and the patron god of theater.

The theater was huge and could hold 25,000 people.

Residents of Athens

The residents of Athens were composed of citizens, slaves, and non-citizens or foreigners.

Originally a citizen of Athens had to be a free male born to a father who was a citizen of Athens.

This was changed under Pericles and free males needed both their mom and father to be citizens when born.

Male citizens had more rights than female citizens in Athens. For instance, everyone had a right to stand trial but only male citizens could vote, own a business and land.

Slaves made up around 25% of the population in ancient Athens.

Slaves were mainly people captured during times of war with neighboring city-states.

They performed a variety of jobs in Athens from baking bread to making textiles to weaving cloth.

The children in Athens were generally better educated than in other city-states in ancient Greece.

Boys attended school to learn how to read and write, play musical instruments like the lyre, and they memorized poetry.

They were able to study drama and public speaking too. Wealthier sons went on to learn science, art, politics, and government work.

Girls in Athens stayed at home and learned how to be a good homemaker.

They would learn how to cook, make clothing, and run a household for a family.

Females in Athens were not allowed to leave the house without the permission of their father, husband or the eldest male in the household.

The Golden Age of Pericles

The golden Age of Pericles in Athens is important.

Pericles was a great ruler voted in by the people.

He constructed the Parthenon and many new buildings as well as theaters.

He was a champion for new architecture, art projects, and education.

Pericles would die during the Plague of Athens in 429 B.C.E.

Facts about the City of Athens

  • Athens has a written history that dates back more than 3,000 years making it one of the oldest cities in the world.
  • Athens was named after the patron goddess of the city Athena. Her symbols are an owl and olive branch.
  • The agora was a large open market area where people gathered to trade and buy goods as well as talk about ideas and politics. Democracy was also invented within the agora.
  • The most well-known building in Athens is the Parthenon which was dedicated to the goddess Athena.
  • The Acropolis in Athens sits atop a hill and was originally constructed as a fortress or citadel where residents could go during a time of attack.
  • The Assembly is where Athenian citizens would practice a new form of government called Democracy.
  • The Theater of Dionysus could hold up to 25,000 guests and offered perfect sight lines and acoustics.
  • Only male citizens in Athens were allowed to vote in the Assembly.

 

FAQ’s

What is ancient Athens famous for?

Ancient Athens was the birth place of a new form of government called Democracy. This type of government allowed the people to vote for important projects, laws, and government officials. Athens is also famous for its intellectual aspects like philosophy and science.

How did Athens get its name?

Each city-state in ancient Greece was protected by one or two gods or goddesses. Athens is named after the goddess Athena. She was the goddess of wisdom, war, and creating civilization. Her symbols are an owl and olive branch.

When was the Golden Age of Athens?

The Golden Age of Athens took place in the 5th century B.C.E. under the leadership of Pericles. He was a champion for the arts, theater, and public projects like building the Parthenon.

What is the Acropolis in Athens?

The Acropolis is a hill in the center of the city that is home to several important structures. The Acropolis is where you will find the Parthenon, the Theater of Dionysus, and numerous temples to gods and goddesses like Athena, Nike, and Erchteum.

 

What did you learn?

  1. What is the most important idea that was invented in Athens?

Democracy

  1. Which goddesses is the Parthenon dedicated to?

Athena

  1. Where did citizens of Athens go to vote?

The Assembly

  1. Who was the ruler of Athens during the Golden Age?

Pericles

  1. What percentage of the population in ancient Athens were slaves?

25%