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Athens: An Introduction

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  10 March 2021

Jenifer Neils
American School of Classical Studies, Athens
Dylan K. Rogers
University of Virginia
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Inhabited from the Stone Age to the present, Athens is one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world. We know it best from the Classical period (500–300 bc), because in addition to its impressive archaeological remains, such as the Parthenon, a vast variety of informative inscriptions and texts, from philosophical dialogues to comic jokes, attests to its importance. The names of its most famous citizens – Aischylos, Aristophanes, Perikles, Plato, Sokrates, Solon, Themistokles, Thucydides – are not unfamiliar to the educated public. Long after Pindar (fr. 76), Athens remained well known in European history as the “bulwark of Greece,” having routed the Persian menace not only once at Marathon, but also a second time at Salamis. Many of the institutions invented by the Athenians – democracy and theater being the obvious ones, but also practices such as jury pay, impeachment, and a ‘tomb for the unknown soldier’ – are still with us today.

Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2021

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Further Reading

Histories of Athens dealing with specific periods are: Anderson 2003 for the Early Classical period and the emergence of democracy; Meier 1998, Munn 2000, and Samons 2007 for the Classical period; and Habicht 1997 for the Hellenistic and Roman periods. An overview of the major monuments in their historical context can be found in Camp 2001 and Goette 2001. Topographical studies include Travlos 1971 and Greco 2010–2015 (with more to come). A thorough study of the Akropolis monuments is Hurwit 1999. For religion in ancient Athens see Parker 1996. The institution of slavery is thoroughly explored by Wrenhaven 2012 and Lewis 2018.


Anderson, G. 2003. The Athenian Experiment: Building an Imagined Political Community in Ancient Attica, 508–490 bc. Ann Arbor.Google Scholar
Camp, J.M. 2001. The Archaeology of Athens. New Haven.Google Scholar
Eleftheratou, S. 2019. Μουσείο Ακρόπολης: η ανασκαφή. Athens.Google Scholar
Goette, H.R. 2001. Athens, Attica and the Megarid: An Archaeological Guide. London.Google Scholar
Greco, E., ed. 2010–2015. Topografia di Atene. Sviluppo urbano e monumenti dalle origini al III secolo d.C. 5 vols. Athens.Google Scholar
Habicht, C. 1997. Athens from Alexander to Antony. Cambridge, MA.Google Scholar
Harding, P. 2008. The Story of Athens: The Fragments of the Local Chronicles of Attika. Oxford.Google Scholar
Hurwit, J.M. 1999. The Athenian Acropolis: History, Mythology, and Archaeology from the Neolithic Era to the Present. Cambridge.Google Scholar
Kaza-Papageorgiou, K. 2016. The Ancient City Road and the Metro beneath Vouliagmenis Avenue. Athens.Google Scholar
Lewis, D.M. 2018. Greek Slave Systems in Their Eastern Mediterranean Context, c. 800–146 bc. Oxford.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Meier, C. 1998. Athens. A Portrait of the City in Its Golden Age. New York.Google Scholar
Meyer, M. 2017. Athena, Göttin von Athen: Kult und Mythos auf der Akropolis bis in klassische Zeit. Vienna.Google Scholar
Munn, M. 2000. The School of History: Athens in the Age of Socrates. Berkeley.Google Scholar
Parker, R. 1996. Athenian Religion: A History. Oxford.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Parlama, L., and Stampolidis, N.C., eds. 2000. Athens: The City beneath the City: Antiquities from the Metropolitan Railway Excavations. Athens.Google Scholar
Samons, L.J. 2007. The Cambridge Companion to the Age of Pericles. New York.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Travlos, J. 1971. Pictorial Dictionary of Ancient Athens. New York.Google Scholar
Wrenhaven, K.L. 2012. Reconstructing the Slave: The Image of the Slave in Ancient Greece. London.Google Scholar

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