The initial name of Athens was Akte or Aktike,
named after the first king, Akteos.
Her second name, Kekropia, received it from the king, Kekrops,
who succeeded Akteos, by marrying his daughter. According to the legend,
his lower body was that of a dragon. During his reign, goddess Athena and
Poseidon were competing for the protection of the city and each one
offered presents. Poseidon struck the rock at the Acropolis with his
trident (the three marks can be seen behind the Erectheion..) and a spring
with salted water gushed up. With the blow also leaped the first horse,
ready to serve the man faithfully, while Athena offered an olive tree. The
legend tell us, that all the men of Athens voted for the gift of Poseidon
and all the women, for the gift of Athena and because there was one woman
more than the men, goddess Athena was selected and from her, the city took
To defend the country from the Karian pirates from the sea and the
Boeotians from the land, Kekrops, in order to manage better the
population, distributed Attica in the following twelve sections:
Aphidna, Brauron, Dekeleia, Epakria, Eleusis, Kekropia, Kephisius,
Kytherus, Phalerus, Sphettus, Tetrapolis, Thorikus. He also ordered
each man to cast a single stone and by counting the stones, it was found
that they were twenty thousand inhabitants.
Kekrops introduced the worship of Zeus and the ritual offerings of sweet
meats (pelanoi), instead of human sacrifice. His grave in Acropolis was
preserved until the fourth century BC.
When an enemy army besieged Athens, the Athenians asked the advice of
Delphi, which gave them the oracle, that in order to save the city, an
Athenian ought to be sacrificed by his own will. When the daughter of king
Kekrops, Agravlos, learned about the oracle, she ascended to the
Acropolis and fell to her death. Athenians to honor her, build a temple in
the Acropolis and every year, were celebrating the Agravleia.
According to another legend, Agravlos or Aglavros, the same daughter of
king Kekrops and her two sisters Herse
and Pandrosos, they were entrusted with a box by goddess Athena,
which commanded them not to open it. Pandrosos, the younger one, obeyed,
but Agravlos and Herse opened it and saw a serpent shaped child or
according to another version, a snake surrounding the child Erichthonios,
which came out and crawled to the shield of Athena. The girls were so
frightened from what they saw, that they leapt to their deaths, from the
Kekrops was succeeded by his son, Erysichthon, who had no children
and he was succeeded by Kranaos. One of the daughters of Kranaos
was called Atthis and from her, the whole region took the name,
Kranaos was dethroned by Amphiktyon, who in return was expelled by
Erichthonios, son of Hephaestos and the Earth.
The Legend represents him as half man and half serpent. He took power
around 1500 BC and started a powerful dynasty from which the heroes
Pandion, Erechtheos, Aegeas, Theseus descended. Erichthonios placed in the
Acropolis the wooden statue of Athena and introduced the festival of
Athenaea. He was the inventor of the four wheeled chariot and the
first to bread horses. He married the nymph Pasithea and had a son,
Pandion. Pandion married the nymph Zeuxippe and had twin sons
Erechtheos and Butes and two daughters, Prokne and
Pandion was succeeded by Erechtheos. When Erechtheos was at war with the
Eleusinians and Thracians, under their leader Eumolpos, he was
advised by the Delphic oracle, that in order to win the war, he ought to
sacrifice the three of his six daughters. When the girls voluntary
consented, Erechtheos put them to death. After this, he went to the battle
with confidence and totally vanquished his enemy. When the Eleusinians
were defeated, Poseidon in anger destroyed the house of Erechtheos, who
was probably killed in the battle.
Erechtheos was succeeded by his son Kekrops II and he by his son Pandion
II, who had four sons, Aegeus, Pallas, Nisus and Lycos.
ca 1300 BC
was the son of the king of Athens, Aegeus and Aethra. He had
been educated by his grandfather, Pittheus at Troezen, and at age sixteen,
he dedicated his forelocks to the Delian Apollo.
