Athens

By: Tommy Strei

Democracy

Athenians live in the most open-minded and influential city-states in Greece. They are the polar opposite of the Spartan city-state. New ideas are celebrated in Athens. Democracy was established and implemented in Athens, unlike anywhere else including Sparta. This was thanks to the first three great leaders of Athens, Draco, Solon, and Cleisthenes.


Draco was the first ruler. He established many strict and harsh rules and laws. By doing this, Draco brought Athens to order and encouraged growth. But, the Athenians grew tired of these laws. Therefore, the next great leader was brought into power, Solon. Solon repealed many of the harsh rules set in place by Draco. Solon tried to encourage economic and societal growth of Athens by creating numerous laws. He believed in a more Democratic approach, and helped found Democracy as we know it. Cleisthenes furthered the work of Solon. Without Cleisthenes, Greece would not have developed into the strong, though limited, Democratic state.

Architectural Achievement - Acropolis of Athens

The Acropolis of Athens was an immense accomplishment for the peoples of not only Athens, but Greece as a whole. It was first built in the late Bronze Age, and has since been partially destroyed, rebuilt, altered, and reconstructed. It was the only fortified sanctuary and citadel of the city-state of Athens. It still stands today, although partially, and is truly a sight to see.


The Acropolis refers to the rocky outcropping on the top of a mountain in Athens. Within the Acropolis, several important buildings were constructed. These include the Parthenon, the Old Temple of Athena, and the Erechtheum. The Theatre of Dionysus also lies close to the Acropolis, though it is not technically within its borders.

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The Persian Wars

The Persian Wars were an immense accomplishment for the Greeks as a whole, but in particular the Greeks of Athens. Initially, the Athenians sent aid to the Ionians when they were attacked by the Persians. The Persians did not like this and sent troops to attack the Athenians. The first battle occurred between the Athenians and the Persians at the Battle of Marathon. 25,000 Persians were defeated by 10,000 Athenians.


Ten years after their defeat, the Persians attacked again. This time they successfully invaded Greece, but were stopped at Thermopylae by a small Greek force. After this, a Greek fleet of ships defeated an extremely large fleet of Persian ships off of the coast of the island of Salamis. This final defeat turned Athens into the most powerful city-state in Greece. With this power, the Athenians created the Delian League, a force composed of over 140 Greek city-states. These city-states paid Athens in taxes and dues in return for protection.

Pericles

Pericles was arguably the greatest leader of Greece. He was in control during the Golden Age of Athens in Greece. The Golden Age refers to the time between the Persian and Peloponnesian wars. Pericles sought to improve the structure of government within Athens and the overall Athenian society.


Pericles aimed to strengthen Athenian democracy. He required that public offices be changed to paid positions. This way the poor could have more of a say. Next, Pericles strengthened the power of the commercial aspect of Athens. He built a stronger navy. This navy helped defend Athens and its trading network. He also financed the construction of the Parthenon upon the Acropolis in Athens. This helped to beautify the city-state, but also provided a central location within Athens.

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Sparta vs. Athens

Sparta and Athens were undeniably the two most powerful and influential city-stated of Greece. It is also undeniable that Sparta had the overwhelming military force of Greece. In fact, their entire society, economy, and culture was built up around this militant aspect. This left a lot of other sections of Spartan culture dry though, and that is how we see that Athens was the superior city-state.


Athens invited new ideas and beliefs into their society. They founded democracy. The Athenian school of thought brought many philosophers, scholars, and writers into the world that the Spartan city-state did not. This includes people like Sophocles and Aristotle, people whose names are still recognized to this day. Without the environment nurtured by Athenian belief and ideas, the world today would not be what it is. This is the reason that Athens was the superior city-state, its lasting influence on the world.