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Sunday, December 4, 2016

024 - Early Athens

In this episode, we discuss the early history of Athens beginning with its mythical past, and how and why the later Athenians promoted and propogandized these myths, with a particular focus on their first king Cecrops, the contest between Athena and Poseidon for the city's patronage, the birth of Ericthonius (the "love" child of Hephaistos-Athena-Gaia) who would go onto become king, the life of Theseus, and the death of the final king Kodras fighting the Heracleidae; in historical times, the abolishment of the monarchy in the Dark Ages that gave rise to the oligarchic government (first by the Medontidai and then the Eupatridai); the social organizations of the Athenians; and finally the social and economic crises at the end of the 7th century BC that brought about an unsuccessful tyranny attempt by an Olympic athlete named Cylon and Athens' first written constitution, orchestrated by a shadowy figure named Draco

ca. 900 BC - Medontidai archon/basileus of Athens was pre-eminent in Attica
ca. 900-750 BC - the synoecism of Attica took place
752 BC - length of Medontidai archonship changed from life to ten years
681 BC - three annually elected archons (eponymous, basileus, polemarch) was introduced
ca. 650 BC - six more archons were introduced (called the Thesmothetai); collectively together with the other three they are known as the College of Nine Archons; full aristocratic revolution of Athens has taken hold
632 BC - Cylon unsuccessfully attempted to establish an Athenian tyranny
621 BC - Draco enacted first written constitution in Athenian history

Greek wordserion (piece of wool), chthon (ground, earth), synoikismos (the unification of the various villages), sympoliteia (a shared common citizenship), eupatridai (those with good fathers, i.e. "well-born"), pagos (hill), archo (to rule), thesmothetai (those who lay down laws), phyla (tribe), phratria (brotherhood), genos (clan), hippeis (horses or cavalrymen), thugatai ("yoke-fellows", those who were wealthy enough to own an oxen to plow their fields), thetes (landless workers), peletai (dependent agricultural farmer), hektemoroi (1/6th men, i.e. sharecroppers of their land), horoi (stones marking off boundaries of land), agogimoi (those seized as slaves to pay off a debt loan), thesmothetes (extraordinary legislator, i.e. a legislator given extra powers for reform), drakon (snake), ephetai (judges), strategoi (generals), hipparchoi (commanders of the cavalry)

Primary Sources:

Supplementary Resources (Videos, Photos, Other Podcasts)

Map/Ancient Attica


  1. hi,

    is the podcast bi-weekly now?

    1. Hello, the podcast, for now, is still weekly. The newest episode will be up tonight. I just have been traveling all week. Sorry about the delay!