His father Aegeus was childless and when he consulted the oracle at
Delphi, he received an obscure reply and in order to interpret it, he
visited Pittheus, the king of Troezen, famous for his wisdom. Pittheus
made him drunk and put him to sleep with his daughter, Aethra,
which became pregnant after that. When Aegeus departed, he left behind a
sword and a pair of sandals, under a rock and told Aethra, that if the
child was a boy and reaches manhood to lift the rock, take the sword and
the sandals and come to Athens.
When Theseus reached the age of sixteen, his mother led him to the rock,
which he lifted with ease, took his father presents and set out to meet
him. In his way to Athens, he had a series of adventures, all of them
victorious. When Theseus arrived at Athens, Medeia, the wife of Aegeus,
suspecting who was, she persuaded Aegeus to invite him to a banquet,
intending to kill him with poison. His father however recognized him in
time, from the sword he was wearing and banished Medeia and her son, to
Theseus was the first social reformer of Athens. At his time, Attica was
consisted from twelve towns, each one having her own ruler (tyrannisko),
who came often in conflict between them. Theseus united the towns (synoikismos)
and renamed the city of Athena, Athenae, meaning the union of the
twelve cities. To commemorate this event, he instituted the feast of the
union of the tribes (synoikia or metoikia) and the Athenaea, the festival
Erichthonios had introduced, renamed them Panathenaea, a
celebration of the new united city of Athens.
He distributed the people in three classes: the Eupatridae,
Geomoroi and Demiourgoi. Eupatridae were the rich and educated
people, governors, generals, priests, etc. Geomoroi were agricultural
people and Demiourgoi were the artisans. All three classes had the same
rights. He issued coins, with the picture of an ox upon them, the so
called dekaveia and ekatoveia, with the value of ten and one
Theseus took also part in the Argonautic expedition and fought with
Herakles against the Amazons. He increased the territory of Athens, by
conquering Megara, reaching as far as the Isthmos of Corinth.
He also introduced the Isthmia Games, at Isthmos.
Menestheos, the rival of Theseus, took advantage to destroy his
popularity with the people, while Theseus was away from Attica, to help
his friend Perithoos. At the same time Kastor and Pollux invaded Attica,
in order to free their sister Helen, whom Theseus had abducted from
Sparta. A friend of Menestheos, Academos, who had gardens in the
place where later the Academy was created, told Dioskouroi
where Theseus was hiding Helen, in Aphidnae. With the Dioskouroi fought
also against the Athenians, the general Marathos, from Arkadia. The
place, where he was killed in battle, was named Marathon.
When Theseus returned to Athens, he found out that the people were no more
disposed to listen and honor him and thus, he left his sons under the
protection of Elephenor in Euboea and went to the island of Skyros.
Theseus was assassinated by his friend king Lykomedes of
Skyros. His remains were brought by Kimon in 475 BC, from the island of
Skyros to Athens and were buried south west of Agora. Near it, a set of
rooms decorated by the famous painters Mikon and Polygnotos,
were used for feasts, in his honor. The Doric temple of Hephaestos
and Athena Ergane or Theseum, which stands at the western
end of the Agora, on the hill of Agoraios Kolonos, erected by the
architect Ictinos (449-440 BC), depicts the exploits of Theseus in its
friezes and metopes.
Menestheos later became the commander of the Athenian troops, at Troy.
Even though he was alive, he did not return to Athens and Athenians
restored the sons of Theseus, Demophoon, Oxynias,
Apheidas and Thymaetes, who in succession governed Athens for
about sixty years.
When the Dorians invaded Peloponnesos, they forced Melanthos and the
Neleid family of Pylos, to abandon their kingdom and to find shelter at
Athens. When a war broke between Athenians and Euboeans for the boundary
of Oinoe, the Boeotian king Xanthos challenged Thymaetes to a single
combat. When Thymaetes declined to accept, Melanthos took his place and
skillfully fought and killed his opponent. After this event Thymaetes
resigned and Melanthos became king.
ca 1100 BC
Melanthos and his son Kodros, reigned for almost
sixty years. There is a story that during the reign of king Kodros, a
powerful Dorian force under Aletes from Korinth and Althaemenes from
Argos, invaded Attica. The
Delphic oracle had promised them success to their expedition, provided
that they will not injure Kodros. When this was learned by Kodros, he
disguised himself as a peasant woodcutter and went to the enemy camp,
provoking a quarrel with the Dorians and he was killed. When the Dorians
learned that the killed person was Kodros, they left Athens and conquered
Megara. According to an older tradition, Kodros was killed in the battle.
