Early Origins of Athens, Greece

Early Origins of Athens, Greece

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Early origins of Athens, Greece can be traced back as early as 7000 B.C.E. It is unclear if the name is derived from
the Goddess Athena, or if the goddess was named after the city. In the center of the city is the Acropolis,
a high, rocky plateau overlooking the Mediterranean sea. This site was most likely chosen for settlement due to its
natural defenses inland, surrounded by mountains, with the acropolis protecting settlers from seaside attacks. Because of
the rocky terrain, no large-scale agriculture was possible. The smaller farms weren't large enough to support the growing population.
Athenians relied mainly on fishing and trading with neighboring civilizations. The city differentiated itself from neighboring city-states
by becoming an epicenter for the arts during the classical era. The Athenians praised individuality, providing the roots of democracy that
still dominates the world today.

In 600 B.C.E. Greek polis, also known as city-states were mostly ruled by the wealthy owners of large groups of land.
In Athens, an increasingly rough terrain and importing goods pushed most small, independent farmers into debt, widening the gap
between the wealthy merchants and the poorer local farmers. Social dispute ensued as more independent farmers sold
their land, or were forced into slavery to cover their growing financial debts. A free thinking statesman and land-owner,
Solon was elected to create a reform of laws that would later set the stage for democracy. His reform included a lottery assembly of
400 men to vote and serve as a jury, abolishing the rule of the wealthy. Women and foreigners were excluded
from this lottery drawing, citizenship was determined by bloodline and not land ownership. Under this new reform of
laws, slavery for agricultural debs was terminated, as was the incurring debt. During assembly, current laws were under review and revisement,
and new laws were passed by popular vote. Officials were elected and dismissed. Court trials, jury, and appeals were also done by
citizen vote. The assembly was held monthly with citizens rotating in and out with each lottery. This new system equalized
the power between the noble and poorer classes. A later reform began to include more wealthy foreigners who owned land to
participate in the assembly and citizenship was granted. Although free women were not permitted to participate in the assembly, they
were allowed to own land and slaves. The day to day duties of women in early Athens was limited to child-rearing and domestic
duties. In early 500 B.

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C.E. Cleisthenes was elected by popular vote to advocate strengthening citizen involvement in Athenian politics. Athenians
prided themselves on participation in politics. Men of eligible age who did not participate were treated as inferior.
This new program was called demokratia, meaning 'ruled by all'. His council of 500 elected men replaced the former 400. All Athenian males
over 30 were eligible to participate. The city-state Athens was divided into 10 tribes. Fifty men from each tribe were selected for a term of one
year, as a system of balance to limit the power of each tribe. The day to day duties of the council involved foreign legislation, rent collection,
and the daily operations of the city. Men were allowed a maximum of two terms, and were paid a salary for their service. In 460 B.C.E.
Pericles gained political favor and the Assembly of 500 was yet again reformed. He was a patron of the arts and allocated funds for building
great buildings such as the Parthenon, and giving poor peasants free admissions to theater plays. He instituted a salary for serving on
the jury and provided more jobs for Athenians. His belief was that the people of Athens should be governed by aristoi, or the best man.
It was his belief that citizens should be elected to serve on their merit, not by their wealth or native origin. New laws allowed women and slaves
to be represented by their patrons during assembly. By 430 B.C.E. democracy was all but vanished as an aristocracy replaced Solon's original idea
of one city-state ruled by all.

Although Athens is most famous for its democratic roots, it also participated in the first Olympic games. The games began in 776 B.C.E. until
394 A.D. and although the games originated in Greece and was only attended by Greek citizens, its growing populartiy eventually allowed
participants from countries as far away as Spain and Turkey to attended. The athletic competition
began as a one day religious festival and athletic contest in honor of Zeus. In early times, winners were rewarded on the last day with red arm bands
as a symbol of victory and crowned with an olive leaf wreath. No monetary compensation was given. The victor of the Olympics was said to become immortalized
and recieve a legendary god-like status. Participation in the early games was exclusively male, only slaves were unable to enter. The games became so popular
that it was extended to a five day competition and new events and buildings were added. Attendance was open to all but married women. It began as a one stade; a
192 meter foot race. In 708 B.C.E. it became and remained a pentathalon of running,pankration, chariot races, discus throw, jumping,and boxing;
until 394 A.D. when the games were stopped. In 1806 the Olympics was re-born and hosted in Athens at the Pentathenaic Stadium. The games take place every
four years.

Works Cited

Mark, Joshua J. "Athens." Ancient History Encyclopedia. N.p., 28 Apr. 2011. Web. 08 Apr. 2014.
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