CLAS 1000 – Chapter 5 Readings
The Growth of Athens and the Persian Wars
• Greek city-states struggled with a variety of problems—factional quarrels between
aristocratic families, tension between aristocrats and the people, and tyranny
• 2 Athenians had become the second most powerful Greek polis and they were poised to
play a major role in the great war that was about to begin
• E Persian Empire was growing into an ambitious power that would threaten to engulf the
• Athens would be vital to the defense of Greece against invasions by the Persian kings
Darius I and Xerxes
Athens from the Bronze Age to the Early Archaic Age
• Late Bronze Age Athens was a major Mycenaean palace-center that exercised a loose
control over the other fortified palace-centers in the region
• If the story about the Achaeans taking refuge at Athens is true, they would have found in
Attica the same collapse of the centralized ruling structure, drastic depopulation, and
dispersal into small village communities as in the regions from which they had fled
• E first sign of Athenian recover) ? is the appearance of Protogeometric pottery around
• Athens continued without interruption as the central place of Attica.
• The appearance of rich ninth-century graves reveals significant growth in wealth and
overseas trade during the later Dark Age
• Athens did not colonize overseas during the late eighth century
• “joining together” of the towns and villages of Attica into a political unity under the
leadership of Athens was probably gradual
• In making Theseus the founder of their polis and its democracy, the Athenians followed
the common Greek practice of attributing important events of the preliterate period to
some great figure from the legendary past
• After the Dark Age every settlement in Attica considered itself “Athenian”
o nor were there subordinate populations such as the Spartan helots or perioikoi.
• Problems people who lived in or near Athens would find it easier to vote than those
who lived farther away
• Until the outbreak of the Peloponnesian War in 431 bc most people still lived in the
• during the late eighth century the chiefs of Attica replaced the paramount basileus
with three civic officials called collectively archons
o divided the leadership roles among themselves
o basileus administered the cults of the polis and judged lawsuits pertaining
to cult property a] other religious matters.
o Polemarch (war archon) commanded the army and judged disputes
o Archon had overall supervision of public affairs, including presiding ove
the council and the assembly and judging nonreligious cases o Thesmothetai Six judicial officials were added later, making up the governing
body of the “nine archons.
• Archons were elected annually from candidates drawn from the small circle of
aristocratic families known as tithe Eupatrids (“people with good fathers”).
• Governed Athens in concert with the council that met on the hill sacred to the war
god Ares Council of the Areopagus
• Citizen males role in the government and the part that the ordinary citizens played in
it are unknown
• In Attica I, the basic social units—the individual households (oikoi)—were grouped
into larger but poorly understood kin-like associations: tribes, phratries, and clans
• Every citizen family belonged to one of four phylai (“tribes”)
o belonged to another smaller group within their tribe, called a phratry
• in cases of unintentional homicide, the members of the victim’s phratry were
obligated to support his family,
• “clans” (gene) were associations of aristocratic households dominated by a top oikos
and claiming descent from a common ancestor.
The Conspiracy of Cylon
• 632 bc Olympic victor named Cylon took advantage of his marriage connection with
Theagenes, the tyrant of nearby Megara,
o to seize the Acropolis and attempt to become tyrant of Athens
• found himself and his supporters besieged by the Athenians
• Cylon and his brother escaped
• His supporters surrendered to the nine archons on condition that their lives would be
• People believed that Megacles had committed sacrilege, and soon his familv was exiled
• Cylon’s coup played an interesting role in future Atheman history because of the
prominent family to which Megacles belonged.
o The Alcmaeonid genos would contribute important politicians to Athens,
including Cleisthenes and Pericles
Draco and Early Athenian Law
• More is known about the codification of Athenian law by a mysterious man named ‘raco
around 620 bc
• Drakon is Greek for “snake”
• Draco’s laws replaced the family and kin with the state as the arbiter of justice in cases
of both intentional and unintentional killings.
• Before Draco’s homicide law, bereaved family members were entitled and obliged to
avenge the deaths of their slain relatives
• Draco transformed such disputes into trials in which the next of kin, backed by his
phratry, prosecuted the accused killer before magistrates who determined the appropriate
o Death for murder or exile for unintentional exile
• Draco’s other laws except that they were severe, stipulating death as the penalty even for minor offenses
• D. The establishment of fixed principles of justice limited the magistrates’ ability to
shape their decisions in accord with their social and professional ties to particular
• The problems that were causing unrest in Athens, however, were both economic and
political seemed to be inviting tyranny
The Reforms of Solon
• Solon tried to strengthen the fragile agricultural base of the Athenian economy by
grafting onto it a thriving commerce.
• Poorsoil of the Athenians could not raise enough grain to feed their increasing
• They obtained wheat from abroad by bartering crops suited to their land—olives, vines,
figs, and barley.
• High-quality olive oil packaged in vases was their most significant export,
• Besides oil, wine, and pottery, the Athenians had at their disposal silver produced in the
mines at Laurium in southeast Attica.
• Many poor sharecroppers were losing the struggle to survive.
• S turned to a respected individual to resolve the crisis.
• Hey empowered Solon, an aristocratic poet with a reputation for wisdom, to draw up a
new law code that would ease the sufferings of the poor and avoid a tyranny
• Solon’s reforms mitigated the risk of dividing the Athenians into haves and have-nots by
creating a sliding scale of privilege that contained something for everyone
• He identified wealth as an unstable and problematic force in human affairs:
• He would not exchange his virtue (arête) for the riches of the wealthy,
• In trying to please everyone he pleased no one is ironic in view of the cult that developed