Kodros was the last king of Athens. After his heroic sacrifice, the
Athenians did not permit anyone else, to bear the title of king. His
descendants, they were called Archons. After his death, his
sons Medon and Neleus quarreled for the succession, which was decided by
the Delphi oracle. Medon became Archon and Neleus left, leading
the Ionians to colonize the Asia Minor.
After Medon, followed twelve Archons for life: Akastos, Archippos,
Thersippos, Phorbas, Megakles, Diognetos, Pherekles, Ariphron, Thespieos,
Agamestor, Aeschylos and Alkmaeon.
In the second year of Alkmaeon (752 BC), the duration of the Archon
changed to ten years. There were seven Archons, which reigned for ten
years each: Charops, Aesimides, Kleidikos, Hippomenes, Leokrates,
After Eryxias, the title of Archon was given to nine distinguished
persons, descendants of Kodros and Medon, who changed annually, but after
714 BC, they were including distinguished Eupatridae.
From the nine Archons, who governed since 683 BC, to the end of democracy,
three had special titles: the archon Eponymos, from whom the year
was named after, the archon Basileus, the archon Polemarch.
The other six had the title of Thesmothetae (legislators).
Kylon, an Eupatrid and Olympic winner of
the diaulos race in 640 BC, tried to take the city and become a tyrant.
Kylon had requested an oracle from Delphi and received the answer that, he
ought to seize the Acropolis of Athens during the celebration of Zeus.
Acquiring an army from his father in-law, Theagenes of Megara and
with Athenian friends, he seized Acropolis, during the Olympic games of
Peloponnesos. When Athenians learned about the event, they blockaded
Acropolis. Kylon and his brother managed to escape, but the rest,
exhausted from hunger, sought asylum in the altar of Athena at Acropolis.
Athenians promised them a fair trial, if they would surrender. The
besieged suspicious, in order to be in touch with the temple, they
fastened a rope to the altar and came out holding it. When the rope was
broken, the Athenians killed almost everyone, at the precinct of Eumenides,
near the Acropolis entry. This unholy event was named "Kylonean
taint" (Kylonion agos).
The Archon of the Athenians, Megakles of the Alkmaeonidae
family and his assistants, who took part in the killing, they were cursed
and denounced. When epidemics fell in Athens, Megakles and his personal
assistants, the ones who were alive at the time, were put on trial at the
instigation of Solon (597 BC). They were found guilty and exiled for life
The banishment of the Alkmaeonidae however did not deliver Athenians from
their fears and calamities. They invited the sage Epimenides
from Crete to purify the city from its guilt. Epimenides visited Athens in
596 BC, where he performed sacrifices and expiatory rites succeeding to
purify the city and put a stop to the plague. Athenians in gratitude
offered him one talent, but Epimenides accepted only a branch from the
sacred olive tree of Acropolis.
Drakon is considered the first legislator of Athens,
though the six minor archons, the so-called Thesmothetae, they were
legislating unwritten laws from 683 BC.
In the beginning of sixth century, it seems that Athens needed new written
laws, because the aristocrats were interpreting the unwritten law
according to their advantage. The people commissioned Drakon in 624 BC, to
legislate written code of laws.
Drakon did not change the political constitution. His laws were written
upon marble plates (621 BC), the so-called Thesmoi or Ordinances,
and placed in the Agora, where everyone could read them. The laws were
extremely severe in some cases, punishing trivial and serious crimes
equally. Drakon made distinction between intentional and unintentional
homicide. He left to Areopagos the trial of willful murders, but he
appointed fifty one judges (ephetae), who were judging the
unintentional cases. Due to the severity of his laws, the people
later said, that they were written with blood. Today the expression "Drakonian"
describes repressive legal measures.
