Who are the Athenians?

"Bringing peace through threat of war"

The city of Athens has always been very closely related to it's patron goddess Athena. It is not certain if the city is named after the goddess or if the city already existed and the goddess was given the name of the city. The inhabitants of Athens have lived on the site for as long as records of the goddess exist, and the history of ancient Athens is one of the longest of any city in the world.

At the time of migration, the Black Sea did not have access to the Mediterranian Sea, and the people who would become the Athenians crossed over from Asia-minor.

It is believed that the first real settlements of the area was from a people that crossed over from Asia-minor just below the Black Sea which is said at that time to be bridged leaving the Black Sea a fresh water lake.

At a later date it seems an earthquake destroyed part of the landscape, allowing salt water via the Mediterranian Sea to enter into the Black Sea and further seperating Asian-minor from Europe.

The location of the acropolis at Athens had, from its origins been a great spot for a natural defensive position and with a free flowing source of water running through the area it became an area for ten or so small villiages to form around.

The Athenians are considered Ionians and were one of the four main ancient Greek tribes, linked by their use of the Ionic dialect of the Greek language. The other three groups were the Achaeans, the Dorians and the Aeolians. They were known collectively as Hellenes. The Athenians, in the peninsula of Attica, were the only Ionians on the Greek mainland.

By 1400 B.C. Athens had become a powerful center of the Mycenaean civilization. Unlike other Mycenaean centers, such as Mycenae and Pylos, Athens was not sacked and abandoned at the time of the Doric invasion of about 1200 to 1000 B.C., and the Athenians always maintained that they were "pure" Ionians with no Doric element. However, Athens lost most of its power and probably dwindled to a small hill fortress once again during the unsettlement.

By the 8th century B.C. Athens had re-emerged, by virtue of its central location in the Greek world, its secure stronghold on the Acropolis and its access to the sea, which gave it a natural advantage over potential rivals such as Thebes and Sparta. From early in the 1st millennium, Athens was a sovereign city-state, being ruled by kings. The kings stood at the head of a land-owning aristocracy.

During this period Athens succeeded in bringing the other towns of Attica under its rule. This process created the largest and wealthiest state on the Greek mainland, but the times of kings was fast running out, as a growing portion of the population was being excluded from the political process.

In Athens by the 8th century kingship had disappeared and reduced to a near ceremonial role.

Thesis destroys the centaur

Statue: Metropolitan Museum of New York. Thesus[1], the legendary King and Founder of Athens destroys the centaur.


Political power lay with the 'aristocracy' (aristoi, 'best people'), who controlled most of the land. To stay in power the aristoi promoted colonisation, and this led to a new class called merchants, who were becoming increasingly wealthy, though not land owners.

By the 7th century BC, the first true money came to Greece from Lydia. This started to facilitate trade, money made transfers of property easier, breaking up the older patterns of landholding and the loyalties that went with them.

In this situation the aristocrats struggled to maintain their privileges and powers, but their position was fatally weakened by changes in military tactics and technology. Until about 700 BC the mounted man (aristocrat who could afford the heavy cost of a horse and equipment) was supreme. New tactics were devised, and the cavalryman went down before a moving wall of shields borne by armed infantrymen, known as hoplites. The aristocracy started to loose its military justification and any man could afford the new, far less expensive equipment.

In the struggles that ensured for control, the most frequent victor was a general or maverick aristocrat who seized power with a greater or lesser degree of popular support and become a tyrant. 'Tyrant' was the term used for a ruler whose authority had no legal or constitutional basis; initially it did not imply moral disapproval, let alone blood-thirstiness on the part of the tyrant.

This is how we find the state of Athens during the mid-700's B.C.

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Athena of Athens

The city of Athens has always had a strong connection with their partron goddess, Athena. Athena was broadly regarded as the goddess of war. In this capacity she appears in stories as the true friend of all bold warriors, such as Perseus, Bellerophon, Jason, Heracles, Diomedes, and Odysseus. But her courage is a wise courage, not a blind rashness like that of Ares; and she is always represented, accordingly, as getting the better of him. In this connection she was honoured in Athenian worship mainly as a protector and defender; thus (to take a striking example) she was worshipped on the citadel of Athens under the name of Promachos ("champion," "protector.") But she was also a goddess of victory. As the personification of victory (Athene Nike) she had a second temple on the Athenian Acropolis. And the great statues in the temples represented her, like Zeus, with Nike in her outstretched hand.

The occupations of peace, however, formed the main sphere of her activity. Like all the other deities who were supposed to dispense the blessings of nature, she is the protectress of growing children; and as the goddess of the clear sky and of pure air, she bestows health and keeps off sickness. At Athens and Sparta she protects the popular and deliberative assemblies.

Speaking broadly, Athene represents human wit and cleverness, and presides over the whole moral and intellectual side of human life. From her are derived all the productions of wisdom and understanding, every art and science, whether of war or of peace. A crowd of discoveries, of the most various kinds, is ascribed to her. She was credited with the invention of the plough and the yoke. She was often associated with Poseidon as the inventress of horse-taming and ship-building. In the Athenian story she teaches Erichthonius to fasten his horses to the chariot. In the Corinthian story she teaches Bellerophon to subdue Pegasus. At Lindus in Rhodes she was worshipped as the goddess who helped Danius to build the first fifty-oared ship. In the fable of the Argonauts it is she who instructs the builders of the first ship, the Argo. Even in Homer all the productions of women's art, as of spinning and weaving, are characterized as "works of Athene." As the mistress and protectress of arts and handiwork, she was worshipped at the Chalkeia (or Feast of Smiths) under the title of Ergdne. Under this name she is mentioned in several inscriptions found on the Acropolis. Her genius covers the field of music and dancing. She is inventor of the flute and the trumpet, as well as of the Pyrrhic war-dance, in which she was said to have been the earliest performer, at the celebration of the victory of the Gods over the Giants.

The patron goddess of Athens was born out of the head of her father Zeus (his name means 'life', from where the female equivelant 'Zoe' comes from) fully grown, armed and ready for war. So, she never had a childhood, there would be no room in her life for innocence. Even her name in Greek Αθεονόα, means (theos) god's (nous) mind.

She is usually always shown with spear and a helmet on her head but not pulled down infront of her face. This is seen as the goddess being in a constant state for being ready for war. Therefor she can been seen as 'bringing peace, through (threat of) war'.

A remarkable fact is that she is only one of a few 'gods of war' in any ancient society that is female.

NEXT PAGE>>>.The Lelantine War


Note#1: The legendary Ionian hero Theseus (Θησευς) is said to have founded Athens. His name comes from the same root as 'to set' or 'to put something in its place'. Therefore, he is seen as a great reformer, putting together the unification of Attica. His defeats of half-human, half-animals like the Minotaur and the Centaurs are seen to be the human acheivment over nature. People had evolved to be living half like humans, half like animals and his achievment unifing them to live by a set or rules and laws that would allow them to live in harmony.
In art he is mainly seen weilding a club, as generally this was the main type of weapon being used in his era.

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