The City of Athens

Athens has a long history. Humans have lived in the city for over 5,000 years and it continues to be the capital of Greece. In ancient Greece, Athens was a city-state.

A city-state was a big town that controlled the land around it. In Greece, there were over 33 different city-states that people could live in.

Historians think Athens was the oldest city in ancient Greece. It was one of the most powerful.

It was built in a place called Attica on mainland Greece and was near the coast.

This meant it could trade with people throughout the Mediterranean.

The Birthplace

Athens was the birthplace of democracy and was the first place to give all free male citizens the right to vote.

It sounds impressive, but there were few real citizens in ancient Greece.

The only people considered citizens were rich men from noble families. Poor men, women, and all of the Greek slaves could not vote.

Athens was also the home of many great Greek thinkers and builders.

Famous People

Philosophers like Aristotle, Plato, and Socrates all came from Athens and made the Greeks think about what their lives meant and how humans should behave.

Modern people still use their ideas to try to explain the world around them and how humans think. Many famous doctors, writers, and poets also came from Athens.

Athens was the protected city of the goddess Athena. Athena was believed to be the goddess of wisdom and war.

She had a temple in the center of the city and was represented by the image of an owl and olive branches.

The famous Temple of Athena still exists today and is called the Parthenon.

Citizens of Athens would go to the temple on important holidays and perform rituals to keep the goddess happy.

They believed that, if Athena was happy, then Athens would have good luck.


Athens’s enemy was Sparta. While Athens was known for its intellectual inventions like democracy and ethics, Sparta was known for its military and warriors.

Athens and Sparta frequently fought with each other and tried to take each other’s land.

The biggest conflict between Athens and Sparta was the Peloponnesian War (431–404 BCE). Sparta and the other city-states were tired of Athens pushing them around and taking all of the trade on the seas that surrounded Greece.

They declared war and eventually defeated Athens. Athens was forced to give up its trade routes and navy.

However, some of Athens’ enemies during the Peloponnesian War then decided they didn’t like Sparta and became friends with Athens.

Athens, Thebes, and Corinth fought Sparta and managed to win for a short time. Athens once again had power but would not keep it for long.

Athens lost its position when a king named Philip II of Macedon defeated all of the Greek city-states and forced them to work together.

His son, Alexander the Great, made the empire so large that city-states were no longer important. Athens continued to be a big center for culture and art but no longer had any political power around 338 BCE.

Facts about Ancient City of Athens

  • Athens held the first Olympic games in 776 BCE
  • Voters could banish politicians from the city for 10 years if they didn’t like them
  • All men under the age of 50 had to be in the military for 1 year
  • Most people in Athens had slaves
  • Slaves formed 25% of the Athenian population
  • Sparta refused to capture and sell the Athenians as slaves because Athens represented Greek ideals
  • Athens is still the capital of Greece
  • Athens was the birthplace of modern medicine and history
  • Athens had the one of the youngest marrying ages for women at 13-14

Questions and Answers

Where was Athens in Greece?


What was Athens famous for?

It’s culture and knowledge

Who could vote in Athens?

Free male citizens

Which three philosophers came from Athens?

Aristotle, Plato, and Socrates

Who was Athens’ enemy?


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