But the written laws, instead of helping the people, they became tools in
the hands of aristocracy, to take their land, intimidate and oppress them.
The whole Attica fell in the hands of aristocracy and the people, who were
unable to pay their debts, were sold as slaves. There was so much
dissatisfaction, that many people left Attica and immigrated.
Later Athenians looked back to Drakon with reverence, believing that their
author was wise and did not oppress the unfortunate, alleviating the
miseries of men, as far as it was possible.
638 - 559 BC
the famous statesman and lawgiver, son of Exekestides from Salamis,
descendant from the family of Kodros and Neleid's, was born at Athens in
638 BC. His father was a merchant and Solon, who followed him in his
profession, traveled in many countries. He was near forty, famous for his
poetry and wisdom, when he took part in the civil life of Athens.
Megarians, after the Kylonian event, had taken possession of the island of
Salamis, which belonged to Athens. Solon was bitter that Athens had lost
the island. Megara, at that time, was a strong city-state, who was able to
compete with Athens. The Athenians, after a long war with them, trying to
regain the island, suffered many casualties. For this reason they took an
oath, not to wage war for the island and whoever mentions again war, he
would be punished by death.
Solon managed to persuade the Athenians to regain the island by reciting
his poem Salamis in the Agora, and as General leading a force, he
reached the acroterion of Koliada, where the Athenian women were
sacrificing to Demeter. From there, he sent a trusted man to Salamis,
pretending that he was a fugitive, informing the Megarians that the
Athenian women were unprotected. The Megarians fell into the trap and when
disembarked from the ships without their arms to catch them, they found
out, that the women were disguised men, with hidden knives. They were all
killed and Solon with their ships sailed immediately to the unprotected
Salamis and conquered the island. Megarians tried to regain the island and
a prolonged war between Athens and Megara proved disastrous for both of
them. It was finally agreed to let Sparta decide, who would be the owner
of the island. The arbitration of Sparta decided, that Salamis belonged to
Solon increased his reputation by supporting the Delphians against the
inhabitants of Kirra. With difficulty, he persuaded the assembly of
Amphictions to open war against the city of Kirra (first Sacred war
When Solon became archon in 594 BC at Athens, wealth and power were in few
hands. The poor people (class of Thetes) were in debt, many had become
slaves, because they were unable to repay their debts and even sold their
Solon, a person who loved justice, tried to change the harsh life of the
poor people of Athens. He rejected proposals to become a tyrant and
instead he made the memorable law of Seisachtheia, a word that
means that he lifted from the shoulders of the poor the burdens, which
caused them so much pain and anguish.
The law of Seisachtheia cancelled the contracts of the poor people, who
had borrowed on the security of their person or their land. It also
prohibited all future loans of such kind and abolished the power of the
creditor to imprison or enslave. The law, by canceling the numerous
mortgages of the land properties in Attica, left the land free from all
In other laws, he helped the wealthier debtors, who could repay back their
loans. Solon increased the value of the mna, by twenty seven
percent. He changed the currency from the Aeginetan to the Euboic
standard, something that proved favorable to the Athenian trade, in order
to facilitate the trade with Korinth, Chalkis and Eretria and other
colonies. Solon did not only prohibit the mortgage of persons, he also
limited the amount of the land an individual could possess. He forbade the
big land owners to export the grain from Athens, by attaching a heavy fine
and also the export of the agricultural products from Attica, except olive
Solon repealed the laws of Drakon, except those on homicide. He abolished
the death penalty, from all minor crimes.
Many people who had been punished, they were restored to full privileges
of citizenship. Under this law the exiled family of Alkmaeonidae returned
The laws of the legislator Solon were written in wooden triangular boards
named kyrveis and were kept first in the Acropolis and later in the
He also changed the political system, from Oligarchy to Timocracy, in
other words, he diminished the power of noble birth and gave importance to
wealth. He reorganized the council or senate (vouli) of 401
members, which had been constituted by Drakon (621 BC), whose members were
selected from the whole body of citizens. He reduced it by one member to
400, 100 from each of the four tribes.
