Athens: History

The Ancient Capital of Greece

Athens History

The area around modern day Athens has been inhabited for some 7000 years and Athens developed into a powerful city state in the 5th century BC, when the city’s ruler Pericles oversaw the construction of the Acropolis. Athenian democracy, literature, science and culture flourished during this golden age and the city carved out an empire in the Aegean Sea, fighting many wars with its neighbours and with the mighty Persian empire. Athens was defeated by Sparta in the Peloponnesian War, which ended in 404 BC, after which its power declined. Plato founded his academy in Athens in the 4th century BC, Socrates taught, and was executed here, and in the 2nd century BC Greece became a part of the Roman Empire. The Emperor Hadrian initiated a major building programme in Athens in the 2nd century AD – the Temple of Olympian Zeus and the Theatre of Herodes Atticus are two of the most important remaining buildings from this time. Athens was pillaged by invading Goths in the 3rd and 4th centuries AD and became a part of the Byzantine Empire until the 13th century, when the city was captured by the Franks. Athens later fell into the hands of Catalan mercenaries, Florentines and Venetians, before being captured by the Turks in1456. The Parthenon was transformed into a mosque, but Athens declined into little more than a garrison town. The Athenians rose up in rebellion against Turkish rule in 1821. After the War of Independence ended with Turkish defeat, Athens was declared the capital of the new independent state of Greece in 1834. In 1896 the first Olympic Games of the modern era were held in Athens. Athens remained a relatively small town, but after the Greek-Turkish war in Asia Minor in 1923, thousands of displaced ethnic Greek refugees settled in Athens, and the city grew very quickly. Athens was occupied by the Nazis during WWII, and the first shots of the civil war of 1946-9 between the government and communist insurgents were fired in the city. Athens expanded further over the following decades, and in 2004 Athens once again hosted the Olympics.