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  • Print publication year: 2021
  • Online publication date: March 2021

Athens: An Introduction

Summary

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.

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