When Solon became archon, the population of Attica was divided in three
classes, that often came in hostilities against each other. The three
divisions were: the Paedieis, the Diakrioi and the
Paralioi. Solon arbitrated successfully, bringing an end to their
violent quarrels. He abolished the exclusive privileges of the Eupatrids
and divided the population in four classes, according to their property.
The first class, the Pentacosiomedimnoi, had at least five hundred
medimnoi of grain or wine or oil, as yearly income. The Hippeis
(knights), with income of at least three hundred medimnoi, able to keep a
warhorse. The third class, the Zeugitae (possessors of a pair of
oxen), with at least one hundred and fifty medimnoi, and finally the
Thetes (workers for wages), which had less than one hundred medimnoi
income. Only the first three classes could vote in the election and only
from the first class men were elected to the highest offices. The class of
Thetes was excluded from all official positions but they could vote in the
general public assembly and also had the right to take part, as a jury, in
trials. They could not serve in the army as hoplites, but only as
The Hippeis could only serve from the two highest classes and hoplite from
the first three. Only the Thetes were paid for public services, all other
classes were serving without payment.
In minor laws,
Solon put very small fines. In contrast, he awarded big sums of money to
the Olympic winners (500 drachmas, a fortune at the time) and for the
Isthmian games 100 drachmas. For the winners of the Panathenaic games, he
awarded one hundred painted amphorae, filled with olive oil.
Though Solon was just at his legislations, he did not make radical
changes, believing at his own words that the gods give to every man what
is just for him. None was satisfied with his reforms, the poor, who were
expecting redistribution of the land, were disappointed and the rich were
upset by his concessions to the poor.
He retained and extended the power of the ancient council of Areopagos,
which had jurisdiction in cases of religious crimes and premeditated
Later generations considered Solon the father of democracy, because he
liberated the individual from the political domination of the oligarchy
and from the economic burdens, giving political rights to the Thetes, to
take part in the meeting of Ekklesia, at the same time gave to the
individual new responsibilities as a citizen, considering atimia
not to take the arms against revolts and tyrants.
Before him the wills were unknown in Athens. The property was inherited
from the kin. Solon gave freedom to the individual, permitting to regulate
their properties at will, in case they did not have a son. Solon put the
foundations for the industry. Every father ought to teach his sons a
trade, otherwise his children were not responsible for him in his old age.
In his economic reforms, he developed the Athenian industry by importing
craftsmen from Corinth and other cities, giving them Athenian citizenship.
Solon was also an excellent lyric and elegiac poet. He was the first Attic
poet and wrote iambics and elegiacs on moral, political and social
subjects. His elegies amounted more than five thousands lines. In his
political elegies, he wrote about the island of Salamis and how he roused
the citizens of Athens to regain the island.
As a character, Solon was a sincere, kindly person and generous. He was
characterized by moderation and his constant motto was the "Nothing in
excess" (Μηδέν άγαν). He was one of the seven wise men.
His wisdom and his noble patriotism marked the Athenian state, as the
first true example of humanism.
He also wrote ethical elegies and his poem "the exhortations to himself"
belongs to this category, as also the often-quoted line:
"I am getting old, but still I am learning a lot"
(Γηράσκω δ' αιεί πολλά διδασκόμενος).
After the completion of his work, Solon left Athens having said to
Athenians not to change anything for ten or according to another
testimony, for one hundred years. Unfortunately, he lived to see his
constitution overthrown from the tyrant Peisistratos.
Solon first visited Egypt, meeting the kings and priests, learning the
history from them. The priests told him about the island of Atlantis and
the war of Athenians against the island, nine thousands years before.
Solon, from the information the priests gave him, started to write a poem,
but he died before finishing it.
