Athens is the capital of the modern-day country of Greece. I suspect it became the capital because for a long time it was the largest city in Greece, even from ancient times. It became large and wealthy because it controlled a large navy and had rich natural resources such as silver and marble in their land.

Athens was a center for commerce and education. That means that people came there to study and to trade, their way of buying and selling things. People also came to worship the false gods glorified in the Parthenon that I’ve shown you already. It stood on the Acropolis, a hill that elevated it in the middle of the city.

On the right is the Parthenon sitting on top of the Acropolis.

Athena was the goddess that was believed to be the protector of Athens. It was in Athens that democracy was invented. It was the idea that the people should rule themselves. All citizens  were given a vote in city matters. This sounds good but women, slaves, and foreigners who lived there were not allowed to become citizens. Slaves might have come from wars or been born a slave or have been forced into slavery because they couldn’t pay a debt.

Thousands of citizens met every couple of weeks to vote on new laws recommended by the Council (the formal law makers, like a Congress or Parliament).

In Athens they had trials with juries. In America we have a dozen people listen to the stories of the one accused of a crime. In Ancient Greece at least 500 would have a say on the matter. People defended themselves without lawyers and the jury voted if they were innocent or not. When speaking in their defense, the person was timed. The timer was a water clock like in this next picture.

water clock

Citizens could get rid of leaders they didn’t like. Can you imagine this today? There would be hardly anyone left! If 600 people cast their vote to get rid of one of the Council leaders, they would be banned from the city for a time.

Athens was known for its special events. It held events for the gods, for sports, and for plays. Rich citizens would pay for events and oversee them. Rich citizens provided a lot of services. They may even be made to pay their crew on a warship that they are required to be on as military service.

chariot race
This is a modern recreation of a chariot race, a special event sponsored in the city.


Picture Credits:

public domain unless noted below

Water Clock CC2.5