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Athens (Greek: ΑθήΝαι) was an ancient Greek polis, a city-state in Attica, which played a leading role in the history of Ancient Greece along with Sparta from the 5th century BC. In Ancient Athens, democracy was formed, philosophy and the art of theater received classical forms.

The emergence of the Athenian state was a typical example of the formation of the state in its pure form, without the influence of external and internal violence and directly from the tribal society. According to the Athenian tradition, the polis emerged as a result of the so-called sinoikism-the unification of separate tribal communities of Attica around the Acropolis of Athens. Ancient Greek tradition ascribes Sinoikism to the semi-mythical king Theseus, son of Aegeus (according to tradition, around the XIII century BC; in reality, the process of Sinoikism took place over several centuries from the beginning of the 1st millennium BC). Theseus is credited with introducing the most ancient system of the Athenian community, dividing its population into Eupatrids, geomorians and demiurges. Gradually, large land plots were concentrated in the hands of the ancestral aristocracy (that is, Eupatrids), most of the free population (small land owners) became dependent on it; debt bondage grew. Insolvent debtors were responsible to creditors not only for their property, but also for their personal freedom and the freedom of their family members. Debt bondage was one of the sources of slavery, which was already developing significantly. Along with the slaves and free people in Athens, there was an intermediate layer — the so — called Meteks-who were personally free, but deprived of political and some economic rights. The old division of the demos into philae, phratries, and genera was also preserved. Athens was governed by nine archons, who were elected annually from among the aristocrats, and the Areopagus, a council of elders, which was supplemented by archons who had already served their term of office.

Map of Ancient Athens

Theseus ' Sinoikism

"Sinoikism of Theseus" — the formation of a single Athenian polis. Social struggle in Attica in the seventh and early sixth centuries BC

The region of Attica was located in Central Greece: its soil was sparsely fertile, there was not enough bread of its own, but there were some minerals (clay, marble, silver in the south in Lavrion) and, most importantly, several convenient harbors for navigation. During the Mycenaean period, there were several independent settlements here, although there may have been some consolidation, which is reflected in the legend of the "Sinoikism of Theseus": the legendary hero allegedly united the isolated rural communities of Attica (Cecropus Duodenum) around the Acropolis of Athens. In fact, the process of consolidation of the Attic settlements went on for several centuries and ended centuries after the era of this mythical hero (c. XIII century BC) - in the VII century BC, when Eleusis was annexed to the Athenian polis.

Sinoikism (Greek. "live together" — - the association of several primary communities (usually rural or in some cases territorial-generic) into a larger entity, one of the ways to form an ancient polis. The process could be either voluntary or compulsory (forced submission): the common origin, language, cultural and religious unity of neighboring communities made it possible in most cases to dispense with the first option.

Eupatrids (Greek. "descended from noble fathers") — the ancestral nobility in Athens.

Athens was once ruled by kings, but gradually the basileus king was stripped of all important functions; royal power was placed under the control of the aristocracy, and then completely abolished. The only thing that reminded me of it was that one of the members of the highest official board (the board of archons) was the archon Basileus. Archons were chosen, apparently, at first for life, but later for a year. There were nine of them in total. Originally three: archon-eponym (gave the name of the year), archon-basileus (performed the duties of the high priest), archon-polemarch (commanded the militia), in the VII century BC. added six Thesmophet archons-guardians of laws and customs. Legal proceedings were then entirely in the hands of the archons, and the Thesmophetes probably tried cases that went beyond the competence of other archons. The former archons sat in the aristocratic council, which was located on the hill of Ares near the Acropolis and therefore called the Areopagus. The Areopagus in the first centuries of the Archaic period, having control, judicial and legislative functions, was in fact the highest authority in the Athenian state. The People's Assembly, if it met, was irregular, and did not have much power.

As in other Greek communities, Attica was undergoing a process of social and property differentiation. The first social division was again attributed by tradition to Theseus: Eupatrids — the landowning aristocracy, demos — the common people, peasants and demiurges-artisans. Athens did not escape the social upheavals that often occurred during the era of the "archaic revolution". The first signs of social unrest date back to the mid-seventh century BC. e. The Athenian aristocrat Kilo tried to seize power in Athens and become a tyrant. Kilon was an Olympian and counted on his popularity as the winner of the Olympic Games. The event that went down in history as the "Kilonova turmoil" occurred, according to most modern historians, in 632 BC. e. The coup failed, the Athenians did not support it, and Kilon and like-minded people took refuge in the acropolis. The Athenians began to besiege the rebels, Kilo secretly disappeared, while the rest, suffering from hunger, sat down at the altar of the goddess Athena as supplicants. The besiegers, in order not to desecrate the sacred place with corpses, offered the starving rebels to leave, promising inviolability. But when they left the altar, tying something like a thread to it, and began to descend, holding on to it, one of the leaders of the archon's besiegers, Megacles, attacked the rebels with his squad — they all died. The murder of those who prayed for divine protection was regarded as sacrilege, Megacles was condemned and exiled along with his relatives, and the "Kilon's filth"fell on the Alkmeonid family to which he belonged.

Related topics

Ancient Greece, Athenian Democracy, Solon's reforms, The oligarchic movement in Athens