Egypt, he went to Cyprus and later to Lydia, where he met king Croesos at
Sardis. According to the tale of Herodotus, Croesos, after showing his
vast treasures to Solon, asked him who was the happiest man he ever known,
expecting from Solon that he would mention him. Solon, avoiding to flatter
the king, named ordinary Greeks, the Athenian Telamon and the
Argive brothers Kleobis and Biton. When Croesos replied that
he had not taken under account his vast riches and glory, Solon told him,
he considered no man happy, until he knew, how he ended his life: "Don't
regard anyone happy, before you know his end" (Μηδένα προ του τέλους
Croesos at the time showed contempt to Solon, but when was overthrown by
Cyros and ready to be burnt, Solon came to his mind and uttered his name
three times, with a loud voice: "Solon, Solon, Solon". When Cyros
inquired about the strange invocation, he ordered his men to extinguish
the fire, but it was too late. Luckily Croesos was saved by a sudden
profuse rain. Cyros after the event reinstated Croesos and made him his
closest friend and advisor.
During Solon's absence from Athens, the three parties had started violent
quarrels between them. The Paedieis (people of the plains) were
headed by Lykourgos, the Paralioi (people of seashore) by Megakles
of Alkmaeonidae and the Diakrioi (mountaineers) by Peisistratos, a
cousin of Solon. When Solon returned to Athens, about 562 BC, tried
unsuccessfully to give an end to the ambitions of his cousin Peisistratos.
He died at Cyprus and his ashes, according to his will, were scattered
around his beloved island of Salamis.
605 - 527 BC
Peisistratos, son of Hippokrates, the leader of the
Diakrioi and cousin of Solon, was born at Athens. He was a remarkable
orator, energetic and resourceful. During the war of Athens with Megara in
570 BC, he captured their port of Nisaea. After this event he was very
popular with the people. He tried twice with stratagems to become a
tyrant, but both times, he was expelled.
In his first attempt, he appeared at the market with a pair of mules
wounded intentionally by him. He explained to the people, that he was
almost murdered defending their rights. The Athenians, especially the ones
dissatisfied with Solon's laws called an assembly, where it was decided to
give him fifty men, for his personal security. Peisistratos with the
passing of time increased the number of his guards and in 560 BC, he
occupied the Acropolis.
the leaders of the other two parties, Lykourgos and Megakles, combined
forces and exiled him. He returned to Athens, when his two enemies
quarreled, invited by Megakles, who offered him his daughter and help, to
regain the leadership of Athens. Peisistratos married the daughter of
Megakles, but avoided to connect his blood with the family of Alkmaeonidae.
The humiliated Megakles, combining again forces with Lykourgos, managed to
expel him from Athens and Megakles retired to Eretria of Euboea, where he
remained for ten years.
In exile, Peisistratos did not stay passive. His energetic and resourceful
character managed to possess considerable influence from many Greek
cities, which furnished him with money.
With mercenaries from Argos and troops from the island of Naxos,
Peisistratos sailed from Eretria to Marathon. He then marched towards the
city defeating in a small battle the forces of Lykourgos and Megakles and
became master of Athens, in 545 BC. His opponents were forced to
exile. The leader of the Paraloi, Megakles and the family of Alkmaeonidae
left the city and Solon tried unsuccessfully with poems addressed to the
people, to oppose him.
Peisistratos proved a great leader. He reorganized the economy of Athens
and with his own money, derived from his mines in Thrace and from his
estates in Euboea, constructed new big roads, supplying water the city
from the upper Illissus.
He also beautified the city with
temples and supported the arts and literature. He is credited for the
collection and writing of the Homeric poems. His library, the first in
whole Greece, was open to the citizens of Athens. One of his most
beautiful constructions was that of Enneakrunos (nine
pipes). He covered with a building, the old fountain of Kallirrhoe,
which supplied Athens with water. He reorganized the Great Panathenaea in
a splendid manner, by making Homeric recitations a future of the festival.
He solved the agrarian problem, converting Attica into a country of small
Peisistratos maintained the constitution of Solon, but made sure, that the
main offices of Athens were held by his supporters. Champion of the poor,
he redistributed the land, something Solon had avoided and gave agrarian
loans, with small interest (five percent). He was the first tyrant of
Athens to put a sales tax to every product. He improved the economy of
Athens. At his time, a great number of Attic vases were exported to
Etruria and Egypt, Asia Minor and cities of Black Sea, containers of wine,
olive oil and ointments.
