The History of Athens is one of the longest of any city in Europe and in the world. Athens has been continuously inhabited for over 3,000 years, becoming the leading city of Ancient Greece in the first millennium BC
One of the most important religious sites in ancient Athens was the Temple of Athena, known today as the Parthenon, which stood a top the Acropolis, where its evocative ruins still stand. Two other major religious sites, the Temple of Hephaestus (which is still largely intact) and the Temple of Olympian Zeus or Olympeion (once the largest temple in Greece but now in ruins) also lay within the city walls.
By the 8th century BC Athens had re-emerged, by virtue of its central location in the Greek world, its secure stronghold on the Acropolis and its access to the sea, which gave it a natural advantage over potential rivals such as Thebes and Sparta. From early in the 1st millennium, Athens was a sovereign city-state, ruled at first by kings (see Kings of Athens). The kings stood at the head of a land-owning aristocracy known as the Eupatridae (the “well-born”), whose instrument of government was a Council which met on the Hill of Ares, called the Areopagus. This body appointed the chief city officials, the archons and the polemarch (commander-in-chief).
During this period Athens succeeded in bringing the other towns of Attica under its rule. This process of synoikismos – bringing together in one home – created the largest and wealthiest state on the Greek mainland, but it also created a larger class of people excluded from political life by the nobility. By the 7th century BC social unrest had become widespread, and the Areopagus appointed Draco to draft a strict new lawcode (hence “draconian”). When this failed, they appointed Solon, with a mandate to create a new constitution (594).
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