Athens, the capital of Greece, is named after Athena, goddess of wisdom. In Greek mythology, it is believed that there was a competition between Athena and Poseidon to decide who would become the protector of the city. The myth says that the people of Athens chose Athena as their protector, and hence the city was named after her.
According to tradition, Athens was founded by king Theseus who united several settlements of Attica. After king Kodros’s death, the nobles ruled Athens by their consul, the Supreme Court, and from this consul, nine rulers were elected to rule Athens.
Athens gave importance to the concept of the individual citizen and worked towards strengthening the national conscience and protection of democracy in the state. The Athenian citizens emerged and evolved due to the creation of a humanitarian culture and laws that favoured equality. Considered as one of the oldest cities in the world, the gradual rise of Athens began in the middle of the 7th century BC.
By the late 7th century, the situation in Attica ripened, which led to the replacement of aristocratic rule by that of a single strong man. The aristocratic families of Attica almost had all the political powers and owned most of the land, whereas the free smallholders were increasingly falling into debt. If anyone’s land is mortgaged, the farmer must then pay a sixth of all his produce to his creditor, and if he fails to do so, he could be enslaved.
In 594 BC, Solon cancelled the debts, and at the same time, made it illegal for anyone to be enslaved by the creditor. He attempted to open up the political structures of Athens to lay the foundation of democracy in Athens. In 560 BC, Peisistratus seized power over Athens and was succeeded by his son Hippias until 510 BC when the nobles of Attica, eager to get power back, procured help from Sparta. So, Throughout the 6th-century, laws were made to protect the weak and led to a gradual transition to democracy.
In Athenian society, women stayed at home because it was considered an element of dignity. Restrictions were more applicable to the women of the noble families than the ones belonging to the lower economic strata. The dowry was given after mutual agreement and was considered as the bride’s property.
After colonization and expansion of trade, many citizens of Athens became rich and wished to participate in state administration. This caused riots between the poor and the nobles. The former wanted land and new laws for social justice, while the latter wanted to keep their power.
Greek architecture is one of the finest and most distinctive in entire Ancient history and is majorly concerned with simplicity, proportion, perspective, and harmony. Athen is the home of two UNESCO world heritage sites Acropolis and Daphni Monastery. The heritage of the city can be glimpsed through ancient monuments and works of art, which includes Roman and Byzantine monuments along with several Ottoman monuments.
The Greek civilization was divided into two eras, Hellenic and Hellenistic. The former started from 900 BC and lasted until the death of Alexander the Great, while the latter started from 323 BC and lasted till 30 AD. Before Hellenic, there was Minoan and Mycenaean culture. Minoan focused on highly elaborated and decorated palaces, whereas Mycenaean built citadels, forts, and tombs.
Greek houses were simple in design. They usually had a central courtyard which was utilized for various ritual activities and penetration of natural light. The quarters for women and children were segregated from men. The ground floor generally had a kitchen, storage, toilet, and andron for male members. The houses were built with mud brick that rested on a stone base with a tiled roof and beaten clay floor. In cities, the houses were built inward-facing with major openings looking onto the central courtyard rather than the street.
The public buildings include splendid temples, theatre, stoa, and bouleuterion. The most common materials used for these buildings were wood, stone, and marble. In the case of stone, preference was given to limestone with a layer of marble dust stucco or pure white marble.
The basic form of the naos in the tenth century was a rectangular room with projecting walls (antae) that created a shallow porch. The Greek temples are categorized mainly based on their ground floor plan and the arrangement of columns. A Prostyle temple has columns only at the front, whereas an amphiprostyle temple has columns at the front and the rear. A peripheral arrangement has a single line of columns arranged all around the exterior of the temple building, while a dipteral would have a double row of columns.
Amongst all the monuments of ancient Greek architecture, Parthenon is the most characteristic one and was built to house the gigantic statue of Athena. The other celebrated temples are such as the Temple of Zeus at Olympia, the Temple of Artemis at Ephesus, and the Temple of Poseidon at Sounion.
The Greek theatre was a large, open-air structure used for dramatic performances. The theatre often used the scenic landscape as a backdrop for the stage. It consists of a seating area, a circular space for the chorus, and the stage. The two-sided aisles are provided to access the orchestra, and meanwhile, the monumental arches are provided on either side of the stage. The largest one is the theatre of Argos, with a capacity for 20,000 spectators.
Stoa may be a covered walkway or colonnade that was purposefully designed for public use. They were used to meet places and storage. During Hellenistic times it had also been used as an indoor place for workout and practice areas for field events like the javelin and discus. Bouleuterion was an important civic building whose sole purpose was to provide a meeting space for the city council. It is a covered, rectilinear structure with stepped seating surrounding the central speakers. Many public buildings, such as temples, theatres, etc., have provided tangible architectural legacy from Greek, which has been widely adopted in the modern world.
The Greek architecture orders are of 3 types; Doric, Ionic, and Corinthian. These orders are recognized not only by their capitals but also governed by the form, proportions, details, entablature, pediment, and stylobate. These orders defined the basic fabric of ancient western architecture for the modern world. The design of the Greek structures is based on the golden ratio. Most of the natural elements like leaves, nautilus shells, and trees are based on this proportion. The ratio is denoted by the Greek letter ϕ, which is approximately adequate to 1.618.
As of now, Athens is a large metropolis, the centre of economic, political, cultural, and industrial life in Greece. It is one of the most important economic centres and has the largest passenger port in Europe, Piraeus.
- Athensguide. Brief History of Athens Greece.[online]. Available at: History of Athens Greece from the mythology times to modern times (athensguide.org) [Accessed 25 July 2021].
- Historyworld. History of Athens.[online]. Available at: HISTORY OF ATHENS (historyworld.net) [Accessed 25 July 2021].
- Athenshappytrain. History of Athens.[online]. Available at: History of Athens – Athens Sightseeing Tours with Athens Happy Train [Accessed 25 July 2021].
- Worldhistory. Greek Architecture.[online]. Available at: Greek Architecture – World History Encyclopedia [Accessed 25 July 2021].
- The Arch Insider. Ancient Greek Architecture: The Origin and Evolution. [online]. Available at: Ancient Greek Architecture: The Origin and Evolution – The Arch Insider [Accessed 25 July 2021].
- Khanacademy. Introduction to Greek Architecture.[online]. Available at: Introduction to Greek architecture (article) | Khan Academy [Accessed 25 July 2021].