He was the first to introduce a foreign policy to Athens. He build a
naval fleet and reoccupied the strategic city of Segium in the Hellispond,
securing the import of grain from the Black sea. He had friendly relations
with Sparta and Argos, having married an Argive wife. His friendly
relations with the island of Delos (the religious center of the Ionians)
had as a result Athens to become the leader of the Ionian race.
Peisistratos died from old age in 527 BC, after thirty years in power.
Peisistratos left in power his two sons,
Hippias and Hipparchos, who governed Athens according to their
father wishes. They governed the city wisely as their father and the
people loved them. They brought back from exile the Alkmaeonidae family,
which had been exiled by their father.
Hipparchos, who had inherited from his father the love of literary,
invited the famous poets Simonides and Anakreon and furnished the highways
with Herms, which marked the boundaries of public and sacred precincts. He
started building the temple of the Olympian Zeus. It was a colossal
structure in Doric style (in later years they changed it to Korinthian
style), 359 feet in length by 173 feet wide (515 BC).
Everything was changed, when
Harmodios and Aristogeiton for personal reasons conspired and
killed Hipparchos, in 514 BC. Aristogeiton was an Athenian of moderate
fortune, who had an affection for his beautiful young friend Harmodios.
Hipparchos made repeated propositions to Harmodios, which were repelled.
Hipparchos took then revenge by insulting the sister of Harmodios,
prohibiting her to take part in a religious procession, as a basket
carrier. After this event, the two friends conspired to kill the tyrants,
during the festival of Panathenaea. When the day arrived, they approached
Hippias at Kerameikos, who at that moment was speaking with one fellow
conspirator and thought that their plan had been betrayed. So they took
the decision to kill Hipparchos, who was at the city. They found
Hipparchos near the chapel Leokorion and killed him. Harmodios was killed
by the guards and Aristogeiton was saved by the crowd of people, but he
was captured later, tortured and killed. At later times, Harmodios and
Aristogeiton became symbols of the democracy.
When Hippias learned about the assassination of his brother, he
immediately called the Athenians to put down the arms and assembled them
to another place, where he searched and caught the conspirators from their
concealed daggers. After the assassination of his brother, Hippias became
ruthless, putting to death many Athenian citizens and collecting large
sums of money by heavy taxes, feeling threatened from the Athenians, he
gave his daughter in marriage to Aeantides, son of the despot of Lamsakos.
During the time of Peisistratos, the exiled Alkmaeonidae had undertaken
the reconstruction of the temple at Delphi, which had been accidentally
destroyed by fire (548-547 BC). By their own generosity they rebuild the
temple with Parian marble. Indebted to Alkmaeonidae, Delphi whenever the
Spartans came to consult the oracle, the responce was: "Athens must be
liberated". With the help of Sparta, Hippias was forced after four
years from the death of his brother, to leave the city (510 BC) and the
Alkmaeonidae family returned to Athens from exile.
570 - 507 BC
Kleisthenes, the son of Megakles of the Alkmaeonidae
family and Agariste, the daughter of Kleisthenes of Sikyon, was born at
Athens, in 570 BC. His great grandfather, Megakles of the Alkmaeonidae,
was the Archon of Athens, when Kylon made his unsuccessful attempt to
seize the Acropolis of Athens, to become tyrant (632 BC).
Kleisthenes was twenty four years old, when Peisistratos exiled the
Alkmaeonidae family, in 546 BC.
After the fall of Hippias, there was a struggle for power, between
Kleisthenes, the leader of the Alkmaeonidae and liberator of Athens and
Isagoras, the leader of the nobles. When Isagoras took the power and
became Archon in 508 BC, Kleisthenes refused to submit and appealed to the
people promising restoration of their political rights, if they would help
him to overthrow Isagoras from power.
Isagoras called Kleomenes of Sparta, a friend of his, who immediately sent
a herald demanding from the Athenians to expel the "accursed"
Alkmaeonidae and thus Kleisthenes was forced into exile.
