Athens is one of the oldest inhabited cities in the world. It knew the greatness of Greek civilization, but also to the prosperity and decline brought by its conquerors. Its tumultuous past is reflected throughout its archaeological sites, museums, and streets. That is why learning a bit about the history of Athens can be useful before traveling to the mighty Greek Capital.
The birth of Athens
The Acropolis Hill was inhabited in the Neolithic period, from around 3000 BC. It started turning into a city during its fortification by the people of the Mycenae civilization. They arrived here around 1400 BC, from an island located in southeastern Greece.
The Golden Age
In the 6th and 5th centuries BC, the state-city turned into a colonial power. Under the rule of Pericles, between 495 and 429 BC, Athens enjoyed its Golden Age. This is when the Parthenon, the Erechteion, and the Temple of Athena Nike were built. Athens continued to flourish up to the Peloponnesian War.
Under the Romans
Athens was under the rule of the Romans for 5 centuries, starting with 146 BC. Emperor Hadrian admired the Greek culture and he projected many buildings together with Herodes Atticus. The good relations between the Athenians and the Romans took a bad turn when the Athenians wanted their independence, in 86 BC.
The Byzantine Period
When the Roman Empire was split in 395, Athens belonged to the Eastern side. Thus, it was a part of the Byzantine Empire. This is when pagan temples were turned into churches, which we can still see in Athens up to this day.
Under the Ottomans
The Ottomans conquered Athens in 1458. After this, for a brief period of time, Athens was under the occupation of the Venetians, after they bombarded the Parthenon. The city was degrading, and visitors from Central and Western Europe left with important historic artifacts at this time.
The War of Independence
With the support of Great Britain, France, and Russia, the Greeks raised against the Ottomans in 1821. Although the war ended 8 years later, the Ottomans remained on the Acropolis until 1834, when King Otto I took power. Athens became the Greek Capital, and it was rebuilt in a neoclassic style.
World War II
Greece entered the war in October 1940, and Athens was under German siege in April 1941. The swastika was raised on the Acropolis, while the Germans used the Grand Bretagne Hotel as their headquarters in the Greek Capital.
After World War II
After recovering from the aftereffects of World War II, Athens was heavily industrialized starting with 1950. This is also when people strongly migrated from the villages to the cities and the suburbia of Athens increased in size.
Under military rule
Georgios Papadopoulos‘s coup d’état in April 1967 marked the beginning of a military dictatorship, which lasted for 7 years. Students massively protested in November 1973 but were badly injured by the army. One year later, the military regime ended, after a failed attempt to occupy Cyprus.
In 1981, Greece joined the European Union. Switching from drachmas to euros caused economic instability which can still be felt up to this day. However, while Greece is struggling with its financial problems, Athens is quickly recovering and is currently at the beginning of its 4th Industrial Age.