35 Facts About Ancient Athens


Ancient Athens is one of the oldest named cities in the world, having been continuously inhabited for perhaps 5, 000 years.

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Name of Ancient Athens, connected to the name of its patron goddess Athena, originates from an earlier Pre-Greek language.

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The origin myth explaining how Ancient Athens acquired this name through the legendary contest between Poseidon and Athena was described by Herodotus, Apollodorus, Ovid, Plutarch, Pausanias and others.

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One of the most important religious sites in ancient Athens was the Temple of Athena, known today as the Parthenon, which stood on top of the Acropolis, where its evocative ruins still stand.

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Ancient Athens has been inhabited from Neolithic times, possibly from the end of the fourth millennium BC, or over 5, 000 years.

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Unlike other Mycenaean centers, such as Mycenae and Pylos, it is unclear whether Ancient Athens suffered destruction in about 1200 BC, an event traditionally attributed to a Dorian invasion.

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Iron Age burials, in the Kerameikos and other locations, are often richly provided for and demonstrate that from 900 BC onwards Ancient Athens was one of the leading centres of trade and prosperity in the region; as were Lefkandi in Euboea and Knossos in Crete.

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The most famous king of Ancient Athens was Theseus, a prominent figure in Greek Mythology who killed the Minotaur.

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Ancient Athens preserved the Solonian Constitution, but made sure that he and his family held all the offices of state.

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In 499 BC, Ancient Athens sent troops to aid the Ionian Greeks of Asia Minor, who were rebelling against the Persian Empire.

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The city of Ancient Athens was twice captured and sacked by the Persians within one year after Thermopylae.

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Resentment felt by other cities at the hegemony of Ancient Athens led to the Peloponnesian War, which began in 431 BC and pitted Ancient Athens and its increasingly rebellious overseas empire against a coalition of land-based states led by Sparta.

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The conflict was a drawn out one that saw Sparta control the land while Ancient Athens was dominant at sea, however the disastrous Sicilian Expedition severely weakened Ancient Athens and the war eventually ended in an Athenian defeat following the Battle of Aegospotami which ended Athenian naval supremacy.

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Ancient Athens remained a wealthy city with a brilliant cultural life, but ceased to be a leading power.

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Ancient Athens joined Aetolia and Thessaly in facing their power, known as the Lamian War.

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Ancient Athens had a central role in the struggle for his succession, when Antipater's son, Cassander, secured the Piraeus leaving Ancient Athens without a source of supplies, to contest Antipeter's successor, Polyperchon.

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Under Roman rule, Ancient Athens was given the status of a free city because of its widely admired schools.

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Ancient Athens remained a centre of learning and philosophy during its 500 years of Roman rule, patronized by emperors such as Nero and Hadrian.

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The sack of the city by the Herules in 267 and by the Visigoths under their king Alaric I in 396, however, dealt a heavy blow to the city's fabric and fortunes, and Athens was henceforth confined to a small fortified area that embraced a fraction of the ancient city.

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City was threatened by Saracen raids in the 8th–9th centuries—in 896, Ancient Athens was raided and possibly occupied for a short period, an event which left some archaeological remains and elements of Arabic ornamentation in contemporary buildings—but there is evidence of a mosque existing in the city at the time.

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Almost all of the most important Middle Byzantine churches in and around Ancient Athens were built during these two centuries, and this reflects the growth of the town in general.

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From 1204 until 1458, Ancient Athens was ruled by Latins in three separate periods, following the Crusades.

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Ancient Athens was initially the capital of the eponymous Duchy of Ancient Athens, a fief of the Latin Empire which replaced the Byzantine Empire, ruling from Constantinople.

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In 1311, Ancient Athens was conquered by the Catalan Company, a band of mercenaries called Almogavars.

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Ancient Athens was a vegueria with its own castellan, captain, and veguer.

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Finally, in 1458, Ancient Athens was captured by the Ottomans under the personal leadership of Sultan Mehmed II.

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Ancient Athens produced some notable intellectuals during this era, such as Demetrius Chalcondyles, who became a celebrated Renaissance teacher of Greek and of Platonic philosophy in Italy.

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Ancient Athens adopted the Greek spelling of his name, King Othon, as well as Greek national dress, and made it one of his first tasks as king to conduct a detailed archaeological and topographical survey of Athens, his new capital.

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Ancient Athens assigned Gustav Eduard Schaubert and Stamatios Kleanthis to complete this task.

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At that time, Ancient Athens had a population of only 4, 000 to 5, 000 people in a scattering of houses at the foot of the Acropolis, located in what today covers the district of Plaka.

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Ancient Athens was chosen as the Greek capital for historical and sentimental reasons.

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Ancient Athens experienced its second period of explosive growth following the disastrous Greco-Turkish War in 1921, when more than a million Greek refugees from Asia Minor were resettled in Greece, after the Asia Minor Catastrophe in 1922.

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Ancient Athens was occupied by the Axis during World War II and experienced terrible privations during the later years of the war.

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Ancient Athens had some of the worst traffic congestion and air pollution in the world at that time.

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The 2008 Greek Riots began in Ancient Athens following the killing of a 15-year old student by an officer.

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