When Kleomenes came to Athens, he expelled seven hundred Athenian
families, whom Isagoras considered dangerous.
Kleomenes dissolved the senate and put in the government three hundred of
his own people. When this happened, the people rose and Kleomenes,
Isagoras and their supporters tried to find refuge in the Acropolis. The
Athenians seized Acropolis and after two days permitted Kleomenes and
Isagoras to leave, but all others were put to death. After this event the
Athenians recalled Kleisthenes and the other seven hundred exiled Athenian
When Kleomenes arrived at Sparta immediately prepared an army and marched
into Attica, in order to reinstate Isagoras. With the support of
Korinthians and other Peloponnesians, Kleomenes encamped at the plain of
Eleusis. The Athenians prepared an army and marched to engage them, but in
the meantime the Korinthians learned the real purpose of the expedition
and withdrew. The second king of Sparta, Demaratos, who was taking
part in the expedition, also opposed and the expedition was cancelled.
When the Spartans departed, the Athenians turned against the Chalkidaeans.
Αt the Euripos straits, they met and defeated the
Thebans, who were coming to their aid. The same day, the Athenians passed
over to Euboea and defeated the Chalkidaeans. The land property of the
nobles was confiscated and given to four thousand Athenians settlers, the
Kleisthenes having now full power, he begun his reforms, that led Athens
to an established democracy.
He persuaded the people to change the political organization from family
and clan and phatria to local groups. He abolished the power of the old
four Ionic blood tribes (Aigikoreis, Hopletes, Geleontes,
Argadeis), permitting them to survive only for religious purposes.
The population of Athens at the times
of Kleisthenes, was including a large body of residents, who did not have
citizenship and of course no share in the political decisions. Kleisthenes
accordingly divided Attica into one hundred and forty demes
All the people who resided in the demos, became Athenian citizens,
including alien residents and emancipated slaves. The demes had the duties
and public rights, registering the citizens and electing their own
officials. The demos was a complete local body which had its own Demarch
(mayor), its own treasurer, a common property with its own priest and
priestesses. The demos were grouped into thirty trittyes,
equal in population. Each of the trittyes had a number of demes, though
some were consisted from one large demos. Trittyes had no communal life
and were serving as connecting link between the demos and the tribe. From
the thirty trittyes, he composed ten tribes, drawing by lot one trittye
from the Paraloi, Diakrioi, Paedieis and so these three divisions which
had troubled Athens for centuries, they were changed completely.
The new regions now were: the Asty (town), which was incuded
Athens, Pireaus and Phaleron, the Coast, which now included
many additional territories and the Interior, comprised from
areas from the Asty and Coast. The distribution of these local functions
among all the tribes had as an object to break up their sectional
organizations, giving an end to the endless quarrels of the past.
The people also were known not only by their fathers name, but from the
name of their demo. Kleisthenes arranged the demes in such a way that they
were no contiguous to each other but scattered in different parts of
Attica. The reason for this was to prevent the tribes to acquire
independent local interest, as well to avoid the demes for themselves into
The results of Kleisthenes reforms was the isonomia (equal rights)
and the people took a more active participation in public life.
Kleisthenes enlarged also the number of the senators (prytaneis). The
council was increased from four hundred to five hundred, fifty members
from each tribe.
The attic year consisted of twelve lunar months, 354 days. Kleisthenes
divided the year for official purposes into ten periods and so each
prytanis was serving for 35-36 days. Further, the fifty senators were
divided into five bodies of ten each. The so called Proedros,
presiding for seven days and the chairman, chosen by lot, was called
Epistates, serving both in the Senate and in the Ekklecia,
responsible for the treasury and keeper of the keys of the Acropolis.
Kleisthenes introduced also the ostrakism (banishment from the
city). The word of ostrakism derived from ostrako, a fragment of
pottery, which was used as a ballot. The man, whose name was written in
ostrakο and their number exceeded the six thousands, he was driven into
exile for ten years. This measure was taken by Kleisthenes, in order to
safeguard the city from future tyrants.
Kleisthenes was a great statesman and founder of the Athenian democracy.