Speedwagon Allies: Tonpetty Dire Straizo. Athens began as a small, Mycenaen community and grew to become a city that, at its height, epitomized the best of Greek virtues and enjoyed such prestige that the Spartans refused to sack the city or enslave the citizens, even after Athens' defeat in the Peloponnesian War.
This set a model that would be followed by future conquerors who would defeat Athens but not destroy it. Evidence of human habitation on the Acropolis and, below, in the area around the Agora , dates back clearly as far as BCE and, probably, as early as BCE. According to legend, the Athenian King Cecrops named the city after himself but the gods, seeing how beautiful it was, felt it deserved an immortal name.
A contest was held among the gods on the Acropolis, with Cecrops and the citizenry looking on, to determine which deity would win the honor. Poseidon struck a rock with his trident and, as water gushed forth, he assured the people that now they would never suffer drought. Athena was next in line and dropped a seed into the earth which sprouted swiftly as an olive tree. The people thought the olive tree more valuable than the water as, according to some versions of the story, the water was salty, as was Poseidon's realm and Athena was chosen as patron and the city named for her.
As the soil was not conducive to large-scale agricultural programs, Athens turned to trade for its livelihood and, mainly, to sea trade. The early Mycenaean period c. The remains of a Mycenaean palace can still be seen today on the Acropolis. Homer 's Iliad and Odyssey portray the Mycenaeans as great warriors and seafaring people, and there is no doubt they traded widely throughout the Aegean and Mediterranean region.
While the Sea Peoples made definite incursions into Attica the mainland region surrounding Athens the Dorians by-passed the city, allowing the Mycenaean culture to survive although, like the rest of Greece, there seems to have been an economic and cultural downturn following these invasions.
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The Athenians, afterward, claimed for themselves a special status in that they spoke Ionian, instead of Doric, Greek and held to customs they felt were superior to their neighbors. The wealthy aristocrats held control of both the land and the government and, in time, poorer land owners became enslaved or nearly so through debt to the more wealthy. Further, there was a perceived lack of consistency among the other laws of the city. Solon, though an aristocrat himself, created a series of laws which equalized the political power of the citizenry and, in so doing, laid the groundwork for democracy in Athens in BCE.
After Solon resigned from public office various factional leaders sought to seize power and the ultimate victor, Peisistratos, recognized the value of Solon's revisions and kept them, in a modified form, throughout his reign as a benevolent tyrant. His son, Hippias, continued his policies until his younger brother, Hipparkhos, was assassinated over a love affair in BCE. After this Hippias instituted a reign of terror which finally culminated in the overthrow of the Peisistratid tyranny in the Athenian Revolt of BCE backed by Sparta and lead by the Spartan Kleomenes.
In the aftermath of the coup, and after settling affairs with Spartan factions such as Isagoras's bid for power, Cleisthenes was appointed to reform the government and the laws and, in BCE, he instituted a new form of government which today is recognized as Democracy. According to the historian Waterfield, "The pride that followed from widespread involvement in public life gave Athenians the energy to develop their city both internally and in relation to their neighbors".
This new form of government would provide the stability necessary to make Athens the cultural and intellectual center of the ancient world; a reputation which lasts even into the modern age. Athens, Olympia, Delphi, Corinth and Sounion restored to their former glory.
Explore Now. They formed the Delian League , ostensibly to create a cohesive Greek network among city-states to ward off further Persian attacks, and, under the leadership of Pericles, grew so powerful that the Athenian Empire could effectively dictate the laws, customs, and trade of all her neighbors in Attica and the islands of the Aegean.
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